What does Islam teach about abortion?

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Abortion is unlawful in every stage of pregnancy, from conception until birth, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. Scholars have noted important exceptions, such as in the case that the developing pregnancy would threaten the mother’s life.

Allah said:

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا

Do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Verily, their killing is a great sin.

Surat al-Isra 17:31

The fetus is a human being who has the right to be protected from violence, and this right takes precedence over an adult’s desire to be free of an unwanted baby. An aborted or miscarried fetus is given the funeral prayer in Islam the same as any other human being.

Al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him:

وَالسِّقْطُ يُصَلَّى عَلَيْهِ وَيُدْعَى لِوَالِدَيْهِ بِالْمَغْفِرَةِ وَالرَّحْمَةِ

The funeral prayer should be offered over the miscarried fetus, and supplications for forgiveness and mercy should be made for the parents.

Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 3180, Grade: Sahih

Abortion resembles the pre-Islamic practice of the Arabs in which they would bury their female children alive as soon as they were born, because they believed female children were burdensome or shameful. Islam has strictly forbidden this practice in the strongest of terms.

Allah said:

وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُم بِالْأُنثَىٰ ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُ مُسْوَدًّا وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ يَتَوَارَىٰ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ مِن سُوءِ مَا بُشِّرَ بِهِ ۚ أَيُمْسِكُهُ عَلَىٰ هُونٍ أَمْ يَدُسُّهُ فِي التُّرَابِ ۗ أَلَا سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ

If one of them is given good news of a baby girl, his face darkens and he is distressed. He hides himself from people because the unfortunate news. Will he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the dust? No doubt, evil is their judgment.

Surat al-Nahl 16:58-59

And Allah said:

وَإِذَا الْمَوْءُودَةُ سُئِلَتْ بِأَيِّ ذَنبٍ قُتِلَتْ

When the infant girl buried alive is asked for what sin she was killed?

Surat al-Takwir 81:8-9

Ibn Kathir comments on this verse, writing:

فَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ تُسْأَلُ الْمَوْءُودَةُ عَلَى أَيِّ ذَنْبٍ قُتِلَتْ لِيَكُونَ ذَلِكَ تَهْدِيدًا لِقَاتِلِهَا فَإِذَا سُئِلَ الْمَظْلُومُ فَمَا ظَنُّ الظَّالِمِ إِذًا

On the Day of Resurrection, the buried infant girl will be asked for what sin she was killed as a threat to her killer. If the oppressed is asked about it, then what of the oppressor?

Source: Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr 81:8

And Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

إسْقَاطُ الْحَمْلِ حَرَامٌ بِإِجْمَاعِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَهُوَ مِنْ الْوَأْدِ

Aborting a fetus is unlawful according to the consensus of the Muslims, as it is like the infant who is buried alive.

Source: Majmū’ al-Fatāwá 34/160

Abortion is often used by people to support a lifestyle of irresponsible sexual intercourse. They would like to perform abortions without legal restrictions so they can have recreational sex without consequences. Such a lifestyle can never be justified in Islam, as a man and woman should not engage in intercourse unless they are prepared to support their child in a healthy marriage.

Allah said:

وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَاءَ سَبِيلًا

Do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Verily, it is immoral and it is an evil way.

Surat al-Isra 17:32

If the mother’s life might be threatened by the developing pregnancy, then some scholars say it is permissible to deliberately abort the fetus, preferably before the first forty or up to 120 days. This concession is based upon the principle of choosing the lesser of two evils, and the time period is based upon the narration of the Prophet (s) which states that the soul is breathed into fetus during the first forty to 120 days.

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

نَّ أَحَدَكُمْ يُجْمَعُ خَلْقُهُ فِي بَطْنِ أُمِّهِ أَرْبَعِينَ يَوْمًا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ فِي ذَلِكَ عَلَقَةً مِثْلَ ذَلِكَ ثُمَّ يَكُونُ فِي ذَلِكَ مُضْغَةً مِثْلَ ذَلِكَ ثُمَّ يُرْسَلُ الْمَلَكُ فَيَنْفُخُ فِيهِ الرُّوحَ

Verily, the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s womb for forty days in the form of seed, then he is a clot of blood for another period, then a morsel of flesh for another period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows the breath of life into him…

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2643, Grade: Sahih

As such, it is permissible to perform an abortion if there is a life-threatening medical reason for doing so, but it is never permissible if the intention is fear of poverty or to support an irresponsible lifestyle.

Shaykh Omar Suleiman summarizes the view of modern scholars:

In the Islamic ethical system, life is sacred, and hence must be honored and promoted. Having children is a shared right between spouses, and hence neither spouse should obstruct that right—before or after conception—without good reason. Contraception is permissible with safer methods being preferred. Once the woman’s egg is fertilized, it is impermissible to terminate the pregnancy without the mutual agreement of both parents. Once the fetus reaches 40 days from conception, abortion becomes impermissible according to most scholars, unless a pressing need exists which justifies it in the eyes of Islamic law. Once the fetus reaches 120 days, all scholars agree that terminating the gestation of a living fetus would only be allowed to save the mother’s life. Otherwise, it is unlawful feticide: the killing of a soul-bearing unborn human being. The scholars also deem abortion in the case of fetal demise permissible at any point, as the soul is no longer believed to be present.

Source: Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

In sum, the general rule is that abortion is not permissible except in extraordinary circumstances. If such circumstances are present, the father and mother should consult experts in Islamic law and medicine for guidance on their particular situation.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.