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Islamic Studies

"Fetus with Defects is Abortion an Option?"

The Question:

Shaykh i’m asking on behalf of a brother asking for a formal fatawa. His family is having a medical emergency and we would appreciate it if you could reply back asap.

His wife is pregnant but the baby has two major abnormalities.

The doctors are saying it would be better to abort the baby but they have given them the option of continuing the pregnancy and operate on the child to rearrange the internal organs and hope for the best, but they are not sure how to do this because there is not enough skin to close the stomach and even if they could, there would be know stomach muscle to hold everything in place.

The medical team is expecting the child to die before the wife can actually give birth. What should they do in this situation. Abort the baby or pray to Allah and hope for the best?

We would really appreciate a response from you. Please keep this family in your prayers.

The Answer:
Asalamu alaykum,
I’m certainly not a qualified Mufti, nor do am I able to answer such a question. However, I took this question to two different muftis here in Egypt and will provide you with their feedback:
The Hanafis and Shafis hold that one could abort a child before the fourth month [with conditions] while the Malikis hold it absolutely forbidden. However, after the fourth month the above mentioned schools are in agreement, that abortion is not an option and is forbidden. Ibn ‘Abieen, the great Hanafi scholar, stated in his Hashiyah that “Even if there is fear for the woman’s life” one is not allowed to abort. However, he based this, as well as others, on the fact that, during those days, such information would be more of an educated guess than a fact. With today’s medicine and technology, we are living in a different reality. al-Ghazzali in al-Mustasfah echoed this saying that, ‘At times the faqih could be a layman, and the specialist [doctor, engineer etc] could be the faqih.” Meaning, that both, at times go hand in hand and, at times one will effect the out come of the fatwa.
I quoted Ibn ‘Abideen’s contention to an Azhari mufti and he responded, “Yes, that is what suited him. But today this issue is different and almost certain.”
Then he mentioned the following conditions:
  1. If she has not reached four months than she can abort
  2. If she has reached four months or more, than the only way she can abort is if her life in in danger, or there is a suspicion that her life could be in danger.
Along with the statment of current medical experts he based this on the axioms:
  • “Harm is removed.”
  • “A greater harm is removed with a lesser harm”
Such an issue, as another one of my teachers stated, “Needs the advice of medical experts. And a scholar of Fiqh who is skilled in his craft.”
May Allah grant her sabar, make her strong and raise her status.
Allah knows best
SDW

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

6 Comments

  • Subhannallah. May Allah (SWT) giver her patience. This is a very high-level question. You really need a Doctor Shaikh or Doctor Mufti to answer such a question. Wow. Welcome to the 21st century.

  • Assalaamu ‘alaikum

    I would also urge a second opinion, as the interpretation of ultrasound is an art that has to be learned. When we did a routine ultrasound here in Santa Clara before my youngest son was born, the experts concluded that my son had a large misshapen head, and that we should abort (my wife was on medications for an ailment, and they thought that that might the cause);

    Alhamdulillah, my son was born without any deformities – what they had mistaken for a misshapen head turned out to be a full head of hair, which had not been previously seen in the experts’ experience with delivering mostly western babies!

    Wassalaam

    Shiraz.

  • In regards to abortion before the four month mark – are there any conditions? In your post it said that after 4 months an abortion is only allowed if the mother’s life is in danger, does that imply that before four months you can abort for other reasons?

  • Asalaamu Alaykum Shaykh Suhaib

    Subhan Allah this is such an important topic.

    Contemporary issues are amazing in that they challenge our Scholars to perform new Ijtihad, and rekindle our Intellectual Legacy.

    On the Abortion tip, can a woman perform Abortion without a health condition being the reason for the act?

    For example, a sister is pregnant and wants to abort because she does not feel she is ready for parenthood. Or she wants to finish school first before having a baby.

    Jazak Allah Khayr for your time

    Fahim

  • As-Salamu alaikum

    The official Hanbali opinion is that in the first forty days the “Nutfah” cannot be considered a living being. So abortion in this time is permissible for reasons classified as need (Haajah), although it would be makrooh to do it simply out of the lack of desire to have a child. In this period, it is Haram if done out of fear of poverty due to the verse. Other than that, during the first trimester or so if more than one doctor finds based upon reliable decisive scientific technology that the fetus will cause great harm or kill the mother then it becomes permissible according to the rule of no self-harm or harming others as well as the rule of necessities permit prohibitions.

    al-Allamah Adnan An-Nahham (Kuwait)

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