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I am finding conflicting information on whether or not abortion is permitted unconditionally in Islam or not. Nearly all sources I am finding concede that abortion after 120 days gestation is not permitted; however, there is not a consensus on before 120 days gestation.

The varying information I am receiving is:

  • abortion is permitted unconditionally before 40 days (not sure what the reasoning is)
  • abortion is permitted unconditionally before 120 days (something about a soul entering the body?)
  • abortion is permitted at any time if there is a danger to the mother's health or in cases of rape
  • abortion is permitted at any time if the newborn has deformities that will make it difficult for the parents to take care of the child

It seems that the Qu'ran is not explicit about whether or not abortion is permitted. There are verses on "blood money" for the born, but is there anything on the unborn? Is there a definition of when life begins - is it when the child is conceived or when it enters the birth canal? Some sources indicate that there is a Hadith somewhere (I couldn't find it) which says that soul enters the body at 120 days gestation (another says that its 40 days), hence, the reason to permit abortion prior.

On the other hand, there also seems to a big pro-life movement which goes as far as to ask Muslims to work with pro-life Christians in supporting a pro-life stance. The movement strongly believes that life begins at conception and that abortion should not be permitted (unless there is a danger to mother's health).

Seeing that I probably will not be able to get a "yes" or "no" answer to whether abortion is permitted or not, my questions are, according to Islam:

  • Does life begin at conception or 40 days or 120 days when the soul enters? Please back this up with verses from the Quran/hadiths.
  • What is the Islamic view of an unborn child? Is it equivalent to a born child? (i.e. killing unborn = killing born)
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The fuqaha'(jurists) have inferred that the angel of life blows the soul into the foetus after it is 120 days old, so without doubt, terminating the life of a foetus when it is over 4 months old is definitely murder (speaking in general terms).

This is based on the hadeeth:

عن أبي عبد الرحمن عبد الله بن مسعـود رضي الله عنه ، قال : حدثنا رسول الله صلي الله عليه وسلم – وهو الصادق المصدوق - :( إن أحـدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما نطفه ، ثم يكون علقة مثل ذلك ، ثم يكون مـضغـة مثل ذلك ، ثم يرسل إليه الملك ، فينفخ فيه الروح ، ويـؤمر بأربع كلمات : بكتب رزقه ، واجله ، وعمله ، وشقي أم سعيد ؛ فوالله الـذي لا إلــه غـيره إن أحــدكم ليعـمل بعمل أهل الجنه حتى ما يكون بينه وبينها إلا ذراع فيسبق عليه الكتاب فيعـمل بعـمل أهــل النار فـيـدخـلها . وإن أحدكم ليعمل بعمل أهل النار حتي ما يكون بينه وبينها إلا ذراع فــيسـبـق عليه الكتاب فيعمل بعمل أهل الجنة فيدخلها ) رواه البخاري [ رقم : 3208 ] ومسلم [ رقم : 2643 ]

On the authority of Aboo 'Abd ir-Rahmaan 'Abdullaah ibn Mas'ood (radiAllaahu anhu), who said: The Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) and he is the Truthful, the Believed, narrated to us:

"Verily the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother's womb for forty days in the form of a nutfah (a drop), then he becomes an 'alaqah (clot of blood) for a like period, then a mudghah (morsel of flesh) for a like period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows his soul into him and who is commanded with four matters: to write down his rizq (sustenance), his life span, his actions, and whether he will be happy or unhappy (i.e. whether or not he will enter Paradise).

By the One, other than Whom there is no deity, verily one of you performs the actions of the people of Paradise until there is but an arms length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him, and so he acts with the actions of the people of the Hellfire and thus enters it; and verily one of you performs the actions of the people of the Hellfire, until there is but an arms length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he acts with the actions of the people of Paradise and thus he enters it. [Narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim.] "

This also goes hand in hand with what Allah revealed regarding this matter:

“And verily We did create man from a quintessence (of clay). Then We placed him (as a drop of sperm) in a place of rest, firmly fixed. Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood. Then of that clot We made a (foetus) lump. Then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh.THEN We developed out of it another creature (by breathing life into it). So blessed be Allah, the most marvellous Creator” (Surah al-Mu’minun 12-13-14).

The fuqaha’ of the Sunni Islamic madhhabs have agreed that it is haram to kill the foetus after the soul has been breathed into it, i.e., after 120 days have passed since conception. It is not permissible to kill it under any circumstances except when continuing the pregnancy would lead to the mother’s death.

The differences among the fuqaha’ have to do with abortion in the period before the soul is breathed into the foetus. After the soul is breathed into it, the fuqaha’ are agreed that the foetus has become a human being and a soul which has dignity and is to be respected.

Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And indeed We have honoured the Children of Adam…”[al-Israa’ 17:70]

And He says (interpretation of the meaning):

“… if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land — it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind…”[al-Maa'idah 5:32]

Hence, killing an unborn child after soul has been breathed into it without any legally permissible reason would be considered as murder.

If you are interested in know the Ruling on abortion at different stages of the foetus, check here.

More Reference:Abortion after the soul has been breathed into the foetus

  • So it is allowed to do abortion of the child is less than 4 months ? – Sarfraz Aug 3 '12 at 10:55
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Rules about Abortions according to Jafari Fiqh:

Rule 1: In Islam, it is forbidden (haram) to abort the fetus and if this is done, it would result in the Diyah[74] having to be paid. The Diyah is the responsibility of the person who was in charge of carrying out the abortion.

If the doctor was to perform it through an operation or by injecting some medication into the woman and through this act of his, the child was aborted, then he is responsible.

If it was the mother herself who ate some pills or was to use something else that the doctor prescribed for her to take, then the mother would be responsible.

If the father did not know about this taking place, then the Diyah would have to be paid to him. However if the father knew about it and approved of it, then the Diyah is the responsibility of both the mother and father and the Diyah must be given to the indirect inheritor of that fetus.


Rule 2: If the child was to die while in the womb of the mother, then it is obligatory to remove it from the womb.


Rule 3: If the pregnancy is a danger to the life of the mother or would result in her become handicapped, then it is permissible for her to abort the child before the time when the soul has been infused into the body.

However it is not permissible to abort the child once the soul has come into the body and the fetus starts to move (inside the womb) and the mother must carefully watch over and give special attention to the child inside her and must make sure that it is brought into the world at the appropriate time.


Rule 4: If the child which has been aborted was four months old or more, then it must be given the Ghusl-e-Mayyit[75] and must also be provided with a Kafan (burial shroud) and must be buried. In addition, anyone that touched the body of the child (such as the mother, grandmother, or others who were taking care of the mother) must perform a Ghusl of Mass-e-Mayyit.

If the child was less than four months old, then it must be wrapped in cloth, and without giving it a Ghusl, it must be buried. If anyone has touched the body of the child, then it is better that they too perform the Ghusl (of Mass-e-Mayyit).


References and more information:

  1. Abortions

  2. Islamic Edicts on Family Planning (Compiled by Doctor Bahram Dilawar, Doctor Saffiyah, Shahryari Afshar, and Doctor A`dham Dukht Rahimi, Published by: Ministry of Health and Medical Education with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA))

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