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Islam allows abortion in cases of rape

Continued from last week

If it is confirmed in the early period of pregnancy that a foetus suffers from a defect that cannot be treated and that will cause great suffering to the child, a number of scholars would say that it is permissible to abort, provided that the pregnancy is less than 120 days old.

A slightly more liberal opinion is that abortion within the first 120 days would be permitted if a child would be born with such physical and mental deformity as would deprive the child of a normal life. The opinion of at least two competent medical specialists is required.

Other scholars disagree and hold that abortion is not permitted in such cases.

There is almost unanimous opinion that after 120 days an abortion is not permissible unless the defect in the embryo puts the mother’s life in danger.

In recent times in Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khameni has issued a fatwa permitting abortion for foetuses under 10 weeks shown to have the genetic blood disorder thalassemia.

And also in Iran, Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Saanei issued a fatwa which permits abortion in the first three months for various reasons. Saanei accepted that abortion was generally forbidden in Islam, but went on to say:

But Islam is also a religion of compassion, and if there are serious problems, God sometimes doesn’t require his creatures to practice his law. So under some conditions–such as parents’ poverty or overpopulation– then abortion is allowed, Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Saane iquoted in Los Angeles Times, December 29 2000

Widely quoted is a resolution of the Islamic juris prudence council of Mekkah Al Mukaramah (the Islamic World League) passing a Fatwa in its 12th session held in February 1990. This allowed abortion if the foetus was grossly malformed with untreatable severe condition proved by medical investigations and decided upon by a committee formed by competent trustworthy physicians, and provided that abortion is requested by the parents and the foetus is less than 120 days computed from moment of conception.

Rape

Some scholars state that abortion where the mother is the victim of a rape or of incest is permissible in the first 120 days of the pregnancy.

Others say abortion for such reasons is never permitted.

Explaining the difficulty of such a case, one scholar Sheikh M. A. Al-Salami, at the Third Symposium on Medical Jurisprudence said: “I believe that the value of life is the same whether this embryo is the result of fornication with relatives or non-relatives or valid marriage. In Sharia life has the same value in all cases.”

It is reported that Bosnian women raped by the Serbian army were issued a fatwa allowing them to abort, but were urged to complete the abortion before the 120-day mark. A similar fatwa was issued in Algeria.

This demonstrates that Islamic law has the flexibility to be compassionate in appropriate circumstances. In Egypt (where abortion is illegal) in June 2004, Muhammad Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar, approved a draft law allowing women to abort a pregnancy that is the result of rape. The law would also make it legal for women to undergo an abortion more than four months after conception.

His decision caused controversy among other Muslim scholars: The mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, said Tantawi’s decision was wrong and violated the Qur’an’s injunction that “forbids killing innocent souls.” He said, “It is haram [forbidden] to abort the fetus after life is breathed into it, in other words after 120 days.” However, he added that a woman could terminate a pregnancy if she was in immediate danger.

Islam does not permit abortion where an unwanted pregnancy is the result of unforced adultery.

Ensoulment

Islam forbids the termination of a pregnancy after soul or ‘Ruh’ is given to the foetus.

There’s disagreement within Islam as to when this happens. The three main opinions are: at 120 days, at 40 days and when there is voluntary movement of the foetus. This usually happens during the 12th week of gestation but many women don’t notice the movement until much later —sometimes as late as 20 weeks.

A relevant hadith suggests that the moment of ensoulment is 120 days:

Narrated Abdullah: Allah’s Apostle, the true and truly inspired said, “(as regards your creation), every one of you is collected in the womb of his mother for the first forty days, and then he becomes a clot for another forty days, and then a piece of flesh for another forty days. Then Allah sends an angel to write four words: His deeds, time of his death, means of his livelihood, and whether he will be wretched or blessed (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into his body…” Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 549. — BBC

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