By Ustadha Zaynab Ansari
You who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly–if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do.” (The Qur’an, 4:135)
The Prophet Muhammad , God bless and grant his peace, said, “Religion is good counsel. We [Sahaba] asked, ‘To whom?’ He, peace be upon him, replied, ‘To Allah and His Book, and His messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and the masses.’” (Muslim)
“It is said that a man from the Children of Israel acquired much knowledge from books that would fill up eighty vaults. But that knowledge was of no benefit to him. Allah, the Exalted, revealed to the prophet of that time to tell that person, ‘Even if you were study more books to further your knowledge that would still be of no benefit to you as you do not act upon three things: (1) do not fall in love with this world for this world is not the permanent abode for the faithful believers (lit. mu’minin), (2) do not befriend Satan for he is not a friend of the faithful believers, and (3) do not trouble any of Allah’s creation because such is not the nature of any faithful believer.’” 
Disclaimer: The following article represents my views and my views alone. None of what follows should be attributed to the people or organizations with whom I currently work or with whom I have worked in the past. While names and identifying information have been left out, the following accounts are based on verifiable events.
While I welcome comments and questions on this subject, I will not respond to speculation about the identities of the individuals involved in these scenarios. This essay is also not about any particular approach to Islam, school of thought, or minhaj. It is about human behavior.
In the Name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy
People are often curious about my role as a female teacher and speaker in the male-dominated field of “traditional Islam.”  “What does a woman scholar-in-residence do?” I am often asked. To the non-Muslim questioner, my role is seen as a bit of a curiosity, especially given the stock, standard media image of the oppressed Muslim woman. To the Muslim questioner, the question goes deeper. For some women, I am a potential role model for their daughters and a mentor to them. For some men, I represent the rare woman in the circles associated with traditional Islam who is willing to speak in public. I am simultaneously called upon to speak for the women in the audience, while defending the Shar’i (Islamic legal) basis for my presence on stage. Event organizers, typically quite gracious, believe that I contribute to the diverse perspectives they hope to offer to audience members. Often the only woman in a lineup that is otherwise exclusively male, I represent, supposedly, a continuation of the tradition of the scholarly Muslim woman.
At first glance, it may appear as if I am successfully negotiating the gender politics of the American Muslim conference. It is really offstage, however, that the tensions between my public role and private reality collide. While I enjoy learning from and interacting with the teachers, callers, and Shuyukh who attend the conferences, events, and retreats that constitute the American Islamic socio-intellectual scene, I have experienced moments that have given me pause. These are the moments in which the lines between the public world of the “celebrity” Shaykh and his private life become blurred, and the women who inhabit both worlds reach out to me for clarity.
When I first started writing Islamic advice columns, I was completely unprepared for the deluge of questions I would receive from men and women around the world. A laid back former colleague told me the job would not be difficult. “You’ll just be the Muslim version of Dear Abby,” he chuckled. Unless Abby has started fielding questions on Shari’ah law, however, I have come to disagree with his assessment. Over the years, thousands of questions have poured in on every conceivable topic: theology, Qur’anic exegesis, hadith studies, human rights, environmentalism, disability, marriage and family law, sexuality, gender relations, Islamic ritual law, history, politics…the list goes on. I quickly realized that the Muslim (internet) public was consuming and demanding answers at a faster rate than I or any other writer could provide. Perhaps dissatisfied with the limitations of online Islamic answers and quasi-fatawa, prospective students of knowledge—which included women in large percentages—began signing up for classes with their favorite teachers and scholars. They also flocked to retreats, intensives, and conferences, looking for the personal connection that was missing from online forums.
This combination of electronic delivery of Islamic content and personal interaction with scholars and teachers at onsite venues has led to a revolution in traditional modes of Islamic learning.  Suddenly, students did not have to spend thousands of dollars and experience the culture shock of living overseas. They could access sacred texts from the comfort of their home computers—and, increasingly, their smartphones—and even communicate with the teacher in real time using Skype, chat, and other instant messaging applications. In an instant, the distance between student and teacher shrank and the boundaries of decorum that circumscribed the public interactions of males and females shifted and relaxed. The blurring of lines sparked by this technological revolution has resulted in the creation of fan pages for ‘ulama, “friending” unrelated men and women on Facebook, following favorite teacher profiles on social media, and casually messaging heretofore inaccessible people at all times of day and night.
Adab on the Internet
From the perspective of the democratization of Islamic knowledge, the above developments might appear promising. However, from the perspective of adab (etiquette), the “formality between men and women” so keenly articulated by a prominent woman scholar; the integrity of the knowledge itself and its purveyors; and the safety of the family structure; the above developments are alarming. Before I discuss why I find this trend disturbing, let me say a word about the “celebrity” Shaykh. Lest anyone think I am being dismissive toward our ‘ulama, I am not. I do not believe teachers, scholars, and speakers set out to become famous. I pray that all of us serving in a public capacity read and reread Imam Al-Ghazali’s (God rest his soul and sanctify his secret) warning to teachers of sacred knowledge, particularly regarding their susceptibility to arrogance, showing off, and amassing followers.I believe the celebrity Shaykh is a victim of his own success, a product of a techno-obsessed and consumer-driven culture that dictates that every ‘alim, school, and institution market their “authentic” and “traditional” Islamic “products and services” or perish. Moreover, the celebrity Shaykh has become enthroned on a pedestal, the pedestal of unimpeachable piety and character, the pedestal of “see no wrong, do no wrong,” in which we, the adoring students, have cast this very fallible human being as larger than life.
We are doing ourselves and our teachers a tremendous disservice when we elevate them beyond human frailties. Our ‘ulama, teachers, and Mashayikh are not perfect. They are flawed human beings, with the same weaknesses, shortcomings, and challenges with which we struggle. The only perfected human being was the Prophet Muhammad, God bless him and give him peace. And if we read his biography, we realize that even he, peace be upon him, his wives, companions, and associates had to deal with real human problems. So why do we try to ascribe perfection to our teachers and scholars today? It is natural to feel affection for the person who guides and directs us, but are we helping our religious leaders when we declare them beyond reproach?
I contend that we have created a toxic environment for our religious leaders: an environment in which the proper boundaries between student and teacher have become blurred, an environment in which misuse of power is rife, and an environment in which women, in particular, are subject to deception and spiritual abuse. I raise this issue, not to cause dissension (fitna) in the ranks of the Muslims, but to warn our leaders, our elders, and our masses that we have to address this social ill before we lose all credibility when it comes to the Qur’anic injunction to the
“[Believers], you are the best community singled out for people: you order what is right, forbid what is wrong, and believe in God.” (The Qur’an, 3:110).
Adding Up Islam in Public and Private
Our leaders, particularly those who claim to be spiritual guides, must practice what they preach. Our ‘ulama are not politicians, for whom a wide disparity between public image and private conduct is expected. Yes our ‘ulama are fallible, but they have a responsibility to recognize the tensions inherent in their roles, the pitfalls of the celebrity Shaykh culture, and the integrity of the positions they hold. How can our leaders recite platitudes about women’s empowerment and status in Islam publicly, while privately undermining those very rights they claim to cherish? How is it acceptable to publicly proclaim respect for women, while privately deeming them little more than sexual conquests?
It has recently come to my attention that there are well-known individuals who are using their platforms for more than the dissemination of Islamic teachings. There is evidence demonstrating that these individuals are using their positions in circles of sacred learning to groom, recruit, and entice female followers with promises of marriage, access to Shaykhs, study abroad opportunities, and entrée to exclusive socio-spiritual networks. Under the guise of mentoring, these individuals are engaging in private, unsupervised conversations with marriageable members of the opposite sex. These conversations, carried out in the relative anonymity of cyberspace, appear to run the gamut from fairly innocuous exchanges of biographical information (à la pen pals in the pre-computer era) to material that is merely suggestive to thoughts and sentiments that are wildly inappropriate. For those who want to make the excuse that the conversations are a prelude to marriage, I would merely remind them that the individuals involved in this scenario are teachers of Islamic law and, hence, know full well that there are rules surrounding courtship in Islam. I would also point out that when said teacher is engaging in conversations with multiple women at the same time, we also have a math problem. Islamic law only allows a man to marry four wives, so if the already-married teacher is “courting” multiple women at once, only a certain percentage can expect the relationship to become licit. What then of the remaining percentage? Again, a math problem.
One could make the excuse that our ‘ulama are not mathematicians. True, but surely they have some knowledge of Newtonian physics, “for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” After making the cold calculus of choosing and excluding whom to marry from their adoring students, these teachers may very well be able to move on, accepting the next exciting or lucrative speaking engagement. However, the women who were promised marriage and then jilted are having a more difficult time of it. It is not an easy thing to be played, particularly when the player is your favorite Shaykh. One can only imagine what these women’s perception of Islam has become, especially when the Shaykh was their Islam.
As a direct consequence of these individuals’ actions, women have become disillusioned, embittered, and depressed. Every time these individuals raise their voices up to proclaim their sincere love of the deen, these women’s hearts fall just a little more. The harm is even more egregious when these women are actually the ex-wives of Shuyukh. Typically, these women start out as eager students who strike up an online relationship with the Shaykh (or with whom the Shaykh initiates contact), which then descends into banter and flirtation, then promises of commitment, talk of marriage, etc. In some cases, the Shaykh proposes marriage, in other cases, it is the women. The common denominator though, in all situations, is the existence of the first wife. Her presence is often alluded to in online conversations, but her consent for the relationship is rarely sought. She is either said to be “okay with it,” or believed to be able to “deal with it.” In most cases, the first wife is not okay with it, nor is she able to deal with it. In fact, in most cases, the poor woman has no idea the other woman even exists, until it is too late.
Talaq by Text Message
Since the purpose of this essay is to draw attention to the plight of the “other woman,” I will not belabor the point about the first wife, except to say that when her husband’s dalliances and marriages are revealed, the trust between them is irreparably broken. If she is legally married (per the laws of the United States, for example), she may have some means of redress. However, the other woman has no such means. As the clandestine second (or third or fourth) wife of the Shaykh, she has no legal avenues through which to pursue her rights. Her Islamic nikah (marriage contract) is not enforceable, placing her in an extremely vulnerable position. It is a position no one’s daughter or sister should find herself in, but it is happening to good women from good families. As the secret second wife of the Shaykh, the poor woman receives no public recognition or respect. She cannot appear with him in gatherings. She cannot announce herself to the community. And she dare not contact his first wife and speak out lest she be accused of causing fitna. To add insult to injury, the Shaykh, who will not even deign to acknowledge the woman publicly, still retains conjugal access, enjoying all the pleasures of marriage without the responsibility, for, in many cases, he has not provided a marital home nor financial support to the secret second wife. To cap it all off, when he is done with the second wife, the marriage is ended without much ceremony, unless one deems talaq by text message ceremonious. Predictably, when the woman reacts badly, as anyone would under the circumstances, the Shaykh and his followers write her off as “unstable.” 
I will leave everyone with a few thoughts. What is a woman’s broken heart worth? What does a woman’s lost faith mean to us? What would the Prophet, God bless him and give him peace, who conducted his marriages with total transparency, think of us? Is it appropriate to use one’s access to knowledge and teachers as a lure for needy, vulnerable women? Is it fair to marry a woman in secret, knowing one lacks the means to support her? When a man marries behind his wife’s back, does he truly value the marriage bond? When individuals abuse their religious authority in this fashion, are they upholding the integrity of the tradition with which they have been entrusted? Is it not inconsistent to publicly lecture about modesty and the niqab (face veil) for women, yet let one’s guard down in private communication? We need to think very carefully about how we as teachers, scholars, Mashayikh, and students contribute to the blurred lines that have resulted in broken homes, broken hearts, and broken minds.
“By the declining day, man is [deep] in loss, except for those who believe, do good deeds, urge one another to the truth, and urge one another to steadfastness.” (The Qur’an, 103:1-3).
Shaykha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq is a native Southerner with Northern roots. She spent several years studying the core Islamic sciences, including Arabic, jurisprudence, Qur’anic recitation & commentary, Hadith, and Prophetic biography in Damascus, Syria at Abu Nour Masjid’s college preparatory program. Currently, she is the scholar-in-residence at the Tayseer Foundation in Knoxville, TN.
 Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani and Mawlana Muhammad Abdul Jabbar, tr. Habib Siddiqui, Al-Munabbihat: The Counsel (Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust, 2007), 17.
 This invocation and all translations of Qur’anic verses come from the M.A.S. Abdel Haleem Oxford World’s Classics Qur’an. The hadith translation is my own.
 I am enclosing this term in quotation marks given the fact that most observant Muslims would regard themselves as practitioners of a traditional Islam vs. a non-traditional Islam.
 Again, this term is enclosed in quotation marks given that there are a plethora of institutions embodying varying approaches to Islam that lay claim to this mantle. Again, this essay is not about any one particular approach or institution.
 See “Formality between men and women” at http://www.peacespective.org/formality/ (accessed May 7, 2015).
 All conversations enclosed in quotation marks are either paraphrased or quoted directly.
More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid
Of all the challenges that your focus can face in prayer, there are few as insidious as Baby Shark.
Doo-doo-doo doo. Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo. Baby Shark.
If you are not a parent, or have the type of amnesia that parents sometimes develop once their kids grow up, then you might assume that not having kids in the masjid is actually a solution to Baby-Shark induced distraction.
The inconvenient (and often sticky) truth is that not having kids in the masjid is a serious problem, not a solution. No kids in the masjid means an entire generation of the Muslim community growing up outside of the Muslim community.
Restricting the presence of children and assigning masjid priority to fully-formed, quietly attentive, and spiritually disciplined attendees – like adults – is a bit like restricting health club membership to triathletes. You’re already fit. So can we please let someone else use the treadmill, even if they’re not using it as well as you could?
The masjid is the center of the community for all Muslims, not a sanctuary for the preservation of reverent silence. For a more detailed discussion on this, please see this great Soundvision article, Children in the Masjid, Making Space for Our Future.
For suggestions on how to help your children enjoy the masjid without Baby-Sharking the rest of the congregation to tears, I present the following recommendations.
Rather than assume your child will be entertained by nothing but the carpet and how many weird faces they can spot in the bilaterally symmetrical patterns, bring them something to play with. One way to do this is to prepare your child a special bag for the masjid.
Stock it with as many things applicable:
- A reusable water bottle: Select a bottle that your child can drink from on their own, preferably not likely to tip or spill onto the masjid carpet. No one appreciates a soggy sujood
- A nut-free snack: If you think it’s too much trouble to be considerate of people with life-threatening allergies, consider how much trouble it is to bury a child who dies of anaphylaxis. Children share snacks in the masjid, and that’s ok as long as no one dies.
- A small, quiet toy: The dollar store can be tremendously helpful in keeping your inventory fresh and financially feasible. Please be aware of swallowing hazards, since your child is likely to share the toy with others. One hopes.
- A sweater or blanket: Sitting for long periods of time in an air-conditioned building can make anyone cold.
- Art Supplies: Pack crayons, pencils, or markers IF you feel your child can refrain from drawing on the walls, or allowing other, smaller children from doing so. Magic Erasers don’t work on the prayer rug.
Critically- and I do mean critically- don’t let your children access the special masjid bag unless they are in the masjid. The last thing you want is for your child to be bored with its contents before they even make it to prayers. Storing this bag somewhere inaccessible to your child can help keep its contents fresh and interesting longer.
Non-parent tip: Keep allergen-free lollipops in your pocket. Reward the kids sitting nicely (with parents’ permission) and you have killed two birds with one stone.
- You’ve helped a child establish a happy memory and relationship to the masjid.
- Kids with lollipops in their mouths make less noise.
Do not pack:
Balls: Not even small ones, not even for small children. Your child may not have the gross-motor skills to kick or throw a ball at people who are praying, but there will always be children in the masjid who do. They will take your child’s ball, and they will play ball with it, because that’s what balls are for. Consider also the potential damage to light fixtures, ceiling fans, audio/video equipment, and the goodwill of people who get hit, run down, or kicked in the shins. The masjid is just not the place to play ball, even if the floor is green and has lines on it.
Scooters: Do not bring scooters, skateboards, heelies, or other mobility toys that would turn your child a faster-moving object than they already are. Your child’s long-term relationship with the community can be fostered by not crashing into it.
Slime: Slime and carpets do, in fact, go together. They go together so well as to be inextricable of one-another. Please, do not bring slime to the masjid.
Gum: Please, for the love of everyone’s socks, no gum.
Toy Guns, Play-weapons: It should go without saying. And yet, I have seen nerf guns, foam swords, and toy guns in masjid. Apart from the basic indoor etiquette of not sword-fighting, nor launching projectiles in a house of worship, please be sensitive. No one wants to see guns in their masjid.
Non-parent tip: If children playing near you are making “too much noise” smile and find another place to sit if possible. It is not always possible to ignore or move away from disruptions, but glaring, eye-rolling, and making tsk-tsk sounds is not likely to effect long-term change in either the child’s behavior or the parents’ strategic abilities. At best, you will embarrass the parents. At worst, you will push families away from the faith and the community while confirming the opinion that masjids are full of cranky, impatient people who wish kids didn’t exist in the masjid while criticizing Muslim youth for not being there.
Avoid Electronics. But if you can’t…
I am prefacing this suggestion with a disclaimer. Habitually putting your child on a smartphone or tablet so that you can “enjoy” the masjid without the “hassle” of you making sure they behave properly is not good parenting. A child being physically present but mentally absent in the masjid is not a long-term strategy that any parent should get behind.
Having said that, if you do give your kids a tablet or phone in the masjid, please disable Youtube and bring over-ear headphones.
Do not rely on YouTube Kids to take responsibility for your child’s content choices either. Long after Baby Shark has sunk to the depths of the internet, there will always be loud, inappropriate, or just plainly distracting and disturbing things that your child can access on it.
Instead of relying on Youtube at all, install child-friendly apps that you know won’t have external links embedded in their ads, and won’t lead to inadvertent, inappropriate viewing in case your child – or my child sitting next to them – click out of their app and into the great wide world. I highly recommend anything from the Toca Boca suite of apps.
Non-parent tip: If you see a child on a tablet, do not lecture their parent. As a special needs parent, there are times when I too allow my autistic son onto a tablet to prevent a meltdown or try to get just 15 more minutes out of him so I can finish attending a class. Do not automatically assume laziness or incompetence on behalf of parents whose children you see on an electronic device.
Reward for Success, in this life and the next
You show up in the masjid because you hope for a reward from Allah. As an adult, you have the ability to delay the gratification of this reward until well after you die. Your kids, however, don’t.
Motivate your kids with small rewards for small accomplishments as you remind them of the reward that Allah has for them too. You can choose to reward a child after every two rakah, or after every two days. How often you reward them, and what you choose to reward them for depends on their age and their capabilities.
Make dua for your kids when you reward them. If they get a small handful of gummy bears after a good evening at the masjid, pair it with a reminder of the bigger reward too.
“Here’s the ice cream I promised you for doing awesome in the masjid today. May Allah grant you mountains of ice cream in Jannah so big you can ski down them. Ameen.”
Non-parent tip: It’s not your job to discipline the children of others, but you can help praise them. Randomly compliment kids who are sitting nicely, sharing toys, playing quietly, or wearing cute headgear. Their parents will likely not mind.
Reinforce the rules – but define them first.
“Be Good In the Masjid” is a vastly different instruction depending on who you’re instructing. For a teenager, praying with the congregation is reasonable. For a two-year-old, not climbing the congregation is reasonable.
Define your rules and frame them in a positive context that your children can remember. Remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing rather than calling them out for what they are not. For example, no running in the masjid vs. please walk in the masjid.
Avoid saying this:
Try saying this instead:
|Stay out of my purse||Please use the toys in your bag|
|Don’t draw on the walls||Crayons only on the paper|
|No yelling||Please use your “inside” voice|
|No food on the carpet||Please have your snack in the hallway|
|Don’t run off||Stay where I can see you, which is from [here] to [here.]|
|No peeing the carpet||We’re taking a potty break now, and we’ll go again after the 4th rakah’.|
|No hitting||Hands nicely to yourself.|
While it might look like semantics, putting your energy into “To-Do’s” versus the “To-Don’ts” has long-term benefits. If your child is going to hear the same thing from you a hundred times before they get it right, you can help them by telling them what the right thing is. Think of the difference between the To-Do statement “Please use a tissue,” versus the To-Don’t statement of “Don’t pick your nose.” You can tell you kid a hundred times not to pick his or her nose, but if you never tell them to use a tissue, you’re missing the opportunity to replace bad behavior with its functional alternative.
Plan for Failure
Kids don’t walk the first time they try. They won’t sit nicely the first time you ask them to either. Decide what your exact plan is in case you have to retreat & regroup for another day.
- How much noise is too much? Do your kids know what you expect of them?
- Where are the physical boundaries you want your kids to remain in? Do they know what those boundaries are?
- For kids too small to recognize boundaries, how far are you ok with a little one toddling before you decide that the potential danger may not be worth it?
- Talk to your spouse or other children and get everyone on board. Being on the same page can look like different things according to different age groups. A plan of action can be “If we lose Junior Ibn Abu, we’re taking turns in prayer,” or “If you kick the Imam again, we’re all going home.”
- If your child is too small, too rowdy, or too grumpy to sit quietly at the masjid, please take turns with your spouse. The masjid is a sweet spiritual experience that both parents should be able to enjoy, even if that means taking turns.
Don’t Give up
If you find yourself frustrated with being unable to enjoy the masjid the way you did before your child starting sucking on prayer rugs, remember this:
Raising your children with love and patience is an act of worship, even if it’s not the act of worship you thought you were coming to the masjid for. No matter what your expectations are of them – or how far they are from meeting them – the ultimate goal is for your child to love Allah and love the House of Allah.
When they get things right, praise them and reward them, and remind them that Allah’s reward is coming too. When they get it wrong, remind them and forgive them, and don’t give up. The only way children learn to walk is by falling down over, and over, and over again.
Avoiding the masjid because your kids don’t behave correctly is like not allowing them to walk because they keep falling down. The key is to hold their hand until they get it right, and maintain close supervision until you can trust them to manage on their own, InshaAllah.
What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam
Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.
The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.
In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.
It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.
Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.
With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:
“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”
The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.
The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.
While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.
First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.
The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:
One Hundred and Twenty Days:
The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.
This view is shaped by the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood :
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..
“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”
The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.
This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood :
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…
“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”
Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.
Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.
No Excuse Required:
The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.
Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.
Only Under Extreme Risks:
The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.
As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.
Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.
For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.
The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.
This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.
Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.
Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:
Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:
((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))
“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)
Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.
Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.
Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.
As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.
Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr
Make sure you maximize your sadaqah
My life, just like yours, is sooo busy. So naturally, as the tech nerd I am, I turn to tech to help me manage my regular routine including project management apps to manage my daily tasks. I even have a sleeping app that wakes me up at the optimum time (whatever that means!). But even though tech has changed everything in all sectors and helped make efficiencies in my daily life, it had had little impact on my religious activities.
A few years ago, whilst I was preparing for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it hit me – why doesn’t something exist that automates my donations during these blessed nights to catch Laylatul Qadr. Rather than putting a reminder on my phone to bring out my bank card every night and inputting it into a website – why doesn’t something exist that does it for me, solving the problem of me forgetting to donate. After all we are human and it’s interesting that the Arabic word for human being is ‘insan’ which is derived from the word ‘nasiya’ which means ‘to forget.’ It is human nature to forget.
So the techie in me came out and I built the first scrappy version of MyTenNights, a platform to automate donations in the last 10 nights of Ramadan (took two weeks) because I wanted to use it myself! I thought it would be cool and my friends and family could use it too. That same year, nearly 2000 other people used it – servers crashed, tech broke and I had to get all my friends and Oreo (my cat) to respond to email complaints about our temperamental site!
I quickly realised I wasn’t alone in my need – everyone wanted a way to never miss Laylatul Qadr! Two years down the line we’ve called it MyTenNights, and our team has grown to 10, including Oreo, senior developers, QA specialists, brand strategists, creative directors and more. It fast became a fierce operation – an operation to help people all over the world catch Laylatul Qadr!
Last year alone we raised almost $2 million in just 10 days – and that was just in the UK. We’ve now opened MyTenNights to our American, Canadian. South African and Australian brothers and sisters and we’re so excited to see how they use it! We’ve made it available through all the biggest house name charities – Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Helping Hand, Penny Appeal, you name it! All donations go directly to the charity donors choose – all 100% of it.
Looking back at the last couple of years – it feels surreal: The biggest charities in the world and tens of thousands of users who share my need to be certain they’ve caught Laylatul Qadr. Although I hear many impressed with the sheer amount MyTenNights has raised for charity (and that excites me too!), it’s not what motives me to go on. What excites me most is the growing number of people who catch Laylatul Qadr because we made it easier.
I often tell my team that the number of people that use MyTenNights is the only metric we care about, and the only metric we celebrate. It makes no difference to us whether you donate $1 or a million – we just want you to catch Laylatul Qadr and for you to transform your Akhirah, because (after Allah) we helped you do it.
Ismael Abdela is a Law & Anthropology graduate from the London School of Economics. He spent some years studying Islamic Sciences in Qaseem, Saudi Arabia. He is now a keen social entrepreneur. Ismael likes to write about spiritual reflections, social commentary, and tafsīr. He is particularly interested in putting religion in conversation with the social sciences.
Qur’an Contemplations: Openings of Timeless Truths | Sh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel
More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid
Etiquettes of Praying For Your Brother And Sister | Imam Omar Suleiman
Lesson 12 From Surah Al-Kahf
Heart Soothers: Ghassan Al Shorbaji
The Rise of the Scholarly Gig Economy and Fall of Community Development
#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives
How To Build People Up, Not Destroy Them While Teaching Faith
Ben Shapiro Gets Wrecked on the BBC for Racism Against Palestinians and American Jews
Potential Retrial In Sight For Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)
#Society4 weeks ago
The Rise of the Scholarly Gig Economy and Fall of Community Development
#Current Affairs2 weeks ago
#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives
#Islam4 weeks ago
How To Build People Up, Not Destroy Them While Teaching Faith
#Current Affairs2 weeks ago
Ben Shapiro Gets Wrecked on the BBC for Racism Against Palestinians and American Jews