Rafed English

Contraceptive and Abortion

The question of birth control has created much debate in the Western world. This question is related to the basic view of sex. On the one one hand, if you relate sex to the origina sin and equate it with evil, and allow sexual intercourse only for the purpose of procreation -then, obviously, you will be totally opposed to birth control. Allowing birth control would mean allowing sex for pleasure. On the other hand, if yoou consider sex to be a natural act whose purpose is two-fold: procreation and/or fulfillment of sexual desire, then you would allow birth control. The debate on the use of birth control, moreover, is inter-twined with the issue of abortion.

On the whole, there are three opinions on birth control and abortion. On the one extreme, the Roman Catholic Church1 forbids birth control as well as abortion; and on the other extreme, the libertarians and feminists consider birth control and abortion as the basic rights of women. In between these two extremes, Islam allows birth control but forbids abortion.

According to the Shi'ah fiqh, family planning -as a private measure to space or regulate the family size for health or economic reasons- is permissible. Neither is there any Qur'anic verse or hadith against birth control, nor is it wajib to have children in marriage. So basically, birth control would come under the category of ja'iz, lawful acts.

Moreover, we have some ahadith (specially on the issue of 'azl, coitus interrupts) which categorically prove that birth control is permissible. Imam 'Ali once said, "One of the two (means) of affluence is to have few dependents."2 Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq said that, "[Imam] 'Ali ibnul Husayn (peace be upon him) saw no problem in coitus interrupts and he used to recite the verse that 'When your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam (i.e., from their loins) their seed ...' [7:172] So from whatsoever [seed] Allah has taken a covenant, it is sure to be born even if it is [spilled] on a hard rock."3 The Imam is saying that the creation is in the hand of Allah alone. Whether or not we practise birth control, if Allah wills, the child will be conceived. In effect, these ahadith are a positive proof that birth control is allowed in Islam.

However, sometimes the issue of birth control is politicized by the imperialists and racist regimes; and in such cases, the supreme mujtahid has the right to temporarily forbid the use of birth control on basis of secondary reasons (hukm thanawi). For example, if the Russian communist government plans to impose or promote birth control in its Muslim provinces not because of health reason but because it fears that the high birth rat among the Muslims might offshoot their minority status, then the mujtahid can issue a fatwa saying that to practise birth control in Soviet Russia (without any health reasons) would be haram. Or if the Israeli government, for example, promotes birth control among the Muslims inside the occupied Palestine, then the mufti can prohibit it. Similarly, if the Indian government of the Maronite government of Lebanon intends to promote birth control among the Muslim citizens, then the supreme mujtahid can prohibit the use of birth control. Such fatwas will just be of temporary nature; once the issue is depoliticized, the primary law will be applied again.

1. See Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day, Vatican City, 1987.

2. Nahju 'l-Balaghah, saying No.141; Tuhaf, p.214.

3. Wasa'il, vol.14, p.105.

Adapted from: "Marriage & Morals in Islam" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi"

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