There is No Religious Freedom Argument for Abortion in Islam

September 23, 2022

Ismail Royer, Director of RFI’s Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team, authored an article published today in Canopy Forum titled, “There is No Religious Freedom Argument for Abortion in Islam.” Royer writes:

When a Reform Judaism synagogue sued the governor of Florida on the grounds that the state’s restrictions on abortion violated their members’ religious freedom, some speculated that a similar claim might be made for Muslims. Adopting this argument, an anonymous Muslim woman recently joined a lawsuit against the State of Indiana, arguing that its abortion law “severely burdens [her] sincere religious beliefs.” 

As it happens, the attorney representing the Muslim plaintiff in the Indiana case once ably represented this author in a successful lawsuit against the federal government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Success in this case is less likely, however, since there is no legitimate religious freedom argument for abortion in Islam. Understanding why this is requires us to look at how abortion was understood by Islam’s classical, orthodox scholars.

The Prophet Muhammad taught that an angel blows a child’s soul into its body 120 days after it is conceived. As the 12th century Andalusian jurist Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi explained, there is no difference of opinion among the schools of thought within Sunni Islam that abortion after this stage is tantamount to murder and completely forbidden. Most classical scholars made an exception to this prohibition when the mother’s life was in certain danger.

Read the full article: “There is No Religious Freedom Argument for Abortion in Islam.”