I am Muslim and I chose to have an abortion—Part II

After perusing all the scholarly material addressing the topic of abortion that I could find, and finding that options to terminate a pregnancy before 120 days into the pregnancy were well grounded in the Islamic tradition, I felt nearly ready to take my decision. The texts alone were not enough to give me the conviction I needed, I had to seek support and advice from the people closest to me.
I had not planned to become pregnant; in fact, I was using contraception at the time. I was working to complete my graduate studies, all the while juggling the demands of motherhood, which included breastfeeding and pacing the floors two-thirds of the night with my baby. In addition to that, I had committed to a spiritual learning process with my Shaykh in working toward Ijazah (licence) in the classical Islamic texts, and another pregnancy would have set this endeavor back by years.

When my husband and I began to discuss this monumental decision, he jolted me to self-realization by pointing out something I had not considered. He believed that deciding for termination, in my case, was actually the more difficult decision, the struggle, or the jihad as he put it, because ending my pregnancy would mean reversing years of social conditioning which I had so long fought against. So together, we came to the agonizing decision to terminate a six-week pregnancy. I could not have made this decision without my husband by my side, supportive and compassionate every step of the way, giving me courage, and caring, as he always does, for our children while I recovered. We unfortunately still live in a largely patriarchal world, but I am encouraged by men such as him, who challenge day after day the chauvinism and sexism which seek to control women’s lives and bodies.

While I am in a fortunate position to have the presence of people of both intellect and spirit in my life, who dealt with my questions with compassionate wisdom, there are so many Muslim women who do not have this luxury and I was alarmed at the lack of support, both in the virtual and corporeal Muslim communities. Fatawas (non-binding religious decrees) and articles abound on the internet, warning Muslims of the complete prohibition of abortion in Islam, conveniently leaving out hundreds of years of intellectual endeavor, which gave women choices, even if some were only circumstantial.

Feeling disheartened, I turned to two people for whom I have profound respect and love. The first is a professor of Islamic Studies, whose work informs much of my own gender sensitivities; I confronted her with my dilemma, and after a thoughtful pause, she replied, “Whatever emerges as your and your husband’s joint decision, [if] you have both made [it] with a sincere, prayerful and surrendered intention, [it] will be best. Keep in your heart’s eye that surrender to Allah is not always conforming to either established notions or even your own intellectual notions.” So I took down some walls and opened up space in my mind and heart to welcome whatever Allah wanted to communicate to me through this experience. Perhaps this trial, like most, was an opportunity to grapple with receiving the wisdom that will come through the very process of grappling. My professor’s words propelled me into deep introspection about my relationship with God, and gave me much needed succor in my heart to trust in the decision I would make.

The second person who I looked to for advice is someone for whom to ascribe the title “scholar” or “Shaykh” to is an injustice, for the depth and breadth of his knowledge and spirit encompass much more. His presence in my life has been that of divine light. I confessed to him the reasons for considering a termination shortly before the procedure. I had not realized the disquietude in my soul over this decision until he comforted me and I felt the anxiety leaving my spirit. I realized then that I had been missing true conviction in my decision, that “shar’an” (religiously) as he termed it, using decades of legal expertise in his matter-of-fact-way, I was making the right decision and it was pragmatic to do so. My beloved Shaykh reassured me that I was bold to take this difficult decision and would realize that it was indeed providential.

The women who run the discreet clinic I visited gave me startling insight into the world of Muslims and abortion, when they realized my hijab-clad self was not the type of Muslim they had encountered before – telling sordid tales of guilt-stricken and frightened women who sneak in to see them, of men who demand abortions for their wives at the 16 week cut-off time based on the gender of the baby. In a state of “conscious sedation,” in the oddest of settings, I found myself as usual having to explain and defend my religion. The two doctors who attended to me were wonderful women – and while I certainly do not agree with all their views on sex and sexuality, their concern, kindness and empathy touched me to the core of my being. I realized that being pro-choice does not make one anti-life as those who are against abortion would have us believe.

The abortion itself was relatively painless, with only minor cramping, discomfort and bleeding. My thoughts were with those women who do not have access to safe, medically sound contraception and pregnancy termination options, forced to resort to untrained practitioners who use dangerous herbs, chemicals and instruments to induce abortion, risking their patients’ lives, health and future fertility in the process. My heart-to-hearts with my two learned mentors confirmed what my earlier research had shown—that in delicate situations like these, there are no clear-cut, black and white answers. The choices we make are the ones which God allows us to make when we search deep within ourselves.

It is essential in the current milieu of medical advancement and recognition of the importance of the psychological wellbeing of women to the family and society, for Muslims to look back into the classical legacy. We must work with the allowances which the jurists saw fit to dispense, rather than coercing women with guilt to resign themselves to accidental pregnancies, when in fact, our scholarly legacy is much more complex and pluralistic than a simple halal/haram declaration on the issue.

To move beyond this kind of thinking, scholars and health practitioners as well as concerned women and men need to work together in promoting better understandings of the gendered dimension of biomedical ethics and Islam.

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: billax


  • khadijah says:

    Let me tell you a story.
    I was in the middle of medical training with three children when I became pregnant with my fourth child.
    I was tired, struggling and had little emotional or financial support but I needed to complete the training in order to help give me and my children a better life.
    I asked Allah to give me ease and maybe allow the pregnancy to miscarry.
    The pregnancy continued.
    I did think about abortion – ALOT, but knew I could never morally live with this decision.
    As the pregnancy progressed, I found out that there may be something potentially wrong with the baby. Do you want to abort? No I said and so I continued.
    At nine months pregnant I found that the baby had stopped moving and had died, Alhumdullilah.
    I took some time out to grieve before continuing my studies and Alhumdulillah managed to successfully complete my training.
    What I am trying to remind you is that Allah is the best of planners and we are not.
    I too shared those fears of not being prepared and ‘being put back by years’ with the arrival of a new baby.
    However they are just that – perceptions, anxieties and fears.
    Now I look back and think Alhumdulillah!
    If I had aborted the pregnancy I may never have had the blessings of a beautiful baby in Jannah waiting for me or InshaAllah a reward for bearing this test – something worth far more than any qualification in this world can offer .
    Please think, what blessings could this baby and this test have brought you?

  • 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.

  • Zeena says:

    I would love an update from this sister. Especially in regards to her emotions of having undergone an abortion. I am currently in a similar situation.

  • Sarah says:

    You, your husband, and everyone who didn’t talk you out of the abortion are not muslims. You killed a baby for a stupid reason. If you really believed in islam and allah, you would have known allah would always find a way out for you during your time of need. Like I said before your not a true muslim, more like a murderer to me who doesn’t want to have a burden.

    • Huma says:

      Sarah, even though having an abortion is haram in Islam, you have no right to call someone non muslim. Who are you to judge? It doesnt matter what you think, no one cares and it doesnt matter That is between them and Allah. Yes, every child born comes with its own blessings and Allah find a way to provide. You can just pray for them that Allah makes their struggles and hardships easy.

  • Moshood Baseeroh says:

    May Almighty-Allah forgive you, your husband and your supporters, may He make struggles and hardships easy for each and everyone of us.(Ameen).

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