Lecture 10 in the Ramadaan series:
REFLECTIONS ON SURAH ISRAA’
23 April 2021 (11th Ramadaan 1442
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Inshallah we wish to continue our discussion in relation to the seventieth chapter of the Holy Quran. These series of verses discuss a number of jurisprudential rulings that affect our daily behaviour. Verse 31 reads:
وَلاَ تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلاَدَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلاَقٍ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئاً كَبِيراً
“And do not kill your offspring for fear of poverty. We sustain them as well as you. Verily killing them is a capital sin.”
In Pre-Islamic Arabia, infanticide was a common practice. More specifically, they would bury their baby daughters alive. Having female children was regarded as a bad omen and a source of disgrace. Interestingly, infant males were also murdered. This, however, was performed due to extenuating economic circumstances. Arabian society was incredibly impoverished and went to such extreme extents just to remain alive.
This verse was trying to combat against this culture. Allah (swt) reassured the Muslims that He would grant sustenance for both the parents, as well as the children.
ISLAMIC POSITION ON ABORTION
While this verse was speaking about infanticide in Arabian society, this holds incredible value in the ills that afflict our very own society today. Abortion has become common practice in our country and has become easily accessible. This is not a light matter, as the final part of the verse emphasises:
إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئاً كَبِيراً
“…killing them is a capital sin.”
The Islamic position on this issue is that life is intrinsically sacred. Whatever the circumstance one may find themselves in, none is granted the autonomy to commit this act. The true Giver of Life is Allah (swt), and therefore we have no agency to decide whether or not termination of this life is acceptable or not.
In Surah An’am verse 151, Allah (swt) says:
وَلاَ تَقْتُلُواْ أَوْلاَدَكُم مِّنْ إمْلاَقٍ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ وَلاَ تَقْرَبُواْ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَلاَ تَقْتُلُواْ النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللّهُ إِلاَّ بِالْحَقِّ ذَلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُمْ بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
151 “…do not kill your children for poverty -We provide for you and for them – and do not approach indecencies, the outward among them and the inward ones, and do not kill the soul that Allah has forbidden save for justice. This He has enjoined you with so that you might understand.”
Notice the subtle difference between this verse and the verse present in Surah Israa. Allah (swt) indicates that if one fears from being in poverty or is experiencing poverty itself, neither circumstance justifies the act of infanticide.
THE CONUNDRUM OF RAPE
Unfortunately, our country is plagued with gender-based violence and numerous instances of rape on a daily basis. As a result, this has led to many women falling pregnant from an action that was no fault of their own. They are the victim and are not blamed for what was done to them. She now faces the challenges of raising this child completely on her own, amongst numerous other difficulties.
There are a plethora of complications that engulf her life in this moment in time.
However, this still does not give her the authority to abort the baby. As I have mentioned, in Islam life is viewed as sacred and cannot so easily be taken away. Despite this ruling, there are certain exceptions that can be made.
In certain cultures that exist till today, if a woman were to have a baby outside of marriage – this would be a source of immense humiliation and embarrassment for that family. This in itself still does not warrant the killing of the child. However, due to the brutal behaviour of some individuals, the mother may quite likely be killed for her action. In such circumstances an abortion would be permitted so that her life can be saved.
Furthermore, the abortion would only be permitted before the soul has been ‘blown’ into the infant. This is usually in the first few weeks after pregnancy. After there is movement and development, the life of the baby cannot be taken away.
While there may be differing conditions, the basis of this reasoning is prioritising the life of the mother over the baby. If the former is at risk of being lost, an abortion would be permitted in this case.
One needs to understand the philosophy behind this thinking. Life is sacred. We have no authority to remove the life of another.
IS ABORTION ALLOWED BECAUSE OF BIRTH DEFECTS?
Even if it is the case where the baby will suffer from health problems or disabilities, abortion is generally still not allowed. If bearing a baby like this with all the possible challenges becomes an unbearable burden and the mother is under threat, then only in the early stages of pregnancy is an abortion allowed.
The presence of disabilities or defects do not justify performing an abortion. Allah (swt) is the Creator – and this in fact may be a form of testing one would need to go through. The giving and taking away of life is in the hands of Allah (swt). This is something beyond our discretion to decide between what is acceptable and reprehensible.
SEVERE WARNING FROM ALLAH (SWT) ABOUT ZINA (FORNICATION)
Allah (swt) then discusses another societal ill with immense consequences. This is partially related to the previous topic. This is seen in verse 32 of Surah Israa.
وَلاَ تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَي إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَآءَ سَبِيلاً
“And do not approach fornication, verily it is an indecency and an evil way.”
This verse does not say “do not commit fornication.” It says one should not even go close to it. This is an incredibly important point to be careful of. The nature of this sin is that if you go close to it, you will become involved and somehow be responsible for the sin.
This shows that fornication does not happen instantaneously – it is a process. There are plenty of prerequisites. The very first step of this begins with the lustful gaze towards a non-mahram individual. There are a plethora of ahadith from the Ahlulbait (as) that indicate this is the first step towards this heinous sin.
The first look which is without a lustful intention is not classified as haram by the jurists. However, the second look with intention – is what the hadith indicate as amongst the first arrows of Shaytaan. Even looking at women without that intention is not encouraged. If a person truly wants to develop themselves, they should avoid looking at non mahrams in the first place where avoidable.
Our society is filled with these examples. The movies, music, clothing, and every aspect of society – reaching its absolute worst state in the form of pornography. What surrounds us attempts to grab our attention.
Another important aspect that the sharia indicates is being alone with a non-mahram. This needs to be avoided as far as possible as this is what is meant by moving close towards fornication.
The Quran also makes use of the past tense. The literal Arabic translation would be that it “was an indecency.” This is not something unique, as it is used in relation to the day of Judgement in other verses as well. In the first verse of Surah Waqi’ah, Allah (swt) says that the resurrection has already befell.
إِذَا وَقَعَتِ الْوَاقِعَةُ
“When the Great Event [Resurrection] befalls.”
The reasoning behind this style is that when we use the present or future tenses, there is still some probability that it won’t happen. When the past tense is used alternatively, there is no possibility of it not occurring.
Thus, the Quran is saying that judgement is such a certainty that one should take it as a surety! In the same vein, Allah (swt) speaks about the surety of the evil of fornication. The use of past tense also shows that throughout human history this type of interaction was regarded as a terrible act.
Verse 32 then continues:
“…and an evil way.”
This ‘evil way’ is the reason why Islam has forbidden this action. This can be summarised into 4 headlines.
ZINA DESTROYS THE FAMILY UNIT
In Islam the family unit is held as the fundamental building blocks of a community. If this is strengthened and remains intact, society will be able to flourish. When a parent commits fornication, they have betrayed the trust they have made to not only their spouse, but to the rest of their family as well. A family in which there is no loyalty and trust in such a sensitive manner is unable to survive.
The children, now being nurtured in an environment that they thought they understood but now appears completely foreign and chaotic, lack a direction. With nothing left to aim towards, individuals are produced that are of no betterment to the community that they live in.
CHILDREN WITH NO IDENTITY
Fornication results in children that do not have a firm foundation. When a woman falls pregnant, unfortunately the father figure completely disappears from the landscape. He absolves himself of any responsibility. The child then grows up not knowing who his father and lacks a male-leading figure in his life.
In the case that the woman has been with multiple different men, she is unaware of who’s child she is carrying. This compounds the problem to make it even worse. Instead of knowing that a certain individual was the father who had left, there is a missing personality who could be multiple different people that one has no certainty surrounding.
SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES (STDs)
Fornication, especially once it has become widespread, promotes medical problems and illnesses. In our country specifically, we have seen the severe effects that this behaviour has had in the form of HIV/AIDS. There is much information in regard to this discussion that I am sure you are all well aware of, so there is no need to delve deeper into this topic.
FORNICATION BATTLES AGAINST MARRIAGE
This is the most important reason why Islam has forbidden this practice. Zina at its core is against marriage. Marriage is a responsibility and commitment, while fornication relinquishes this accountability. In our society the phenomenon of casual sex has become a norm. The reality is that fleeing from this onus does not mean that the consequences disappear – it eventually falls back onto the mother and her children.
The rights of the wife and children are completely neglected. Each individual has the freedom to walk out of the door at any moment they please. This will result in generations of people with single parents. A family culture where there is a safe space created for everyone to grow in their own capacity becomes non-existent.
When the backgrounds of criminals are analysed, it is often seen that they were nurtured in broken homes. Unfortunately, in many instances, this lays the foundation for the rest of their lives.
I would like to end this discussion with a beautiful hadith from Imam Ali (as) who said that he had heard the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) say: “There are 6 characteristics for the one who commits fornication – three in this world and three in the hereafter. As for the punishment in this world it is:
- Noor (light) taken away from one’s face.
This is not merely a physical punishment, but in reality shows that spirituality in life completely dies by the action of fornication!
- Rizq (sustenance) being taken away.
- Speeds of destruction of the society.
And the consequences of it in the hereafter:
- The anger of Allah (swt)
- Evil reckoning and account.
- Entrance into the hell fire.”
Despite all of these consequences, it is important to remember that tawbah (repentance) is still possible. If one has found themselves in this position, all hope is still not lost. Allah (swt) will of course forgive one who returns sincerely back to Him.
May Almighty Allah (swt) protect us all from the evils of this action.
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