Archive for the Uncategorized Category

The Key to Attract an Amazing Spouse

Posted in Marriage Coaching, Uncategorized on November 10, 2009 by Shaz

The key to attract an amazing spouse is to nurture in yourself those qualities that appeal to a person of that standard.

Many of us pine for the perfect spouse–realize he or she does not exist. Pick the best you can find, and learn to live with and cover their warts and weaknesses.

Set your criteria (based on the hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him)–have they memorized the Qur’an? Do they speak Arabic? Do they pray Tahajjud (middle-of-the-night prayer) once a week?–then ask yourself what a person of those qualities would like in a spouse, and instill those qualities into yourself.

And always double-check your intention to make sure your actions are to please Allah alone.

When you succeed, bi ithnillah, they will seek you out.

May Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) make us all among those who uphold the deen to the highest standard and take it to new heights.


Torn Between Two Loves

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2009 by Shaz

Torn Between Two Loves

The Story of Zainab, the Prophet’s Eldest Daughter


By Maria Zain



Zainab was the eldest daughter of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Eldest, and by default, a role-model, Zainab’s story of loving, losing and loving again was probably the most painful yet most endearing of the four sisters.

As a young Arab woman, she was married to a wealthy man from Shams, a tribe of Quraish.

However, as Islam came to Makkah, little did the family realize that Zainab’s marriage had to be terminated, having to choose her beloved father over her husband.

Her tale is an emotional one, embalmed in tears — both sad and happy.

The Division of Makkah

When Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation, Zainab was already married to a kind and loving husband. His name was Abul-Aas ibn Rabi. Upon learning of her father’s appointment as the last Prophet, Zainab along with her mother Khadijah, and her sisters Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum and Fatimah were the first women and young girls who embraced Islam.

It frightened the Prophet’s immediate family that he would incur a pressing amount of hatred from many enemies of Islam. Yet the five of them banded together, along with their male counterparts such as Ali ibn Abi Talib and Zaid ibn Haritha, who made up the first handful of Muslims.

Chaos erupted in the months that followed, as more and more of the poor and oppressed turned to Prophet Muhammad for protection. Islam was something new to them and extremely appealing. They were granted rights and complete freedom from those who overworked and tortured them.

Their reversion in silence was suddenly shattered when the Prophet received revelation to announce to Makkah that there was only one God worthy of worship, and he, Prophet Muhammad, was the final Messenger.

Families began to divide. Brothers lost brothers to this new alien faith. Parents lost children; and some children lost their parents. Husbands and wives disagreed and fought. Family heads were appalled at changes in religious beliefs of their son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws. Many were expelled from the family home.

Amongst them were Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum. It is unclear as to whether the girls were already married or merely betrothed to the sons of Abu Lahab, but they were flung back into the arms of Prophet Muhammad and Khadijah upon the news of their reversion. The couple was relieved; the last thing they wanted for their daughters was for them to have an ardent enemy as a father-in-law.

Then, there was Zainab. In the clamor of confusion and a strong resistance to acceptance of Islam by the heavyweights of the Quraish, Zainab and Abul-Aas marriage remained intact. It definitely was not a smooth sailing journey for the young couple. The leaders of the Shamsite clan began to crack-down on their kinsman. Divorce, they screamed at him, she was contaminated with a mental disorder and a disgrace to the tribe.

Yet amidst the pressure and insult that fell upon Abul-Aas and his wife, they remained married amongst the controversies that surrounded their union. He remained “tolerant,” as many scholars described a handful of the Prophet’s family members who did not follow his footsteps to Islam.

Yet, tolerance was a feeble excuse for the proud pagan Arabs – tolerance did not exist – especially in a society that had suddenly been condemned by a man named Muhammad, who previously to his submission to One God, had been trusted by his community.

They would never be tolerant to this misfit, who asked them to abandon their statues and granted women equal privileges as men. The men promised Abul-Aas the wedding of his choice to the bride of his choice – the most beautiful, richest, well-connected virgin of Makkah – as long as he terminated his marriage to Zainab, the eldest daughter of the misfit named Muhammad.

The criticisms and pressure fell on deaf ears. He loved his wife and his mother-in-law, Khadijah, who was also his aunt. He also loved Prophet Muhammad, and would not severe ties with his family. In all adversities that surrounded them, Abul-Aas remained married to Zainab.

Alone in the Masses

The chaos was just the beginning. Passing years witnessed more and more influential persons venturing to the Kabah to pray behind Prophet Muhammad, Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab and their comrades decided it was time to eradicate this nuisance of a following, once and for all.

They boycotted the followers of Islam from engaging in any contracts with their non-Muslim tribes. For three years the early Muslims lost their wealth to the non-Muslims as they were unable to trade. Their health deteriorated as they were unable to purchase sustenance. They became outcasts of society, traitors to the proud pagan way.

It must have been difficult for Zainab, alone in the masses, a Muslim still amongst non-Muslims, still in love with her husband. He still remained tolerant but unaccepting of this strange faith; but she had been removed from her doting parents, her siblings and other important companions who remained close to her heart. By the time the ban was over, there was little time for Zainab to rejoice. Her mother passed away, and so did her grand uncle, Abu Talib, one of the few tolerant non-Muslims.

Just over a year later, the Muslims emigrated to Madinah, to start the first civilization known to mankind. Zainab was alone again – within the sea of non-believers – married to a man who did not share her love for Islam.

A Message for Zainab

The Battle of Badr marked the first fair battle between the Muslims and non-Muslims as the former sought to reclaim their possessions that had been confiscated during the boycott. It must have been horrendous for Zainab knowing that one army was being led by her father with a heavy burden upon him to protect the rights of his followers and that her husband stood by the enemy lines.

Sources narrate that there were tears in the Muslims’ eyes as they fought against their brothers, cousins, uncles, neighbors, friends and former colleagues. It must have been no less teary for Zainab.

The outcome of Badr was also bittersweet for her. When her husband did not return from the battlefield, she knew he was being held captive by the Muslims, and her father was alive and safe.

Back in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad was collecting blood money for the captives. One by one he freed the captives as the blood money trickled in. When it came to Abul-Aas’ package, the Prophet paled, as attached to the money was an onyx necklace – one that belonged to Khadijah. The Prophet remembered the day she had given it to Zainab, when he had given her away in marriage to the man who was awaiting for his freedom.

He ordered for the money and the necklace to be returned to his estranged daughter, along with her husband. However, he spoke gently with Abul-Aas, to free Zainab from her marriage, as by then, a revelation directed that she could no longer be married to a non-Muslim man.

Her departure was heartbreaking. She left to live her life as a Muslim without barriers, but Abul-Aas was still using Islam as a barrier for their relationship. He was still unable to forsake the beliefs of his fore-fathers.

As she left for Madinah, the men of the Abd Shams tribe became outraged that a woman of their clan was being transported to the Muslims. They had barely recovered from the vile defeat in Badr.

They mobilized a small troop to stop her from moving back to her family. A man called Habbar galloped viciously and pointed in front of her carriage brandishing a spear upon Zainab and her young daughter Umamah. Her brother-in-law, by the name of Kinanah – who was her escort – reasoned with the men and turned the carriage to head back to Makkah before anyone was hurt. Some say Zainab fell from her camel, others say she was so frightened at Habbar’s threat. Either way, many believed she miscarried a child that was blossoming within her – a memory of her marriage to her husband.

The Family Reunion

Kinanah later transported Zainab and Umamah by night where they safely arrived at Madinah to be reunited with her family. By then, her sister Ruqayyah had died, but she still had father and her youngest two siblings. She also had Umamah.

Zainab was finally able to live her life as a liberated Muslim, attending prayers with her family and working towards the betterment of a progressive society.

During her time at Madinah, she also experienced a perilous siege upon the Muslim community. The people of Makkah were back to attack the Muslims in Madinah. Her father along with his consultative panel strategized to play on the defensive, digging a trench around the vulnerable border of Madinah. “The Battle of the Trench,” as it was called, marked a disfavourable turning point for the army from Makkah.

After approximately two weeks of attempts to attack, the Quraish failed miserably to penetrate Madinah, but the siege was not over. A Jewish tribe living within Madinah had allied with the foreign influence and was prepared to attack the Muslims from within. By the grace of Allah, Prophet Muhammad and his men were able to intercept the attacks.

From then on, the Arabs of Makkah had lost all integrity as a nation; they even lost credibility in their trades – which was their livelihood all this while.

The Second Reunion

Months followed and the Muslims were instructed to sabotage trade caravans from Makkah that were travelling past Madinah. A caravan returning from Syria was captured by Zaid, one of the Prophet’s companions. The merchandise and employees were brought to Madinah.

However, one man, amongst a few, escaped.

He made his way carefully to Madinah in the middle of the night, and by some miracle he knocked on the right door. Zainab let him in. In all of his despair, he knew he could trust her.

He told her that he was troubled by the confiscation of many goods that were held in his trust as a result from barter trades in Syria. The people of Makkah trusted him and he needed to return the goods to their purchasers. He also feared for his safety.

Zainab left quietly for dawn prayers with her family members. She stood amongst the female congregation, in the front row, with her sisters and the Mothers of Believers (the Prophet’s wives). As she saw her father with a congregation of men, Zainab waited for a moment of silence and cried out with all her heart, “O people, I give protection to Abul-Aas, the son of Rabi.”

Concerned by her situation, her father hurried over to Zainab. She repeated her message to the Prophet and he calmly reminded her “Receive him with all honour, but let him not come to you as a husband, for you are not his by law.” He then turned to his followers and beseeched them to have mercy upon his former son-in-law who was also his late wife’s nephew. He was still a relative.

All of the merchandise that fell under Abul-Aas purview was returned to him, in hopes he would embrace Islam. When asked whether he would join them as a brother in faith and acquire the goods that he possessed, he answered, “It were a bad beginning to my Islam, that I should betray my trust.”

After returning the goods to Makkah, Abul-Aas made his way back to Madinah and embraced Islam. The Prophet reinstated his marriage to Zainab. It was one of the happiest days of his family and the city of Makkah rejoiced at their reunion.

Love Lives On

Zainab died not long after she was reunited with her husband, but her love stretches beyond her lifetime. Women today face all sorts of dilemmas and atrocities with respects to their families, marriages, statuses, careers and personal lives; those who have faith pull through.

Zainab, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad, persevered through the most horrific mental torture that her marriage could endure during the advent of Islam. She watched her family suffer as they were marginalized from society.

She was abandoned several times, forcing herself to live amongst non-Muslims who despised her father. She feared her father’s life as she did for her husband’s on several occasions and sometimes at the same time.

There were times when her own life was threatened and her divorce took a toll on her mental and physical self. She was torn between two loves time and time again; yet she chose each time – and chose wisely – one man above the other man, both whom she loved dearly.

The driving force behind Zainab’s steadfastness could only be one thing – her faith – her undying love for the one religion that saved her life on many occasions, her father’s life and her husband’s life – it was the choice of Islam.

Works Cited

Ling, Martin. Muhammad.

Newlyweds : The Same Old Story

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2008 by Shaz

Sally Rawhey

It has to be what I want! No, what I want!

These are the two sentences each newly married couple scream out in total silence. It is unusual that they would express it to each other, but their actions indicate what is going on in their minds. Who will lead the battle, who will carry an army of patience and who will allow his armies to attack?

They entered this marriage in the name of love, or even in the name of mutual understanding and respect, however, the first months and years of marriage encourage a lot of destructive weapons, strategic planning and explosive intentions.

Let’s not be too dramatic. Let’s move in slowly and see what it’s all about.

He walked in and closed the door behind you….. You smiled, that’s the moment you have been waiting for so long. Just you and him finally in your home – husband and wife – and a future of happiness. He is all yours and you are all his… what could go wrong? Simply nothing!

Take some advice, cross the ‘no’ out of this dialog, because unfortunately there are a lot of things ahead. A lot of it is negative. It is not a smooth road ahead! No! Marriage is so far from it. It is sweet yes, but bitter sweet! Here are some bites for you to taste.

Some Money …. Less money…. No money

Here’s the situation: You had the wedding you wanted, you furnished the flat you struggled for, and you spent on the honeymoon you fancied. You are now back to reality with no money, some debts and a lot of blame!

Hubby: ? told you there was no need for all the expenses you insisted on for the wedding!”

Wife: “You didn’t seem to mind adding 20 couples to the list after we finished our budget…”

Hubby: “ We were not supposed to buy all that stuff on our honeymoon…”

Wife: “You were supposed to make better calculations..”

Money is among your first enemies; actually the lack of it straight after you have tied the knot. If you believe that the word “I” is spoken more than any other word, take this dare, the word money will pop up more with a newly-wed couple. Who takes the salary into his hand? Will he save any money? Will this money be enough for the month? Where did your money go? You said you would give me more money?

Money, money…money…is the much hated friend that shares your marriage. It can even destroy it, especially in those early days when its scarcity can be translated by both partners as stinginess, selfishness or even failure.

Habits…Habits…and More Habits..

These will surely create some waves of fury as you swim your way into your life-long relationship with your spouse. She takes all the covers to herself and rolls in it like a salmon sandwich. He snores like a rhino all night long. She spends hours showering and there is only one toilet to use when nature calls. He doesn’t seem to mind the suffocating smell that comes out of his shoes and takes it lightly. She does not pick up her clothes and leaves them piled on the couch.

He and she both have different habits that they have been living with for years and years and simply do not care to change after marriage, no matter how annoying these might be to the other party. One woman complained at the beginning of her marriage that her husband insisted on carrying her once he stepped into the house, like some kind of obsession, he would lift her off the ground immediately as soon as he saw her.

At the beginning it was cute and sweet and you name it, but when this habit continued on a daily basis even after they had their first baby, she was greatly alarmed. Her husband was more interested to carry her than he cared to carry his baby son.

And years went by and the habit never lost momentum with him; he continued to carry her unless he was sick. And the son grew, watching his father carry his mother all around the house. Then one day the mother walked into the house to find her son moving towards her and sweeping her off the ground, carrying her in his arms just like his father. That is when she could not take it any more.

What an interesting habit! Too bad she didn’t like it! But then again one finds it difficult to accept other people’s habits that are alien to him. Often time makes it bearable but at other times a habit is painful and a continuous topic of arguments between husband and wife.

My family Vs Your family…

Dividing time among the in-laws is a major issue to newly-weds. It is an issue that is better discussed and finalized before marriage. This is one issue were six people have to be satisfied, not just the married couple, and it also includes two sets of parents who are still learning how to let go of their “kids” to their new life. It requires a lot of sacrifice, a lot of understanding and a lot of patience to reach a deal that is accepted by all.

It is so difficult; .a task that even Superman would consider “dangerous”! Both spouses want the day off with their parents; each wants the first day of Ramadan with their parents; each wants the first day of Eid with their parents…and so on and so forth.

Who Stole the Fire?

The fire of love will often lose its glow after the first few months of marriage and the intensity of the emotions that used to shift and turn them in waves of romance, will lighten up. Usually a woman spots this case first and turns to her husband with another fire in her eyes asking, “What changed you? You haven’t said you love me all week? You come back from work and sit in front of the TV in total silence! You don’t want to drive me any where, after you used to beg me to drive me any where! You don’t love me any more!?!”

Or a husband could even be the first to track the situation, and cynically accuse the wife of changing, “Why is your hair such a mess, and what is this you’re wearing, you look like Hassan Metwaly, my buddy from my army days!

You only talk about what the house is missing but you never make me feel that you’re happy; we’re happy together…bla, bla, bla “

It is a long list of complaints that rise to the surface when the strong churning feelings of love sink below the normal routine of a married couple. In life, nothing remains with its strong intensity, everything eventually fades out. A scientist would tell me that this is the law of Osmosis, or is it diffusion…the diffusion of the strong, burning heat of love to a cooler existence that all married couple eventually live in.

There are countless problems that could plague a new marriage and shake its roots before it has time to grow deep and strong. The newly-married couple could well be struggling with financial difficulties, in-law problems, lack of accommodation, full working schedules combined with the unfamiliarity of living under the same roof with a spouse. What to do? Grab two chairs, put a smile on your faces and two, big breaths from each of you. Better set the rules now, and make your agreements before it turns into a ‘blame war’. And remember as you sit before each other with demands, that marriage is all about sacrifices.

A more important part of smoothing your relationship during those tough, first years is to do beautiful things together. The first thing to do is to snatch any chance to Pray together. Encourage your partner to read or recite Qur?n together. Visit each of your families together. Do anything that brings good to other people and do it together. You will find that nothing will get you closer to your spouse than yielding good deeds together. It is only by being together that will you stay together!

Islam’s Reverence to Women as Wives

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2008 by Shaz

Translated by

An article written by Amr Khaled in Alyakatha magazine on 24/12/2003.

Let us now contemplate the signs of reverence of a woman as a wife in Islam from the beginning. It begins when choosing and accepting the husband. In Islam, a girl or woman is free to choose and accept her husband because this is part of her general liberties, as an individual and a human being, which equate those of men.

In Islam, a woman, whether a woman is a virgin or a matron, has complete and absolute freedom to accept or refuse someone who comes to ask for her hand in marriage. Her father or guardian has no right to force upon her what she does not want. This is because married life cannot be founded and continued on intimidation, anger and coercion. It was only authorized for love and compassion since Allah (SWT) says: “And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect” [Qur’an, T.M.Q. Ar-rum, verse 21].

How are love, compassion and rest to develop in a marriage where the wife has been forced to marry a man she does not love, want or find attractive? What is the evidence for what I have just mentioned and referred to? The evidence comes from the narrations of the two Sheikhs, narrated by Abu Hurairah: The Prophet said, “A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! How can we know her permission?” He said, “Her silence (indicates her permission).”

The matron is the divorced or widowed woman, and the virgin is the woman who has never been married. This hadith advocates that the permission of the virgin and the matron are conditions for the validity of the contract (of marriage). If the father or guardian weds the matron without her permission, the marriage contract is false and invalid. As in the story narrated by Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya, that her father gave her in marriage when she was a matron and she disliked that marriage. So she went to Allah’s Apostle (P.B.U.H.) and he annulled her marriage.

The virgin has her own preference; she may wish to agree to her father’s or guardian’s choice or she may wish to refuse it. If she refuses, the marriage contract is annulled. The evidence that supports this right of the virgin is narrated by Ibn Abbas, that a virgin slave came to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) and said that her father gave her hand in marriage against her will. So the Prophet gave her the choice (narrated by Ahmed). This proves that the father has no advantage over others regarding the necessity of obtaining the virgin’s permission and her approval.

In Sahih Muslim and others, the Prophet has said, “And the virgin has to be consulted by her father”. This means that he should seek her permission and approval. Further evidence is what was narrated by Aisha, that a girl had come to see her and said, “My father has given me in marriage to his nephew to overcome his misfortune and I dislike it (this marriage)”. She said, “Wait until the Prophet arrives”. She retold the story to the Prophet, so he sent for her father and gave her say over the issue. She then said, “Oh Allah’s Apostle, I approve of my father’s action but I wanted to teach women something” (narrated by An-Nisa’e in the Book of Matrimony).

I will dwell on this story at several points:

Firstly, the girl’s saying, “and I dislike it”.

Secondly, the action of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.): he gave her say over the issue which means he gave her the right to endorse what the father has arranged or reject and refuse it. If she refuses, the contract is invalid.

Thirdly, the girl in the story was a virgin and not a matron so that no one would suggest that this right is for the matron and not the virgin. This was mentioned by An-Nisa’e when he narrated the story and the Hadith.

The fourth point is her statement, “I approve of my father’s action”. If she hadn’t, then the contract would have been annulled.

The fifth point is her comment, “I wanted to teach women something”. I think she has taught (us) that women, whether virgins or matrons, have the right to not be forced to marry a man they hate or do not accept.

Islam began to teach the father that, before everything else, his daughter was a human being and not merchandise to be displayed and given to whoever can pay more, which is the case of many fathers in our communities today.

What Islam has documented for girls and women in the matter of marriage regarding the freedom to accept or refuse was supported by another issue that is the permission of her guardian! This is an issue that requires a lot of explanations and detail that may not be appropriate here but could be referred to books and scholars of Fiqh.

But I say in general, if the father has no right to marry her daughter to someone she does not accept, it is the father’s right that she does not marry without his permission, to avoid talk and hearsay about her status, honour and integrity or allow any animosity, antagonism or cutting of family ties. This is because of the Prophet’s Hadith, “There is no marriage without a guardian (custodian)” (narrated by Abu Daoud, Al termithy, Ibn Majed and Ahmed).

The Apostle’s texts do not aim or intend to restrict (sensor) the girl but to honour her by providing all the guarantees that would make her marriage successful, happy and full of love and compassion; a marriage built on solid ground without a possibility of abusing the emotional side of it, thus missing or losing the remaining basis on which marriage is based, such as compatibility, religion and others. The person most likely to preserve these rights for the girl or woman is her father. The man, who fathered, raised, contained, disciplined, embraced, loved, spent and guided. He supported her when she needed support, wiped her tears, patted her on the shoulder. He is the tender father who wants nothing from his daughters and sons except what is good, beneficial and righteous.

What I wish for each marriage is for it to take place with the agreement of all parties: the father, the mother and the daughter, with everyone pleased with it: the daughter is not forced to marry someone she hates and the father is not pressured into accepting a man he doubts or disapproves of.

Pls suggest!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 14, 2007 by Shaz

Assalaam ‘Alaikum!

I would like to know if the readers prefer this theme or the previous dark one?

Kindly let me know !

Jazakallah Khayran Katheeran!

Any topic you would like to be addressed..

Any other suggestions…welcomed

Fi Amaan ALLAH!

Thinking About Abortion

Posted in Marriage Counselling, Sexual Issues, Uncategorized on June 21, 2007 by Shaz


Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood.

I was recently asked some very important questions on the subject of abortion. My questioner wished to know whether abortion was allowed at all to a Muslim woman, and if so, did it have to be within the first 40 days of the pregnancy? There was also the mention of a period of 120 days. And if abortion was allowed, could it be for any reason before that number of days? Why should there be any reason why abortion should not be allowed, since the presumption in Islam was presumably that the soul, if such a thing existed, had not yet entered the body of the unborn child?

The questioner agreed that it was not legal in Islam to kill a person outside the grounds stated in the Qur’an, but if the soul had not yet entered the body, then surely in reality no person other than the mother was actually involved – what would be aborted would be only the processing of a human before the process was complete.

The questioner also considered the situation that if a mother and father were married and already had children, and both agreed that they did not want to have more children, and both wished to abort the unwanted pregnancy, then surely they need not feel any guilt for doing it? Surely, if the people concerned did not believe that they were committing any sin in having an abortion, then they would not feel any guilt at any time – in a similar manner to a judge who passed a death sentence. It could be the case that if the abortion did not take place, then the parents would have to bear the burden of rearing that child for the rest of their lives, when they might not be prepared or able to do so. It only left the suffering of the foetus to be taken into consideration, and one could deal with its death in the same way as for any other dead person whose soul has departed.

I will do my best to give sensible thoughts on all the above issues. The subject is emotive, and a very sad one – for no-one is happy to consider the suffering that goes hand in hand with any unwanted pregnancy, or unwanted child, born or unborn.

As for a judge not feeling guilt when sentencing a person to death, I think the questioner is mistaken. Having known several judges, I can assure you executing a criminal is not a light matter for them, and they do continue to be affected in many ways, into later life. Can the judge really be totally convinced of the identity of a murderer from the evidence – or that he/she was in no way of unsound mind, or was definitely guilty beyond any shadow of doubt? One of my judge friends used to say (in the Prophet’s words) that he would far rather be merciful and let a guilty person go free than execute an innocent one.

Many young women (and older ones) are certainly able to convince their minds that abortion is not really a serious matter, and blank it out – those who think it is important also do that, or the pain would be too much to bear. However, psychologists will assure you that the majority of women bitterly regret in later life that they had a child aborted, and never really get over it, suffering feelings of guilt, immense sadness and loss. They may get away temporarily without suffering much guilt or trauma, but they cannot forget that they have killed their own child, and can never stop wondering what that child might have been. If they suppress their emotions and grief, it may have very adverse effects upon them in the way of depression and so on. For a Muslim woman it is worse, for Islam teaches that in the Afterlife, the ‘unborn’ child will ask why it was killed, and that those who killed it must make amends.

Even if she does not feel guilt, we still have to wonder how the mother will feel when she meets that child, as God wills, in the Hereafter. No doubt the child’s soul will console the mother, but it will still be a very hard thing. There is no detail of our lives from which we can escape the consequences. Insha’Allah, let us hope that in God’s compassion wounds may be healed at last.

Firstly, why should any abortion be necessary? The conception of an unwanted child has not happened by magic, but the child has a father and mother. Why should any woman wish to abort her own conceived child? In fact, there are numerous reasons, including innocent girls being seduced without realising until too late what was happening, rape, carelessness, mothers thinking they are past childbearing age and leaving off contraception, contraception being used but used inadequately or failing. Many thousands of examples in each category take place daily. I personally experienced conception whilst I was ‘on the pill’, and I know of umpteen cases of broken condoms, or condoms coming off prematurely!

When considering any question concerning abortion, one has to bear in mind primarily the rights, the sufferings and the fate of three people – the father of the child, the mother of the child, and the child itself. There are also other relatives who may be involved in the matter, especially – usually – the mother’s mother. It is sometimes the case that the maternal grandmother goes through more mental suffering than anyone else involved, but for the moment let us leave that aside.

Many women who discover they have an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy panic, and argue that if they don’t want to have a baby they should be allowed to have control over their own bodies. This turns a blind eye to the rights of the father that implanted the child in them, and the child itself. These women often simply ignore the father and the unborn foetus and go ahead with what they wish to do.

I feel strongly that a father does have some rights over the fate of his seed, and it is a good thing if he feels responsible. All too many boys act thoughtlessly, and assume that if they make girls they do not wish to marry pregnant, they will ‘get away with it’ and not be held to account. All too often, to their dismay, the girl does bear the child and the unwilling father soon finds out that his little boy or girl will most likely grow up somewhere close at hand, and may well look just like him, a constant reminder of his callousness. I have known men in their thirties and forties suffer heartbreak over bastard children they fathered while in their teens and intended to forget.

Being a father involves a great deal of responsibility, including financial responsibility, and that is usually the bit that fathers-who-do-not-wish-to-be-fathers do not want. In today’s world so many people have become ‘hard’, and try to avoid taking responsibilities. They hope to brush things under the carpet. This may work temporarily, or even for the entire length of their earthly lives; but if it is true that we are souls, then the souls of our children will have to be encountered at some stage or other, and fathers will be called to account for their lack of care when impregnating women.

Now, to consider the rights of the mother. She is the one whose body does all the bearing and suffering, both during pregnancy, during childbirth, hormonally for months afterwards, and as a mother for the rest of her life. She should think most seriously before allowing herself to become pregnant. That ‘accidents’ happen is an appalling evidence of how we humans have trivialised the whole attitude towards life. Sometimes a mother feels that she has very good grounds for aborting her child – perhaps she was raped, made pregnant unwillingly, forced, was too young to bear and cope, was not in a position to rear a child, or her life or her mental state would indeed be in danger if she did so. Usually, these are just excuses because the birth of that particular child would not be convenient – but often, there are genuinely very traumatic circumstances. Doctors consider each individual case carefully, and sometimes allow abortion – although it is not something doctors enjoy at all, especially after the 10th week.

The UK law on this issue also has to be considered. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 allows abortion on the following conditions:

· that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of the family; (there is debate to bring this back to 20 weeks)

· that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;

· that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;

· that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

It does not include abortion simply because the child is female – an unpleasant aspect increasing in certain parts of the world (including Islamic ones) where sons are desired above daughters, or where only one child is permitted to a family. In some regions such femicide is seriously affecting the balance of the population.

Even with such provisos, doctors warn that abortion involves killing a living creature, by various methods. None are pleasant. They usually hate aborting unborn children,

We are so shielded from what actually takes place. Some girls think they just have to close their eyes and it will all be magically taken away – wrong! Depending on the age of the foetus, they will still have to have the baby, by some means or other, and if the child is born living it will then be killed or allowed to die. This is always traumatic, especially for medical staff delivering perfectly healthy and valid babies. In the vast majority of cases, abortions do not take place until at least the 12th week, by which time the child is sucking its thumb, can feel pain, and it can be known through ultra-sound photography whether the child will be male or female.

Methods of abortion vary. The living child has to be killed somehow. Frequently it is done by what is called the ‘vacuum’ method. It sounds easy enough, but a sharp medical blade like a razor is introduced on a long instrument through the vagina while the woman is unconscious. The unborn child is cut up, the pieces sucked out by a ‘vacuum’, and the taken-out pieces checked afterwards like a jigsaw. (My own daughter went through this once, and in her case, part of the child was left inside her and she had to be rushed back to hospital for a second operation!)

Feelings about abortion are highly sensitive, because inevitably the mother really is to blame for the death of her child, and the guilt is very real. People are frequently uncomfortable about talking to them about their loss, and this does not help them resolve their grief. Sometimes, if they show grief, family and friends are actually critical, and tell them they are making a fuss about nothing. They feel it is best for the whole unhappy and embarrassing business to be put out of mind as soon as possible.

The mothers may feel ashamed and in a state of panic. The first reaction of many who end a pregnancy they have not wished for is often initially one of relief. Some women who have never given birth do not have fully-developed awareness of the reality of their child, and push aside any feelings of guilt others might try to engender in them. Obviously, many women in these circumstances convince themselves that the foetuses are not real ‘beings’, but just ‘part of their own bodies’.

Sometimes the mother involved is only a young girl, and her parents are very angry with her. Sometimes a grandmother gets angry because she had put up with a great deal more hardship herself in seeking to do the right thing than her daughter seems willing to do. Sometimes the anger is not only because her daughter got pregnant in the first place, but also because she then killed the baby, which, after all, would have been her grandchild. Grandparents should not be overlooked when counselling the bereaved. I have known several cases where the girls involved appeared to all intents and purposes to have forgotten their abortions, but their mothers (like me) remained in grief and shock and continued to pray for the soul of those would-have-been grandchildren for years, if not until their own deaths – perhaps without ever telling their daughters for fear it would be too painful to drag up the memories.

Some women get their guilt much delayed. They may successfully suppress and forget any immediate feelings, but in almost every case, the guilt and unresolved grief will surface later on – perhaps when the woman has more knowledge – and she will have to face the reality of what she has done. She may then be unable to forgive herself, or she may feel God will never forgive her.

Censure and abuse of those who have had abortions is unbecoming. What is not approved is the notion of abortion on demand, for casual social reasons. However, we are not in a position to know all the circumstances involved, as Allah is. Medical practitioners in most societies will terminate pregnancies for various reasons, and usually interpret the ‘threat to life or sanity’ of the mother quite widely. We should remember that very important hadith that people who act wrongly while the balance of mind is disturbed are not held responsible by Allah. Women who have abortions do not do it casually, but many suffer great anguish and distress and pain. They are to be pitied.

Anyone who has seen tiny premature babies struggling for life in the same hospital where other babies of similar age and size are being terminated, will tell you it is not a casual matter at all. At 24 weeks a premature baby has a fair chance of survival. At 20-23 weeks survival is possible, but will often depend on the skill, facilities or even regulations of the hospital and its staff. Can you imagine the grief of the parents of a much-wanted 23-week baby in a hospital that has a cut-off policy at 24 weeks, and simply leaves infants younger than that to die? It sounds incredible, but it happens.

Allah’s law intended that no child would be born outside of marriage, and this is the ideal to be aimed at. In some societies, the harsh solution to the problem of unwed pregnancy is to put the mother to death. Some Muslim societies have even resorted to this, in order to ‘save the honour of the family’ – although to do so is the very opposite of Islam. It is to commit murder and certainly not what the Prophet would have approved of. The Prophet was very familiar with the problem of illegitimate children, and not only was there sensible guidance for recognising their paternity and organising their upbringing, but he ruled that the children themselves were never to be stigmatised for what was not their fault.

To be realistic, where we are Muslims living in a non-Muslim society, the best solution is to encourage a pregnant girl to have her baby and not abort it, and then see to it that both innocent child and foolish mother are properly cared for. If the father of the unwanted child is a Muslim man, I always advise the pregnant women to make sure that his family and the local Imam know about it, in the hopes that they may be able to help in some way, and at least for the grandparents have a chance to exert influence on their son, or at least to establish a relationship with their grandchild.

Sadly, some Muslims (like people in general) are racist and intolerant, and would be shattered if, for example, a Pakistani boy wished to marry a pregnant white girlfriend. It is usually a knee-jerk reaction because love for grandchildren is very powerful, and the thought of the fate of that child might well overcome cultural shame and censure.

Muslims should help solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies by encouraging menfolk to be honourable, responsible, kind and considerate in their sexual activity, and to make sure that their women-folk are adequately protected each time they have intercourse when a pregnancy is not desired.

So, what about the rights of the unborn child? At the stage of an infant before birth, whether or not that child has consciousness and wishes to live is completely unknown to us; the existence of human souls prior to birth is a matter beyond our understanding and knowledge. It may be (as the poet Wordsworth thought, incidentally) that human souls have fully ‘adult’ minds in the realm of life before birth, but on entering the physical realm forget everything, and have to learn all the things pertaining to human knowledge anew as they progress through earthly life. We do not know; we may or may not agree with Buddhists that souls choose their parents (and grandparents), or are sent to earth for particular purposes to learn particular lessons. As Muslims, we believe that if God wishes a particular child to be born, it will be born, and that each soul lives on earth only once.

This is the place to make it very clear that abortion is not the same thing as contraception. Any form of contraception that endeavours to prevent a pregnancy from occurring is generally permissible in Islam, arguing from the hadiths where the Prophet permitted coitus interruptus or the withdrawal method, in which a man comes to climax but withdraws before ejaculation and does not implant his seed in the woman; but any form of contraception that aborts a foetus once conceived is not. Thus such methods as the pill, or the condom sheath are acceptable to most Muslims (with the consent and knowledge of both spouses), whereas the coil or morning-after pill is not, for it aborts rather than prevents pregnancy.

Some argue that both contraception and abortion are forbidden to Muslims, for the simple reason that they are attempts to over-rule the will of Allah. The question then arises of whether any human being could have the power to over-ride the will of Allah? How could a mere human deliberately destroy a soul that was intended to live? Would this not mean that the human did have power to over-rule God? Or conversely, that the outcome, whatever it happens to be, must be God’s will after all? It is a catch 22 situation. Or is it that one could destroy the little forming body, but never the soul?

This is the perennial philosophical problem of the relationship of freewill to determinism, a real puzzle for those of us with finite minds. I do not wish to be sidetracked into that thorny problem in this article – suffice it to say here that Allah certainly has the knowledge and power over the choice of the moment we die, but has at the same time allowed humans the freewill to kill – either to kill another person or to kill themselves. It obviously includes the power to kill a foetus. Killing is not the same thing as dying, do you see what I mean? I guess if Allah knows everything, He must know the times of both – but we are incorrect in attempting to apply human logic and timing to a problem that can only be understood and solved in a realm of knowledge higher than ours.

Abu Sa’id al-Kudri recorded a relevant hadith concerning coitus interruptus (ie. to have sexual intimacy with women without getting them pregnant). He said, ‘We went with Allah’s Apostle in the Ghazwa of Bani Al-Mustaliq, and we took some of the Arab women captive, and the long separation from our wives was pressing us hard and we wanted to practice coitus interruptus. We asked Allah’s Apostle (whether it was permissible). He said, ‘Better for you not to do this. No soul destined to exist, up to the Day of Resurrection, but it will definitely come into existence.” (Bukhari 3.718; see also 3.432). The inference is that nothing a human could do can over-ride the will of Allah. If He wishes a particular soul to be born and live on earth, it will be so.

Yet contraception is allowed in Islam on the grounds that a pregnancy or delivery might endanger the life or health of the mother, or the fear of the burden of children might seriously cause hardship for the family. One could deduce the principles of compassion by making use of such verses as:

‘Do not be cast into ruin by your own hands (ie actions)’ (Surah 2:195).

‘Do not kill yourselves (ie overburden yourselves): indeed, Allah is always merciful to you.’ (Surah 4:29).

‘Allah desires ease for you and does not desire hardship for you.’ (Surah 2:185).

‘It is not Allah’s desire to place a burden upon you.’ (Surah 5:7).

Supposing a child has been conceived? There is no verse in the Qur’an which gives any guidance whatsoever on the matter of abortion, or at what times such a thing might be allowed.

However, there are two verses which suggest strongly that parents were asked not to kill their children, which might be extended to include abortion.

‘Do not kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you: truly the killing of them is a great sin.’ (Surah 17:31).

‘…when the girl child that was buried alive is asked for what sin she was slain, and when the pages are laid open…’ (Surah 81:8).

This latter verse really applies to the preIslamic nomadic practice of placing surplus female babies face down into the sand at birth, usually before they had even breathed. Sparse vegetation could only support certain numbers of people, and this was a simple method of birth-control, technically not abortion but infanticide. Another form was to expose a newborn, leaving it out in the open to die of natural causes or for animals to eat.

These Qur’anic verses are backed up by the famous Pledges taken by the Muslims who declared their allegiance to the Prophet – the solemn treaties that they would try to reform their lives in accordance with the Prophet’s teachings. They would worship none but Allah, would not kill children, would not steal, commit adultery, slander their neighbours, or disobey any command he gave them. Again, the meaning could perhaps be extended to include abortions.

Everything in Islam is not just either right or wrong, but can fall into five categories – halal/wajib, makruh, mubah, mandub and haram. This means – compulsory, approved but not compulsory, left to the conscience, disapproved but not forbidden, and forbidden. Abortion falls into all of the last three categories.

There are several general shades of opinion:

· that abortion should not be done at all

· that it can be done before the soul enters the body of the child – but there is debate as to what point the soul does so enter it

· that it may be done at any time if the mother’s real and existing life is endangered, as in this case it takes precedence over the unborn child’s potential life

· that abortion should not be done after the time the unborn child has developed the ability to feel pain.

Muslim jurists agree unanimously that once a foetus is completely formed and has been given a soul, abortion without valid cause is always haram except when the mother’s life is genuinely endangered, on the general principle that when two evils are being faced, one must go with the lesser of the two evils. If the mother could die without an abortion, then the welfare of the actually existing being (the mother) would take precedence over that of the potential being (the unborn child). The calf would be sacrificed to save the cow. Otherwise, abortion counts as the crime of murder, because it constitutes an offence against a complete, live human being. The payment of full blood-money (or qisas – see Surah 2:178) becomes incumbent if the baby was aborted alive and then died, and a lesser amount is payable if it was aborted dead.

Abu Hurayrah recorded that two women of the Hudhayl tribe fought with each other, and one flung a stone at the other, killing both her and what was in her womb. The case was brought before the Prophet, and he gave judgement that the compensation to be paid by the woman who killed them, or her close relatives, was to provide a good quality servant of either sex for the unborn child, (and full compensation for the dead woman), the compensation to be paid to the dead woman’s children and husband. Hamal b. al-Nabigha of Hudhayl objected: ‘ Messenger of Allah, why should I have to pay compensation for something that neither drank, nor ate, nor spoke, nor made any noise? It is a nonentity (ie only a foetus).’ The Prophet rebuked him (Muslim 4168).

In other words, the Prophet took the point of view that the aborted child was not ‘just a foetus’ and therefore of no consequence. Hamal had to pay compensation, just as he would have done if the child had been born, or aborted fully developed.

Another case revealed the Prophet’s down-to-earth and practical compassion. He ruled that the price of a male or female slave should be given as qisas in an abortion case concerning a woman from the tribe of Bani Lihyan (as blood money for the foetus) but the lady on whom the penalty had been imposed died. The Prophet then ordered that the dead woman’s offspring and her husband (who were innocent) should not have their property interfered with, but that the blood-money should still be paid, by members of her tribe. (Bukhari 8.732. See also 9.420 which also indicates the price to be that of a slave in good condition).

Incidentally, one interesting narrative links ‘burying alive’ with the birth-control method of coitus interruptus. The Jews of Saudi Arabia at the time of the Prophet apparently referred to it by the euphemism of ‘burying alive’. The Prophet said: ‘The Jews are wrong. (ie. in thinking such a conceived child could be ‘snuffed out’ or ‘buried’). If Allah wished to create a child, you cannot prevent it.’ (Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Nisai and Tirmidhi).

On a later occasion, Umar was involved in a conversation on the same subject, and remarked that coitus interruptus was a form of burying alive. Ali said: ‘This is not so before the completion of seven stages – being a product of the earth, then a drop of semen, then a clot, then a little lump of tissue, then bones, then bones clothed with flesh, which then become like another creation.’ Umar agreed that Ali, who was paraphrasing Surah 23:12-14, was correct.

The Prophet certainly required the soul of an aborted baby to be granted the same respect as that of any other person. Mughirah ibn Shu’bah recorded: ‘Prayer should be offered over an abortion and forgiveness and mercy supplicated for its parents.’ (Abu Dawud 1400).

So, the big debate is – when does the soul enter the unborn child? The determining of the nature of the human soul is hardly cut and dried. It is one of the matters of al-Ghayb, that is to say, it is known to Allah, but it lies completely beyond the capacity of human understanding. Therefore there is room for speculation and scholarly debate, and several points of view.

· That the human soul enters the unborn child’s body at the 40th day

· That the human soul enters the unborn child’s body at the 120th day

· That life is the gift of God from the first instant of conception, so from that first moment the child in the womb has the same rights as any other human.

· That life is the gift of God from before the time of conception, and that every single sperm is a potential being complete with its own soul.

The 40 day period is the equivalent of 6 weeks, and the 120 day period is the equivalent of 17 weeks, or after 4 months. It is certainly the case that a foetus has developed enough to be regarded as fully human by the sixth week, when its sensory and motor nerves are functioning, and it reacts to painful stimuli.

Two relevant hadith indicate six weeks as a highly important moment in the physical development of a foetus: ‘When forty-two nights have passed over that which is conceived, Allah sends an angel to it, who shapes it, makes it ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones; then the angel says: ‘O Lord, is it male or female?’ and your Lord decides what He wishes, and the angels record it.’ (Muslim 6396). Forty-two nights is six weeks. In modern support of this, ultra-sound scanners can certainly detect by the sixth week whether the foetus is male or female.

Hudhayfah ibn Usayd recorded: ‘When the drop of (semen) remains in the womb for forty or fifty (days) or forty nights, the angel comes and says: My Lord, will he be good or evil? And both these things would be written. Then the angel says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And both these things are written. And his deeds and actions, his death, his livelihood; these are also recorded. Then his document of destiny is rolled and there is no addition to and subtraction from it. (Muslim 6392).

However, we must bear in mind that although many Muslims link this particular hadith with the entry into the child’s forming body of a soul, neither hadith specifically mentions the soul at all.

Another hadith puts forward a different suggestion, that the soul enters the body of the foetus at around the 120th day, in other words, after the fourth month, or in the seventeenth week. (Four lunar months of 28 days = 112 days; seventeen weeks = 119 days).

The relevant hadith is actually somewhat ambiguous, although recorded by an extremely reliable source, Abdullah ibn Masud. ‘The creation of every one of you starts with the process of collecting the material for your body within forty days and forty nights in the womb of your mother. Then you become a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then like a piece of flesh for a similar period. Then an angel is sent to you ordered to write four things: your livelihood, the date of your death, your deeds, and whether you will be a wretched or a blessed one (in the Hereafter) and then the soul is breathed into you.’ (Bukhari 9.546. See also 4.430, 549; 8.593 and Muslim 6393 for other recordings of the same hadith). Thus, three periods of 40 days are suggested, totalling 120 days. But you can see how the four things the angel writes link this hadith with the 40-day one.

It should be noted that the suggested times are actually vague – the first stage was said to have happened within forty days, or by the fortieth day, so this in itself is not precise. Secondly, the other two periods are said to be ‘similar’, which may not imply exact. Thirdly, it is well known that the phrase ‘forty days’ does not literally have to mean exactly forty days, but is a traditional term used in the Prophet’s part of the world to mean ‘a long time’.

Also, in spite of this hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) made it clear that the nature of the soul and its prehistory was a matter of al-Ghayb, a matter upon which he had received no revelation and which was beyond human knowledge, and therefore he could only give his best opinion as a knowledgeable and pious man.

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud recorded that some Jews specifically asked the Prophet about the nature of the soul. He did not reply at first, and Abdullah realised he was receiving a revelation. It was of Surah 17:58: ‘They ask you about the soul. Tell them (that) the soul is by the command of my Lord, and you are given but little knowledge of it.’ (Muslim 6712).

Others refute the 120 day notion by the assertion that there is confusion in the chain of narrators of this hadith, and the stronger 40-day hadith contradicts it.

However, the belief in the significance of the seventeenth week is followed through into Muslim funeral proceedings. A miscarried foetus less than four months old, is not required to be ritually washed, or have funeral prayers offered for it. (This does not mean that one is forbidden to pray over such a foetus, however). It should be wrapped in a piece of cloth and buried. The majority of jurists are in agreement on this point. This indicates the belief that the unborn foetus is not yet an independent living being.

On the other hand, if a miscarried foetus is four months old or older, and the existence of life in it was established, then there is a consensus that it should be ritually washed and a funeral prayer offered for it. Malik, Al-Awza’i, Hasan, and the Hanafi school rule that if its life was not established by movements or other evidence, then funeral prayer is not required for it. This indicates that now the unborn foetus does count as an independent living being. They base their opinion on a hadith transmitted by Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and Al-Baihaqi on the authority of Jabir that the Prophet said: ‘If in a miscarried foetus life is established by its movements, a funeral prayer should be offered for it, and it is entitled to its share of inheritance.’ (Fiqh us-Sunnah 4.46b).

In fact, on the simple basis of being a woman who has had two children, I used to argue very strongly that the soul did most likely came into the body round about the 120th day, because of my own experience and that of most women, of the moment of feeling the ‘quickening’. After conception a woman is not really aware of the growing foetus in her own body, any more than she is aware of her own kidneys or liver etc (unless they have gone wrong and are sending out pain-warning signals etc). Around the 120th day, however, many women experience a sudden moment when they become very aware that they are carrying something within them which is completely independent of themselves.

When my first baby quickened I was walking up the street carrying a bag of shopping. I dropped my shopping bag and all my apples rolled out into the road. With the second baby it was not such an obvious feeling, but I certainly became aware of the movement of my own child round about that time, give or take a few days – most women will report the same sort of thing, depending on how sensitive they are.

One day you feel nothing, the next you do, like an itch you cannot scratch. You might even be tempted to poke or prod it, but need to remember that this is your unborn child, and it needs protecting and carrying with care. Some women are also very sick at the time with a great deal of vomiting, others who have had morning sickness for a long time already, suddenly get better from it. The feeling is almost as if you have a little mouse inside you, which wriggles and fidgets, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. It is a very odd and funny feeling, and a fascinating subject.

So, basically, I originally felt strong agreement with the old traditions that the 120th day (4 months) was more or less when the soul came into the unborn child.

However, I have had second thoughts, and now my hunch is that the soul comes at the first moment of conception – based on the information now available to expectant mothers through ultra-sound equipment, which can photograph the life, activity, and changes in the foetus from the very earliest moments, as soon as it becomes visible. It is extremely obvious from these photographs that the foetus is living and developing, feeling and moving and experiencing things, including sound (I think) and pain long before the mother is aware of it. What really brought it home to me, and in a traumatic manner, was when I was sent a video from the South African Muslim medical community, which was not subject to the same censorship laws as we have here in the UK.

Obviously, it would be impossibly dangerous for an expectant mother to be X-rayed throughout an abortion, but it is perfectly possible to have ultrasound pictures of it, and these now exist in abundance. I saw for myself what happened, the blades being inserted to cut up the foetus, and how the unfortunate little being reacted, but could not escape. It also showed the ghastly performance of what happened afterwards, in all its gory detail – buckets of baby pieces. On the strength of that, I could no longer believe that the foetus prior to 120 days was not already a separate living being, its development was already moving on rapidly in a continuum. And so I could no longer maintain my earlier belief that the foetus was an inert thing like a kidney before that time. I then went back to the study of hadiths, and satisfied myself that the time when a soul was given to an unborn child, and indeed, the entire nature of the soul of a living being, was not something that was given to human knowledge.

The aborted child is not a nothing, a nonentity. Indeed, through the compassion of Allah it may play a significant part in the fate of its own parents! Tirmidhi’s hadith collection records a highly interesting statement recorded by Ali about the soul of an aborted baby pleading to save its parents from Hell: ‘The Prophet said, ‘When the parents of an aborted child are entering hell, the abortion will plead with his Lord, and will receive the reply, ‘O you abortion who are disputing with your Lord, bring your parents into Paradise.’ He will then draw them with his umbilical cord till he bring them into Paradise.’ (Tirmidhi 555).

This does not fit easily with the teaching that on Judgement Day each of us will stand alone, and no-one will have the power to plead for us. However, it does fit the amazing compassion of Allah that will forgive people, even if the forgiveness is not caused by the earnest intercession of others.

Mu’adh ibn Jabal recorded that the Prophet said: ‘No Muslim couple will lose three (of their children) by death without Allah bringing them into Paradise by His great mercy.’ He was asked if that also applied if they lost two, and he said it did. He was asked if it applied even if they lost only one, and he said it did. Then he said, ‘By Him in Whose hand my soul is, (even) the abortion draws his mother to Paradise by his umbilical cord when she seeks her reward for him from Allah.’ (Tirmidhi 552).

What a wonderful realisation. Each tiny aborted individual is not a nothing, something just wiped out or ceasing to exist. In the compassion of Allah an aborted baby is not forgotten. Hasana the daughter of Mu’awiyah recorded from her paternal uncle: ‘I asked the Prophet: ‘Who are in Paradise? He replied: ‘Prophets are in Paradise, martyrs are in Paradise, infants are in Paradise and children buried alive are in Paradise’. (Abu Dawud 1041).

We are so ignorant of the amazing dimensions of al-Ghayb. It is possibly going too far – who knows – but if we took the interpretation of the phrase ‘burying alive’ as suggested by that contemporary Jewish use in the Arabian province, then this might even include every single potential child in a man’s cast-off sperm – which the scientists tell us could be up to 35 billion individual entities every time a man ejaculates! Sounds crazy, until you come across the insights of the mystics as to the myriads of angels that occupy each tiniest speck of space. ‘If the skies, the earth, the moon, the sun, the stars and the galaxies were all crushed into dust, their particles would not be one tenth of the angels on one step of the ladder of paradise.’ (‘Angels unveiled – a Sufi perspective’, Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani, Kazi Publications, p.86).

God bless you, wasalaam, Ruqaiyyah.

Thoughts on Cousin-Marriage

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2007 by Shaz

Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood.

Virtually every day, in my postbag, I receive sad letters from young UK Asian women in a state of distress because their parents are piling on the pressure for them to marry a cousin from ‘back home’. Sometimes the young women have met and not been impressed by these prospective spouses, and sometimes they have never met them at all. Some of them have already formed hopes for a potential spouse here in the UK, but their parents are insisting that to marry a cousin is the best possible thing to do – it is not only sensible, but Islamic, and convenient to the whole family. The majority of these marriages involve a new male member of the family being brought over to the UK to join up with his existing clan already here.

In the Yorkshire city of Bradford, for example, most members of the very large Pakistani community there can trace their origins to the village of Mirpur in Kashmir, which was inundated by a new dam in the 1960s. Since cousin-marriages had been the custom in Kashmir for generations, it is hardly surprising that some 85 percent of Bradford’s Pakistanis still marry their cousins. It is estimated that three out of four marriages within Bradford’s Pakistani community are between first-cousins.[1] Most of these marriages are arranged by their parents, and there is a strong feeling that this is the best Islamic way of settling the young with their life-partners.

A very old tradition

To the People of the Book – whether Jewish or Muslim – marriage is a matter affecting not only the family, but in times past and in many present-day rural areas it can also affect the entire tribe, for it could have an effect on the strength of the tribe as well as its economy.

In Biblical times, for example, it seemed natural and necessary that the selection of a wife and the arrangement of all contractual and financial matters connected with it should be decided by the parents or guardians involved, though consent was usually sought and romantic attachments often accompanied the arrangements. The initial steps were usually made by the father of the young man, but sometimes by the father of the girl, especially if there was a difference of rank. (See Genesis 24.8, 29.20, Joshua 15.16-17, Isaiah 18.20,27-28). A man usually looked for a wife within the circle of his own relations or tribe. Thus, the nomadic Prophet Ibrahim sent to his relatives in his own country to get a wife for his son Yizhaq rather than take one from the daughters of the Canaanites amongst whom he was dwelling at the time (Genesis 24.3-4), and Ibrahim’s cousin Laban stated to Yaqub: ‘It is better for me to give my daughter to you than to another man.’ (Genesis 29.19).

Cousin-marriage in the Prophet’s own family.

Cousin-marriage was frequent and normal amongst the Arab tribes. The first lady the Prophet himself hoped to marry was his first-cousin Fakhitah (later better known as Umm Hani), the daughter of his father’s brother Abu Talib and the elder sister of Ali. To his disappointment Abu Talib refused permission, and Umm Hani was married off to a maternal cousin instead.

The Prophet went on to marry a non-relative, his wealthy employer the widow Khadijah, and not until after her death some 25 years later did he marry other women, including two of his own cousins, both daughters of his father’s sisters – Umm Salamah the daughter of his aunt Atikah, and Zaynab bint Jahsh the daughter of his aunt Umaymah. Umm Salamah was his 6th choice of wife, and Zaynab his 7th. The Prophet’s primary sunnah was to marry outside his own family, preferring to offer the shelter of his house to widows and war-captives – ladies in distress.

After the fall of Makkah in 630 CE/8 AH – he met Umm Hani again, and as she had divorced her husband by this time the Prophet proposed once more – but she asked for a delay as she was still involved with breastfeeding her youngest child. When she had weaned the infant she herself proposed to the Prophet, but by this time the revelation of Surah 33.50 had been made and she was forbidden to him. (See below).

The Prophet’s own daughters all married cousins for their first husbands. Zaynab married a maternal cousin, his daughters Ruqaiyyah and Umm Kulthum married the sons of his paternal uncle Abu Lahab, and his daughter Fatimah married her second-cousin Ali, the son of his paternal uncle Abu Talib.

What are the rulings actually given in the Qur’an?

In fact, Allah revealed the specific list of those relatives it was forbidden for a Muslim man to marry in Surah 4.22-24, and cousin-marriage was clearly allowed.

‘Do not marry those women whom your fathers had married – except what happened prior to this commandment. Surely it was shocking, disgusting, and an evil practice. Forbidden to you for marriage are: your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your paternal aunts, your maternal aunts, daughters of your brothers (ie. nieces), daughters of your sisters (ie. nieces), your foster-mothers, your foster-sisters, the mothers of your wives, your stepdaughters under your guardianship from those wives with whom you have consummated your marriage, but there is no blame on you in marrying your stepdaughters if you have not consummated your marriage with their mothers, whom you have divorced, and the wives of your own real sons; and you are also forbidden to take in marriage two sisters at one and the same time except what happened prior to this commandment; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.’ (Surah 4.22-23)

There is therefore no objection for a person to marry anyone from the remainder of the family relations, which includes cousins.

One other verse in the Qur’an mentions cousin-marriage, Surah 33:50:

‘O Prophet! We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have given their dowers; and those ladies whom your right hands possess (from the prisoners of war) whom Allah has assigned to you; and the daughters of your paternal uncles and aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and aunts, who have migrated with you;[2] and the believing woman who gave herself to the Prophet if the Prophet desires to marry her – this permission is only for you and not for the other believers; We know what restrictions We have imposed on the other believers concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess. We have granted you this privilege as an exception so that no blame may be attached to you. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.’

This passage is usually linked by commentators to the time when the Prophet married a fifth living wife – Zaynab, his cousin, whereas ordinary Muslims had been limited to a maximum of four. However, Surah 33.52 then adds: ‘It shall be unlawful for you, O Muhammad, to marry more women after this or to change your present wives with other women, though their beauty may be pleasing to you.’ (v52). This leads some to feel that the verse cannot have been revealed before 8 AH, by which time the Prophet had taken eleven women into his household. It could then be linked to the Prophet’s hopes to marry his cousin Umm Hani – which can be dated to after the fall of Makkah in 630 CE/8 AH. This revelation specifically put an end to any further marriages, but allowed him to keep the wives he already had from the various categories, which included ladies who were his cousins, either from the father’s side or the mother’s side, so long as they had made their hijrah along with him. The timing of this revelation therefore prevented him from marrying Umm Hani, who had not made her hijrah when he did.[3]

Is it better or preferable for a Muslim to marry someone he is not related to rather than a relative?

The answer to this question must vary from case to case. We have to distinguish between what is permitted and what is advocated. Some clans restrict marriages to amongst their kin only – a practice far from what is advocated.

By permitting cousin-marriages Islam does not encourage them. On the contrary, Islam is generally keen to widen the circle of social bonds. It advocates the cementing of social relations through marriages between totally unrelated families.

The Islamic view is that while marriage between cousins is permissible, it is preferable to choose a marriage partner from outside one’s family if one aspires to form new social ties or bonds. (I have seen a hadith reported in which the Prophet once told one of his Companions to choose a wife from a tribe different to his, and then to choose for his son a wife from a third tribe, and to seek for his second son a girl from yet another tribe. I am sorry, I did not find the source for this).

Why should anyone wish to marry a cousin?

The USA is virtually alone among developed nations in outlawing marriage among first-cousins. European countries have no such prohibition. Even in the USA laws forbidding the practice are not consistent. In 24 states cousin-marriages are deemed such a threat to mental health that they are illegal, but in 19 states there is no objection whatsoever to them. Seven states allow first-cousin marriage but with conditions. Maine, for instance, requires genetic counselling. Some states allow cousin-marriage only if one partner is sterile or if there is no chance of procreation. North Carolina prohibits marriage only for double first cousins.[4]

The practice remains so popular within today’s UK and USA Asian community because it finds, or believes, there are still real benefits to marrying within the family, and they have traditionally chosen inbreeding as the best strategy for success. It does offer several highly practical benefits.

· It is genuinely thought to generate more stable relationships, since the family, background, character etc of the spouses are already well known.

· Such unions are seen as strong, building as they do on already tight family networks.

· Cousin-marriages make it more likely that spouses will be compatible, particularly in an alien environment. For this reason, such marriages might be considered to be even more attractive for Pakistanis/Bangladeshis in the UK than ‘back home’.

· Such marriages make it much likelier that a shared set of cultural values will pass down intact to the children, and the loss of those values is a great cause of worry to the older generation.

· Cousin-marriage helps to keep money, wealth, property and inheritance within the family group, and minimizes the need to break up family wealth from one generation to the next. (Of course, it is not only the Muslim rich who have frequently chosen inbreeding as a means to keep estates intact and consolidate power).

· Intermarriage decreases the divorce rate and enhances the power and independence of wives, who can call upon the support of familiar friends and relatives if they feel they are being wronged. It is much harder for a husband to behave badly towards a wife who is his cousin than one who is a ‘stranger’ from outside the family, for the errant husband will not mind offending her relatives so much as he would his own.

· ‘Good’ blood and genetic characteristics are consolidated. Humans are perfectly comfortable with the idea that inbreeding can produce genetic benefits for domesticated animals. When we want a dog with the points to win prizes in Canine Competitions, the usual procedure is to take individuals displaying the desired traits and ‘breed them back’ with their close kin. (But remember, the practice – which is artificially organized as opposed to leaving the animals to make their own choices of mates – can also breed bulldogs with noses that cannot breathe.)

· Some people have objected to cousin-marriage on the grounds that many become so familiar with each other as they grow up, it prevents a romantic or sexual attachment between them. This is not always the case. In one long hadith the Prophet spoke of a case of desire between cousins. The story told of three men blocked up in a cave who were recounting their good moments in life which had been rewarded by Allah. The second man’s story was that he ‘had a cousin who was the dearest of all people to me and I wanted to have sexual relations with her but she refused. Later she had a hard time in a famine year and she came to me, and I gave her one-hundred-and-twenty dinars on the condition that she would not resist my desire, and she agreed. When I was about to fulfill my desire, she said: ‘It is against God’s law for you to outrage my chastity except by legitimate marriage.’ So, I realised it was a sin to have sexual intercourse with her and left her, though she was the dearest of all people to me. I also left the gold I had given her. O Allah! If I did that for Your Sake only, please relieve us from the present calamity.’ And the rock shifted a little, but still they could not get out of the cave.’ (Bukhari 3.472 et al).

· It is seen as being a normal part of Islamic practice. It is usually not realized by non-Muslims how seriously the rules and commands of Islam are to Muslims. With the vast majority of Muslims the faith is taken very seriously indeed, and if a matter or course of action can be seen as going against the will of Allah, there will be enormous pressure to encourage the wanderer back into the fold. Sometimes, though, the things generally believed to be the teachings of Islam do not have their basis in the faith at all, but are from traditional culture – and may even be the opposite of what Islam actually teaches.

An examination of the aspects of the issue which are specifically regarded as Islamic

These are the key beliefs shared by most Pakistani/Bangladeshi families, and by many Muslims of other cultures also.

· Parents have a prime duty to arrange decent marriages for their offspring. A parent who did not do so would be lacking in responsibility, and held by Allah to be at fault. (In Islam, this is true).

· Parents are supposed to seek out the best possible and most compatible partner for their offspring. (True. But a girl’s cousin may not be the best possible or most compatible partner at all, and parents who try to insist upon this link and reject other more compatible partners are doing their daughters no service, but are actually going against Islam).

· Girls are expected to be virgins up to their wedding days, and a father has a strong duty to protect the virgin status of his daughters. (True).

· A girl’s honour is of vital concern, and any lack of honourable behaviour on her part can shame the entire family. (This is culturally true. However, when ‘preserving the family honour’ results in a murder, then Islam has been abandoned. Islam teaches unambiguously that no one person will ever be held to blame by Allah for the sins of another – the father is not to blame for a shameful daughter, and any person who murders another will face judgement here on earth and in the Life to Come).

· Boys are also expected not to ‘sleep around’, but there is less surveillance over boys than girls. (The requirement of chastity is the same in Islam for both boys and girls).

· Young Muslims, especially girls, are not expected to marry anyone without their parents’ consent. This can also apply to women well past the first flush of youth.

(This is a matter of politeness and for the sake of family peace. It is expected in Islam for youngsters making their first marriages; it is not expected for older persons, who may arrange their own marriages).

· Virtuous youngsters will respect the judgement and good intentions of their parents and accept their will without making a fuss, even if they have never seen the prospective spouse until the actual wedding. (This does still happen, more frequently than non-Muslims realize – especially amongst Arab cultures. It may be acceptable for a shy girl or boy who has lived a very sheltered life, but in Islam, the prospective spouses have the absolute right to refuse each other, and the parents do not have the right to insist on an unwanted match. The Prophet annulled forced marriages).

· Many parents will ignore fuss and fears as merely natural in a modest girl, things that will soon pass once the marriage is up and running. (This is not a matter of Islam – just luck).

· The best form of marriage will be one between cousins. (This is not a ruling of Islam, but a matter of culture).

Examples of force or coercion

However, in spite of the rights of young potential spouses (especially the young women) in Islam, there are many sorts of coercive comments made to girls who refuse to go along with their parents’ plans. They combine to give the girls the impression that they are bad daughters, and will inevitably damage any other prospects of marriage if they turn down this one, because they are being:

· Unkind and hurtful to the hopeful relative back home, plus entire family

· Ungrateful, especially if the family ‘back home’ has helped their parents get on in life, or assisted them in reaching the UK

· dismissive of Islam

· rebellious and disobedient

· dismissive of their family values

· don’t care if they shame their parents

· don’t care if they make their parents look stupid

· don’t care if they drive their parents to an early grave.

Sometimes the pressure goes to the lengths of:

· withdrawing the girl from school, often in her GCSE year (Year 11)

· confining her to the house or her bedroom

· physical punishment or abuse

· death threats – someone in the family will ‘do the right thing’ to ‘avenge’ the upset parents.

I have this week counselled one highly educated and gainfully employed young woman in her twenties, who has seven sisters and a brother, who faces horrendous disappointment and wrath from her parents because she does not wish to marry a cousin from their home village but a British-born Pakistani man of her own choice. Her parents are devastated and embarrassed by her refusal, the mother’s dead mother will never rest in peace etc, because promises had been made. Is it so much to ask that one daughter out of the eight will accept the cousin whose family wish him to come and live in the UK, so that he can help their family out financially? The poor young woman feels they have actually been trying to lay curses upon her, and her brother has threatened to kill her.

Health alert?

Apart from the issue of forced marriages, a second issue is now ringing alarm bells – the fear that cousin-marriage could be the cause of major health and inherited genetic problems. The great hazard of inbreeding is that it can result in the unmasking of deleterious recessives, to use the clinical language of geneticists.

The variant genes that cause recessive genetic illnesses tend to be rare. In the general population, the likelihood of a couple having the same variant gene is 100-1. But in cousin-marriages, if one partner has a variant gene, the risk that the other has it too is more likely to be one in eight.

Doctors in areas where there is much cousin-marriage are indeed seeing a big increase in the number of children born with serious genetic disabilities. Each of us carries an unknown number of genes capable of killing our children or grandchildren – an individual typically has between five and seven. These so-called lethal recessives are associated with diseases like cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia.

Most lethal genes never get expressed unless we inherit the recessive form of the gene from both our mother and father. But when both parents come from the same gene pool, their children are more likely to inherit two recessives.

One couple, for example, was recently raising two apparently healthy children. Then, when they were 5 and 7, both were diagnosed with neural degenerative disease in the same week. The children are now slowly dying. Neural degenerative diseases are eight times more common in Bradford than in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Some thought-provokers.

· A report on the impact of genetic risk on Britain’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi families published by the Wellcome Trust in 2003 found that infant mortality and childhood morbidity rates were higher in this ethnic group than in any other groups, although marrying relatives did not always result in the birth of children with recessive disorders.

· An investigation by BBC Newsnight recently claimed that the British Pakistani/Bangladeshi community, in which at least 55% of those married were married to a first-cousin, were at least 13 times more likely to have children with recessive genetic disorders than the general population of the UK. This group accounted for only 3.4% of all births in the UK, but for 30% of all British children born with recessive disorders (which include cystic fibrosis), and had a noticeably higher rate of infant mortality.

· Dr Peter Corry, a consultant paediatrician at Bradford royal infirmary, disclosed that his hospital saw a disproportionately high rate of recessive genetic illnesses. He and his team have identified some 140 different autosomal recessive disorders among local children, whereas a typical district would ‘only’ see between 20 and 30.

· Birmingham Primary Care Trust confirmed that recessive genetic illness is one of the main reasons for admission to Birmingham’s children’s hospital. In fact, the Trust estimated that one in ten of all children born to first-cousin marriages in the city’s Pakistani community either dies in infancy or goes on to suffer serious disability as a result of recessive genetic disorders.

Ann Cryer, the outspoken Labour MP for the Pakistani-populated Yorkshire constituency of Keighley, has now called publicly for British Pakistanis/Bangladeshis to consider putting a stop to their cultural practice of marrying their first-cousins. Speaking to the Guardian, Ms Cryer said: ‘I’m not calling for a ban or a change in the law. I’m simply calling for an enlightened debate. We’ve avoided discussions on this subject. People are being politically correct. It’s not racist. It’s a challenge, but not to the Pakistani culture. It’s an opportunity to improve the lot of communities that still have this tradition. It’s time they discussed it and asked if it’s a good thing.’ Ms Cryer said Asian communities had to adopt a different lifestyle and look outside the family for husbands and wives.

Are the dangers of cousin-marriage exaggerated?

In fact, throughout history moderate inbreeding has always been the rule, and not the exception, for humans. Robin Fox, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, concluded that it was likely that some 80 percent of all marriages throughout history have been between second-cousins or closer.

Until very recent historic times families tended to remain living in the same area for generations, and men typically went courting no more than about five miles from home – the distance they could walk out and back on their day off from work.

Inbreeding is also commonplace in the natural world, and contrary to our expectations, some biologists argue that this can be a very good thing. It depends in part on the degree of inbreeding.

19th century research, which greatly exaggerated the dangers of imbecility, blindness, etc, among children of close kin, was in fact bad research. The formerly high incidence of congenital defects, specifically haemophilia, among European royal families, which was traditionally believed to be a classic demonstration of the perils of inbreeding, is also now admitted to be incorrect. Haemophilia is an X-chromosome-related characteristic, transmitted through the female line, and any children of royal female carriers would have been at risk no matter who their mothers had married, whether cousins or not.

First-cousin marriage does not necessarily result in congenital defects. An argument can be made that marriages of first cousins descended from strong stock can actually produce exceptional children, and increase their strengths. A founding couple could pass on advantageous genes.

Among animal populations, generations of inbreeding frequently lead to the development of coadapted gene complexes, suites of genetic traits that tend to be inherited together. These traits may confer special adaptations to a local environment, like resistance to disease. The evidence for such benefits in humans is slim, but this could be explained by the fact that any genetic advantages conferred by inbreeding have been too small or too gradual to detect. There is a general dearth of data on the subject of genetic advantages or disadvantages. Not until some rare disorder crops up in a place like Bradford do doctors even notice intermarriage.

A team of scientists led by Robin L. Bennett, a genetic counsellor at the University of Washington and the President of the National Society of Genetic Counsellors, announced that cousin marriages are not significantly riskier than any other marriage. The study[5] determined that children of first cousins did face about a 2 to 3 per cent higher risk of birth defects, and a little over 4 per cent greater risk of early death, than the population at large. But putting it another way, first-cousin marriages entail roughly the same increased risk of abnormality that a woman undertakes when she gives birth at 41 rather than at 30. Banning cousin-marriages therefore makes about as much sense, critics argue, as trying to ban childbearing by older women.

Conclusions on the health issue.

· The consequences of inbreeding are unpredictable and depend largely on what biologists call the founder effect. If the founding couple pass on a large number of lethal recessives, as appears to have happened in Bradford, these recessives will spread and double up through intermarriage. But whereas it is true that marriage among close kin can increase the chances of pathological recessive genes meeting up in some unlucky individual with dire consequences, the problem is not that of cousin-marriage per se, but rather how many such genes are floating around in that particular family’s pool. If the pool is pretty clean, the likelihood of genetic defects resulting from cousin-marriage is low. If the founding couple hand down a comparatively healthy genome, their descendants could safely intermarry for generations – at least until small deleterious effects inevitably began to pile up and produce inbreeding depression, the long-term decline in the well-being of a family or a species.

· Any danger can these days be minimized easily with genetic testing. Science is increasingly able to help people look at their own choices more objectively. Genetic and metabolic tests can now screen for about 100 recessive disorders. In the past, families in Bradford rarely recognized genetic origins of causes of death or patterns of abnormality. The likelihood of stigma within the community or racism from without also made people reluctant to discuss such problems. But new tests have helped change that. So, for example, when two siblings in Bradford were hoping to intermarry their children despite a family history of thalassemia, a recessive blood disorder that is frequently fatal before the age of 30, after testing determined which of the children carried the thalassemia gene, the families were able to successfully arrange a pair of carrier-to-noncarrier first-cousin marriages. Such planning may seem complicated, but the needs of culture, medicine and the family’s intentions to carry out what they perceived as proper Islamic procedure, were satisfied.

· It would be good practice to have a blood test before marriage. If some hereditary disease or any other problem was suspected then the advice of a medical expert in this field should be sought.

May Allah bless us, and lead us to use our knowledge and intelligence wisely, for the good of all future generations. Wasalaam, Sr Ruqaiyyah.


[1] A first-cousin is the son or daughter of your mother or father’s brother or sister. A second-cousin is a child of your cousin. Your own children would be second-cousins once removed in their relationship to your second-cousin. There’s more…..

[2] In normal Arabic practice this would actually include any ladies of his father’s or mother’s tribes – the Banu Quraysh or Banu Zuhrah.

[3] Incidentally, the later date adds evidence against those Muslims who believe the Prophet was allowed to have intimacy with concubines, slave-women or war-captives without marriage, whereas the earlier date would leave the subject ambiguous.

[4] ‘Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage’ (1996), a dissertation by anthropologist Martin Ottenheimer.

[5] Published in the Journal of Genetic Counselling in 2002.