The hardest part about coming out has got to be coming up with a good opening line. I haven’t got one though. So I’ll give it to you straight.
I’m not gay, but I could be dying.
As fas I know, not imminently though. I’ve known for years now that certain things in my body aren’t working properly – like my heart and a part of my brain called the autonomic nervous system, and because we all need our hearts and autonomic nervous systems to keep things running smoothly, I do have a potentially life-threatening condition. Well, technically, I have two – Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
You look unsettled. Don’t worry, a lot of people have that reaction. You should see them when they try to shake my hand and find that it’s already shaking. They search my face for nervousness, fear, or an explanation of why meeting them would horrify me so badly. I tell them I have some medical conditions that can make my hands tremble. They look blank. Then I tell them how awesome it is – all my drinks are shakes and all of my toothbrushes are extra sonic. They laugh uncertainly.
Laughter is important
When my son was six or seven months old we were in an accident that totalled the car and damaged my right knee. My husband called me in the ER and when I picked up the phone he said, “Look, if you want me to spend more time with you, there are better ways of letting me know.” We laughed. Then he came and pushed my wheelchair around the ER in laps until the baby fell asleep and we went home and lived happily ever after.
Somewhere in the fairy tale our baby prince was diagnosed with autism, but that’s another story. While I would be hanging out the baby prince’s baby laundry, my arms would get very tired. Then we had a baby princess and if I stood up too quickly I would pass out. A second princess was born and by then my muscles cramped and twitched and hurt for days at a time. At present, I own the world’s heaviest smart phone, use both arms to carry a two-ton, 13-inch laptop, and have noted that carpenters don’t make sofas like they used to. They’re hard to get out of, and on top of that – they make this huge WHOOSH and creak when I fall – errr – daintily settle into them.
But we’ve settled. I have a full-time housekeeper and the driver takes the kids to and from school. Not because I’m the Queen, but because the last time I mopped the kitchen my legs hurt for three days. Chronic illness does have its perks – I can’t remember the last time I cleaned a bathroom. Oh, and I have country-wide parking privileges. Technically it’s called disabled parking, but I prefer to call it VIP.
I get special treatment
When I walk – because I can – slowly out of my car, people specially glare at me, wondering why I’m parking in a disabled spot when I’m so obviously not in a wheelchair. My husband says they’re just jealous, but once upon a time I too glared at people who parked in disabled spots and then skipped out of their luxury sports cars to the mall. If you gave me a little red convertible, I’d probably skip too, but just once, and then I would limp for a few days before sulkily admitting that I probably shouldn’t skip anymore.
I don’t skip.
Also I don’t do stairs.
The muscles of my mouth won’t. It’s a nerve thing, I think. I would never have known, since I’m not the whistling type, but I felt oddly insulted when my neurologist asked me if I could whistle. “Of course I can!” I huffed, and pursed my lips together to produce an indignant ffffffffffft.
He waited. I tried again. Then he made some notes and left me to mourn.
For a while I really did mourn. And by a while, I mean a good year or so. But the Kübler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, are overrated, so I made up my own. Instead of denial, I started with terror for my children’s future, followed by appreciating every minute details of their hands, faces, fingers, and words. Then, I remembered what an idiot I’ve been for an overwhelming majority of my sentient life, and I began to beg for forgiveness before Allah called me for account.
There was never room for denial, as my creeping disability was constantly present, and finally getting a diagnosis was reassurance that I was not, indeed, crazy. Because weakness, fatigue, and pain are invisible, and POTS is hard to diagnose, I was told many times that my symptoms were in my head. Not that I was making them up – but that not being able to manage my stress was taking a toll on my body. When my eye twitched for a week, I was told to relax and consider yoga.
It finally took a biopsy to confirm that my muscles were indeed atrophying. Before that, it took X-rays, CT scans, lab tests, MRIs, and genetic testing to rule out nearly every other option before finally coming to POTS and Ehlers-Danlos. It also took several modern forms of torture – clinically known as EMGs and EEGs. In an EMG, they stab a needle an inch or two into your muscle and ask you to flex while they actually listen for muscle recruitment and response. I would like you to consider how big a needle feels to have a microphone in it.
In an EEG they jab the prongs of a vicious, hospital-grade taser into your face, arms, and legs and then shock you with it. There is also a good ole fashioned tape measure involved. The goal is to measure the speed at which your nerves conduct the shock along major pathways, and the tape measure is used to count how many inches you jump off the chair while they are doing so.
They measure the length of your limbs in order to calculate the speed at which the shock traversed said distance. So not only is it torture, it’s also math.
(If an electrical signal leaves the shoulder station at 4:15 pm travelling 30 mph, and the distance to the wrist is 60 centimeters, how hard will you punch the neurologist when it gets there?)
Are you laughing yet? Good, keep laughing. Because now I’m going to be serious. I have a seven-year old son with autism, a five-year old with exciting dreams, and a two-year old whose entire world revolves around me. And they’re all really cute, MashaAllah. In fact, they’re gorgeous, insane, challenging, and sweet. My five year old said to me the other day, “Momma, your hand is shaking!”
“Yes dear,” I said quietly, “It does sometimes.”
“I’ll stop if for you!” she said.
And then she held my hand.
My heart hurts.
Emotionally, I mean. Physically, too, sometimes, because I have tachycardia and chest pain, but being forced to withdraw from more and more of my children’s lives is a bigger pain that I had not anticipated. I can’t climb. I can’t slide. I can’t carry beach toys through the sand. I will never again take them to a water park, or have a picnic on top of a hill. I may not live to see my youngest get to first grade.
For an entire year or more my prayers were fueled with the urgency of my possible impending death, but eventually, the terror subsided. The shock value of OMG I COULD BE DYING?! got replaced with OMG I’M STILL HERE!? and I started to accept my health problems as being Allah’s decision. I changed my focus from dying with dignity to living with disability , but then I had a new and really serious problem: my duas weren’t good anymore. I wasn’t afraid anymore, and that made me… afraid.
So then I had some more learning to do. I met with one Shaykh. He told me that fear was only one door to Jannah. Gratitude, contentment, and trust in Allah’s decisions were three more. I may no longer be crying in fear, but I if I can call on Allah with contentment, gratitude, and trust, then new doors will open to me, InshaAllah.
Then another Shaykh – he asked me to focus on my family and my legacy. So if you benefit from this article in some way, make dua for him too, because he asked me to write it. This article is part of my legacy project to create things that will earn blessings even after my death. So please make dua for me, regardless of whether I’m not dead yet when you read this. JazakAllahuKhayran.
And then the third Shaykh – he talked about trusting Allah to look after my children after I died, since He was their Rabb after all. I’m only a temporary caretaker. Allah’s the one who’s been really looking out for them this whole time.
I know I haven’t been a good person, but I know that Allah is Most Merciful, Most Forgiving, and has promised forgiveness for those who sincerely seek it. If I’m going to meet Allah soon, and I am a believer, and I have accepted His plans for my self, my children, and my family – I have nothing left but excitement. Fear, yes – that I still have things to answer for, but definitely excitement.
Now, when I pray my heart is fluttery and nervous with excitement and my vision blurred with tears. I raise my hands and I whisper, “Oh Allah, please let me be among those who get to see your Blessed Face.”
There’s a naked greediness for khayr that you can only savor when you’re really, desperately, in need. Also, there’s an exhilaration when you realize that when you pray, one of only three things will happen:
- Allah gives you what you ask for.
- Allah diverts or reduces a calamity that would otherwise have befallen you.
- Allah keeps your duas and gives them back to you on the Day of Judgment as blessings in your scale of deeds, when you need them most. This, as the hadith says, will be so utterly awesome and amazing that it will make you wish that none of your duas had ever been granted in this life.
I tell you, if I hadn’t been sick I would never have fallen so head over heels in love with dua. It amazes me every time I think about it – when I make mention of Allah’s name, He makes mention of mine.
No matter how many times I remember that, it still humbles and awes me to think of the Lord who created the universes (plural) with nothing more than a word (Be) saying my name. Were He to grant all of mankind everything they wished, their demands would not diminish His bounty any more than a needle dipped diminishes the sea – and He said my name? Me? A tiny, insignificant assortment of blood, bones, and ingratitude meandering through life and remembering Him only when I need Him, but the voice that created the cosmos spoke my name???
I’m not afraid anymore. I’m excited. That doesn’t mean I’m not still asking Allah to forgive my past sins, or heal me, or protect and guide my children, or help me settle my debts before I die, it just means that making dua is a whole lot more fun than it ever used to be. Some people are high on life. Pfft. I’m high on death, it’s awesome!
Unfortunately though, like every other non-chronically ill person whose body may or may not currently be dying, my faith ebbs and flows like tides on a beach. When the tide is high, I swim out to the sweet water beyond the edge of the world like Reepicheep. But when the tides are low, I struggle with my ankles in the sand and operational sea-foam up to my knees.
On a side note, there is a major difference between chronic illness on tv and chronic illness in real life. If this were TV, I’d get a Hallmark made-for-TV special: the tragedy of the brave special needs mother fighting to convert her Christian mother and leave a legacy for her children before she bravely and stoically dies – but not before an instrumental montage of her fight for acceptance, happiness, and eventually peace, before bravely and stoically passing away.
Also, if I were sick on TV I’d probably be losing weight in the crescendo towards my glamorous, waif-like death; pale but strangely beautiful in a victorian-style dressing gown of some sort. In real life I am overweight and physically unable to exercsie, I don’t own any dressing gowns, and I might not even die early. I could just live a long, disabled life. In the TV version, I’m supposed to be dying as an inspiration to those who live. In real life I might be around for a while. And I might need you to brush my teeth for me. Thanks.
In any case, if I’m going to be sick (and die maybe) and I’m going to learn a lesson from it, then you should probably learn it, too, because guess what?
We’re both dying
You and me buddy, both of our bodies are deteriorating, but the difference is that I can feel mine giving in. And you might feel sorry for me, but consciousness of my own mortality is a gift. Even though I didn’t ask to be sick, I cannot ignore how priceless a reminder it is.
Once upon a time, I mourned the deterioration of my body, but within this failing shell of flesh, my heart has been given new life. My mental faculties have been honed to razor-sharpness against the whetstone of urgency. My fears in this dunya – of rejection, of pity, of uselessness – have no place in serving my aakhirah. I don’t know how much longer I have to live, or how functional I will be for the remainder of my life, but my sole mission it to make it to Jannah and try my best to help my mother and my children make it there as well.
My lessons are your lessons
My life is your life, the only difference being I know I’m constantly reminded of death but you’re probably still thinking you’re immortal. Just because you aren’t old or sick doesn’t mean you won’t die tomorrow; alone, unprepared, and entirely ambushed by a spiritual audit that you’ve done nothing to prepare for. So try this – set yourself a death date.
Six months from now, assume you’re going to die. Feel it, believe it, and imagine the circumstances that you’re going to die in. Think about the shock and pain on the faces of your parents, your spouse, and your children. Imagine them crying over your body. Think of the sins you never repented for, the people you never apologized to, and the regrets you’ll have then about the choices you’re making now. Circle the date in your calendar, post it on your wall and work towards it every day. Your life will change when you remember death daily, just like mine has.
And you don’t even have to be sick.
For me, I’m grateful for my illness because apparently I needed my body to start dying in order for my heart to start coming alive. There’s an appreciable irony here – now that my hands are weak and shaking, I want most desperately to raise them in prayer. Now that I can no longer kneel in sajda or even stand in prayer, my entire soul wants to swim in the depths of khushu and not worry about coming up for air.
Sometimes I extend my sujud and hope, just hope, that the angel of death will meet me in prostration. Other times, I touch my children’s faces and wonder how they’ll look all grown up and whether I’ll be with them. Allah promises us in the Qur’an that after hardship will always come ease. Sometimes though – both come at the same time. I’ve never been more tired, more weak, or less able to tie my own shoes, but I’ve never felt stronger, calmer, or happier to be Muslim.
Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good
For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad , 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
- 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.
A Word On Muslim Attitudes Toward Abortion
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].
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. 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; or others who classified slaves as animals rather than human beings? 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. 
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. 
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 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.’” 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.” 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. 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.
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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Al-Ghazali, Muhammad Abu Hamid. Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din. Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, p. 491.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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
Blessed Are The Volunteers | Imam Omar Suleiman
Our communities would not be able to survive Ramadan without these precious souls
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.
The Prophet 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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