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.
The issue of family planning became significant when the lifestyle of people changed. After the modernization of the world and changing the lifestyle from rural life to urban lifestyle, everything was affected.
Children who used to be a 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 humans 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.
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&HP) 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&HP) that “I would be proud of the number of my companions on the day of resurrection” .
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?
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 .
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.
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 .
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) .
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) .
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.
- Jami’ al-ahadith, vol. 20, p. 58
- Bihar al-anvar, vol. 72, p. 58
- Sayed Ali Khamenei, Istifta
Imam Sajjad (AS) enumerates the rights of parents in Islam, specifically the mother in ‘Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq)’, based on her efforts, such as how she withstood the difficulties during the pregnancy, the care and protection she provided after giving birth to the baby, the selfless sacrifices she made so that her child could grow up in the most comfortable condition and with the best education.
Then, Imam (AS) invites to show gratitude to the mother, but he adds in the end that one cannot reciprocate what she had done unless God helps him to succeed .
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) admits that one can never (repeats this two times) pay back the rights of the mother; even if he attempts as many times as the number of the raindrops and the desert sands of the world to pay her back for only one of the days that she had carried him in her womb during the pregnancy, he will not succeed .
The rights of the mother among parents in Islam are even known to be superior to those of the father  since it is said that: “If you are performing a recommended (mustahab) prayer (which is a kind of talking with God and being in His presence requires certain reverence) and your father calls you, do not break your prayer but if your mother calls, break the prayer”.
In this regard, it is narrated that a man, who claimed that had committed every possible sin, asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) if he could still repent or not. Prophet (PBUH&HP) questioned if either of his parents was alive. He answered, his father was. Then, Prophet (PBUH&HP) advised him to go and treat him well. A while after the man left, Prophet (PBUH&HP) said: “if his mother was alive [he would certainly have the opportunity to repent]” .
These, along with other Quranic verses and narrations (Hadiths) highlight the importance of parents in Islam and especially mothers’ rights; something that can never be returned unless with divine providence.
One of the rights of the father is to recognize him as the root that has given existence to his children. Whenever one is proud of him/herself for a blessing, he/she should remember that he/she has inherited it from his/her father. Hence, one should praise God and thank him for what He has granted him .
Imam Reza (AS) said: “offer your property, honor, and life to your father since you have received them from him. Do good to him and ask for the blessing and forgiveness for him after his death” . It is good to know that the amount of the father’s right in his child’s property is as much as it is sufficient for daily meals, without any dissipation, and only in case of need .
Gaining God’s satisfaction: “whoever his parents are satisfied with, I am satisfied with him/her” .
Long-lasting life: “Whoever honors his parents, will live a long life” .
Receiving good deeds from their own children: “honor your parents, so your children will honor you” .
Easy death: “Whoever honors the parents, God will ease his death” .
Being rewarded the highest levels in Heaven: “one, who gives Infaq to his parents, tolerates them, is beneficent to them and does not upset nor harm them, will be placed in the best levels of Heaven” .
According to Islamic teachings, not only mistreating parents in Islam is insolence to them, but also includes ignoring their rights, disobeying them in what is permissible and disrespecting them . It is known from Islamic teachings that:
Even if one’s parents have done something unfair to him, he is not allowed to look at them with a sharp, angry gaze. Otherwise, even a single prayer (Salat) of him will not be accepted .
Insolence to parents is one of the major sins and is Haram .
Prophet (PBUH) has warned about the consequences of Insolence to the parents by saying that the sweet smell of heaven will be sensed from a thousand years of distance but does not reach those who have been insolent to their parents .
It is essential to know that one may gain the satisfaction of the parents when they are alive, but will be readily insolent to them after their death by ignoring their rights like not paying their debts, not praying for them, etc.; and the other way around .
[i] (2 :83), (17:23), (4:36), (6:151), (31:13-14).
[ii] Doing prayer (Salat) and fasting (Swam) in place of parents, especially after their death, is highly advised in Islamic teachings. This is due to the importance of having respect for parents and these two Islamic practices. This also helps to maintain the emotional links between children and parents, even after their death.
[iii] Praying for parents and asking mercy on them is a duty on children that is emphasized in the Quran and Islamic narrations. If parents have committed some sins or have sometimes been disobedient, praying for them might be beneficial to them.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar,” vol. 74, p. 85.
- M. H. Tusi, "Tahdhib al-Ahkam," vol. 6, p. 350.
- A. Q. Payande, “Nahj Al-Fasahah,” T. 2963.
- parents in Islam
- M. B. Majlesi, "Mir’at al-oqul fi sharh ikhbar al-rasoul (PBUH)", vol. 8, p. 390
- M. Muhammadi Rayshahri, “The scale of wisdom: a compendium of Shi'a Hadith”, T. 6762.
- M. Muhammadi Rayshahri, “The scale of wisdom: a compendium of Shi'a Hadith”, T. 6761
- “Mutual rights of parents and children”, vol. 36, p. 86.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Al-Khisal”, p. 298.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wassail”, vol. 15, p. 198.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 86, p. 359.
- Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (AS), “Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq)”.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wassail”, vol. 15, p. 203.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 224.H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wassail”, vol. 15, p. 181.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wassail”, vol. 15, p. 181.
- Ibn Babawayh,,”Fiqh al-Ridha (AS)”, p. 334.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 15, p. 176.
- . Sheikh al-Mufid, “Al-Amali”, p.167.
- F. H. Tabarsi, “Mishkat ul-Anwar Fi Ghurar il-Akhbar”, p. 280.
- F. H. Tabarsi, “Mishkat ul-Anwar Fi Ghurar il-Akhbar”, p. 282.
- F. H. Tabarsi, “Mishkat ul-Anwar Fi Ghurar il-Akhbar”, p. 281.
- J. M. Khonsari, “A discription on Ghurar Al-Hikam Wa Durar Al-Kalim", vol. 1, p.548.
- A. Javadi Amoli, http://maarefquran.org/.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 15, p. 204.
- N. Makarim Shirazi, “Tafsir Nemouneh”, vol. 12, p.80.
“Your Lord has decreed that you shall not worship anyone except Him, and He has enjoined kindness to parents. Should they reach old age at your side one of them or both do not say to them," Fie!" And do not chide them, but speak to them noble words” (17:23). Sitting on the porch of her house, with a deep frown on her face, she seemed absorbed by some unending thoughts. She did not know where she was, neither the boy who was so kindly and attentively taking care of her like a kind nurse, nor the deep unknown feeling that steered within her when he helped her. The only thing she remembered, was that her beloved husband had died and she was left alone.
It had been so many years since the mirror in her room reflected the view of a white-haired, withered, old woman sitting in a wheelchair. But still, she wanted to solve the mystery of the boy’s identity. “Someone must have hired him to take care of me,” she thought. “But who? I’m sure I have no one.”
Instantly, the door of the house opened, and the mysterious young nurse appeared, wearing a big and cheerful smile and a warm, loving look on his face [i][ii] . He had brought her pills. As usual, he put the pills one by one and patiently in her mouth and gave her water to swallow them.
Then kissed her on the forehead and hugged her tightly. She remembered the days when she did not feel good. When she shouted and cursed him violently. She also remembered his patient face at those moments, when he was trying so hard to hold back his tears, taking her hands and kissing them. “What kind of a nurse is he?” she wondered. Respect was an inseparable part of his behavior toward her, always observing not to raise his voice, not to walk ahead of her, and not to act in a way that would make her feel ashamed and humiliated [iii] .
She did not remember if she had ever asked him who he was. So, she gathered her courage to ask and went inside. Entering the house, she saw a man sitting on the couch, arguing on an apparently serious matter with her nurse. “Let’s not bother them,” she thought and turned her wheelchair toward her room, but suddenly something caught her attention.
The man was shouting so she could not help hearing his words: “she does not remember you, not even your name and you are wasting your time here nursing her? What about your job? You are a successful manager for GOD’s sake!” The old woman turned to the boy to see his face. For the first time, she saw the look of rage in him: “She doesn’t, but I do. She is my mother, and I will take care of her to my last breath. “For the record, I became what you say I am, because of her.”
He suddenly felt the weight of the old woman’s look on him. Tears fell on her cheeks irresistibly. After all, the mystery had been solved: her kind and a generous nurse was her loving son, her one and only child.
The next day, when she woke up, the first thing she wanted to see was the face of her nurse, his smile, his kind look. She did not know his name or that why he was there, but she felt sure that her patient, loving and a nice nurse would never ever leave her alone.
[i]. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) said: “Every righteous child who casts a look of mercy and affection upon his parents shall be granted, for every look of his, Rewards equivalent to that of an accepted Hajj.”
[ii]. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) has said: “The look of a child towards his parents out of love for them is an act of worship.”
[iii]. Imam as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said (in regards to one’s parents): “Do not cast your gaze upon them except with love and compassion; do not raise your voice above theirs; do not raise your hands above theirs; do not walk ahead of them.”
- 'Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-Anvar, V. 74, p. 73
- ibid, V. 74, P. 79