In The Name Of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
All praise is due to Allah, the Cherisher and Nourisher of the entire universe; the felicity of the hereafter is for those who fear and obey Him. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah. He is without partner, He is the object of worship of all the fore-runners and those gone-by. He maintains and administers the heavens and earth.
I further bear testimony to the fact that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His Messenger, His beloved and the custodian of His Revelation. Almighty Allah had sent him as the Messenger of good tidings and warner to all of humanity. He has been sent as the caller towards Allah, a shining and bright lamp shedding light. Allah’s blessings be upon His Messenger (Peace be upon him), his progeny, his Companions, who followed him in his mission of inviting the people towards Allah, remained steadfast therein, and offered sacrifices for the same, till Allah, the Almighty gave supremacy to His religion through them and gave eminence to His Kalimah – in spite of the disliking f the polytheists. Countless salutations – Peace and blessings be upon the Noble Prophet, Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
Dear Brothers and Sisters! World Population Day is an annual event, observed on July 11 every year, which seeks to raise awareness of global population issues. The event was established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in July 11, 1989, that is 29 years ago.
The current population of Nigeria is 195,905,783 as of Sunday, July 8, 2018, based on the latest United Nations estimates. Nigeria population is equivalent to 2.57 per cent of the total world population.
Nigeria ranks number 7 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population. And it is predicted that by 2050 Nigeria’s population could hit 543 million and we would overtake the United States as the world’s third most populous country after China and India.
Also the National Population Commission (NPC) in Nigeria said Nigeria’s population will hit an estimated 794 million people in 2100 going by current annual growth rate of 3.2 per cent. The Chairman of the Commission, Eze Duruiheoma, disclosed this Monday in Abuja during a press conference preparatory to the World Population Day marked every July 11.
The theme of this year’s (2018) World Population Day is “Family Planning as a Human Right,” and the NPC chairman believes that the limited exercise of this right has resulted in Nigeria’s sustained high fertility rate of 5.5 per cent with six children per Nigerian woman.
Eze Duruiheama said Nigeria’s population grew by 142 million in 66 years, from 56 million recorded in 1952 to 198 million in 2018. The NPC boss said the explosion in Nigeria’s population has not been commensurate with resources and there was need for Nigerians to embrace family planning.
Respected Brothers and Sisters! The question of this family planning and birth control was discussed in detail by the Majma al-Fiqh al-Islami. They had twenty three Islamic 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 Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Bar, Shaykh Ali al-Salus, Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti, Shaykh Abdullah al-Bassam, Shaykh Hasan Hathut and Shaykh Muhammad Sayyid 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 AH). These proceedings are 748 pages all about the question of family planning, 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:
1. 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.” [Surah al-Ra’ad, 38]
2. The best example for the believers is the example of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace 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.” [Surah al-An’am, 90]
3. They should be emulated and not the disbelievers of the West or UN, 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.
4. Islam has forbidden celibacy (state of not being married), monasticism (life of monks and nuns) and castration (removal of the male glands) for such purposes. The Prophet (Peace 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.”
5. The Prophet (Peace 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]
6. 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.” [Surah al-Nahl, 72]
Allah also said:
“Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world.” [Surah al-Kahf, 46]
7. 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.” [Surah al-An’am, 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.” [Surah al-Isra’, 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:
1. It is not allowed to enact a general law that limits the freedom of spouses in having children.
2. 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.
3. It is permissible to control the timing of births (Birth control, Child spacing etc) 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.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! If you can observe, today, many Muslims, including even some religious scholars, have misperceptions about family planning, birth control, child spacing etc, within the context of Islam. This article is an effort to clear these misconceptions that many Muslims have about the lawfulness of birth control in Islam.
● Is Birth Control Permissible Or Prohibited In Islam?
A Muslim has three sources of knowledge to obtain answers to the questions pertaining to various aspects of human life. These sources are:
1. The Noble Quran
2. Sayings and acts (Hadith/Sunnah) of the Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) and
3. The views of the leaders of juristic schools qualified to interpret the teachings of Islam (Ijma’).
1. The Noble Quran:
No Quranic text forbids prevention of conception. There are, however, some Quranic verses which prohibit infanticide and these are used by some Muslims to discourage birth control.
But contraception does not amount to killing a human being. These verses in fact were revealed to forbid the pre-Islamic Arab practice of killing or burying alive a newborn child (particularly a girl) on account of the parent’s poverty or to refrain from having a female child. Perhaps in those days, people did not know safe methods of contraception and early abortion.
The principle of preventing conception was accepted in those sayings of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) which allowed some of his followers to practice Azl or coitus interruptus. These Hadiths embodied the earliest legal reasoning of Muslims on contraception and were essential instruments of argument in later Islamic thought on contraception. There is a sufficient number of Hadiths on contraception. The most commonly quoted ones are the following:
1. According to Jabir (RA), he said:
“We used to practise Azl in the Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) lifetime while the Quran was being revealed.”
There is another version of the same Hadith. He said:
“We used to practise coitus interruptus (Azl) during the Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) lifetime. News of this reached him and he did not forbid us.”
2. According to Jabir (RA), he said:
“A man came to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and said:
“I have a slave girl, and we need her as a servant and around the palmgroves. I have sex with her, but I am afraid of her becoming pregnant.” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “Practice Azl with her if you so wish, for she will receive what has been predestined for her.”
3. According to Abu Sa’id (RA), he said:
“We rode out with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to raid Banu al-Mustaliq and captured some female prisoners … we desired women and abstinence became hard. [But] we wanted to practise Azl; and asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him) about it. He said: ‘You do not have to hesitate, for Allah has predestined what is to be created until the judgement day.'”
4. According to Abu Sa’id (RA), he said:
“The Jews say that coitus interruptus is minor infanticide, and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) answered: ‘The Jews lie, for if Allah wanted to create something, no one can avert it (or divert Him).'”
5. According to Umar Ibn Khattab (RA), he said:
“The Prophet (Peace be upon him) forbade the practice of Azl with a free woman except with her permission.”
6. According to Anas (RA), he said:
“A man asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him) about Azl and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: ‘Even if you spill a seed from which a child was meant to be born on a rock, Allah will bring forth from that rock a child.'”
7. According to Judhamah bint Wahb (RA), she said:
“I was there when the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was with a group saying: “I was about to prohibit the Ghila (having intercourse with a woman in lactation) but I observed the Byzantines and the Persians, and saw them do it, and their children were not harmed.’ They asked him about coitus interruptus, and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) replied: ‘It is a hidden infanticide…'”
My Beloved Brothers and Sisters! These Hadiths reflect two points: first that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) knew about the practice and did not prohibit it (Hadith no. 1), and second, that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) himself permitted the practice (Hadith no. 2 and 3).
The Hadith from Judhamah (Hadith no.7) was an approximation to the homicide traditions of the Jewish and Christian traditions. This Hadith provided support for Ibn Hazm’s minority view that Azl was prohibited by the Prophet (Peace be upon him). But medieval jurists used the Hadith about the Jews (Hadith no. 4) to refute the argument for prohibition. They claimed that how the Prophet (Peace be upon him) could have maintained that the Jews lied by calling Azl akin to infanticide and then have maintained the same opinion himself. [See Sex and Society in Islam, Cambridge University Press, 1983, page 176. By Musallam B.F.]
● Views Of Medieval Muslim Jurists
Muslim jurists do not speak with one voice on the question of birth prevention, on it’s lawfulness, on conditions for practice and on methods that may be used. Muslim jurists determine the lawfulness of an act on the basis of a method which comprises four principles or sources (usul). Two of these (Quran and Sunnah) are religious sources. The other two principles include analogical reasoning (Qiyas) and the consensus of the Ulama (Ijma’).
The most detailed analysis of Islamic permission of contraception was made by the great leader of the Shafi’i School of jurism, Imam al-Ghazali. He discussed this issue in his great work, Ihya’ ulum al-Din (The revival of Religious Sciences), in the chapter on biology in religion.
Imam Al-Ghazali stated that there was no basis for prohibiting Azl. For prohibition in Islam was possible only by adducing an original text (nass, an explicit provision in the Quran or Hadith) or by analogy with a given text. In the case of contraception, there was no such text, nor was there any principle on which to base prohibition.
In his view, coitus interruptus (Azl) was permitted absolutely (Mubah or Halal) and this permission could be ratified by analogical reasoning. A man could refrain from marriage; or marry but abstain from mating or have sexual mating but abstain from ejaculation inside the vagina – Azl. Although it was better to marry, have intercourse, and have ejaculation inside the vagina, abstention from these was by no means forbidden or unlawful. [See Ihya’ ulum al-Din]
Imam Al-Ghazali made a distinction between infanticide and contraception. He said that a child could not be formed merely by the emission of the spermatic fluid, but by the settling of semen in the woman’s womb; for children were not created by the man’s semen alone but of both parents together. So contraception could not be compared with infanticide which was the killing of an existing being while contraception was different.
In the process of contraception, the two (male and female) emissions are analogous to two elements, ‘offer’ (ijab) and ‘acceptance’ (qabul), which are components of a legal contract in Islamic law. Someone who submits an offer and then withdraws it before the other party accepts it is not guilty of any violation, for a contract does not come into existence before acceptance. In the same manner, there is no real difference between the man’s emission or retention of the semen unless it actually mixes with the woman’s ‘semen.’
Imam Al-Ghazali classified earlier and contemporary opinions into three groups:
1. Unconditional permission for Azl
2. Permission if the wife consents but prohibition if she does not. This is the view of Hanbali and Maliki groups. According to some Hanafi scholars, this condition does not apply if the husband is convinced that the child will grow in an unhealthy moral environment.
3. Complete prohibition, a view expressed by Ibn Hazm and his followers of the Zahiriyyah School.
[See Haq A. J.’s interview with Grand Mufti of Egypt in 1984]
Imam Al-Ghazali accepts prevention or contraception if the motive for the act is any of these:
1. A desire to preserve a woman’s beauty or her health, or save her life.
2. Desire to avoid financial hardship and embarrassment.
3. Avoidance of other domestic problems caused by a large family. He did not accept avoidance of female birth as a legitimate motive for contraception.
Another great scholar, Shaykhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah, discussed Divine providence, procreation and contraception (in this way) in the early fourteenth century. He argues:
“Allah creates children and other animals in the womb by willing the meeting of parents in intercourse, and the two semens in the womb. A man is a fool who says: ‘I shall depend on Allah and not approach my wife and if it is willed that I be granted a child I will be given one, otherwise not and there is no need for intercourse.’ This is very different from having intercourse and practising withdrawal (Azl), for withdrawal does not prevent pregnancy if Allah wills a pregnancy to occur, because there can be involuntary pre-emission of semen.” [See Majmu’ul Fatawa al-Kubra of Ibn Taimiyyah, volume 5, Darul Kutub al-Haditha, Cairo, 1966.]
In all the early Muslim scholars, only one jurist rejected Azl (withdrawal) absolutely. This was Imam Ibn Hazm who belonged to the Zahiriyyah School of jurism which was a short-lived movement. Imam Ibn Hazm argued that numerous permissive Hadiths were early and reflected the fact that in Islam everything was lawful until the Prophet (Peace be upon him) prohibited it specifically. He based his argument on the Hadith quoted by Judhamah Bint Wahb. [See Al-Muhallah of Imam Ibn Hazm, vol. 11, Cairo, 1352 AH]
Imam Ibn Hazm claimed that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had abrogated these permissive Hadiths when he later said that Azl was ‘hidden infanticide.’ Since the Quran prohibits infanticide in the strongest possible terms, and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) called coitus interruptus hidden infanticide, he maintained that Azl was prohibited also.
The views of Imam Ibn Hazm were strongly opposed by later jurists. The most notable of these was the Hanbali scholar, Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, who proved Azl as permissible in his famous work, Zad al-Ma’ad. Imam Ibn Qayyim showed that the claim of Ibn Hazm required an exact historical dating to prove that the abrogating Hadith was subsequent to the ‘permissive’ Hadith and that such an exact dating was impossible. [See Bada’i al-Fawa’id, vol. 4]
He added that, in any case, it was generally agreed in the Islamic law that infanticide applied only after the foetus was formed and the child born. Infanticide thus defined was prohibited, coitus interruptus was clearly something else.
Some other scholars of the Prophet’s Hadith, like Imams Ibn Majah and Ahmad, agreed that coitus interruptus was permitted by the Prophet (Peace be upon him).
Dear Brothers and Sisters! This in brief is the review of juristic opinion about contraception. There is no doubt that the earliest followers of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) practised Azl. This practice was within his knowledge and he did not forbid it.
● Muslim Jurists And Abortion
Many Muslim scholars have discussed the thorny question of abortion. They have based their discussion on the division of the development of foetus into two stages. According to them, the whole period of pregnancy can be divided into two stages: the first 120 days, and the remaining period before childbirth. Most classical Muslim jurists claim that it is permissible to have an abortion for valid reasons during the first stage.
The Noble Quran has also described the process of foetal development. According to it, the development of foetus progresses though stages of differentiation and growth. Allah the Almighty says:
“Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay); then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed; then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (foetus) lump; then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed by Allah the Best to create!”
In another Surah Allah the Most High says:
“O mankind! If you have a doubt about the Resurrection, (consider) that We have created you of dust; then of sperm; then out of a leech-like clot, then out of a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may manifest (Our power) to you; and We cause whom We will in the wombs, for an appointed term, then do We bring you out as babies.”
All Muslim scholars agree that the foetus changes to a human being after 120 days of conception. The following Hadith also supports this point.
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Each of you is constituted in your mother’s womb for forty days as a Nutfah, then it becomes an Alaqah for an equal period, then a Mudghah for another equal period, then the angel is sent and he breathes the soul into it.”
This view of embryonic development was central to the Muslim arguments on abortion. According to Muslim scholars, it is lawful to have an abortion during the first 120 days (if it is with valid reasons), but after the stage of ensoulment, abortion is prohibited completely except where it is imperative to save the mother’s life.
The Hanafi scholars, who comprised the majority of orthodox Muslims in later centuries, permitted abortion until the end of the four months. According to them, a pregnant woman could have an abortion without her husband’s permission, but she should have reasonable grounds for this act. [See Al-Hadiyyah al-ala’iyyah of Ibn Abidin, 3rd Edition, Damascus, 1965]
One reason which was mentioned frequently was the presence of a nursing infant. A new pregnancy put an upper limit on lactation, and the jurists believed that if the mother could not be replaced by a wet-nurse, the infant would die.
A considerable majority of the Maliki jurists described abortion as completely forbidden. In their view, when the semen settles in the womb, it is expected to develop into a living baby and it should not be disturbed by anyone. According to Ibn Jawziyyah, when the womb has retained the semen, it is not permitted for the husband and wife, or one of them or the master of the slave-wife, to induce an abortion. After ensoulment, however, abortion is prohibited absolutely and is akin to murder. [See Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah of Ibn Juzayyah, Fez, 1953]
Many Shafi’i and Hanbali scholars agreed with the Hanafis in their tolerance of the practice, some putting an upper limit of forty days for a legal abortion, other eighty days or 120 days.
By comparing the Muslim jurist’s consensus on the permission of contraception, there appears a difference of opinion on abortion. But given the fact that prohibition was not the dominant view by any standard, given the fact that Muslims believed in ensoulment as the crucial event before which the foetus was not a person, and given the fact that the sanction of contraception strengthened the view that abortion should be legalized before ensoulment, perhaps we can say that, on the whole, abortion was religiously tolerated. This conclusion gains indirect support from the contemporary medieval Arabic secular literature. Medicine, materia medica and popular literature all treated contraception and abortion as if they were two aspects of the same process: birth control.
● Views Of Some Modern Muslim Jurists
The former Grand Mufti of Jordan, Shaykh Abdullah Al-Qalqili, issued a fatwa in 1964 in which he said:
“There is agreement among the exponents of jurisprudence that coitus interruptus, as one of the methods for the prevention of childbearing, is allowed. Doctors of religion inferred from this that it is permissible to take a drug to prevent childbearing, or even to induce abortion. We confidently rule in this fatwa that it is permitted to take measures to limit childbearing.” [See The Crowded Earth: People and Politics of Population, New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1984, page 349. By Gupte P.]
Another Muslim scholar, Dr. Ismail Balogun of Nigeria’s University of Ibadan, wrote about the lawfulness of modern contraceptive methods. He said:
“The question that arises because coitus interruptus (Azl or withdrawal) was the only contraceptive method known by the Prophet’s Companions, and which practice the Prophet (Peace be upon him) condones, is this: can Muslims of today practice any other method? The answer can only be in the affirmative, as long as other methods are not injurious, either to the man or woman. The question is tantamount to asking whether a Muslim can today wear clothes different in shape from those worn by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his Companions during their time.”
Shaykh Ali Jad al-Haq, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, commented on the projection of family planning as a distrust in the popular belief that Allah will take care of a family’s needs regardless of how big it grows, in these words:
“Contraception, through withdrawal or any newer method, does not mean distrust in Allah’s generosity or mercy. Do you recall what our Prophet (Peace be upon him) said to the camelman who was afraid of losing his valuable beast? “First take the precaution of tying up your camel and then trust in Allah’s care for it.” Is this not the best counsel for combining planning with faith in Allah’s concern for all? When Imam Al-Ghazali wrote about contraception as a possible solution of the family’s problems, the great Imam was not suggesting disbelief in Allah’s care for the family.’ Let me also refer to a famous verse from the Qur’an: “There is no creature on earth for whom Allah does not create the means of livelihood.” The verse does not mean that man need not to work for his livelihood. Umar Bin Khattab, the second Caliph of Islam, explained this verse clearly: “The man who trusts Allah is one who believes that Allah will make the seed grow, but he does not neglect to sow his crop.” Human forethought and effort are certainly not incompatible with complete faith in Allah’s care for His creation.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters! The early followers of Islam were few and weak in the midst of a vast majority of aggressive and oppressive people. The good of the Muslims then required that there should be a call for the multiplication of their numbers, in order that they might be able at the time to fulfil their responsibilities in defending the mission of Islam and protecting the true religion of Allah against the power and multitudinous adversaries threatening it. But now we find that conditions have changed. We find that the density of population in the world threatens a serious reduction in the living standards of mankind to the extent that many men of thought have been prompted to seek family planning or birth control in every country so that the resources may not fall short of ensuring a decent living for it’s people to provide public service for them.
And Islam, as the religion of pristine nature, has never been opposed to what is good to man. Indeed it has always been ahead in the effort towards the achievement of this good so long as it is not in conflict with the purposes of Allah’s law and His Shari’ah.
Family planning/birth control understood by Islam, is not opposed to marriage or to the begetting of children, nor does it’s concept imply disbelief in the doctrine of fate and divine dispensation – for Allah Almighty has bestowed reason upon man to enable him to distinguish between the useful and the harmful, and to help him follow the path that would assure him happiness in this world as well as in the world to come, if the path is not against the Shari’ah.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our Noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.
By your Brother: Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, from Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: email@example.com or +2348038289761.