#310: Storing Umbilical Cord

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. What is the ruling of cutting and storing the umbilical cord just after the birth of a baby?

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

The definition of an “umbilical cord” is the specific part that connects the baby and the placenta, according to the 4th Edition of Kamus Dewan. It is found on a newborn baby on his stomach. This cord provides nutrients needed by the baby during the pregnancy channelled by the mother. Usually, this cord is clamped and cut as soon as the baby is born.

It has been a tradition in our society to keep the umbilical cord for several purposes:

  • Some people keep it for medicinal purposes, whether storing it together with the placenta at a lab or dried before storing it. [1]
  • Some store it for certain beliefs such as to be buried together when the baby dies or buried together with his other siblings or other beliefs.
  • Some store it neither for medicinal benefit nor beliefs, but to keep it just as a memento.

Imam al-Syirazi in al-Muhazzab stated: “Burying a deceased is fardu kifayah (shared obligation) because if it is left on the face of the earth, it will degrade the honour of the deceased and affect others due to its stench. The burial in the graveyard is prioritized for the Prophet PBUH buried his companions who died in Baqi’ and because others will be able to visit and supplicate for them.

Imam al-Nawawi in his commentary of the hadith of the Prophet PBUH burying the deceased at Baqi’ is a sahih and mutawatir hadith and the fardhu kifayah ruling is agreed upon by all Muslims. [2]

Next, scholars discussed the ruling for organs or severed body parts of humans when they were alive. Al-Khatib al-Syarbini, the author of Mughni Muhtaj (1/349) said: “As for anything severed from the living or the death is doubtful such as the severed hands of a thief, nails, hair, blood (alaqah), blood from cupping and others, it is sunnah to be buried as an honour to its owner. It is also sunnah to wrap the hand or other with a cloth.

While the author of Hasyiah Qalyubi wa Umairah (1/395) stated: “al-masyimah (placenta) is named as al-khalas (umbilical cord) is like a part of the body (of the child) for it is severed from the child. Hence, the umbilical cord is a part of his body.

As for the ruling of cutting the umbilical cord after the birth, Syeikh Muhammad bin Ismail Daud al-Fatani in Matla` al-Badrayn (1/346) said: “It is obligatory to cut the umbilical cord of a child after his birth after a little time has passed.

We can conclude from the above two references that the umbilical cord is considered a part of the newborn baby’s body. Thus, the original ruling is that it is sunnah to bury the umbilical cord the same as the ruling for nails, hair and blood such as the blood from cupping, honouring the human body.

Hence, here we state the rulings of storing the umbilical cord:

  • Makruh to keep the umbilical cord of a baby if it is not for any purpose and just as a memento.
  • Permissible if it is for proven medical purposes such as for stem cell therapy that can be used to treat leukaemia, thalassemia and others. [3]
  • Prohibited if it is stored for ritual or superstitious beliefs that aren’t supported in Islam.

Hopefully, this explanation helps and benefit the general public. Wallahu a’lam.

[1] In Malaysia, history was recorded around 1997 when the University Hospital (then) transplanted umbilical cord blood stem cells to a child with thalassemia major donated by his newborn brother. Similarly, in 2005, for the first time, the University of Malaya Medical Center (UMMC) successfully transplanted allogeneic peripheral blood stem cells from donors who did not have a kinship relationship with patients suffering from leukaemia. (See Utusan. 2010. http://www.utusan.com.my/kesihatan; Mohd Al’Ikhsan Ghazali, Siti Salwa Md. Sawari, Zetty Rohaiza, Muhammad Sahak@Ishak, Lailatul Hamidah Hamdan. Stem Cell Research and Application from Medical Corner According to the Perspective of Islam and Other Religions in Malaysia)

[2] See al-Majmu` Syarh al-Muhazzab, 5/282

[3] It is mentioned in the Fatwa of Dar al-Ifta ’al-Misriyyah:“ Usually stem cells are obtained through an aborted fetus or from an infant’s placenta or umbilical cord or from a child or adult, or from a surplus embryo (through the IVF process). Therefore, obtaining stem cells and breeding them for medical or research purposes should be in accordance with Islamic law if it does not bring any harm. Provided that the consent of the donor or his guardian must be obtained. It is permissible to take stem cells from the umbilical cord or placenta or a fetus that is miscarried (spontaneously) or that is aborted on the advice of a doctor and for reasons permitted by sharia. And should be taken from the excess embryos. Therefore, it is illegal to obtain stem cells in an illegal way such as egg fertilization (in the process of IVF) between men and women who are not married or deliberately have a miscarriage to obtain them or without the prior consent of the donor and guardian. ” (See Fatawa Dar al-Ifta ’al-Misriyah. Https://www.dar-alifta.org/AR/ViewResearch.aspx?ID=245.)

Mufti of the Federal Territory Office in Bayan Linnas Series 227: The Use of Stem Cells in Medicine According to the Islamic Perspective mentions that one should use, develop and utilize stem cells either for the purpose of therapeutic treatment or research. This is because stem cell transplant treatment can be one of the options and ways to treat various diseases and this treatment process has been clinically successful, including more than 30 000 umbilical cord blood transplants performed worldwide and as of 2011, 4% of transplants blood diseases in Malaysia using umbilical cord blood stem cells. (See Alan The, Chan LL. Blood and Marrow Transplantation. Eight Report of the National Transplant Registry)

See https://muftiwp.gov.my/artikel/bayan-linnas/4362-bayan-linnas-siri-ke-227-penggunaan-sel-stem-dalam-perubatan-menurut-perspektif-syarak

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