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Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of “Travel” (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 3

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In our previous parts, we discussed the travel distance required to be considered a traveler. In this article, we shall discuss the time duration that one remains a traveler.

2. For How Long Does One Remain a Traveler?

The final issue that we need to discuss is the time duration for which one is allowed to shorten the prayer while one remains a ‘traveler’. In other words, once one has arrived at one’s initial destination and intends to remain there for a duration before returning home, for how long can s/he shorten and combine? Once again, we face a myriad of opinions on this issue (I have come across at least eighteen different opinions, and there are more); for the purposes of this article, we shall restrict ourselves to the more common ones.

2.1 The State of ‘Travel’ Ceases after 15 days

The Ḥanafīs considered a ‘traveler’ to be someone who intends to reside at a place for fifteen days or less (inclusive of the day that he intends to travel). They based this on qiyas, or analogy, with the longest possible days of a woman’s period. At first glance, this analogy does seem rather bizarre. However, they reasoned that both a traveler and a woman in her menses must ‘return’ to a more permanent state of worship (the menstruating woman returns to her prayers after desisting from them, and the traveler returns to the full prayer after ceasing to be a ‘traveler’), hence there is a commonality between these two scenarios that would allow us (or so the Ḥanafīs felt) to extrapolate the same ruling to these two scenarios.

They also use as evidence a tradition of Ibn ʿAbbās in which he stated that the Prophetalla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam stayed in Makkah for fifteen days, praying qar (Reported by Abu Dawud; most scholars of hadith consider this version to be inauthentic for a number of reasons, one of which is that more authentic versions of this hadith mention even higher numbers.)

The Ḥanafis also attributed this position to Ibn ʿAbbās and Ibn ʿUmar,[1] and it is also one opinion of Saʿīd b. al-Musayyib.

2.2 The State of  ‘Travel’ Ceases after 4 days

The Mālikīs, Shāfiʿīs, and Ḥanbalīs claimed that the time that makes a traveler into a resident is four days.

Note that the Ḥanbalīs have qualified this as ‘twenty prayers’ and not four days; also there is some difference of opinion between the Mālikīs and the Shāfiʿīs over when this time frame should start and end and whether the day that one arrives and leaves counts or not. For the purposes of this article, all of these differences will be ignored. What is important to note is that these three schools have a similar time frame of ‘four days’.

Their main evidence is the command of the Prophet alla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam that the Emigrants (Muhajirūn) who were performing Hajj with him should not stay in Makkah for more than three days [Reported by Muslim].

In order to understand the reasoning of these three schools with respect to this tradition, an important fact must be understood. The Emigrants who had left Makkah for Madinah during the hijra were prohibited from returning to Makkah as ‘residents’, since they had given up that land for the sake of Allah. The point derived by the majority, therefore, is that the reason the Prophet alla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam prohibited them to stay more than three days is that it is the staying of four days or more that converts a traveler into a resident. To buttress this point, these schools also mention that the Prophet alla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam himself prayed qaṣr when he remained in Makkah for three days, after performing ʿUmrah.

Another evidence that is used is the travel restrictions that ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb placed on non-Muslim traders who wished to conduct business in Makkah or Madinah: he only allowed them permission to remain for three days.[2] Once again, the interpretation given is that it is four days or more that converts a traveler to a resident, hence he forbade them from remaining for more than three days.

And it is also reported from Saʿīd b. al-Musayyib (d. 95), who said, “If you want to stay for four, then pray four!”[3] This is also the opinion of the Permanent Committee of Scholars, the fatwa of Shaykh Ibn Bāz, and the opinion of our Shaykh Muḥammad al-Mukhtār al-Shanqīṭī.

2.3 The Opinion of Ibn Taymiyya

Ibn Taymiyya, extrapolating from many of the same premises as his earlier position on thedistance of travel, felt that there exists no explicit evidence or reasoning that would specify a particular time period that effectively converts a traveler into a resident. Therefore, he felt that a traveler would remain a traveler even if he stayed at a specific location for a longer period of time, as long as his lifestyle was that of a ‘traveler’.

As part of his evidences, Ibn Taymiyya also pointed out that there are authentic narrations that indicate the Prophet alla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam would pray qar for more than fifteen days. Of them is the hadith of Jābir that the Prophet alla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam camped at Tabuk praying qar for twenty days (Reported by Abu Dawud). Another is the hadith of Ibn ʿAbbās in which he reported that the Prophet alla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam stayed in Makkah nineteen days, praying qar (Reported by al-Bukhārī). The four schools all re-interpreted these evidences (by claiming, for example, that the Prophet did not know how long he would camp at Tabuk during that expedition, so he did not intend to stay for more than ‘x’ number of days; and so forth). However, Ibn Taymiyya clearly takes an unbiased and apparent reading of these evidences to suggest that there is no specific number that the Prophet  alla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam suggested and that at times he prayed qar for more than four or fifteen days.

Nonetheless, perhaps understanding that this open-ended response also had potential problems, Ibn Taymiyya did feel that the majority opinion of four days was safer to follow.

In one fatwa, Ibn Taymiyya was asked about a traveler who intends to remain for one month in a city: is he permitted to shorten? He replied that it was safer for him not to shorten but to pray in full.[4] In another fatwa that he was asked, he explicitly permitted a person in a similar situation to shorten the prayer for this longer period, even while saying that it is ‘safer’ to pray the full amount.[5]

In other words, Ibn Taymiyya himself did not unequivocally allow such a person to pray qaṣrfor a limitless number of days. Even though he said that it is permitted and that one should not rebuke those who do this, he also said that it was better to pray full.

However, a modern follower of Ibn Taymiyya, Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn, took this fatwa to a possible logical conclusion. According to Ibn ʿUthaymīn, as long as a person did not intend to remain permanently in a city, such a person would be considered a traveler, even if he remained in that city for years on end. Based on this fatwa, numerous Saudi students (some of whom I personally met) would pray qar for years while students overseas. They reasoned that since they had the full intention of returning to Saudi Arabia after their four or five years of study, they were, in fact, in the state of ‘travel’, even if they purchased houses and cars, and put their kids in a local school. When Ibn ʿUthaymīn was asked about this scenario, he agreed with this interpretation and reasoned that since there was no actual time limit, even the duration of ten years would constitute ‘travel’ as long as one wished to return to a place called ‘home’.

2.4 The Strongest Opinion

Before mentioning what appears to be the ‘strongest’ opinion, it should be mentioned that there are many other opinions on this issue as well. For example, some have said that the time duration is twenty days; Isḥāq b. Rāhwayh said this period was nineteen days; others said seventeen; yet others thirteen; al-Awzāʿī said twelve; al-Ḥasan b. Ṣāliḥ said ten; Ḥasan al-Baṣrī said three; and Rabīʿa al-Raʾy said a stay of one day converts one from a traveler to a resident. However, for the purposes of our discussion, we will limit the opinions to these famous and mashhūr ones.

Also note that the issue of one who is not certain about the time that he is remaining in a land is a separate one, and even within these schools, the majority would allow qar for much longer periods in this case. The classic example mentioned in legal books is that of the soldiers of the army guarding the borders; they could be called for duty at any time, and they are most certainly not ‘residents’ considering the harsh conditions they live in. There are authentic reports that some of the Companions prayed qar for months on end (perhaps even for years). It is reported that Ibn ʿUmar prayed qar for six months while in Azerbaijan.[6] However, this was done in a state of war, and therefore when one is in such a state that one can leave at any time, obviously this would take a separate ruling from the one who intends a particular number of days.

Returning to our discussion, once again, Ibn Taymiyya’s points resonate strongly with the open-minded researcher. The ‘four-day rule’ seems derived, and not intended. There are numerous authentic traditions in which the Prophet alla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam stayed at a location for more than four days while shortening the prayers. Therefore, even though the majority of the schools of law did stipulate four days, there really seems no evidence whatsoever to limit such a ruling to a specific time period. In our times, it is extremely common for office workers (in particular, consultants) to travel for five days of the week to an on-site location, and such workers are travelers in every sense of the word, despite the fact that they are remaining in the same location for more than four days.

Yet, to allow no limit whatsoever (as our respected Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn did) really does not seem to be either in the spirit or the intent of the Shariah. Yes, it is true that a traveler cannot be defined by a particular time-frame, but surely s/he can be defined as a resident by actions that s/he undertakes. A traveler does not buy a house, or ‘settle down’, or take care of his children’s long-term education. Therefore, a person who comes to a town, knowing that he will stay for a few years, is clearly not a ‘traveler’ anymore, since he must take care of all of these matters and more. Owning or renting a house is not the same as living in a motel.

No doubt, such a distinction is not a black-and-white one, and there are many shades of grey in between. It is precisely because of such grey areas that most legal scholars are prone to give solid numbers (‘48 miles’, or ‘4 days’) rather than the more ambiguous yardsticks of Ibn Taymiyya. And therefore, should someone prefer to follow one of these standard opinions mentioned in our classical schools, this is something that should be encouraged and not looked down upon. Nonetheless, if someone were to follow the more academic position of Ibn Taymiyya, this (in my humble opinion) would be closer to the intent of the laws of the Shariah.

And in the end, it is indeed Allah alone who knows best.

NOTES:

This article did not discuss the following issues in detail; for the sake of completeness, they will be mentioned in passing:

Firstly, the legal status of shortening the prayer (qaṣr). The Ḥanafīs deemed it to be obligatory for the traveler and stated that if the traveler prays the regular prayer, he will in fact be sinful. The majority said that shortening the prayer was preferred, but not obligatory.

Secondly, the legal status of joining between two prayers (jamʿ), specifically of course, Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr, and Maghrib and ʿIshā. [No school of law allowed jamʿ for any other two combinations of prayers].

The Ḥanafīs did not allow any joining of the prayers except for the pilgrims during the days of Hajj. They did not view joining as one of the concessions granted to the traveler and claimed that the joining together during the days of ʿArafat and Mina are related to the rites of Hajj and not to the issue of traveling.

The vast majority of other scholars allowed Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr to be joined, and Maghrib and ʿIshā to be joined, based on explicit, authentic traditions on this matter. Additionally, they said that this should preferably be done only during the actual travel. Once a traveler arrives at his temporary destination, it is preferred (but not obligatory) to pray each prayer at its proper time.

Ibn Taymiyya writes, after mentioning some traditions that describe the Prophet’s prayer during travel,[7]

So all of this shows that combining the prayers (jamʿ) is not from the sunnahs of traveling, unlike shortening them (qaṣr) – rather, combining the prayers is only done where there is a need to do so, regardless of whether one is traveling or not, for it is also permissible for the resident to combine. Therefore, if a traveler needs to combine, he may do so, for example: if he will be engaged in the act of travel during the first or second prayer time, or he needs to sleep or rest… However, as for someone who stops for a few days in a village or city, then his ruling is the same as that of the people of that village. So such a person, even though he should pray qaṣr as a traveler, should not combine, just like he should not pray on an animal, or resort to tayammum, or eat a dead animal. All of these matters are only allowed when there is a need to do so, unlike shortening the prayer, for this is a sunnah for all travelers.

Note that this is contrary to what most travelers do: they assume that combining the prayers takes the same ruling as shortening does and regularly combine for the entire duration of the travel.

Thirdly, when precisely is it allowed for a traveler to begin shortening and combining the prayers? A small minority said that he may do so as soon as he commences the travel, even if he still be in his house (i.e., immediately before he leaves). However, the majority said that he may only begin shortening and combining once he has left the city walls (or, in our times, when he has exited the last settlements that are still considered a part of his city).


[1] Al-Kasānī, Badāʾi al-Ṣanāʿʾ; al-Tahānawī, Iʿlāʾ al-Sunan, 7/312-5.

[2] Ibn Qudāma, al-Mughnī, 3/148.

[3] Ibn Abi Shayba, Muṣannaf.

[4] Ibn Taymiyya, Majmūʾ al-Fatāwā 24/17.

[5] Ibid., 24/18

[6] Reported in the Sunan of al-Bayhaqī (3/152).

[7] Ibn Taymiyya, Majmūʾ al-Fatāwā 24/64-5.

Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.

57 Comments

57 Comments

  1. Pingback: Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of ‘Travel’ (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 2 | MuslimMatters.org

    • Avatar

      SS

      May 15, 2015 at 1:26 AM

      I agree with Ibn Tayyimiah’s opinion. So just to clarify if what I’ve understood is correct.

      – we pray qasr for all salats
      – we can join zuhr with asr, and Maghreb with isha?
      -I’ll be travelling overseas for 2-3 weeks

  2. Avatar

    abu Abdullah

    July 22, 2011 at 1:54 AM

    Jazak Allah khayr jiddan dear Shaykh Yasir. May Allah protect you and your family. Ameen.

    Q. I always face this dilemma about prayers travelling through time zones. How about praying during trans atlantic 15 hour flight from NJ to Mumbai (time zone difference, GMT++) or NY to San Francisco flight (GMT–)? Or should we just make them up afterwards.

    wassalam.

    • Avatar

      MW_M

      July 22, 2011 at 7:50 AM

      I wondered this too. If you’re going by the actual physical signs, you’d be praying something like 8 prayers in a day one way and 2 prayers in a day on the return trip.

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 22, 2011 at 11:52 AM

      Salaam Alaikum

      You would be required to pray them according to your current location.

      Merely look out the window and you can get a good enough estimate.

      So, a night flight from NJ to Mumbai (which I’ve taken a few times myself!) leaves at around 9 PM NJ time and arrives in Mumbai the next evening around 8 PM.
      Therefore, you would be required to pray Fajr and Dhuhr and Asr in the plane. You can pray Maghrib/Isha before boarding the late night flight, and then pray the next Maghrib/Isha in Mumbai.

      Yasir

      • Avatar

        abu Abdullah

        July 22, 2011 at 1:25 PM

        wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,

        Jazaak Allahu khayran Shaykh. may Allah increase you in goodness and cause this to be accepted sawab jariya for you and forgive your parents . Ameen.

        Additionally, I wonder if such travelling destination is ALSO your home where you intend to stay (back home, Parents live there and you don’t have to live like in motel) for say 2-3 weeks and masjid is accessible easily. What do I do? (Pray Jam’/Qasr or both or none)

        In and of itself, its a good dawah opportunity to be praying on a plane. What was ibn Taymiyyah’s opinion on praying while flying in the air/space ( I heard He rahimahullah did give a fatwa about same, centuries before flying was discovered). If its there and is appropriate here, please let us know it.

        PS Regardless, when are you coming to Mumbai next insh Allah? :)

      • Avatar

        Sunny ibn Salman Al-Amreekee

        January 6, 2014 at 2:38 AM

        As-Salaamu `alaykum,

        I second the curious thought above by Abu Abdullah. What is the understanding of praying salaah while on a moving vehicle, be it a car, train, airplane, et cetera?

        Jazaakumu llaahu khayran was-salaamu `alaykum.

  3. Avatar

    Omar

    July 22, 2011 at 4:45 AM

    Salam

    Jazakumullah Khairan! This was very informative!!

  4. Avatar

    Interesting

    July 22, 2011 at 7:12 AM

    Yasir Qadhi says:

    “as our respected Shaykh Ibn Ê¿UthaymÄ«n did”.

    It is just be or does it seem like he is implying he was a student of the late shaykh (rahimahullah)

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 22, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      Salaam Alaikum

      Allah blessed me to study with the Shaykh in his annual summer intensives that he held in his mosque in Unayzah. I was only able to attend one summer intensive, in 2000, the very last year that they were held. The Shaykh passed away early 2001, yarhamuhullah.

      Yasir

      • Avatar

        Interesting

        July 22, 2011 at 1:02 PM

        Barak Allah fiyk, sorry for the apparent accusation.

  5. Avatar

    amina

    July 22, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    assalamu alaikkum warahmathullahi wabarakathuhu

    JazakumAllahkhair . Ma’asha Allah , You do all the hard work in searching and researching , and we get to learn easily from you. May Allah(swt) bless you and reward you and your family immensely .Ameen.

  6. Avatar

    Sadia

    July 22, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    Jazakallahu Khairan.

  7. Avatar

    Adam

    July 22, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    Salam alaykum Sheikh

    JazakAllah khair for an informative series. May this be the reason you enter jannat alfirdaws. ameen

  8. Amad

    Amad

    July 22, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    salam & jazakalalhkhair

    how about following real-life situations:
    1) Travelling to work in another city, state or country. Everyday. E.g.: Commuters from Malaysia to Singapore.

    2) Excursion trip to another state for a day. E.g. going from Philly to Washington DC for a day-trip.

    3) Going to school in another city, 40 miles away everyday
    b) Weekend school where you stay overnight, e.g. Delaware to Philly.

    I have also heard that if u r “settled”, you shorten but don’t combine. When is that applicable?

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 23, 2011 at 1:56 AM

      Amad,

      Did you actually read all three parts carefully ;) All of your answers are there….

  9. Avatar

    MHB

    July 22, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    The Prophet (S) said, “Live in this world as (if you are) a traveler.” (Bukhari). Does this mean we should shorten and combine prayers and not fast at all times?

    [P.S. This is a joke]

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 23, 2011 at 1:59 AM

      Salam

      Well, this can actually be used to correct the understanding that someone who is temporarily in a place for a long period of time can still be called a traveller (the opinion that Shaykh Ibn Uthaymin held). One could say, based on this hadith, that an entire lifetime is merely a ‘travel’ from this world to the next!

      Thsi hadith actually supports Ibn Taymiyya’s position, because the point here is that the Prophet (SAWS) intended to describe a particular lifestyle, here indicating someone with few possessions and little attachment to his place of residence. This clearly shows that a traveller is someone with a particular lifestyle, and this lifestyle is known by one’s culture and custom.

      Yasir

      • Avatar

        nod

        July 25, 2011 at 5:13 PM

        Actually, A lot of shias pray 3 times a day and they combine all the time. I was told this was one of thier proofs, we are all ”permanent” travelers.

  10. Avatar

    Fulaan

    July 22, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    It seems that defining residence is something which is struggled with even nowadays.

    The UK is currently trying to make a statutory tax definition of residence (in the UK, unlike in
    the US there are tax advantages to being non-resident as you are only taxed on your UK earnings
    if you are non-resident, not your worldwide earnings like the US.)

    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/consult_condoc_statutory_residence.pdf

    The things they are listing as factors which are similar to above are things like:
    * Purchase of properties / availability of private accomodation in the UK
    * Location of the residence of your spouse and children (similar to what was said elsewhere (not above) in that you are not resident where your parents live)
    * Number of days passed in the UK (though cumulative, not in one instance as above)

    Previously (and currently) they relied on purported intention (did you ‘intend’ to live in the UK permanently)
    which is naturally hard to prove either way in a court of tax law.

    What Sh Uthaymeen seems to be describing is domicile – or what someone considers to be their natural home – taking that to its natural conclusion a refugee who is a citizen in say the UK and lives here all his natural life could be considered to be a traveller if they always intended to return to their home country when it was possible to do so – even if that return would be undefined and would be dependent on for example that country being politically stable enough for them to return to at some point.

    http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/cnr/hmrc6.pdf

    Fulaan

  11. Avatar

    Omar

    July 22, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    BarakaAllahu feek ya Shaykh Yasir,

    Reading this series has tremendously increased my respect for our fuqaha’

    – There is a great deal of legal reasoning that goes into fiqh, a great deal of mental prowess, which many don’t appreciate
    – Islam is a vast deen, that respects differences, even on fundamentals like time of prayer
    – Our scholars are smart people, but fallible humans
    – We need many modern mujtahids
    – You are in love with Ibn Taymiyya :)

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 23, 2011 at 1:59 AM

      You’re absolutely correct…on ALL counts!

      Yasir

  12. Abez

    Abez

    July 22, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    JazakAllahuKheiran! Very informative, very useful, and very appreciated.

    Would love to read more pieces like this, this was like the FAQ for Qasr that I’ve never been able to find elsewhere. :)

  13. Avatar

    MangoLassi

    July 22, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    JazakAllahu khayran ya Shaykh! This was really informative. If you’re taking requests to do another fiqh series, i would appreciate it if you could do a series on the fiqh of investing. I’ve heard so many different opinions on this topic and can’t seem to get a hand on a comprehensive analysis on the topic like you do.

  14. Avatar

    MangoLassi

    July 22, 2011 at 10:07 PM

    Shaykh Yasir: what if the traveller attends a masjid or prays in congregation with the locals with the imam leading 4 rakahs for dhuhr or asr or isha? What should the traveller do? Pray the full 4 rakahs behind the imam or pray 2 rakahs and keep sitting in tashahud till the salam?

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 23, 2011 at 2:00 AM

      Such a person must pray the full salat behind the Imam. This is in accordance with all four schools of Sunni law.

      • Avatar

        Omar

        July 24, 2011 at 8:16 PM

        What if I join late in the prayer and miss a few rakahs? For example in Isha if I join in the 3rd rakah, do I finish just my 2 and say salam with the imam, or do another 2?

        I recall Sheikh Waleed Basyouni said his personal opinion was to pray just my 2, though he said the majority view is to pray the full 4 (or whatever the imam prayed).

      • Avatar

        Zainab

        December 28, 2012 at 7:36 AM

        Salaam u alaikum,
        Dear Sheikh Yasir,
        Can u please authentife the following Hadith for me:
        “I will continue to struggle with this mission until a woman can travel freely all by herself without fear of molestation or assault on her person from any quarter!”

        And can u also please tell me what different scholars have said about the hadith of Abu Hurayra from Abu Dawud that a woman may not travel without a mahram the distance of a Bureida. Thank you.

  15. Avatar

    Ibn Sabeel

    July 22, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    As-salam-u-alaikum Shaykh Yasir Qadhi!

    Could you please briefly discuss what constitutes a city in the matter of travel?

    I have heard the following three opinions:

    1. City Limit
    2. County Limit
    3. Where the metropolitan area ends

    JazakAllahu khayr.

  16. Avatar

    Michael Scott

    July 23, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    mashaAllah great article! Thank you Shaikh Yasir! May Allah reward you for your efforts. I would encourage others to take the gist of his message and decide wisely based on their circumstances and pray to Allah SA for acceptance. We can continue to create hypothetical scenarios which will only complicate matters further and not achieve anything useful. Wallahu ‘Alam.

  17. Avatar

    Question

    July 24, 2011 at 4:36 AM

    combining the prayers is only done where there is a need to do so, regardless of whether one is traveling or not, for it is also permissible for the resident to combine

    Let’s say i’ve been out all day (in my own city), can I combine for example Maghrib and Isha @ Maghrib time only because I might be too tired when I get home @ isha time to pray Isha (because of being out the whole day with kids, etc)?

  18. Avatar

    Umar Shariff

    July 24, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    Very informative article. May Allah bless the Shaikh for bringing this wonderful piece of work.

  19. Avatar

    Ismail Kamdar

    July 24, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    Jazakallah Khair for Shaykh for this detailed explanation. Please publish more articles of this nature as we are much in need of them.

  20. Avatar

    Shuaib Mansoori

    July 24, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    It is reported that Ibn Ê¿Umar prayed qaá¹£r for six months while in Azerbaijan

    So for those of us who’ve recently moved to Azerbaijan from the West, can we invent a new ruling and pray qasr always? ;)

  21. Avatar

    Amy

    July 24, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    May Allah preserve you. This was a tremendously beneficial series of posts. Jazaakallahu khayran for clarifying the distinction in rulings regarding combining as opposed to merely shortening prayers for travel. InshaaAllaah I can see that immediately changing my perception of the issue.

  22. Avatar

    Khader Ali Khan

    July 25, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    Salaam Alaikum Shaykh Yasir,

    This is trivial question but I would appreciate if you answer it.

    All the rules and concession that applies to Traveler with regards to Salah also applies to fasting, correct?

    So, If I travel 90 miles to play cricket game (which is all day long), can I skip the fasting and make it on other day? Is it a valid reason? It is unthinkable for me to skip fasting in Ramadan.

    Jazakallahukhairan.
    Khader

  23. Avatar

    Ismail

    August 21, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    Salaam, I have a question. My wife follows the opinion that u are no longer traveler once u are stationary in a house or hotel etc. I follow ibn uthaymeens opinion. Should she obey me and follow my opinion or is it haram for me to make her follow my opinion?
    I feel it would cause hardship for me as I will always have to wait for he to pray full salah while I combine and also is praying in masjid fardh while traveling? And if I combine then how do I pray in masjid 5 times?
    Jazakallahu Kheiran sheikh
    ,

  24. Pingback: Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of “Travel” (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 1 - MuslimMatters.org

  25. Avatar

    Yasmin

    September 7, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    Salaam
    I’m a girl, and If i travel to university which is around 1/2-1hr away from my home everyday, do I take a mahram with me? Do I also need a mahram for everything else I do outside my home, like shopping?
    JazakAllah kheir

  26. Avatar

    muslimah

    September 8, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    JazakAllah khairan sheikh…its really helpful…brother i am going through a problem,my mother is asking me to travel without a mahram…i tried alot but she is not willing to change her mind,infact our seats hv been booked aswell,and it costs a lot of money if u want to change da bookings,em soo distressed sheikh…plz advice…secondly can u plz tell me if is it possible 4 me 2 publish my articles on dis website…honestly speaking,im literally dying 2 do sumthing 4 da sake of Allah but due to sum restrictions im unable 2 do wat i want…i consider writng islamic article for His sake a source of sawaab-e-jaaria….plz sheikh help me……..em eagerly waiting 4 reply…please sheikh…..JazakuAllah khairan…May Allah protect u and ur family…Ameen!

  27. Avatar

    muslimah

    September 8, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    please if anyone else has any answer to my questions plz plz answer me….May Allah reward aalll of u highely..wassalamualikumwRwB

  28. Pingback: MM Treasures | Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of “Travel” (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 2 - MuslimMatters.org

  29. Pingback: MM Treasures | Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of “Travel” (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 3 - MuslimMatters.org

  30. Avatar

    UmmM

    October 25, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    Shaykh,

    I do quite a few train journies and I was wondering if I can combine dhur and asr at home before leaving at dhuhr time, as during asr time I will be on the train and unable to pray. Would this be permissible?

  31. Avatar

    Cape Townian

    June 25, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    Aslm,

    Sheikh yasir jazakakallah for your interesting article,
    Do you mind me enquiring as too what your approach is to the Quran and sunnah? I.e. what usool do you use?
    I am a Shafi, and naturally we would follow our schools usool as espoused in latter works such as جمع الجوامع of ابن السبكي rahimullah. And the shuruh and hawashiy there of.

    Certain of these points , when looked in light of each scholars approach (usool), would elucidate why the furu’ end up the way they do. Allah knows best

  32. Avatar

    emad

    January 30, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    Alhamdolelah I am a only a Muslim and not from the 44 mathhabs, and I follow The Prophet (ﷺ) and not anyone’s opinion

    In saheh Muslim Yahya b. Yazid al-Huna’i reported:
    I asked Anas b. Malik about shortening of prayer. He said: When the Messenger of’ Allah (ﷺ) had covered a distance of three miles or three farsakh (Shu’ba, one of the narrators, had some doubt about it) he observed two rak’ahs.

    That’s it either 3 miles or 3 farsakh (9 miles) , I am an ummi and I follow and I don’t measure – No opinion after the opinion of the Prophet (ﷺ).

    PS – Shiekh yaseer, why didn’t you mention the above hadith from sahih Muslim, it’s the most authentic hadith on the subject. with all due respect you have a long research of what this scholar said and their opinions are , what about the opinion of rasol Allah and Umar ibn Alkkhatab ?

  33. Avatar

    Gem

    April 19, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    Jazaa kumullah Shaykh.I’m an Australian residing in Turkey and follow many of your lectures online.May Allah(S.W.T) reward you well for all the good that you’re doing.

    As selamu Aleykum.

  34. Avatar

    Maleka Jamil

    May 28, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    Assalamualaikum. I have a question. Will a married women pray qasar ul salat when she goes to parent’s home to visit them?

    • Avatar

      new_wife

      June 12, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      That’s exactly my question!

  35. Avatar

    M. Akhtar, new delhi

    June 21, 2014 at 1:35 AM

    Salam o alaikum Sh Qadhi. Jazak Allah khair. Excellent article. May your tribe increase among Ummah

  36. Avatar

    Shakeel

    September 9, 2015 at 12:21 AM

    Assalamualaikum,

    i live in North America, currently not able to afford to buy my own home for living. many people have told me having 1st mortgage for self residence is permissible.

    what is the exact ruling in Islam about it.

    and are there known Islamic Mortgage is shariah Compliance in North America that you know of.

    JazakuAllah khairan
    Salam.
    Shakeel

  37. Pingback: Comment on Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of “Travel” (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 3 by Shakeel | Souqhub | Blog

  38. Avatar

    Abdul Rahman

    August 19, 2016 at 3:14 PM

    I have a question regarding daily commutes that are pretty long 1-2 hours a day one way. So i can be in a car traveling for 2-4 hours daily. I primarily pray all prayers not shorten but sometimes it is difficult and choose to combine. Is that ok?

  39. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    November 11, 2016 at 7:29 AM

    Nice article! Everybody find the Qibla Direction and prayer time for this Web Application Al Moazzin

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#Islam

A Word On Muslim Attitudes Toward Abortion

Dr Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, Guest Contributor

Published

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The Qur’an describes Muslims committed to its mores as “a moderate nation,” and that sense of balance qualifies them to stand as “witnesses over humanity” (Q 2:143). Contemporary Muslims revel in this assertion, especially when it seems that “Islam” proposes a via media solution to a highly polarizing subject as abortion. What currently constitutes “Islam” on a given topic, however, often reflects the personal prerogative apparently offered to the average Muslim by a list of diverse legal perspectives. In other words, the mere fact that multiple legal opinions exist on one or more topics is now taken as license to appropriate any one of them, without any deep ethical reflection on the implications of the opinion, however anomalous it may be.

“Islam is the golden mean between all ethical extremes” is what certain Muslims would assert. So if one extreme bars abortion under all circumstances and the other seeks to allow it throughout the duration of the pregnancy, one would assume that Islam must land somewhere in the middle, both forbidding and allowing abortion in certain circumstances. This moral assumption isn’t far from the truth. However, the mere existence of multiple opinions on a topic does not mean that each opinion has equal validity, nor does it mean that every opinion is valid for one to adopt. Similarly, “Islam” or “Islamic law” cannot be summed up into a simple formula like “majority rules” or “when in doubt about prohibition or allowance, the action is, therefore, merely disliked.”

Legal positivism plagues both religious and secular-minded people. Just as an act does not acquire its moral strength simply because it is legal, morally appropriate opinions are not always codified into law. If it is true that any unjust law is no law at all, where is the injustice and to whom is it being perpetrated against in the debate between pro-lifers and pro-choicers? Is it deemed unjust to prevent a pregnant woman from disposing of an “insignificant lifeless part of her body” that no one other than herself should be able to decide what to do with? Or is one “depriving a helpless growing person” of the opportunity and right to exist after its Creator initiated its journey into the world? Does a law that prevents a woman impregnated by a family member or rapist from an abortion oppress her? Or does such a law protect the life of a vulnerable fetus, who, like other weak members of society, is expected to be protected by the strong? Does it do both or neither? And if one is taking the “life” of this fetus, what proof is there that it is a living creature?

While these are all extremely important questions, this missive is neither intended necessarily to answer them nor to resolve today’s raging political debate. The main goal here is to offer ideas that should be on the minds of Muslims when deciding to join such debates or promoting the idea that their “religion” provides the best solution to social polarization, when by “religion” we mean the opinion of a small minority of scholars in some place and time in Muslim history.

Islamic law is very sophisticated; the legislative process is not facile, nor is it a place where any Muslim is entitled to pragmatically select the opinions that he/she finds attractive and accommodating. It demands knowledge of particular aims, the ability to properly realize those aims in the lives of people, and understanding the epistemic and metaphysical foundations that ensure that judgments conform to coherent rationale. In other words, the laws of Islam and the opinions of jurists cannot be divorced from their philosophical and evidentiary underpinnings. Otherwise, the thread holding the moral tapestry of Islam together falls apart completely at its seams.

Is Abortion Lawful in Islam?

Many past and present have written about the Islamic view of abortion. The ancient scholars prohibited it at all stages of the pregnancy and made practically no exception. Some would later allow for it only if the mother’s life was in danger. That notwithstanding, six popular legal opinions exist regarding abortion:

  • Unlawful (haram), in all stages of the pregnancy.
  • Permitted (ja’iz), during the first 40 days but unlawful (haram) afterwards.
  • Disliked (makruh), before the passage of 40 days but unlawful (haram) afterwards.
  • Permitted (ja’iz), if it is from illicit intercourse (zina).
  • Permitted (ja’iz) without conditions, before 120 days.
  • Permitted only for a legitimate excuse.

The late mufti of Fez, Morocco, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil (d. 2015) said,

The first opinion forbidding that during the [first] 40 [days] and beyond, regardless of whether or not it is due to an excuse, even if from illicit intercourse, is the view of the supermajority [of jurists].[1]

The Qur’an is a Book of Ethical Teaching

The reasons for the cavalier attitude among contemporary Muslims about abortion are multiple. The most significant reason may be that at times Islam is seen as a synonym for shariah. The truth, however, is that the shariah is only part of Islam. Islam covers law (fiqh), creed (aqidah), and ethics (akhlaq). Even though the Qur’an consists of laws, it is not a book of law. It is a book of ethical teachings. Merely 10%–12% of the Qur’an relates to legal injunctions. It is not characteristic of the Qur’an to enjoin upon Muslims to command what is “compulsory” or “recommended” and to forbid what is “unlawful” and “disliked.” What is common though is for it to command us to do what is “ma’ruf” and to avoid what is “munkar.”

“Ma’ruf” and “munkar” can be translated respectively as “what is socially commendable” and “what is socially condemnatory.” This is in spite of the fact that social acceptability and unacceptability are often subjective. This does not mean that the Qur’an is morally relativistic. It is quite the contrary. What this means, however, is that the Qur’an’s aim is not merely to teach Muslims what one can and cannot do. It means, rather, that the Qur’an has a greater concern with what Muslims “should” and “should not” do. For this very reason, the companions of the Prophet seldom differentiated between his encouragement and discouragement of acts by the juristic values of disliked, unlawful, recommended, and compulsory. Rather, if the Prophet encouraged something beneficial, they complied. And, if he discouraged from something potentially harmful, they refrained.

The Qur’an permits many actions. However, to permit an act is not equivalent to encouraging it. It permits polygyny (Q 4:3), the enslavement of non-Muslim war captives (Q 8:70), and marrying the sister of one’s ex-wife (Q 4:23). Similarly, some Muslim jurists validate marriage agreements wherein the man secretly intends to divorce the woman after a certain period of time known only to him.[2] This is the case, even though the average Muslim man is monogamous; practically no Muslim today believes it is moral to enslave a person; the vast majority of Muslims find the marriage of one’s sister-in-law upon the death of one’s wife to be taboo; and they chide men who marry with a temporary intention of marriage. If the mere existence of permission or legal opinion permitting a socially condemnable act is a legitimate reason to adopt it, why would Muslims be uneasy about these cases but inclined to take a different stance when it comes to abortion?

The proper Islamic position on any given issue of public or private concern should not only consider what the law or jurists have to say about the topic. Rather, one should also consider how theology and ethics connect with those laws or opinions. That is to say, one should ask, “What wisdom does God seek to realize from this injunction or opinion?” assuming that such a wisdom can be identified. Secondly, one need ask,

“Who and how many will be helped or harmed if this action is undertaken?”

The Qur’an is the primary source of Islam’s ethics. And, one often observes a major difference between its morality and the morality validated by certain jurists, often lacking a clear connection to Qur’anic and prophetic precepts. That notwithstanding, a juristic opinion can sometimes masquerade as one that is authentically Islamic, especially when it aims to appease or assuage a social or political concern. Consequently, one finds some contemporary scholars championing opinions simply­ because they exist, like that of mainstream Shafi’is who traditionally argued that the reason for jihad was to rid the world of unIslamic doctrines (kufr); or certain contemporaries who validated taking of the lives of innocent women, children, and other non-combatants in suicide bombings; those who endorsed the execution of Jews for converting to Christianity and vice versa;[3] or others who classified slaves as animals rather than human beings?[4] For, surely, there are Muslim jurists who validate each one of these opinions, despite their evidentiary weakness. Hence, simply because there is an opinion allowing for abortions does not necessarily mean that it is something Islam allows, even in cases of rape and incest.

When Does Life Begin?

Medieval Muslim scholars, naturally, lacked the scientific tools that we have today to determine whether or not the fetus growing in its mother’s womb was actually a viable creation and a living creature from conception. Other than when the fetus first showed signs of movement in its mother’s belly, scholars took their cues from the Qur’an and prophetic tradition on when the fetus possessed a soul or if it did so at all. For this reason, very few scholars have offered clear answers to the question of when human life begins, while they agreed that upon 120 days, the child is definitely a living person.

According to the Andalusian scholar of Seville, Ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 1148),

The child has three states: 1) one state prior to coming into [material] existence …, 2) a state after the womb takes hold of the sperm …, and 3) a state after its formation and before the soul is breathed into it …, and when the soul is breathed into it, it is the taking of a life. [5]

Al-Ghazzali (d. 1111) said,

Coitus interruptus (‘azl) is not like abortion and infanticide (wa’d) because it [abortion] is a crime against an actualized existence (mawjud hasil). And, it has stages, the first being the stage of the sperm entering into the womb, then mixing with the woman’s fluid, and then preparing for the acceptance of life. To disturb that is a crime. Then, if it becomes a clot (‘alaqah) or a lump (mudghah), the crime is more severe. Then, if the soul is breathed into it and the physical form is established, the crime increases in gravity. [6]

These are some of the most explicit statements from Medieval Muslim scholars; they deemed that life begins at inception. The Qur’an states, “Does man think that he will be left for naught (sudan)? Was he not a sperm-drop ejected from sexual fluid?” (75:36-37). In other words, the “sperm-drop” phase is the start of human existence, and existence is the basis for human dignity, as with other living creatures. The human being was a “sperm-drop.” If that is so, this strongly suggests that meddling with this fluid, even before the fetus begins to grow and develop limbs and organs, would be to violate the sanctity of a protected creature. The Qur’an further says, “Did We not create you from a despicable fluid? And then, We placed you in a firm resting place, until a defined scope” (Q 77:20-22). The use of the second person plural pronoun (you) in these verses strongly suggests that the start of human life begins at inception. This is not to mention the multiple verses forbidding one from killing one’s children due to poverty, fear of poverty, or out of shame or folly.

The Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) similarly offers sufficient indication that even though the fetus is not fully formed, it is still an actualized existence and living creature. The Prophet reportedly said, “The miscarried fetus will remain humbly lying with its face down at the gates of heaven saying, ‘I will only enter when my parents do.’”[7] Similarly, it is reported that when the second caliph ‘Umar b. al-Khattab ordered that an adulteress discovered to be pregnant be stoned to death, the companion, Mu’adh b. Jabal, said to him, “Even if you have a right to punish her, you do not have a right to punish what is in her belly.”[8] The Prophet and his followers after him never executed a pregnant woman guilty of a capital crime until she gave birth and someone had taken on the care of the child. In addition, they imposed a hefty fine on those who were directly responsible for a woman’s miscarriage.[9] All of this indicates that the fetus is to be respected from the time the male’s sperm reaches the ovum of the woman.

Imam Al-Razi’s Ethical Reflection on the Qur’anic Verse, 6:140

God says in the Qur’an, “Ruined are those who murder their children foolishly without knowledge and forbid what God has provided them with while inventing falsehoods against God. They have strayed and are not guided aright” (6:140).

About this verse, Imam Fakr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210) comments,

Many issues relate to the verse: the first issue is that God mentioned, in the preceding verse, their murder of their children while depriving themselves of the sustenance that God provided them with. Then, God brings these two matters together in this verse while clarifying to them all that is a logical consequence of this judgment, such as ruin, folly, lack of knowledge, the deprivation of what God has provided them, false statements against God, straying, and the privation of guidance. So these are seven characteristics, each of which is an independent cause for censure. The first is ruin (khusran), and that is because a child is an immense blessing from God upon a person, so when one strives to terminate its existence, he/she suffers great ruin and especially deserves great censure in life and a severe punishment in the hereafter due to terminating its existence. Censure in life is warranted because people say one has murdered one’s child out of fear of it eating one’s food. And there is no censure in life greater than such. Punishment in the hereafter is warranted because the closeness resulting from childbirth is one of the greatest sources of love. Then, upon achieving it, one sets out to deliver the greatest of harms to it [the child], thereby committing one of the gravest sins. As a consequence, one of the greatest punishments is warranted. The second is folly (safahah), which is an expression of condemnable frivolousness. That is because the murder of the child is only committed in light of the fear of poverty. And, even though poverty is itself a harm, murder is a much graver harm. Additionally, this murder is actualized, while the poverty [feared] is merely potential (mawhum). So enforcing the maximum harm in anticipation of a potential minimal harm is, without doubt, folly. The third regards God’s saying, “without knowledge.” The intent is that this folly was only born of the absence of knowledge. And there is no doubt that ignorance is one of the most objectionable and despicable of things. The fourth regards depriving one’s self of what God has made lawful. It is also one of the worst kinds of stupidity, because one denies one’s self those benefits and good things, becoming entitled by reason of that deprivation of the severest torment and chastisement. The fifth is blaspheming God. And it is known that boldness against God and blaspheming Him is one of the cardinal sins. The sixth is straying from prudence (rushd) with relation to the interests of the faith (din) and the benefits found in the world. The seventh is that they are not guided aright. The benefit of it is that a person might stray from the truth but may return to proper guidance. So God clarifies that they have strayed without ever obtaining proper direction. So it is established that God has censured those described as having murdered children and denied what God has made lawful for them, with these seven characteristics necessitating the worse types of censure. And that is the ultimate hyperbole.[10]

The Ethical Contentions of a Moroccan Mufti

We have already quoted Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil of Morocco. Like the medieval scholars, he maintained a very conservative opinion on abortion, allowing it only if the mother’s life was at risk. The following is a list of his nine ethical contentions against abortion and those scholarly opinions allowing it. The bulk of what follows is a literal translation of his views. Regarding why abortion is immoral, he says:

  • Firstly, it is a transgression against a vulnerable creature who has committed neither sin nor crime, a denial of it from its right to existence and life that God has given it and Islam has guaranteed as well as the taking of a life in some situations.
  • Secondly, it is a clear challenge to God’s will and a demonstratively defiant act meant to stubbornly contend with God’s action, creative will, and judgment. And that manifests itself in the murder of what God has created, the voiding of its existence, and a commission of what He deems unlawful.
  • Thirdly, it a decisively demonstrative proof of hard-heartedness, the absence of mercy, and the loss of motherly and fatherly affection or rather the loss of humanity from the hearts of those who daringly undertake the act of abortion with dead hearts and wicked dark souls.
  • Fourthly, it is the epitome of self-centeredness, selfishness, narcissism, and sacrifice of what is most precious¾one’s own flesh and blood, sons and daughters¾to gratify the self and enjoy life and its attractions far away from the screams of infants, the troubles of children, and the fatigue resulting from them.
  • Fifthly, it is a practical expression of one’s bad opinion of God, the lack of trust in His promise to which He decisively bounded Himself to guarantee the sustenance of His creation and servants. It also shows ignorance of His saying, “And, there is not a single creature on earth except that God is responsible for its sustenance, just as He knows its resting place and place from which it departs. Every thing is in a manifest record (Q 11:6); as well as His saying, “And do not kill your children due to poverty. We will provide for you as well as for them” (Q 6:151); in addition to His saying, “And, do not kill your children out of fear of poverty. We will provide for them and for you” (Q 17:31). This is in addition to other verses and prophetic traditions that indicate that all provisions are in God’s control and that no soul will die until it exacts its sustenance in full as the Prophet said.
  • Sixthly, it is a bloody war against the Islamic goal, introduced by the Prophet and to which he called and strongly encouraged, of population growth and increase in posterity.
  • Seventhly, it undermines the aims of the Islamic moral code that considers the preservation of offspring to be one of the five essentials upon which the sanctified revealed moral code is built.
  • Eighthly, it goes against the nature to which God has disposed both animals and human beings to of love of children, childbearing, and the survival of progeny….
  • Ninthly, it is the grossest display of bad manners towards God and the epitome of ingratitude towards a blessing and the rejection of it. And that is because both pregnancy and children are among God’s favors upon His servants and among His gifts to the expectant mother and her husband.

These are some important matters of consideration. Every Muslim, woman, and man, will ultimately need to decide what burdens he/she is prepared to meet God with. While abortion is an emotionally charged matter, especially in Western politics, emotions play no role in the right or wrong of legislation. Although our laws currently may not consider a fetus aborted before its survival outside of the womb to be viable, the Muslim who understands that legal positivism does not trump objective or moral truths should be more conscientious and less cavalier in his/her attitude about the taking of life and removing the viability of life.


[1] Al-Ta’wil, Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Qasim. Shadharat al-Dhahab fi ma jadda fi Qadaya al-Nikah wa al-Talaq wa al-Nasab. Hollad: Sunni Pubs, 2010, p. 148.

[2] Muhammad b. ‘Abd Al-Baqi Al-Zurqani quotes Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr as saying,

They unanimously agreed that anyone who marries without mention of a particular condition while having the intention to remain with her for a period that he has in mind is permitted (ja’iz), and it is not a temporary marriage. However, Malik said this is not an attractive thing to do (laysi hadha min al-jamil). Nor is it part the conduct of moral people (la min akhlaq al-nas). Al-‘Awza’i took a solitary view saying that it is a temporary marriage. And, there is no good in it (la khayra fihi). ‘Ayyad stated it.

Al-Zurqani, Muhammad b. ‘Abd Al-Baqi b. Yusuf. Sharh al-Zurqani ‘ala Muwatta’ al-Imam Malik. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, (no date), 3/201.

[3] Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani said about the prophetic tradition, “Kill whoever changes his lifepath”, “Some Shafi’i jurists clung to it concerning the killing of anyone who changes from one non-Islamic faith to another non-Islamic faith (din kufr)…”

Al-‘Asqalani, Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar. Fath Al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari. Muhammad Fu’ad ‘Abd Al-Baqi Edition. Riyadh: Al-Maktabah Al-Salafiyyah, (no date), 12/272.

[4] Al-Ra’ini, Muhammad al-Hattab. Qurrah al-‘Ayn bi Sharh Waraqat al-Imam al-Haramayn. Beirut: Mu’assassah al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyyah, 2013, p. 78.

[5] Al-Wazzani, Abu ‘Isa Sidi al-Mahdi. Al-Nawazil Al-Jadidah Al-Kubra fi ma li Ahl Fas wa ghayrihim min al-Badw wa al-Qura al-Musammah bi Al-Mi’yar Al-Jadid Al-Jami’ Al-Mu’rib ‘an Fatawa al-Muta’akhkhirin min ‘Ulama al-Maghrib. Rabat: Wizarah al-Awqaf wa al-Shu’un al-Islamiyyah, 1997, 3/376.

[6] Al-Ghazali, Muhammad Abu Hamid. Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din. Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, p. 491.

[7] This is how Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi relates the report as related by Al-Wazzani in his Nawazil 3/376. In the Musnad of Abu Hanifah, however, the Prophet reportedly said, “You will see the miscarried fetus filled with rage.” When it is asked, “Enter Paradise”, it will respond, “Not until my parents come in [too].” Al-Hanafi, Mulla ‘Ali Al-Qari. Sharh Musnad Abi Hanifah. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1985, p. 252.

[8] Ibn ‘Asakir, Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali b. al-Hasan. Tarikh Madinah Dimashq wa Dhikr Fadliha wa Tasmiyah man hallaha min al-Amathil aw ijtaza bi Nawahiha min Waridiha wa Ahliha. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1997, p. 342.

[9] Among the fines due for causing the miscarriage of a fetus are: 1) prison or flogging; 2) the penance for murder (kaffarah), which is the freeing of a slave, fasting two consecutive months which is compulsory for Shafi’is and recommended for Malikis; and 3) the gifting of a slave to the woman who lost her child.

[10] Al-Razi, Fakr al-Dina. Tafsir al-Fakr al-Razi al-Mushtahir bi Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir wa Mafatih al-Ghayb. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1981, pp. 220-221

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

Published

on

The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

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The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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Should I Pray Taraweeh Or Make Up Prayers?

Danish Qasim

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Every Ramadan I’m asked by Muslims whether they should pray Taraweeh or make up missed prayers. They have the guilt of missed prayers but the desire to pray Taraweeh. They do not want to miss out on the special Taraweeh prayer but know that they have to make up obligatory prayers.

I find Muslims bogged down by not only the number of prayers to make up but by the fact that they have to make up prayers that they missed, sometimes too many to count. They emotionally want to move past the memory of missing prayers. While one should not dwell on the sin of missed prayer, at the same time, they should also realize that the prayers remain a debt that needs to be addressed.

Many of us feel a shame associated with past sins. This connection is a sign of true repentance. Shame due to sins, however, becomes problematic when it serves as an impediment for our religious progress. When the guilt reaches this level, one should seek refuge in Allah from Shaytaan and ignore all negative thoughts.

We, as Muslims, should believe that Allah has forgiven our sins, including missed prayers. Forgiveness is done through our repentance. Therefore, we should see makeup prayers as an opportunity to draw closer to Allah, rather than a punishment. Allah tells us in a Hadith Qudsi that

“My servant does not draw nearer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than what I have ordained upon him. He continues to draw near to me with nafl (non-obligatory) actions until I love him” (Bukhari).

Each time we perform a make-up prayer, we are doing what Allah loves us to do the most- an obligatory action. We are drawing nearer to Allah and should feel grateful for being able to do so.

In the Hanafi school of thought, one can pray makeup prayers as non-emphasized sunnahs, which include the prayer of greeting the mosque[1] and Tahajjud prayer. Many Muslims feel more spiritual praying these types of nafl prayers, and they will take their time to pray with the presence of heart. However, when they pray makeup prayers, they rush, praying quickly to get past it as soon as possible. The dreadful feeling of makeup prayers is due to a negative association for the initial neglect, but we must see makeup prayers as not only more critical than nafl prayers, but as something that can be done as nafl prayers.

Taraweeh is an emphasized Sunnah[2] and for Hanafis that means one does not neglect taraweeh[3] due to previously missed prayers[4]. One should have a regiment of making up prayers, such as praying one makeup of Zuhur after praying Zuhur for the day and manage that along with Taraweeh.

For Malikis[5] and Shafis[6] however, one is not supposed to pray Taraweeh if he has prayers to make up. For those following this view, I would advise them to still go to the masjid if that is their habit during the Taraweeh time and pray those due prayers in a space outside of the congregation so they can still enjoy the Ramadan atmosphere in the masjid. Also, it’s worth noting that in the Shafi school, one can have the intention of a makeup prayer even if the imam is praying a different prayer[7]. Hence, twenty rakah of Taraweeh in units of two can be prayed by a follower as ten makeup prayers for Fajr.

Ramadan is a great time to form positive habits. If you do not already have a routine of making up missed prayers, establish one this Ramadan. Make your routine something that you can be consistent with throughout the year, not just when you have the Ramadan energy. We are advised in a hadith to only take on the amount of good actions that we are able to bear because the best actions are those in which we can be persistent, even if they are minor (Ibn Majah 4240).

Lastly, as Ramadan is here, I urge everyone to remember that praying Isha in congregation is more important than praying Taraweeh in congregation. Taraweeh is more alluring due to its uniqueness, and you will see latecomers quickly praying Isha so they can join the Taraweeh prayer. Each prayer is worship, but the priorities of worship are based on its status. Obligatory prayer is more important than a non-obligatory prayer, although every prayer is important. We must prioritize what God prioritizes.

[1]  “ويسن تحية ) رب ( المسجد ، وهي ركعتان ، وأداء الفرض ) أو غيره ، وكذا دخوله بنية فرض أو اقتداء ( ينوب عنها ) بلا نية)”
(رد المحتار على الدر المختار)

[2]  (التراويح سنة  مؤكدة لمواظبة الخلفاء الراشدين  للرجال والنساء إجماعا ” ( رد المحتار على الدر المختار

[3] (والسنة نوعان : سنة الهدي ، وتركها يوجب إساءة وكراهية…”  (رد المحتار على الدر المختار”

[4] وأما النفل فقال في المضمرات : الاشتغال بقضاء الفوائت أولى وأهم من النوافل إلا سنن…”
المفروضة وصلاة الضحى وصلاة التسبيح والصلاة التي رويت فيها الأخبار . ا هـ . ط أي كتحية المسجد ، والأربع قبل العصر والست بعد المغرب” (رد المحتار على الدر المختار،باب قضاء الفوائت)

[5]   (ولا يتنفل من عليه القضاء، ولا يصلي الضحى، ولا قيام رمضان…”  (لأخضري”

[6]   “وَإِنْ كَانَتْ فَاتَتْ بِغَيْرِ عُذْرٍ لَمْ يَجُزْ لَهُ فِعْلُ شَيْءٍ مِنْ النَّوَافِلِ قَبْلَ قَضَائِهَا”
(الفتاوى الكبرى الفقهية على مذهب الإمام الشافعي ,فتاوى ابن حجر الهيتمي)

[7]

تنبيه : تصح قدوة المؤدي بالقاضي ، والمفترض بالمتنفل ، وفي الظهر بالعصر ، وكذلك القاضي بالمؤدي ، والمتنفل بالمفترض ، وفي العصر بالظهر ؛ نظراً لاتفاق الفعل في الصلاتين وإن تخالفت النية ، والانفراد هنا أفضل ؛ خروجاً من الخلاف ، وعلى أن الخلاف في هذا الاقتداء ضعيف جداً فلم يقتض تفويت فضيلة الجماعة ، وإن كان الانفراد أفضل . ( تحفة المحتاج مع حاشية الشر واني ۲ / ۳۳۲ – ۳۳۳ )

وذكر في ( إعانة الطالبين ۲ / ۷ ) : وإن لم تتفق مقضيتها شخصاً . . فهي خلاف الأولى ولا تكره

. وذكر في « البجيرمي على المنهج ۱ / ۳۳۳ ) : قوله ( ويصح الاقتداء لمؤد بقاض ومفترض بمتنفل . . . ) : أي ويحصل له فضل الجماعة في جميع هذه الصور على ما اعتمده الرملي .

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– قول متن المنهاج ( وتصح قدوة المؤدي بالقاضي ، والمفترض بالمتنفل . . . ) قضية كلام المصنف – أي النووي – كالشارح الرملي أن هذا مما لا خلاف فيه ، وعبارة الزيادي وابن حجر : ( والانفراد هنا أفضل ؛ خروجاً من الخلاف( فيحتمل أنه خلاف لبعض الأئمة وأنه خلاف مذهبي لم يذكره المصنف ، لكن قول ابن حجر بعد على أن الخلاف في هذا الاقتداء ضعيف جداً . . ظاهر في أن الخلاف مذهبي . ( الشبراملسي ) . ( حاشية الشرواني ۲ / ۳۳۲ )

وهذا لا يجوز في المذهب  الحنفي  “…يشترط أن يكون حال الإمام أقوى من حال المؤتم أو مساويا”  (رد المحتار على الدر المختار(

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