The Viewpoint of Scholars

By Dr. Sadaf Sheikh

In 1988 a Fiqh council held in Kuwait issued certain resolutions regarding the methods of contraception. These were based on the fact that one of the objectives of marriage, according to Shariah, is to reproduce and preserve the human race. It is not permissible to undermine this objective, as it goes against the teachings of Shariah, which call for having many children.

The resolution stated:

(1) It is not permissible to issue laws that limit the freedom of couples to have children.

(2) It is Haram to remove the ability of men and women to have children (known as sterilization) as long as there is no need to do so according to Shariah principles.

(3) It is permissible to use temporary means of contraception, in order to increase the gaps between pregnancies, or to stop them for a limited period of time, if there is a valid Shariah reason for doing so. This should be based on the couple’s estimation and with mutual consultation and agreement subject to the condition that this does not result in harm and that the means is acceptable according to Shariah and will not damage any existing pregnancy.

It is permissible to engage in Coitus Interruptus (Azl), if a person does not want a child. It is also permissible to use a condom, if the wife gives her permission for that, because she has the right to full enjoyment and to having a child. The evidence for this is the Hadeeth of Jabir ibn Abdullah (rta) who said: “We used to engage in Coitus Interruptus at the time of the Messenger of Allah. News of that reached the Messenger of Allah, and he did not forbid us to do that.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Although that is permitted, it is, nevertheless, Makrooh (intensely disliked) The Prophet (sa) said about Coitus Interruptus: “That is the secret burying alive of infants” (Muslim).

An-Nawawi said: “Coitus Interruptus means intercourse, in which, when ejaculation approaches, the man withdraws and ejaculates outside the vagina. It is Makrooh in our view in all circumstances and with all women, whether the woman consents to that or not, because it is a means of preventing offspring. Hence, in the Hadeeth it is called ‘the secret burying alive of children,’ because it cuts off the means of producing offspring, like killing a newborn by burying him or her alive. With regard to it being Haram, our companions said that it was not forbidden.”

Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen said: “What Muslims should do is to have as many children as they can, because this is the command issued by the Prophet (sa): ‘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)  Increasing the number of children increases the size of the Ummah, and being of great numbers is a source of pride, as Allah (swt) said, reminding the Children of Israel: ‘And We helped you with wealth and children and made you more numerous in man-power.’” (Al-Isra 17:6)

Great numbers of Muslims would lend the Ummah pride and strength, not poverty and hunger, as some might think. If the Ummah increases in number, relies on Allah, and believes in His promise: “And no moving (living) creature is there on earth but its provision is due from Allah” (Hood 11:6), then Allah (swt) will make things easy for them and will grant them sufficient means from His Bounty.

Regarding the use of birth control pills, Fatawa Al-Marah Al-Muslimah states that a woman should not take them, unless the following two conditions are met:

(1) She should have a reason for it, such as being sick and unable to bear a pregnancy every year, or being physically weak, or having other reasons, why getting pregnant every year would be harmful for her.

(2) Her husband should give his permission, because the husband has the right to have children. This must also be done in consultation with a doctor, in order to find out, whether taking these pills will be harmful for her or not.

If these two conditions are met, then it is acceptable for her to use these pills, but that should not be on a permanent basis, i.e., she should not use the type of birth control pills that prevent pregnancy permanently, because this is preventing progeny.

Concerning the harms caused by contraception, Shaikh Ibn Uthaymeen said: “Birth control pills a number of doctors say are harmful. Even if we do not know this from the doctors, we realize that preventing something natural that Allah has created and decreed for the daughters of Adam is undoubtedly harmful. Allah is Wise, and He has only created this blood, which flows at certain times for a reason. If we prevent it with these medicines, that is harmful without a doubt. It may also be a means of damaging the womb, and a means of causing nervous disorders. This is something we must beware of.”

Shaikh ‘Abd Al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz was asked: “What is the ruling on removing the uterus, in order to avoid having children for medical reasons, which are either present, or may occur in the future and have been predicted by medical and scientific means?”

He answered: “If that is necessary, then it is acceptable; otherwise, it should not be done, because the Law giver urges us to have children and promotes that, in order to increase the size of the Ummah. But if there is a necessary reason, then it is OK, just as it is permissible to use means of contraception for a limited time for a legitimate Shariah reason.”

The same applies also to the use of the coil. It has been proven that this contraceptive method causes harm, especially when it is used continually. It is known that the woman, who has a coil inserted, has an increased flow of menstrual blood, and her period may come twice a month, which causes an iron deficiency in her body. Some women may become anemic and suffer from infections of the uterus. Also, a woman can become pregnant with the coil in place.

Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: “With regard to Azl, some of the scholars regarded it as Haram, but the view of the four Imams is that it is permissible with the wife’s permission. It is permissible for the spouses to agree on family planning, so long as that is not permanent and subject to the condition that the means used do not harm the woman.”

Practicing contraception is really a judgment call. Only husband and wife can decide, whether they mean to limit their family for selfish reasons (such as a luxurious standard of living, freedom in mobility, or pursuit of a career by the woman), or there is a genuine problem behind their decision. Whatever the reason may be Allah (swt) knows every soul’s deep intentions.