Infertility and Surrogacy in Islamic Society: Socio-Cultural, Psychological, Ethical, and Religious Dilemmas

Aref Abu-Rabia*
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel

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© 2013 Aref Abu-Rabia.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, 84105, Israel; Tel: 0544292892; Fax: 08-6472952; E-mail:


The effects of infertility on individuals and its emotional, psychological, and social consequences are complex matters that are influenced by many variables. Research now indicates that most cases of infertility can be attributed to a physiological cause in the man or woman. Shari’a is the Islamic way of life, of which medicine is an integral part. The Prophet Muhammad provided the foundation for a medical tradition that related to human beings in their totality; the spiritual, the psychological, and the physical were considered within the context of the social milieu. The Prophet described marriage as being half of the religion, so in Islam children are considered a great and blessed gift of Allah. Despite the high prevalence of male infertility, infertility is usually considered the woman’s problem. Thus, the role of male infertility is vastly under-appreciated and even under-reported in Middle Eastern societies. Medical intervention is in keeping with the Islamic tradition; there are no religious objections in Islamic codes of ethics to an infertile couple pursuing medical treatment for infertility. This paper attempts to build a self-contained argument vis-à-vis infertility and surrogacy from Sunni-Islamic perspectives, taking into account socio-cultural and psychological aspects of this issue. It is based on primary and secondary sources, interviews with couples who have participated in these treatments, the opinions of religious leaders and healers, as well as archival and documentary material, and a review of published and unpublished materials, books, and scientific journals.

Keywords: Infertility, culture, psychology, Sunni, Islam, surrogacy, ethics and medicine, Middle East.