Where Does Islam Stand On Birth Control?
Islam encourages marriage, and the main purpose of marriage in Islam is to have children. But there are times when a couple may not want to have children. So what are the Islamic views on contraception and birth control? Well, let’s read on to find out.
General Islamic Ruling on Contraception and Birth Control
In general, most forms of contraception and birth control are forbidden. But since Islam is a complete religion, we have the benefit of the Quran, the hadith and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the companions, and many learned scholars to help us come to an informed decision.
First, any sort of permanent birth control that is not for medical reasons is forbidden. So any medical procedure that leads to complete sterilization and is not medically required, is not allowed. This goes against the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad and if not done for medical reasons, is usually done for vain, selfish or impractical purpose.
For instance, some people have the foolish notion that the world is becoming overpopulated and the earth’s resources are running out. But Allah has made His earth bountiful, and if we trust in Him, there is certainly enough food and water and air to go around.
Wherever there is starvation in the world, there is needless gluttony and waste elsewhere. So the problem is not a lack of resources, but a lack of compassion for those who are less fortunate than us.
Now, let’s look at the different types of birth control and the rulings on each of them.
There are two primary forms of surgical contraception:
- Vasectomy – Where the Vas deferens of a man are cut and tied to prevent the passage of sperm from the testicles to the semen. This procedure allows a man to have intercourse and ejaculate, but not transfer sperm to his wife, hence she will not get pregnant.
- Hysterectomy – This procedure involves surgically removing the uterus from a woman. This results in permanent sterilization for the woman.
It is not permissible for a man to have a vasectomy. There is no medical reason that warrants such a procedure. Hence, every reputable scholar in Islam has ruled that vasectomies are haram, or forbidden. The only reason a man would want to have such a procedure is to have sex without the responsibility of rearing children.
Hysterectomies are the most common gynecological procedure done in the United States, with over half a million performed each year. Most of these are not for serious medical reasons. It is not permissible for women to have a hysterectomy for any reason except where getting pregnant may endanger her life. So, if having children may kill the mother, and there is no hope of curing or reversing this condition, then it is permissible for her to have her uterus removed.
Medical contraceptions are birth control methods that typically disrupt the natural hormonal or menstrual cycle of a woman in order to prevent pregnancy. There are many different forms of medical contraception, most of them temporary. But there are also a few permanent ones.
Temporary Birth Control
These include the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill, aka “The Pill,” patches, and other drugs that temporarily prevent birth.
In Islam, these methods are usually prohibited unless both of the following conditions are met:
- There is a medical reason for doing so.
- The husband agrees.
For the permanent methods, like the Coil, these take the same ruling as having a hysterectomy. It is permissible if there is a life-threatening medical reason.
Physical methods of birth control are those that do not alter the body in any way and simply prevent the sperm from meeting the egg. These include methods like condoms, diaphragms, and coitus interrupts (withdrawal).
There is a hadith related by Jaabir that says:
We used to engage in coitus interruptus at the time of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). News of that reached the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and he did not forbid us to do that.
Related by Bukhari and Muslim
“Coitus Interruptus” is when the man withdraws from the woman before ejaculation. From the above hadith, we can see that our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not forbid this practice, hence it is permissible. Since condoms and diaphragms essentially perform the same function, they are both allowed also.
However, the man should only use these methods in agreement with his wife as she has the right to bear children if she wants. And we should also understand that the companions of Prophet Muhammad usually used this method to prevent their slaves from getting pregnant, as the following hadith shows:
O Messenger of Allaah, I have a slave woman and I engage in ‘azl with her, because I do not want her to get pregnant, but I want what men want. But the Jews say that ‘azl is a lesser form of infanticide.” He said, “The Jews are lying. If Allaah wants to create (a child) you cannot prevent that.
Narrated by Abu Dawud.
Despite being allowed, many scholars believe these methods to be makruh, or disliked. In other words, it is better to avoid them if possible, though there is no sin in them. This comes from the following hadith:
Marry women who are loving and fertile, for I will be proud of your great number before the other nations on the Day of Resurrection.
Narrated by Abu Dawud.
From this we can see that it is better for us to have as many children as Allah allows us to bear.
In today’s world we deal with many things that were not present during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Nonetheless, we have the guidance of the Quran, sunnah, and righteous scholars to help us find our way through these difficult situations.
In the end, we must all put our faith and trust in Allah, and ask His guidance and forgiveness in any decisions we make.
And Allah knows best.