What is the Islamic verdict on contraception and birth control in general? Is it only permissible at times of need?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
First of all, it should be known that, one of the main aims of marriage in Islam is procreation. Islam encourages its followers to reproduce in large numbers in order to increase the size of the Ummah of our Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace).
Allah Most High says in the Qur’an:
“So now hold intercourse with your wives and seek (the children) what Allah has ordained for you.” ( Surah al-Baqarah, V: 187)
In a Hadith recorded by Imam Abu Dawud, Imam an-Nasa’i and others, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Marry women who are loving and reproduce in abundance, for I shall outnumber the other nations by you.”
It is clear from the above, that Shariah encourages its followers to abstain from practicing birth control, especially, when it is given a formal, organized and general approach. Therefore, one should refrain from practicing contraception unless necessary.
As far as the Shar’i ruling is concerned, there are two categories of birth control and the ruling of each is different. The ruling of each category is as follows:
1) Permanent Irreversible Contraception
This type of contraception is carried out when the couple decide never to have a baby. It is done with a sterilization operation carried out either on the man (Vasectomy) or the woman (Tubectomy) and renders the couple incapable of ever having children.
The ruling with regards to this is that, it is unlawful (Haram) to carry out such operations. There are many Narrations of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and clear texts of the Fuqaha (Jurists) which determine this.
The Companion, Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) said:
“We use engage in Jihad in the company of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and our wives did not accompany us. We said: O Prophet of Allah! Shall we not castrate ourselves? He forbade us from doing so.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
The great Hanafi Jurist, Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) says:
“Castration of humans is Haram.” (Radd al-Muhtar).
Imam al-Ayni (Allah have mercy on him) says:
“Castration (and sterilization, m) is prohibited with the consensus of all the scholars.” (Umdat al-Qari)
However, in cases of extreme necessity, Irreversible contraception will become permissible. For example, a woman’s life is in danger or repeated pregnancies gravely damage her health, etc. This however, should be advised by a Muslim qualified doctor.
2) Temporary Reversible Contraception
There are many methods by which reversible contraception can be performed. Coitus interruptus (Withdrawal method), the pill, using of the condom, i.u.d, spermicidal, just to mention a few.
The ruling on reversible contraception is that, it is somewhat disliked (makruh tanzihan) if practiced without any reason. If there is a genuine reason, then it will be totally permissible with the permission of the wife. Some of the reasons (for the permissibility of reversible contraception), which the Fuqaha mention, are:
a) Physical state of the woman,
b) Weakness and illness,
c) The couple are on a distant journey,
d) The couple’s relations are unstable and divorce is likely,
e) Spacing out children in order to give them adequate care and attention,
If contraception is practiced due to a reason contrary to the teachings of Shariah, then it will not be permissible. Some of these reasons are:
a) Fear of poverty and not being able to provide,
b) For the fashion of keeping small families and imitating the Kuffar,
c) Being ashamed of having a girl,
There are many narrations from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) which signify the permissibility of reversible contraception, but at the same time indicate it to be undesirable.
Sayyiduna Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) says: “We used to practice Coitus interruptus (Withdrawal method) while the Qur’an was being revealed. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) knew of this and did not prohibit us.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim )
This has more or less been mentioned by the scholars in their books. (See Imam Nawawi in his commentary of Sahih Muslim, Mulla Ali al-Qari in al-Mirqat, Ibn Abidin in his Radd al-Muhtar and others.
For more details, please refer to my book on this subject titled Birth Control and Abortion (Revised Edition), available from the Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK.
And Allah Knows Best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK
Is contraception permissible? Is it disliked? What is the better way?
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon His Messenger Muhammad, his folk, companions, and followers
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
Contraception is permitted. However, it is superior not to engage in contraception without genuine reason or benefit, because the Qur’an and Sunna have encouraged having children, and there is great benefit to the individual and society in raising righteous children.
Allama Jad al-Haqq (Allah have mercy on him), the pious late 20th Century Shaykh al-Azhar, wrote in a fatwa dated 1399 AH (1979 CE), that:
1. Contraception is permitted if the husband and wife agree, as there is nothing in the Qur’an or Sunna to prohibit it; rather, the hadiths and practice of the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) indicate permissibility, and this is confirmed by the words of the jurists across the schools of Islamic law.
2. It is not permitted to engage in contraception without the agreement of the spouse–for both husband and wife.
2. Contemporary forms of contraception, whether used by the husband or the wife, are akin to the `azl (ejaculating outside the vagina) mentioned in the hadiths, as is explicitly understood from the words of the jurists of the Hanafi and other schools. Rather, they are superior, more natural, and less harmful.
3. It is not permitted to use irreversible contraception–such as sterilization.
4. It is not permitted for there to be state-imposed forcible population planning. [Summarized from Jad al-Haqq’s fatwa, from Mawsu`at Fatawa Dar al-Ifta’ al-Masriyya]
Other contemporary fuqaha state likewise.
While some texts indicate that it is somewhat disliked (makruh tanzihan) to do so, this is not what most of the major jurists of the Hanafi school state. 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.
However, we understand at the same time that one of the purposes (maqasid) and wisdoms of marriage is to have children, as mentioned by Imam Ghazali in his Ihya’ Ulum al-Din.
The Qur’an and Sunna of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) have encouraged having children. There is great benefit to the individual and society in having children. Not only does having righteous children maintain healthy communities and societies, but it also teaches humanity: few things are more effective in teaching good character, mercy, compassion, and true love as having children does.
This is why the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Marry and multiply.” [Abu Dawud and Nasa’i]
Regarding the Permissibility of Contraception
Sayyiduna Jabir ibn Abd Allah (Allah be pleased with him), the notable Companion of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) relates that,
“We used to engage in contraception (`azl) while the Qur’an was being revealed. Had it been something that was interdicted, the Qur’an would have forbidden it.” [Bukhari (5209); Muslim (4220)]
Kasani (Allah have mercy on him) states in Bada’i` al-Sana’i` (2.334-335),
“It is disliked to engage in contraception (`azl, preventative ejaculation) with one’s wife without her permission. This is because intercourse with ejaculation is the means to having a child, and having a child is her right. By resorting to contraception [without her permission], having a child is prevented, which is akin to being a reason for not fulfilling her right.
However, if the contraception was with the wife’s agreement (rida), then it is not disliked. In such a case, she will have willingly forgone her right.”
This is also mentioned by Marghinani in al-Hidaya, and Nasafi in Kanz al-Daqa’iq. Zayla`i confirms this in his commentary on Kanz al-Daqa’iq. [Tabyin al-Haqa’iq Sharh Kanz al-Daqa’iq, 6.21]
Ibn Taymiyya (Allah have mercy on him) and others relate that the permissibility of contraception with the wife’s permission is agreed upon by the four schools of Sunni Islam. [al-Fatawa al-Kubra, 2.101]
Ibn Nujaym (Allah have mercy on him) says in al-Bahr al-Ra’iq Sharh Kanz al-Daqa’iq,
“The permissibility of contraception (`azl) is the position of the generality of scholars, because of the [abovementioned] hadith in Bukhari…” [3.214]
Is Contraception Disliked, Though?
Ibn Nujaym then quotes Ibn al-Humam (Allah have mercy on him), who mentioned in his magnificent commentary on al-Hidaya, Fath al-Qadir, that some scholars of the Hanafi school considered contraception to be permitted yet disliked, while others did not consider it disliked. [ibid.]
Mulla Khusro, the great Ottoman master jurist, said in al-Durar, that it is permitted to engage in contraception. He does not state that it is disliked. [1.315] Shurunbulali (Allah have mercy on him) does likewise in his marginal commentary, al-Shurunbulaliyya. In fact, he relates that some scholars permitted it even without permission because of the bad times.
The Fatawa Hindiyya, compiled by some of the greatest jurists of Moghul India under commission from the righteous Sultan Aurangzeb, explicitly negates that it is disliked by stating,
“Contraception is not disliked with the wife’s permission… “ [1.315]
This is also what Haskafi relates in al-Durr al-Mukhtar, and is confirmed by the words of Ibn Abidin in his marginal commentary (hashiya), Radd al-Muhtar.
And Allah alone gives success.