Around 20-40% of infertility cases are due to the male factor. This is understood to be directly related to “the absence of sperm, decreased numbers of sperm or lack of sufficient motile sperm”.1 In order to overcome the challenges faced by infertility, couples today can have children through assisted reproductive techniques using a sperm donor. There are two types of artificial insemination procedures, invitro fertilisation (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). IVF involves the removal of an egg from the woman’s ovaries which is then fertilised by donated sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg, called an embryo, is then returned to the woman's womb to grow, and develop.2 Whereas, IUI involves directly inserting donated sperm into a woman's womb.3 A baby that is born as a result of using donated sperm through artificial insemination is theoretically related to three individuals: the biological father (sperm donor), the mother (owner of the egg), and the mother’s husband (social father). This raises the following questions:
1. Is it permissible in Sharia to use donated sperm to fertilise the egg of a woman using artificial insemination?
2. Does the Sharia recognise a child born using a sperm donor as legitimate or does it categorise the child as an illegitimate child (walad al-zina)?
Firstly, it should be noted that artificially inseminating a woman using her husband’s sperm is permitted by the Sharia.4 The issue of artificial insemination is only problematic in Sharia when it involves a woman using donated sperm. This is because Islam highly emphasises the importance of a family unit and Muslim scholars have customarily traced lineage through paternal relations.
According to some Muslim scholars, it is impermissible for a woman to use donated sperm to conceive a child, as they claim that insertion of donated sperm into a woman’s reproductive organ is akin to adultery. As a result, they categorise any child that is born using donated sperm as an illegitimate child (walad al-zina). However, this view is problematic because there is no physical contact between the sperm donor and the mother and thus artificial insemination using donated sperm does not fall into the category of adultery (zina). As a result, a child who is conceived using a sperm donor cannot be categorised as an illegitimate child and is recognised as a child of the sperm donor (the biological father).
Although, the use of a sperm donor is not akin to adultery, it is still problematic because it disturbs the family structure and patrilineal relations that are greatly emphasised in Islam. Accordingly, it is impermissible.
 The issues of ejaculation of sperm (masturbation) and touching and/or seeing of sexual organs by the doctors become secondary particularly in the cases when there the needs demand them.