Biobanks are biomedical research facilities that aim to collect biological specimens and relevant information for future research initiatives. Examples of biospecimens include blood, saliva, and urine, as well as tissue biopsies. Biobanks collate information that includes the personal and clinical data of individuals and provide researchers with high-quality samples in order, for example, to discover causes of diseases and identify the various factors that are associated with certain diseases. It can be argued that biobanks are permissible in Islam, but they should be under strict control by qualified authorities. In addition, since the effects of biobanks go beyond the domain of medicine and since they can influence society as a whole, their governance must be regulated by an independent body comprising experts in different fields, including Islamic jurisprudents.
Islamic Bioethics: Biobanking
Mamoun Ahram and Khalid Bani Ahmad
Health and Health Systems in the United States
The long history of Islam in the United States is not well understood. The first Muslims to come to this country were African slaves followed by Muslims from the Ottoman Empire. As time went by, other Muslims from different parts of the world followed suit. Today, Muslims form part of the sociocultural and religious diversity of US society. A unique feature of this community is its diversity, a function of different schools of thought as well as different migration trajectories in terms of ethnicity, gender, age, class, and countries of origin. Its diversity has generated a rich body of knowledge on health care that can enrich the American biomedical model. Yet, this knowledge has been subjugated and remains unrecognized owing to structural exclusion of Muslims exacerbated by 9/11. The aim of this article is to highlight health beliefs and practices of American Muslims with the view to recognizing their contribution to American society, leading to greater acceptance of this community. In sum, beyond addressing systemic exclusion, it is important to recognize that American Muslims have a long history and richness in understanding health in diverse sociocultural milieus in Islam that can and should be recognized in clinical care.
Healing and Religion in the United States
Religions, in almost every case, are concerned with healing the sick and the broken. Of course, healing is not the sole feature or function of religion, but for many people, restoration of wellness and wholeness is a central component of their religious experience. Religious healing comes in many forms, from miraculous supernatural intervention, to the manipulation of metaphysical energies, to the proper ordering of healthy human relationships and societies. Some religions rely on the ministrations of healing specialists such as shamans, parish nurses, or gifted miracle workers. Others focus on therapeutic modes of self-help, while yet others link healing with redemption from iniquity. In many cases, various kinds of religious healing overlap, all in service of that which is most efficacious in providing relief and recovery. The history of religions in the United States is likewise full of instances and varieties of religious healing. Americans of many creeds and diverse heritages have often sought healing within their religious traditions, and they have innovated new religious movements that focus primarily on the alleviation of suffering. Moreover, the attention to healing within American religions predates the rise of scientific biomedicine, evolves alongside of it, and endures through the present. Finally, recurrence to religious healing has often played a role in ethnic identity construction and maintenance in this largely immigrant nation. Given the scope and impact of healing on U.S. religious history, it is imperative to consider how the idea of healing has captivated and motivated religious actors. Of particular interest is the complex and sometimes violent process by which religious ideas and practices related to healing have been exchanged, modified, and even appropriated. Throughout the course of American history, religious healing—in its many expressions—has been characterized by ongoing competition, collaboration, overlap, and constant change. Ultimately, it bears little fruit to look for a common thread that might run among all the various traditions and formulations of American religious healing. Rather, it is more rewarding to consider carefully the interactions and evolutions of healing in the ever-changing American religious scene.