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Deus in MachinaReligion, Technology, and the Things in Between$
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Jeremy Stolow

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823249800

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823249800.001.0001

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Does Submission to God's Will Preclude Biotechnological Intervention?

Does Submission to God's Will Preclude Biotechnological Intervention?

Lessons from Muslim Dialysis Patients in Contemporary Egypt

(p.143) Does Submission to God's Will Preclude Biotechnological Intervention?
Deus in Machina

Sherine F. Hamdy

Fordham University Press

This chapter offers a critique of the (Orientalist-derived) notion of Islamic fatalism through an ethnographic study of devout Muslims in contemporary Egypt and their flexible attitudes concerning the will of God and the legitimacy of technological intervention in matters of medical therapy and health care. Focussing on several patients receiving regular kidney dialysis treatment in a hospital in Tanta, Egypt, the author documents the ambivalent ways devout Muslims respond to opportunities for organ transplantation, negotiating between their endorsement of official pronouncements made by leading Islamic scholars, their own interpretations of religious source texts, and the shifting material circumstances that make organ transplantation more or less available to them. The chapter concludes by arguing that the term “fatalism” obscures the subtlety and complexity of these negotiations, in so far as it (quite wrongly) presumes that divine will entails passivity or inaction on the part of religious devotees, rendering them incapable of redressing their medical ailments through biotechnological intervention, or of assessing such interventions through a calculated cost-benefit analysis.

Keywords:   Fatalism, Islamic discourse of, Islam in (contemporary) Egypt, Organ transplantation, religious views, Medical care and Islam, Biotechnology and religion

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