The Boko Haram tragedy has affected a large number of people in diverse ways. This paper focuses on the dilemma faced by women who were abducted by the Boko Haram members and are currently pregnant as a result of having been raped by Boko Haram members.
The opinions expressed by various individuals, opinion leaders, organised groups and government make it apparent that the dilemma faced by these women on how to handle their situation is of great concern to many. It is hoped that this paper would add clarity to the issue.
The aim of this paper is two-fold
(1) To discuss the alternatives available to the women.
(2) To proffer some suggestions on how the government, Muslim community and the society in general should respond to the situation.
As Muslims, we should always be guided by the divine values of compassion, fairness and wisdom. The fundamental objectives (maqasid) of Islamic law are the promotion and enhancement of the common good (jalb al-masalih) and removal of harm and vice (dar’ al-mafasid).
At least three possible options may be considered by the survivors i.e. the pregnant women.
a. Having an abortion if the pregnancy is still within the first 120 days (4 months). This is based mainly on the position of the Hanafi School of Islamic jurisprudence (madhhab) and their interpretation of the relevant texts. It was also the basis of a religious verdict (fatwah) issued in the 1990’s by the late Sheikh Imam Ibn Uthaimeen of Saudi Arabia in response to a case in Algeria where women who had been raped by members of a violent extremist sect (similar to Boko Haram) became pregnant as a result.
b. If the pregnancy is older than 120 days old, the woman should be advised to deliver her child. Thereafter, she may give it up for foster care. This also applies to a woman who decides not to abort the pregnancy, even when it is less than 120 days old. Considering the circumstances of the child’s conception, it would be understandable if a woman decides that she cannot raise the child herself.
c. The woman may also choose to keep the pregnancy and raise her child herself with the support of her family.
Irrespective of the choice made by the survivor, she should have the emotional, social and economic support of her family, community, the government and society in general. The women are the wronged ones, and their children will be born innocent of the crimes committed by their fathers. Neither the women nor the children should be treated in any discriminatory way or stigmatized.
“No person with a burden shall bear the burden of another” (Qur’an 53: 38)
“A person can have nothing but what he does (of good or bad)” (Qur’an 53: 39)
One of the major objectives of Islamic law (maqasid al-Shari’ah) is the protection of human dignity and honor (‘ird). With this in mind, it is important for all those offering support and care to the survivors to respect their privacy (including the privacy of their families) and be sensitive to their religious and cultural preferences and norms.
Islamic organisations and other concerned groups and institutions should be foremost in showing compassion and kindness to the victims, their families and those supporting them. They should increase their on-line presence in order to offer more people the opportunity to support their work with the survivors. They should also engage in greater inter-organisational collaborative work.
The challenges facing the survivors are a challenge to us all. Their challenges are a test of our compassion, humanity, and faith in God. It is our prayer that God continues to support us all in bringing an end to the Boko Haram tragedy; that He continues to give strength and faith to all the survivors and bless their families and care-givers.
Allah’s Messenger said “The Merciful One shows mercy to those who are themselves merciful (to others). So show mercy to whatever is on earth, then He Who is in the heavens will show mercy to you”. (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)
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