The Sharia moral epistemology is more progressive, nuanced and understanding of a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy than the Supreme Court’s conservative justices

The Supreme Court today struck down Louisiana’s abortion restrictions. Chief Justice Robert joined the liberal minority in this 5–4 decision. If you find abortion morally objectionable, you should not terminate your pregnancy. But you do not have the right to impose your moral values on others by force of law. It is quite ironic that Muslim Sharia scholars were more flexible with a nuanced approach to a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy in the 9th Century than the conservative justices of the Supreme Court today.

I wrote last year in the New Jersey Star Ledger:

The majority of Muslim scholars prohibited termination once a fetus had been en-souled but differed on the issue of termination before a fetus was en-souled. To identify the moment a fetus is endowed with a soul, the scholars turned to the Quran and the Sunna for guidance. From a “sperm in a well-guarded cavity,” the Quran explained, it turns into “a blood clot, the blood clot into a morsel” that then turns into bones that later are “clothed with flesh.” (Q. 23:12) The Prophet Muhammed elaborated on the timeline of this process: “Each one of you is collected in the womb of his mother for forty days, and then turns into a clot for an equal period (of 40 days) and turns into a piece of flesh for a similar period (of 40 days) and then the angel is sent to breathe a soul into him.”

I explained the diversity of opinion on this issue among Muslim scholars:

“A group of scholars concluded that terminating a pregnancy was either permitted without conditions or permitted with conditions before 120 days of pregnancy. Other scholars said before 80 days, while yet another group of scholars said before 40 days. Many of these scholars concluded that termination before a fetus is en-souled was simply disliked, that is, better not to do it but if you do there is no punishment. Ibn Aqil, a prominent 12th-century Hanbali scholar, for example, held that a Muslim woman is permitted to take medicine to abort a fetus before 120 days.”

Unlike the conservative judge’s rigid and anachronistic “original intent” and “textualism”, the Sharia moral epistemology anchored the development of the law upon social, cultural, economic and familial circumstances. This provided grey area, wiggle room and nuance. The conservative justices’ anti-abortion legislation seeks to legislate the religious beliefs of one group of Americans as the law of the land. Turns out that the medieval Sharia Muslim scholars were ahead of the times by being more flexible and accepting of different moral opinions on this issue than the conservative justices of the Supreme Court.




Abed Awad is a New Jersey attorney, a national expert in Islamic law and an adjunct professor at Rutgers Law School.

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Abed Awad

Abed Awad

Abed Awad is a New Jersey attorney, a national expert in Islamic law and an adjunct professor at Rutgers Law School.

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