Abortion for a Young Single Female: A Cultural and Islamic Perspective



The case:

In 2004 in a Saudi public hospital, an 18-year-old single, Muslim female presented with 15 weeks pregnancy. She was accompanied with her mother who approached the family physician asking for abortion because both the mother and the daughter were afraid from her family’ reaction.

The case in global and local contexts:

 Abortion, in general, and particularly what could be referred to as ‘socially-induced’ abortion is not uncommon in many parts of the world. In 2011, an estimated 1.1 million abortions were performed in the United States; the abortion rate was 16.9 per 1,000 women aged 15-44, representing a drop of 13% since 2008. Нe global abortion rate was stable between 2003 and 2008, with rates of 29 and 28 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 years, respectively. In the developing countries, some studies showed that this type of abortion is common and more complicated. Singh (2008) found that abortion was as high as 15 per 1000 hospitalization in Uganda and Egypt and 4-7 per 1000 hospitalization in other countries like Pakistan and Nigeria.

An Islamic approach to ethical analysis:

There are two main sources for Islamic legislation: Quran and Sunnah. Quran is believed by Muslims to be the words of Allah (God) revealed by Him to his messenger Muhammad, the verses (Ayat) of which written later in the book known as Mushaf. These words were never changed because Allah protects them from any falsification. Sunnah refers to a wide range of what the prophet Muhammad said, did, approved, or disapproved explicitly or implicitly. As other Abrahamic religions, life in Islam is scarified. Нe sanctity of life is expressed in many Ayat in the Quran. “Nor take life-which Allah has made sacred-except for just cause.” (Quran, 17:33) Moreover, it resembled taking one life as the taking the lives of all humans “We ordained for the children of Israel that if anyone slew a person, unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole of mankind. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of a whole people.” (Quran 5:32) Нe regulations about any life-related aوٴair are ideally done by scholars (Ulama) who have extensive knowledge of these two sources.

Нese five principles are known as the Fiqhi Principles of: intention (Qasd); hardship (Mashaqat); harm (Dharar); certainty (Yaqiin); and customs (Urf). In the following, I will summarize each of these principles. In the following section, I will use them to explain how such the abortion case could be discussed from an Islamic approach and from within the Saudi cultural system. Нe principle of Intention (Qasd) implies that acts are judged by the intentions behind them. For example, if a medical act of removing a body organ is done to protect the patient as in case of cancer; then the act is permissible, while if the intention is to sell that organ, then the act is Haram. Нe principle of Harm (Dharar) states that harm should be removed and most of the medical interventions are permissible based this principle. Illness is considered a harm that should be removed, or more precisely to reinstate the status of health. Нe principle of Certainty (Yaqiin) states that a state of certainty cannot be removed by doubt. For example, if there are two medical interventions, where one has higher certainty of achieving cure; then it should be used. Нe principle of Hardship (Mashaqat) states that calls forth ease. For example, in Islam every Muslim should pray five times-a-day on specific time for each prayer. However, if there is a surgeon who is expected to have a long surgery, it becomes permissible for this surgeon to pray two prayers together at the time of one of them. The condition of timeliness of the prayer is omitted because it will present a state of ‘hardship’ if s/he decides to leave the operation theater to perform the prayers. Lastly, there is the principle of Custom (Urf), which states that the custom is recognized as a source of law. Нe custom can be interpreted in many ways. In medical practice, custom could be identified as the standard practice. In wider sense, it could refer to any practice that is considered customarily acceptable by the community within which it is done, unless it is haram.



Induced abortion is an important ethical issue in the entire world. Нere are many different ethical issues and cultural views and laws related to induce abortion and that depends on their definition of fetus. Also, we as Muslims culture should definitely\ support the autonomous right of the young female. We as Muslim culture have an Islamic law from Islamic religion which prohibits abortion17 weeks except in emergency case, but if the case is less than 17 weeks and there are some concern, some scholar except abortion to support that girl and her family because this will save her life and support her family in our society. Also if we measure the harms and benefits of doing abortion I think it is important to support and respect the female pregnant chooses. Induced abortion in early pregnancy before 17 weeks if needed for single young female is accepted in Islamic culture and religion according to the Islamic law and that depends on cases. Overall, I think we need to establish means by which the medical facts, like the possibility of proven serious congenital anomaly in the embryo or fetus with the mainstream scholars’ (Ulama) view and that need more Fatwa. Нe performance of abortion should be done prior to 120 days from start of conception, which is considered according to a Hadith (saying) of the Prophet [PBUH]. As Muslim physician we should understand the harm and the benefits of abortion especially for single female cases in our culture. In case the pregnancy more than 17 weeks the law should be re-discussed among the concerned people in our community for the benefit of our society and community.

Kind Regards,

Alice Maria

Editorial Office

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