I am a Muslim woman and I chose to have an abortion—Part I

I am a Muslim woman and I chose to have an abortion.
There are a few things you should know about me: I consider my religion to be the defining aspect of my life; I am an active member of my community, particularly in the area of women’s education and empowerment; and, I am a wife and mother who is nursing her baby while pursuing a post-graduate degree. I also do plan on having more children in the future, God Willing.
I also want to make clear to you, the reader, that I do not promote abortion as means of routine contraception, particularly in a world rife with sexual promiscuity, but I do believe that under certain circumstances, Islam does and should permit it. I have chosen to write anonymously about this experience in order to respect my family’s privacy, but I am prepared to deal with the potentially harsh criticism and judgment a writer inevitably opens herself up to when publishing a deeply personal story on a hotly debated issue. I am laying bare my story for one purpose: to offer up some benefit and insight to other women and couples who have been through an abortion or are considering one.

I accidently became pregnant at a time when another baby would be very difficult; both physically and emotionally I was not ready for another pregnancy. I vacillated for days over the decision to terminate the pregnancy. As a student, I had studied the fiqh (Islamic legal rulings) on women’s bodies, but at the time I had been a neutral spectator, never imagining that I would one day find myself agonizing over the ethical and spiritual dimensions of those rulings, written by men, centuries before.

Add to that the fact that I consider myself pro-choice when it comes to the female body– to an extent. That extent is determined by the Divine Hand which guides us as human beings, but allows us to make choices, a faculty which we alone as children of Adam have been given.

As a pro-choice and deeply religious Muslim, the decision to possibly terminate a pregnancy was doubly difficult for me. I researched every aspect of abortion to a fault, from medical and health perspectives to the views of different Islamic school of thought. In fact, I even poured over the diverse standpoints of other religions, peering at the issue from both feminist and traditional lenses. Wrestling with this monumental decision forced me to closely reflect on the convictions I profess to stand for. I realized that despite years of study and work in women’s rights, my early socialization in a conservative community, in which the female body and sexuality were controlled, negated and commoditized, was still embedded somewhere deep in my sub-consciousness.

In beginning to consider an abortion, I looked first to the law. Islamic law makes allowances for abortion up to 16 weeks into the pregnancy (and beyond when the mother’s life is at risk).
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said,

“Verily, each of you is gathered together in his mother’s womb for forty days, in the form of a drop of fluid. Then it is a clinging object for a similar period. Thereafter, it is a lump looking like it has been chewed for a similar period. The angel is then sent to him [the fetus] and breathes into him the spirit.” (Hadith 6390, Book 33, Muslim)

Based on this hadith, the classical scholars theorized that ensoulment occurs between three to four months in-utero, and built their rulings of abortion on this time frame. The views of the different schools of thought differ considerably about when and why abortion is permissible, from the outright prohibited to the neutrally permissible. I was raised in the most liberal of the schools, the Hanafi, which allows abortion at any time before 120 days after conception, with some scholars even ruling that it can be performed without a specific reason or the permission of the pregnant woman’s husband, while other jurists require a reasonable justification. Marion Holmes Katz analyzed where the four Sunni legal schools stood on abortion in the book, “Islamic Ethics of Life: Abortion, War and Euthanasia,” noting that a basic feature of Islamic legal discussions on abortion is “their high level of tolerance for ambiguity and complexity, which avoids absolutist simplifications of the intricate moral issues raised by fetal life.”

My preliminary research reassured me that at only six weeks pregnant, I was clearly far from the stage of ensoulment by the standards of classical Muslim jurists. And being in a devoted monogamous marriage, having undergone miscarriage, pregnancy and childbirth before, I certainly was not someone capriciously choosing abortion as a means of contraception. Renowned Professor Tariq Ramadan’s book, “Radical Reform” confirmed my feeling that abortion is not just another method of contraception and that its excessive use in the modern world is harmful, but that it should be allowed under certain circumstances. In fact, Ramadan gave an example of a scenario which described my situation perfectly. “In cases of involuntary or accidental pregnancies, especially when the family situation or the social context could prevent the family’s and/or the child’s fulfillment in life, [abortion should be permissible] …the procedure is never commendable, but the intervention can be considered when protecting a person’s [the mother’s] health, development, autonomy, welfare, education or dignity.”

After scrutinizing what the Qur’an, hadith, Islamic schools of thought and modern-day scholars have to say about abortion, my husband and I jointly chose to surgically terminate the pregnancy. The process of ending a pregnancy is just that – a process. Post-abortion recovery is as important, particularly in coming to terms with the decision on the emotional and spiritual planes of being. I am comforted by knowing that I have a most-Compassionate, Loving God to turn to, a God whose love is described as more than a mother’s love for her children. As a mother myself, I am in awe of the intensity of such love and my inner-being is replenished, allowing me to be at peace with myself and my decisions. I remain perpetually in the shade of Allah’s mercy, accountable to Him alone for my actions.
Iman is a lecturer and post-graduate candidate in Religious Studies, a mother of two little girls, and a writer and community activist.
Photo credit: Lallyna


  • Magi Aly says:

    It is un-Islamic what you have done sister-please sincerely repent to Allah-the baby was causing you no harm, nor was it for medical reasons etc. You can not justify this no matter how much you spin and turn this. The child was an innocent victim who did not ask to be created. ALLAH created them, so who were you to take their life? Allah knows best and it is HIS will we should always accept and be thankful for. Many sisters can’t even get pregnant-it is not our place to destroy the life Allah has given us, That baby had their own beating heart, DNA, was their own gender, had their own organs etc. Please Ask Allah for forgiveness.

  • Janelle says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. You have given deep thought to your situation, consulted those closest to you and your own heart. Ultimately only you can decide what is the best choice for your body, your life and your family. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.

  • EssK says:

    Even though you state that you are at peace with your decision…your entire piece of writing sounds like you still trying to convince yourself that what you did was write.

    I can be pro-choice under the right circumstances but it is hard for me to support a woman in a healthy monogamous marriage considering an abortion. You are “allowed” to do it. But I do not believe My Islam allows that.

    May Allah grant you peace with your decision & may your child wait for you in Jannah.

  • Sadia says:

    I think your a shame to the islamic community. All that you have done with your entire article is talk about various aspects of islam and how you are extremely into deen when clearly you are not. When you die and face Allah swt he is not going to ask you what you did of your education, he is going to ask you why you killed that innocent life. Its not about 40days or 120days please do not try to justify your bullshit. You have clearly done something which islam is against and something that Allah hates so there is absolutely no point in convincing yourself or the people around you by trying to shed fake tears and sympathy. Really. You should be bloody ashamed. Islam does allow you to space out your pregnancy with a means of contraception so didnt you have enough brains to do that to begin with since you sound so concerned about managing a child and ur education. Seriously all that education and ur islamic showoff can go down the drain when you can actually come down to making such decisions and claim it is OKAY when in fact you should be ashamed and asking Allah for his forgiveness every second. It is Allah who takes and gives . It is so sad that HE chose you for this blessing and not the countless other couples who try so hard just for one child with infertility on the rise.
    Please stop propagating such crap and make it sound like you took a very brave decision and a decision which is islamically right. Please look for answers in the Quran and Hadith instead of a spineless husband and some teacher who consoled you, and judge your sick action with your heart if you have any little Islam left in it and you will know what you did was right or wrong.

  • Aamina says:

    I’m sorry that you have been recieving such criticism. Thank you for sharing this. Often we hear everyone say that only Allah knows what is in everyones hearts, so I do not understand why people here believe they have the right to judge your morality and faith.
    Only you know your situation and God, thank you and may Allah make this time easier for you and your family.

  • Saima says:

    Ultimately, it was your decision. I believe no one has the right to judge what you have done but Allah swt.

  • Sadia says:

    O well.the right to judge is definitely not mine but neither is it her right to simply justify something that she has done which is clearly WRONG. She needs some nerve to say that after scrutinising the quran and hadith she decided to go ahead with this. Seriously.?????? This is like actually trying to not only comfort herself but a bunch of other idiotic woman looking for an answer online for the same and actually may end up finding her article encouraging bcoz she makes herself sound like an alima.

  • Sadia says:

    Whosoever has spared the life of a soul, it is as though he has spared the life of all people. Whosoever has killed a soul, it is as though he has murdered all of mankind.
    (Surah Maidah, Verse 32)
    Doesnt this verse speak for itself
    Is it not enough???

  • Saima says:

    I don’t disagree with you Sadia, nor I am implying what she did is right, and for your information, just because we are reading this article does not mean we are searching for similar answers, what she has done is between her and Allah. Big mistake she has done writing this article to start with as she is being judged by other people who have no right to make any judgement. What she did is between her and Allah and she should have left it as that.

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