Abortion in Islam: The Stance of the Ḥanafīs and Other Schools

The following is a guest post from Mufti Zameelur Rahman, esteemed scholar and researcher residing in the UK.

Introduction

Once the soul has been breathed into the foetus at 120 days from conception, it is a live human being. To abort the foetus after this is murder (qatl al-nafs) – of course, a major, grave sin.

The ruling of abortion before the soul is breathed into the foetus or “ensoulment” (nafkh al-rūḥ) is a matter of dispute in the Ḥanafī madhhab.

Since there was nothing explicit from Imām Abū Ḥanīfah and his students, it was the “Mashāyikh” of the Ḥanafī madhhab, i.e. those fuqahā’ capable of ijtihād that came after Imām Abū Ḥanīfah and his students, who ruled on the matter of abortion.

Ibn Nujaym (926 – 970 H), a major Ḥanafī commentator on Fiqh from Egypt, notes:

“It appears that this issue (of abortion) has not been reported explicitly from Abū Ḥanīfah [or his students]. Hence, (the jurists) would refer to it using the expression: ‘They (i.e. the Mashāyikh) said.’”[1]

The different views on abortion pre-ensoulment will be outlined below. For good reasons (that will be explored below), the dominant opinion amongst later Ḥanafī scholars was that abortion pre-ensoulment is in principle impermissible, but, if there is an ‘udhr (extenuating circumstance, to be defined below), it will be permissible.

We find, for example, a late Ḥanafī text by the Syrian scholar, Khalīl ibn ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Naḥlāwī (d. 1350 H/1931 CE), stating:

“It is [prohibitively] disliked for (a woman) to drink medicine to abort her foetus (both) before and after it has taken form (i.e. has discernible features like a finger), except for an ‘udhr. [The ‘udhr] is like a breastfeeding woman, when pregnancy is evident in her and her milk ceases [as a result], and the father of the child cannot afford to pay a wet-nurse, [so] it is feared (i.e. strongly believed) the child will die. [This permission to abort] the foetus [for an ‘udhr] is for as long as it is a muḍghah or ‘alaqah, and no part of it has taken form (i.e. taken complete form at 120 days – see below).”[2]

Muḍghah and ‘alaqah refer to the third and second forty-day periods respectively in the development of the foetus, as described in a ḥadīth (more on this below).

Al-Naḥlāwī is in fact quoting this from an earlier text, al-Hadiyyat al-‘Alā’iyyah, by ‘Alā’ al-Dīn ibn ‘Ābidīn (d. 1306 H/1888 CE), the son of the famous Ibn ‘Ābidīn. [3]

The Disagreement of the Mashāyikh

Explaining the disagreement amongst the early Mashāyikh, Burhān al-Dīn Ibn Maẓah (551 – 616 H) states in his al-Dhakḥirah al-Burhāniyyah:

“When the woman wants to expel the (male) fluid after it has reached her womb, is that permissible for her? (The Mashāyikh) said: If she wants to expel it after the period in which the soul has been breathed into it, that is not permissible, as she will then be a murderer. Based on the apparent reality, it is considered to be living. That is not permissible for her just as it would not be after (the baby) separated from her (post-birth).

“If she wants to expel it before the duration in which the soul is breathed into it, is that permissible for her or not? The Mashāyikh differed over this. Some said there is no harm in this because when it is before the passage of the duration in which the soul is breathed into it, expelling what is in her womb is the same as coitus interruptus (‘azl). We have mentioned that coitus interruptus is permissible, so too with this. According to Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand:

‘When she wishes to abort the child, she can do so when no feature of it is discernible.’

“Faqīh ‘Alī ibn Mūsā (d. 305 H) would say:

‘That is [prohibitively] disliked, because the end-result of the (male) fluid after it falls inside the womb is life, as it does not need the activity of anyone after that for the soul to be breathed into it. When its end-result is life, it assumes the ruling of life. This is like the egg of a wild animal of the Ḥaram: since its end-result is that it will become a wild animal, it is given the ruling of a wild animal, such that if the Mūhrim (the person in the sacred state of Iḥrām) destroys an egg (of the wild animal), he will be liable for compensation. So too, here. This is different from coitus interruptus. The soul will not be breathed into (the discharged sperm) except after someone effecting an activity, namely inserting it in the womb. Hence, its end-result is not life in contrast to the situation we are discussing (i.e. abortion).’

“The time of the features being discernible (istibānat al-khalq) and the soul being breathed (into it) is specified at 120 days based on the famous ḥadīth. And Allāh knows best.”[4]

Burhān al-Dīn Ibn Māzah presents a somewhat similar commentary in his al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī.

Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand

The view of the permissibility of aborting the foetus pre-ensoulment is cited from an enigmatic collection called “Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand”. Ibn Māzah most likely received this citation from the Wāqi‘āt of his uncle, the highly-influential jurist, al-Ṣadr al-Shahīd Ḥusām al-Dīn ‘Umar ibn Māzah (483 – 536 H). In the latter work, al-Ṣadr al-Shahīd cites the Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand as transmitting the view that a woman will not be sinful for aborting the foetus if it is before it has any discernible features.[5]

The authorship of Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand and when it was written is unknown, but it probably was compiled some time in the fifth century (400s) of Hijrah, and gained popularity via the citations from it by al-Ṣadr al-Shahīd. The same ruling is cited in Yatīmat al-Dahr from “Majmū‘āt al-Samarqandī”, which appears to be a reference to the same Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand.

Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand also records the alternative view that abortion pre-ensoulment is permissible when the woman already has a breastfeeding baby and her milk has ceased, putting her baby’s life in danger. In the latter ruling, Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand equates istibānat al-khalq with ensoulment.[6]

Who Was Faqīh ‘Alī ibn Mūsā al-Qummī (d. 305)?

Faqīh ‘Alī ibn Mūsā al-Qummī, from whom the impermissibility of aborting the foetus pre-ensoulment is reported, is probably the earliest Ḥanafī jurist from whom a judgement on abortion is recorded. He was the Ḥanafī Muftī of Nishapur. Al-Sam‘ānī refers to him as

“the imām of the Ḥanafīs in his era”.

One of the Ḥanafī scholars of that time commented:

“We agreed that we did not see from our [Ḥanafī] fellows before him anyone more accomplished in Fiqh than him.” [7]

Al-Dhahabī has an entry on him in his Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’, in which he says:

“Imām ‘Allāmah, the shaykh of the Ḥanafīs in Khurāsān, Abu ‘l- Ḥasan ‘Alī ibn Mūsā ibn Yazīd al-Qummī al-Naysābūrī. He was the scholar of the Ahl al-Ra’y in his time without contest. He authored books including Aḥkām al-Qur’ān, a valuable book…He acquired Fiqh from Muḥammad ibn Shujā‘ al-Thaljī (181 – 266 H)… al-Ḥākim mentioned him and exalted him and praised him and said he died in the year 305.” [8]

Al-Dhahabī also praises his knowledge of Ḥādīth. Faqīh ‘Alī ibn Mūsā al-Qummī was thus an authoritative Ḥanafī jurist, only three generations after Imām Abū Ḥanīfah, who ruled that abortion pre-ensoulment is impermissible.

The Statement of QāḍīKhān

As the statement of QāḍīKhān is critical to later Ḥanafī discourse on the issue of abortion, we will quote this first before unpacking some of the further points in Ibn Māzah’s statement. Ḥasan ibn Manṣūr al-Ūzjandī, famously known as QāḍīKhān (ca. 510 – 592 H), writes:

“They (the Mashāyikh – i.e. some of them) said:

‘If she aborts the foetus with treatment, if no feature is discernible, she is not sinful.’

“(QāḍīKhān) said: I do not agree with this because when the Muḥrim breaks the egg of a wild animal he is liable for compensation given it is the point of origin of the wild animal. Since one is liable for compensation in that case, she would at least incur a sin in this case when she aborts without an excuse. However, she is not sinful to the same degree as murder. If she aborts after the features are discernible, a ghurrah (penalty for murdering a foetus) will be due.

“When pregnancy is evident in a breastfeeding woman and her milk ceases [as a result], and the father of the child cannot afford to pay a wet-nurse, [so] it is feared (i.e. strongly believed) the child will die, they said: it is permissible for her to undergo treatment to push out the blood for as long as the foetus is a nuṭfah or ‘alaqah or muḍghah, no feature of it having been formed. They have stipulated that period as 120 days. They only considered it allowable for her to abort the foetus by pushing out blood because it is not a human. Hence, it is permissible for the purpose of saving a human.” [9]

The concluding passage is critical to understanding what QāḍīKhān and others meant by an “‘udhr”. In the example cited, if the mother carried on with the pregnancy there is a strong likelihood her breastfeeding child will die. Hence, to save the life or limb of an actual person, it is allowed to abort the foetus, as the foetus is not yet a person. Similarly, if there is a high likelihood, based on health complications, of the mother dying from the pregnancy, it will be permitted to abort the foetus. Muftī Rashīd Aḥmad Ludhiānvī (1922 – 2002 CE) thus includes amongst those things that are an ‘udhr: a religious, skilled doctor telling the woman that if her pregnancy continues, there is a strong likelihood she would lose life or limb.[10]

In short, when the embryo has embedded itself in the womb, it is regarded as potential life, which like the egg of a wild animal, will be treated as actual life. Hence, it is impermissible to terminate. But because it is not truly living, for a situation where an actual life is threatened as a direct consequence of its prolonged existence, it will then be permissible to terminate.

QāḍīKhān is not the first to mention the analogy with the egg of a wild animal, as it was recorded from Faqīh ‘Alī ibn Mūsā before him. Hence, ‘Umar ibn Nujaym (d. 1005 H), the younger brother of Ibn Nujaym, notes:

“QāḍīKhān has precedent for his explanation (from Faqīh ‘Alī ibn Mūsā).” [11]

Nor is QāḍīKhān the first to mention the ‘udhr. His source is the same Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand as documented earlier. [12] But QāḍīKhān lends his authoritative voice to the view transmitted from Faqīh ‘Alī ibn Mūsā and states the exception is when there is an ‘udhr like that recorded in Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand.

RELATED: Abortion and Pro-Choice Inconsistencies

Ensoulment

The notion of the soul being breathed into the foetus at 120 days is based on a well-known ḥadīth of ‘Abdullāh ibn Mas‘ūd (raḍiyAllāhu ‘anh) reported in al-BukhārīMuslim and other collections. In the wording of Sharḥ Mushkil al-Āthār, with an authentic chain, ‘Abdullāh ibn Mas‘ūd (raḍiyAllāhu ‘anh) narrates from the Prophet (ṣallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam):

“The fluid-drop remains in the womb for forty nights as a nuṭfah, forty nights as an ‘alaqah and forty nights as a muḍghah. Then an angel is sent to it …” [13]

After citing this ḥadīth, al-Taḥāwī (239 – 321 H) reports via his teacher, Ibn Abī ‘Imrān (ca. 200 – 280 H), from Muḥammad ibn Samā‘ah (130 – 233 H) from Imām Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī (132 – 189 H) that the soul is breathed into the foetus after 120 days of conception. [14]

Al-Sarakhsī says:

“It is established by explicit textual evidence that the soul is breathed into the foetus after four months, as mentioned in the ḥadīth of Ibn Mas‘ūd…” [15]

Hence, Imām Muḥammad (one of the founding imāms of the Ḥanafī school) and those after him agreed ensoulment occurs at 120 days from conception – which is thus the point at which the foetus is considered to be alive.

Istibānat al-Khalq/Taṣwīr/Takhlīq (The Features Being Discernible)

A ḥadīth of Ḥudhayfah ibn Asīd (raḍiyAllāhu ‘anh) recorded in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim mentions that the foetus is shaped at 42 days. [16] Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī quotes some scholars who reconciled the ḥadīth of Ḥudhayfah (raḍiyAllāhu ‘anh) with that of Ibn Mas‘ūd (raḍiyAllāhu ‘anh) as follows:

“In the first forty days the characteristic of ‘semen’ dominates the foetus, in the second forty days, the characteristic of ‘alaqah (congealed blood) dominates, and in the third forty days, the characteristic of muḍghah (lump of flesh) dominates, even if it had already been formed. The ḥadīth of Ibn Mas‘ūd does not mention the time when the foetus is formed.” [17]

Muftī Taqī Usmani comments that there is a “less conspicuous formation” that takes place at this earlier period of 42 days, and “a conspicuous formation” that takes place upon the completion of four months. [18]

Thus, “istibānat al-khalq” could refer to when the foetus has identifiable features (fingers etc.) and it could also refer to when it has reached 120 days. We have already encountered the statement of al-Naḥlāwī above, where the term was used in both ways: for the initial physical istibānat al-khalq and the subsequent spiritual, complete istibānat al-khalq.

Abu ‘l-‘Abbās al-Nāṭifī (d. 446) states in his Wāqi‘āt:

“Its features are not discernible except at 120 days. It is a nuṭfah for forty days, an ‘alaqah for forty days and a muḍghah for forty days.” [19]

We have also seen how in al-Dhakhīrahistibānat al-khalq and nafkh al-rūḥ are treated the same under the discussion of abortion. Hence, in al-Nahr, ‘Umar Ibn Nujaym comments:

“Based on what is in al-Dhakhīrah, it is evident that by ‘formation’ they meant only ensoulment.” [20]

It is also inferred from a ruling of Imām Muḥammad that he understood istibānat al-khalq to occur at 4 months. (See the footnote for reference.) [21]

We have also seen that Fatāwā Samarqand, the very source for the ruling of the permissibility of abortion pre-ensoulment, itself specifies istibānat al-khalq as occurring at 120 days.

However, in al-Qunyah, al-Zāhidī (d. 658 H) quotes ‘Ayn al-A’immah al-Karābīsī as saying:

“‘Formation’ means that the hair, finger, foot and the like become evident.” [22]

Ibn ‘Ābidīn also cites this in Radd al-Muḥtār. [23]

Hence, what exactly is meant by “istibānat al-khalq” in the terminology of the jurists is ambiguous. It could refer to the stage at around 6 weeks when discernible features begin to show, or it could refer to the much later stage, when it is regarded as fully human (17 weeks).

The criterion of istibānat al-khalq is also invoked in other issues (like nifās & when a slave-woman is regarded as “Umm al-Walad”). Whether the earlier period of “inconspicuous formation” is intended in these issues or the later period of “conspicuous formation” is not the topic of discussion. However, based on the reasoning found in Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand and copied in Fatāwā QāḍīKhān, that abortion is permitted for an ‘udhr because it is “not” yet “a person”, we can say that their understanding (as they state explicitly) is that istibānat al-khalq is synonymous with ensoulment in this ruling.

The text in Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand that states the alternative view: “She is not sinful for aborting the foetus before the features are discernible” (a ruling that is then reproduced by several jurists afterwards) could however refer to the earlier period or the later one. But, given the rule is found in the very same compilation, Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand, it would suggest it is referring to the 120 day period.

RELATED: “Muslim” Activists Melt Down Over Possibility of Abortion Ban

Other Views

According to the author of Jawāhir al-Akhlāṭī, the fatwā in his time is it is permissible to abort the foetus both before and after it takes form provided it is before ensoulment, because of the corruption prevalent in the time. [24]

That is, because the time is corrupt, and the child will grow up without proper tarbiyah and care, it is allowed to abort the child. The author of Jawāhir al-Akhlāṭī is not a known figure, and it is not known from which era he was (although he lived some time before the 11th century of Hijrah). His view was quoted in al-Fatāwā al-Hindiyyah and in Laknawī’s footnotes to al-Hidāyah. Given it is not known who he was and from what era he was, his statement doesn’t carry much weight.

It appears the author of Jawāhir al-Akhlāṭī is analogising the issue to ‘azl. The original ruling is that the man is not permitted to do ‘azl without the permission of his wife, nor is the woman allowed to take means to prevent herself from getting pregnant without the permission of her husband. The later jurists, however, allowed them to do so without the permission of their spouse because of the “corruption of the time”. But ‘azl and abortion are not analogous as pointed out by Faqīh ‘Alī ibn Mūsā al-Qummī and QāḍīKhān. Moreover the corruption that was the concern in those times is countered by a greater corruption in these times from the western influence of not wanting children at all, as noted by ‘Allāmah Ẓafar Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī in I‘lā’ al-Sunan. [25]

The text of Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand that says: “She is not sinful for aborting the foetus before the features are discernible” is reproduced in al-Fatāwā al-Sirājiyyahal-IkhtiyārTuḥfat al-Mulūkal-Durr al-Mukhtār amongst other texts.

In al-Qunyah, al-Zāhidī quotes from Abu ‘l-Faḍl al-Kirmānī (457 – 543), ‘Ayn al-A’immah al-Karābīsī, ‘Alā al-Dīn al-Tarjumānī (d. 645) the opposite judgement:

“She is sinful for aborting the foetus before it has taken form, whether a freewoman or a slave-woman.” [26]

From the three, Abu ‘l-Faḍl (‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad) al-Kirmānī is a prominent jurist, considered the leading Ḥanafī scholar of Khurāsān in his time. Ibn al-Shiḥnah (851 – 921 H), citing Qunyah, refers to the views of these three personalities in his discussion on abortion in the commentary on Manẓūmah Ibn Wahbān.

Al-Zāhidī’s personal view is that abortion is permissible before istibānat al-khalq in the sense that ‘Ayn al-A’immah al-Karābīsī defined it i.e. when the foetus gains physical features (not the later, 120 day period). [27]But it is not clear if he believed this with respect to the female slave alone, or for both the slave and freewoman.

Later Ḥanafī Commentators

Ibn Wahbān (728 – 768 H) supports the view of QāḍīKhān and attempts to reconcile the alternative view transmitted in Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand by saying:

“The permissibility of abortion [transmitted from the earlier jurists] is considered to be in the situation of ‘udhr; or, it means she is not sinful in a manner equivalent to murder.” [28]

Ibn al-Humām (790 – 861 H) writes:

“Is abortion permissible after falling pregnant? It is permissible provided no part of it has taken form. Furthermore, in several places, they have said this only occurs after 120 days, which means that by ‘formation’ they meant ensoulment, otherwise it is wrong because, based on observation, formation occurs before this period.” [29]

Hence, Ibn al-Humām restates the passed-down verdict of permissibility from Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand, while noting that by ‘istibānat al-khalq’ they mean ‘nafkh al-rūḥ’.

Ibn Nujaym quotes the passage of Fatḥ al-Qadīr and Fatāwā QāḍīKhān and then comments:

Reliance ought to be on (what is found in Fatāwā QāḍīKhān) because it has a sound basis on which analogy was made.” [30]

While Ibn ‘Ābidīn (with al-Ḥaskafī’s text) quotes QāḍīKhānDhakhīrahManẓūmah Ibn WahbānNahr and Qunyah, the discussion doesn’t add anything substantial to what we gather from these earlier texts. Ṭaḥṭāwī and Sindī’s commentaries on Durr also do not add anything substantial.

The Preferred Ḥanafī Stance

QāḍīKhān’s authoritative judgement presents a via media between the different views for aborting a foetus pre-ensoulment. Ibn Nujaym argues it is the view that ought to be relied upon given the strength of its evidential basis. Ibn Wahbān argues it can be reconciled with the judgement of those who say it is not sinful by understanding it to refer to the situation of ‘udhr.

Nonetheless, the view of unconditional permissibility before ensoulment is a legitimate, though weaker, view in the Ḥanafī madhhab. It is the view mentioned in Fatāwā Ahl Samarqand and reproduced in numerous texts. Hence, if there is a situation of extreme and genuine hardship (ḍarūrah), this view can be resorted to for fatwā. Muftī Maḥmūd Ḥasan Gangohī (1907 – 1996) was asked about a woman who became suicidal for the shame she would face after falling pregnant from zinā. He allowed the abortion in this situation. [31]It may be that his fatwā was based on the extreme circumstance/ḍarūrah which justified using the view of unconditional permissibility. However, in a case where the woman would not feel extreme shame, but wants to abort merely for her own comfort or ease, this would not be a ḍarūrah; for a Ḥanafī to take the dispensation of a weaker view in this instance would fall under sinful ittibā‘ al-hawā (following of desires). [32] For giving fatwā on ḍarūrah, careful deliberation and consultation is required. [33]

Other Madhhabs

The Mālikī madhhab holds the strictest stance. Qāḍī Abū Bakr Ibn al-‘Arabī (468 – 543 H) states:

“The child has three stages. (First), a stage before it comes into existence, during which it ceases (to be) via ‘azl – this is permissible. (Second), a stage after the womb has taken hold of the semen. At this point, it is not permissible for anyone to interfere with it by stopping it from growing, as practised by the riffraff amongst the traders. When the menstrual period of their slaves stops, they make them drink medication that causes (their wombs) to slacken so the semen pours out with it and the pregnancy is terminated. The third is after its formation before the soul is breathed into it. This is more severe than the first two in prohibition, based on the ḥadīths narrated about it…As for when the soul is breathed into it, it is murder without disagreement.” [34]

Summarising the Mālikī stance, Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Illīsh (1217 – 1299 H) writes:

“When the womb holds the semen, it is not permissible for the couple, nor one of them, nor the slaveowner (of a female slave) to take means to abort it before it takes form, according to the mashhūr (accepted & well-known view), nor, by agreement, after it takes form. Taking means to abort it after the soul has been breathed into it is forbidden by absolute consensus and is considered murder.” [35]

In the Shāfi‘ī madhhab, Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī (909 – 974 H) writes in his authoritative Tuḥfat al-Muḥtāj:

“They (i.e. the Shafi‘ī jurists) differed over the permissibility of taking means to remove the nuṭfah, after its implantation in the womb. Abū Isḥāq al-Marwazī (d. 340 H) said it is permissible to abort the nuṭfah (the foetus in the first forty days) and the ‘alaqah (the foetus in the second forty days). That has been reported from Abū Ḥanīfah (too). In Iḥyā’ ‘Ulūm al-Dīn, in the discussion on ‘azl, it indicates towards its prohibition. This is the more apt view, because after implantation (the foetus) is veering towards taking on a physical form that is prepared for the soul to be breathed (into it); while ‘azl is not like that.” [36]

In another part of the same work, he reiterates this saying:

“They differed over taking means to remove what has not reached the point of ensoulment, i.e. 120 days. That which is apt, in agreement with Ibn al-‘Imād (d. 808) and others, is: prohibition (ḥurmah). The permissibility of ‘azl should not be conflated with it, given the evident difference between them. When the semen is being discharged it is completely lifeless and not ready to take on life in any way; as contrasted with when it is implanted in the womb and the early stages of formation occur, which is gauged through signs. According to a ḥadīth of Muslim, it is after 42 nights.” [37]

In this passage, he suggests the impermissibility of aborting the foetus is only after the first 42 days, a view similar to that of the Ḥanbalī madhhab (see below).

Al-Haytamī also says in his commentary on the Arba‘ūn al-Nawawiyyah that the view that it is unconditionally permissible before 120 days is

“weak because ‘azl and abortion are not the same. ‘Azl at most is to take means to stop the establishment (of the sperm), so how can an established zygote be analogised to it, when it may even have taken form?!” [38]

Al-Haytamī refers to a discussion of the Iḥyā ‘Ulūm al-Dīn of Imām al-Ghazālī (450 – 505 H) to support his stance. Al-Ghazālī said:

‘Azl is not the same as abortion and burying a live baby, because that is a crime against an actualised existence. The (actualised existence) too has degrees. The first degree of existence is that the sperm falls in the womb and mixes with the woman’s fluid and becomes ready to accept life. Spoiling that is a crime. If it becomes a muḍghah and ‘alaqah, the crime is worse. If the soul is breathed into it, and the form is completed, the crime increases in severity. The peak of severity in the crime is after it has detached (from the mother), alive. We only say that the point of origin for the cause of its existence is from the point that the sperm falls in the womb and not from when it emerges from the urethra (of the man) is because the child is not created from the man’s sperm alone, but from both man and woman, either from his fluid and hers or from his fluid and the menstrual blood.” [39]

As part of a lengthy discussion, Shams al-Dīn Ramlī (919 – 1004 H) states in his authoritative Nihāyat al-Muḥtāj:

“The preferred view is its unconditional prohibition after ensoulment, and its permissibility before.” [40]

However, from the same discussion, it appears he inclines to abortion becoming progressively more prohibitive as it gets closer to the 120 day mark.

Hence, there is a dispute over the preferred view in the Shāfi‘ī madhhab, but it is generally believed al-Haytamī’s judgement is favoured over al-Ramlī’s when they differed. [41]

Thus, the Mawsū‘ah Fiqhiyya Kuwaytiyya presents Ibn Ḥajar’s view as the preferred Shāfi‘ī stance. [42]

According to the Ḥanbalī madhhab, abortion is permissible in the first forty-day-nuṭfah stage, but impermissible after that. [43]

Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī says:

“A group of jurists permitted the woman to abort what is in her womb provided the soul has not been breathed into it, treating it like ‘azl. This is a weak view, because the foetus is a (potential) child that has become established, and it may take form. In ‘azl there is no (potential) child at all. He only took a means to stop it becoming established…Our (Ḥanbalī) fellows have said explicitly that when the child becomes an ‘alaqah, it is not permissible to abort it given it is a child that is established, as opposed to a nuṭfah, as it has not yet become established.” [44]

Mar‘ī ibn Yūsuf al-Karmī (d. 1033 H) states:

“A female may take medication to expel a nuṭfah but not an ‘alaqah.” [45]

Conclusion

All madhhabs agree that aborting a foetus after 120 days is murder and thus completely forbidden.

The preferred view of the Ḥanafī madhhab is that aborting a foetus before 120 days is in principle forbidden. The exception is if continuing the pregnancy threatens the life or limb of the mother or any children she may have. In situations besides these, a muftī may resort to the view of permissibility only in circumstances of genuine ḍarūrah.

The preferred view of the Mālikī madhhab is of unconditional impermissibility. The preferred view of the Shāfi‘ī mahhab is disputed, with Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī favouring the view of impermissibility before 120 days. The preferred view of the Ḥanbalī madhhab is it is permissible in the first forty days, but forbidden after that.

As one can appreciate from the legal discussions, there is substantial commonality across the madhhabs in how they viewed the foetus in the different stages and how they regarded ‘azl to be different from abortion. The implanted zygote is prepared to take on life, while discharged semen is not.

Some people assume the dominant position across the madhhabs is that of general permissibility before ensoulment. As evident from the above discussion, the dominant position is in fact the opposite.

RELATED: Does Islam Allow Abortion? False Equivalencies and Reflexive Centrism

Notes

  1. والظاهر أن هذه المسألة لم تنقل عن أبي حنيفة صريحا، ولذا يعبرون عنها بصيغة: قالوا (البحر الرائق، ج ٣ ص٢١٥
  2. ويكره لها أن تشرب دواء لإسقاط حملها قبل التصور وبعده إلا لعذر كالمرضعة إذا ظهر بها الحمل وانقطع لبنها وليس لأبى الصبي ما يستأجر به المرضعة ويخاف هلاك الولد ما دام الحمل مضغة أو علقة ولم يخلق عضو (الدرر المباحة، دار الفتح، ص٢٢٩
  3. الهدية العلائية، مكتبة الإمام الأوزاعي، ص٢٨٣
  4. الذخيرة البرهانية، دار الكتب العلمية، ج٧ ص٣٦٥-٣٦٦
  5. امرأة عالجت في إسقاط ولدها قال: لا تأثم ما لم يبين شيء من خلقه لأنه ما لم يكن شيء من خلقه لا يكون ولدا (الواقعات، رسالة الدكتوراة، ص٤٠٧
  6. امرأة مرضعة ظهر بها حبل وانقطع لبنها وتخاف على ولدها الهلاك وليس لأب هذا الرضيع سعة حتى يستأجر الظئر هل يباح لها أن تعالج في استنزال الدم؟ يباح ما دام نطفة أو مضغة لم يخلق له عضو لأنه ليس بآدمي ومدته بالأيام (المصدر السابق ص١٨٩
  7. علي بن موسى بن يزداد وقيل يزيد القمي…إمام الحنيفة في عصره…كذا ذكره السمعاني…أحمد بن هارون الحنفي يقول: قدم علينا علي بن موسى القمي يعني الحنفي نيسابور فأجمعنا على أنا لم نر قبله من أصحابنا أفقه منه (الجواهر المضية ج٢ ص٦١٨-٦١٩
  8. سير أعلام النبلاء، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج١٤ ص٢٣٦
  9. فتاوى قاضيخان ج٣ ص٣١٢ – ٣١٣
  10. أحسن الفتاوى ج٨ ص٣٤٨
  11. وإن قاضي خان مسبوق بما مر من التفقه (النهر الفائق، ج٢ ص٢٧٧
  12. وفي نكاح فتاوى أهل سمرقند: امرأة مرضعة ظهر بها حبل وانقطع لبنها ويخاف على ولدها الهلاك وليس لأب هذا الولد سعة حتى يستأجر الظئر هل يباح لها أن تعالج في إسقاط الولد؟ قالوا: يباح ما دام نطفة أو علقة أو مضغة لم يخلق له عضو لأنه ليس بآدمي، ومدته بأيام (الفتاوى التاتارخانية، ج١٨ ص٢٠٤
  13. قد حدثنا يونس قال أخبرنا ابن وهب قال حدثني جرير بن حازم عن سليمان بن مهران عن زيد بن وهب عن عبد الله بن مسعود قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: وتكون النطفة في الرحم أربعين ليلة نطفة وأربعين ليلة علقة وأربعين ليلة مضغة ثم يبعث إليه الملك إلخ (شرح مشكل الآثار، رقم ٣٨٧٠
  14. وقد استدل محمد بن الحسن بذلك في الجارية إذا اشتراها رجل وهي من أولات الحيض وتأخر حيضها فقال إذا مضت عليها أربعة أشهر وعشرة أيام حل له منها ما يحل له منها لو حاضت، قال: لأن الروح تنفخ في تلك المدة إن كان بها حمل، فيتبين أن في بطنها ولدا فيعف عن وطئها لذلك أو لا يتبين ذلك، فيسعه عنده وطؤها لأن أمرها بذلك يغلب على القلوب أنه لا حمل بها معه، كما حدثنا ابن أبي عمران قال: حدثنا محمد بن سماعة عن محمد بن الحسن بهذا القول (شرح مشكل الآثار ج٩ ص٤٨٦
  15. ثبت بالنص أن الولد تنفخ فيه الروح بعد أربعة أشهر كما ذكره في حديث ابن مسعود رضي الله عنه (المبسوط، ج٦ ص٤٤
  16. صحيح مسلم ٦٦٨٣
  17. وقد حمل بعضهم حديث ابن مسعود على أن الجنين يغلب عليه في الأربعين الأولى وصف المني وفى الأربعين الثانية وصف العلقة وفى الأربعين الثالثة وصف المضغة وإن كانت خلقته قد تمت وتم تصويره وليس في حديث ابن مسعود ذكر وقت تصوير الجنين (جامع العلوم والحكم، ص١٣٧)
  18. تكلمة فتح الملهم، دار القلم، ج٥ ص٢٤١
  19. خلقته لا يستبين إلا في مائة وعشرين يوما: أربعين يوما نطفة وأربعين يوما علقة وأربعين مضغة (الواقعات للصدر الشهيد نقلا عن الواقعات للناطفي ، ص١٨٣
  20. وبما في الذخيرة تبين أنهم ما أرادوا بالتخليق إلا نفخ الروح (النهر الفائق، ج ٢ ص٢٧٧
  21. وَيَدُلُّ عَلَى مَا قَالَهُ مَا فِي شَرْحِ الْوَهْبَانِيَّةِ لِابْنِ الشِّحْنَةِ عَنْ الْمُنْتَقَى عَنْ هِشَامٍ عَنْ مُحَمَّدٍ تَزَوَّجَ امْرَأَةً لَمْ يَكُنْ قَبْلَهُ لَهَا زَوْجٌ وَبَنَى بِهَا فَجَاءَتْ بِوَلَدٍ لِأَقَلَّ مِنْ سِتَّةٍ مِنْ النِّكَاحِ فَالنِّكَاحُ فَاسِدٌ عِنْدِي وَعِنْدَ أَبِي يُوسُفَ؛ لِأَنَّهُ تَزَوَّجَهَا وَهِيَ حَامِلٌ، وَإِنْ جَاءَتْ بِهِ وَقَدْ اسْتَبَانَ بَعْضُ خَلْقِهِ لِأَكْثَرَ مِنْ أَرْبَعَةِ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرٍ فَالنِّكَاحُ جَائِزٌ وَإِنْ جَاءَتْ بِهِ لِأَقَلَّ فَفَاسِدٌ. اهـ.
  22. وفيه نظر دل عليه قوله عقيب هذا: والتصوير أن يظهر عليه شعر أو أصبع أو رجل ونحوه فإن ظهر فهو ولد (القنية ص١٧٣
  23. والتصور كما في القنية أن يظهر له شعر أو أصبع أو رجل ونحو ذلك (رد المحتار، دار عالم الكتب، ج ٩ ص٦١٥
  24. العلاج لإسقاط الولد إذا استبان خلقه كالشعر والظفر ونحوهما لا يجوز وإن كان غير مستبين الخلق يجوز، وأما في زماننا يجوز على كل حال وعليه الفتوى، كذا في جواهر الأخلاطي (الفتاوى الهندية، ج٥ ص٤٣٦
  25. الفقيه من عرف حال زمانه، وقد نشأت في أوربا جماعة من النساء تسعى في تقليل النسل وقطعها وتعلم أخواتها أنواعا من الحيل لقطع الحبل وانتشترت دعوتها إلى أقصى البلاد من الهند والعرب ومصر والشام، ولو تمت حيلة هؤلاء الخبيثات لأفضت إلى قطع النسل وفساد العالم إلخ (إعلاء السنن ج١٧ ص٤٠٤
  26. فك عك عت) تأثم بإسقاط السقط قبل أن يصور حرة كانت أو أمة (القنية ص١٧٣
  27. فقبل التصوير لا يكون ولدا فينبغي أن يجوز (المصدر السابق
  28. قال ابن وهبان: إباحة الإسقاط محمولة على حالة العذر أو أنها لا تأثم إثم القتل (النهر الفائق، ج٢ ص٢٧٦
  29. وهل يباح الإسقاط بعد الحبل؟ يباح ما لم يتخلق شيء منه، ثم في غير موضع قالوا: ولا يكون ذلك إلا بعد مائة وعشرين يوما، وهذا يقتضي أنهم أرادوا بالتخليق نفخ الروح وإلا فهو غلط لأن التخليق يتحقق بالمشاهدة قبل هذه المدة (فتح القدير، ج٣ ص٣٨٠
  30. وينبغى الاعتماد عليه لأن له أصلا صحيحا يقاس عليه (البحر الرائق، ج٣ ص٢١٤
  31. الفتاوى المحمودية، ج١٨ ص٣٢١
  32. الحيلة الناجزة ص١٤
  33. والحق أن أحوال الحاجة التي تؤثر في تغيير بعض الأحكام أمر يعسر ضبطه بضوابط جامعة مانعة، والمناط فيه على الملكة الفقهية والمذاق السليم الذي لا يحصل بمجرد مراجعة الكتب، وإنما يحتاج إلى طول الممارسة في صحبة فقيه متمكن له باع في الفقه في جانب ومعرفة الناس في جانب آخر (أصول الإفتاء وآدابه ص٢٧٤)، والأحسن قبل الإفتاء في مثل هذه المسائل أن يشاور المفتي غيره من العلماء والفقهاء وأن لا يتعجل فيها بالإفتاء (أصول الإفتاء وآدابه، ص٣١٠
  34. قال ابن العربي: وللولد ثلاثة أحوال: حال قبل الوجود ينقطع فيها بالعزل وهو جائز، وحال بعد قبض الرحم على المني فلا يجوز لأحد حينئذ التعرض له بالقطع من التولد كما يفعله سفلة التجار….فأما إذا نفخ فيه الروح فقه قتل النفس بلا خلاف (المسالك في شرح موطأ مالك، ج٥ ص٦٦٤-٦٦٥
  35. إذا أمسك الرحم المني فلا يجوز للزوجين ولا لأحدهما ولا للسيد التسبب في إسقاطه قبل التخلق على المشهور، ولا بعد اتفاقا، والتسبب في إسقاطه بعد نفخ الروح فيه محرما إجماعا وهو من قتل النفس (فتح العلي المالك، ج١ ص٣٩٩
  36. واختلفوا في جواز التسبب إلى إلقاء النطفة بعد استقرارها في الرحم فقال أبو إسحاق المروزي يجوز إلقاء النطفة والعلقة ونقل ذلك عن أبي حنيفة، وفى الإحياء في مبحث العزل ما يدل على تحريمه وهو الأوجه لأنها بعد الاستقرار آيلة إلى التخلق المهيأ لنفخ الروح ولا كذلك العزل (تحفة المحتاج، ٧ ص١٨٦
  37. واختلفوا في التسبب لإسقاط ما لم يصل لحد نفخ الروح فيه وهو مائة وعشرون يوما، والذي يتجه وفاقا لابن العماد وغيره: الحرمة، ولا يشكل عليه جواز العزل لوضوح الفرق بينهما بأن المني حال نزوله محض جماد لم يتهيأ للحياة بوجه بخلافه بعد استقراره في الرحم وأخذه في مبادي التخلق ويعرف ذلك بالأمارات وفي حديث مسلم أنه يكون بعد اثنتين وأربعين ليلة أي ابتداؤه (تحفة المحتاج، ج٨ ص٢٤١
  38. واختلفوا في التسبب لإسقاط ما لم يصل لحد نفخ الروح فيه وهو مائة وعشرون يوما، والذي يتجه وفاقا لابن العماد وغيره: الحرمة، ولا يشكل عليه جواز العزل لوضوح الفرق بينهما بأن المني حال نزوله محض جماد لم يتهيأ للحياة بوجه بخلافه بعد استقراره في الرحم وأخذه في مبادي التخلق ويعرف ذلك بالأمارات وفي حديث مسلم أنه يكون بعد اثنتين وأربعين ليلة أي ابتداؤه (تحفة المحتاج، ج٨ ص٢٤١
  39. إحياء علوم الدين، دار المنهاج، ج٣ ص٢٠٤
  40. والراجح تحريمه بعد نفخ الروح مطلقا وجوازه قبله (نهاية المحتاج، ج٨ ص٤٤٣
  41. واختلفوا في الترجيح بين قولهما أعني ابن حجر والرملي عند التخالف، فذهب أهل حضرموت والشام والأكراد وداغستان وأكثر أهل اليمن وغير ذلك من البلدان إلى أن المعتمد ما قاله ابن حجر (الفوائد المدنية، ص٥٩
  42. الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتة، ج٢ ص٥٩
  43. المصدر السابق
  44. وقد رخص طائفة من الفقهاء للمرأة في إسقاط ما في بطنها ما لم ينفخ فيه الروح وجعلوه كالعزل وهو قول ضعيف لأن الجنين ولد انعقد وربما تصور، وفى العزل لم يوجد ولد بالكلية وإنما تسبب إلى منع انعقاده…وقد صرح أصحابنا بأنه إذا صار الولد علقة لم يجز للمرأة إسقاطه لأنه ولد انعقد بخلاف النطفة فإنها لم تنعقد بعد، وقد لا تنعقد ولدا (جامع العلوم والحكم، دار ابن كثير، ص١٣٤-١٣٥
  45. ولأنثى شربه لإلقاء نطفة لا علقة (غاية المنتهى، ج١ ص٨١
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Qasir Kazi

This is what true scholarship looks like. Not academia pdf clowns like coffee conspiracy holes in the narrative YQ.

Mehreen

Jazak Allah khair

Hasan

Jazakallahu khairan for this review. It is very erudite, and helpful in today’s discourse.

Three questions that I had were: (1) if a woman does abort a child after 120 days, is this tantamount to murder? What is the consequence of doing so? Is there hadd for this? (2) If a woman’s life is endangered by pregnancy (i.e. she has an absolute contraindication to pregnancy, such as severe pulmonary hypertension, or heart failure), is a abortion after 120 days permitted?

Hasan

The third question that I had was regarding pregnancy attributed to rape? Is it permissible (amongst the Hanafis, or other maddhabs) to have an abortion for this? Is it permissible either before 120 days or after it? Jazakallahu khairan.

Azeez

Very insightful.