Birth control or contraception is any method used to prevent pregnancy. It is an often taboo; and controversial topic. Myths related to all ‘gynea’ issues are perpetuated among women! What the gynecologist doesn’t tell us, we seldom ask.

There are two positions regarding birth control in our society. One is completely or partially ignorant about related issues; the other is involved in predominantly western-inspired debates about women’s fertility rights. One considers mere mention of birth control as sacrilege and Haram; the other propagates campaigns driven by population control theories usually promoted by international NGOs. The result is a mostly blurred picture.

Our Deen asks for a rational middle direction. Contraception is not prohibited in Islam. It is permissible as long as it is reversible and doesn’t involve termination of pregnancy.

During the Prophet’s (sa) time the withdrawal method (known as Azl) was used, as is evident in several Hadiths.

Jabir Ibn Abd Allah (rta), the notable companion of the Prophet (sa) relates: “We used to engage in `Azl’ while the Quran was being revealed. Had it been something that was interdicted, the Quran would have forbidden it.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

The Prophet’s (sa) basic response, regarding the lawfulness of the practice was that individuals may do as they will, but if Allah (swt) intends for a child to be born she/he will be.

By correlation general acceptance of the Azl can be expanded to include most modern forms of birth control.

Imam Ghazali in his “Ihya’ Ulum al-Din” lists a number of legitimate reasons for practicing contraception: financial difficulty; emotional or psychological hardship of having many children; and even the preservation of beauty and health.

Faraz Rabbani ( sums up: “Contemporary Fuqaha state that contraception is permitted, if the husband and wife agree, as there is nothing in the Quran or Sunnah to prohibit it; rather, the Hadiths and practice of the companions of the Prophet (sa) indicate permissibility. This is said by jurists across the schools of Islamic law. Even jurists, who stated that it is disliked, mentioned that if there is a sound reason or benefit to engage in contraception, then it is not disliked. In our times, this would include reasons, such as having a manageable family size, when one does not have the support of extended families in raising the children; the desire to give the children the attention, education, and support they need in difficult times; genuine (physical or emotional) health reasons, and so on.”

The permissibility of contraception does not in any way contradict the Quran’s and Sunnah’s encouragement for procreation. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Marry and multiply.” (Abu Dawood and Nasai)

Keeping the ethos of Islam in mind, it is clear what contraception is not meant for. Easing ‘safe-sex’ outside of marriage. Population control. Blurring the lines between preventing pregnancy and abortion.

Islam believes that every individual’s right to life is a basic human right. Hence, the life of a fetus is sacred. Abortion is allowed only under extreme circumstances, such as when the mother’s life is endangered.

Are the birth control methods available to us today preventing pregnancy or taking a human life? We must analyze them. First, how is a human being made? Only then can we fully comprehend why certain methods of birth control are prohibited in Islam.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Thereafter We made him (offspring of Adam) as a Nutfah (and lodged it) in a safe lodging (womb). Then We made the Nutfah into a clot, then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh, then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So Blessed is Allah (swt), the Best of Creators.” (Al Muminun 23:13-14) (See also Al Hajj 22:5)

1400 years after Allah (swt) revealed to us His process of creation, science sheds light on it.

A woman’s ovary releases an egg every month, a process called ovulation. During this time, if a father’s sperm (released from his testes during intercourse) finds this egg in the fallopian tube of the mother, they fuse. This is called fertilization – the formation of a Nutfah.

After fertilization, the Nutfah burrows into the lining of the uterus: its safe lodging. This is implantation. Allah’s (swt) wonder is such that after ovulation hormones prepare the lining of the uterus to receive and nourish the egg, if fertilized and implanted.

Securely implanted, the outer cells of the Nutfah start connecting with the mother’s blood vessels to form the placenta. Then with Allah’s (swt) will, the process of creation continues till the baby is ready to be born after nine months.

When exactly does this mother’s egg and father’s sperm become another human being?

Dr Diane N. Irving, a Canadian human embryologist, gives scientific evidence for when life begins. “Before fertilization, the egg and sperm each have only 23 chromosomes. They possess ‘human life,’ since they are parts of a living human being; but they are not each whole living human beings themselves. They do not have 46 chromosomes -the number necessary and characteristic for a single individual member of the human species. The fusion of the sperm (with 23 chromosomes) and the egg (with 23 chromosomes) at fertilization results in a live human being, a single-cell human zygote with 46 chromosomes.”

She rejects the claims that “the product of fertilization is simply a ‘blob,’ a ‘bunch of cells’, a ‘piece of the mother’s tissues, etc.’

The commonly used term, ‘fertilized egg,’ is especially misleading, since there no longer is an egg, once fertilization has begun. What is being called a ‘fertilized egg’ is not an egg but a human being.

Any method of birth control that destroys the Nutfah at any stage of its development is prohibited in Islam, because it is akin to taking a human life.

Insha’Allah, in the next issue we shall analyze contraception options available today and their permissibility for Muslims.