What is the Islamic view on abortion? How do Muslims feel about this controversial topic?
The video above is of Scott Roeder. In May 2009, he shot Dr. George Tiller as he was attending church services. Less than a year later, Scott Roeder was convicted of killing Dr. Tiller and sentenced to a minimum of 50 years to life in prison.
This incident was just the culmination of the long standing abortion debate in the United States. This debate involves two sides:
- Pro-choice activists, or those who support abortion. This party believes women have the right to choose whether they want to carry a child to term or not.
- Pro-life activists, or those who oppose abortion. This party believes that unborn children, at virtually all stages of development, are living human beings and killing them is tantamount to murder.
While people who belong to these two groups can hold widely varying views on abortion, their characteristics can be easily generalized.
Pro-choice advocates are generally liberal leaning politically and pro-life advocates are generally conservative.
The pro-life advocates are also usually Christian and use Biblical texts to support their claim. And the primary proponents of the Pro-Life side are evangelical Christians.
But what about the Muslim point of view? What does Islam say about abortion?
Fortunately, Muslims have centuries of scholarship to guide us through this thorny subject. Hence we need not resort to knee jerk “fatwas” or assume Islam has a specific ruling on this subject.
Here’s what you should know about the Islamic view on abortion.
In General, Abortion is Forbidden
For most instances, Islam forbids abortion. For instance, if a woman becomes pregnant due to committing fornication or adultery, she cannot abort her child simply to avoid shame or hide her sin.
Likewise, if a man impregnates a women, whether she is his wife or not, he cannot force her to get an abortion, regardless of his reason for doing so. He cannot request her to abort her child to save face or because he fears he may not be able to take care of the child.
Allah tells His messenger Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) what translates to:
O Prophet! If believing women come unto thee, taking oath of allegiance unto thee that they will ascribe nothing as partner unto Allah, and will neither steal nor commit adultery nor kill their children, nor produce any lie that they have devised between their hands and feet, nor disobey thee in what is right, then accept their allegiance and ask Allah to forgive them. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
But There Are Exceptions
However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Islam is a comprehensive faith that satisfies all of our needs. And whether we like it or not, or want to admit it or not, there are times when an abortion may be necessary. But even these exceptions have very strict limitations.
- If the child has serious deformities, some scholars say the pregnancy can be terminated. However, this must be done before the soul is breathed into the child, that is within the first 120 days, or four months.
- In cases of rape or incest, most scholars agree that a woman can end her pregnancy. If a woman is victimized in such a manner, the abortion should be done within the first forty days. (It should be noted that she does also have the right to carry the child to term, if she wants.) Once again, after 120 days, it is not permissible to abort the child.
- If the mother’s life will be put in danger by giving birth, the fetus can be aborted. This is the only case where the fetus can be aborted even after four months.
Ending a pregnancy is a tremendous decision for the mother. Whatever a woman’s reason for considering an abortion, it should be done so with deliberation and care. Fortunately, we have wisdom and scholarship to guide us to making the correct decisions.
And Allah knows best.