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
Silatur-Rahim or preserving family ties is not limited to visiting relatives, but also includes trying to satisfy their needs and strengthening emotional bonds with them. This depends of course on the situation of each member of the family; one might require money while the other has emotional needs .
Some of the examples of Silatur-Rahim are: visiting relatives; greeting and honoring them; inviting them even to a cup of coffee or tea; giving them good advice in case of a problem; not harming them by talking behind their back, insulting or accusing them, or by interfering in their personal affairs; being kind and caring about them; visiting them when they are sick; giving them gifts in different occasions; fulfilling their needs before others do, and participating in their funerals . Imam Sadiq has(AS) said: “… The best family tie is the one in which the relatives are not harmed” .
Upholding kinship with relatives has various advantages in this world and the hereafter:
Having the social and emotional support of family: In Surah Hud, where people threaten Prophet Shu’ayb (PBUH), they tell him if his tribe had not supported him, they would have stoned him (11:91).
Imam Ali (AS) said: “Upholding family ties brings affection and humiliates enemies” .
Having an immediate reward: Imam Baqir (AS) said: “The reward of Silatur Rahim is given more quickly than any good deed” .
Increase in wealth: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said: “Whoever keeps family kinship, God will love him and increase his wealth” .
Having some of the sins vanished: Imam Ali (AS) said: “Eliminate your sins by a voluntary charity and keeping family ties” .
Having an easy death and a long life: When Prophet Moses (PBUH) asked God about the reward of upholding family ties, the answer was: “(Whoever does so,) I will postpone his death, I will make his death easy, and the heaven angles will call him to enter heaven from every door he wishes” .
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever keeps family kinship …God will make his life longer and let him enter heaven” . Imam Baqir (AS) said: “Keeping family ties purifies one’s deeds, increases his wealth, keeps him safe from disasters, makes the accounting of his deeds easy and postpones his death” . Imam Sadiq (AS) said; “Silatur Rahim makes lives longer …, even if doers are not righteous” .
One cannot sever family kinship deliberately since upholding family bonds is a duty ordered by God, hence, the disobedience from this order is of the major sins (al-Kaba’ir) .
In Islam, the warnings against severing and breaking off family bonds are as many as the exhortations to uphold family ties. That is due to the disastrous consequences that neglecting and severing family ties can have on one’s life; these include:
Having a shorter life than it would be: Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “a man might have 33 years of his life left, but God will shorten it to 3 years if he breaks family ties” . In another narration from Imam (AS), negligence of family bonds is known as “a sin that perishes a man quickly” .
quickly receiving a punishment, Imam Baqir (AS) said: “four sins cause quick punishments … (one is) breaking family ties” .
Being cursed by God [i] and deprived of his mercy: “But as for those who ... sever what Allah has commanded to be joined, … it is such on whom the curse will lie, and for them will be the ills of the [ultimate] abode” (13:25).
Being doomed to the hell: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has said: “the sweet smell of heaven will be sensed from a thousand year of distance but those who have been insolent to the parents and those who have broken family ties will be deprived of it” .
One’s prayers (Dua) will not be accepted anymore after severing family ties .
One’s good deeds will be rejected: Imam Rida (AS) said: “whoever sever family ties, he does not fear from God (does not have Taqwa), his good deeds are therefore refused and will face grave punishments in this world and the hereafter” .
Cutting family ties has several reasons, but lack of modesty and greed are known as the two main ones. Imam Sadiq (AS) said that: “Some would not have respected parents’ rights and kept family ties if modesty had not existed” .
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has warned about greed: “Beware of greed, for it was greed that commanded those before you to bloodshed and severing their family ties” .
[i] (2:27), (13:25), (47:22-23).
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 217.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 151.
- Imam Ali (AS), “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, vol. 4, p. 209, T. 5825.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 152.
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- Imam Ali (AS), “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, vol. 4, p. 635, T. 7258.
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- Ibn Shu’bah, “Tuhaf al-Uqul”, p. 299.
- Shaykh Tusi, “Al-Amali”, p. 481.
- R. Khomeini, “Tahrir al-Wasilah”, vol. 1, p. 274.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 153.
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- Ibn Babawayh, “Al-Khisal”, p. 230.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 349.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 15, p. 185.
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- “Tawḥid al-Mofazzal”, p. 79.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Al-Khisal”, p. 176.
children's rights in Islam covers all the years of childhood and infancy and include all the needs of a child in the process of his/her growth
Having a good name is one of the important children's rights in Islam. This is because a good name affects one's mind. A child hears his name day and night; and consequently, the meaning of that name unconsciously strengthens those features which are implied in it.
Therefore, the first duty of a parent towards his/her child is to give him/her a good name at birth. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has said: “It is the responsibility of every father to choose a good name for his child ".
According to the researchers, male circumcision reduces many possible diseases in a man's reproductive organ. As one of the children's rights in Islam, it is recommended that the boy be circumcised on the seventh day of his birth. But it is obligatory to circumcise before the boy reaches puberty [i].
Islam strictly recommends breastfeeding, as one of the most significant children's rights in Islam, besides every day more and more scientific evidence confirms the advantages of this act. Breastfeeding is one of the factors affecting the physical, psychological and ethical characteristics of a baby.
According to the Holy Quran: “Mothers shall breastfeed their children for two whole years…” (2:233). Therefore, it is considered a child's right to be breastfed until the approximate age of two.
It is narrated from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP): “For a child, there is no milk better than the milk of the mother” .
This theory has been proved that the human mind at the very beginning is quite blank, and it only gradually that starts using the faculties of sight, hearing, etc.
As it is noted in Holly Quran, “God has brought you from the wombs of your mothers while you did not know anything and He gave you hearing and sight and hearts that you may give thanks” (16:78)
Consequently, the atmosphere of family and society continuously influence the child's mind, although he/she is not aware of this process. Children are reflections of their parents. The best way to inculcate good behavior in children is to treat them with good grace.
It is emphasized in Islamic thought that children should be kept in a nice and respectful environment. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said: “Respect your children and behave them in a nice manner” .
Although there is no compulsion on children to do religious duties, it is praised to gradually give children religious training. The impressions gained in childhood are very difficult to erase, and if respect and love of religion are infused into his/her mind in childhood, he/she will always remain attached to the religion.
In this stage, the best way of familiarizing the child with religious teachings is performing religious duties in front of him; children are the mirrors of their surroundings.
Imam Baqir (AS) said: “When the child reaches three years, teach him seven times to recite la ilahailla ' llah (there is no God but Allah). Then leave him at that till he is three years seven months and 20 days old; then train him to say Muhammad-un rasul-u 'llah (Muhammad is the messenger of Allah). Then leave him at that till he completes four years. Then teach him seven times to say Salla 'llahu ala Muhammadin wa aali Muhammad (Peace be upon Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad). Then leave him at that till he reaches the age of 5 years; then ask him which one is his right hand and which one is the left. When he knows it, then make him face Qiblah [i] and tell him to do prostration (Sajdah)” .
This is to continue until he is six years of age. Then he should be told to pray and taught The Bowing (Ruku) and Prostration (Sajdah).
Through mentioned methods, the children learn their religious duties without coercion and feeling any burden upon themselves.
[i] Imam Sadeq (AS) said: "Circumcise your sons when they are seven days old as it is cleaner and the flesh grows faster and because the earth hates the urine of the uncircumcised" .
- Al-Hurr al-Aamili , Wasail al-shiah, vol. 2, p. 618.
- Al-Kafi Al-Kalini, Abu-Ja'afar Muhammad Ibn-Yaqub. Al-furu'min al-kafi. Vol. 6 Tehran: Dar al-kutub al-islamiyyah. 1981:34.
- Mirza Hussayn Nuri ,Mustadrak al-Wasāil, vol. 15, p.156.
- Muhammad Muhammadi Rayshari,Mizan al-Hikmah, vol, 1 , p. 7109.
- Ibn-e Fazl-e Tabarsi,Makarim Al Akhlaq, p. 115.