Question # 328: Asalaam Alleykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.. Is abortion allowed in Islam, and if so to what extent?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: In general, it is not permissible to abort pregnancy at any stage unless there is a legitimate reason and it is within the very precise time limits. Hence, if it is proven beyond any doubt, by a team of trustworthy medical specialists, that the fetus is deformed, which cannot be treated; in view of the difficulties it would face in life and the hardship this would present to the parents/society, abortion is permitted with the consent of the parents and within the first 120 days from conception. Such abnormalities do not include the loss of one of the senses or limbs or similar conditions. Furthermore, it is absolutely haraam to abort the fetus after the soul has been breathed into it, i.e., after 120 days have passed since conception. The only exception in this case, which permits abortion, is when continuing the pregnancy would pose a threat to mother’s life on the condition that all possible means of keeping the fetus alive were exhausted and the decision was based on the determination of trustworthy medical specialists. Such concession is granted to ward off the greater of two evils and to serve the greater of two interests.

Long Answer:  The Council of Senior Scholars issued the following statement:

  1. It is not permissible to abort a pregnancy at any stage unless there is a legitimate reason, and within very precise limits. [Else. once pregnancy is discovered, it must be protected and it is haraam for the mother to harm the pregnancy or disturb it in any way, because it is a trust that Allah has placed in her womb and it has rights, so it is not permissible to mistreat it, harm it or destroy it.]
  2. If the pregnancy is in the first stage (the nutfah (drop) stage which results from the mixing of the “two waters” which is the first forty days after the embryo attaches itself in the womb), and aborting it serves a legitimate purpose or will ward off harm, then it is permissible to abort it. But aborting it at this stage for fear of the difficulty of raising children or of being unable to bear the costs of maintaining and educating them, or for fear for their future or because the couple feel that they have enough children – this is not permissible.
  3. It is not permissible to abort a pregnancy when it is an ‘alaqah (clot stage where it turns into solid blood during the second forty days) or mudghah (chewed lump of flesh – stage, when the embryo looks like a piece of meat with the limbs and features beginning to appear) (which are the second and third periods of forty days each) until a trustworthy medical committee has decided that continuing the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s wellbeing, in that there is the fear that she will die if the pregnancy continues. It is permissible to abort it once all means of warding off that danger have been exhausted.
  4. After the third stage, and after four months have passed, it is not permissible to abort the pregnancy unless a group of trustworthy medical specialists decide that keeping the fetus in his mother’s womb will cause her death, and that should only be done after all means of keeping the fetus alive have been exhausted. A concession is made allowing abortion in this case so as to ward off the greater of two evils and to serve the greater of two interests. A concession is made allowing abortion in this case so as to ward off the greater of two evils and to serve the greater of two interests.

Furthermore, the Islamic Fiqh Committee of the Muslim World League in its 12th conference held in Makkah on 15 Rajab 1410 AH (10/2/1990 CE) issued the statement that “it is permissible to abort a fetus… [if it is proven in a definitive fashion, beyond any doubt, by a trustworthy medical committee, that the fetus is deformed, and that this deformity cannot be treated by the specialists… and in view of the difficulties it would face in life and the hardship this would present to the parents, and the burdens and responsibilities of care it would place on the society, but] with the consent of the parents and within the first 120 days from the beginning of the pregnancy.”  The decision of the committee was in accordance with the fatwa of the Standing Committee for Academic Research and Issuing Fatwas in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, no. 2484, issued on 16/7/1399 AH. [According to Dr. Hatem al-Haj, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America, such abnormalities do not include the loss of one of the senses or limbs or similar conditions.]

But if the soul has been breathed into the fetus and it has completed 120 days, then it is not permissible to abort it, no matter what the deformity, unless continuation of the pregnancy would put the mother’s life in danger. This is because after the soul has been breathed into the fetus, it is considered to be a person who must be protected, regardless of whether it is free of disease or not, and regardless of whether there is hope of recovery or not. That is because Allah has a reason for everything that He creates, which many people do not know, and He knows best what is right for His creation, as Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: “Should not He Who has created know? And He is the Most Kind and Courteous (to His slaves), All Aware (of everything). (Soorah al-Mulk, 67:14) (Ahkaam al-Janeen fi’l-Fiqh al-Islami, by ‘Umar ibn Muhammad ibn Ibraaheem Ghaanim)

(Unless specific otherwise, the above reply is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam