THE FOETUS AND ABORTION


QUESTION

The press recently reported that there is life in the unborn baby at even 12 weeks (i.e. 84 days). The report states: Compelling pictures of babies in the womb apparently smiling, crossing their hands, and making walking leg movements appeared in the British newspapers this week (July 2004), prompting calls to review abortion laws. Real time images show a 12 week-old foetus stretching and making kicking movements with its feet…..A 14 to 15 week-old foetus sucks its thumb and yawns….”

How does this new discovery impact on Islam’s view that the rooh (soul) enters the foetus on the 120th day. Based on this, the Shariah allows abortion for a valid reason before 120 days. But in the cases mentioned above, not only life has entered the foetus long before 120 days, but the baby is fully formed. Please comment.

ANSWER

The entry of the Rooh on the 120th day is established on the basis of Saheeh Hadith. There is no doubt in this fact. It is Mansoos Alayh (i.e. on which exists categoric proof of either the Qur’aan or Saheeh Hadith).

Secondly, it should be understood that every rule has exceptions. Nabi Isaa (alayhis salaam) spoke from the womb of his mother, i.e. before birth. This is an exceptional case. Hadhrat Maryam (alayhas salaam) miraculously conceived Hadhrat Isaa (alayhis salaam) without the normal worldly agency of reproduction. This is also an exception to the rule. If the soul has in reality entered the 84 day old foetus, at most it can be argued that it is an exception to the rule. Allah Ta’ala is not bound by laws and rules which are meant for human beings.

Furthermore, there is no qat-iyyat (absolute certitude) in a claim that the rooh has indeed entered the 12 week-old foetus. The movements of the foetus cannot be attributed with absolute certitude to a rooh which has entered it. It is quite possible that the movements of the 12 week-old foetus are the consequences of the Rooh of the mother just as the movements and activities of the heart, lungs and all bodily organs without their own souls are the consequences of the Soul of the being in whom these organs exist. The numerous organs in the human body are without independent souls, but they have their movements and functions which they execute. For their activities they are dependent on the Rooh of the person.

Similarly, it is quite possible that in certain cases the Rooh of the mother exercises an influence on the soulless foetus in the same way as her Rooh impacts on her other bodily organs. The mother herself smiles, walks, sits and make all types of movements. Her internal organs have their own forms of respective movement. All these movements, both inward and outward, are the consequences of the action of the Rooh.

There is no rational argument to refute a contention that the mother’s Rooh influences her foetus just as it activates all her other bodily organs. After all, the foetus is part of her body. It is attached to her. Her Rooh physically nourishes, sustains and develops her foetus through the intermediary of numerous organs. This contention, namely, the movements of the foetus are the effects of the action of its mother’s Rooh, is therefore not far-fetched, leave alone it being a rational impossibility.

Whether the movements of the 12 week-old foetus are the voluntary and conscious effects of its own rooh or the mechanical consequences of the action of the mother’s Rooh in the same way as all her other organs react to the Rooh, are not known and cannot be established by this latest discovery.

Professor Campell who made the pictures of the foetus observed: “What’s behind the smile, of course, I can’t say, but the corners turn up and the cheeks bulge.” The ‘turning of the corners’ and the bulging of the cheeks are not absolute evidence for conscious smiling or voluntary smiling. The smile-like movement could be an involuntary reaction to some assertion of the mother’s Rooh or the action of some of her bodily organs.

The latest discovery may just be a discovery of what is common to all foetuses prior to 120 days. This particular 12 week-old foetus may not be an exception. Other foetuses of this age and less may also be behaving in a similar way. The new technique of technology has enabled the professor to make his pictures. These images are not discernible with the techniques hitherto employed. Hence the report says: “Campbell made the pictures in 3D-4D, a new technique in existence since 2001 with photos in three dimension with video animation enabling study of foetus movements in real time.”

The information which the new technique has brought to light might be common to all foetuses of less than 120 days. If this could be ascertained, it will confirm that the movements are the effects of the mother’s Rooh and organs.

Furthermore, the Hadith of 120 days is not related to abortion. The ruling of the Shariah on abortion is:

• Abortion is haraam if any human form, eg. finger, hand, etc., has developed regardless of any reason. No reason is considered valid for abortion if any human form has developed.

• If no form has developed, the foetus being only a clot, then if there is a valid Shar’i reason, abortion is permissible prior to 120 days.

• Under no circumstances is abortion permissible if life is discerned by any means whatsoever, and be it prior to 120 days. Consider the example of a pregnant woman having died. If signs of life are detected in the foetus, it is Waajib to operate and remove the baby regardless of the age of the pregnancy. The principle is the existence of life, not the Hadith which mentions that the Rooh enters on the 120th day. It is quite possible that Allah Ta’ala decrees the infusion of rooh into the foetus even before 120 days. And Allah knows best.

[Answered by Hazrat Maulana Ahmad Sadeq Desai]

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