Is Family Planning Allowed in Islam?

Family planning in Islam is one of the recent issues that includes its own rules and regulations. The issue of family planning is usually observed from two dimensions; population control which is the political aspect, and birth control which is based on the decision of the family (husband and wife).

 

The political aspects differ from country to country, based on the decisions made by the government of each region. Depending on social and political conditions, the government may encourage people to have more children or to limit their family to one or two children. However, this aspect is not the issue in this article; rather we would focus on the Islamic view about family planning and birth control, based on the couples’ decisions.

 

At the same time that many traditional families or the older adults in families encourage young couples to have more children, we keep hearing from some young couples that it is not logical to have many children in this era for different social reasons.

 

Why is it not logical to have many children?

 

The issue of family planning became significant when the lifestyle of people changed. After modernization of the world and changing the lifestyle from rural life to urban lifestyle, everything was affected.

 

Children who used to be workforce in rural lifestyle became sole consumers in the urban family for many years, until they became independent. Therefore, parents needed to have reasonable plans to provide for their children who were to be consumers for years.

 

Based on their situations and goals, and their experiences from their childhood, people have different reasons for having fewer children. Reasons like:

 

  • We cannot afford the cost of living for more than one or two children.
  • We have to work hard, and we cannot spend enough time to raise and treat children.
  • There is not enough wealth on the earth for future generations.
  • Children may be an obstacle on our way to success and may deprive us of reaching our goals.
  • This world has become a cruel place, and it is not fair to bring any more human to this brutal world.
  • And many other reasons that convince some couples not to have children, or have only one or two kids.

 

Now, let’s see what the Islamic viewpoint is about human reproduction and birth control.

 

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Family Planning in Islam: Quran and Narrations

 

There are no specific verses in the Holy Quran to cover the issue of family planning in Islam. However, there are a few verses that some jurists use to justify their agreement or disagreement with the issue of family planning in Islam. For example: “Do not kill your children for fear of penury: We will provide for them and for you. Killing them is indeed a great iniquity.” (17:31)

 

The above verse not only shows that the issue of providing for children has always been an issue for parents, but it also shows how God understands human beings, and how beautiful He tries to assure them that the aliment of every creature is provided by Him. These are the things that we usually forget.  We forget that it is Him who has been nurturing us from the very beginning. So being worried about other creatures’ aliment is not a good reason to prevent us from having children.

 

Another point in considering family planning in Islam, is that it's not correct to have fewer children, fearing from poverty and being unable to afford for their costs as “There is no animal on the earth, but that its sustenance lies with Allah, and He knows its [enduring] abode and its temporary place of lodging. ….” (11:6)

 

Besides, having children is such a sweet blessing from God that he warns us not to get so much engaged with these gifts, in a way that they distract us from remembering God and our mission of life: “O you who have faith! Do not let your possessions and children distract you from the remembrance of Allah, and whoever does that—it is they who are the losers.” (63:9)

 

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged people to have more children so that the earth would be filled by people who glorify God and praise him day and night. Also, it is narrated from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that “I would be proud of the number of my companions on the day of resurrection” [1].

 

Reading the above verses and narration may encourage anyone to step forward to have too many children. But is that correct to do so? Are there any prohibitions against having children?

 

Is It Obligatory to Have too Many Children?

 

Although many narrations encourage people to have more children, there is no obligation in doing so. Instead, it is recommended to have many children, provided that it does no physical, mental or spiritual harm to parents or children. In narrations, it is recommended to have enough children, not as many as possible [2].

 

We should also keep in mind this phrase from the Holy Quran “Allah does not task any soul beyond its capacity” (2:286). This means that the number of children should be as many as they do not cause any harm to parents, while at the same time parents would provide all their juridical, legal, spiritual, cultural and educative rights.

 

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When Is Birth Control Allowed?

 

Having mentioned the above overall issues about family planning, let’s see when it is specifically allowed to avoid having children.

 

In Islamic jurisprudence, it is allowed to avoid having children if:

 

The husband may decide not to have any children if:

 

  • The woman is old.
  • The woman would not breastfeed the baby.
  • The woman is not able to nurture a good child.
  • The woman is in temporary marriage.
  • The woman is indecent.
  • It is physically harmful to the woman to give birth.

 

But if a woman has none of the above issues, and the man does not wish to have children from her, for any other reasons, then he should refer to his source of emulation (Marja’ taqlid), since different Muslim jurists have different opinions on this matter. The agreement of both parties upon having or not having children can solve the problem.

 

But if they do not agree, the woman has the right to request for a divorce, hoping to marry another man with whom she can have children, keeping in mind that divorce is the most hateful allowed (Halal) act in the eyes of God Almighty [3].

 

But if the husband wants children, and the wife does not want to have one, without having any specific physical problems, then either both couples should come to an agreement on this subject of having or not having children, for a specific amount of time or forever, or the woman should permit the man to have children with another woman (through temporary or permanent marriage) [4].

 

However, it should be noticed that if the woman does not obey her husband in this case or any other circumstances, she has committed a forbidden (Haram) act, since it is obligatory for a woman to obey her husband. And if they do not come to an agreement and the man wants to have children, they may go through a divorce. (Again keeping in mind that divorce is the most hateful allowed (Halal) act in the eyes of God Almighty) [5].

 

In conclusion, although it is recommended to have many children, family planning in Islam, considering the situation of parents in different times and places, is a rational act and is allowed.

 

Also, couples should not avoid having children for fear of their aliment. Since God has guaranteed the aliment of every single creature on earth; rather they should improve their spiritual level so that they can be great parents and capable of nurturing good children who are to become great believers and good servants of the religion of God.

 

References: 

[1] Jami’ al-ahadith, vol. 20, p. 58

[2] Bihar al-anvar, vol. 72, p. 58

[3]  Sayed Ali Khamenei, Istifta

[4] ibid

[5] ibid