Islam

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Summary

Islam

Authority

The embryo

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Summary

• The fertilised egg has value and the potential to develop into a human being but it is not a human being.

• The fertilised ovum in a petri dish is not the same as a fertilised ovum in a women’s uterus.

• There is a distinction between early pregnancy (first 40 days) and later pregnancy.

• The majority view in Islam is that “ensoulment” occurs after 120 days.

• Some, including the Maliki school, argue that ensoulment takes place earlier.

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Islam

Islam means submission to the will of God through peace. There are different forms but many muslims see their faith as a fundemental part of their identity.

It is a monotheistic faith that muslims believe has always exsited but was finally fully revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th Century. He received revelations from the angel Gabriel thoughout the later part of his life which were remembered and then recorded and form the text of the Holy Qu’ran. The basic message of Islam is that there is no God but Allah, and that one should totally submit to the will of Allah.

Muslim or Sharia law is derived from a combination of the Qur’an, the Hadith (sayings and conduct of the prophet Muhammad) and fatwas – the rulings of Islamic scholars. Human actions can be seperated into 5 groups:

Obligatory actions, as the name suggests, must be performed and when they are performed with good intentions they are rewarded. The opposite is true for forbidden action. Recommended action is those which should be done and the opposite is disliked action. Permitted action is that which is neither encouraged nor discouraged. Most human actions fall in this last category. Islam has many deontological aspects and the ultimate worth of actions is based on intention and sincerity, as mentioned by the Prophet, who said, “Actions are by intentions, and one shall only get that which one intended.”

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Authority

In Islam, ultimate authority on the permissibility of a certain action is Quranic injunction.

If there is no directly relevant Quranic passage the next level of authority is a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad.

After this, authority lies with the considered opinions of Islamic jurists.

All actions are in principle permissible as long as they are not catergorically prohibited.

In matters in which other invocations are silent then the concept of maslaha (public interest) applies: “where the welfare of people resides, there resides the statute of God.”

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The embryo

There is no explicit definition of the beginning of life in the Quran or the Hadith. The following passage from a hadith narrated by Ibn Mas-ud is interpreted by different scholars in different ways.

“Verily, the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s belly for 40 days. Then it remains there as a leech-like structure for a similar [period]. Then it remains there as a lump of chewed flesh for a similar [period]. Then an angel is sent and it blows into him the spirit …”

It is hard to find any scholar that believes the embryo does not deserve respect from fertilisation however, when that embryo becomes a human being, or “ensouled” is a different matter. The majority view is ensoulment takes place at 120 days.