Islam and abortion
The Quran is fully detailed (6:114, 7:52, 10:37) and its careful study can resolve even the most complex issues. Abortion is often labelled as “murder” in Islam and among Jews and Christians. It is one of the most important issues to be resolved for any society that wants to benefit from God’s grace and prosper in the long run.
Every human being, male or female, is seriously tested in this world (29:2), and the result of this test determines our fate in the hereafter. God has granted us free will, that is to say the freedom to choose between right and wrong, and high crimes such as rape and incest are unfortunately among the iniquities that plague our societies.
What answer does the book of God provide us when a woman becomes pregnant as a result of incest or rape? Does God authorize us in His immense mercy to terminate a pregnancy in such extreme cases and, if so, until what stage, or should we on the contrary respect life in every case and forbid any abortion outright which is the position held by many Christians?
We will first quote verses relating to the absolute obligation to protect the life of our children as well as all human life in general. We will then briefly assess the situation in Sunni Islam and modern societies regarding abortion, and will afterwards compare verses 46:15 and 2:233, which will enable us to resolve, God willing, the issue of abortion in extreme cases such as incest or rape.
We will finally explain that the gestation period of human beings is indexed to the lunar calendar according to the Quran and scientific research and establish a link between abortion and the Quranic law regarding divorce.
1. The Quran commands us to protect the life of all human beings
The Quran provides us historical insight of Arab customs at the time of the jahiliyah (period of ignorance or pre-Islamic) regarding infanticide:
وَيَجْعَلُونَ لِلَّهِ ٱلْبَنَٰتِ سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَلَهُم مَّا يَشْتَهُونَ
(16:57) And they attribute daughters to God. Glory to Him! What they desire is their own wishful thinking.
وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُم بِٱلْأُنثَىٰ ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُۥ مُسْوَدًّا وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ
(16:58) And when the good news about [the birth] of a female [child] is announced to one of them, his face darkens, and he refrains his sadness.
يَتَوَٰرَىٰ مِنَ ٱلْقَوْمِ مِن سُوٓءِ مَا بُشِّرَ بِهِۦٓ أَيُمْسِكُهُۥ عَلَىٰ
هُونٍ أَمْ يَدُسُّهُۥ فِى ٱلتُّرَابِ أَلَا سَآءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ
(16:59) He hides away from people because of the calamity that has been announced to him. Should he keep her despite the humiliation or bury her in the dust?
These verses mirror verses 43:17-18 and condemn the infanticide of girls in the Arab society at the time of the prophet. Arabs regarded the birth of a daughter as a humiliation and a burden and burying them was common practice.
Two verses strictly forbid killing children:
قُلْ تَعَالَوْا۟ أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ أَلَّا تُشْرِكُوا۟ بِهِۦ شَيْـًٔا وَبِٱلْوَٰلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَٰنًا وَلَا تَقْتُلُوٓا۟
أَوْلَٰدَكُم مِّنْ إِمْلَٰقٍ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا۟ ٱلْفَوَٰحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ
وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا۟ ٱلنَّفْسَ ٱلَّتِى حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَّا بِٱلْحَقِّ ذَٰلِكُمْ وَصَّىٰكُم بِهِۦ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
(6:151) Say! “Come! I will recite what your Lord has forbidden you. Do not associate anything with Him, be kind and dutiful towards both parents, and do not kill your children in case of poverty”. We ensure your subsistence, as well as theirs; stay away from turpitudes, whether overt or concealed. And do not kill any soul, that which God has decreed sacred, except in [the course of] the law. Here is what He enjoined upon you regarding this matter, so that you may reason.
وَلَا تَقْتُلُوٓا۟ أَوْلَٰدَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَٰقٍ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْـًٔا كَبِيرًا
(17:31) And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We ensure their subsistence, as well as yours; Indeed, killing them is a great sin.
Fear of poverty is generally the main reason invoked to perform to an abortion or commit infanticide. 6:151 leaves no room for doubt: Not only is it forbidden to kill children, but God knows full well that evil-minded people misinterpret words and will claim that an unborn child does not qualify as a child. For this reason, God commands us: “And do not kill any soul, which God has decreed sacred” (6:151, see also 17:33 and 25:68).
This is the key sentence around which the entire abortion debate revolves. Not only is it forbidden to kill children, which of course includes a child in his mother's womb, but it is absolutely forbidden to kill any soul, for God has proclaimed that the life of a human soul is sacred.
In other words, once a soul is assigned to the human body, it is forbidden to kill anyone, except in the course of law, for instance if a person is eligible for the death penalty.
The absolute prohibition to kill any soul prompts the following question: When is the human soul assigned to the human body and does the Quran provide a definitive answer?
The Quran is fully detailed (6:114, 7:52, 10:37), so it is our responsibility to study it thoroughly to identify the correct answer, God willing.
2. Abortion laws in the Muslim world and modern democracies
2.1 Legislation in Sunni Islam Regarding Abortion
The four recognized schools of thought in Sunni Islam are rather divided on the issue. Sunni scholars generally consider that the Quran does not provide a definitive answer regarding an intentional abortion, and Sunnis often rely on the following hadith to resolve the question:
Sahih Al Bukhari, volume 4, book 54, hadith N˚ 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.”
Based on the above hadith, Sunni scholars believe that the soul is assigned at 120 days of gestation and therefore prohibit abortion after this period:
a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days + then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period (40 days) + then a piece of flesh for a similar period (40 days) = 120 days. → “Then the soul is breathed into him.”
The hadiths, which, for the oldest, were mostly written down two hundred years after the death of the prophet or later, are condemned by name in the Quran (7:185, 12:111, 31:6, 45:6) and constantly contradict it. (see the article: Are the hadiths legitimate?). We will prove that the above Bukhari hadith is no exception to the rule and is blatantly false in the light of the Quran; furthermore, we will see that it is likely responsible for the murder of thousands of children around the world every year.
The issue of abortion remains a point of contention in the Islamic world, and a minority of Sunni jurists outlaw abortion at the moment of conception, but believe it carries no criminal penalty for 120 days.
2.2 Overview of abortion laws in modern democracies.
The goal of this section is to present a glimpse of the current status of abortion in some western societies around the globe, especially since some conclusions rejoin what we will say later. Number of countries like France, Belgium. Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Russia etc ... allow abortion before the end of the twelfth week of pregnancy (12 × 7 = 84 days), but often allow exceptions for later abortions in case of rape or serious health problems.
Countries in Northern America (Canada, United States, Cuba) usually have a more liberal policy on the subject than most other countries. Canada allows abortion until the third trimester.
In the famous landmark Supreme court decision Roe V. Wade in 1973, Federal law in the United States initially allowed it until the end of the first trimester (3 × 30 days = 90 days) which is 6 days more than what is allowed in most European countries today.
Roe V. Wade was abolished on 6/24/2022 and now leaves the decision to individual states.
3. 2: 133 and 46:15: The key to solving the abortion issue
3.1 Meaning of the words “month” and “lunar year” in 2:133 and 46:15
وَوَصَّيْنَا ٱلْإِنسَٰنَ بِوَٰلِدَيْهِ إِحْسَٰنًا حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُۥ كُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ كُرْهًا وَحَمْلُهُۥ
وَفِصَٰلُهُۥ ثَلَٰثُونَ شَهْرًا حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُۥ وَبَلَغَ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً قَالَ رَبِّ
أَوْزِعْنِىٓ أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ ٱلَّتِىٓ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَىَّ وَعَلَىٰ وَٰلِدَىَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ
صَٰلِحًا تَرْضَىٰهُ وَأَصْلِحْ لِى فِى ذُرِّيَّتِىٓ إِنِّى تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَإِنِّى مِنَ ٱلْمُسْلِمِينَ
(46:15) And We enjoined to the human being kindness towards both parents: His mother bore him in hardship and gave birth to him in hardship; his gestation and his weaning last thirty (lunar) months; then when it reaches his maturity and reaches [the age of] forty solar years (40 sanat = 40 solar years). He says: “My Lord! Allow me to be grateful for Your grace which You have bestowed upon me and upon both of my parents, so that I may do good deeds which please You; make my posterity righteous towards me, Indeed, I repent to You and, indeed, I am among those who submit [themselves to You].
وَٱلْوَٰلِدَٰتُ يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلَٰدَهُنَّ حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُتِمَّ ٱلرَّضَاعَةَ وَعَلَى
ٱلْمَوْلُودِ لَهُۥ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ لَا تُكَلَّفُ نَفْسٌ إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا لَا تُضَآرَّ وَٰلِدَةٌۢ
بِوَلَدِهَا وَلَا مَوْلُودٌ لَّهُۥ بِوَلَدِهِۦ وَعَلَى ٱلْوَارِثِ مِثْلُ ذَٰلِكَ فَإِنْ أَرَادَا فِصَالًا عَن تَرَاضٍ
مِّنْهُمَا وَتَشَاوُرٍ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا وَإِنْ أَرَدتُّمْ أَن تَسْتَرْضِعُوٓا۟ أَوْلَٰدَكُمْ فَلَا جُنَاحَ
عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا سَلَّمْتُم مَّآ ءَاتَيْتُم بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَٱعْلَمُوٓا۟ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
(2:233) And mothers shall breastfeed their children for two full [lunar] yearly cycles as long as one wishes to complete the breastfeeding [period]. Their food and clothing are the responsibility of the father in a dutiful manner. No soul should be burdened beyond its capacity. No mother should endure any suffering because of her child, nor any father because of his child. An identical obligation applies to the heir. Then, if both agree regarding breastfeeding by mutual consent and consultation, neither of them shall be blamed. And if you wish to hire a nurse for your children, none of you shall be blamed, provided that you pay what you owe in a dutiful manner; and fear God and know that God is ever watchful of everything you do.
46:15 uses the words “month” (شَهْر = shahr) and “solar year” (سَنَة = sanat) in the same verse. The Quran acknowledges two calendars (solar and lunar). For instance, both the words “sanat” and “’am” are used in the Quranic test, which respectively mean “solar year” and “lunar year”.
However, the use of the word “month” in the Quran consistently refers to a lunar month.
The Quran acknowledges the average difference between solar and lunar years in 18:25 [and they remained in their cave 300 solar years (سِنِينَ = sineena) and they add nine]:
309 lunar years / 300 solar years = 1.03
1.03 is the average difference between a solar year and a lunar year (365 days /354 days = 1.03…). Miraculously, we find the same average ratio between the gematrical value of the word “sanat” (سَنَة = solar year, GV 115) and “’aam” (عَامٌ, lunar year, GV 111) despite the two words belonging to two completely different roots (!):
115 (GV of "solar year") / 111
(GV of "lunar year") = 1.03603…
Despite acknowledging both the concept of a solar and lunar year, the use of the word “month” consistently refers to a lunar month in the Quran. A very simple Quranic sign in this regard is that there are 354 words “day” (out of a total of 365) between the first (2:185) and the 12th and last singular word “month” (97:3) in the Quran, which corresponds to the average length of the lunar year.
Another very simple way to prove that the word “month” (شَهْر = shahr) always designates a lunar month in the Quran is 2:185 where we find the expression “the month of Ramadan” and states that “whoever witnesses this month shall fast therein” (2:185). Likewise, the expressions “sacred month(s)” in various forms (2:194, 2:197, 2:217, 5:2, 5:97, 9:2, 9:5,) consistently refer to a lunar month. Similarly, a “two month fast” (4:92, 58:4), for example in case of involuntary manslaughter, is a very precise notion in Islam and always signifies “two lunar months”. We will say more about this later regarding the issue of abortion and a crucial stage of the gestation period.
In 2:223, the word “hawlayni” (حَوْلَيْنِ) is dual (two entities) and means “two lunar years”. Its singular is “hawl” (حَوْل) which signifies “around” or “year” and derives from the root “حول” (hawala) and from the verb “hâla” (َحَال, form 1) which means “to alter”, “to change”, “to turn”. The word “hawl” (حَوْل) is used twice in the sense of “year” in 2:223 and 2:240 because “turning” or “going around” the lunar calendar corresponds to a lunar year. 2:223 deals with the weaning period of children and 46:15 states that “its gestation and its weaning last thirty (lunar) months”. Since the word “month” always signifies “lunar month” in the Quran and both 2:223 and 46:15 deal with the very same weaning period, it is obvious that both verses deal with the lunar calendar (lunar months/lunar years) when it comes to relate “30 months” (46:15) and “two years” (2:223). The meaning of the dual word “hawlayni” (حَوْلَيْنِ) therefore signifies “two lunar years” (literally going “twice around” the lunar calendar) and by no means “two solar years”.
3.2: How to reconcile 46:15 and 2:233 regarding the length of a pregnancy?
46:15 indicates that the gestation and weaning period is 30 lunar months, while 2:233 indicates that the weaning period lasts two lunar years (= 24 lunar months ):
30 lunar months (gestation + weaning periods) - 24
lunar months (weaning period) = 6 lunar months.
Why is there is a 3 month gap (!) between the average period of pregnancy of the human being (9 months) and the six month pregnancy of “the human being” derived from the above subtraction?
Is this a mistake in the Quran as some opponents of Islam have rushed to claim in the past commenting this particular matter, or is there a much deeper underlying message? The Quran is a constant miracle of linguistic precision, and we see in 46:15 that the verse deals with the gestation and weaning periods of “the human being” (الْإِنسَان = al insân), which last thirty lunar months combined:
(46:15) And We enjoined to the human being kindness towards both parents: His mother bore him in hardship and gave birth to him in hardship; his gestation and his weaning last thirty (lunar) months…
In other words, aside from the 24 lunar month period of weaning, the Quran informs us in a subtle manner that the fetus is only a “human being” in its own right (إِنسَان = insân) starting at the last six lunar months of pregnancy (24 months + 6 months = 30 months) because no soul has been assigned to the fetus before the beginning of this crucial phase. Arguing otherwise would be claiming that the Quran is imperfect because it indicates a 6-month pregnancy instead of 9 months, which is inconceivable for anyone who objectively studies the countless miracles of the Quran.
It is no coincidence that the word “soul” is repeatedly used as a synonym for “human being” (الْإِنسَانَ = al insân) in the Quran:
وَإِذْ قَتَلْتُمْ نَفْسًا فَٱدَّٰرَٰٔتُمْ فِيهَا وَٱللَّهُ مُخْرِجٌ مَّا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ
(2:72) And when you killed a soul (a human being), you argued about it, but God exposed what you were hiding.
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تَأْكُلُوٓا۟ أَمْوَٰلَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِٱلْبَٰطِلِ إِلَّآ أَن تَكُونَ
تِجَٰرَةً عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنكُمْ وَلَا تَقْتُلُوٓا۟ أَنفُسَكُمْ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا
(4:29) O you who believe, do not consume each other’s wealth, unless in case of a mutual, consensual transaction between you. Do not kill each other’s souls; verily, God is Merciful to you.
The soul is the essence of life. A soulless body is not yet or no longer a “human being” according to the Quran.
In other terms, we can in my opinion conclude that it is perfectly authorized Islam to end the life of a person whose brain no longer functions, meaning that the soul has already departed its body.
The word “soul” is used 295 times in the Quran is always used as a synonym of the “human being” meaning a conscious being, which is not the case in the first three lunar months of pregnancy (during the first 88 or 89 days: 3 × 29.53059 = 88.59 days = 88 or 89 days = three lunar months) In any case, the precise length of the period during which an abortion can be performed in my view is three lunar months, and becomes a murder starting on the first day of the fourth lunar month (the 89th or 90th day). It therefore opens the door for an abortion in case of rape, incest, congenital defect, drug or alcohol addiction, serious health issues, accidental teenage pregnancies etc…
To be safe, and since the day of conception is not always known, no abortion should be performed if there is the slightest doubt, because we otherwise risk committing a murder.
3.3 The Quran outlines three distinct stages of pregnancy
The Quran provides scientific insight regarding the length of pregnancy:
خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ ثُمَّ جَعَلَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَأَنزَلَ لَكُم مِّنَ ٱلْأَنْعَٰمِ
ثَمَٰنِيَةَ أَزْوَٰجٍ يَخْلُقُكُمْ فِى بُطُونِ أُمَّهَٰتِكُمْ خَلْقًا مِّنۢ بَعْدِ خَلْقٍ فِى
ظُلُمَٰتٍ ثَلَٰثٍ ذَٰلِكُمُ ٱللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ لَهُ ٱلْمُلْكُ لَآ إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَأَنَّىٰ تُصْرَفُونَ
(39:6) He created you from one single soul, then created its mate from it; He then sent down for you eight kinds of cattle. He creates you in your mothers’ wombs, creation after creation, in three [trimesters/phases of] darkness. Such is God your Lord! The kingdom belongs to Him. There is no god beside Him. How could you then be diverted [from the right path]?
Note: 39:6 is in my view multiple meaning: “ظُلُمَٰتٍ ثَلَٰثٍ فِى” signifies literally “in three darknesses” which can either mean “three layers/veils of darkness” referring to the three layers of the human body that cover the fetus (Anterior abdominal wall, the uterine wall and Amnio-chorionic membrane), or “in three periods/trimesters of darkness” because the preposition “fi” (فِى) can also be indicative of a period of time, see for instance the expression “فِى سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ” (in six days) in “God is the One who created the heavens and the earth, and everything that is between them in six days” (32:6). It can also refer to the three distinct phases of the development of the embryo and fetus described in medicine which are described below. Multiple meaning embedded in verses are a fact of the Quran and may be correct as long as the different meanings do not contradict each other.
The verse uses the expression “creation after creation” (خَلْقًا مِّنۢ بَعْدِ خَلْقٍ) because it deals with the development of the embryo and fetus in three successive and distinct phases or trimesters of creation which last an average of nine months. This is why I chose “creation after creation, in three [trimesters/phases of] darkness” in the above translation. Given the wording of the verse, it makes perfect sense to assume that the “three [periods] of darkness” refer to the three trimesters of pregnancy.
In any case, science also distinguishes three distinct phases from conception to birth:
1. Pre-embryonic phase: In this first initial phase, the newly fertilized egg multiplies. During the first three weeks, and after becoming a cluster of cells, it becomes embedded in the lining of the uterus. The cells continue to multiply and form three layers.
2. Embryonic phase: The second phase lasts about five and a half weeks, during which the baby is called an “embryo”. During this phase, the basic organs and systems of the body take shape originating from the layers of cells.
3. Fetal phase: When the pregnancy reaches the third stage, the embryo is called a fetus. This phase begins in the eighth week of pregnancy (approximately two months) and continues until birth. In this very distinct phase from the previous ones, the fetus takes on a human appearance and it is possible to discern the face, hands and feet. At the commencement of this phase, all the organs of the fetus, which measure approximately 3 centimeters, are in place. This phase lasts about 30 weeks and its development continues until the week of birth.
If we add the number of weeks of the three phases described above, we get a total 3 + 5 + 30 weeks = 38 weeks (19 × 2). We will indicate here that in medicine, the average gestation period is estimated to be forty weeks (and not 38) because it is calculated from the first day of the last menstruation and not from the moment of conception which is often difficult to define and usually takes place an average of two weeks later.
3.4 The average length of pregnancy is nine lunar months
It has been scientifically proven that the pregnancy period lasts on average 266 days (2 × 7 × 19), i.e. 38 weeks (19 × 2) from fertilization until birth (Langman's medical embryology, by TW Sadler), which demonstrates that the sign of 19 is linked to the concept of time. For instance, all forms of the word “day” in the Quran occur 475 times = 19 × 25 in 437 verses = 19 × 23.
Note: The 266th word “day” (19 × 14) of the Quran occurs in verse 43:65 which is the 247th word “day” (19 × 13) of the 365 word “day” system of the Quran. The addition of gematrical values of the first 266 words “day” is 16644 = 2 × 2 × 3 × 19 × 73 = 19 × 876.
There is something truly extraordinary behind the fact that an average pregnancy lasts exactly 266 days = 38 weeks:
29.53058885 (average duration of a lunar month) × 9 months = 265.77529965, which can therefore be rounded to 266 days!
Simply put, an average pregnancy lasts exactly 9 lunar months to the day (!). This period is symbolically equal to the first part of the lunar year until the end of the month of Ramadan.
Note: It is clear from the Holy Quran as well as from numerous scientific studies that the gestation period of the human being (nine lunar months) is indexed to lunar cycles. God decreed that human beings shall live on earth (2:36) and I personally consider the space race as a sign of disbelief which the Quran predicts will fail (37:10, 55:35); Humans were created to follow Islam on earth and pray towards the Ka’bah; it is to be feared that scientists will seek to establish extraterrestrial communities in the future. I predict that the gestation of a child, an animal or even growing plants outside of the solar system would be a catastrophic failure in many ways, for instance because all living entities on earth are designed to follow lunar rhythms, as has been the case for millions of years. Unfortunately, human beings follow their passions and refuse to submit to God's revelations and prefer to play God to their own detriment and that of others.
3.5 The extraordinary relevance of the three lunar month waiting period after a divorce for women who do not menstruate.
Quranic laws regarding divorce are intended to protect the wife, the husband and children:
وَٱلْمُطَلَّقَٰتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَٰثَةَ قُرُوٓءٍ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَهُنَّ أَن يَكْتُمْنَ مَا خَلَقَ ٱللَّهُ فِىٓ
أَرْحَامِهِنَّ إِن كُنَّ يُؤْمِنَّ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْءَاخِرِ وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُوٓا۟
إِصْلَٰحًا وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ ٱلَّذِى عَلَيْهِنَّ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ وَٱللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
(2:228) And divorced women shall observe a waiting period of three menstrual cycles; and it is not lawful for them to conceal that which God has created in their wombs, if they believe in God and the Last Day. And their husbands prevail when it comes to the right to take them back during that [period] if they wish reconciliation. As for them, they have rights equivalent to their obligations, in a dutiful manner; but men hold a degree of prevalence over them; and Allah is Almighty, Most Wise.
وَٱلَّٰٓـِٔى يَئِسْنَ مِنَ ٱلْمَحِيضِ مِن نِّسَآئِكُمْ إِنِ ٱرْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلَٰثَةُ أَشْهُرٍ وَٱلَّٰٓـِٔى لَمْ يَحِضْنَ
وَأُو۟لَٰتُ ٱلْأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَن يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ وَمَن يَتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُۥ مِنْ أَمْرِهِۦ يُسْرًا
(65:4) If you have any doubts regarding your women who no longer expect to menstruate, their waiting period is three (lunar) months, just like those who have not menstruated (lately). As for those who are pregnant, their term will end when they give birth; whoever fears God, He will ease his situation.
After a four-month cooling period (2:226-227) regarding divorce which is required to allow a possible reconciliation, 2:228 indicates that an additional waiting period of three menstrual cycles is necessary for a woman who has not menstruated or is in doubt regarding her menopause, while 65:4 refers to three lunar months in the same situation.
An average menstrual cycle is generally thought to be 28 days. However, several in-depth scientific studies, one of which is based on the analysis of over 600,000 menstrual cycles have estimated that an average menstrual cycle has a duration of 29.3 days (Bull, JR, Rowland, SP, Scherwitzl, EB et al. Real -world menstrual cycle characteristics of more than 600,000 menstrual cycles. npj Digit. Med. 2, 83 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41746-019-0152-7) and other studies estimate it to be 29.5 days [Vollman at al.: 1968, 1970, 1977) as well as Treloar et al. (1967, 1981)], which corresponds exactly to an average lunar month (29,530588 days).
In other words, verses 2:228 and 65:4 point at the equivalence between three (average) menstrual cycles and three lunar months regarding the waiting period required for women who have not menstruated (and are therefore possibly pregnant after a divorce), which meets the same conclusion as modern science, that is to say that an average menstrual cycle lasts exactly one lunar month. Obviously, we are dealing here with an authentic, profound scientific miracle of the Quran.
The question we must now ask ourselves is why is there a waiting period of three lunar months in such a case?
Firstly, and as pointed out earlier thanks to several Quranic examples, the above confirms once again that the word “month” (شَهْر = shahr) consistently refers to a lunar month in the Quran.
Secondly, we saw, comparing 2:233 and 46:15, that the gestation period of “the human being” from the precise moment when the soul integrates the fetus is six lunar months, while the average complete gestation period is nine lunar months to the day (38 weeks = 266 days = 9 lunar months). This waiting period of three lunar months for a divorced woman who does not menstruate is obviously intended to assess a potential pregnancy, and therefore very precisely fills the three lunar month gap observed in 46:15 (9 lunar months - 6 lunar months = 3 lunar months). In other words, it is a waiting period until the precise moment when the soul is assigned to the fetus, which in my opinion clarifies why God chose a three lunar month period.
The Quran prohibits infanticide (16:57-59) and commands that no soul shall be killed:
(6:151) Say! “Come ! I will recite what your Lord has forbidden you. Do not associate anything with Him, be kind and dutiful towards both parents, and do not kill your children in case of poverty”. We ensure your subsistence, as well as theirs; stay away from turpitudes, whether overt or concealed. And do not kill any soul, that which God has decreed sacred, except in [the course of] the law. Here is what He enjoined upon you regarding this matter, so that you may reason.
(17:31) And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We ensure their subsistence, as well as yours; In truth, killing them is a great sin.
It is therefore strictly forbidden not only to kill children, which is called “a great sin” (17:31), but the Quran is miraculously precise and also indicates that it is forbidden to kill the human “soul” in general, which God has decreed sacred (6:151, 17:33, 25:68).
This implies that if a soul is not yet assigned to the human body (or no longer), interrupting life does not qualify as murder according to the Quran.
In other terms, a comparison between verses 2:233 and 46:15 instructs us in a hidden manner and by default that the fetus does not become a full blown “human being” with a soul until starting the first day of the last six months of pregnancy:
(46:15) And We enjoined on the human being kindness to both parents: His mother bore him painfully and gave birth to him painfully; and its gestation and weaning last thirty (lunar) months;…
(2:233) And mothers shall breastfeed their children for two full [lunar] yearly cycles as long as one wishes to complete the breastfeeding [period].
30 lunar months of gestation and breastfeeding period of the human being (when the human body contains a soul) - 24 lunar months (two lunar years = complete breastfeeding period) = 6 lunar months.
The average period of pregnancy from the day of conception as established by science (Langman's medical embryology, by TW Sadler) is 266 days (= 38 weeks = 2 × 19 or 266 days = 2 × 7 × 19) which corresponds to nine lunar months to the day (!). 39:6 distinguishes three distinct phases of pregnancy (Pre-embryonic, Embryonic and Fetal Phases)) which span over 38 weeks (= 9 lunar months).
We can therefore deduce that 9 lunar months - 6 lunar months of gestation from the day a soul is assigned to the fetus is equal to 3 lunar months, which implies by default that the embryo or fetus does not contain a human soul during the first three lunar months of pregnancy.
I respect the opinion of anyone who would disagree with these conclusions, but if they do, it is imperative for them to justify why there is a three lunar month difference between 2:23 and 46:15. Does the Quran contain an error as some opponents of Islam have concluded in the past, or is it intended to define the true period of pregnancy of “the human being”, that is to say when a soul has been assigned to the fetus? This three lunar month deficit is in my view a manifestation of God’s immense mercy to allow us to resolve tragic issues such as a pregnancy in case of rape or incest, an intimate relationship with the category of people forbidden by the Quran (4:23), an accidental teenage pregnancy, etc... It also allows a woman who has serious health issues and would likely risk losing her life during a pregnancy to terminate it without committing the terrible sin of killing a soul. Likewise, if a congenital defect is detected during the first three lunar months, or if a woman is addicted to alcohol or drugs, it is evidently preferable to terminate a pregnancy to protect both the mother and a potential child.
This three lunar month period without a soul therefore opens up the possibility of terminating a pregnancy without “killing any soul” (6:151) between the moment of conception until the end of three entire lunar months (3 × 29.53 days = 88.59 ≈ 88 or 89 days), the soul being assigned to the human fetus on the first day of the fourth lunar month (the 89th or 90th day = first day of the first lunar month). Also, please bear in mind that the new lunar month in Islam starts at sunset. Therefore, at the sunset beginning the fourth lunar month of pregnancy, it is illegal to perform an abortion. If there is the slightest doubt, it is imperative to refrain from terminating a pregnancy because there is a risk of committing a murder.
The legitimacy of this analysis is confirmed by the fact that a newly divorced woman who does not menstruate must observe a three lunar month waiting period to establish whether she is pregnant or not, which corresponds precisely to three average menstrual cycles according to the Quran (2:228, 65:4). It therefore perfectly fills the gap between the 6 lunar months pregnancy of “the human being” acknowledged in 46:15 (a human being has a soul) and the complete 9 lunar month overall pregnancy. The apparent three month deficit observed in 46:15 is therefore justified and explained in the Quran by the three month waiting period in case of divorce until the fetus received a soul (first day of the fourth lunar month) and therefore becomes a “human being”.
The bottom line of this study is the following:
From the moment a fetus reaches the threshold of the first day of
the fourth lunar month of pregnancy, abortion becomes murder.
Sahih Al Bukhari, volume 4, book 54, hadith N˚430 indicates that the soul integrates the human body after four lunar months, which contradicts the Quran as we demonstrated. Hadiths therefore advocate murder during the fourth lunar month and are therefore responsible for possibly thousands of infanticides every year in the Muslim world, and is one of many proofs of their malevolent origin.
It is interesting that many modern societies such as France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Russia etc…, which made their decision based upon science, allow abortion until the end of the twelfth week of pregnancy (84 days) while the Roe V. Wade supreme court decision in 1973 allowed 90 days, which is remarkably close to the conclusions of this article (88 or 89 days, or more precisely three lunar months).
I strongly encourage anyone to never vote for a politician who advocates abortion after that limit, and it is utterly despicable that Democrats in the United States and other countries advocate no limit abortions. The Holy Quran teaches us that killing one single human being is equivalent to killing the entire mankind (5:32). How can you possibly vote for a political party that advocates murder and therefore become complicit of such a horrendous crime?
If a doctor determines that a mother is at very high risk of losing her life after the end of the three lunar month threshold, the decision is up to the woman and responsible doctors (preferably at least two). It is better to lose a single soul than to greatly risk losing two. It is a terrible decision to make that should in my opinion be part of the framework of authorizing the killing of a soul “in the course of law” as invoked in 6:151. The meaning of the phrase “except in the course of law” (إِلَّا بِٱلْحَقِّ) in the verse is in my opinion left deliberately broad and goes in my opinion beyond the case of the death penalty for a murderer.
The first thing to do in case of rape or incest (May God protect us) is in my opinion to take the “morning-after pill”, to avoid an even more distressing situation. The morning-after pill should in my opinion be free and dispensed without asking any question in pharmacies so that a woman victim of a tragedy (rape, incest) can protect herself and avoid even more suffering, as well as avoid the creation of single-parent families which affects the parent as well as children.
Abortion after three lunar months, even in cases of incest or rape, is clearly prohibited because the fetus becomes an actual human being protected by Quranic rights and Quranic law. Faith in Allah must triumph over horrific tragedies in such cases.
Article published on 7/31/2020, revised on 10/08/2022.