The mapping of the human genome includes great secrets of the life of human beings. For example, information about the future of a person’s health will be available. Therefore, such a map must be kept in a safe place so that people’s secrets and security will be maintained. It must not be available for common use. In other words, revealing the genetic profile of a human being is a major betrayal of others’ trust, as it leads to their harm, whereas Shari`ah prohibits harm and its reciprocation.

The eminent Muslim scholar, Dr. `Abdel-Fattah Idrees, Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, states: The contemporary age witnesses great progress in all fields of knowledge and science, including agriculture, manufacturing, media, commerce, medicine, astronomy, and many others. Maybe the most prominent discovery in the field of genetic engineering at the end of the 20th century was an initiative to decode the human genome.
Advantages and disadvantages of decoding the human genome:
The human genetic code of each person is a book that includes many details about the health conditions of that person, including the very secrets of his life, the life of his offspring, and the life of his parents. By unraveling the human genetic code and figuring out how genes work, such a book will be a mirror that reflects all genetic features, especially hereditary ones, of a person, his offspring, and parenthood. It will show recessive as well as dominant characteristics such as, height, color, strength, fatness, fertility, and so on. Genetic knowledge will also be a powerful diagnostic tool. It will show dominant and recessive diseases and defects that may inflict the offspring, including blood and heart diseases such as heart holes, narrow arteries, hypertension, blood cholesterol, diabetes, immunity diseases, and Alzheimer’s.
Revealing a human genome for urgent necessity:
According to the principles of Shari`ah, a book with such important information about human life must be kept in a very safe place so that nobody can read it except those to whom it matters, such as doctors, for regular check up, organ transplantation, and artificial fertilization. It may also be available for police and state security systems for investigation. DNA testing is also an investigative tool in the fight against crime. It is a reliable investigative tool in forensics to prove parenthood. It is also very useful for premarital investigations to avoid bearing ill or disfigured infants. Hence, no one is permitted to know the genetic profile of other people except specialized people whose professional duties make it inevitable for them to be aware of others’ books of life, subject to the teachings of Shari`ah.
However, specialized officers whose work requires them to see the genetic blueprint for human beings to be used for certain purposes must not reveal people’s genetic secrets, as determined by Shari`ah and professional ethics. In other words, a man’s genetic code is like a trust that is deposited to specialized officers to use in the appropriate manner, as dictated to them. Hence, it is legally impermissible to reveal the human genome to unconcerned people.
Proofs that obligate privacy of the human genome chart:
Allah Almighty, the Great Legislator, has enjoined Muslims to keep their trust, as He says: “Lo! Allah commandeth you that ye restore deposits to their owners.” (An-Nisaa’: 58)
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Give trust back to the person who trusted you, and do not betray the one who betrays you.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) considered abuse of trust an act of betrayal, and considered that one who practices it bears a characteristic of hypocrisy. Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) again reported the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying: “The characteristics of a hypocrite are three: he tell lies; he breaks his promise; he betrays his trust.”
An-Nawawi said that most scholars of Hadith agree that this hadith enumerates the permanent characteristics of a hypocrite. Therefore, if a man known for his honesty happens to pra
ctice any of these abominable deeds of hypocrisy, he will not be truly hypocrite; rather, he will be metaphorically considered a hypocrite till he gives up. Hypocrisy means acting contrary to one’s beliefs, and this is so obvious in the three characteristics of a hypocrite. A person is, by and large, considered hypocrite on the part of the person to whom he lies or breaks his promise, and the person whom he betrays.
Al-Khattabi said that the above hadith is meant to warn a Muslim against getting accustomed to such bad traits, so as not to turn to be truly hypocrite. Hence the hadith is a warning to refrain from the mentioned ways of acting that are likely to lead one to be an arch hypocrite.
Moreover, revealing an individual’s genetic identity to unconcerned people is a harmful act for the individual, his offspring, and his relatives in general, while Allah Almighty has prohibited harm. Ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “There should be neither harm nor reciprocation of harm in Islam.” In this hadith the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forbids Muslims to cause harm to others by any means.
Knowing that harm is prohibited in Islamic Shari`ah, we realize that whoever causes harm to others is a sinner and must repair that harm. In the case of revealing details of someone’s genome to unconcerned people, the revealer must compensate for the harm he has caused for the person whose genetic map has been revealed and any one else who may be harmed by it. There is a confirmed Shari`ah principle stating that “harm must be repaired.” But there is no way to repair the harm caused in the case of revealing the genetic map of someone. So the harmed one is entitled to assume compensation for the harm that was inflicted on him.
On the other hand, revealing someone’s genetic map implies violation of the Islamic duty that en
joins a Muslim to keep secrets that he comes to know by virtue of his position or as part of his official tasks. Thereupon, the ruler can punish anybody who violates his duty and the ethics of his profession. The ruler can subject such a negligent person to official rebuke as he sees suitable for the sin, the circumstances that surround it, the degree of harm caused by it, and the place where it happens, so that punishment would fulfill the intended end, that is, to deter the sinner from acting in the same way again, to be a warning to others to from committing such sin, and to establish security and stability in the society.
The organization to which a person who reveals the genetic map of others is affiliated must share in imposing penalty on him. Theses include the medical syndicate, justice ministry, ministry of internal affairs, etc. Such organizations must subject anybody who commits such a mistake to moral and professional penalties such as prevention from practicing his job for a definite period of time, withdrawing his license, or transferring him to a position where he will not be permitted to know secrets of the customers or patients, and so on.
The same ruling applies to a person who, by virtue of his position, comes to know details of the genetic mapping of another person and then uses it against him. For example, there is the risk that employers may abuse their knowledge of the genetic profile of their employees, who will, thus, suffer discrimination for the genetic lot they have drawn in life. Actually, such a deed is an act of betrayal of trust, and it must entail suitable punishment.
Disclosing the genetic charter of some person causes harm to that person, his offspring, and all his kin. Genetic knowledge may be abused to cause people to suffer. Therefore, if someone’s genetic profile is revealed, he has the full right to ask for compensation for the harm that has inflicted him. In addition, the revealer must be subjected to severe reproof for his violation of the ethics of his career.