Praise be to Allaah.
differentiate in this case between two kinds of life:
that of plants, which is different from inanimate objects, because with this
life, an entity grows and increases in its presence, and it weakens and dies
without it. This is a special kind of life and has nothing to do with the
presence of the soul.
which is that which is connected to the breathing of the soul into it.
al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
Life is of
two types: the life of animals and the life of plants. The life of animals
is distinguished by senses, voluntary movement; the life of plants is growth
from Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa, 21/98
Once this is
understood, we know that animal life is the kind of life that is is
distinguished by the breathing in of the soul. As for plant life, there is
no breathing in of the soul.
The life of
the foetus in the mother’s uterus is like that of plants; it grows and is
nourished, and it moves involuntarily, like the movement of some plants, or
like the movement of the sun, or the opening of flowers, and the like.
the soul is breathed into it, its movements become voluntary, as in the case
of animal life.
movements are indicative of the growth of the foetus, but they are not an
indication of the soul having been breathed into it. This is unlike
voluntary movements which can only occur after the soul has been breathed
into the body of the foetus.
By the same
token, there is no connection between the foetal heartbeat and the
difference of opinion among the scholars concerning the time when the soul
is breathed into the foetus, because the foetal heartbeat begins on the
twenty-second day after conception. Those who differ from the majority
concerning the time when the soul is breathed into the foetus said that the
soul is breathed into it on the fortieth day or later. This confirms what we
have said about the foetal heartbeat being an involuntary movement, which is
indicative of growth, not of the presence of the soul. Scientists and
doctors determine that the foetus is alive through voluntary movements
(may Allah have mercy on him) said: If it is asked: Before the soul is
breathed into it, does the foetus move and feel things or not? The answer is
that it has movements of growth and nourishment like plants, and these
movements of growth and nourishment are not voluntary. Then when the soul is
breathed into it, its senses and voluntary movements are joined to its
movements of growth and nourishment.
from at-Tibyaan fi Aqsaam al-Qur’aan, p. 218
What Ibn al-Qayyim
(may Allah have mercy on him) said is supported by modern doctors.
‘Ali al-Baarr (may Allah bless him) said: Before the soul is breathed into
it, the foetus makes movements of growth and nourishment; indeed the heart
begins to beat from the twenty-second day after conception, and the
circulatory system begins to operate from that moment. Yet despite that,
none of the scholars of Islam said that the soul is breathed into the foetus
at that stage.
concerns us here is confirmation that the fuqaha’ did not regard involuntary
movements as an indication of the soul being present. On the contrary, they
did not regard the beating of the heart and the presence of the circulatory
system in the foetus as evidence of the soul having been breathed into it;
rather they regarded all of that as being like the growth of plants, and
there is no indication in that that the soul has been breathed into the
This is a
strong indication that they did not regard the circulatory system as being
an indication of the presence of the soul, because it is possible for there
to be a complete circulatory system and a heart that beats, without there
being any soul present. This is precisely what doctors say, because the
heart may continue to beat and the circulatory system may continue to
operate with the help of drugs and means, and pump that takes care of the
respiratory function, but the person who is in this situation is not
regarded as being alive; rather he is dead if his brain has died, according
to specific conditions that must be met in order to diagnose brain death.
from Ma al-Farq bayn al-Mawt al-Ilkiniki wa’l-Mawt ash-Shar‘i?
And Allah knows best.