contraception in islam

Q. Can you please tell me what the Quran says about condoms and contraceptives for muslims? Also, is birth control pills allowed, so a wife will not get pregnant? What types of contraceptive options are their for muslim newly-wed couples that do not want children immediately?

A. The message of the Holy Quran in this regard is that one should not refrain from having children simply on account of the fear of hunger, poverty and being unable to provide for the children. In this respect Allah says in the Holy Quran, ‘Kill not your children because of poverty, we provide sustenance for you and for them’. (Sura al An’am (6) verse 151)

Some scholars like Shaikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah have stated that the above verse also encompassed birth control.

Children are indeed a great blessing from Allah and they should be viewed in this manner. Couples should not view ‘having children’ as being a burden upon them. Each child is born with his own sustenance and Allah uses his parents to reach this sustenance to him. Just as Allah provides for the parents, so too, He will provide for the children. Hence, Islam has discouraged parents from ‘not wanting to have children’ on account of poverty.

Islam has also discouraged Muslims from viewing marriage as a means of the gratification of one’s sensual pleasures. Marriage is not just about enjoying each other. The purpose of marriage is of a more serious nature and of a higher objective. Although couples in a marriage are able to fulfill their desires in a halal (lawful) manner, yet, marriage in Islam has been instituted for a greater good and the fulfillment of a superior need.

It is through the institution of marriage, the continuity and succession of the human race can take place. One generation comes after another, and predecessors are succeeded by successors on account of marriage. With death, life comes to an end, if there was no pathway for the continuation of human beings, then the population would come to an end. Newly-weds therefore, should not forget this ideal which has been preached in Islam. Young married couples should not get into the frenzy of simply fulfilling their base desires and conduct themselves like the unbelievers. Instead, they should pay attention to the higher objective of marriage which has been preached in Islam. It is towards this, the Holy Quran has indicated, when it states: – ‘Your wives are a tilth (field) unto you’. (Sura Al Baqara (2) verse 223).

The commentators have stated that in this verse ‘a wife’ has been compared to a ‘field’ (for the husband), because of the fact that ‘a field’ is a place in which seeds are sown and from which crops are produced. In a similar manner, a wife is one in whom a seed is sown and a human being is produced. The commentators of the Holy Quran have further elaborated that through this comparison, Allah wishes to tell us of the real objective of marriage, which is that of sowing seeds and producing. It is not only about enjoyment and fulfilling one’s desires.

However, owing to the fact that there can be valid reasons for not becoming pregnant (temporarily), the (fuqaha) expert jurists have given the allowance for a woman to use temporary contraceptives in such cases. In this regard, birth control pills, usage of condoms by the males etc. will be allowed.

‘Simply not wanting to have children immediately’ is not a valid reason for wanting to use contraceptives. There must be an acceptable reason in the Shariah of Islam. It has been seen that there are many couples who do not use any form of contraceptive, yet, the wife does not become pregnant. On the other hand, there are women who use birth control pills, but yet, become pregnant. As Muslims, we must understand that creating life is totally in the hands of Allah. Whenever He wishes, He creates life from the discharge of the male and female, and whenever He wishes, He does not create life from it. In this regard, it is narrated that a companion once asked the Prophet (SAS) if it was permissible for him to practice coitus interuptus with his wife, (so that she may not become pregnant). Upon this, the Prophet (SAS) replied by saying, ‘there is nothing in that; whatever is destined will occur’. (Bukhari and Muslim).

The Hadith shows that conception takes places only when Allah decrees it. It does not automatically occur that a child will be born on account of every union between the male and female.

Based on the statements of the great scholars of Islam, temporary forms of contraception are permissible on a limited scale for valid reasons accepted by the Shariah.

Acceptable reasons in the Shariah include:-

Health risks to mothers and children.
The life of the mother is endangered by becoming pregnant.
Repeated pregnancies weaken the mother’s body.
If another pregnancy would seriously affect the care and upbringing of the existing child.
Islam does not allow family planning (and the use of contraception) to meet with the demands of present day trends or social reasons.

With respect to the situation where a woman avoids becoming pregnant so that she may pursue a career, the Jurists have clearly written that this is not a valid reason in the Shariah for ‘not wanting to have children’.

It must be understood that Islam places no burden on the woman (wife) to earn a livelihood. Her maintenance before marriage is the responsibility of the father, after marriage, it is that of the husband, and in old age, it is upon her children.

In cases where a woman is forced to seek employment to maintain her children or family on account of desperate circumstances, then it would be permissible to use temporary forms of contraceptives.

With respect to a woman ‘not wanting to have children’ in order to preserve her beauty and figure, this is not acceptable in the Shariah, and it is not a valid reason for using contraception to prevent pregnancy. Although Islam encourages a woman to look presentable and beautify herself for the sake of her husband, it does not sanction the same for the sake of public approbation, which is the current trend. (See Islamic Principles on Family Planning pgs. 38-45).

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan

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