Muslims strive to build a strong family and community bonds, and they welcome children as a gift from Allah. Marriage is encouraged, and raising children is one of the main purposes of marriage in Islam. Few Muslims choose to remain child-free by choice, but many prefer to plan their families through the use of contraception.
The View from the Qur’an
The Qur’an does not specifically refer to contraception or family planning, but in verses forbidding infanticide, the Qur’an warns Muslims, “Do not kill your children for fear of want.” “We provide sustenance for them and for you” (6:151, 17:31). Some Muslims have interpreted this as a prohibition against contraception as well, but this is not a widely accepted view.
Some early forms of birth control were practiced during the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad, and he did not object to their appropriate use—such as to benefit the family or the mother’s health or to delay pregnancy for a certain period of time. This verse serves as a reminder, though, that Allah takes care of its worshippers’ needs and they should not hesitate to bring children into the world out of fear or for selfish reasons. No method of birth control is 100 percent effective and Allah is the Creator, and if Allah wants a couple to have a child, Muslims should accept it as his will.
Opinion of Scholars
Islamic scholars vary in their opinions about contraception, but only the most conservative scholars prohibit birth control in all instances. Virtually all scholars consider allowances for the mother’s health, and most allow for at least some forms of birth control when it is a mutual decision by husband and wife. Some of the more fiercely debated opinions surround birth control methods that interrupt the development of a fetus after conception, methods which are irreversible, or when birth control is used by one spouse without the knowledge of the other.
Types of Contraception
Islamic law contains rulings on various types of contraception.
- Natural family planning: This was commonly practiced during the time of the prophet Muhammad, and he did not universally object to it. Spouses need to be sensitive to each other’s needs for fulfillment, however, and practice this method only if both agree.
- Barrier methods (condoms, diaphragms, etc.): These are designed to prevent conception, and are therefore accepted by most Muslim scholars.
- Hormonal and other methods (pill, patch, IUD, etc.): These work through a combination of preventing fertilization and interfering with implantation. Most scholars frown upon such methods except under medical supervision—particularly if those methods may cause harm to the woman using them.
- Surgery (vasectomy, tubal ligation, hysterectomy): Islam forbids a couple from choosing to be permanently child-free through the use of surgeries that are irreversible, unless for medical reasons.
Although Muslims have sexual relations only within marriage, it is possible to become exposed to sexually-transmitted diseases. A condom is the only contraception option that helps prevent the spread of many STD’s.
The Qur’an describes the stages of embryonic development (23:12–14 and 32:7–9), and Islamic tradition states that the soul is “breathed” into a child four months after conception. Islam teaches respect for each and every human life, but it remains an ongoing question of whether unborn children fall into this category.
Abortion is frowned upon during the early weeks, and it is considered a sin if done without just cause, but most Islamic jurists permit it. Most early Muslim scholars found abortion to be permissible if done within the first 90–120 days after conception, but abortion is universally condemned thereafter unless to save the mother’s life.