Porcine heart valves
Among other items, we import natural porcine heart valves for patients of open heart surgery. Please note that this product is treated, sterilized and preserved under certain temperatures and then planted in the patient's body. What is the legal ruling for using and importing such valves?
The prohibition of eating swine flesh or using its by-products is established in Islamic law based on the words of Allah the Almighty Who says,He hath forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one of you is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience nor transgressing due limits,--then is he guiltless. For Allah is oft-forgiving Most Merciful. [Al-Baqarah, 173]
The majority of scholars are unanimous that swine, dead or alive, is impure although Maliki scholars have maintained that it is pure when alive and impure when dead. The ruling for the matter in question is based on the legal opinion on the change in the essence of a substance, known as istihala, and whether the original ruling of prohibition remains after the substance has undergone this change in its composition and whether this transmutation removes the quality of impurity from impure substances and renders them pure.
There are two scholarly opinions concerning istihala (other than that concerning wine spontaneously turning into vinegar which is pure according to scholarly consensus). Hanafi and Maliki scholars and Imam Ahmed in one report have maintained that a substance is rendered pure by istihala due to the complete change in its state. Since Islamic law has based the description of impurity on the [impure] essence of a substance, its impurity is removed by the change of its essence and rendered pure. This is comparable to the purity of vinegar from wine, musk from deer blood and flesh from blood clots [during gestation]. Basing their opinion on primary texts, Shafi'i and Hanbali scholars, in the dominant opinion of their schools, do not consider that istihala is from among the things which render impure substances pure [except for wine turning into vinegar].
Since laboratory experiments have proved that new combinations of atoms give rise to a change in the nature of a substance through the process of istihala, we favor the former opinion maintaining that istihala removes the description of impurity from impure substances.
There is no legal objection to importing and using porcine heart valves for the sake of medical treatment provided the essence and properties of the tissues have been transformed into a new gelatinous or foamy substance that can no longer be called porcine. If, on the other hand, by its nature, it can still be called a porcine by-product it is impermissible to import and use it except in a case of necessity such as when there is no other pure substance that can used instead and there is fear for the patient's life, the loss of one of his organs, exacerbation or continuation of the disease or an overwhelming deterioration of the body.
Allah the Almighty knows best.
A change in the nature and characteristics of a substance.