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Can I Become a Medical Geneticist If I Know That It May Lead to Abortions?

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Seekersguidance.org

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I am currently a medical student in the United States. I have an interest in specializing in medical genetics, but have some concerns. Would it be permissible to become a geneticist if I might have to diagnose genetic conditions in the womb knowing that the mother may decide to get an abortion if the news is not good? Would it also be permissible to tell a couple what diseases/conditions they might be carriers for knowing that they may decide not to have children?

Answer: Assalam ‘alaykum. I pray you’re well insha’Allah.

It would be permissible to become a medical geneticist, even if some of the work and findings may lead patients to decide not to have children or to abort a pregnancy.

However, if this specific aspect of genetics is avoidable and you can focus on other aspects within medical genetics then it may be best to do so, due to the difference of opinion on the permissibility abortion.

Principle

In the Shafi’i school, the general principle is that if one knows or thinks that an act will assist in a sin then the act is not permissible. A simple example given is if a grape seller knows or thinks that a customer is buying the grape to make wine, then it is impermissible to sell it to them.

In regards couples deciding not to have children, this is not a sin, so there is no issue in your diagnosing possible genetic conditions in the womb that may lead to them deciding not to have children.

As for abortion, then the issue is that there is a difference of opinion on whether abortion is permissible or not.

Abortion

Some of our (Shafi’i) scholars held that abortion is impermissible. This is the opinion of Imam ibn Hajr. If one goes by this opinion, then if a medical geneticist knows or has some reason to think that the mother will abort the pregnancy, then the apparent ruling, according to the principle above, will be that such work would also be impermissible.

However, an equally valid opinion held by other Shafi’i scholars, such as Imam Ramli, is that abortion is permissible if performed before 120 days, but not afterwards. This opinion permits substances to be taken to abort the pregnancy. It should be noted here that one must be certain that the 120 days has not passed. If one goes by this opinion, then because the abortion is permissible, so to would be the diagnostic work. And Allah knows best.

The Hanafi Principle

Abu Hanifa (may Allah have mercy upon him) held that indirectly assisting in a sin is not unlawful, but mildly disliked. This is because the actual sin is acquired only by the person who directly commits the sin. The example given is a Muslim transporting alcohol for a non-Muslim for a wage, and without the intention of disobeying Allah. Such work and the wages would be lawful.

According to this principle, your work and any wages would be lawful even if we take the opinion that abortion is impermissible (which is also the general ruling in the Hanafi School).

[Niyahtul Muhtaj, Tarshih al Mustarshidin, Radd al Muhtar]

Please also see related:

When is Having an Abortion Permitted?

And Allah knows best.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.

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