Is Family Planning allowed in Islam?
by Jamal Zarabozo
The question of family planning and birth control was discussed in detail by the Majma al-Fiqh al-Islami. They had twenty three scholars research this topic and present their findings on this matter. The participants involved represented many different trends and schools of thought. Among the participants were Muhammad Ali al-Baar, Ali al-Salus, Muhammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti, Abdullah al-Basam, Hasan Hathut and Muhammad Sayid Tantawi. Their proceedings, papers and discussions may be found in Part One of the Fifth Volume of Majallah Majma al-Fiqh al-Islami (1988/1409 A.H.). These proceedings are 748 pages all about the question of birth control and related issues.
The following are important points related to the issue of birth control in Islam. These were mentioned by some of the participants in the above program:
The institution of marriage and the want to have children was the custom of the best of creation, the Prophets and Messengers chosen by Allah. Allah says about them:
"And indeed We sent messengers before you and made for them wives and offspring" [Noble Quran 13:38]
The best example for the believers is the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), who married and had children. These Prophets and Messengers are the people whom Muslims should look to emulate. Allah says:
"They are those whom Allah has guided. So follow their guidance" [Noble Quran 6:90]
They should be emulated and not the disbelievers of the West, whose new lifestyles - mostly out of concern for enjoying this life or obtaining as many worldly goods as possible - discourage women from having more children.
Islam has forbidden celibacy, monasticism and castration for such purposes. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) made this clear when he told those companions who were considering acetic forms of life: "I pray and I sleep; I fast and I break my fast; and I marry women. Whoever turns away from my way of life is not from me." The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) not only encouraged marriage but he encouraged marrying those women who are child-bearing. He stated: "Marry the loving, child-bearing women, for I shall have the largest numbers among the Prophets on the day of Resurrection." (Recorded by Ahmad and ibn Hibban)
From the Islamic perspective, children are a gift and a blessing from Allah. Allah mentions some of the bounties that He has bestowed upon mankind in the following verse:
"And Allah has made for you spouses of your own kind and has made for you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and has bestowed upon you good provisions." [Noble Quran 16:72]
Allah also said:
"Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world." [Noble Quran 18:46]
The only true provider for all mankind is Allah. If Muslims follow what Allah has prescribed for them, Allah will provide for them. Allah has warned about killing one's children out of fear of poverty for either parents or the child. Allah says:
"Kill not your children because of poverty - We provide sustenance for you and for them" [Noble Quran 6:151]
Allah also says:
"And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We shall provide for them as well as for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin" [Noble Quran 17:31]
Hence, Muslims should never abort or kill their children out of fear of poverty. It is Allah who provides for them.
Based on the above points and numerous others, the scholars who participated in the research on this question came up with the following resolution:
It is not allowed to enact a general law that limits the freedom of spouses in having children.
It is forbidden to "permanently" end a man's or a woman's ability to produce children, such as by having a hysterectomy or vasectomy, as long as that is not called for by circumstances of necessity according to its Islamic framework.
It is permissible to control the timing of births with the intent of distancing the occurrences of pregnancy or to delay it for a specific amount of time, if there is some Shari'ah need for that in the opinion of the spouses, based on mutual consultation and agreement between them. However, this is conditioned by that not leading to any harm, by it being done by means that are approved in the Shari'ah and that it not do anything to oppose a current and existing pregnancy.