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Top Five Misquotations Of The Quran

You have seen the memes, the misquotes on many anti Muslim blogs- here is a comprehensive researched answer.




Religion has always been a convenient scapegoat for violence. Genocidal maniacs and extremists throughout history have frequently invoked religion to grant cosmic significance to their earthly conflicts. The political conflicts, brutal dictatorships, and warfare involving Muslim countries in recent decades have lead to the emergence of modern extremist groups attempting to justify violence in the name of Islam. Chaos, instability and prolonged warfare create a political vacuum where power-hungry groups vie for control. Such groups will raise whatever banner draws support for their cause, whether it be the banner of ethnic identity, cultural identity, nationalism, 0r a particular ideological or religious identity.

One should immediately be skeptical of the political instrumentalization of religion by such groups, and of the attempt to shift blame to a religion that has been around for 1400 years and is practiced by almost two billion adherents around the world. Nevertheless, certain verses of the Qur’an have been tossed around by radicals and by islamophobes alike, alleging that there is some Qur’anic support for violent activity. The slightest familiarity with the verses in question would demonstrate that nothing could be further from the truth.

It is fairly easy to misquote a text. All one must do is cherry-pick partial sentences and delete the surrounding context. What makes the five most misquoted Quranic verses so interesting is that the supposed violent nature of such verses immediately dissolves with a quick glance at the textual and historical context. All one needs to do is simply complete the sentence, or read the preceding or following verse, and it becomes evident that the verse in no way preaches violence. In addition, this perspective is further substantiated when one looks at the other passages in the Qur’an and statements of the Prophet Muhammad, which are unequivocal in their condemnation of violence and affirmation of peace. Furthermore, 1400 years of scholarly analysis of the Quran dispels the misinterpretations of contemporary radicals and anti-Muslim bigots

Misquotation 1 – Verse 2:191

The phrase “kill them where you find them” is by far the most frequent phrase that is misquoted by ardent Islamophobes and radical extremists. But this battlefield exhortation comes right after the verse which states “fight against those who fight you” and it comes right before the part which states “but if they cease fighting, then let there be no hostility except against oppressors“!

What is the historical context of verses 2:190-3 and who does it refer to? Ibn Abbas, the famous companion of the Prophet and Qur’anic exegete, says that this passage was revealed in reference to the Quraysh [1]. The Quraysh had persecuted the Muslims and tortured them for thirteen years in Makkah. They had driven Muslims out of their homes, seized their properties and wealth, and fought battles against them after the Muslims sought refuge in Madinah. The Muslims were apprehensive about another attack occurring during their sacred pilgrimage when fighting was prohibited. This is why these verses were revealed to reassure them that they would be able to defend against a Qurayshi attack during pilgrimage. Such fighting never ended up occurring between them and Quraysh, for a peace agreement was upheld and the pilgrimage was permitted [2].

The phrase “do not commit aggression” was explained by Ibn Abbas to mean, “Do not attack women, children, elderly, or anyone who is not fighting against you“, and thus harming any non-combatants is deemed a transgression against God Almighty [3]. The erudite Qur’anic exegete Ibn Ashur (d.1393H) states, “If they desist from fighting you, then do not fight them for verily God is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful, and so it is only befitting that the believers show mercy” [4]. In this regard, this verse is very similar to 4:89 which prescribes fighting the enemy but is immediately followed by the statement in 4:89, “So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you but rather offer you peace, then God has made no way for you to fight them.

Returning to 2:190-3, the word fitnah in this passage means religious persecution (as used in 85:10) and punishing someone for their faith, and coercing them to disbelieve or commit idolatry. The great Qur’anic scholar Imam al-Kisaa’i (d.189) explains that fitnah here means “torture (‘adhaab) because the Quraysh used to torture those who accepted Islam” [5]. Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310H) explains that the phrase “fitnah is worse than killing” means that “to persecute a believer for his faith until he recants it and becomes an idolater is worse and more painful to him than being slain while holding onto his faith” [6]

Therefore, the passage clearly prohibits fighting against those who are not fighting. The particular misquoted phrase describes fighting in defence against perpetrators of anti-religious persecution and torture.

Misquotation 2 – Verse 9:5

The next phrase that is frequently misquoted is quite similar – “slay those pagans wherever you find them”, but again the slightest familiarity with the historical and contextual context would immediately dispel this misquotation. The verse immediately before speaks of upholding peaceful agreements with those who are at peace and never supported enemy warriors against the Muslims – so who is verse 9:5 in reference to? Qur’anic exegetes al-Baydawi (d.685H) and al-Alusi (d.1270H) explain that it refers to those pagan arabs who violated their peace treaties by waging war against the Muslims (nakitheen) [7], and thus Abu Bakr al-Jassas (d.370H) notes that these verses are particular to the Arab polytheists and do not apply to anyone else [8]. These comments are substantiated by what the Qur’an itself says. Verse 13 of the same chapter states, “Will you not fight against those who violated their peace treaties, plotted the expulsion of the messenger, and initiated the fighting against you?” and verse 36 states, “and fight the pagans collectively who wage war against you collectively.” The textual context is abundantly clear that verse 9:5 is not a random instruction out of the blue but relates to the pagan tribes of Arabia, who were in a state of war with the Muslims [9]. Therefore, to interpret the passage in any other way is to contradict the very text of the Qur’an.

Moreover, what is fascinating is that the very next verse (9:6) states that if any enemy warrior suddenly demands protection, one is religiously obligated to provide that individual with protection, explain the message of Islam to him, and if he refuses to accept, escort him to a place of security. This instruction to protect and escort enemy combatants to a safe haven makes it blatantly obvious that this passage in no way, shape or form, can be construed as violent.

Misquotation 3 – Verse 8:60

Another favourite text to misquote is the passage that states, “Prepare against them all you can of power and steeds of war..” but again, the very next verse reads, “If they incline towards peace, then incline towards peace as well” – hardly a violent passage!

Moreover, one must again ask who is being referred to in this citation? The historical context clearly places these verses again in reference to the ongoing war between the Muslims and the enemy forces of the Quraysh of Makkah and their tribal allies [10]. This chapter was revealed in reference to the Battle of Badr which took place between the Muslims who sought refuge in Madinah and the Quraysh who had persecuted them and driven them out of their homes in Makkah. The same chapter describes the pervasive warfare in Arabia and lack of security suffered by the early oppressed Muslim community. “And remember when you were few and oppressed in the land, fearing that people might abduct you, but He sheltered you, supported you with His victory, and provided you with good things – that you might be grateful.” (8:26)

Note also that sometimes Islamophobic bigots cite verse 8:12 from this same chapter “strike above their necks”, somehow completely missing the fact that the verse describes what God said to the angels during the battle of Badr. The first half of the verse reads, “When your Lord inspired the angels, ‘Verily, I am with you, so strengthen the believers…’”. To take a description of God’s inspiration to angels during a historical battle against the Quraysh oppressors and somehow distort that into a generic command for Muslims to attack non-muslims is profoundly dishonest, to say the least.

Misquotation 4 – Verse 47:4

This is perhaps the most outrageous of all misquotations. A phrase in the middle of a passage about battle is ripped out of its context and presented ludicrously as, “When you meet disbelievers, smite their necks.” To even the most casual reader who bothers to glance at the passage, the verse is talking about a meeting in mutual battle between warriors (Ar. “fi’l-muharabah” as al-Baydawi explains [11]) that comes to an end “when the war lays down its burdens” as the verse itself states. This verse is specifically discussing mutual battle with those disbelievers engaged in warfare as noted by Ibn Jareer al-Tabari [12]. This is clear from the opening line of the chapter which states, “Those who disbelieve and prevent people from the path of God“, which as Ibn Abbas has stated, is in reference to the pagans of Quraysh [13], who oppressed the believers by denying them the freedom to practice their faith and then went to war with them to exterminate their community.

With respect to the phrase, “until the war lays down its burdens“, Imam Qatadah (d.117H) explained it saying, “until the enemy warriors lay down their burdens” – a phrase that was echoed by many scholars throughout history, including Ibn Qutaybah al-Daynuri (d.276H) [14]. Note also that this verse provides Muslims with only two options for prisoners of war – unconditional release, or acceptance of ransom. The verse mentions no other option, and indeed scholars have pointed out that this is the general rule, for the Prophet Muhammad only punished those war criminals guilty of treachery or gross violations, but otherwise he almost universally would pardon people even his most ardent opponents, as he did with the war chief Thumamah ibn Uthal, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, Habbar ibn al-Aswad, Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl, Umayr ibn Wahb, Safwan ibn Umayyah, Suhayl ibn Aamir, and the list goes on.

Misquotation 5 – Verse 9:29

One of the most interesting citations is 9:29, along with the claim that it instructs Muslims to fight people of the Book “until they pay the jizya and feel subdued”. But this verse as well has a historical context that is neglected. The very early exegete, Mujahid ibn Jabr al-Makhzumi (d.104H) explained that this fighting was revealed in reference to the Prophet Muhammad’s campaign against the Byzantine empire [15]. The Prophet Muhammad sent al-Harith ibn Umayr al-Azdi as an emissary to the Byzantine vassal state of the Ghassanids, but the chieftain Shurahbeel committing the shocking crime of tying up the emissary, torturing him, and murdering him [16]. When an army was dispatched to confront the Ghassanids for their crime, the Vicarius Theodorus summoned a large force of Roman soldiers to engage in war against the Muslims in the Battle of Mu’tah.

Thus, this verse was revealed in regards to fighting within an existing war against an enemy political entity, namely the Byzantine empire, which lead to preparations for the expedition of Tabuk. The hostility of the group in question is mentioned in the this very Qur’anic passage itself, which goes on to state (9:32) that this instruction refers to those “who attempt to extinguish the light of Islam with their mouths“, which al-Dahhak (d.105H) stated meant “they wish to destroy Muhammad and his companions.” [17]

As history went on, imperial conflicts continued between the Byzantine empire and the subsequent Muslim empire of the Umayyads. Many writing within the historical setting of imperial conflict assumed that this verse characterized a generic state of perpetual warfare with opponent political entities. However, as noted in Tafsir al-Maraghi, all of the Qur’anic conditions of warfare mentioned earlier still apply to this verse. Thus, the verse means, “fight those mentioned when the conditions which necessitate fighting are present, namely, aggression against you or your country, oppression and persecution against you on account of your faith, or threatening your safety and security, as was committed against you by the Byzantines, which was what lead to Tabuk.” [18]




The Qur’an is a message to humanity that repeats 114 times, “In the Name of God the Most Compassionate the Most Merciful.” The Qur’an instructs Muslims to show goodness to those who do evil (41:34), to speak words of peace to those who are hostile (25:63), to call to the way of God with wisdom and beautiful preaching (16:125), to treat peaceful non-muslims with the utmost kindness and justice (60:8), to be the best of people towards other people (3:110), and to respect freedom of religion (2:256, 10:99). There is simply no plausible way to understand the Qur’an in a manner bereft of mercy, compassion or peace. Any sincere and reasonable person looking at these passages must necessarily recognize that the Qur’an stands for mercy, not for destruction and violence.

Attempts to portray the Qur’anic text as preaching violence do not stand up to academic scrutiny, and in fact, can be dispelled by simply reading the entire sentence and the immediate context. Dishonesty abounds in the selective chopping of sentences by both Islamophobes and radicals alike. Knowledge of the historical context of these verses clearly demonstrates that all of these passages without exception relate to fighting against those engaged in warfare. A careful examination of the scholarly analysis of these passages provides abundant statements clarifying the meaning of these verses.

At this point, it should be obvious that one of the best ways to combat misuse of scripture is by propagating the voluminous evidences which necessitate an understanding of scripture that is peaceful, merciful, and tolerant, and empowering those who advance this understanding. To insist on characterizing the religion as inherently violent is to play right into the hands of extremists on both sides who wish to incite hatred and perpetuate war.

  1. See Asbab al-Nuzûl by Al-Wahidi (d.468H)  
  2. Ibn Abbas explains that when the Muslims went to Makkah in 6 AH intending to perform pilgrimage, they were prevented from doing so by the Quraysh and agreed to turn around and go home after a peace treaty was made permitting them to return the following year. However, they were apprehensive to return again, fearing that they would be slaughtered while in a state of pilgrimage as the Quraysh had plotted to attack them at that time. These verses were revealed to assure them they would be able to defend themselves from such an act of aggression in the sacred precincts of Makkah. In the end, no such fighting took place at all and the Muslims were able to perform their pilgrimage in peace (al-Wahidi, al-Samarqandi, al-Tabari). 
  3. See Tafsir of Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310H) and al-Tha’labi (d.427H). Also, the famous early Muslim scholars Abu’l-Aliyah, Sa’id ibn Jubayr, and Ibn Zayd all explained that aggression here means “fighting anyone who is not fighting you”. The famous Umayyad caliph and religious scholar Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz was asked about this verse and he stated that it prohibited any fighting against those not engaged in warfare. This has been taken as a legal maxim by Muslim scholars prohibiting harming any non-combatants. 
  4. Tahrir wal-Tanwir 2:192. Multiple early exegetical sources explain that the phrase “if they desist, then verily God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful” means if they cease fighting you and desist from their warfare against you, including Tafsir Muqatil b. Sulayman (d.150H), Tafsir al-Samarqandi (d.375H) and Tafsir al-Tha’labi (d.427H).  
  5. Reported by al-Tha’labi and al-Tabarani (d.360H). Some may wonder if scholars like Imam al-Kisaa’i were contradicted by the statement of some later Qur’anic commentators who said that fitnah means disbelief or idolatry. However, Ibn Jareer al-Tabari (d.310H) and others demonstrate that there is no contradiction as “coercing Muslims to commit disbelief/idolatry” is also intended by the verse as a form of persecution of Muslims. As the eminent early Qur’anic scholar, Makki ibn Abi Talib (d.437H) notes, “Fitnah linguistically means a trial, so a trial that causes one to lose faith is worse than being slain.” Ibn Jareer al-Tabari states the same (see next footnote). Moreover, we have the irrefutable evidence of the companion Abdullah ibn Umar related in Sahih Bukhari. Ibn Umar was asked to justify his pacifism during the war in the time of Caliph Ali, especially when the Qur’an states “Fight them until there is no more fitnah.” Ibn Umar replied that when the persecution of Muslims for their faith has ceased and the tortures and killing had subsided, there was no longer any fitnah (وقاتلوهم حتى لا تكون فتنة قال ابن عمر قد فعلنا على عهد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إذ كان الإسلام قليلا فكان الرجل يفتن في دينه إما يقتلونه وإما يوثقونه حتى كثر الإسلام فلم تكن فتنة).  
  6. Jami’ al-Bayan ‘an Ta’wil ay al-Qur’an (2:190-193)ofImamal-Tabari states:

    وقد بـينت فـيـما مضى أن أصل الفتنة الابتلاء والاختبـار فتأويـل الكلام: وابتلاء الـمؤمن فـي دينه حتـى يرجع عنه فـيصير مشركا بـالله من بعد إسلامه أشدّ علـيه وأضرّ من أن يقتل مقـيـماً علـى دينه متـمسكاً علـيه مـحقّاً فـيه 

  7. Anwar al-Tanzeel wa Asrar al-Ta’weel (9:5) of Imam al-Baydawi and Rooh al-Ma’ani (9:5) of Imam al-Alusi. Such statements by exegetes are given authority because the are in agreement with the text of the Qur’an itself. When reading the comments of various classical figures, it is important to note the historical context of their comments. Many exegetes lived in the era of rival empires vying for control against each other. Often, people in those times saw imperial conquest and political expansion as the only means of conveying the message of truth to other communities who lived under hostile political entities, and so some of them attempted to reinterpret such passages in order to permit a broader scope of application. However, such interpretations are refuted by the textual and historical context of the Qur’an. Moreover, those figures themselves stated that the ultimate goal was to establish the security of the Muslim lands (see Bidayatul-Mujtahid of Ibn Rushd) or communicate the message of the faith to other people, and thus by the principles of Islamic law political expansion as a means of propagation becomes irrelevant in the digital age of mass communication and globalization. 
  8. Abu Bakr al-Jassas states, “صار قوله تعالى: {فَاقْتُلُوا المُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ} خاصّاً في مشركي العرب دون غيرهم.” 
  9. Note also that verses 9:8 and 9:10 characterize the referents of these verses further by stating that those intended are the ones who “observe neither pact nor kinship in their dealings with believers”. The importance of understanding the general state of tribal Arabia cannot be understated. Today, a person can walk down the street fairly confident of not being mugged for their personal possessions, and can simply call the police should they feel their security threatened. But in seventh century Arabia, there was no police, no law, no order, only tribal protections. And these tribes were in a state of constant warfare with each other and would conduct perpetual raids. The Qur’an itself alludes to this environment, saying “Do they not then see that We have made Makkah a sanctuary secure, while men are being snatched away and ravaged from all around them?” (29:67). Wandering in the desert was a certain guarantee that one would be either killed and robbed, or worse – sold into slavery. In fact, that is precisely what happened to several of the individuals who became companions of the Prophet, including Suhaib al-Rumi, Salman al-Farisi and Zaid ibn Harithah. It is impossible to read chapter 9 without understanding this background context to appreciate the consolidation of order and rule of law that was being established in war-torn Arabia. 
  10. Zad al-Masir (8:60) of Ibn al-Jawzi (d.597H) and Nadhm al-Durar (8:60) of al-Biqa’i (d.885H). 
  11. Anwar al-Tanzeel wa Asrar al-Ta’weel (9:5) of Imam al-Baydawi (d.685H). 
  12. Jami’ al-Bayan ‘an Ta’wil ay al-Qur’an (47:4) of Imam al-Tabari (d.310H). 
  13. Ma’alim al-Tanzeel of Imam al-Baghawi (d.516H). Likewise, the same is stated by Ibn al-Jawzi:  ” وصَدُّوا } الناس عن الإِيمان به، وهم مشركو قريش” Zad al-Masir (47:4) of Ibn al-Jawzi (d.597H). 
  14. ” حتى يضع أهل الحرب السلاح” as cited in Tafsir al-Samarqandi (47:4). 
  15. Jami’ al-Bayan ‘an Ta’wil ay al-Qur’an (9:29) of Imam al-Tabari, also al-Kashf wa’l-Bayan (9:29) of Imam al-Tha’labi. 
  16. Kitab al-Tarikh wa’l-Maghazi of Imam al-Waqidi (d.207H), p. 755. 
  17. Recorded by Ibn Abi Hatim (d.327H), as cited in Fath al-Qadeer (9:32) of Imam al-Shawkani (d.1250H). 
  18. Tafsir al-Maraghi vol. 10, p.95 of Sh. AhmadMustafaal-Maraghi:

     “أي قاتلوا من ذكروا حين وجود ما يقتضي القتال كالعتداء عليكم أو علي بلادكم أو اضطهادكم و فتنتكم عن دينكم أو تهديد أمنكم و سلامتكم كما فعل بك الروم و كان ذلك سببا لغزوة تبوك” is a website that aims to bring together academic research on spirituality, religion, philosophy and science in order to explore many of the key questions about life that confront every human being.

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  1. Avatar

    Mohammed Khan

    November 13, 2014 at 2:36 AM

    Masha Allah, a very nice scholarly post indeed. Two thumbs up!.
    It was a good reading just as it was good watching the video “Taking Back Our Narrative“ by Amir Abdel Malik and Nouman Ali Khan.
    I like reading posts at Muslim Matters and look forward each day to finding good reading material.

  2. Avatar

    Tanveer Khan

    November 13, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    Sorry, a relatively minor point, but isn’t it 113 not 114 Surahs that start with Bismillah? Isn’t Surah Tawbah the exception?

  3. Avatar


    November 13, 2014 at 1:16 PM


    Pls check Surah Naml:30

    It contains the basmallah, so technically 114 is correct iA

    • Avatar

      Tanveer Khan

      November 13, 2014 at 6:31 PM

      Makes sense now, thank you. :)

  4. Avatar


    November 14, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    So taking women as sex-slaves after each war against the kuffar is NOT aggression against women? Got it! ;)

    Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri that while he was sitting with Allah’s messenger we said, “Oh Allah’s messenger, we got female captives as our booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interruptus?” The prophet said, “Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.”

    • Avatar

      Anti Misquotes

      August 5, 2016 at 9:38 PM

      damn! xD
      how did you jumped that its a sex-slaves!!!
      it said we got a woman in a WAR…. that! it must be last for years, agains an army, what a woman do in a war?
      4:24 And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess. [This is] the decree of Allah upon you. And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these, [provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.

      mean that in that war and specificly in that war, islam allowed to temporaly marry a slave ( that it captivated in a “war”) with giving her the muhr
      ( mean the price for marriage just like the marriage in islam search “the condition of marriage in islam”)… its nikah mean sex after marriage…
      zina= the sex without marriage,from the biggest sin in islam that god abolish.
      nikah= sex after marriage and it allowed.
      before islam, it was slavery, they were killing girls in theire birth, torturing slaves… islam came as a mercy to people in (realism)… so it turned the slavery from a conditionality (people under control) , to a simple work ( doing home work) and the slave get paid for that, with giving them theire rights, abolished killing and gaved the rights for women.
      abolishing of zina didnt came at once, it passed by many steps, even in islam at it first spreading it was okay to have sex with a woman than marry her for example cause there was no context about it, so mens in war used to have slave womans for sex before islam cause wars takes at least 5 months ( there was a war last 40 years “al-bassos war between tha’alab and bakr tribes”) also wars was done out of cities mean that time in the middle of sahara, so in that war came that context 4:24 for mens in war to allow temporaly married the captives woman “from a war” giving them theire rights even if she already have a husband cause she s in a war, except the pregnant.
      directly after that islam abolished the temporaly marriage during to many contexts.
      zawaj mut’ah= temporaly marriage.
      islam say everything is allowed except what god abolish :^)
      the final abolishing of zinah:
      17:32 [And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.]
      mean dont even get close from zina ( not just dont do it, dont even look at sexual part of woman or touch them for a malicious desire you idiots cause it gonna ruined your minds and it gonna be a disease, same for womens.

  5. Avatar


    November 14, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    I only read the “Misinterpretation #1” before calling BS on this article… so the part of the verse that this article claims to have been omitted by people ““but if they cease fighting, then let there be no hostility except against oppressors“…
    Now Im confused… tell me if this applied to Bani Quraiza(? sp) when the Prophet attacked the two-timing jews and basically did what would be considered ethnic cleansing by KILLING ALL MEN and taking all women and children as sex-slaves, including even selling some women to buy more horses???
    Is that was the second part of the verse means when it says that “if they cease fighting”??? Because they were already banished to Khaybar and were not fighting the Muslims, even if we accept that Jews are backstabbing traitors who backstabbed Muslims in a previous battle? Does this mean that ALL of the tribe be destroyed and ethnically cleansed, or just the acutal perpatrators??? Collective punishment ok in Islam?

    • Avatar


      November 14, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      Hi Javed – your comment is a great example of a logical fallacy. The article debunked the claim that the Quran preaches violence. Instead of dealing with what the article talks about, you are asking about Banu Qurayzah which is a totally separate question. Your statement “killing all men” is debunked in this video:

      Sh. ATabek Shukrov Nasafi compiles all the historical data which demonstrates only the warriors were punished, and it was because they joined the Ahzab in the war against the Muslims in the Battle of the Trench. Now, you are free to believe your own account of history, but you must realize that regardless of what you believe, as long as the Quran doesn’t preach that you cannot call it violent. Cheerio.

      • Avatar

        Jeffrey Isbell

        November 14, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        Sorry, the problem is not misquotation, the problem is religious writings whose poetic style renders them vague enough to be misinterpreted. You may be right about “smiting on the neck” but a few of your fellows can show you some video of heads rolling on the ground to support my point. Don’t misunderstand me, I defend Muslims every day against irrational attacks. But let’s start with what’s true and go from there.

      • Avatar


        November 14, 2014 at 8:49 PM


        And what do you have to say about the sex slaves made out of women and children?

        Now to your comment: I dont have time to listen to Borat sugarcoat genocide for 45 minutes, so why dont you just give us your sources? Because the most widely held and accepted belief by majority of the scholars and ulema is that ALL of the Banu Quraiza’s men above the age of “razor” aka puberty, were killed and women were taken as sex-slaves/concubines.

        My sources are from Sahih Bukhari and Muslim and the Seerah of the Prophet:

        It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn Umar that the Jews of Banu Nadir and Banu Quraizi fought against the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) who expelled Banu Nadir, and allowed Quraiza to stay on, and granted favour to them until they too fought against him Then he killed their men, and distributed their women, children and properties among the Muslims, except that some of them had joined the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) who granted them security. They embraced Islam. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) turned out all the Jews of Medlina. Banu Qainuqa’ (the tribe of ‘Abdullah b. Salim) and the Jews of Banu Haritha and every other Jew who was in Medina. (Book #019, Hadith #4364)

        Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: The people of (Banu) Quraiza agreed to accept the verdict of Sad bin Mu’adh. So the Prophet sent for Sad, and the latter came (riding) a donkey and when he approached the Mosque, the Prophet said to the Ansar, “Get up for your chief or for the best among you.” Then the Prophet said (to Sad).” These (i.e. Banu Quraiza) have agreed to accept your verdict.” Sad said, “Kill their (men) warriors and take their offspring as captives, “On that the Prophet said, “You have judged according to Allah’s Judgment,” or said, “according to the King’s judgment.” (Book #59, Hadith #447)

        Ibn Ishaq’s Seerah of Prophet:
        Then they surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy b. Akhtab and Ka`b b. Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle they asked Ka`b what he thought would be done with them. He replied, ‘Will you never understand? Don’t you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!’ This went on until the apostle made an end of them. Huyayy was brought out wearing a flowered robe in which he had made holes about the size of the finger-tips in every part so that it should not be taken from him as spoil, with his hands bound to his neck by a rope. When he saw the apostle he said, ‘By God, I do not blame myself for opposing you, but he who forsakes God will be forsaken.’ Then he went to the men and said, ‘God’s command is right. A book and a decree, and massacre have been written against the Sons of Israel.’ Then he sat down and his head was struck off

        I can go on and on… just like Borat in that video!

      • Avatar

        Zen Buddhism fan

        November 14, 2014 at 9:03 PM

        LOL who is this Javed dude? The guy doesn’t even notice that the Bukhari hadith he quoted says warriors and the translator put “men” in brackets hahaha, you cant be bothered to check the sources other people recommend and you cant be bothered to comprehend the sources you cite yourself. Keep watching Borat pal, it’s done a fine job of educating you.

      • Avatar


        November 14, 2014 at 9:11 PM

        Zen Buddhist,
        Im not in the habit of changing ANYTHING from a Hadith. And as you might have guessed, I read over 40 different hadith on this matter and not a SINGLE one says what happened to any other men!!! SO ALL MEN WERE CONSIDERED TO BE WARRIORS!
        Now go away, laughing Budda…

        Narrated Atiyyah al-Qurazi: I was among the captives of Banu Qurayza. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed. I was among those who had not grown hair.Sunan Abu Dawood, 38:4390

      • Avatar

        Zen Buddhism fan

        November 14, 2014 at 9:22 PM

        Never said you changed it Mr Potato head, I said the *translator* added that word. Gee-whiz. English isn’t your strong suit. LOL. And clearly arabic isn’t either or you could have gone to the arabic text of the Bukhari hadith and seen it says warriors. Do you concede that if the hadith says warriors and not men your entire objection collapses? If not, you’re just here to flame, you’re not interested in any facts that will challenge your point of view.

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        November 14, 2014 at 9:37 PM

        Hi Javed – if you had listened to the video by Sh Atabek Shukrov Nasafi he cites historical data on what happened to other adult males as well such as the father of Muhammad b. Ka’b al-Qurazi. So I know you want to pick out english translations of hadith to try to make Islam look violent, but unfortunately for you, the historical data doesn’t support your claims and scholars have soundly refuted them. Each of those hadith have chains of narrators which have to be analyzed, alternative chains of transmission, linguistic analysis of terms, etc. etc. But if you’re not interested in learning what academic sources have to say, why waste everyone’s time here?

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        November 21, 2014 at 2:44 PM

        The Jews of Banu Qurayza picked Saad bin Muadh, a chief of one of the tribes in Madina (who had good relations with them) to be the judge after their treacherous actions in Battle of the Trench (where the jews helped the Meccans and other outsiders to attack the Muslims and their OWN city, thereby breaching the covenant of Madinah that they were a party to). They agreed to abide by whatever verdict Saad bin Muadh would hand out. Saad proceeded to refer to the jewish scriptures on the punishment of treachery and breaking a treaty and gave the verdict accordingly. . So the punishment that you deem as cruel was in fact based on the JEWS’ own scriptures. Before you start spewing hatred and create confusion, please look at the context in which the punishment of Banu Qurayza was carried out. It was done fairly and in accordance with their own laws and nobody else’s.

  6. Pingback: Ameen Ceremony & Importance of Learning Quran | Ayesha & Umair's Blog

  7. Avatar

    Discover The Truth

    November 14, 2014 at 3:26 PM

  8. Avatar


    November 15, 2014 at 9:12 PM

    The God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob has already prevailed…You have already lost allah. as the flight ends we are all grreeted bye the host that made our journey a little more comfortable. so as the host/flight attendant says as we un board our flight- “bye bye”, “bye bye”, bye…… may your flight be a scourching one . Ace ventura said it well when he looooooooooooooooserrrrrrrrr!

  9. Avatar

    derek lambada

    November 16, 2014 at 5:05 AM

    Overall an interesting piece. However…
    If many Muslims throughout history have found a different interpretation to you 1/ Can you really claim that your interpretation is ‘correct’? and 2/ Does it even matter? What Islam says is simply not as important as what Muslims do because of what they think it says.
    You talk a lot about historical context influencing the meaning, but doesn’t Islamic doctrine say that the Koran is the unchanging final word of Allah? It’s instructions are surely not limited by context according to this doctrine.
    You seem to ignore abrogation in this article. Many knowledgeable scholars throughout history would regard a number of the verses you quote as abrogated. As an example, of the 7 verses you cite in your conclusion, 6 can be regarded as abrogated (replaced/updated by later verses). The other one (3:110) doesn’t say what you say it says.

    [Muhsin Khan 3:110
    You [true believers in Islamic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad SAW and his Sunnah (legal ways, etc.)] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah. And had the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) believed, it would have been better for them; among them are some who have faith, but most of them are Al-Fasiqun (disobedient to Allah – and rebellious against Allah’s Command).]

    I have checked other translations and none of them command Muslims to be good to other people. If anything this is one of the many verses that says Muslims are superior and other people are inferior, leading to intolerance.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like your contextual interpretation and I hope that it becomes accepted as what Islam stands for. The simple fact is that this is not, nor has it ever been, the case. Many respected scholars and Imans would disagree with your interpretation. The leader of IS has a phd in Islamic studies for crying out loud.
    If Islam so clearly calls for peace and tolerance, how did devout Muslims armies conquer most of the known world? Why is there so much persecution and intolerance of non-Muslims by Muslims?

    Overall I think the examples of Muhammad’s behaviour and interpretation of instructions that you have detailed here are very selective and misrepresent the overall message in the Koran and Hadith.

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      November 16, 2014 at 8:36 PM

      Thanks for your question Derek. This is the natural question that many people ask when they are confronted with a presentation of the Islamic sources that conflicts with the popular image of Islam as inherently violent – which Islam is the real Islam and the ‘correct’ interpretation?

      Before answering this questions, allow me to address the factual issues you raised.

      – Verse 3:110 says “You are the best of people ever raised up for mankind…”. Numerous books of exegesis mention that this means “the best of people in conduct towards other people” ( يعني أنتم خير الناس للناس). This is precisely what the Prophet emphasized in numerous statements saying, “Show compassion to all those on earth, and the one who is above the heavens will bestow compassion upon you.”

      – Anyone who has studied Qur’anic sciences knows that the term “naskh” was used by later scholars to refer to abrogation, but was used by early scholars to include specification, clarification, particularization, etc, as specialists like Abu Ishaaq al-Shatibi (d.790H) and many others pointed out (Shatibi, Muwafaqat vol. 3, p.81). The problem is that nonmuslims and ignorant Muslims come along and see half the Quran labelled “mansookh” and think it means hundreds of verse go out the window. The most detailed analytical studies on the topic of abrogation include scholars like Ibn al-Jawzi, Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Abdul-Azim al-Zarqani, Abdullah al-Shinqeeti, Shah Waliyullah al-Dihlawi, and Mustafa Zayd, all of whom rejected the wide-reaching declarations of abrogation, with Zayd and al-Dihlawi concluding that there are only 6 or 5 cases in the Quran, respectively. Incidentally, there is only one verse in the entire Quran that these specialists were all able to agree actually fit the definition of abrogation – do you know which one? I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t any of the verses quoted in the article.

      – The historical context doesn’t mean the ruling of Islam is limited to history, it means it applies in any situation that has the same ratio legis (‘illah).

      Now coming to your question.

      Re: Correct Islam?
      Who speaks for Islam – scholars? rulers? empires? citizens? bigots? Check out this article:

      If we agree that Islam is defined by what is revealed in the Qur’an, what was explained by the Prophet Muhammad, and we have fourteen hundred centuries of Muslim scholarship that explain that Islam entails being good to both Muslims and Non-Muslims, being kind/compassionate/just/merciful with everyone. How ignorant or malicious Muslims misinterpret and misquote Islam can easily be exposed with academic scholarship. So we should give credence to the understanding that is backed up by the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad, who showed forgiveness to the people of Makkah who had formerly persecuted and tortured him and his followers. Islam is a faith which emphasizes the Divine attributes of Mercy and Compassion, and God wishes to see these attributes emulated in the behaviour of His servants. You said that you hoped this interpretation of Islam would become accepted – I don’t think you noticed the article footnotes are cites exegetical works over the past thousand years! This understanding already has been the dominant understanding by scholars of Islam for fourteen hundred years! The massive majority of Muslims today as well reject violent interpretations and espouse the exact same understanding in this article, even if they may not be able to articulate it in the same academic rigor.

      Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751H) said, “Any ruling that replaces justice with injustice, mercy with cruelty, prosperity with corruption, or wisdom with nonsense can never be part of Islamic law even if it is claimed to be so according to some interpretations.” (I’lam al-Muwaqqi’in, vol. 1, p. 333).

      For more academic perspectives visit:

      • Avatar

        derek lambada

        November 17, 2014 at 3:50 PM

        Thankyou for the respectful way you have answered me. I am looking for answers rather than confrontation and I am grateful that you have answered in this spirit. It can’t be nice having someone query your faith and words and I ask your forgiveness for any offence I may cause. Thanks also for spending so much of your time providing me with such a comprehensive reply, it is no small thing.

        You certainly give me things to think about and I will look more closely at the sources you cite.

        As a non Muslim, what is (or should be) regarded as ‘correct’ Islam is less important for me than what Muslims actually do. It does not take many ignorant and malicious (or just misguided) Muslims to have a devastating impact on a society.

        Thanks for the direct answers to the factual points I raised. I take your point on 3:110 and it’s interpretation. I don’t think I was completely wrong in saying that the actual words don’t clearly say ‘be nice to people’ but more ‘you are a benefit to people’ but I bow to your interpretation.
        However, can you honestly say that Muhammad always acted with total compassion? I think there are examples where he did things (for whatever reason) that could lead me to justifiably question this.

        I also take your point on abrogation. I was trying to make the point that this doctrine just adds to the mixed messages that people can take. You cite eminent scholars but I am sure others could cite other scholars who agree with their view. It is difficult to find a conclusive right and wrong.

        This is really what led me on the path that resulted in me visiting this page. Muslims doing or saying things I felt were clearly wrong (evil even) and justifying them using Islamic teachings. I thought that if I read the Koran it would be obvious that they were wrong. It was not, and I found that deeply disturbing.
        You say that those that misquote can easily be exposed with academic scholarship. That is part of the problem I am having. People like IS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, repeatedly quote directly from Islamic sources to justify what they do. I am not seeing this being easily exposed as in error. When people try (which seems rare-many claim they are ‘unislamic’ but seem very vague as to why that is) it seems to go backwards and forwards with each side citing different things to counter their opponents last claim.

        I accept that the scholars you refer me to cover Islamic history but I’m sure there are other scholars who have conflicting views, and Islamic history is certainly not one long era of peace, harmony and goodwill to all men.
        I know bad things like slavery have happened in all parts of the world and on the watch of all religions. No other religion’s main prophet kept slaves, traded slaves, and oversaw the enslaving of people though as far as I’m aware. It also seems to have been too easy for Muslims to provide religious justification (or at least avoid religious condemnation) for massacre and genocide.
        Muhammad’s own companions embarked on a campaign of aggressive and violent expansion after his death. Presumably they knew him and his message best.

        These are some of the most extreme and troublesome examples of course. I really want to think that the more peaceful interpretation that you present is ‘correct’ and you make very strong points that it is. Further evidence is provided by the overwhelming majority of Muslims being peaceful, selfless people. Unfortunately it doesn’t take many to make these arguments effectively irrelevant, and Islam is currently saddled with too many of these people for comfort.

        It’s not just the violent minority that worry me. Surveys (and I accept they can never be completely reliable) show worrying levels of support for indefensible acts of intolerance and violence amongst the worldwide Muslim population.
        Leaving violence aside there is also wide support for other things I find ‘wrong’. Death for apostates, adulterers, and homosexuals. The call for sharia law to be implemented. Disadvantageous treatment of women. Suppression of free speech where perceived criticism of Islam is concerned. FGM. I’m sure you know where I am going and that you could add things to the list.
        I’m also certain that you could make a very good case that some or all of these things are unislamic and against Islamic teachings (or that I have misunderstood what they actually represent).
        What I would ask is that if enough Muslims believe that their faith justifies violence and intolerance (and opposes certain ‘modern Western values’), does it really matter whether they are correct or not?
        If Muslims still hold views about what Islam teaches that are in error in this day of the internet where nearly all information can be found instantly, what hope is there?

        Thanks again for the links and I will endeavor to keep my mind open.

    • Avatar


      November 21, 2014 at 4:05 PM

      Thank you Derek, I really wish we had more people like you – who ask serious questions but with an intent to learn not with an intent to denigrate or dehumanize. I am strongly optimistic that we can work together to counteract the narrative of hate and publicize the mainstream educated voices of tolerance on both sides.

      SpiritualPerception will have many more articles on these topics of confusion and many of the issues you raised are being addressed in articles currently under construction. In the meantime, I encourage you to read a broad range of authors who have written biographies of Prophet Muhammad – Karen Armstrong, Martin Lings, Adil Salahi, Jonathan Brown, Tariq Ramadan, etc. All of these authors have very different views and perspectives, which you will find helpful in developing a more informed outlook on the subject.

      The narrative of hatred being perpetuated on both sides has unfortunately lead to a rapid increase in both radicalism and islamophobia, and this means we all must work harder to deconstruct such fallacious narratives. I can appreciate that for an outsider or layman it might seem like both narratives have purchase in Islamic thought. But this is just like a non-expert being confronted with conflicting data and back-and-forth debates on the benefit of vaccination (which the medical community has consensus on) or the reality of climate change (which the scientific community has consensus on). Radicals misquoting religious scripture look blatantly as unscientific to academics familiar with Islamic scholarship, and this article provides a clear case study of that.

      Which leads to the more important question – what has lead to the emergence of these radical groups in recent times? What are the factors that lead to the weaponization of ideology, be it religious or otherwise? What is the significance of political instability, regional conflict, foreign invasion and occupation, economic sanctions, brutal secularist dictators, in bolstering the ranks of extremists? The author Pankaj Mishra astutely observes that ISIS has far more in common with the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot than anything in Islamic history, and the more factors you compare between the two the more you realize how accurate that is. This will also be discussed in far more detail in a forthcoming article.

      For more academic perspectives visit:

      • Avatar

        derek lambada

        November 22, 2014 at 5:52 AM

        Thankyou for your kind words.

        I’m glad you mentioned Tariq Ramadan, I already have his ‘footsteps of the Prophet’ on my kindle and am slowly working through it to give myself wider perspective.

        Pankaj Mishra may be onto something. I saw a quite amusing article recently about things IS make use of that are clearly from the ‘infidels’. Whilst it’s very probably correct to say there is nothing quite like it in Islamic history, there are various other things in Islamic history that I would have concerns about.

        All of the socio-economic things you mention have to be considered but so do the Islamic teachings. Hopefully the peaceful interpretations will become universally accepted as correct. Is there an argument that Islamic teaching is too easily misinterpreted? There are numerous voices calling for reform of Islam. Maybe clarification would be a better word? I live in hope anyway.

        As a Westerner I feel we get the blame for these things quite a bit, not always fairly. There have been brutal dictators certainly, the West helped get rid of some of them, but the situation (with regards radicalisation) seems to have got dramatically worse after that. Some radicals hate the West because we got involved in Iraq, but then others hate it because we didn’t get involved in Syria.
        The crusades (still) seem to be cited as evidence of the West’s aggression and hatred of Islam. They were a very limited attempt to reclaim a small part of the massive swathes of territory taken by Muslim aggression though (and in many ways were a direct copy of Islamic Jihad theories). It seems all too easy to criticize the perceived opponents whist ignoring the fact that it was only your own side doing the exact same things that led to their actions in the first place.
        I’m noticing I’m just as much in danger of getting caught up in history as some of these radicals! We have to avoid this don’t we? It’s how things stand now, and how we make things better from today’s situation that’s important.

        I guess the big question I have about the socio ecomonic argument is the evidence of the western extremists. They seem to largely be from the middle classes, clever and well educated. The main suspect for being Jihadi John is from an Egyptian family that was granted asylum in the UK. The West sheltered and supported his family, protecting his father from a death sentence in Egypt. I just can’t understand the mentality.

        Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to help me with these things. I shall read your forthcoming articles with interest and an open mind.

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    November 23, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    Derek lambda – I just want to ask, on the one hand you say you aren’t bothered so much on the “correct” interpretation of Islam as much as what Muslims do but on the other you are reading deeply into the subject of interpretation and opinion on Islam. It seems to me something deep down telling you you want to know if Islam is the truth and you would accept it if you find you agree with everything you currently object to. The thing is that once you realise Allah is the One Creator, who has sent Prophets and Messengers to every nation, and that now there are no more of those the only thing left is the Quran who no one has been able to match in its linguistic beauty, that this is the truth, and His wisdom is above any human ideas, once you believe that all the debates are cleared up in your mind. Islam is submission to His Will because you know that He knows better than us and wants what is best for us. So don’t die until you become Muslim, we just care for you :)

    ” There shall be no compulsion in the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.”

    • Avatar

      derek lambada

      November 23, 2014 at 5:51 AM

      Hi Nadia,
      Firstly thanks for trying and caring.
      When I read the Koran I didn’t really find a truth I could recognise I’m afraid. I didn’t find linguistic beauty either, although of course I read a translation rather than the arabic so maybe that would have helped.
      I think the reason I am studying is to reassure myself that Islam can have a place in my society. There are so many things done in the name of Islam that seem to go against good things my society stands for, not just from the extremists either. Without getting caught up in scriptural arguments I’m thinking of free speech, equality (of sexes and peoples), freedom of personal choices etc.
      Of course it’s not all bad and on balance may well be of benefit overall but there is more than enough to greatly concern me.
      Some of these things I regard as basic humanity. If a God exists then he gave us this sense of humanity. I’m trying to make clear how Islamic teachings can completely fit in with this sense of humanity. This will obviously help reassure me but I think will also help others. Other non Muslims will be able to clearly see that Islam is not a threat to them and maybe some Muslims could avoid being guided to the wrong path. I suppose I would like to be able to show such people why they are wrong. This being of benefit to both me and them.
      Of course this is a bit selfish as this is MY personal view of humanity but I do think some of it is innate.
      Islam is submission to Allah as I understand it. I refuse to believe that a most gracious and merciful God wants people to do many of things done in the name of Islam. I think if people look within to what their own God-given conscience tells them then they will act differently. It seems to me that too many people are submitting to their own understanding of a book rather than submitting to God.

      • Avatar


        November 23, 2014 at 7:36 AM

        You are right the linguistic beauty is seen in the original language. And I agree the things that go against God’s Merciful nature are absolutely against Islam because Islam is from God, it inherently “fits” into humanity because it is from the one who created it! And even if you don’t believe that you will find in your studies that Islam upholds the values you mentioned. Your society is not a standard to look up to, human values are subjective, true values are from Allah and they manifests through our submission to Him, some of which is innate, because God created that too. Wish you all the best, you are close to Islam.

    • Avatar


      May 14, 2015 at 10:35 AM

      “the Quran who no one has been able to match in its linguistic beauty”

      Muslims like to repeat this again and again, but it’s an opinion without any evidence. After all, to prove it, you would need to have nativelike fluency in all the languages of the world and need to know all the literatures of the world (both present and past) to make a valid comparison.

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    derek lambada

    November 23, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    Hi again Nadia,
    I don’t think that my society is perfect by any means. But I do think that some of its ideals (which it doesn’t always live up to by the way) would be approved of by a gracious and merciful God more than some of the things practiced in some Islamic based communities.
    I hope you see what I mean (and can think of some examples), I’m certainly not trying to be offensive in any way.
    I wish you all the best too.

    • Avatar


      December 16, 2014 at 11:44 PM

      Hi Derek,
      I know it’s been a while since the conversation ended, but I would just like to say a few things.

      You’re right, some of the ideals of the Western world and society are not just approved, but ordained by a Gracious and Merciful God, and those are prevalent in majority of the teachings of Islam (without going into exact references, Dr. Nazir above has done a good job of that :)). And some of the things practiced in Islamic countries and societies are quite opposite to what God has ordained, but instead are more ingrained and prevalent in the culture of the region/society/country.

      Just one example of this – in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive (a rule which is now undergoing some change I hear). No where in Islamic teachings or practices does it bar a woman from leading/taking a transport. That’s like saying women could not ride a camel/horse in the Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be upon him) time, which we know isn’t true because women did travel. I don’t exactly know what the historical background of why such a rule came into being, but it has nothing to do with Islam. Another example – Saudi Arabia is led by a monarchy and royal family. The “right to rule” by monarchy has actually no place in Islam – it is not how Muslim leaders are selected/elected as ordained by Islam. This is ironic, since this is the country that implements “Sharia law” (or so it seems) most strictly (not necessarily in the most just manner), yet does not follow how its leaders should be selected as per the religion suggests. :)

      The point I’m trying to make is, which is the unfortunate reality of today, is that most of the Muslim leaders (and hence societies) are quite far from the actual teachings and spirit of Islam and what God teaches us through the Quran and the Prophet’s way of life. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that actions are judged by their intentions (for more on this, you can read this article on MM: ). If someone INTENDS to use the religion or religious text for their own deviated/perverted/sadistic political or personal agenda, they can find all sorts of phrases and verses to back up their claims and carry out their evil plans. (This goes for any text by the way, religious or secular, fiction or non-fiction). The same text can also be used to back up carrying out countless good deeds which are highly encouraged and praised and recompensed in goodness for by God.

      So what is the spirit of Islam then, you may ask? As Nadia pointed out, it is ultimately submission to the will of God. And why would God want you or I to do one thing or another as He suggests in all His Divine books (Old Testament, Gospel, Psalms of David, Quran), the finality of which is the Quran? The essence or spirit of it is that it is ultimately good for humanity. If we choose to follow, it is better for us; if not, there is no compulsion on us. That is our choice – the choice to do good or evil, to obey God or not to obey Him.

      Ultimately, we shall all be judged before Him. I sincerely wish you and all of us the best!

      • Avatar

        derek lambada

        December 18, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        Thanks for your reply arijjj,

        I’m still working my way through this and thanks for the link, I shall look at that certainly.

        I have been reading a book by Tariq Ramadan and I like the peaceful, positive message he appears to take from the teachings and actions of Muhammad.
        The problem I have is that it he seems to be somewhat selective in the teachings and actions he chooses to represent as the ‘lessons’ of Islam. It’s a bit like how progressive parents treat their children- ‘praise the good, ignore the bad’. (Sorry everyone if this is going too far, I’m a bit clumsy with expressing myself here).
        Anyway, the overall result is that the Muhammad that Tariq describes is not really recognizable to me as the one in the Koran and other source material. (At least at the moment anyway).

        Now, I’m very much still learning, but if I see a completely different Muhammad, it’s not difficult to see how other Muslims see one completely different as well, both today and historically.

        There are examples of things that I think are fundamentally wrong, that Islam at least appears to endorse. I mentioned slavery in an earlier post. I have seen arguments that slavery is unislamic, but from my study so far I don’t find them convincing. I can certainly see why slavery was part of the Islamic world for most of its history (and maybe still would be without pressure from the West).

        I understand completely what you are saying about Saudi Arabia. What is that driving thing all about? I can’t see any justification at all for that. Maybe a problem of today is that Saudi is incredibly rich thanks to their oil. Their idea of Islam is extremely well funded and is widely advertised because of this.

        Anyway thanks again for your helpful post and your best wishes.
        My best wishes go to you and everyone else here.

  12. Avatar


    April 7, 2015 at 10:20 PM

    Hello, just stumbled upon this good discussion and I am grateful for the insights. Meanwhile, can someone teach me Shahid?
    These Al Shabaab are asking people to recite Shahid (hope thats the name) and if you do not they shoot or slit your throat.
    Thank You

    • Avatar

      John Bayley

      November 28, 2015 at 1:43 PM

      Funny about that.

  13. Avatar

    John Bayley

    November 28, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    Why do you Muslims refer to scholars all the time. Most are not academic scholars at all and if you need one to understand the koran then its a shame. Indeed people do cherry pick and in the case of Quran 5:32 its the reverse. “…if any one killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind…” – The Holy Quran (Chapter Five, Verse 32). But this is not what this verse says when you read all of it. In fact, it says almost the exact opposite when you read the whole thing. So what we have is a so called holy book which needs scholars to understand it and does not stand scrutiny. On the other hand Christianity teaches love so i would encourage all you Muslims to change your belief structure to a peaceful loving doctrine. There is a very good reason why wherever there is violence there are Muslims hand in glove.

  14. Avatar


    February 14, 2016 at 10:54 AM

    Peace on All,

    Jayakallah for the article, The following link explains 8 more verses in detail. In fact it is so easy to explain and justify these verses. A simple read through of few verses before and after the quoted verses gives the context.

    @john bayley – you can certainly read the Quran on your own and understand it. have you tried? Your statement appears to be a case of taking the word of public opinion as true as against one’s own better judgment. Read the Quran yourselves and decide if it is tough to understand or easy.

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“The golden mean is kind of a summit, and it is a struggle to get there. The ego does not want balance because you have to think and make sacrifices.”

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad in Paradigms of Leadership (6)

A few months ago, Governor Kay Ivey signed into law House Bill 134, or the Human Life Protection Act, which prohibited all abortion in the state of Alabama except in cases where it was deemed necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the mother. The bill additionally criminalized abortion or any attempt to carry it out in situations deemed non-necessary. A motion to exempt rape and incest victims from this law was defeated in the Alabama state senate, which give the state the (dubious) distinction of possessing one of the most restrictive abortion laws in America. This move by Alabama to place extreme restrictions on abortion followed a spate of similar legislative moves by other states, such as Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

This escalation in anti-abortion legislation occasioned intense debate within the Muslim community.[1] Muslims who self-identify as progressives chanted the familiar mantra of “my body, my choice” to affirm a notion of personal rights and bodily autonomy in defending a woman’s right to choose. The ideological underpinnings of this view are extremely problematic from a theological perspective, and the practical policies arising from it that sanction even late-term abortions contravene the near-consensus position of classical jurists and is rightly seen as an assault on inviolable human life. For this reason, this essay will not pay any particular attention to this view.

Several people pushed back against this permissive attitude by arguing that abortion is essentially prohibited in Islam in all but the direst of situations, such as when the life of the mother is at genuine risk. This opinion has a sound precedent in the legal tradition and is the mainstream view of some of the legal schools, but it has often been presented in a manner that fails to acknowledge the normative pluralism that exists on the matter in the shariah and rather perniciously presents these alternative opinions as ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’. Similarly, those who favour the more lenient view found in other legal schools are often seen characterizing the stricter opinion as ‘right-wing’ or reflective of the Christianization of Islamic law. Despite having legal precedent on their side, both groups engaged the abortion question in a manner that was rather superficial and fundamentally problematic.


Did Jurists Only Permit Abortion in ‘Dire’ Circumstances?

I will begin this essay by offering a corrective to the mistaken notion that classical jurists only permitted abortions in cases of necessity, an assertion that has become very common in current Muslim discourse on abortion in America. One need not look much further than the Ḥanafī school to realize that this claim is incorrect. Though there are opinions within the school that only permit abortion before 120 days with the existence of a valid excuse, the view of several early leading authorities was that abortion was unconditionally permissible (mubāḥ) before this period and/or prior to the physical form and features of a fetus becoming clearly discernible.[2] In his encyclopaedic work al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī, Burhān al-Dīn ibn Māza (d. 616/1219) presents two main opinions on abortion in the school:

(i) It is permitted “as long as some physical human features are not clearly discernible because if these features are not discernible, the fetus is not a child (walad)” as per Fatāwā Ahl al-Samarqand. Some scholars asserted that this occurs at 120 days,[3] while others stated that this assertion, though incorrect, indicated that by discernibility jurists intended ensoulment.[4]

(ii) It is disliked because once conception occurs, the natural prognostication is life and so the fetus is granted this ruling at the moment of conception itself. This was the view of ʿAlī ibn Mūsā al-Qummī (d. 305/917-18).[5]

The first opinion of unconditional permissibility was not a solitary one in the school. It was forwarded by many of the foremost Ḥanafī authorities, such as Ḥussām al-Dīn ibn Māza (d. 536/1141),[6] Raḍī al-Dīn al-Sarakhsī (d. 575/1175),[7] Jamāl al-Dīn al-Ghaznawī (d. 593/1196),[8] Zayn al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 666/1267),[9] ʿAbd Allāh ibn Maḥmūd al-Mawṣilī (d. 683/1284),[10] Fakhr al-Dīn al-Zaylaʿī (d. 743/1343),[11] Qiwām al-Dīn al-Kākī (749/1348),[12] Jalāl al-Dīn al-Khawārizmī (d. 767/1365),[13] Kamāl ibn al-Humām (d. 861/1457),[14] Muḥyī al-Dīn Jawīzāda (d. 954/1547),[15] Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Ḥaṣkafī (d. 1088/1677),[16] and several others.[17] The reasoning underlying this view was that prior to a specific period (whether defined by days or by fetal development), a fetus is not a ‘child’ or ‘person’.[18] Therefore, no ruling is attached to it at this stage.[19]

Another opinion in the school, and one that has gained wide acceptance amongst contemporary Ḥanafī jurists, argued that abortion prior to 120 days was disliked and sinful unless carried out with a valid excuse. This view was most famously expressed by Fakhr al-Dīn Qāḍīkhān (d. 592/1196) in his Fatāwā and subsequently supported by the likes of Ibn Wahbān (d. 768/1367),[20] Ibn Nujaym (d. 970/1563),[21] and Ibn ʿĀbidīn (d. 1252/1836).[22] These sources, however, do not define or fully flesh out what constitutes an excuse, sufficing mainly with a single example as illustrative of a case where abortion would be permitted, namely when a woman ceases to produce milk on account of pregnancy and her husband is unable to provide an alternative source of sustenance for their child and fears his or her perishing. Cases of rape, incest, adultery, and other possible excuses are not discussed by most of these authors, and it is not clear whether they would have deemed these valid excuses or not.[23]

The Ḥanafī school, therefore, had three main opinions on the issue: unconditionally permissible prior to a specific time period; unconditionally disliked; and conditionally permissible prior to a specific time period. Of the three, the first view seems to have been the dominant one in the school and held by multiple authorities in virtually every century. The view of conditional permissibility was also a strong one and notably adopted by several later jurists. It is also the view that has gained currency among modern Ḥanafī scholars who are generally not seen forwarding the view of unconditional permissibility.

Some Contemporary Views on Abortion

A wide range of opinions is also found in the discourse of contemporary jurists. Shaykh Muṣṭafā Zarqā (d. 1999) presented a gradated scheme where abortion prior to 40 days was permitted without a “severe excuse”, which included “undertaking necessary travel where pregnancy and giving birth would prove a hindrance, such as for education or for work that requires a couple to move.”[24] He also considered financial strain arising from a child as a valid excuse during this limited time period. According to him, the threshold for a valid excuse would become higher as the pregnancy proceeded beyond 40 days.

Muftī Maḥmūd Ḥasan Gangohī (d. 1996), one of the foremost scholars of the Deobandī school, permitted abortions when conception occurred out of wedlock (zinā).[25]

Muftī Salmān Manṣurpūrī states emphatically that the basis is that abortion is impermissible unless there is a valid excuse before 120 days, such as the life of the mother being at risk, serious consequences to her general health, an actual inability to bear pregnancy, clear harm or danger to one’s current children, and adultery, but not fear of economic difficulty nor the decision not to have children.[26]

In Fatāwā Dār al-ʿUlūm Zakariyya, Muftī Raḍā’ al-Ḥaqq states that a fetus diagnosed by medical professionals with an incurable and serious disorder that will prove to be an extreme burden on the child and its family is permitted to abort prior to 120 days as per the Islamic Fiqh Academy in Mecca.[27] Elsewhere, he divides pregnancy into three stages. The first stage is when the general form and facial features of the fetus take shape but prior to the formation of its limbs. At this stage, it is permitted to carry out on abortion with a valid and established excuse, such as the fetus suffering from a “dangerous hereditary disease”, “physical abnormality/deformity”, the life of the mother being at risk, or reasonably-established fear of the mother’s “physical and mental health” being impacted. The second stage is when the limbs of the fetus are clearly formed and discernible, and the third stage is after 120 days. In both these stages, the respected Muftī rules that abortion is not permitted except in cases of necessity, such as saving the life of the mother.[28] The permission to abort the fetus is also extended to cases of rape.[29]

Mawlānā Zubayr Aḥmad Qāsmī (d. 2019), a founding member of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, India, argued that the permission to carry out an abortion before ensoulment (even after discernibility) is not simply restricted to cases of necessity (ḍarūra) but includes cases of need (ḥāja), which broadly includes “any situation that entails bodily or psychological harm for the parents or the child and is a cause for continual distress.”[30] Examples of valid excuses include “danger to the general health, mental health, or life of the mother”, pregnancy resulting from rape or fornication (so long as it is not someone who has engaged in the latter habitually), the strong possibility that the child will be born with serious physical abnormalities or defects as determined by a medical professional, and the genuine inability of the parents to raise and maintain/sustain more than one child without it negatively impacting their current children.[31]

Mawlānā Khālid Sayf Allāh Raḥmānī states, “Essentially, abortion is impermissible in Islam, and there is no time period in which it is acceptable to abort a fetus. However, this impermissibly has degrees. In the first scenario (i.e. post-ensoulment) it is a grievous sin and categorically prohibited; in the second scenario (i.e. pre-ensoulment but post-discernment of limbs) it is lesser than this; in the third scenario (i.e. before features/limbs become discernible) it is relatively less severe than the previous two.” He then goes on to rule that abortion is not permitted for the following reasons: not desiring more children; conception out of wedlock; or being physically or mentally unable to care for a child, since others may be able to do so. Excuses that permit abortion before ensoulment include a doctor concluding with reasonable-surety that the child will suffer from a dangerous hereditary disease, physical abnormalities, and deformities, and the life of the mother is at serious risk.[32]

There are stricter views than some of those mentioned above, especially from non-Ḥanafī scholars. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, taking the Mālikī school as his basis,[33] has argued that abortion before 40 days is prohibited “with rare exception.”[34] This view of impermissibility is also held by Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī although he allows for a dispensation to be given to victims of rape.[35]

Shaykh ʿAbd Allāh ibn Bayya also deems abortion at all stages of pregnancy to be sinful to varying degrees except in situations where the life of the mother is at risk.[36]

Shaykh Wahba al-Zuhaylī (d. 2015) ruled that abortion was impermissible from the moment of conception “except in cases of necessity” such as being afflicted with cancer or an incurable disease.[37]

Framing the Problem: Basic Levels of Engaging the Law

The discussion so far makes one point quite evident: there are an array of opinions on the issue of abortion ranging from the extremely restrictive to the more permissive. Though ‘difference of opinion’ (ikhtilāf) has generally been viewed as one of the outstanding and unique features of Islamic legal discourse, it is precisely the range of views that exist in the tradition on abortion that partly plays a role in the problematic approaches to the issue seen amongst certain Muslims. It is not so much the differences themselves that are the issue, but the manner in which particular opinions are selected by individuals who subsequently propagate them to the community as binding doctrine.

To better understand this, one can broadly identify four basic levels of engagement with religious law applicable to Muslim leaders and scholars in the West in the context of the abortion issue,[38] which often overlap with one another: (a) personal, (b) academic, (c) fatwā, public preaching, and irshād, and (d) political.

(a) The Personal

The ‘personal’ level concerns an individual’s own practice where he or she can follow the legal school (or trusted scholar) of their choosing or decide on the rulings that govern their lives when possessing the ability to do so. This level does not directly concern anyone but the individual himself.

(b) The Academic

The ‘academic’ level in the current context refers primarily to a process of study, reflection and deduction, and research to arrive at a personal conclusion regarding some aspect of the law that is undertaken in conversation with a guild of peers and not the general population. Such academic activity is often theoretical, abstract, and conceptual, and even when it addresses more practical concerns, it constitutes a general articulation of an opinion, not an individualized responsa, that others engage with as members of a scholarly class. This scholarly class includes the ʿulamā’ and others whose input is relevant to a particular issue.

(c) Fatwā, Irshād, and Public Preaching

The realm of fatwā is exclusively for a qualified scholar. Here, the scholar enters most directly into the practical implementation of a legal ruling. Fatwā does involve an academic process, and it is often conveyed by a jurist as a universal ruling in accordance with his academic conclusions. However, the practice of fatwā is commonly understood as an answer directed by a qualified jurisconsult (muftī) to an individual (mustaftī) who requires guidance on a particular religious matter. The jurisconsult providing said individual with an answer is now tasked with translating the abstract, theoretical, and academic into a practical solution, which requires taking into account the circumstances of the questioner.[39]

The delicateness of this matter has led some scholars to compare the relationship of a jurisconsult with the questioner to that of a doctor and his patient.[40] Indeed, the answer that a scholar provides a questioner may not be fully in accordance with the theoretical and abstract conclusions the former has reached in an academic setting, it may disregard an opinion that the jurisconsult otherwise deems a valid legal interpretation because its application is not appropriate in the specific case at hand, it may be strict or lenient, in accordance with the legal school of the scholar or a dispensation from another, and it may be inapplicable to anyone but the questioner. Further, a fatwā is non-binding (unlike a judicial court ruling) and does not negate other valid opinions or peoples’ choice to follow them. This is important to note in contexts where a fatwā is issued to communicate a universal rule.

In many cases, the answer that is provided to a person is not presented as a fatwā but merely a form of religious advice or irshād. Though there is presumably a difference between these two concepts, they are sometimes indistinguishable in a Western context. Irshād has a seemingly less formal quality to it, and it can be offered by a non-scholar though the prerequisite of sound knowledge still remains. Like fatwā, the proffering of religious advice and guidance can assume a more public form and have an academic flavour to it. The articles written by non-scholars on the blogosphere, lectures and speeches delivered by speakers, and religious counsel extended to others falls within this general category of irshād. For those in leadership roles, the public nature of their work means that high standards are required even here when it comes to addressing and conveying religious issues of a complex or delicate nature.

(d) The Political

If the issuance of a fatwā and providing religious advice is a delicate matter, the process of forming, advocating for, and/or enacting laws on the political level is far greater in this regard. Such laws are made in the context of human societies and affect large swaths of people who objectively vary in their circumstances – individual, social, religious/ideological, and economic. Unlike a fatwā or irshād, once a law has been settled upon by the state, it becomes binding upon an entire population and any reasonable alternative ceases to hold validity in practice at least until the law is reviewed and amended. Exemptions are only tolerated when affirmed by the law itself. Further, law interacts with and influences society in complex ways. This is true for all forms of law, not just ones that are state-enacted.

A core question in legal philosophy is what the law ought to be or what makes a law good. The ‘good’ is a moral concept and might be described as one that is essentially contested in so far as people differ over its conception and the criteria for its application. Some emphasize the consequences of a rule (consequentialism), while others favour a deontological moral ethic or one that is virtue-centred. Each of these families of theories subsume within them further particular theories that differ with one another. There are also considerations of fairness, equity, distributive justice, enforceability, practicality, and/or efficiency that those evaluating the law might assign significant value to. These notions of morality and the good influence policy-making and legal systems.

How do Muslims approach this issue? Islam is viewed by Muslims as a comprehensive moral and philosophical system where the moral value of an act is determined by the divine will. It is the commands and prohibitions of God that render an action good or evil, and under this divine command theory, revelation is the primary source for moral knowledge.[41] However, this legal notion of moral value is not as straightforward as it sounds since a significant number of legal rulings are probabilistic in nature and differed upon. Consequently, the moral value attached to these rulings lack a decisive character, which engenders a plurality of moral outlooks. This pluralism is an indelible feature of the tradition itself creating a paradox whereby Muslims can affirm that good and evil are known through revelation, while recognizing that differences concerning moral judgments are part of the moral vision of revelation itself.

This raises important questions regarding the political approach a minority Muslim population in the West might take regarding the abortion issue. Should Muslims seek to accommodate a pluralism justified by tradition and avoid commandeering the state to coercively impose laws that negate the right of people to follow an acceptable and mainstream Islamic legal opinion?

Should Muslims simply support restrictions on abortion practices that contravene the consensus position of Islam? Or should Muslims seek to promote an opinion, or some combination of opinions, among those found in the legal schools on the basis of a reasonably defined criteria that assesses the issue holistically from the perspective of the theological, legal, ethical, and the public good?

Indeed, there are many classical opinions whose validity scholars did not accept, others that were prima facie valid but not put into practice, and classical jurists themselves erected systems to keep a check on legal chaos resulting from people being allowed to arbitrarily follow any opinion with a basis in precedent. Yet, Muslim societies always tolerated differences of opinion, and for most of its history, people living in these societies had recourse to various scholars from multiple legal schools. Unlike the centralizing and homogenizing tendencies of the modern nation-state, Islamic law was centrifugal and operated on a grass-roots level to produce self-governing societies. In many periods, this diversity was even found in judicial settings where courts were established for each of the legal schools. This was extended to non-Muslim populations living under Islamic governments as well who were accorded a high degree of autonomy. While this might strike some as a thing of the past, a nostalgic yearning for a bygone era, there are many lessons the community can draw from the attitudes and approaches of past societies.

In a political context, the notion of the ‘public good’ (maṣlaha) is particularly relevant given the scope and consequences of legislative actions, but it is a notoriously complicated one to pin down and, like the ‘good’, might be described as essentially contested. Even the basic question “who will this law or opinion impact, and in what manner” takes one into a complex maze of considerations and perspectives that demand careful attention and thought. It is hard to imagine any informed answer to this question without the input of a variety of experts. While Muslims are not quite in a position to craft legislation, influential religious activists and scholars who advocate for specific legislation and/or discourse on it to the wider community should keep the above points in made for any advocacy that proceeds in the name of religion is one that must be approached with care and seriousness.


Identifying the Problem: Beyond Personal Preferences, Emotions, and Selective Madhhab Picking

With this framework in mind, it is now possible to identify a major problem in current American Muslim discourse on abortion, which is that it does not meaningfully engage any of the levels described above save the personal. The distinction between these various engagement contexts is hardly recognized. Most public discourse on abortion promotes one traditional opinion over another based not on a rigorous standard that is grounded in revelation, theology, legal theory, ethics, the public good, and a keen awareness of human nature, the individual, political, social, and ideological currents and factors, historical trends, and the challenges of the contemporary world, but seemingly on personal opinions based on little more than a reaction to a perceived ideological threat, individual proclivities, or pure taqlīd. The mainstream opinions of the legal school simply act as tools of legitimation for one’s personal view.

The Problem of Imposition

On a personal level, this is not a problem per se, and people have their reasons to select certain views as opposed to others and even vociferously promote them in some limited capacity to friends, colleagues, or family over a session of tea or a short-lived social media feud with random individuals. However, for those in positions of leadership and influence, this cannot be the basis for a fatwā, general communal irshād, or public advocacy impacting millions of people. The imposition of the personal onto these areas in this manner is both ill-advised and potentially harmful. Even the conclusions reached by a scholar on the basis of sound academic research may be put aside in these contexts, i.e. fatwā and political activism/legislation, when the scholar feels that competing considerations and interests demand so. Thus, a scholar may believe in a reading of revelation that is extremely restrictive on abortion but recognizing the probabilistic nature of his interpretation and the variety of individual circumstances, the ethical norms of ease and warding off hardship, profound societal and economic changes, complex and strained community and family structures, the advice of other experts, and the general public good chooses not to advocate for this view as a matter of policy to be implemented as law or provided to a specific individual as a legal edict.

The Sunna Imperative for Leniency, The Lack of Depth of the Lenient

It is often forgotten that a peculiar response by some classical jurists to the degenerated state of society was not in toughening up legal prescriptions but relaxing them: “Our time is not one of avoiding the doubtful (shubuhāt), meaning if a person only avoids the impermissible, it is sufficient.”[42] This was an ethical consideration influencing the judgment of the jurist who saw it not as compromising religion nor a dereliction of his duty but part of the guidance of the sunna itself where facilitating the affairs of people was deemed important.[43] As Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad states commenting on the instruction of al-Birgivī (d. 981/1573) not to give the laity the more difficult opinion on an issue validly differed upon:

This, of course, is a Prophetic counsel. The ego doesn’t always like giving people easy options because we assume it is because of our laziness or some kind of liberal Islam. For al-Birgivī it is taqwā to give the ordinary Muslims the easier interpretations… but nowadays, we tend to assume that the narrower you are, the less compromises you make, the more the West will be angry and, therefore, the better the Muslim you must be.[44]

The Prophetic counsel that Shaykh Abdal Hakim refers to is known to many: “Make things easy and do not make them difficult.” This attitude of facilitating matters for people, granting them leniency, and not repulsing them with harshness and difficulty is a part of Islam. As Imām al-Shāṭibī stated, the removal of hardship (rafʿ al-ḥaraj) is a decisively established foundational principle in the shariah.[45] From this foundational principle arises some of the most important legal and ethical principles in the Islamic tradition, such as hardship necessitates ease, there is no harm nor reciprocating harm, harm is lifted, the lesser of two evils, taking into account the consequences of an act, custom as a source of law, and more. In fact, some jurists opined that when the evidence for an issue was contradictory or conflicting, the more lenient opinion was to be given preference due to the generality of revelatory texts affirming ease in the shariah.[46]

But there is a problem. Many of those who promote and relay the lenient Ḥanafī opinion of unconditional permissibility approach it in a manner that lacks substance. On the academic plane, even basic questions regarding this position are not addressed or understood, much less entertained. Take, for example, the difference between the statement of Ḥanafī jurists that abortion is impermissible after the physical features of the fetus become discernible and the statement of others in the school that this impermissibility comes into effect after a 120-day period. Are these the same? Who in the madhhab held these positions? Is there a clear preference for one or the other? How was discernibility understood? What features needed to be discernible? Did discernibility refer to what is normally observable by humans or to what is discernible by modern embryogenesis? How have contemporary jurists addressed this issue? Then there is the matter that one is hard-pressed to find a single contemporary Ḥanafī jurist who favours the view of unconditional permissibility. What does this reveal about this opinion and the possibility of critically evaluating past opinions that fall within the scope of differences of opinion?[47]

These questions largely fall within the parameters of an intra-school discussion and do not even begin to address the broader social and political considerations mentioned earlier.

Here, the sheer fact that there were over six-hundred thousand abortions reported in America in 2015, the latest year for which statistics exist from the CDC, should be alarming to people and cannot be callously dismissed.

Though the overwhelming majority of these occurred well within a 120-day period (≤13 weeks’ gestation, which is measured from the first day of the woman’s last menstruation and not from the day of conception), most of those who obtained these abortions were unmarried women who did so in non-dire circumstances.[48] The culture of sexual freedom out of which the abortion movement emerged and its ideological grounding in notions of bodily autonomy and personal choice cannot be ignored in this discussion.[49] Nor can the devaluing of family and motherhood,[50] the practice of female foeticide, the increasingly materialistic outlook of society, and its mechanistic view of human beings.

Additionally, some Muslims seem largely oblivious to the fact that abortion politics link to many other issues that have little do with abortion itself, such as assisted suicide or end-of-life care. In a famous district court case on assisted suicide, Compassion in Dying vs. Washington, it was Planned Parenthood vs. Casey that was cited as an important precedent to rule that a ban on physician-aided suicide was unconstitutional.[51] Clearly, it is not sufficient to make simplistic appeals to leniency to justify promulgating an opinion that leads to such wider consequences. Abortion, in other words, cannot be treated as a ‘stand-alone’ issue with little or no relation to a broader philosophical outlook that downplays a sanctity of life ethic.[52]

Thou Shalt Make No Exceptions, But Should We?

Many of the issues highlighted in the previous paragraph raise serious theological and ethical concerns for Muslims and should push them to reflect on the type of society they wish to create and sustain in America. Is the abortion movement today in line with the moral vision envisioned for society by God and His Prophet (blessings upon him)? Clearly not. But while the seriousness of this crisis cannot be understated, a core question, at least in the context of this debate, is often missed: if it is misplaced and dangerous to forward the most lenient opinion in this context, in what way does the strictest possible position on abortion where exemptions are not even extended to victims of rape and incest ameliorate the current situation? Or to put it differently, how do these social and ideological problems make the strictest possible opinion on abortion the most appropriate one to adopt for the individual and society?

The answer to this question is not usually satisfactorily provided. Generally, such a view returns to a genuine moral belief one holds regarding a fetus being an inviolable living person. This moral belief may be grounded in a preferred reading of revelation, simple adherence to a specific legal school, a reaction to a perceived ideological battle framed in the language of pro-life vs. pro-choice, personal inclinations, or, as is usually the case, some combination of these factors. But the no-exception view is at least initially a personal view one holds, which is then forwarded as a broad religious and political solution. One may wonder why this is an issue. After all, why shouldn’t a person forward what he or she personally believes to be the Islamic ruling on an issue?

Certainly, this is expected especially when it concerns human life, but as stated earlier, it is problematic when that personal view, which it should be noted in this case lacks a decisive legal/moral character from a religious perspective, moves into the realm of fatwā and public advocacy without taking into account the many considerations required to make an informed decision in these areas. This is in addition to the fact that those who hold this view feel perfectly within their rights to tell others to set aside their personal moral views permitting abortions precisely in view to a broader context.

Here, it is worth sharing the response given by Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī when he was asked about abortions for Bosnian Muslim women who were raped during war. After mentioning that his basic view is that abortions are impermissible “from the moment of conception” and “this is what we give preference to”, he states:

However, in cases of need, there is no harm in taking one of the two alternative views (i.e. permissibility before 40 or 120 days), and whenever the excuse is more severe, the dispensation will be more established and manifest, and whenever it is before the first 40 days, it is closer to dispensation.

We know that there are jurists who are very strict on this matter and do not permit abortion even a day after conception… but what is most preferable is a middle path between those who are expansive in granting permission and those who are excessively strict in prohibition.[53]

This is, of course, how knowledge and fiqh operate. They do not merely float around in the world of the abstract but address a complex world of real people, which in the context of fatwā, irshād, and politics often requires setting aside individual feelings and personal adherences to particular legal opinions: “Know that this ikhtilāf [between scholars] may be a reason to provide facilitation and ease, which is one of the higher aims of the shariah affirmed by the unequivocal text of the Qur’an and sunna.”[54]

Too often, many of those who vociferously promote the strictest view on abortion address the issue on the level of the abstract and then transfer it to the practical realm with little further thought. Take, for example, the argument that Muslims should oppose the legalization of abortion because a majority of abortions are due to economic anxiety or a feeling of unreadiness, which in turn return to the increasingly materialistic outlook of society and crumbling family structures.

This materialistic outlook and erosion of the family must be remedied. However, no justification is ever furnished as to why a no-exception abortion stance is the best method to address this social problem, and there is almost no focus on the individual. It never crosses the mind of the proponents of this view that it is the very fact that society is materialistic to its core and the family lay in ruins that causes economic anxiety and feelings of unreadiness to be felt much more palpably and intensely by young, unmarried, pregnant women.

Web MD

By largely confining their analysis and presentation of the issue to ‘materialism’, ‘decay of family’, ‘feminism’, etc., proponents of the restrictive view (inadvertently) divert attention away from the lived realities of people. This leads to neglecting the more concrete conditions and circumstances people are subject to, such as poverty, unemployment, drug abuse, poor health, psychological issues, sexual abuse, incarceration, social inequality and stratification, and the varying abilities of people to cope with life pressures and struggles. This focus away from the individual produces an unsympathetic, even antagonistic attitude, where the solution favoured is uncompromising and rigid. The ethical is erroneously conflated with strictness even though it might entail leniency in recognition of individual and social conditions.

To take one example where these broader considerations come into play, take the issue of pregnancy resulting from rape. Though statistics regarding rape are inconsistent because the crime is so underreported, it is safe to say that hundreds of thousands of women are victims of rape every year with tens of thousands of these rapes resulting in pregnancy (approximately five percent).[55] A significantly high number of rape victims are under eighteen with many actually being under the age of twelve.[56] Victims of rape spend many weeks simply recovering from physical injuries and managing mental health symptoms, which can remain with them for years. Beyond the physical and psychological symptoms common after rape, if a rape victim decides to carry her child to term, she is forced to go through a lengthy and exhausting process to prosecute her rapist in a criminal court and contest custody in a family or dependency court.

The political and legislative context makes matters even more difficult. Not every state has legislation in place allowing for parental rights to be terminated for a rapist. Most states that do have such legislation in place require a criminal conviction of rape beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of evidence possible, with several also requiring a civil court conviction by clear and convincing evidence that conception resulted from rape.

Some states require the rape to be of the first-degree, which is varyingly defined.[57] Generally, the chances of obtaining a conviction of first-degree rape are slim. Not only do rape crimes go unreported in a majority of cases,[58] there are numerous hurdles in the criminal justice system that disadvantage rape victims at every stage of the process, such as ‘rape myths’ that influence police, investigative officers, jurors, and judges.[59]

In most cases, a rapist will plead guilty to lesser crimes in order to avoid prolonged jail time, which would potentially allow him to gain parental rights in states requiring first or second-degree rape convictions for such rights to be terminated.[60] In view of this, one can state that the suggestion by some Muslims that abortion should not be permitted even in such contexts because a woman can simply put her child up for adoption is seriously misinformed and potentially harmful.[61] Is the correct solution in this context to support the most restrictive view on abortion?

Conclusion: Refining our Conceptualization & The Bigger Picture

American Muslims must go beyond simplistic and emotionally-charged approaches to the abortion question. This issue, like many others, cannot be properly addressed through a narrowly defined law, politics, or clash of ideologies narrative, especially at the level of individual fatwā, communal irshād, or political activism, advocacy, and legislation.

Nor can the wider community be shown direction on this issue, or have a course charted for them, merely on the basis of narrowly-informed personal opinions and proclivities neatly presented in the classical opinions of our choosing. Our approach must address the issue through real fiqh, namely deep understanding, where the question of abortion is tackled with an academic rigor that is cognizant of lived realities and is grounded in the ethics and guidance of revelation.

Today in America, a crisis we face is of an activism not based in, or guided by, real scholarship, and a scholarship that is wanting, uninspiring, and disconnected from those it seeks to guide. The first step scholars must take on this issue is to gain a proper and thorough conceptualization of the issue. No sound and effective conclusion can arise without such a conceptualization. This is true for any issue we find ourselves dealing with.

On the level of addressing the broader community, this is not an issue to be decided by an individual but a collectivity of minds coming together to exchange ideas and opinions. The laity should understand that American Muslims will not reach an agreement on this matter, and nor should we demand that they do. People will continue to forward different opinions and solutions. The progression of time will likely result in a plurality of acceptable views emerging within our context. This should not be met with confusion.

Muslims once lived in an age of ambiguity where opinions were confidently held but differences embraced. Today, we live in an age of anxiety, people with confused identities, threatened by modernity and various ideologies, so much so that “the only form of Islam [we] can regard as legitimate is a totalitarian, monolithic one” as Shaykh Abdal Hakim once remarked. Let us avoid this, allow for different perspectives, but demand higher standards from those who seek to guide us and speak on our behalf especially when the matter veers into a space that impacts people and communities in a very real way.

Finally, and most importantly, Muslims must break out of the mindset that social problems can simply be legislated away or solved through polemical battles waged on the internet against pernicious ideologies. The political and social are intimately intertwined, but it is all too common to see many Muslims neglecting the latter while imagining that the activities they are engaged in to address the political are actually meaningful and impactful. In fact, it is often detached from the real world, a mouthing of clichés and idle moralizing on social media platforms that elicits rage and fails to yield actual solutions on the ground. If television altered the meaning of being informed as Neil Postmann asserted, social media has undoubtedly taken things a step further by altering the meaning of ‘taking action’.

The erosion of family, the decay of morality, the rise of materialistic outlooks, the loss of higher purpose and meaning, and the devaluing of life must be addressed more directly through education, the creation of a real community, the nurturing and training of leaders who embody knowledge and wisdom, and the erection of structures that support peoples’ faith and anchor them in times of crisis. It should not be forgotten that these non-legal institutions play an important role in shaping behaviours and promoting social mores.

Muslims should learn from the many conservative Christian activists who, contrary to popular stereotypes, demonstrate an acute awareness of the struggles and anguish that many women contemplating abortion experience. As the prominent pro-life activist Frederica Mathewes-Green states:

This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death. But that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion, since it rescued her from the clutches of her child.

If you were in charge of a nature preserve and you noticed that the pregnant female mammals were trying to miscarry their pregnancies, eating poisonous plants or injuring themselves, what would you do? Would you think of it as a battle between the pregnant female and her unborn and find ways to help those pregnant animals miscarry? No, of course not. You would immediately think, “Something must be really wrong in this environment.” Something is creating intolerable stress, so much so that animals would rather destroy their own offspring than bring them into the world. You would strive to identify and correct whatever factors were causing this stress in the animals.[62]

It is this realization, which arises from a perspective that looks beyond abortion as simply an ideological battle between ‘the feminist’ or ‘the liberal’, that generates a sense of empathy within many conservative Christian activists who are then motivated to assist women in concrete ways.

Take the example of Embrace Grace, a Texas-based non-profit organization, which describes its purpose as “providing emotional, practical and spiritual support for single, young women and their families who find themselves in an unintended pregnancy” and to “empower churches across the nation to be a safe and non-judging place for the girls to run to when they find out they are pregnant, instead of the last place they are welcomed because of shame and guilt.” Christians have set up hundreds of pregnancy care centers across the United States, which, despite issues of concern, provide resources and services to pregnant women. Various churches have set up support groups for single mothers and mothers-to-be, while the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) has set out to confront systemic injustices in society that lead women to seek out abortions, such as poverty.[63]

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad said reaching the golden mean requires that we think and make sacrifices. It is time for leaders, thinkers, and scholars in our community to begin thinking more deeply and contemplatively about the issue of abortion in its various contexts, and it is time for our community to sacrifice their time, wealth, and energies in providing concrete solutions and remedies that demonstrate a true concern for both the unborn and the women who carry them.

God alone is our sufficiency.

[1] References to Muslims in this article should be primarily understood as referring to people in positions of leadership and influence. In this article, I discuss some of the technical aspects surrounding the legal debate over abortion, but my intent is to simply provide a brief overview of this aspect of the debate in order for a general audience to appreciate some of the complexities of the topic.

[2] Though the term fetus technically refers to the unborn after 8 weeks of gestation, many use it to refer to the unborn throughout the period of pregnancy. I will be using the latter convention for the sake of simplicity.

[3] al-Ḥasan ibn Manṣūr al-Farghānī, Fatāwā Qāḍīkhān, on the margins of Fatāwā Hindiyya (Bulāq: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Amīriyya, 1310 A.H.), 3:410.

[4] Ibn Māza himself framed the ruling in terms of ensoulment. He stated that jurists differed on the permissibility of abortion pre-ensoulment with some permitting it. He then cited the text of Fatāwā Ahl al-Samarqand, which only speaks of discernibility. Qāḍīkhān mentioned how the discernibility of physical features and limbs was “determined” by some as occurring at 120 days. Kamāl ibn al-Humām and others correctly pointed out that observation proves otherwise but proceed to state that the connection made between discernibility and ensoulment shows that scholars intended the latter when expressing the former. Ibn ʿĀbidīn, however, questioned this. I agree for several reasons: firstly, many jurists make no reference to 120 days or ensoulment when presenting this ruling; secondly, discernibility and ensoulment are clearly different stages during the pregnancy, a fact that was known to classical scholars who sometimes applied different terms to these two stages, such as taṣwīr/ṣūra and takhlīq/khalq; and, thirdly, most Ḥanafī rulings premised on determining personhood rely on the discernibility criterion. Given this, there are two possible views in the Ḥanafī school regarding the period before which abortion is permissible: before some of the physical features of the fetus become discernible or prior to ensoulment at 120 days. Additionally, there was discussion in the Ḥanafī school on the features that were to be given consideration when assessing whether a fetus was a ‘person’. These discussions are highly significant in modern debates for if the criterion for personhood is discerning a particular physical form on the basis of observation, this potentially broadens the scope for modern Ḥanafī understandings of the concept of personhood and how/when it is established. I hope to address these issues in a separate paper. See Maḥmūd ibn Aḥmad ibn Māza, al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī fī al-fiqh al-Nuʿmānī, ed. Nuʿaym Ashraf Nūr Aḥmad (Karachi: Idārat al-Qur’ān wa’l-ʿUlūm al-Islāmiyya, 2004), 8:83-84; al-Farghānī, Fatāwā Qāḍīkhān, 3:410; Muḥammad Amīn ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd al-Muḥtār (Būlāq: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Kubrā al-Amīriyya, 1323 A.H.), 1:201.

[5] Ibn Māza, al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī, 8:83-84. It is worth noting that al-Qummī did not say fetus is a life at conception but that it has begun a process that concludes with life.

[6] Ḥussām al-Dīn ʿUmar ibn Māza, al-Fatāwā al-Kubrā (Istanbul: Rāghib Bāshā #619), ff. 96b.

[7] Raḍī al-Dīn al-Sarakhsī, al-Wajīz (Istanbul: Koprulu #684), ff. 116a.

[8] Jamāl al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad, al-Ḥāwī al-Qudsī, ed. Ṣāliḥ al-ʿAlī (Lebanon: Dār al-Nawādir, 2011), 2:326.

[9] Zayn al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Abī Bakr al-Rāzī, Tuḥfat al-Mulūk, ed. Ṣalāḥ Abū al-Ḥajj (Amman: Dār al-Fārūq, 2006), 290.

[10] ʿAbd Allāh ibn Maḥmūd al-Mawṣilī, al-Ikthiyār, ed. Shuʿayb Arna’ūṭ (Damascus: Dār al-Risāla 2009), 4:153.

[11] ʿUthmān ibn ʿAlī al-Zaylaʿī, Tabyīn al-Ḥaqā’iq Sharḥ Kanz al-Daqā’iq (Multan: Maktaba Imdādiyya, n.d.), 2:166.

[12] Amīr Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Kākī, Miʿrāj al-Dirāya (Istanbul: Koprulu #619), ff. 395b.

[13] Jalāl al-Dīn ibn Shams al-Dīn al-Khawārizmī, al-Kifāya Sharḥ al-Hidāya, on the margins of Fatḥ al-Qadīr (Cairo: Maṭbaʻat al-Maymaniyya, 1901; reprint Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, n.d.), 3:373.

[14] Kamāl ibn al-Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr (Cairo: Maṭbaʻat al-Maymaniyya, 1901; reprint Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, n.d.), 3:372-73.

[15] Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn Ilyās Jawīzāda, al-Īthār li-Ḥall al-Mukhtār, ed. Ilyās Qablān (Istanbul: Maktabat al-Irshād, 2016), 4:98.

[16] Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Ḥaṣkafī, al-Durr al-Mukhtār (Lebanon: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2002) 197.

[17] I am usually disinclined to list names of jurists in this manner when relating who held a specific legal opinion. One reason for this is that it creates the mistaken illusion that every one of these jurists came to this conclusion on the basis of their individual ijtihād when it may in fact simply be an exercise in taqlīd. Thus, one finds that most of these authors merely relate verbatim those who preceded them without any additional comments. However, it still indicates that these jurists accepted the ruling in question as the position of the school without qualms.

[18] When does a fetus qualify as a ‘person’ or a ‘human’? What are the necessary and sufficient features for personhood? Does personhood correspond to the beginning of life? If not, when does life begin? How is this connected to ensoulment? When does ensoulment occur? When does a fetus have moral standing? What is the nature of this moral standing over the course of a pregnancy? These are central questions in classical and modern debates on abortion. Sometimes, one finds that ‘person’, ‘human’, ‘life’, and related terms, are not properly defined, which is a problem given that conclusions regarding abortion are often premised on their proper conceptualization. Further, when attempts at proper definition are undertaken, people naturally come to different conclusions. For example, some modern pro-life philosophers argue that ‘persons’ are individuals of a rational nature and a fetus has no capacity for sentience, at least not until mid-gestation. Conception, therefore, cannot mark the beginning of a person. Yet even here, some scholars note that the fetus is a potential person. Therefore, it has some moral value and standing, but others counter with a “person-affecting restriction” that argues that merely potential people possess no moral claims. Some people work under material assumptions regarding the nature of the mind and opine that a moral person must be a ‘self’ and a necessary condition for something to be a self is some form of electrical brain activity. The bioethicist, Baruch Brody (d. 2018), also relied on this criterion of brain waves in his conception of personhood. Jane English presents a range of features or ‘factors’ that she views as being found in typical conceptions of a person: biological, psychological, rationality, social, and legal. There are religious conservative thinkers who define being human on the basis of genetics. John T. Noonan stated, “The positive argument for conception as the decisive moment of humanization is that at conception the new being receives the genetic code. It is this genetic information which determines his characteristics, which is the biological carrier of the possibility of human wisdom, which makes him a self-evolving being. A being with a human genetic code is man.” Many religious conservatives also maintain that there is no moment during pregnancy that can be identified as conferring moral significance on the unborn, i.e. it possesses moral standing before birth and after. Thus, brain waves, sentience, quickening, viability, physical human form, etc., are given no consideration as points at which moral standing is affirmed for the fetus and prior to which it is denied. For important early works on this topic see John T. Noonan, The Morality of Abortion: Legal and Historical Perspectives (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970); Jane English, “Abortion and the Concept of a Person,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 5, no. 2 (1975): 233-43; Baruch Brody, Abortion and the Sanctity of Life (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1975); Stephen Buckle, “Arguing From Potential,” Bioethics 2, no. 3 (1988): 226–253; Mary Anne Warren, Moral Status: Obligations to Persons and Other Living Things (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Michael Tooley, Abortion and Infanticide (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983); Richard Warner, “Abortion: The Ontological and Moral Status of the Unborn,” Social Theory and Practice 3 (1974). The literature on this is vast.

Classical jurists of Islam were guided fundamentally by revelation in their answers to these questions, but they still had substantial disagreements. Some identified a fetus as a person from the moment of conception, others as potentially so, yet others as a person only when its physical features became discernible, while some seemingly assigned no status to it at any fetal stage prior to ensoulment. When it came to ensoulment, the majority said this occurred at 120 days, while others said 40 days. Some equated ensoulment with personhood, while others distinguished between them. There were other conceptual frames utilized in discussions concerning the fetus as well, such as dhimma and ḥuqūq, being ‘animate’ or ‘inanimate’, a constituent part (juz’) of the mother or a separate self (nafs), and so forth. This occasioned a degree of ambiguity regarding the moral standing of the fetus at various stages of pregnancy. For example, Imām al-Ghazālī prohibited abortion at all stages of pregnancy but stated that the sin of doing so is less severe in earlier stages than later ones. Some jurists deemed it permissible to undergo an abortion due to a minor excuse in the first 40 days, requiring a more serious excuse from that point up until 120 days, and impermissible in all but the direst of situations following ensoulment. The fetus, therefore, seems to have a diminished moral standing at the beginning of the pregnancy and full moral standing post-ensoulment even in the eyes of jurists who affirmed personhood from conception. This is also reflected in rulings concerning financial compensation (ghurra) and expiation (kaffāra) owed by someone who causes a woman to miscarry. Meanwhile, many Ḥanafīs seemed to have assigned no moral status to the fetus before it had a discernible human form. The moral standing of the fetus was also influenced by the manner of conception with some jurists suggesting that a fetus conceived out of wedlock was not similar to a fetus that was conceived through a religiously sanctioned relationship. Besides revelation, observation played an important role in these determinations, as did the specific legal traditions jurists operated within. Today, science and embryology have guided the conclusions of many scholars, which has raised questions regarding the epistemological and interpretive value of the former. There is arguably a need to go beyond limited legal conceptions of personhood and life and engage in deeper theological and philosophical discussions on this matter.

[19] This ruling was consistent with several others in the school regarding whether a miscarried fetus is named, shrouded, and washed, whether a miscarriage concludes the waiting-period of a pregnant woman, and even whether a fetus is resurrected in the next-life. These rulings, among others, returned to whether the miscarried or stillborn fetus was actually considered a child/person, which in turn related to the formation and discernibility of its physical features. I believe this strengthens the view that discernibility of physical features was the main criterion for personhood in the Ḥanafī school. For some of these rulings see Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī, al-Aṣl, ed. Mehmet Boynūkālin (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 2012), 1:296, 4:415, 481, 5:144. This interconnectedness of legal doctrine, or its organic unity, is expressed in a famous aphorism, “The law is a seamless web.” These discussions are also present in the other three legal schools.

[20] Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Wahhāb ibn Wahbān, ʿIqd al-Qalā’id wa-Qayd al-Sharā’id, ed. ʿAbd al-Jalīl al-ʿAṭā (Damascus: Maktabat al-Fajr, 2000), 195.

[21] Zayn al-Dīn ibn Nujaym, al-Baḥr al-Rā’iq (Cairo: al-Maṭbaʿa al-ʿIlmiyya, 1893; reprint by H.M. Saeed, n.d.), 3:215.

[22] Muḥammad Amīn ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd al-Muḥtār (Būlāq: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Kubrā al-Amīriyya, 1323 A.H.), 2:388-89.

[23] The Hidāya mentions that a child conceived out of wedlock is still muḥtaram and so cannot be aborted. Imām ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī mentions that this only applies to a fetus that has reached the stage of post-discernibility. He then goes onto state that the fatwā position in his time is that it would be permissible pre-discernibility and post-discernibility. See Burhān al-Dīn al-Marghinānī, al-Hidāya Sharḥ Bidāyat al-Mubtadī maʿa Sharḥ al-ʿAllāma ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī, ed. Naʿīm Ashraf Nūr Aḥmad (Karachi: Idārat al-Qur’ān wa’l-ʿUlūm al-Islāmiyya, 1417 A.H.), 3:25.

[24] Muṣṭafā Zarqā, Fatāwā (Damascus: Dār al-Qalam, 2010), 285.

[25] Maḥmūd Ḥasan Gangohī, Fatāwā Maḥmūdiyya (Karachi: Idārat al-Fārūq, 2009), 18:321.

[26] Sayyid Muḥammad Salmān Manṣurpūrī, Kitāb al-Nawāzil (Muradabad: al-Markaz al-ʿIlmī lil-Nashr wa’l-Taḥqīq, 2016), 16:248-81.

[27] Muftī Raḍā’ al-Ḥaqq, Fatāwā Dār al-ʿUlūm Zakariyya (Karachi: Zam Zam Publishers, 2015), 6:756.

[28] Ibid., 6:755.

[29] Ibid., 6:763.

[30] Zubayr Aḥmad Qāsmī, “Khāndānī Manṣūbabandī,” in Jadīd Fiqhī Mabāḥith (Karachi: Idārat al-Qur’ān, 2009), 1:332.

[31] Ibid., 1:331-32.

[32] Khālid Sayf Allāh Raḥmānī, Kitāb al-Fatāwā (Karachi: Zam Zam Publishers, 2008), 6:218-226

[33] The relied-upon position in the Mālikī school prohibits abortions almost entirely even if done prior to ensoulment, which Mālikī jurists opine as occurring at 40 days.


[35] Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, Fatāwa al-Muʿaṣara (Cairo: Dār al-Qalam, 2005), 2:541-50.

[36] ʿAbd Allāh ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā wa-Fiqh al-Aqaliyyāt (UAE: Masār lil-Tibāʿa wa’l-Nashr, 2018), 577-78.

[37] Wahba al-Zuhaylī, al-Fiqh al-Islāmī wa-Adillatuhu (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 1985), 3:557.

[38] The delineation and explanation I have presented here should not be seen as a comprehensive exposition of the concepts being discussed. Rather, it should be seen as a basic explanatory framework to understand the problem I wish to highlight in the next section. I have intentionally left out many details surrounding fatwā, siyāsa, taqlīd, etc., for the sake of the average reader.

[39] Muḥammad Kamāl al-Dīn al-Rāshidī, al-Miṣbāḥ fī Rasm al-Muftī wa-Manāhij al-Iftā’ (Deoband: Ittiḥād Book Depot, n.d.), 61-62 in the Takmila; Ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā, 28-29, 230.

[40] al-Rāshidī, al-Miṣbāḥ, 28.

[41] ʿ Abd al-Malik ibn Yūsuf al-Juwaynī, Kitāb al-Irshād ilā Qawāṭiʿ al-Adilla fī Uṣūl al-Iʿtiqād, ed. Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Raḥīm (Cairo: Maktabat al-Thaqāfa al-Dīniyya, 2009), 210-11. This is admittedly a simplification of a very complex debate on the role of reason, its meaning and limitations, its relationship to revelation, deontological vs teleological theories of Islamic normative ethics, and more. These were issues of fundamental debate between the great theological schools, namely the Ashʿarīs, Māturīdis, and the Muʿtazila.

[42] Ibrāhīm ibn Ḥusayn Bīrīzāda, ʿUmdat Dhawī al-Baṣā’ir li-Ḥall Muhimmāt al-Ashbāh wa’l-Naẓā’ir, ed. Ilyās Qablān & Ṣafwat Kawsa (Istanbul: Maktabat al-Rushd, 2016), 2:415.

[43] This is also seen in the tradition of rukhas, or dispensations, and ḥiyal, or legal stratagems/loopholes.

[44] From his Paradigms of Leadership (6) lecture series.

[45] Ibrāhīm ibn Mūsā al-Shāṭibī, al-Muwāfaqāt, ed. Mashhūr Ḥasan (Cairo: Dār Ibn ʿ Affān, 1997), 1:520.

[46] For reference to this see Ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā, 273-75.

[47] One might state that these people are simply engaging in a form of taqlid. This is fair, but there is still a level of diligence and rigor expected from anyone who wishes to publicly opine on a matter of such nature.


[49] Take the following statements made by Judith Thomson in her well-known defence of abortion, which continues to be loudly echoed by the pro-choice movement: “My own view is that if a human being has any just, prior claim to anything at all, he has a just, prior claim to his own body” and “No doubt the mother has a right to decide what shall happen in and to her body.” The violinist analogy she forwards, among others, expresses this point quite clearly. See Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 1, no. 1 (1971): 48, 54.

[50] The sociologist Kristen Luker noted over three decades ago that pro-life and pro-choice activists were mainly divided due to their differing views on the meaning of sexuality, motherhood, and the role of women. See Kristin Luker, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Berkeley (California: University of California Press, 1984), especially Ch 7.

[51] Compassion in Dying v. Washington, 850 F. Supp. 1454 (WD Wash. 1994). This was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997.

[52] The phrase ‘sanctity-of-life’ has featured prominently in theological, political, and biomedical ethical discussions related to abortion and end-of-life questions. Some members of congress, for example, have tried repeatedly to introduce a ‘Sanctity-of-Life Act’ to protect the unborn. However, the origins, meaning, and application of the phrase remain unclear and heavily debated. For a basic overview see the edited volume Sanctity of Life and Human Dignity (Boston: Springer Dordrecht, 1996).

[53] al-Qaraḍāwī, Fatāwa al-Muʿaṣara, 2:609-13.

[54] Ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā, 273.

[55] The Federal House Bill 1257 that passed in 2015 as the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act cites between 25,000 and 32,000 pregnancies from rape annually but this is almost certainly an underestimate.

[56] For details on these and other related statistics see

[57] For detailed information regarding state statutes and provisions on the termination of pregnancy in contexts of children born as a result of sexual assault see

[58] For statistics on this see the Department of Justice Criminal Victimization analysis (revised, 2018) at There are several reasons why women choose not to report such crimes, which include fear of retaliation, shame and guilt, and a belief that police will not be able to help them.

[59] For a brief discussion on existing research around rape myths see Olivia Smith & Tina Skinner, “How Rape Myths Are Used and Challenged in Rape and Sexual Assault Trials,” Social & Legal Studies 26, no. 4 (2017): 442-45.

[60] Rachael Kessler, “Due Process and Legislation Designed to Restrict the Rights of Rapist Fathers,” Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy, no. 10, vol 1 (2015): 199-229.

[61] There is a sensitive discussion surrounding the definition of rape in Islamic law specifically as it relates to intimate married partners. I have ignored this issue because it would distract from the main purpose of this article.


[63] There have been initiatives in the Muslim community directed at addressing these pressing issues, such as the work of Dr. Aasim Padela of the University of Chicago and his Initiative on Islam and Medicine, Dr. Rafaqat Rashid and the work of al-Balagh Academy, Dr. Mansur Ali of Cardiff University and his research on bioethics, and several others. This is not to mention the many individuals who have tried to create practical spaces to assist people who may find themselves in difficult life circumstances. While there is much more to do, the efforts of these people should not go unnoticed.

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14 Short Life Lessons From Studying Aqidah

Lessons I learned Studying Theology (Aqidah) with a Local Islamic Scholar in Jordan

Hamzah Raza



I sit here in the Jordanian heat, with a kufi on and prayer beads in my hand. I watch as young kids play soccer with their kufis and kurtas on in the streets. They go on and on until the Adhan interrupts their game. I think of how different the kids back home in the United States are. Due to the rules for living in this quaint Jordanian neighborhood, the kids are not allowed to play video games, use social media, or watch television. This is the Kharabsheh neighborhood on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan.

I have spent the past two months living in this community. It is a community so similar to, yet so different from any community I have ever lived in. In many ways, it is just like any other community. People joke around with one another, invite people over for dinner, have jobs, go to the gym, and do other pervasive events of everyday life. But in many other respects, the community is different from most in the world today. Many of those living here are disciples (mureeds) in the Shadhili Sufi order. Sufism has faced a bad reputation in many parts of the world today. The stereotype is that Sufis are either not firm in their commitment to religious law (Sharia), or lax in their understanding of Islamic theology (aqidah). Far from the stereotype, I have never met any people in my life more committed to the Sharia. Nor have I ever met people so committed to staying true to Islamic orthodoxy. Just in seemingly mundanes conversations here in Kharabsheh, I find myself learning a plethora of life lessons, whether that be in regard to Islamic jurisprudence, the ontology of God, or the process of purifying one’s heart.

I have compiled a list of a few lessons I learned in studying an elementary aqidah (theology) text with a disciple of Shaykh Nuh, who is a scholar of theology and jurisprudence in himself. Without further adieu, here are some of the lessons I learned.

1) If you want to know the character of a man, ask his wife. People may think someone is great, but his wife will tell you how he actually is. One of the greatest proofs of the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is that he had 11 wives over his lifespan and they all died upon Imaan (faith).

2) Humans are never static. We are always incrementally changing. No one changes in anything overnight. People are either gradually getting better, or gradually getting worse. Every day, you should sure that you are always improving. Do not get worse. If you only pray your Fard(mandatory) prayers, start to pray Sunnah(recommended prayers). If you are already praying your Sunnah prayers, improve the quality of your prayer or pray nafl (optional prayers).

3) Hope in the Mercy of God, and fear of His Justice, are two wings that we need to balance. If one has too much hope, they will become complacent and think they can refuse to follow God’s rules, and do whatever they want, because God is Merciful. If one has too much fear, they will give up. They will inevitably sin (as all humans do), and lose all motivation to better themselves.

4) The believer has great hope in the Mercy of God, while also great fear in His Justice. It is an understanding of “If everyone were to enter Heaven except for one person, I would think that person is me. And if everyone were to enter Hell except for one person, I would think that person is me.”

5) Whether we do something good or bad, we turn to God. If we do something good, we thank God (i.e. say Alhamdulillah). If we do something wrong, we turn back to God(i.e. say Astagfirullah and/or make tawbah).

6) Everyone should have a healthy skepticism of their sincerity. Aisha (May God be pleased with her) said: “Only a hypocrite does not believe that they are a hypocrite.”

7) You are fighting a constant war of attrition with your carnal desires. Your soul (ruh) and lower self (nafs) battle it out until one party stops fighting. Either your soul gives up and lets your carnal desires overtake you, or your carnal desires cease to exist (i.e. when your physical body dies). Wage war on your carnal desires for as long as you live.

life lessons, aqidah

8) The sign of guidance is being self-aware, constantly reflecting and taking oneself to task. The evidence of this is repenting, and thinking well of others. If we find ourselves making excuses for our actions, refusing to repent for sins, or thinking badly of others, we need to change that.

9) The issue with religious people is that they are often tribalistic and exclusivist. The issue with secular people is that they often have no clear meaning in life, and are ignorant of what lies beyond our inevitable death. One should be able to cultivate this meaning without being tribalistic or arrogant towards others, who have not yet been given guidance.

10) There are philosophical questions regarding free will and determinism. But it is ultimately something that is best understood spiritually. An easy first step is to understand the actions of others as predetermined while understanding your response as acts of free will. This prevents one from getting too angry at what others do to them.

11) Always think the best of the beliefs of other Muslims. Do not be in a rush to condemn people as heretics or kuffar. Make excuses for people, and appreciate the wisdom and experiences behind those who may be seemingly strange in their understanding of things.

12) Oftentimes, people get obsessed with the problems of society and ignore the need to change themselves. We are not political quietists. But we recognize that if you want to turn society around, the first step is to turn yourself around.

13) Do not slam other individuals’ religious beliefs. It leads to arrogance and just makes them more defensive. If you are discussing theology with non-Muslims, be kind to them, even if pointing out flaws in their beliefs. People are more attracted to Islam through people of exemplary character than they are through charismatic debaters or academics that can tear them apart. As my teacher put it rather bluntly, “Don’t slam Christians on the Trinity. No one can actually explain it anyways.”

14) In the early period of Islam, worshipping God with perfection was the default. Then people strayed away and there was a need to coin this term called “Sufism.” All it means is to have Ihsan (perfection or beauty) in the way you worship God, and in the way you conduct each and every part of your life.

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba- Video

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter




Every Muslim knows the Kaaba, but did you know the Kaaba has been reconstructed several times? The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same structure that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon them. From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.

Watch to learn ten things that most people may not know about the Ka’aba, based on the full article Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Ka’aba.

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