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American Muslim Life Changer: Dr. Samir Iqbal’s Device Detects Cancer Early

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samir iqbal

Chereen’s interview with Dr. Samir Iqbal, the Pakistani-American scientist who developed a device to diagnose cancer rapidly. Iqbal worked on the project with Young-tae Kim, a UTA associate professor in the Bioengineering Department; Muhymin Islam, a STEM doctoral candidate; and engineering students Mohammad Motasim Bellah, Adeel Sajid and Mohammad Raziul Hasan.

 

Chereen: Please tell me a bit about yourself.

Dr. Iqbal: I was born and raised in Bahrain. My dad was an expat working in research health; he worked as a pharmacist. I was 14 when I moved to Pakistan with my family and settled into a fairly large town. That was where we I got my schooling and college done. I was fortunate to be in a very active community. In college, I was one of the founders of the Anti-pollution movement, which [went] against the mafia cutting down trees. We also went after the chemical industry people who would just throw their chemicals into the water streams without treatment.

I also would get students engaged in donating blood, because there was a major disconnect in the country with patient care and people donating blood to the hospitals. I was very active when I was in college. People used to ring our bell at two in the morning and my parents would know that it was for me. It could have been that someone needed blood, or someone was in need of help.

Chereen: What motivated you to be this active?

Dr. Iqbal: I think that I was born this way, alhamdulilah. My parents were supportive of whatever I was doing. Our family is like that. I remember seeing my dad volunteer at a Pakistani school in Bahrain that was not very well funded. He would spend his time and type up every exam on an old cyclose style machine. This inspired me to do more. I was in high school when I started teaching my uncle’s three kids. That was the beginning because they were my very first students.

Chereen: Can you explain the process? I feel like the groundwork started early on to prepare you for something that is so profound and in-depth.

Dr. Iqbal: There is a plan, Allahu khairul makirin. Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala has his plan. We don’t know sometimes and we get anxious sometimes, but there is always something larger than we can see. I was in my bachelor’s of science when I got selected for the naval service. The navy training is very competitive, with many steps you have to go through even to be selected and join the academy. I appreciated the opportunity because it made a man out of a boy.

We have to spend time at high seas to appreciate what we have on land. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says it in the Quran that when we are on ships, when we are on sea, we beg for Him to bring us on stable ground. When we are on stable ground, we become arrogant again. Those that have not been at sea have no idea what that means. Being on the other side taught me a lot about life.

Chereen: From speaking to you, I can tell that you really do apply a lot of effort and that is something that is very important to you. Can you tell me more about that?

Dr. Iqbal: This is also fard (obligation). It is very important to utilize what we have been given. We are given a rizq, and then we are told to use our rizq in a certain fashion. This is how we have to use it, as a source of help. When Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “Wa mimma razaqnahom yunifiqun.” I give you rizq and you have to do yunfiqun out of it. Why shouldn’t we be using that rizq to do what we are supposed to do? Our goal should be to use this rizq as a source of benefit and relief.

Chereen: Can you tell me about the process of your innovative work? What started this development?

Dr. Iqbal: It has been a work of 4 to 5 years. It has been the work of many, many good hardworking students. The rate it has evolved, and I will tell you that it has evolved because we did not just hit it. It starts with living things, and in living things there are organs. There are layers of tissue that support those organs. Some of the organs that get cancer, some of the cells break apart, and pass through those membranes or supporting tissue and get into the bloodstream. This is how metastasis occurs.

nano

There is something interesting called the basement membrane. When you imagine it, it looks like the carpet you see in your offices. If you rub your hand, you see it is rough and has smalls ups and downs in it. Take it down to nanometer scale texture. We have to be careful taking this big jump from millimeter to nanometer, because millimeter is thousandth part of a meter, centimeter is hundredth part of a meter. One micrometer is millionth part of a meter. To appreciate how small a micrometer is, over here is 50 to 100 micrometer. Nanometer is 1,000 times smaller than one micrometer. This is the kind of scale we are talking about that Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala has created in our tissues. This is the supporting network. Every organ has its own types of cells. I do not even know if I can get to this depth in my lifetime. I am focusing on the basement membrane which supports this organ. Basement membrane has nano-texture to it, and it is known to be a very strong membrane. Of course it has to support all the organs in place.

Allah [ swt] has put all of these things in us with very fine delicacy and it is under pressure, but it is maintained and ordered in its place. The basement membrane shows that all these things stay in their place. The cancer cells want to go to another place and they want to make another colony, while killing that organism. Some of these cells break apart and get into blood streams. Most of them get cleared up by our immune system. When there are too many of them, some of them survive and find another distant organ. Again, they do their process by going through the tissue across the basement organ and get back to the support organ, what we call metastasis. Finding metastasis before it occurs saves lives. 90% of breast cancer deaths are actually through metastatic tumor.

This basement membrane and narrow texture, we recreated these conditions on a chip using nanotextured walls. We then saw that the metastatic tumor cells were showing distinctly different behavior than non-metastatic tumor cells. So if I get a biopsy sample from a patient and I don’t know how much metastatic potential is there in that sample, this system can tell me that as well. Just looking at that sample, an oncologist can look at that tumor and tell if it has spread, or if there might be a secondary tumor growing separately. This changes the whole approach of what therapy is to be given. It is early detection, it is precise. Hopefully, the way we are doing it and the way we have done it will make it very affordable. The goal is to deploy it as an annual physical tool and a screening tool is the goal.

Chereen: What was the leading factor that motivated you to work on something so groundbreaking and profound?

Dr. Iqbal: We all have seen our loved ones suffer with this disease. We all have seen our loved ones struggling and scared for the rest of their lives, because they went through something like this. My sister-in-law was a very humble lady, and she died from blood cancer. It happens by the will of Allah. We did not have tools to see it. Allahu khairul Makireen. I used to wish if I could do something for biochemistry, for the chemistry of diseases. I did not know how to go about it, but alhamdulilah we end up guided. I ended up having a doctoral advisor who was doing beautiful work in bio-detection, who gave me the opportunity to audit a course in Bio-MEMS. I sat and saw if this was something I wanted to do, and it changed my life. I was able to work on genes and detection of genes, and then I began to collaborate with people as an Assistant Professor. I worked with people that did remarkable work, which motivated me to want to do more.

Chereen: What kept you motivated throughout this journey?

Dr. Iqbal: The support is very important; you have to be in the company of the right people. My first doctoral advisor, Dr. Rashid Bashir has always been there to push me. My parents, my wife, my kids have always been there for me and to make dua’a for me. They have given me the freedom to spend my time on this. My wife did a major role in giving me my piece of mind and full support. This is the blessing of Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala, He puts you in the right company and gives you the correct support where you are reminded of how you can spend of your time and opportunities wisely. Going into the right company has helped me, I have learned from them and that has kept me inspired. Being friends with people that have been good to you and people that want to do well is what will keep you motivated.

Chereen: How has this accomplishment made you feel?

Dr. Iqbal: I went to the same school that Neil Armstrong went to, Purdue. He said, “It is one small step.” I don’t think we are there yet; I think it is a small step there. I am not saying we have achieved everything we can, but we have achieved a lot. However, there is much more that needs to be done. I say alhamdulilah, because we are one step closer.

Chereen: What advice would you give to anyone that wants to make a change in the world?

Dr. Iqbal: Gain experience! Pick right role models, your role models have to be good people. The beauty of America is that in every city there is a major university, where you can find the type of people who think about doing good for others. Where they are from does not matter, but it is the common goal that matters. It is their desire to good that should teach you how to become a better person. You have to learn how to be patient, to not live in a cocoon, and to learn how to be inspired from other people’s differences. This helps you get into the right environment, and then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will open ways for you. From there, you will gain experiences, and you will learn from your experiences. This world is full of many different people. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was sent for all of humanity, and it is on you to want to help all of the world and everyone in it. You should want to be a mercy for all of mankind. This is how you will begin to change the world for the better. This is how you will make a difference.

Chereen is a therapist, as well as a certified learning, leadership, and change life coach. She enjoys writing, reading, coaching, and offering advice. You can find her daily inspirational posts on instagram: @dearchereen.

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    Rehmat

    March 18, 2016 at 11:35 AM

    Many rural areas in United States are anxious to copy the public-oriented Iranian primary healthcare system. The system is run by citizen. These health houses provide preventative care in informal yet effective manner. They can provide healthcare faster than far-away emegency rooms. In case of of extensive care, these houses have contract with local hospitals and clinics.

    The health house workers from the local communities, known as Behvarzan (meaning good skill in Persisn language) are trained to meet the basic health care needs of people living in rural areas. A female Behvarzan is responsible for, among other things, child and maternal health, vaccination, administering medicine, registration, etc; a male Behvarzan is responsible for the outdoor activities, such as, follow-up visits to the patients, sanitation and environment projects. Both work out of the health house, a rural medical post and the most basic unit of service delivery in country’s healthcare plan. The minimum age of male and female healthcare worker is 20 and 16 respectively. They’re required to have had 11 years of regular education plus two years of theoretical and practical training before being awarded a certificate to be allowed to practice. Even after graduation they’re subject to regular monitoring.

    As the result of the heath house scheme, the infant death have dropped from 200 per 1000 births to 26. With the Mississippi Delta rate 10 time worse than Iran’s – a group of volunteers from the US are traveling to Islamic Republic this month to get a crash course in how health houses work. The poor communities in America, 40 millions of whom cannot afford healthcare, because they cannot pay for medical insurances – have been considering to adopt Iranian healthcare model.

    https://rehmat1.com/2010/06/04/irans-health-house-model-for-us/

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More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid

Zeba Khan

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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.

Come Prepared

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.

Reverie in Blue – Artist Unknown

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.

  1. You’ve  helped a child establish a happy memory and relationship to the masjid.
  2. 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.

Not every green thing with lines is a soccer field.

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.

Parents at Taraweeh – Making it Work

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.

May Allah make it easy for you and bless your children with love for the masjid in this life and love for Allah that will guide them through the next. Aaaaaaaameeeeeeeeen

Children @ Taraweeh: Storm in a Teacup

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What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

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

Reem Shaikh

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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.

Web MD

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

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

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

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

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

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

Forty Days:

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Excuse Required:

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

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

Only Under Extreme Risks:

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

Other Views:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr

Make sure you maximize your sadaqah

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By Ismael Abdela

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.

To catch Laylatul Qadr with MyTenNights, visit their website MyTenNights.com

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.

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