What does Islam teach about abortion?

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Abortion is forbidden in Islam during every stage of pregnancy, from conception until birth, except for a legitimate need and within precise limits. Scholars have noted important exceptions, such as in the rare case that the developing pregnancy would threaten the mother’s life.

Financial concerns or inconvenienced life-plans are not a legitimate excuse to perform an abortion and, in fact, it is a major sin.

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

So-called ‘elective abortions’ widely practiced today, which are justified only by convenience, are not allowed in Islam under any circumstances. The slogan “my body, my choice” is false because elective abortions involve two bodies, the mother and the child, and the father has an important stake in the decision as well.

The fetus is a human being who has an inalienable natural right to be protected from violence, and this right takes precedence over an adult’s desire to be free of an unwanted baby. Since the fetus is most certainly alive even in the womb, 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

If a mother is incapable of taking care of their newborn baby, they must either seek assistance from family members or resort to adoption.

Modern 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 commented 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

That is, Allah will severely question on the Day of Judgment those who committed infanticide or unjustified abortion, implying they will be punished in the Hellfire.

A direct analogy can be drawn between the pre-Islamic practice of infanticide and today’s elective abortions. People choose abortion for largely the same reasons as the pre-Islamic Arabs. It is not uncommon for a mother, father, or family to request an abortion after they learn the gender of the fetus.

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 and extramarital 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

Married couples may use contraception for the purpose of family planning, with the safer and less intrusive methods like coitus interruptus (al-‘azl) given preference.

Jabir reported:

كُنَّا نَعْزِلُ عَلَى عَهْدِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏

We used to practice coitus interruptus in the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5207, Grade: Sahih

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

However, one should not interpret this narration as granting unrestricted permission to perform abortions up to 120 days. The fetus is a potential life, even without its soul, so disturbing its natural and expected pattern of development without a just cause is to deny a real human being the fair opportunity to live.

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 trusted experts in Islamic law and medicine for guidance on their particular situation. So-called ‘elective abortions’ or abortions of convenience are never allow in Islam, as they are a major sin akin to infanticide. And importantly, this firm ruling should not be compromised or lightened for the sake of political expedience.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

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