Texas Abortion Law: An Islamic Perspective
Texas has introduced some of the harshest abortion laws in the United States. These laws restrict abortion or prevent abortions, after six weeks. The law allows private citizens to sue anybody who's involved in an abortion.
There are many people who are many commentators who have said, “This is the Taliban in Texas, or this is Sharia Law has come to Texas.” Whether Islamic law has the same sort of restrictions on abortion as Texas has introduced. Whether it's more flexible, whether it's harsher. How does Islamic law relate to the law in Texas?
It's interesting that Islam follows a golden mean when it comes to this issue. Between supporting or against abortion, regardless of any consideration or consequence. Islam takes the middle path by saying, “Yes, to a certain stage in the pregnancy, abortions could be resorted to, after a certain stage. The baby becomes a living soul.” However, to preserve the baby, would mean a threat to the life of the mother. Even at the later stage in pregnancy, to preserve the life of the mother, one might have to let the baby go.
There is some flexibility in Islamic law. Islamic law is the golden mean between the one extreme, saying no abortions. On the other extreme saying, all abortions are fine.
In Islamic law, there was a distinction made between the pregnancy of up to 120 days and after 120 days. Why did they make this a distinction? There is a Hadith relating that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “The embryo starts out as a drop of fluid, and that lasts for 40 days at that stage. For another 40 days, it becomes a thing that clings. For another 40 days, it is a chewed lump. After these three periods of 40 days, which is 120 days, then the angel is sent by God to blow the spirit into the womb. The Muslim scholars understand that at 120 days, this becomes a new creation.”
In fact, the Quran states, “And later we made him into other forms.” Quran [23:14].
This is where we're human being starts, a soul, the human being, Therefore, abortions are off limits at this point. Except, if there would be a real threat to the life of the mother. In which case they say, “We must save the principal’s life. In this case, let the secondary life go. That doesn't mean that the baby is worth less as a human being.
However, the mother is already a live human being. Whereas the baby though alive at the moment, still needs to come out into the world. They know from experience at the time, that often a baby might die during childbirth. There was a potential child in the womb. However, we have already an existing live person in the world. We must save that one, which is already existing by sacrificing the one, which is only a potential.
The Texas law doesn't seem to make a distinction, between pregnancies. For instance, the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest and doesn't allow for abortion in those cases. Or even in the case of a severe deformity. For example, if the baby or a fetus doesn’t have a brain, it's not an emergency. It doesn't result in the pregnant woman dying or suffering in any way. Yet, she knows that there's a baby inside her that has no means of living. It can't survive, and it will probably eventually die inside her. What does Islamic law say about those situations? For example, a pregnancy that is a result of rape or incest, or in a situation where there's no future for that fetus.
The Quran condemns the killing of one's children. This is stated in at least two places in the Quran. Specifically, it is stated in lists of laws.
“Do not kill your children in fear of poverty.” Quran [6:151].
The explanation of this, in the context and the historical situation, is that sometimes Arabs, before Islam, would kill a real living baby because they feel that they don't have the means to take care of the child. This prohibition is repeated in the Quran.
“Do not kill your children for fear of poverty.” Quran [17:31].
This verse is interpreted by commentators to say, that you may not be poor now, but you're afraid that you are going to be poor in the future because of this child. The idea is that people were killing their live children.
Also, there is a statement that the child was buried alive and it's in the feminine form in Arabic. This is interpreted by commentators to mean that there were those who are burying their daughters alive, that they did not want, they wanted male children, not females because females in that society were perceived by the men as a burden. Whereas the boys could expect it could be expected to grow up and be breadwinners and defenders of the tribe in battle, etc.
The Quran is condemning all of this, but there is no clear prohibition and the Quran dealing with abortion. Whereas we know that abortions might have been done in simple ways for a long time. Yet, it was not specifically condemned. One can only take the generality of the verses that were cited and say that since the verses prohibit killing your children, these verses prohibit abortion as well.
Yet, it is not as a stark prohibition as if it was speaking directly about the actual issue of abortion, because what we derive by human inference is different, and of a different level than a clear and explicit statement from God himself.
When scholars are making fatwas about abortion. They're passing legal rulings, then they're just basing it on the Quran and the Hadith, which talks about the three stages of 40.
If one has supreme confidence in the Hadith, one will say, “That's a definite cut-off point. That's 120 days. That's what the Hadith says, and it must be so.”
One who is not so confident, in the way in which Hadith has been transmitted verbally from one person to another until the Hadiths were put into writing. We knew about variations in Hadiths. One who is not so confident will say, “We can be a little bit flexible, even about those 120 days cut-off point.” We wouldn't treat it as such a definite cut-off point.
We have more of an opportunity, to look at the kinds of cases. If a baby is found to be without a brain. Sometimes, it is known that the baby has a very good chance of being born with Down Syndrome or some other condition that will make it very difficult for the parents to bring up this child and some other situations.
One can consider whether it might be better to still bring up this child, because some parents might say, “It doesn't matter. This is my child. You say my child might be born with Down Syndrome. It doesn't matter. Even if you're 100% sure that my child will be born with Down Syndrome, that's still my baby. I still want this baby.”
In contrast, some parents may say, “I have this child, especially if the mother is young, and is expected to have more children in the future. If I try to be heroical, bring up this child. That might take all my attention away from possible other children that I would have. Maybe that wouldn't be so fair to the other children.”
This is the decision that individuals will have to make. However, to give a blanket ruling for all situations, and times, this may be too much. For a Muslim scholar to give such a blanket ruling, it must be very clearly stated by God, in the Quran, or clearly stated by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In a statement that is authentically attributed to him, etc.
In conclusion, there is a great deal of flexibility in Islamic law, prior to 120 days. Verily, it's a very difficult decision to take a life. The Quran values life. The Quran says, “If you kill one human being, that's like killing a whole people.”
If one thinks about it, potentially one human being could have many children and grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Consequently, one is killing that lineage. Not only that person but all the potential people. It’s a difficult situation.
Yet, prior to 120 days, because the soul has not been blown in according to traditional Islamic understandings. There was a greater degree of flexibility. After 120 days, there is less flexibility. Yet, if the mother's life is in danger, or if this baby is struck with some genetic deformity, then there is a possibility to abort this child.
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