Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states: “Islamic Shari`ah respects the life of the fetus since it is a living being that should be protected. One of the means of such protection is that Shari`ah permits a pregnant woman not to fast in Ramadan if she fears that fasting will harm her baby in any way.
Therefore, the Shari`ah forbids any transgression against the life of the fetus even if this transgression is committed by the father and the mother. Moreover, it is forbidden to terminate a fetus even if the pregnancy has resulted from adultery. The reason for that is because the baby is innocent and has committed no sin. Allah Almighty says: “Whosoever goeth right, it is only for (the good of) his own soul that he goeth right, and whosoever erreth, erreth only to its hurt. No laden soul can bear another’s load.” (al-Isra’: 15)
Muslim reports on the authority of Hudhayfah Ibn Usayd who says that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “When forty nights pass after the semen gets into the womb, Allah sends the angel and gives him the shape. Then he creates his sense of hearing, sense of sight, his skin, his flesh, his bones, and then says: ‘My Lord, would he be male or female?’ And your Lord decides as He wills, and the angel then puts down that and then says: ‘My Lord, what about his age?’ And your Lord decides as He wills it, and the angel puts it down, then he says: ‘My Lord, what about his livelihood?’ And then the Lord decides as He wills and the angel writes it down, and then the angel gets out with his scroll of destiny in his hand and nothing is added to it and nothing is subtracted from it.”
Therefore, all jurists agree that it is forbidden to abort the fetus after the spirit has been breathed into it. Some scholars distinguish between stages of pregnancy according to whether the fetus has been conceived of for forty nights or less, and hence permit abortion only before forty days. They base this distinction on the previously mentioned hadith reported by Muslim. However, many scholars hold an opposite view and forbid aborting the child even before the spirit is breathed into it. Although Imam Al-Ghazali permits `Azl (withdrawal before ejaculation) for certain reasons, he clearly distinguishes between contraception through `Azl and abortion after fertilization. He states: `Azl is not like abortion or burying a baby alive because the latter is a crime against an already existing human being. There are stages of existence, the first stage is when the sperm reaches the uterus and fertilizes the ovum, and begins the process of forming a human being. Disrupting such a process is a crime. When the zygote becomes a morsel of flesh, the crime is more severe. When the spirit is breathed into it, the crime is much more grave, reaching its utmost severity when killing a newborn child. (Ihya’ `Ulum-id-Deen, the Chapter on Customs, the Book on Marriage, p. 737.)
We notice here that Imam Al-Ghazali considers abortion a crime against an existing human being, although he describes the fusion of the semen and the ovum (fertilization) as “becoming ready to receive life”. So what if he had known what we know now that a new life starts upon a successful fertilization. That is why we hold that abortion is originally forbidden and it becomes more and more grave with the progression of fetal life.
The degree of impermissibility is less in the first forty days and may even be permissible for Islamically accepted excuses. After forty days, the degree of impermissibility becomes greater, and abortion is only allowed for certain compelling reasons that are to be estimated by experts. However, it is absolutely forbidden to abort the fetus after one hundred and twenty days “after the spirit is breathed into the fetus” as stated in another Hadith. In such a case, abortion is not permitted except in cases of dire necessity on the condition that this necessity is unequivocally proved, and necessity is judged according to the circumstances surrounding it.
In my opinion, the necessity can only be in one case, namely when the completion of the pregnancy puts the mother’s life at stake. So the mother’s life should be protected since she is the origin of the life of the fetus, and as such the life of the mother should not be sacrificed for the sake of the fetus. This is quite a logical reasoning that is approved by medicine, jurisprudence and law. Thus, in accordance with the general principle of the Shari`ah that states choosing the lesser of two evils, abortion should be performed in such a case.
In addition to the aforementioned case, some of the modern scholars add another case that in which abortion can be allowed, namely if it is proved via scientific means that the fetus will be born with dangerous anomalies. These anomalies are such that will render his life along with the life of his family an unbearable agony. In cases like these, they hold that it is permissible to abort the child. But many a team of consultants, not only one doctor, should decide this.
The view believed to be the most correct is that the fetus after four months of gestation becomes a human being, and aborting it is like killing a living child. It is Allah’s Mercy that a dangerously disfigured child does not actually survive after delivery as stated by specialists. However, doctors occasionally misdiagnose some cases.
I would like to stress here that the fetal anomalies should be taken into consideration if they are proved to exist before four months of gestation (the breathing of life into the fetus). However, anomalies that license abortions do not include blindness, deafness or dumbness because these are disabilities with which people have been quite compatible Many people throughout human history had such disabilities but they did not hinder them from participating in the various activities of life. On the contrary, some of the disabled were genius and we still remember them till now. It is quite wrong to think that scientific progress will change the nature of life that Allah bases on testing people’s faith. Allah Almighty says: “Lo! We create man from a drop of thickened fluid to test him; so We make him hearing, knowing.” (Al-Insan: 2) and “Verily We have created man into toil and struggle.” (Al-Balad: 4). Modern technology has helped to a very large extent in educating the physically disabled and mentally retarded, and making life easier for them in addition to enabling them to participate in life’s various activities just like normal people.
Allah always speaks the truth, and it is He Who guides to the Straight Path.”