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Losing Her Heart in Egypt: Amr Kassem 1987-2013

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By Asma Hussein

Teaching myself how not to lose hope

 

“Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Bounty and rejoice for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind (not yet martyred) that on them no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice in a Grace and a Bounty from Allah, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers.” (Ale Imran; 169-171)

My husband, Amr Mohamed Kassem who was 26 years old, returned to his Lord on Friday after Asr. He was shot through his chin and the bullet exited the back of his neck. He was at a protest in Alexandria, calling for justice for all those who had been killed mercilessly by the army in the previous days and weeks all over Egypt.

Yesterday morning I went to the morgue at a nearby hospital in Alexandria to see Amr before he would be washed and buried in the next few hours. When I arrived, there were many people waiting outside the doors to see their own family members as many people were killed the same day as Amr. Some of Amr’s friends and relatives were there, too. After waiting for a while, I entered the room where his body was lying on a table, covered by a long blanket.

I stood beside him and uncovered his face, and there he was, my love, lying there cold even though I had seen him strong and happy and smiling less than 24 hours before that moment. I stroked his beard, part of it was still soft, but part of it felt hard because of the dried up blood. His nose was bloodied and he had a cut beside his eye but he was beautiful, even in death – silent as though sleeping. I touched his lips and his cheeks, they were cold.

I stood there for some time looking at his face, feeling as though my heart was being repeatedly run over by a truck. I refused to cry loudly but tears were streaming down my cheeks, and I told him “I love you Amr, I know that you always wanted to die for the sake of Allah, and you got what you always hoped for inshaAllah, and I’m so proud of you. Ya Allah forgive his sins and accept him as a shaheed and reunite me with him in the hereafter. Ya Allah make me patient in knowing that it was his appointed time and that, by Your will and Grace, he is alive with his You as a shaheed.”

I didn’t leave him until I was ready, I’m not even sure how long I was standing there. At the end, I kissed his cheek and told him that I would see him later inshaAllah, then covered his face and left the room.

The janazah was after Asr, there were hundreds of people there – his friends, his colleagues from school, extended family. He was a very beloved person to many. There was no dry eye, but everyone was speaking only good words and saying Alhamdulillah that Allah took him in the best way anyone can die in this world. We prayed on him, and I went outside to see a crowd of hundreds of men carrying his shrouded body towards the cemetery. The women didn’t follow, we were waiting until he was buried to go to his grave and make duaa. After some time, his mother and I and some female relatives walked towards to cemetery and were making our way to where he was.

Suddenly I notice all the men around me yelling for us to go out the side door, to run. I didn’t understand what was happening but I started hearing loud bangs behind me, rocks being thrown at us and all the men telling the women to run. So I ran and ran without looking behind me, I was hit on my cheek by a large rock while I was running, but alhamdulillah, some of Amr’s friends saw me and told me to run ahead of them so they could be behind me and make sure nothing happened to me. The people who attacked us were thugs who had heard there was an “ikhwani” funeral (although my husband was not from the ikhwan, he was just a religious man who believed in something called right and wrong). Many people were injured, some with stab wounds, but as far as I know, there were no causualties alhamdulillah. (Update: unfortunately I heard that 2 people were killed during these events, innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon).

Even in death, Amr’s enemies hated him and all those around him! But their hate means nothing to me, after all if an enemy of God hates you, then that is a sign that you are, God-willing) on the right path.

Dear friends, my heart aches in a way I never knew a heart could ache. I miss him whenever I am awake and dream about him when I’m asleep. He was the best kind of husband a woman could ever hope for, kind, generous, soft and loving, but also strong and brave. His clothes are still hung up on the hooks in our room, as though he’s going to walk through the door and change into his pajamas before he sleeps. His friend gave me Amr’s wallet and cell phone at the janazah, but his wedding band was missing, we still don’t know where it is…I wish that I had it.

But through all this, I can’t say anything except innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un, and continue to make duaa for him. I refuse to dishonor him or myself by asking God “why” he took him or thinking “if only he hadn’t gone to the protest on Friday, he would be alive.” No, it was Amr’s time to return to Allah, I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt. And although I wish I had more time with him in the dunya, I sincerely look forward to reuniting with him and being his wife, if God allows me, in Paradise. In Jannah time does not end, there is no fear of being separated from your loved ones. I believe with every inch of my heart that our love was truly a love that can last from this world to the next.

Ya Allah, You reunited Musa’s mother with him after she put him in the river. Ya Allah, You reunited Yaqub with his beloved son Yusuf after many years of painful separation. Ya Allah, You are the Only One who can reunite me with my beloved in the hereafter, so Allah I ask you to not prevent me from being with him again.

Last night after we came home, we received a call from a friend of a relative – someone who had witnessed first hand what happened to Amr after he was shot. [editor’s note: Amr was shot by a sniper.] She told us that he didn’t die right away, he was alive for a few moments. His left hand was holding his chin where the bullet had entered, and his right index finger went up, and he said clearly “ashhadu anna la illaha ilAllah, wa ashhadu ana Muhammadun rasoolullah” and he had a huge smile on his face, as though it was his wedding day. When I heard this, I couldn’t help but cry that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had honored me just by letting me know this wonderful person and allowing me to have his child.

My friends, your words of encouragement have not gone unnoticed. I have nothing but love and respect for you all, and I know now so much more than before that as Muslims, although we have many faults in our community, when we come together we are truly a force to be reckoned with. Your support and love and duaa have touched me greatly. I will undoubtedly need your continued duaa and support when I return to Canada inshaAllah.

I ask Allah to let me never stray from His path, for my own sake and my daughter’s, and also for Amr’s sake – to honor him in the way that Allah chose for him to die.

Ya Habibi ya Amr. Ya Habibi ya Amr. Ya Habibi ya Amr. I hope that right now your soul is in a green bird, and you are flying through Jannah, eating and drinking from its provisions and are close to the throne of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), where you will never shed another tear or ever feel any sense of loss or suffering. You are my love in this world and the next inshaAllah, you are in my heart always, you are in my prayers always.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Faiza M D

    August 19, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    May Allah accept your husband as a shaheed and reunite you with him in Jannah. Aameen

  2. Avatar

    Mama3uae

    August 20, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    Thank you, sister, for sharing your life experience with us. It brought me to tears.. It’s so hard what you went through…MashaAllah, you are an incredible woman and I admire you for your strength and iman. May Allah (swt) answer all your dua’as and continue to bring peace and faith in your heart and your child’s, until you are reunited inshaAllah in jennah al firdous with your beloved Amr, and may He accept your dear husband as shaheed inshaAllah.

  3. Avatar

    AA

    August 20, 2013 at 3:13 AM

    May Allah forgive dear Amr and accept him as a Shaheed. May Allah grant you the best comfort possible and provide halal sustenance for your and your child. May Allah give us the opportunity to die as strong muslims, in the best of circumstances.

  4. Avatar

    dhaadhamishka

    August 20, 2013 at 4:41 AM

    May allah grant him jannath n reunite u with him. Maasha aallah.

  5. Avatar

    Saharish

    August 20, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    May Allah grant your husband jannatul firdous and give you and the rest of his family great patience and reunite you in jannah. Ameen.

  6. Avatar

    broAhmed

    August 20, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    Salaams sis. Asma. Thank you for taking the time to write this. It reminded me of the shortness of life and what it means to be a both a man and a good husband. I admire your certainty that this was br. Amr’s time and your steadfastness in the face of adversity. These qualities are a gift from Allah.

    In one of the articles where you’re being interviewed, you mention how difficult it is to imagine your 9-month old baby growing up without her father. I have a Bosnian friend who lost his father during the war there. The father died while my friend was either very young or not yet born. My friend acknowledged to me one time that it was difficult growing up without his dad, but he was still proud of what his father had done. Tell your daughter about who Amr was: the man, the husband, the father, just as you have told us here. Even if it is difficult for your little Ruqaya growing up without her baba, you can still inshaAllah make her proud of the father she hardly knew in this life.

    Allah is fully capable of making easy even the most difficult of situations. May he give you and your daughter Ruqaya ease and happiness in this life and the next, make you both amongst the steadfast, and reunite you both with Amr in the Hereafter. Masalaama.

    • Avatar

      broAhmed

      August 20, 2013 at 7:36 AM

      Clarification: my friend’s father died fighting in the Bosnian War. This was what my friend was proud of.

  7. Avatar

    Marina

    August 20, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    Inshaa Allah, Allah will grant him Jannat and give patience and stength to you to bear this irreplaceable loss. Thank you for sharing. Our prayers are with all the muslim brothers and sisters.

  8. Avatar

    Sona

    August 20, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Brought me to tears. It’s one thing to hear a story on the news and feel bad, its another to hear the story from the actual family.. I cannot even imagine what you’re going through but may Allah ease your pain, reward you for uttering only that which pleases and praises Him, and may He reunite you with your husband in jannatul-firdous in the company of the best Muslim, our Nabi (SAW).

  9. Avatar

    Mulla

    August 20, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    May Allah bless you and grant you both Jannatul Firdaus.

  10. Avatar

    Yameenuddin Ahmed

    August 20, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    May Allah reward you immensely in this world and hereafter and may Allah reunite you with Br. Amr in aakhirah insha’Allah. Allah (swt) is Kareem and what He decides for us is the best. May Allah protect and preserve you and make yourself and your son great assets of Ummah. This is how ahl-al-eman should be.

  11. Avatar

    Tahira Afzal

    August 20, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    May Allah accept all your Dua’as for him as you asked and may Allah grant him the highest level in Jannah and may Allah reunite you with him in Jannah and make your daughter Salehah Ameen. You make all women of Eman proud by being so brave. May Allah make things easy for you Ameen. He looks and sounds like a man of Jannah indeed Insha Allah.

  12. Avatar

    Muhammad Mateen

    August 21, 2013 at 1:46 AM

    Have no words to express my feelings after reading such a beautiful writing from a wife for his loving husband. Muslim women must read this and show the same courage, strength and Imaan.

    May Allah s.w.t. be with you my sister in Islam, may you see and meet your husband in every dream, may you feel him around every time, may Allah s.w.t. reunite you and your daughter with your husband hereafter – Aameen!

  13. Avatar

    Muhammed Ali

    August 21, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Allahu-akbar, may Allah grant him the highest station in Jannah, and give you and your family strength and courage during these difficult times, and may you be joined together again, in sha Allah.

    Ameen

    Ya Allah have mercy on our brothers and sisters where ever they may be in need. ameen.

  14. Avatar

    Sayem

    August 21, 2013 at 4:24 AM

    As Salamu Alaikum, May Allah help you and give you more patience. In Sha Allah, you will reunite with your husband soon, it’s just a matter of time In Sha Allah.

  15. Avatar

    Sister Pakistani

    August 21, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    May Allaah accept brother as a shaheed, forgive him, and provide your family with sustenance. Sister, I am marveled at your courage and your true eemaan in accepting qadhaa wal qadr. may Allaah SWT allow our daughters and sisters and mothers with this eemaan in accepting qadhaa of Allaah SWT in our lives. may Allaah SWT give you strength in this life and re-unite you and your daughter and your family with your husband in jannatul firdaus.

    May Allaah SWT give us tawfeeq to have a good end and an end of a shaheed.

  16. Avatar

    Faisal

    August 21, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Alhumdullillah sister Allah has given you immense courage and imaan…. May Allah grant brother Amr all the bounties of Jannatul Firdaus….. I cry for him but i cry more for our weak imann!! May Allah guide us & protect us……. Brother Faisal (India)

  17. Avatar

    Muneera

    August 21, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Sis Asma, This article is heart breaking and inspiring at the same time :’-( we are all praying for you .. we are all with you. May Allah keep you strong like this always i know its not easy but this is another test from our Lord.

    Your sister from Toronto,

  18. Avatar

    Saracen

    August 22, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    What an inspiring article! It reminds us of how short life is, how our circumstances can change in a split second, and it teaches us steadfastness in the face of adversity. May Allah grant our brother the reward of a martyr and patience for our sister.

    “It is He (Allah) who has sent his Messenger with guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may make it prevail over all other religions, no matter how much the disbelievers hate it.” (Qur’an, 9: 33)

    The revival has already started. Allah has selected His servants from amongst the most pious to lead the way.

  19. Avatar

    Zaheer

    August 22, 2013 at 2:04 AM

    Salaam, mods: how is it that such a comment appears here? I’m all for free speech (not really, especially when it’s this inane), but this adds no value and is completely incendiary. Maybe there is something in the Comment’s Policy about some authors moderating their own articles, and the fact that moderators can’t monitor every single comment. Still, this comment should be removed, Insha-Allah.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      August 22, 2013 at 7:44 AM

      WaAlaikum Assalam:

      Since moderators can’t moderate 24/7, sometimes the comment stays there until moderators see it and act on it. Once we see such a comment we act on it. However, in this case, you have not replied to the comment in question and hence we are not sure which comment you are referring to. Please let us know (unless we moderated it already).

      Regards
      -Aly

  20. Avatar

    Q-d

    August 22, 2013 at 2:51 AM

    إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ

  21. Avatar

    fawadkhan

    August 22, 2013 at 9:55 PM

    i cant believe barbarism in Egypt i saw one video i have no words.i have no words for those who have show determination i hvnt seen as such determination that such Egyptian showing.O Allah help them Please Allah help them

  22. Avatar

    Atiya

    August 26, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    Inna lilaahi wa inna ilaihi raji’oon. May Allaah grant this man and the countless others who lost their lives fisabeelillaah the highest place in paradise without reckoning. May Allaah give his wife, his baby and his family and the families of all the other martyrs Sabr. Ameen.

  23. Avatar

    Shiraz Azad

    August 29, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    May Allaah grant Amr and all those who die for Allah’s sake, the highest place in Jannah. Ameen!

  24. Avatar

    rahman ramesh

    September 1, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    By Allah azza wajal, my wife, children and I pray for Amr and you and, insha Allah, both of you will be united in Jannatul Firdaus where you can see Allah azza wajal’s Face everyday! Be strong and bring up your child well. Take care…… from us in KL, Malaysia.

  25. Avatar

    Sobia Khan

    September 8, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    Subhan Allah Sister Asma – May Allah azza wajal grant Br. Amr the great status of shaheed, forgive him and elevate his status and grant you and all your family the best of Sabr and accept from you your beautiful patience and grant you both eternity together in the highest level of Jannah with your progeny. May Allah grant you a life in this dunya filled with love and aafiya. My heart aches for you as I am also a wife in love! May Allah bless you in this life and in the hereafter. May Allah ease your pain and the pain of all of our brothers and sisters suffering.

  26. Avatar

    AM

    September 21, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    Truly inspiring. You and your husband are both a source of strength and courage for us. May Allah SWT accept Amr’s Shahadah inshaAllah. May Allah grant every ease and happiness to you and your daughter and all your relatives in this world and reunite you with Amr in the here-after.

  27. Avatar

    Dina El-Mosalami

    December 19, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    Ya habebty.. Your story is the most moving I have read in a very long time. But what makes me at ease is how much of a true mo’mena you are. I hope someday I can reach the level of your beautiful beautiful faith. Pick a new wedding band for Amr, keep it in mind. The ones you gave each other in dunya will not last, pick two new ones for your akhira with him. Smile and thank Allah, you have been blessed with real love in dunya and inshaAllah in akhira as well. It is almost time for fajr in Egypt now, and I am about to make my tahajjud. This tahajjud is for you, may Allah reunite you with habibik in the akhira and grant you the highest level of Jannah with him.

  28. Pingback: January 2014 Favourites | Mellow Muslimah

  29. Avatar

    Tasneem

    May 12, 2016 at 5:43 PM

    Beautiful articles … Harsh realities

  30. Avatar

    Syed Areeb

    December 8, 2017 at 3:12 AM

    May Allaah bless you abundantly and always help you in times of distress, indeed it is your true reliance and faith in Allaah that you were able to take all of this in a way that suits a responsible and observant Muslim.
    My heartiest wishes for you and Ruqayya’s well being

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#Society

Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

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#Islam

A Word On Muslim Attitudes Toward Abortion

Dr Abdullah bin Hamid Ali

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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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Blessed Are The Volunteers | Imam Omar Suleiman

Our communities would not be able to survive Ramadan without these precious souls

Imam Omar Suleiman

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As the rows line up for prayer and the mosques are bursting at the seams, there is a small group of people that watch our backs, arrange our possessions, and prepare to nourish us after our prayers. They’re none other than the volunteers.

It’s not easy being one of them.

You hear the soothing recitation of the Quran in a prayer you’re not able to join because you’re on volunteer duty. And you also hear the painful nonstop complaints about how you’re not doing a good enough job. In those moments it’s easy to throw your arms up and say, “I’m not getting paid for this!” But there are so many better ways to be paid than money.

Allah’s rate is higher and more everlasting.

That doesn’t excuse the people from paying you basic necessary courtesy. Nor does it give you license to be unnecessarily harsh with those you’ve been blessed to serve. Know dear brother and sister that the reward of every prayer performed, every good word spoken, every stomach fed, every tear shed in humility, and every interaction held in tranquility is potentially on your scale of good deeds when you serve Allah through serving His people.

We may not always appreciate you, but Allah never loses sight of you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that the reward of the one who serves the fasting person is the reward of that persons fast without decreasing from the reward of the doer in any way. What then of the prayer you facilitate that nourishes the soul? Charity is vast, and the heart of a charitable spirit must be vaster.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم “كُلُّ سُلَامَى مِنْ النَّاسِ عَلَيْهِ صَدَقَةٌ، كُلَّ يَوْمٍ تَطْلُعُ فِيهِ الشَّمْسُ تَعْدِلُ بَيْنَ اثْنَيْنِ صَدَقَةٌ، وَتُعِينُ الرَّجُلَ فِي دَابَّتِهِ فَتَحْمِلُهُ عَلَيْهَا أَوْ تَرْفَعُ لَهُ عَلَيْهَا مَتَاعَهُ صَدَقَةٌ، وَالْكَلِمَةُ الطَّيِّبَةُ صَدَقَةٌ، وَبِكُلِّ خُطْوَةٍ تَمْشِيهَا إلَى الصَّلَاةِ صَدَقَةٌ، وَتُمِيطُ الْأَذَى عَنْ الطَّرِيقِ صَدَقَةٌ”.
[رَوَاهُ الْبُخَارِيُّ]
، [وَمُسْلِمٌ].

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said “Every joint of a person must perform a charity each day that the sun rises: to judge justly between two people is a charity. To help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity. And the good word is a charity. And every step that you take towards the prayer is a charity, and removing a harmful object from the road is a charity.” (Bukhari) (Muslim)

All of this is at your disposal as you welcome people into the houses of Allah with a smile, which is also a charity, seeking no smile but the smile of the Divine on the day of judgment. You may be exhausted in these days of service, but you also are running away with the rewards of everyone’s worship. When someone fails to appreciate you, look forward to the appreciation of Allah as compensation. When someone advises you, smile at them again and consider their counsel.

Blessed is your station, and blessed is your service.

May we not abuse you or fail to appreciate you. May we be patient with you, and you with us. May the prayers we perform elevate us, and you. May our hearts be purified and brought together. May we all make the sacrifices needed to gain Allah’s pleasure, and relieve each other’s pressure. May we all be volunteers freed from our egos, and freely smiling at all in our paths.

May Allah accept you and us on that blessed night of Laylatul Qadr, and allow us to observe with worship, service, and sincerity. Ameen

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