I recently saw the following quote on another website. I am quite confused as to it's meaning so can you explain it to me:
Answer“Early Muslim jurists considered abortion lawful for a variety of reasons until 40 -120 days after conception (first trimester). This was based on interpretation of Qur'an (22:4 and 23:12-14) and hadith that implied that ensoulment or "life" did not exist until after that time. Contemporary thinkers, considering available technology that allows visualization of the embryonic heartbeat at four weeks of gestation, are of the position that life begins much earlier than previously thought, and therefore to terminate would be to take a life illegally.”
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This quote seems to make the sweeping assertion that the opinion of "contemporary thinkers" is accurate without indicating, among other considerations, how many or who these "contemporary thinkers" are. One must be very careful when consulting these self-styled "contemporary thinkers" because more often than not, they are clearly not qualified and lack the adequate understanding to be able to make pronouncements of this kind. [Click here for information on Ijtihad (interpretation through the legal process of deductive analogy) etc. of a mujtahid (interpreter of law) and a discussion of the problems associated with this type of situation. For example, some so-called "contemporary thinkers" patently decide that they are 'experts' because they have a little bit of information. They delude themselves into thinking that 'information' is 'knowledge.' Thus in this way, not only have they deceived themselves, but they also deceive others with their incompetent advice, which can be seen in the above quote.]
With regards to this quote, which you find confusing, it would seem to me that this opinion is obviously the result of confused thinking on both the part of the writer and also the “contemporary thinkers” referred to. These "contemporary thinkers" (unlike the early jurists) don’t seem to understand or appreciate the very basic fact that ensoulment or “life” is a spiritual phenomenon – a miracle, if you like – rather than a physical occurrence or a mere physiological accident.
Therefore, I would suggest
that these “contemporary thinkers' ” viewpoint is not correct because the
embryonic heartbeat is something completely different from "ensoulment
or life" which was envisaged by the early Muslim Jurists. The crucial
point, or the heart of the matter, is that the physical organ known as
the ‘heart’ (which is a muscle composed of flesh which performs the function
of pumping the blood etc.) is not the same as the "spiritual" heart. This
"spiritual" heart is the seat of life where ensoulment takes place. It
is actually a celestial entity and, as such, is invisible to the human
eye, whereas the physical heart is quite visible. The scholars of the esoteric
sciences, such as Sufis, who acquire a deep insight into understanding
the 'inner' dimensions of human life, and such other people who are adept
in matters that are of a spiritual nature, (e.g.. Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi,
r.a., a well-known Naqshbandi saint) actually describe the location of
the spiritual heart to be at a distance of the width of two fingers below
and a little to the left of the cone of the heart.
|The following Quranic
quote and Hadith will further explain in detail the development
of the fourth stage (ensoulment):
[Qur'an 23:14 Translated by Yusuf Ali] :The well-known scholar, Yusuf Ali, in his translation of the above Quranic verse added this footnote of explanation:
Hadith: Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 549:
Allah's Apostle, the true and truly inspired said, "(as regards your creation), every one of you is collected in the womb of his mother for the first forty days, and then he becomes a clot for another forty days, and then a piece of flesh for another forty days. Then Allah sends an angel to write four words: He writes his deeds, time of his death, means of his livelihood, and whether he will be wretched or blessed (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into his body. So a man may do deeds characteristic of the people of the (Hell) Fire, so much so that there is only the distance of a cubit between him and it, and then what has been written (by the angel) surpasses, and so he starts doing deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise and enters Paradise. Similarly, a person may do deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise, so much so that there is only the distance of a cubit between him and it, and then what has been written (by the angel) surpasses, and he starts doing deeds of the people of the (Hell) Fire and enters the (Hell) Fire."
Hadith: Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8 book 77, number 593:
Allah's Apostle, the truthful and truly-inspired, said, "Each one of you collected in the womb of his mother for forty days, and then turns into a clot for an equal period (of forty days) and turns into a piece of flesh for a similar period (of forty days) and then Allah sends an angel and orders him to write four things, i.e., his deeds, his provision, his age, and whether he will be of the wretched or the blessed (in the Hereafter). Then the soul is breathed into him. And by Allah, a person among you (or a man) may do deeds of the people of the Fire till there is only a cubit or an arms-breadth distance between him and the Fire, but then that writing (which Allah has ordered the angel to write) precedes, and he does the deeds of the people of Paradise and enters it; and a man may do the deeds of the people of Paradise till there is only a cubit or two between him and Paradise, and then that writing precedes and he does the deeds of the people of the Fire and enters it."
Hadith: Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4 Book 54, Number 430:
Narrated 'Abdullah bin Mus'ud:
Allah's Apostle, the true and truly inspired said, "(The matter of the Creation of) a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days, and then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a piece of flesh for a similar period. Then Allah sends an angel who is ordered to write four things. He is ordered to write down his (i.e. the new creature's) deeds, his livelihood, his (date of) death, and whether he will be blessed or wretched (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into him. So, a man amongst you may do (good deeds till there is only a cubit between him and Paradise and then what has been written for him decides his behavior and he starts doing (evil) deeds characteristic of the people of the (Hell) Fire. And similarly a man amongst you may do (evil) deeds till there is only a cubit between him and the (Hell) Fire, and then what has been written for him decides his behavior, and he starts doing deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise."
The Hanafi scholars (whose adherents consist of the overwhelming majority [i.e., over 80%] of orthodox Muslims) permit abortion until the end of the four months (120 days).
Quite a few of the Maliki jurists describe abortion as completely forbidden. In their view, it seems that although life does not begin at conception (i.e., when semen settles in the womb) it is expected to develop into a living baby and so it should not be disturbed by anyone. According to Ibn Jawziyyah, when the womb has retained the semen, it is not permitted for either the husband or wife, or one of them to induce an abortion. After ensoulment, however, abortion is prohibited absolutely and is akin to murder.
Many Shafi'i and Hanbali scholars agree with the Hanafis in their tolerance of the practice, although some put an upper limit of forty days for a legal abortion, whereas others gave eighty days or even 120 days.
Therefore, if you are a Hanafi,
you must follow the Hanafi school of law and if you are Shafi'i, Hanbali
or Maliki, then you must follow your own particular school of law in this
regard. To learn more about the reasoning as to why Muslims should follow
a Madhab (i.e., a particular school of law), here are five articles: