Rapid technological developments in human embryonic stem cell research are holding promises of future new medical treatment for a range of currently incurable chronic diseases. At the same time, stem cell research using human embryos raises radically new, previously unimaginable ethical issues posing a dramatic challenge to humankind. By analysing the discourses on these ethical issues we can show that the cultural values and religious convictions of all stakeholders involved play a decisive role in formulating ethical positions. In the Islamic world, too, stem cell research using human embryos provokes new discussions about the moral status of the embryo according to Islamic ethical norms. In our paper we describe the theological and philosophical criteria used in this debate and discuss some ethical positions vis-A -vis embryonic stem cell research formulated in the Islamic world, including official regulations existing in some Muslim countries. While most of the existing literature in this field is primarily descriptive, the present paper endeavours to examine not only the arguments and their historical conditions as such; in addition, we will for the first time provide a critical reflection on the methodology underlying commonly held positions. In our view, this reflection is of paramount importance in establishing a straightforward constructive dialogue between different cultures and academic disciplines.