Methods of Contraception
- :Abbas and Shahin Merali
There are a number of different methods of contraception. The most commonly used ones will be examined below to determine whether their use is permissible in Islam or not. Permissibility has been determined by the definition of the beginning of pregnancy according to the Islamic point of view, which is when the fertilized ovum is implanted onto the lining of the uterus. Therefore, whatever prevents implantation is permissible and whatever terminates pregnancy after implantation is an abortion and haraam.
It is necessary to note that these methods have been studied from the fiqh point of view only. For the medical opinion about the reliability or possible side-effects of these methods, please consult your doctor.
The following methods do not involve surgical operation and are also reversible. A man or woman using these methods can stop using them at anytime in order to conceive a child.
1. Oral Contraceptives
Birth control pills prevent conception by inhibiting ovulation. The pills alter hormonal levels and suppress the hormonal signal from the gland for the ovaries to release an ovum. These pills are taken orally on a precise schedule for 20 or more days during each menstrual cycle. Since all such pills inhibit ovulation, they are permissible; however, the individual must consult the physician about possible side-effects.
There are some pills which work after the intercourse has taken place, for example, the ‘morning-after pill’ or the recently developed RU486 pill. Again, since the use of such pills prevents implantation, it is permissible. Therefore, the pills like the ‘morning-after’ and RU486 may be taken after the intercourse BUT not after feeling or knowing that pregnancy has already occurred.
Depo-Provera works exactly like the pills, but instead of taking it orally it is injected once every three months. This and other similar contraceptive methods by injection are also permissible.
3. Intrauterie Devices (IUD)
IUDs are plastic or metal objects, in a variety of shapes, which are implanted inside the uterus. The medical experts do not exactly know how IUD works. Presently there are two opinions: one says that IUD prevents fertilization; and the other says that it prevents the fertilized ovum from implantation onto the uterus. Since the pregnancy begins at implantation according to the Islamic point of view, the use of IUD as a birth control device is permissible, irrespective of the above differences among the medical experts.
4. Barrier Devices
All barrier devices prevent the sperm from entering the uterus. This is done by sheathing the penis with a condom, or by covering the cervix with a diaphragm, cervical cap, or vaginal sponge. The use of spermicidal substances which kill the sperm before reaching the ovum is also a barrier device. All of these are permissible forms of birth control.
5. Abstinence during fertile period
There are three basic procedures to predict ovulation, in order to avoide sexual intercourse during the approximately six days of a woman’s most fertile monthly phase.
These three methods are as follows:
a. Ovulation Method: A woman learns to recognize the fertile time by checking the difference in the constitution of the cervical mucus discharge. The cervical mucus discharge signals the highly fertile period; and thus avoiding sex during this time prevents conception.
b. Rhythm Method: A method similar to the first, but it depends on observing the monthly cycles for a whole year to determine the fertile days.
c. Temperature: In this method, besides keeping a calendar record of her cycle, a woman also takes her temperature daily to detect ovulation. She can know her ovulation whenever her basal body temperature increases.
NOTE: Another more advanced option is to predict ovulation using an ovulation test, which are designed to predict the most fertile days to become pregnant.
6. Withdrawal (Coitus Interruptus)
Coitus interruptus means withdrawing the penis just before ejaculation. This was the most common method of birth control before the invention of modern devices.
It is narrated that Muhammad bin Muslim and ‘Abdur Rahma-n bin Abi ‘Abdilla-h Maymun asked Ima-m as-Sa-diq (as) about withdrawal. The Ima-m said: “It is up to the man; he may spill it wherever he wants.” 69
However, in another hadi-th, Muhammad bin Muslim narrated from fifth or the sixth Ima-m as follows: “In case of a slave-girl, it is allowed, however, in case of a free woman, I dislike it unless it had been so stipulated at the time of marriage.” 70
Based on the above ahadith, the majority of our mujtahids believe that coitus interruptus is allowed but Makru-h without the wife’s consent. 71
Sterilization involves surgical operation. Sterilization in men, known as a vasectomy, involves the severing or blocking of the tube in the male reproductive tract. This tube or duct passes sperm from the testes to the prostate and other reproductive organs.
Sterilization in women, known as tubal ligation, involves the blocking or severing of the fallopian tubes which transport the ovum.
Sterilization is not free from objection, although it is permissible if it does not entail the prohibited methods outlined below. 72
Any method of birth control is prohibited under the following circumstances:
a) When it poses serious harm to a woman’s health, such as removing certain organs like the ovaries.
b) When it involves a hara-m act, such as a male touching or looking at the private parts of a woman that are forbidden for him to look at, is prohibited.
These conditions can only be overridden in extreme circumstances, when it is absolutely necessary.
69 Wasa-il ash-Shi-‘a, vol. 14, pg. 105
70 Wasa-il ash-Shi-‘a, vol. 14, pg. 106
71 Sharh Lumu‘ah, vol. 2, pg. 28
72 al-Mustahdathat min al-Masa’il al-Shar'iyyah, pp. 19-20, Q26
Adapted from the book: "From Marriage to Parenthood; The Heavenly Path" by: "Abbas and Shahin Merali"
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