Islamic Ruling on Birth Prevention

Allah has made procreation a means of survival of the human race. Children also form part of the overwhelming blessings of Allah. Allah says:

“And keep your duty to Him, fear Him Who has aided you with all (good things) that you know. He has aided you with cattle and children. And gardens and springs."(Q26[Shuaraah]: 132-134)

It is from the natural human disposition to want to have children. Allah says:

“Beautified for men is the love of things they covet; women, children, much of gold and silver (wealth), branded beautiful horses, cattle and well tilled land. This is the pleasure of the present worlds life; but Allah has the excellent return (Paradise with flowing rivers, etc.) with Him." (Q3 [Al-Imran]:14)

From a material perspective, children increase family and tribal sizes, and this brings recognition, power, wealth, status, respect, social gratification, and so on. Islam encourages Muslims to have many children. Potentially, this would increase the size and power of the Muslim Ummah and thus, increase the number of humans who worship Allah and strive to establish His religion.

Allah's Messenger said: "Marry loving and fertile women because I will display your outnumbering of the other nations on Resurrection Day." (Abu Dawud)

If thus is the position of children, then killing a child is an unnatural and un-Islamic act that is strongly prohibited and condemned. For instance, Islam denounced the practice of the pagans of jahiliyyah who used to bury their daughters alive:

"And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned. For what sin she was killed.'~ (Q81 [Takweer]:8)

The Messenger of Allah (salallahualayhi wa sallam) also considered the act of killing of one's child a grievous sin next only to committing shirk. Abdullah bnMas'ud (RA) asked the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wasallam): "Which sin is most grave to Allah?" The Prophet (salallahualayhi wa sallam) replied: ''joining partner with Allah Who created you." Ibn Mas'ud (RA) said: "This is indeed grave! And what comes next?" The Prophet (salallahualayhi wa sallam) said:

"Killing your offspring for fear that it would eat from your food." (Bukhari)

In history, people have tried to control birth and population through various means and a few of them are the following:

Celibacy

This is self-denial which includes abstaining from marriage as a demonstration of piety. This is an abnormal practice introduced by esoteric monks and some Christians. In Islam, this act is forbidden by the text of the Qur'an and the hadeeth of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam). Allah says:

"Then, We sent after them, Our Messengers, and We sent 'Iesa (Jesus) - son of Maryam (Mary), and gave him the Injeel (Gospel). And We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him, compassion and mercy. But the Monasticism which they (they sought it) only to please Allah therewith, but that they did not observe it with the right observance." (Q57[Hadid]:27)

The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam) prohibited this practice for two reasons: It conflicts with the human nature of fulfilling the sexual desire through lawful marriage and it conflicts with procreation. He said:

"Marry because (on the Day of Judgment) I will display your outnumbering of the other nations. Do not practice monastic celibacy as the Christians did." (Bayhaqi)

Castration

This is to deprive the male his reproductive ability which is usually done by removing his testicles. From ancient times, people have carried out castration both for religious as well as social reasons. Monks from various religious orders voluntarily castrated themselves to aid them in their dedication to worship. Eunuchs were also used to staff palaces of kings and serve women in ancient societies. Castration is prohibited in Islam whether for human or animal. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

"No (animal) castration (is allowed) in Islam."(Bayhaqi).

Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas(RA) said: Allah's Messenger disallowed Uthman bin Maz'un to practice celibacy. Had he permitted him, we would have gotten castrated." (Bukhari)

Azl (Coitus Interruptus)

This is otherwise known as early withdrawal. This is when a man, during intercourse, withdraws his organ from the woman's private part before ejaculation to prevent his sperm from reaching the womb of the woman. The companions of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) practiced Azl to his knowledge and yet the Prophet did not prohibit them. Jabir bn Abdullah (RA) said:' We practiced azl during the lifetime of Allah's Messenger. He was informed about that and he did not prevent us." (Muslim) Though azl is permissible, it is disliked in Islam and should normally be avoided for the following reasons:

It causes emotional harm to the woman, because it interrupts her pleasure - even if it is done with her full consent. It conflicts with one of the main purpose of marriage which is to increase the population of Muslims. Allah prohibits killing one's children. Allah says:

"Do not kill your children because of poverty. We provide for you and them." (Q 17 [al-Israa]:31)

Though azl does not involve actual killing but it prevents birth which is in some respects similar to killing. When the Prophet was asked about azl, he said:

"That is secret wa'd (killing of children)."(Muslim)

Though the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) permitted it, yet he subtly discouraged it.

In the hadeeth ofAbu Sai'd, azl was mentioned to the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam) and he said repeating it three times): "Do you really do this?" Then he said:

"There is no soul that is decreed to be created, (from now) till Resurrection Day but that it will be created."(Bukhari)

In his explanation of this hadeeth, Ibn Hajar (RAH) said: "This indicates that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) did not explicitly prohibit azl but pointed out that it is better to avoid it. This is because azl is done for fear of having a child, and there is no benefit in such fear. If Allah wills to create a child, azl would not prevent it, because the (seminal) fluid may come out too soon without the man's control, leading to conception and pregnancy. Indeed, it is not possible to stop Allah's decree." (Fath al-Bari)

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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