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Sterilization involves surgical operation.

Sterilization in man, known as vasectomy, means the severing or blocking of the tube in the male reproductive tract. This tube or duct passes sperm from the tests to the prostate and other reproductive organs.

Sterilization in woman, knows as tubal ligation, involves the blocking or severing of the fallopian tubes which transport the ovum.

The permissibility of sterilization depends on whether or not it is reversible. At present, the rate of reversibility (40%) is not good enough to make sterilization permissible. Greater success may be achieved with improved microsurgical techniques. And until we achieve at least 80 percent reversibility, it is difficult to permit sterilization.

Can a woman practise birth control without consent of her husband?

The wife has full right to the use of contraceptives even without the approval of her husband.1 However, she should not use a method which may come in the way of her husband's conjugal rights. For example, she cannot force him to use condom or practise coitus interruptus. The rule is based upon the principle that the extent of the husband's conjugal rights over his wife is just that she should be sexually available, responsive, and cooperative. This right does not extend to that of bearing children for him. Bearing children or not is a personal decision of the woman; and therefore, she may use contraceptives provided they do not come in the way of her husband's conjugal rights.

This was the legal aspect of the shari'ah. But on a practical level, such decision are best made with mutual consultation between the husband and the wife; otherwise, it could lead to misunderstanding and mustrust. The legal aspect is to protect the basic rights of women; but in the real world, man and woman must base their life on love, mercy and cooperation as the Qur'an says, "And We have created between you love and mercy."
1. Minhaj, vol.2, p.276.

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

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