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Abortion in Islam: Analyzing the Concept

Abortion in Islam is a multifaceted issue shaped by diverse interpretations of religious texts, ethical principles, and cultural norms. Although the primary sources of Islamic law (the Quran and Hadith) do not directly address abortion, scholars have extrapolated guidelines from these texts to inform Muslim perspectives on the matter.

A foundational tenet of Islamic teachings is the sacredness of life. The Quran exhorts the importance of preserving human existence and unequivocally condemns its unjust termination according to Surat Al-Ma'idah [5:32] of Quran. This principle underscores the delicate nature of abortion-related decisions, emphasizing the gravity and complexity of choosing to end a life.

Islam clearly prohibits killing of children due to poverty or economic reasons. As stated in Surat Al-Isra [17:31] of Quran, the Lord created all living beings and provides sustenance for all. Therefore, killing someone for a perceived lack of resources is an unjustifiable act. God's provision of sustenance extends to all creatures, negating the right to end another's life out of fear of their existence diminishing one's own.

The Quran's message emphasizes the importance of nurturing life over destruction. It highlights the role God plays in providing livelihoods through the resources he has bestowed upon humanity. This principle extends to future generations, who will also rely on God's provision to sustain their lives.

In essence, Islamic teachings regard the protection of human life as paramount. While abortion is generally discouraged, Islam recognizes the exceptional circumstances where it may be permissible to protect the mother's life or health. However, it firmly condemns abortion motivated by financial reasons, upholding the inherent value of every human life and the responsibility of parents to nurture their children.

Islam's stance on abortion is rooted in its legal principles, which prioritize the safeguarding of life over gaining a benefit. Islamic law prohibits abortion except in limited circumstances where the potential benefit to the mother definitively outweighs the harm of ending the fetus's life or potential life.

While all world religions, including Islam, condemn the practice of abortion, Islamic teachings recognize exceptions in certain circumstances. One such exception is when the mother's life or health is at risk during pregnancy. In such cases, Islam prioritizes the mother's well-being and allows for abortion as a means of preserving her life.

In Islamic belief, a fetus does not attain the status of a 'human' or a 'person' until the soul is breathed into it. This concept originates from a hadith, a saying attributed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The hadith describes fetal development as a process involving three stages: a collection of cells for 40 days, a clot for another 40 days, and then a piece of flesh for another 40 days. It is only after these 120 days that an angel breathes the soul into the fetus, marking the moment of human life.

Scholars interpret the timing of these stages in two ways. Some believe the three stages occur consecutively over a total of 120 days, while others suggest they occur within the same 40 or 42-day period. However, the first interpretation is held by the majority of scholar and it is advisable to follow that i.e. ensoulment of fetus is done after 120 days and life is injected into it.

According to this interpretation, the fetus is considered 'pre-human' before the 120th day, as it lacks the essential component of a soul. It is believed that a human being is a complete entity consisting of both a body and a soul. Without the soul, the fetus is not considered fully human.

Therefore, the first stage of fetal development is referred to as 'biological life' to distinguish it from 'human life,' which begins at the moment of ensoulment on the 120th day. This distinction highlights the importance of the soul in defining human existence within the Islamic framework.

Abortion is permissible throughout the entire period of pregnancy, including after 120 days, in cases where the pregnancy poses an extreme threat to the mother's health or life. This exception is recognized when there is a substantial possibility that the mother could face fatal consequences due to the pregnancy, thus necessitating the termination of the pregnancy to preserve her health and well-being.

Abortion prior to 120 days of conception is handled on an individual basis, guided by established regulations. In certain circumstances, it is deemed permissible, such as when the mother's health is at risk or when the fetus exhibits a lethal or severely disabling abnormality. These considerations ensure that the decision-making process takes into account both the well-being of the mother and the viability of the fetus.

In circumstances where pregnancy arises involuntarily, such as due to rape, a woman has the right to keep the child. However, if she chooses not to, she may terminate the pregnancy within 120 days from conception, with earlier terminations being preferable. After 120 days, the pregnancy should be carried to term, and the Muslim community should provide support to the woman in raising her child if needed.

The ethical complexities woven into the fabric of abortion debates are rooted in the fundamental conflict between the mother's right to life and the potential life of the fetus. While prioritizing the mother's well-being is paramount, it is imperative to exhaust all available medical interventions to ensure the safety of both lives. However, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is not a frivolous one. It is a deeply personal choice made in the face of immense hardship, with the ultimate goal of securing the woman's ability to live and thrive, rather than clinging to a possibility of survival for the fetus that may or may not be realized through continued pregnancy.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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