Q31. I am an engineering student, a regular reader of Islamic Voice. Is contraception (that is, preventing one's wife from becoming pregnant) prohibited in Islam? What is the authentic Islamic ruling about it?
Ans. There are fundamentally two methods of Contraception or family planning.
(1) Permanent methods.
(2) Temporary methods
(1) Permanent Methods: Permanent methods include, Vasectomy in males and Tubecotomy in females. All the scholars unanimously agree that permanent methods of family planning are prohibited since they involve changing human physiology.
Says Allah in the Qur'an: "So set you your face steadily and truly to the Faith: (Establish) Allah's handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made humankind: no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah: that is the standard Religion: but most among mankind understand not." (Al-Qur'an 30:30)
The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: "Marry the one who is loving and fertile, for I will be proud of your great numbers before the nations [i.e., on the Day of Resurrection]." (Abu Dawood Hadith no. 2050, Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 1805)
(2) Temporary Methods: Following are various different temporary methods.
a) M.T.P. (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) or Abortion: All scholars unanimously agree that M.T.P. or abortion is prohibited.
Allah says in the Glorious Qur'an "...kill not your children on a plea of want; We provide sustenance for you and for them;" (Al-Qur'an 6:151)
"Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you: verily the killing of them is a great sin." (Al-Qur'an 17:31)
However, scholars unanimously agree that any permanent method of family planning, or even abortion, can be done if the life of the mother is in danger. For e.g. if the woman is suffering from certain diseases like heart disease or has under gone multiple caesarean operations and in her case the continuation of pregnancy or another pregnancy may be detrimental to her life, then the woman can be aborted or a permanent method of family planning can be adopted to save the life of the woman.
b) Taking birth control pills: Almost all the scholars including Shaykh Ibn Baaz, Council of the Senior Scholars [of Saudi Arabia] agree that it is not allowed to take birth control pills (Fataawa al-Marah) because of its side effects and changes in the normal physiology.
c) Copper-T: A very common temporary method of family planning or contraception is Copper-T. Though it is known as 'contraception' but technically it is contra-implantation. The sperm fertilizes the ovum but the zygote formed is destroyed by the Copper-T and is prevented from being implanted on the uterine wall (mother's womb). Thus it is a very early abortion, which is prohibited in Islam.
Some "scholars" out of ignorance permit this temporary method of family planning without knowing its detail.
d) Coitus Interruptus ('Azl): Coitus Interruptus is permissible as long as it is performed with mutual consent of both the husband and wife since both of them have equal right to have children.
This is based on the Hadith of Jabir (RA) who said: "We used to practice ('Azl) coitus interruptus during the days when the Qur'an was being revealed".
Jabir added: "We used to practice coitus interruptus during the lifetime of Allah's Messenger while the Qur'an was being revealed." (Sahih Bukhari vol. 7, Hadith no. 136)
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said:
"With regard to 'azl, some of the scholars regarded it as haraam, but the view of the four imams is that it is permissible with the wife's permission. And Allah nows best." (Majmoo' al-Fataawa, 32/110)
e) As regarding other temporary ethods of family planning like condom etc., the scholars are divided whether their use is permitted or not. Allah (swt) has provided a natural method of planning the family, which is medically known as lactation amenorrhea. After the women gives birth to a child, till she breast feeds she does not have her menstrual cycle, thus the chances of pregnancy in this period of lactation is minimal.
Allah says in the Qur'an "The mothers shall give **** to their offspring for two whole years..." (Al-Qur'an 2:233)
Reasons for Family Planning: All the various reasons for family planning can be divided into two categories:
1. Either for poverty or
2. Giving special attention to children by having fewer children.
As for those who are poor and fear that they will not be able to meet the economic expenses of the additional child, Allah (swt) has prescribed the system of zakaat. Every rich person who has the savings of more than the nisab level i.e. 85 gms of gold, should give 2.5% of his excess wealth every lunar year in charity. Those who are poor have the right to take the zakaat money.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an "...Kill not your children on a plea of want; We provide sustenance for you and for them;" (Al-Qur'an 6:151)
Allah (swt) also mentions in the Qur'an "Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you: verily the killing of them is a great sin." (Al-Qur'an 17:31)
Both these verses seems to convey the same message but on scrutiny we realize that the first verse is meant for poor parents, who fear that if one more child is born in the family neither they will be able to survive nor the child, thus Allah (swt) says we provide sustenance for you and for them. In the other verse Allah (swt) says We shall provide sustenance for them and as well as for you, referring to rich parents who feel that if they have less children they can concentrate on them better and give them better education and quality life. Here Allah (swt) reverses the order and mentions first the children and then the parents.
I am the fifth child of my parents. If my parents would have done family planning, then I would not have been born. Alhumdulillah, I have qualified as a medical doctor, which is supposed to be one of the best professions in society. However I have given it up for a better profession and become a daee'. Am I a boon or a bane to the society?
It is a misconception that if there are fewer children you can provide better education and quality life to your child.
However, its worth notable that one never knows which child could be a blessing from the Creator for the family. It is quite possible that the child, which the parents anticipate to be a bane, may turn out to be a boon for the family and the society. History bears witness to the fact that many of the great scientists, thinkers, and revolutionaries were not from only amongst the first two children of their parents.
Thus the child whom the parents consider unwanted may be a blessing to the family religiously and economically.
With regards to the claim of the people who say that the growth in population increases poverty, this was mainly based on Malthusian's theory. This theory states that, to maintain prosperity and welfare of human race, its increase should be checked to correspond with the production of foodstuff.
But now we have realized that Malthusian's theory has been proved wrong and there is no shortage of food grains. Moreover, in spite of the amount of land India uses in agriculture, there is still much more land in India, which can, with little more efforts in fertilizing it through the proper means be utilized in agriculture thus producing more food grains. It would be interesting to note that population density of Holland and Denmark is about four to five times more than that of India. Nevertheless the living conditions of the people there is far better off (economically) than the Indians.
Besides, even if one faces difficulties in upbringing of children, one should always remember that in these hardships could be a test from Allah as this life is a test for the hereafter. Allah says in the Qur'an: "He Who created Death and Life that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might Oft-Forgiving" [Al Qur'an 67: 2]
Allah also says: "Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil) but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere." [Al Qur'an 2 :155]
Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an "And they plotted and planned and Allah too planned and the best of planners is Allah (swt)" (Al-Qur'an 3:54).