13 December 2020
Preservation of Life is the Key Consideration in the Permissibility of COVID-19 Vaccine
1. The objectives of introducing a COVID-19 vaccine and the processes involved in producing vaccines in general are largely aligned to established Islamic principles and values. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) holds the position that a COVID-19 vaccine is permissible for Muslim use. We would advise and encourage Muslims to be vaccinated once it is available and when the vaccine has been medically authorised as safe and effective, as this is a basic necessity to protect lives in the context of a global pandemic.
Basis for Advisory
2. The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused critical health, economic, as well as social challenges to countries and societies around the world. Under these circumstances, the search for a vaccine has become extremely important to save lives, provide greater health assurance as well as to facilitate the return to economic activity and livelihood as much as possible.
3. Islamic jurisprudence places great importance on the sanctity and safety of human life and the protection of livelihoods. Accordingly, efforts that seek to protect human life from any form of danger and harm, such as the development of vaccines, are highly encouraged in Islam. Vaccines as a form of protection from diseases and ill-health are welcomed. Previous Muis’ fatwas, such as on the Rotavirus vaccine (2013), consider vaccines to be a form of preventive treatment from diseases, and encouraged in Islam. This is drawn from the Prophetic guidance that one could consume foods that offer some protection from illnesses.
4. The religious view of the COVID-19 vaccine must take a more holistic stance that transcends the narrow issue of halalness or permissibility of its ingredients. There are three main aspects that have been carefully considered.
a) Vaccine as a critical necessity in saving lives and in ensuring that societies can function safely and cohesively. A vaccine therefore is an important means to uphold the principles of the sanctity of human life and the avoidance of harm as it protects society from the harmful effects of the COVID-19 virus.
b) Safety and efficacy of vaccines – Any COVID-19 vaccine must have no known adverse medical effects and have been scientifically established as not expected to cause harm to those who take the vaccine. This is an important consideration in line with the principle of the avoidance of harm in Islamic jurisprudence.
c) Permissibility of ingredients used in vaccines - There are also situations that permit the use of impure or prohibited substances for treatment as evident in some Prophetic traditions (fatwa on drug Heparin 2015). In addition to this, the impure substances or prohibited items used in upstream processes would have undergone multiple layers of chemical processes such as filtration that would render them undetectable or negligible in the final product. This is similar to the drug Heparin (the use of pig enzymes) and the Rotavirus vaccine (the use of trypsin). In Muslim jurisprudence, these processes are similar to istihala where the original substance changes its form and nature and no longer becomes prohibited. In such situations, the final product (drug or vaccine) is deemed permissible for Muslim use. Vaccines can also be fully synthetic and do not contain any animal components or cells, such as in mRNA vaccines developed for COVID-19.
5. We would advise and encourage Muslims to be vaccinated once it is available and when the vaccine has been medically authorised as safe and effective, as this is a basic necessity to protect lives in the context of a global pandemic. Previous fatwas have addressed concerns on the permissibility of such products for Muslim use from the perspective of the nature of its ingredients. Thus far, COVID-19 vaccines in development and/or trials do not diverge from these considerations. As such, we hold the position that a COVID-19 vaccine is permissible for Muslim use. The Fatwa Committee will review and assess suitability of vaccines for Muslim use if they fundamentally diverge from the principles above.
MAJLIS UGAMA ISLAM SINGAPURA