About 80% of women living in predominantly Muslim countries, such as those in the Middle East and North Africa, are subject to rigid laws that prohibit abortion, with minimal exceptions such as risk to the mother’s life, and this raises debate about ideas of women’s reproductive rights in Islam.
While this data may support prejudices about the conception of women in Islam and their (lack of) rights, the truth is that Islam establishes options and alternatives for women in terms of their reproductive rights, including the aspect that addresses the voluntary termination of pregnancy.
Being the regulation and conception of abortion in Islam a topic of discussion quite extensive and deep, some ideas may come to commune with Western thinking on these rights. In this article, we will delve a little deeper into Islam’s view on women’s reproductive rights and the discussion on whether abortion is haram in Islam.
What is Haram in Islam?
What means Haram? Well, It is an Arabic word and also a Quranic term meaning forbidden. Haram is something that is considered forbidden or forbidden according to the sacred teachings and for Islam, it is a code of life. Haram is a guide on spiritual and material matters of human beings. Whatever is condemned or forbidden by the Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet is considered Haram.
There is a close relationship between the Haram and the philosophy of life and welfare in Islam. Those prohibited actions are those that under the scheme of the wisdom of the teachings of the Qur’an and Holy Teachings, are potentially or directly harmful. Something remarkable about the Haram is that it offers people alternatives to everything that is forbidden since its main purpose is to guide them towards a lifestyle with full well-being.
What Are The Rules of Islamic Law on Abortion?
The Shari’ah contemplates abortion from two stages of its development:
- Abortion after the entry of the soul (Ruh) into the fetus.
- Abortion before the entry of the soul into the fetus.
According to Shari’ah, the soul (Ruh) enters the fetus 120 days (4 months) after conception. The jurists (Fuqaha) base this period on a verse of the Qur’an and a statement of Allah. In the verse quoted, Allah indicates the stages of development of the embryo in the mother’s womb.
In the Hadith recorded by the two most authentic authorities, Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim in their respective Sahih collections, the periods between these stages, mentioned by the Qur’an, were discussed in detail.
“The seed of one of you remains in the womb of the mother for forty days in the form of a Nutfa. Then it remains like a clot for another forty days, and then for a same number of days like a lump of flesh” (when the formation of the limbs and the growth of the bones begin). (Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim).
Furthermore, Faqeeh Hanafi Ibn Abidin states in his Radd al-Muhtar:
“The soul enters the fetus at one hundred and twenty days (4 months), as stated in the hadiths” (Radd al-Muhtar).
The ruling on abortion at the stage after the entry of the soul into the fetus, which is 120 days, is that it is impermissible and amounts to murder according to Islam, which would automatically make it Haram.
Imam Ibn Tamiiyah states in his collection of Fatawa:
“Aborting a foetus has been declared unlawful (Haram) with the consensus of all the Muslim scholars. It is similar to burying an infant alive as referred to by Allah Almighty in the verse of the Qur’an: “And when the female infant, buried alive, will be asked as to what crime she was killed for.” (Surah al-Takwir) (Fatawa Ibn Tamiyya)
In What Cases is Abortion Permitted in Islam?
Abortion before the entry of the soul into the fetus is still considered Haram however, under some conditions, abortion is permitted in Islam, but one must pay diyat which is the financial compensation paid to the victim or legal heirs of the victim in the case of murder.
- Before the soul enters the fetus: The basic rule is that abortion will only be permitted under certain conditions.
- When there is a possibility of harm to the physical integrity of the mother.
- If the fetus is illegitimate (product of rape) and its presence will be a source of great difficulties in society, due to which deterioration of society will occur.
- After the soul has entered the fetus: In this case, diyyat must be paid even if abortion is permitted, by Islamic law.
Still, there are more modern and updated perspectives on the reality of women within Islam. Mawlānā Zubayr Aḥmad Qāsmī (Islamic Fiqh Academy of India) argued that permission to perform an abortion before consecration is not limited simply to cases of necessity (ḍarūra), but includes cases of necessity (ḥāja), which broadly includes “any situation that involves bodily or psychological harm to the parents or child and is a cause of continuing distress.” This implies that they are accepted as valid excuses:
- Danger to the physical health, mental health, or life of the mother.
- Pregnancy resulting from rape or fornication (as long as it is not a habitual practice).
- The strong possibility that the child will be born with serious physical defects as determined by a medical professional.
- The genuine inability of the parents to raise and support more than one child without negatively impacting their current children.
Role of The Spouse in The Issue of Abortion, According to Islam
For an analysis from the Islamic perspective of this issue, it is also important to consider how the figure of the husband is linked to this decision and its repercussions:
Without spousal consent: If a mother aborts her fetus without her husband’s consent, he must be compensated and the woman, as the “murderer” of her child, will be deprived of inheriting her child. Likewise, if a man forces his wife to abort the fetus, he must compensate his wife and will be treated as a “murderer” of his child, thus depriving him of his inheritance.
With the consent of the spouse: If both parents (husband and wife) have participated in the abortion, the tax penalty must be paid to the second level of heirs of the fetus, i.e. the paternal grandparents and the siblings of the fetus.
According to Islam, Women Only Have a Reproductive Purpose?
Interestingly, from an Islamic perspective, in many cases, women are valued and considered equal to men. In the case of the marital relationship, she may be legally subservient to her husband in some circumstances, but contrary to popular opinion, the production of offspring is not the sole purpose for a woman, even within marriage.
According to Al-Ghazali, the procreation of the species and the permanence of offspring are considered to be the philosophy of marriage, not its cause. Therefore, he considers marrying a sterile and menopausal woman as permissible (Al-Mizan vol.2 page 277).
Although according to Islamic law and teachings, abortion could be considered haram, the truth is that this is an internal debate within the Islamic community itself that takes more shape over the years and there is still much to discuss and debate on the issue of women’s reproductive rights, under the scheme of Islam and other belief systems.
If you are interested in various topics of everyday life such as the discussion about if What is allowed during menstruation in Islam? or more common everyday things like Do muslims drink coffee? you can check out the articles we bring for you, because we also have a curious mind like you.