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Muslim Woman Gives Birth to Septuplets
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On Thursday, July 12, 2001, a Muslim woman from Virginia gave birth to septuplets - five boys and two girls - in the world's third septuplet birth in which all babies survived.

The babies:

Bandar: boy, 2.16 pounds
Hayfa: girl, 2 pounds
Naife: boy, 2.07 pounds
Shamma: girl, 2.03 pounds
Abdalla: boy, 2.42 pounds
Abdulaziz: boy, 2.23 pounds
Sultan: boy, 2.2 pounds

To congratulate a Muslim upon the birth of a child, it is traditional to say: "You have been blessed in what you have been given.  May you give thanks to the One who granted it.  May your child reach maturity and right-guidance, and may Allah make him/her a blessing for you."

The family initially requested anonymity, but the father has given at least one media interview, providing a few details about the family's ordeal.  Fahad Qahtani, 29, and his 28-year-old wife are the parents of three other children, two of whom have died in the past five years from organ failure (a daughter, Hadil, died at 3 years of age while awaiting a liver transplant; a son, Salam, died at 6 months of age while awaiting a bowel transplant).  The couple also have a 9-year-old son.  Qahtani is a high school teacher from Saudi Arabia who is currently studying at George Washington University.  He and his family initially came to the United States to seek medical treatment for their ill children.

A Georgetown Hospital spokeswoman said that the newborn babies are in the neonatal intensive care unit, and that they are likely to remain in the hospital for 7-9 weeks.  The mother was seven months pregnant when she gave birth by Caesarian section.  She had been on bed rest since early May, eighteen weeks into the pregnancy.

The birth was supervised by the mother's regular physician, Dr. Mutahar Fauzia, a Pakistani Muslim obstetrician and reproductive endocrinologist based in Falls Church, Virginia.  She offered support throughout the pregnancy through daily home visits.

Interestingly, of the three sets of living septuplets born in the world thus far, two were born to Muslim parents (in addition to the McCaughey children born in 1997, septuplets were born to Abdullah Ibn Mohammed Sammam and his wife Hasna Mohammed Humair in Saudi Arabia in 1998).

Infertility Treatment and Islam

Muslims recognize that all life and death happens according to the Will of God.

"To God belongs the dominion of heavens and earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female (offspring) upon whom He wills, and bestows male (offspring) upon whom He wills. Or He bestows both males and females, and He leaves barren whom He wills. For He is All-Knowledgeable All-Powerful." (Qur'an 42:49-50)

To strive for a child in the face of infertility is not considered a rebellion against God's will.  The Qur'an tells us of the prayers of Abraham and Zachariah, who pleaded with God to grant them offspring.  There is nothing in Islamic law which forbids many types of fertility treatment, as long as the treatments do not go outside the bounds of the marriage relationship.  Ovulation induction, surgery, and even in-vitro fertilization (if done with sperm and egg from husband and wife) are widely accepted in the Muslim community.  However, treatments that blur the marital and parental ties are forbidden: donor eggs or sperm from outside the marriage relationship, surrogate motherhood, and in-vitro fertilization after a spouse's death or divorce of the married couple, for example.

'Selective Reduction' Rejected on Religious Grounds

Many fertility treatments increase the likelihood of multiple pregnancy.  In the case of the new mother from Virginia, the ovulation induction she underwent caused seven fetuses to grow in her womb at the same time.  When this happens, most fertility experts recommend 'selective reduction,' a partial-abortion where some of the babies are removed in an attempt to help the remaining babies live longer and healthier in the womb.  In the most recent case, the family rejected their doctor's recommendation, stating that Islamic beliefs forbid abortion.

Many Islamic scholars agree that abortion is generally forbidden, except in order to save the mother's life.  Others argue that abortion is allowed in limited cases, as long as it is done before four months of pregnancy.  In any event, one could argue, perhaps, that selective abortion in the case of a high-order multiple pregnancy is necessary for the mother's, and the other babies', well-being.  There are no solid answers on this, and many couples must make an individual decision based on their personal circumstances and understanding.

As for the new septuplets, the worldwide Muslim community welcomes these new children in our community, in continuous prayers for their health and well-being.  May Allah grant them health and strong faith, and may they be successful in this life and in the Hereafter.

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