Academic journal article Journal for Islamic Studies

In the Shade of Allah's Mercy: Reflections on Islam, Embodiment and Abortion

Academic journal article Journal for Islamic Studies

In the Shade of Allah's Mercy: Reflections on Islam, Embodiment and Abortion

Article excerpt


I am a Muslim woman and I recently chose to have an abortion. I consider my religion to be one of the defining aspects of my life. I am an active member of the community in which I live, particularly in the area of women's education and empowerment. I am a wife and a mother of two little girls, both of whom I am still nursing while pursuing a post-graduate degree in Islamic Studies. My husband and I plan to have more children in the future, God Willing.

When I was approached by the editors of this volume to submit this essay, a version of which I had originally published on a faith-based Muslim website on gender and Islam, I had doubts as to whether my article could contribute anything of worth to academia. I finally decided to submit the article, but read it over and over with a critical eye, wondering how to incorporate a more scholarly voice in a deeply personal experience. I realised that personal writings about experiences such as mine do in fact organically facilitate growth and development of scholarship, as argued by feminist scholars I have studied. I decided to trust in the process and value of interaction between both forms of knowledge. The value of this kind of essay lies in allowing us to make subjective reflections we may otherwise hesitate to make as academics, and acts as a springboard for pinpointing and theorising important issues raised by our personal experiences. It allows for a reflective subjectivity that is a first crucial step in moving towards an objective study. Most of all, it provides a safe space to express our faith-based consciousness, which we sometimes split off from in our academic lives, but which, increasingly for Muslim feminists, has become a primary driving force in the pursuit of scholarship.

Having gone through the termination of a pregnancy, I am by no means promoting abortion as a routine means of contraception, even while I uphold at the same time women's reproductive autonomy. However, with personal knowledge now that pregnancies that are unintended and unplanned do happen and that contraception can fail, I know too that under particular circumstances, Islam does and should permit abortion. It is these particular circumstances that I focus on.

I started to write about my experience shortly after undergoing the termination procedure, having always found therapeutic release in putting pen to paper. I submitted the essay to the AltMuslimah Website because I had previously written for them and strongly identified with the ethos and values promoted by the editorial team. I chose to write under a pen name, as my position as a woman trying to contribute to Muslim women's empowerment in a religiously conservative society was and still is already fragile. I prepared myself, however, to deal with the potentially harsh criticism and judgment a writer inevitably opens herself up to with sharing publicly an intensely personal experience on a sensitive issue. I decided to reveal my story for two reasons and purposes - to facilitate my own spiritual and emotional healing and to offer some benefit and insight to other women and couples who have been through an abortion or who may be considering having one.

I became pregnant by accident at a time when another pregnancy or baby would have been very difficult; both physically and emotionally I was not ready for either. I reflected and meditated for days over the decision to terminate the pregnancy. As a student in a madrasa (religious seminary) for girls, I had studied the fiqh (Islamic law) on pregnancy and women's bodies but at the time had done so as a neutral observer, hardly imagining it had anything to do with me. I never envisaged that one day I would find myself agonising over the ethical and spiritual dimensions of the rulings on abortion and my reproductive body, written by men centuries earlier.

I consider myself pro-choice when it comes to the female body - to an extent. That extent is determined by the Divine Hand which guides us as human beings but all the while allows us to make choices, a faculty which we alone as children of Adam and Eve have been granted. …

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