Muslim Matrimonials and More

Articles and Essays on Marriage and Family in Islam Muslim Matrimonial ServiceArticles

Abortion on Medical Grounds

Reprinted from "Our Dialogue," an Islamic Q & A series published in the Arab News, Saudi Arabia)


There are many genetic disorders for which currently no cure is available, but diagnosis is possible. Some of these disorders, when confirmed, may require termination of pregnancy. What is your opinion on this important issue in the light of Islamic teachings: can abortion be allowed on medical grounds?


In 1983, a conference was held in Kuwait in which specialized doctors of medicine and Islamic scholars took part. One of the most important subject discussed was abortion. There was a great deal of discussion on the various aspects of abortion and when it can be considered appropriate.

From the findings of that conference it can be concluded that abortion is permissible if the continuation of pregnancy poses a real threat to the life of the mother. In this case, abortion can be performed at any stage during the pregnancy, and as soon as it is clear that termination of pregnancy is the only way to save the life of the mother.

As for other medical conditions, scholars differed a great deal on this issue. It is however, remarkable that the proceedings show that gynecologists and obstetricians who also have sound Islamic knowledge took a stronger attitude opposing abortion at any stage of the pregnancy. Scholars of Fiqh could find room for a more understanding attitude.

They gave different verdicts for different stages of the pregnancy. Most of them say that abortion is forbidden after 120 days of conception. Others say that this prohibition begins after 45 days. Both groups define the limit which they favor on the basis of a certain Hadith. The one which speaks of 120 days may be given in translation as follows:

"Indeed, the creation of each one of you is brought together in the mother's belly for 40 days in the form of a drop of sperm, then he is a germ-cell for a like period, then an embryonic lump for a like period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows the breath of life into him and who is commanded about four matters: to write down his means of livelihood, his life span, his actions and whether happy or unhappy.

By Allah, other than whom there is no God, one of you may behave like the people of paradise until there is but an arm's length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he behaves like the people of hell fire and thus he enters it; and one of you behaves like the people of hell fire until there is but an arm's length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he behaves like the people of paradise and thus he enters it." (Related by Al Bukhari & Muslim.)

We note that the Prophet speaks of three stages of forty days each before spirit is blown into the embryo. It is on this basis that some scholars consider that abortion on medical grounds is permissible at this stage. Muslim Matrimonial ServiceArticles Muslim Matrimonials and More