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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"The word isqat means abortion. Classical Muslim jurists applied a number of terms to abortion, including isqat, ijhadIt, tarh, ilqa and imlas. The Koran does not make reference to abortion as the term is commonly understood, although it upholds the sanctity of human life in general (5:32) and forbid the killing of children (17:31) and female infants (81:18-9) in particular.

Abortion is the expulsion of the fetus before it is due for natural birth. It is an abhorrent and most demn act, interdicted by Islam in the strongest terms. The abortion is no less than heinous than the committing of a murder, and that is why it is also called wa'd khafiyy (hidden infanticide) and qatl al-awlad (killing children). Islam forbade such murder: "Neither slay any one whom God hath forbidden you to slay, unless for a just cause" (17:33).

The majority of scholars however allow abortion before 120 days; because the fetus is not ensouled until the 120 days pass. On this juncture, there are two basic opinions: (1) abortion at any point following conception is murdering a created entity and is thereby forbidden; and (2) the fetus is created at a point following conception, some say 40 days, some 90 days, and the majority 120 days. Before creation, abortion is permitted; following this point, it is forbidden.

The figures of 40 and 120 days come from an interpretation of the Koranic verse (23:12-14), speaking of how God created man and which is interpreted as describing the stages of fetal development: nutfah (sperm), alaqah (blood clot), mudghah (embryo). In a hadith, the Prophet adds the explanation that 40 days is assigned to each stage: the fetus is held as a drop of sperm for 40 days, as a blood clot for another 40 days, and then as a embryo for a final 40 days, at which point the fetus is created, and by extrapolation, at which some consider the soul enters the fetus.

If the mother is endangered by the pregnancy, all schools bow to medical opinion and permit a therapeutic abortion. Because the mother is the source, the origin of life, her life and health is given priority. This leaves the physician with a degree of latitude in determining when an abortion is in the best interests of the woman.

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