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

15 Comments

  • 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.

  • Ayesha says:

    To Sadia , i dont know who are you to judge here?? Probably an angel sent down by Allah to tell the writer what she has done is wrong? Please sister the only person who needs to pay attention to that verse is you ur self 🙂 . “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) . So that aayah is clearly talking about a SOUL which according to the authentic hadith is entered after 40 DAYS and you claim ” Its not about 40days or 120days please do not try to justify your bullshit” ??? The only person bullshitting here is you my friend.

    Yes it is Allah who gives and takes life but isnt it  also HE who has permitted to abort the child if the mothers life is in danger? What ?didn’t Allah know that the mothers life would be in danger yet he still put the child there ?! Is HE really going to make it so difficult for someone HE loves 70 times more than a mother ?? Or are you going to say that no let the mother die but bring the child into this world?? Allah had made islam very simple and easy for us and he has given us the ability to make the choice and it is he who forgives and gives so it should be left on him and only him to judge ( which he obviously wont because he knows the situation much better than u do )

    So before you judge another sister and her choice please ask yourself if it is really your place to be judging here because you are not in her situation, you are not living her life for her, you are not the one who will be going through the pain of delivery and raising that child and most importantly you are not going to go in her grave with her , she is , so let the decision be hers and if you really think she has committed a sin then make dua for her rather than judging and criticising her . At the end of the day Allah knows best

    Say: O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Sûrah al-Zumar: 53]

    • Sadia says:

      Dear sister ayesha
      Please read carefully
      I wrote that reply quiet harshly a year ago was because I was pregnant myself and wondered how any one could take away a blessing that Allah subhanawatalla has given us. Secondly, it is as simple as this that abortion before 120 or 40days is as sin
      And I don’t understand what your trying to say when you mean that Allah has given us the right to abort when we (a mother) is in danger. Of course. He is merciful .. that does not make abortion allowed islamically. Allah says that even drink some rum when your sick and almost dying and that’s all that’s available so does that let us have rum whenever we are sick, so what right. Allah also says don’t call yourself a Muslim if that by saying so is going to bring danger to you. So does that mean we can call ourself a non-Muslim according to convenience.
      Please read this which is probably more appropriate
      Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 6 Surah Anaam verse 140:
      Most surely they became losers, who, in their folly and ignorance killed their own children; and made unlawful what Allah had provided them as sustenance, falsely ascribing prohibitions to Allah. Surely, they went astray and were not at all rightly guided.

      Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 17 Surah Israa verse 31:
      Do not kill your children for fear of want; for it is We Who provide for them, and for you as well. Indeed, their killing is a heinous crime!
      I am sorry if I was too judgemental earlier but trying to make something seem ok when it is clearly not islamically really goes beyond my understanding. And anyone siding her has probably done the same or is thinking of doing the same and think it’s OK.
      Yes if you’ve done something wrong instead of justifying repent TO Allah as he says he is ready to forgive the gravest of sins when there is repentance.

  • islam says:

    Jazallahu Sis Iman, Alhamdulilah may Allah make things easier for all of us.
    I wish that all those who commented here understood you took the decision within context and with the fear of Allah.
    I came across your article because the subject is a current issue between me and my newly wedded wife. She informed me about her pregnancy just last week, 9 days to date. Now, per your analysis, the is by every measure an accidental one because we never planned, discussed or programmed a pregnancy. She knows how financially burdened I am as an unemployed, taking care of 9 orphans, a mother and others.
    I personally received it as a shock but disguise and congratulated her with a fake smile. I have now doubled my efforts at a job search and in the process, I secured a scholarship for her rather in a UK whiles I am on Africa. As a first timer, it sounds hard for me to allow her alone out there but I equally cant make terms with she for going that scholarship. In as much as I pray for you, I also wish we pray for me and my wife. Things are really really hard in Africa here. I have been footing expenses for others who held the halal/haram lens of judging these kind of issues. Yet in the end, they cant afford ram to name the babies. I did it twice just to lessen their sorrow if though I don’t have it to save or spend at a go like as in the expenditure of sponsoring naming ceremony but I had to do it anyways and feel bitter within. The recent one I did had 7 children and couldn’t afford a ram to name the child.
    Now can you believe as a society what we are doing to ourselves?
    I would have also joined the league of critics if I wasn’t also married but now in marriage, I believe they can even be an accidental marriage but as to what to do when it comes,i don’t know yet. But I strongly believe Allah will be pleased with your decision.
    As for mine, I am also still praying for Allah to make a way out because if my wife forfeits this scholarship and gives birth in my current joblessness and debts I have on my head, I wonder if I
    can foot her medicals and that of the child. My research on the topic is still on…. Pray for me Insha Allah.
    May Allah have mercy on all of us.

    amen!!!

  • Fatima says:

    SADIA SADIA SADIA YOU ARE FULL OF CRAP.ALLAH WILL QUESTION YOU IN THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE???ALLAH FORGIVES AND PUNISHES WHO HE WILLS.”SO YOU DO YOUR JOB AND START REPENTING YOUR OWN SINS DONT COUNT OTHERS LIKE YOUR THE MOST PIOUS!! LET ALLAH BE THE JUDGE!!!COME TO ME WITH A MOUNTIAIN FULL OF SINS ILL FORGIVE YOU AS LONG AS YOU DONT ASSOCIATE PARTNERS WITH ME”.!!!!I AM A REVERT FROM HINDUISM AND PRACTISING MUSLIM WITH 3 KIDS ALHUMDULILLA.YOU ARE FOR SURE ONE JUDGEMENTAL FREAK DONT BLAME YOU LOL,YOU SURELY DONT HAVE ENOUGH WISDOM(HIKMAH)!!!BE WISE LOVE!!! ALLAH GAVE US FREE WILL WITH DO AND DONT,SO THEY FACE THE CONSIQUENSES INFRONT OF ALLAH NOT YOU SO SHUT YOUR BLADY NEGETIVE MOUTH!!!!

  • Mohamed says:

    It was totally wrong what you did while been married , you use the pretext of feminism and education but isn’t it an irony that you want to get an education in Islamic studies by aborting ? This is outrageous, i hope you understand this, we were sent on earth not to get PHDs , Allah permits and encourages us to do follow knowledge but not if you will have to sin to get it. I understand that it was very hard for you and your family to bear this and contexts are very different and only you know what you went through, you may have done this because you were frustrated with all your marital obligations but what you forgot is what matters the most , worshipping Allah, we are here only to do so and not to fight for rights or do feminism and I totally agree with Sadias’ comment up. The answer you were searching for was infront of you and not in your researches, I only wrote this comment not to hurt you or anything I just want to make you understand that by publishing this on the internet do you know how many people have you influenced around the world in different contexts to do abortion? Some may be right and some wrong are you ready to be part? You are just worsening your case, please for the sake of Allah delete this page , May Allah forgive you and your husband, I hope you truly understand this.

  • Katrina says:

    I was force with the father of my son to abort the baby because he is not emotionally ready. He is a muslim and her friend advice me also to abort the baby which is also a muslim i don’t get it how they can just easy say that. But in my opinion, I would rather stand with God (allah) stand with the world and be judged by God(allah).

Leave a Reply