With the wet ink of Alabama’s new anti-abortion law kicking up a fresh storm of controversy over religious laws, it’s a good time to look at what Islam says about abortion.
Needless to say, the issue has divided Muslims as well, with liberal pro-abortion Muslims in one camp and conservative Muslims in another. As with most dialogues on faith, there’s what Muslims say and then there’s what Islam actually says. While the two narratives below offer perspectives from two very different people — namely, a niqab-wearing traditionalist and myself – the views are essentially the same; they are views based on core Islamic teachings.
A Traditionalist’s View on Abortion in Islam
London-based Fatima Barkatulla is an author and a Muslim chaplain who laid out a very solid tweet thread succinctly paraphrasing the official Islamic position on abortion.
Replying to Linda Sarsour, who has been repeatedly chanting, “Leave our bodies alone,” Barkatulla says:
“As Muslims we cannot condone this crime that God condemns in the Qur’an. Islam came & condemned infanticide. Some Muslim activists are going too far. The disingenuous arguments used to sanction the killing of babies in the womb should not be promoted by Muslims.
When a baby has life blown into it, it becomes a sacred human being. Islam tells us that. The Qur’an tells us that the infant buried alive will ask on the Day of Judgement for what crime it was killed. It tells us: do not kill your own children fearing poverty.The vast majority of abortions in the West take place due to promiscuity, due to inconvenience, not due to dire circumstances or life and death situations. Many thousands of babies in US are aborted/killed late in pregnancy. When we support this, we are supporting all of that.The Islamic position on this is nuanced. There are situations where abortion is sadly necessary. The baby has the soul blown into it at 40 or 120 days – that is when it becomes a human. However in the US context the majority of abortions do not take place due to dire situations.Hence we cannot champion abortion in the US in this blanket way in the context of the West, as it does involve the killing of human children with souls.Aborting a baby that has a soul, without a valid reason sanctioned by God is undoubtedly equal to infanticide.”
A Muslim Reformer’s View on Abortion in Islam
If you paired Fatima and I together, you would find a woman in a niqab alongside a Muslim reformer such as myself. It would be assumed we stand in polarity on any issue, but here we don’t.
The reason is we’re not basing our positions on identity politics. We’re both using faith as a compass for our ethics and values. A pro-life view is shared by more Muslims than mainstream media will give us credit for, and I imagine it is also what will continue to dull the spotlight of Leftist darlings like Sarsour from being seen as a legitimate Muslim representative.
In 2017, I challenged Sarsour’s affiliation with the Women’s March and her soft position on abortion, calling out her hypocrisy in chanting slogans that checked off the boxes for all the top buzz words while defying the core ethics of her self-professed Muslim identity.
In an article for The Federalist, I wrote:
“It is pro-life women who champion the greatest humanitarian issue: the right for all human life to exist. Feminists behind the Women’s March [i.e. Linda Sarsour and her ilk] rage against building a wall along the border and expunging Muslims through an imaginary registry. Yet these women do not recognize the dignity of human life behind the wall of a uterus and radically defend their right to expunge that life when it’s convenient for them.
The Women’s March mission statement [supported by Sarsour] advocates standing in solidarity to protect families, but it’s the right to life that is the first step in safeguarding the family. Protecting our children doesn’t begin when they’re on the street; it begins when they’re in the womb.
The right to life is also sacred in Islam, which has very strict conditions for abortion. Yet Sarsour, who has carved a platform out of her Muslim identity, has debased that identity by openly defending the pro-choice movement, saying, ‘If you want to come to the March you are coming with the understanding that you respect a woman’s right to choose.’ So which is it: Is she pro-choice and not Muslim, or is she pro-life and no longer a Leftist activist?”
While the views here do not represent Clarion Project or any other individual or organization other than my own and that of Fatima, the most salient message here is that the abortion debate is another opportunity to debunk Islamist activists like Sarsour as messengers of the Islamic faith, particularly when they fail to adhere to the core ethics and values of Islam.