Abortion: The Islamic View

Growing up as an Evangelical Christian, abortion was always something denigrated and preached heavily against as it constitutes the murdering of innocent children.  I have participated in Pro-Life rallies and protests, holding signs and shouting with everyone else.  I believed very earnestly that the mother made the choice to have sex – it was not the choice or the fault of the unborn child, who does have a soul (as David (as) says in Psalms that God knew us while we were still in the womb, and that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”).

Yet this narrow view of abortion only accounts for some of the reasons why women choose to have abortions: some have abortions to save the mother’s life, or because the mother was raped (which was certainly not a choice on the mother’s part!), and so on.  Some of these women are in fact married and are not engaging in pre- or extra-marital sex, which may be shocking for some to realize (something never ever talked about at any of the churches and protests I went to!).

Upon converting to Islam, I automatically assumed these same beliefs held true for Muslims as well: no abortion whatsoever.  Yet, I was very surprised to learn that actually, Islam takes a contextual, realistic view of abortion, unlike the black and white stance of Christians.

In fact, the Quran even weighs in on the ever-contested debate of when (or if) a human fetus has a soul: derived from Surah Mo’mineen, Islamic jurists have ruled that abortion before the 4th month is permissible IF the mother’s life is in danger.

Why favor the mother’s life  over the baby’s life?  Well, Islam follows the principle of choosing “the lesser of two evils.”  When you’re faced with only two choices, both of which are bad, you have to go with the ‘least’ bad.  In the case of a pregnant woman whose life is in danger, saving her life is better because she may have other children dependent on her, a family, a spouse, relatives, loved ones.  She is already well-established and known in this world, so to lose her would cause a great deal more heartache and trauma than that of the unborn, still unknown baby.  Plus, if we favor the baby’s life over the mother’s, then who will care for the baby?  The baby will be an orphan, and runs a very high risk of having a difficult life.

Some Islamic jurists have even ruled that abortion to save the mother’s life can take place at any time during the pregnancy, even after the 4 month time frame.  In fact, I’ve been told that this is the case in Saudi Arabia: a pregnant woman can go to a hospital and have an abortion upon discovering that her life is in danger, at any time during the pregnancy.

I’ve also read that some jurists have stated that a woman who has been raped may also abort the baby, although not everyone agrees, as opponents believe that baby falls into the same category as a baby with defects or handicaps (for which abortion is not allowed).

The issue of abortion is yet another clear example of the Islamic emphasis on logic and reason working in harmony with faith.  It is not a stark black and white issue; rather, just like all else in life, it is an issue that requires context and logic.  Religion should not stand in opposition to logic and intellect – God is the Creator of reason, so most certainly, His religion would not oppose His natural system.  SubhanAllah (glory to God).

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7 thoughts on “Abortion: The Islamic View

  1. Hi Sakina,
    Some questions, respectfully:
    First, you wrote:
    Islam states that the fetus has a soul after the 9th week (derived from Surah Mo’mineen). Thus, Islamic jurists have ruled that abortion before the 4th month is permissible

    ????The ninth week is after the second month.

    What about the argument that life begins with conception.
    Does the argument go that anything without a soul is really not alive?
    And, since a soul starts at the ninth week, before that, it is not really a “life.”
    In this context: someone who routinely uses the “after morning pill” as a means to insure that they will not become pregnant, is in fact within her bounds to do so. It would be in the same realm as contraception.
    Yes?

  2. Thanks for your comment! You’re right about the 9 weeks issue! I know that after the 4th month abortion is not allowed, so perhaps what I was reading about the 9th week is mistaken. I’ll have to go back and check that.

    Also remember that Islam does not allow abortion just because the pregnancy is simply unwanted, which is why it is only allowed in certain situations of when the mother’s life is in danger (which I believe is agreed upon by all schools of thought). Abortion is something to be avoided, but if the mother is sure that her life will be endangered, it is a choice she can make. She can also choose not to do it as well; it’s up to her.

    Again, it is important to bear in mind that when faced with two bad choices, Islam has asked us to use logic and common sense to choose the lesser of the two evils. Not everything in life is cleanly divided into good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. Sometimes you’ll have two good choices, sometimes you’ll have two bad choices (like with the case of abortion), sometimes you’ll have two choices that are neither good nor bad.

    The morning after pill is used to prevent pregnancy (not abort an existing pregnancy). So, I’m not sure of your point on that?

    • Hi Sakina,
      I thought that I had the settings right so that I would get your updated comments in my email box, but that is not the case, so sorry that this is late.

      Yes, the morning after pill is to prevent pregnancy, although there are some who say differently.
      So, sorry about that one.

      But, here is a thought.
      If the soul is not born and life doesn’t begin until the ninth week
      Then, abortion (technically) could be between the ninth week and the fourth month, of course, only in certain circumstances.
      But, before the ninth week, the .. whatever you want to call it, (embryo) is not yet a life, then, it would not be a sin to “abort it.”
      So, what is it between conception and the ninth week?
      And, is the abortion of that the same as an abortion of it in the 10th week?

      I suppose I am just unclear about when Muslims (as if you speak for each and every Muslim — smile)
      say that “life” truly begins.
      Thanks.

  3. Are you Shia? Are the views written here from Shia books?please mention the books names after you qoute views from it. Im new to your blog,just found it today through American bedu.Read the first part of your conversion, is the second part here also?

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment and for reading! I usually mention where I get my sources, either in text or via a link or citation at the bottom. If there is anything specific you’d like to have the source for, just let me know and I’ll get it for you.

      My conversion should be all there in its entirety in one blog post. I haven’t added anything else to it since I haven’t told my parents yet (after 2 full years and a year and a half of hijab!).

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