Pearl of Wisdom
'Keep away from doing that which you must excuse yourself for, for verily that involves hidden polytheism.'
Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa [sawa]
Bihar al-Anwar, v. 78, p. 200, no. 28
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Abortion in Islam
Islam's approach to the issue of birth control and abortion is very balanced. It allows women to prevent pregnancy but forbids them to terminate it. Abortion after the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the womb is absolutely forbidden and is considered a crime against the law of God, and the fetus.
From the Islamic point of view, the illegitimacy of aborting a fetus does not depend on the issue of whether the fetus has the status of a human being or not. Although Islam does not recognize the fetus as a human being, it still gives to it the right of a possible life.
Abortion has become common in the Western world for various reasons
1. sometimes it is a matter of choice between a child and a career;
2. sometimes it is a matter of choice between a child and a luxurious life-style;
3. sometimes it is because of the child's illegitimacy;
4. sometimes it is because of the wrong sex of the child;
5. sometimes it is because of rape.
All these justifications are unacceptable from the Islamic point of view. The first two excuses reflect the selfish nature of this materialistic society. Allah says, "Do not kill your children because of (fear of) poverty. We will provide for you and them." (6: 152) "Do not kill your children for fear of poverty; We will provide for them and you. Surely the killing (of children) is a great error." (17:31) The third excuse is a by-product of illicit sexual relations which Islam strongly condemns. The fourth reason is no less evil and cruel than the pre-Islamic Arab custom of burying baby girls alive.
As for the fifth case involving rape, the lady should use the morning after pill or RU486 immediately after the sexual assault in order to prevent the possible implantation of a fertilized ovum. But if pregnancy is established, then Islam does not allow abortion. In such cases, Islam says that why abort the child for the crime of the father? As for the reputation of the woman, Islam strongly condemns the people who look down upon the rape victim; instead of reviling her, they should be sympathetic to her.
Modern technology (like ultra sound scan) has made it possible to know whether or not a child has a defect long before he is born. Some people justify the abortion of a defective fetus. The present mujtahids do not allow such abortions; they say that the parents should pray and hope for a normal and healthy child. There are many examples where the prediction of the doctors have been proven wrong! In other words, what our mujtahids are saying is that take preventative measures before going for pregnancy; but once pregnancy has taken place, you are not allowed to abort a fetus even if it is defective.
The shari'ah allows abortion only when doctors declare with reasonable certainty that the continuation of pregnancy will endanger the woman's life. This permission is based on the principle of the lesser of the two evils known in Islamic legal terminology as the principle of al-ahamm wa 'l-muhimm (the more important and the less important). The Prophet said, "When two forbidden things come [upon a person] together, then the lesser will be sacrificed for the greater." In the present case, one is faced with two forbidden things: either abort the unborn child or let a living woman die. Obviously, the latter is greater than the former; therefore, abortion is allowed to save the live person.