Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Abortion Debate in The West

Category: WEAK

In Islam we have it as a matter of doctrine that the soul does not enter the fetus until 120 days, so abortions before this, though not indulged in for petty reasons, are not considered to be "murder" as they would to a modern day conservative Christian.

There's also the other point, that we don't automatically rule on the value of the fetus' life over the mother's, even if we're talking about a possible late-term abortion. It's justifiable to save the mother's life if it is threatened. A jurist could make such a ruling.

What I wanted to point out was in regards to the first point.


Some scholars have concluded that early Christians took a nuanced stance on what is now called abortion, and that at different and in separate places early Christians have taken different stances.[8][9][10] Other scholars have concluded that early Christians considered abortion a sin at all stages; though there is disagreement over their thoughts on what type of sin it was[11][12][13][14] and how grave a sin it was held to be, it was seen as at least as grave as sexual immorality.[11][13] Some early Christians believed that the embryo did not have a soul from conception,[15][16][8][17] and consequently opinion was divided as to whether early abortion was murder or ethically equivalent to murder.[18][14]

Augustine affirmed Aristotle's concepts of ensoulment occurring some time after conception, after which point abortion was to be considered homicide,[19] while still maintaining the condemnation of abortion at any time from conception onward.[20] Aquinas reiterated Aristotle's views of successive souls: vegetative, animal, and rational. This would be the Catholic Church's position until 1869, when the limitation of automatic excommunication to abortion of a formed fetus was removed, a change that has been interpreted as an implicit declaration that conception was the moment of ensoulment.[15] Consequently, in the Middle Ages, a less severe penance was imposed for the sin of abortion "before [the foetus] has life".[21]
Christianity did not have a doctrinal position on the exact time of "ensoulment", so earlier Christian scholars inherited philosophy on the matter from Aristotle and others. This was a point on which the debate pivoted for quite some time until the 19th century when the Catholic Church decided to default it to conception.

The theological issues aside (What was the justification? Were the earlier Popes wrong?), there is a metaphysical point to be made. The idea that life begins at conception is a very materialistic one (in the sense of metaphysical materialism). As Western culture moved to such materialism (and also away from Judeo-Christian tradition), the Catholic Church seems to have moved right along with everyone else. Christians, who should believe in a soul, now don't even bring it up at all in the debate. All they are concerned with is the physical, the material: the zygote. Their blind adherence to this doctrine (which, from all indications, seems arbitrarily concocted by the Catholic Church in the 19th century) is a manifestation of this extreme materialism. Perhaps we can give the Catholics a pass, because they must follow the Church without question. But the Protestants have no excuse, their reasoning is purely materialistic (unsurprising in the context of their other positions on social issues which represent Ayn Rand more than Jesus Christ).

Just one of the consequences of the old clashing with the modern shift in philosophical outlook. Though metaphysical materialism is certainly an extreme by religious standards, it has had its upside (the increased focus on the worldly life makes people work to make it better... but when done in this way it comes at the expense of concern for the next life).

Regarding the materialistic answer to the question of when exactly can we consider a fetus to be alive

It's also not so simple to call a zygote not "alive", because people will take issue with that definition of "alive". If left alone in a womb, it will continue growing. Cells can be alive, they can die. We certainly know what a dead cell looks and behaves like, so it stands to reason the opposite is life.

I think the materialistic debate really comes down to a question beyond materialism: utilitarian ethics. Yes, an embryo/fetus, when left alone, can grow into a person, can be born, can grow up, can contribute much to society and their own fulfillment. But those are a lot of "cans". The mother is in the here and now, she's already a living, breathing adult with all the attributes of sentience, plus a safe and early abortion (that can be facilitated with the law on her side) allows her to have another child (or more) soon again whereas the risks with the fetus are a lot more. The life of the mother is clearly more valuable to society under the typical circumstances.

In a way, I find the debate kind of ironic because it's kind of a flip of the evolutionary origin of man debate. Darwinian evolution proponents ("scientism", not necessarily atheists, scientists, or anyone who already believes in the evolutionary origin but those who put such an emphasis on it so as to behave downright theologically in their treatment of evolution... cue: evolutionary psychology and other similar pseudoscience) will adhere to a materialism similar to the sort that the Christian conservatives strongly hold to on the issue of life beginning at conception. On the other hand, the arguments expressing skepticism (not necessarily opposition) of the meaningfulness or relevance of evolution to the issue of man's origins tend to take a similar route through ontology as in the objections to the "life begins at conception" position (regarding what it means to be a person and how to distinguish that while limiting arbitrariness).

Teaching Islamic Knowledge

Category: SOUND

Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi 'alaih) narrates from Hadhrat 'ALI (radhiyallahu 'anhu) who said: "Narrate to the people that which they are acquainted with. Would you like that Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala and His Messenger Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam be rejected?" Adam ibn Abi Ilyas adds the words: "and leave out what they do not know" to this Hadith.

The meaning of "that which they are acquainted with" is that which they understand. And the meaning of "what they do not know" is that whose understanding causes them confusion. As for the words: "Would you like that Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala and His Messenger Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam be rejected?" - this means that if a person hears something that he does not understand and which he does not conceive to be possible, he will believe it to be impossible out of ignorance. He will therefore not believe in its existence. Then if something of this nature is reported from Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, he will necessarily reject it. And rejecting the words of Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam entails rejecting Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala.

Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (rahmatullahi 'alaih) says: "In this Hadith there is proof that something is confusing should not be mentioned before the masses. Similar is the opinion of the Hadhrat IBN MAS'UD (radhiyallahu 'anhu) when he says: 'No sooner you relate a Hadith to a people who cannot fathom it, it becomes a source of distress and tribulation for some of them.' (Narrated by Muslim in the introduction to his Sahih, vol. 1 p. 76)

"Among those who disliked narrating certain Traditions to the exclusion of others are: (1) Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahmatullahi 'alaih) with regard to the Traditions which outwardly show going against the leader, (2) Imam Malik (rahmatullahi 'alaih) with regard to the Traditions that mention the attributes [of Allah], i.e. those that outwardly portray similarity [to human attributes], (3) Imam Abu Yusuf (rahmatullahi 'alaih) with regard to Traditions in which particular words are mentioned (Gharibul Hadith), (4) The Sahabah/Companions ABU HURAYRAH, HUDHAYFAH (radhiyallahu 'anhumaa) and others who came before the previous three Imams also hold the same view."

"The general rule is that if a Hadith apparently supports an innovation, when its actual import is something else, then it is desirable to hold back such a Hadith from a person of whom it is feared that he may act on its outward meaning. And Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala Knows best. (Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar (rahmatullahi 'alaih), Fath al-Bari, vol. 1 p. 225)
Bukhari and Muslim narrate on the authority of Anas Bin Malik Radhiyallahu 'anhu who said: Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam was on his camel and Mu'adh Bin Jabal Radhiyallahu 'anhu was sitting directly behind him. [Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam said to him] O Mu'adh! He replied: Here I am, O Rasulullah and I am pleased to be with you. Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam said: O Mu'adh! He replied: Here I am, O Rasulullah and I am pleased to be with you. Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam said: O Mu'adh! He replied: Here I am, O Rasulullah and I am pleased to be with you.

Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam said: "When a person sincerely testifies that there is none worthy of worship but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala makes him forbidden to the fire." [Mu'adh] said: "Should I not inform the people about this so that they may take glad tiding from this?" He replied: "No. Because if you do so, they will become lax." Mu'adh Radhiyallahu 'anhu eventually informed the people about this at the time of death fearing that if he didn't inform them, he would be committing a sin [of concealing knowledge].
Hafith Ibn Rajab says: "The 'ulamaa' say: 'It can be derived from this prohibition to Mu'adh Radhiyallahu 'anhu that he should not convey these glad-tidings lest the people become lax, that Traditions which contain concessions should not be mentioned openly among the masses so that they do not misunderstand the actual import of them. Mu'adh Radhiyallahu 'anhu heard such Traditions but these only served to increase his efforts in doing good deeds and in fearing Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'a'a. As for he who has not reached his rank, it is not far-fetched that he may become lax after relying on the outward meaning of this Hadith." ('Allama Shabbir Ahmad al-'Usmani, Fathul Mulhim, vol. 1, p.588)

Source: Excerpt from the book, Prophet Muhammad (saw) - The Teacher and his teaching methodologies by Shaikh Abdul-Fattah Abu Ghuddah (ra)