Drawing upon references from the Islamic tradition, discuss the ethics of abortion. According to Islam is Abortion ever permissible?
The abortion argument in Islam takes its status in a specific religious setting shaped by the divinely exposed teachings of the religion. These teachings are acknowledged by Muslims as sacred and unchallengeable and have persisted undisputed for over centuries. The greatest importance of these teachings affects the meaning and purpose of human life. Islam teaches that human life is sacred because its origins come from God alone, who by his position is sacred and the final source of all that is holy. Within these writings Human beings are seen as God’s finest creation by way of the fact that in creation he breathed his spirit into every human body, male and female, at a certain stage of its embryological development. This exhalation by God of the heavenly soul into the human fetus is called its ensoulment. Thus by doing this it bestows on man, the status of theomorphic existence, and it is this very existence that is exalted above all things as life itself is god’s divine gift to mankind. So from this point Islam supports a strong and serious standpoint on the taking of a person’s life and of all actions which may be injurious to such life. One of the five basic human rights preserved in the Sharia is the protection by the state of every human life. The Qur’an asserts that
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‘whosoever kills a [single] human for other than murder or other than the corruption of the earth [i.e., war], it is as though he has killed all humankind and whosoever has saved one human, it is as though he has saved all humankind’ (5:35).
When we discuss the term “other than murder” in this verse within Islamic law it refers mostly to justifiable homicide, these can be acts of self-defense and subsequent acts of capital punishment as set under the Islamic law of equality (qisas).Islam imparts that a human is not just a mind-body or soul-body object that has come into being in the course of an completely physical, historical, or evolutionary development, rather the religious entity contends that rather he/she is an individual who is also a spirit whose existence exceeds the physical space as we know it. Within this existence individuals are disregarding all we believe we know. This divine material found in all human individuals is regarded by Muslim theorists as the best part of ourselves which is able to distinguish itself, God and have insight even into the spiritual realm; this is what in reality set us above all other creations. Within this admitted hierarchy of Creation in which human are set above all other living things, the Qur’an and the Sunnah however strongly order Muslims to treat animals with compassion and not to abuse them as well. The Qur’an states that all creation praises God, even if this praise is not expressed in human language (17:44). In addition the Qur’an contends that “There is not an animal in the earth, nor a flying creature on two wings, but they are communities like unto you” (6:38). This is stated due to the sanctity of life. Taking a life even that of a animal for food is to be done only if it is a necessity. In this regard abortion is seen as an abomination to creation as a whole as far as islam is concerned
When we look into the Islamic debate of abortion it is usually focused on the question also of rights and responsibilities between the husband and wife so it is important we add this into the equation. It is here again that the Qur’an emphases the belief that everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to God. So if we are really speaking metaphysically on this matter within Islam, individuals do not have ownership over anything, not even over their own bodies. Within this vein of thinking it is God alone who has assigned the rights of both men and women and their subsequent roles as husband and wives. Continuing on this thinking both men and women within Islam get their rights through the adjudication of the Divine Law through the Qur’an.
The Qur’an mentions considerably the ensoulment of the human body, largely in the setting of God’s creation story, the making of Adam. Here we also are able to read our shared affirmation of humankind’s supremacy over the rest of creation, including the angels. When Muslims need insight into abortion or the subject of the ethics of abortion in Islam it can only be resolved by looking closely at the Qur’an. This is considered the source of all truth in the Islamic world, as well as the Sunna, who is the living example of the Prophet. Allah states clearly in the Qur’an the method of human development in the womb.
“0 people! If you are in doubt about the raising, then surely We created you from dust, then a small seed, then from a clot, then from a lump of flesh, complete in make and incomplete. . . “
From this viewpoint human life as we know it is not human until the “lump of dust “phase is finalised. Here it is clear that human existence is not human until the lump of flesh stage is completed, subsequently this verse informs us the laws of succession as far as Islam is before we become a person.
Similar passages in the Qur’an make it undeniable that Allah creates humans in stages and foetuses earlier than the final stage are not classified as humans. Anees (1989) notes this as well, when he states;
It is obvious that the Muslim juristic appraisal of the legality of induced abortion hinges on one and only one determinant: transformation from a ‘biological’ being (may be taken as an equivalent of the animal stage of development) to a human being. This transmutation is brought about when the spirit is infused into that biological being (P.177)
Further, Asad, and Bahishti other Islamist writers, in this modern period have interpreted this surah in this way. The language in this surah which has an addition to it is called an hadith is also reverberated in the creation of the law by the Prophet.
This hadith 6397 reflects that Anas b. Malik as reported directly from Allah’s messenger (may peace be upon him) said:
Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, has appointed an angel as caretaker of the womb, and he would say: My Lord, it is now a drop of semen; my Lord, it is now a clot of blood, my Lord, it has now become a lump of flesh, and when Allah decides to give it a final shape, the angel says: My Lord, would it be male or female or would he be an evil or a good person? What about his livelihood and his age. And it is all written as he is in the womb of his mother
This passage contemplates that Allah bestows all human characteristics within the womb, such that the creation within the womb becomes the incubator of creation, the catalyst of all life itself.
Again we are brought back to the conclusion that the foetus is just a drop or a clot or a lump until Allah decides to give it its final form, and at that stage its future is recognised and ascertained by Allah. In conclusion, this same language is used in a hadith which asserts that each of the first three stages represents 40 days. (Hadith=is a saying or an act or tacit approval or disapproval ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Hadith are regarded by traditional Islamic schools of jurisprudence as important tools for understanding the Quran and in matters of law http://www.memidex.com/hadiths)
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(Abdullah said that the Prophet of God (May peace and blessings be upon him) said that the sperm is in the womb for forty days without its condition changing. When it has passed these forty days it becomes a clot, then in that manner it becomes a bigger thing likewise, and when Allah wants to complete its creation, He sends an angel. He tells the angel that which He commands for it: for example, male or female, unhappy or joyful, short or tall, weak or strong, and he make the person healthy or infirm. He (the Prophet) said that he (the angel) writes all of this down.
This Islamic view of fetal development based on the Qur’an and hadith is central to the Muslim arguments on abortion. All Muslim experts in the philosophy of religious law and specifically the readings of the Quran accept as true that the foetus only becomes a human being after the fourth month of pregnancy. Thus as a result of this finding, abortion is forbidden after that stage (Musallam, 1983).In spite of this however there is differing views concerning the tolerability of abortion through the first four months of pregnancy. This is the period just before the “ensoulment” of the foetus.
Conflict arises based on the religious schooling of the theorists in this matter. The hanafi School of Islamic law allows abortion to be performed at any period throughout the four-month pregnancy stage. Within their writings they decrees that
“the woman has the right to adopt some method of obtaining abortion if quickening of the fetus has not occurred, which happens after 120 days of conception” (Abedin, p. 121).
On the other hand the majority of Maliki law makers prohibit abortion absolutely. Their core disagreement is that even though the foetus does not become a human until after its ensoulment, we have a duty not to interfere with the natural development of conception. Once the semen has established itself in the womb, as the semen is predestined for ensoulment. Again there is debate by some Maliki Lawmakers which allow abortion of a fetus up to forty days old. Other schools of Islamic law like the Sunnis and Shi’ites agree with the Hanafis in their tolerance of abortion; however they differ in the specific interpretations of the law making it increasingly an ongoing debatable parody.
This brings to the point that it is crucial to emphasize that there is an exact and detailed theological and ethic-legal context in which abortion has been allowed in Islam. Muslim Imam’s categories all human act into five categories, namely (1) the obligatory (wÄjib), (2) the recommended (mandÅ«b), (3) the allowable or the indifferent (mubÄh), (4) the blameworthy or the discouraged (makrÅ«h), and (5) the forbidden (harÄm). Abortion has been subsequently placed using this scale in the third category, that of the (mubah), allowable.
In conclusion to this everlasting argument the writings of Allah, within the Quran, have made it clear that to take any life is wrong. All Islamic people are under the protection of Allah. Allah also implores us from the Qur’an that any foetus in a womb is not a human person until after a stated period has passed. Allah’s case in point adds that the period specified is 120 days of gestation, after which time the foetus is treated as a Muslim, however it is still not seen as a true living Muslim. This is implied as there is no punishment on a woman who is forced to miscarry and from this the foetus dies. Finally, it can be said that although abortion in the first 120 days of gestation is largely seen as morally wrong in Islamic law, it is not considered to be murder. Abortion within this 120 day period falls into the classification of bodily injury or breaking of an oath, thus the person who is found guilty at this time is usually served with some kind of penance punishment. The question of abortion becomes an illogical dilemma then when we take into account the killing of one’s children which is classified as one of the gravest sins within the Qur’an. Such that if an abortion took place after the 120 days it would surmount to the sin of killing a child, and because of its position in the legal-ethical debate would need sufficient arguments that the abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother, that is it was necessary to save another life.