Sunday, May 22, 2022 - 22 Shawwal 1443

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Using contraceptives in Islam

What is the ruling on using contraceptives in Islam?

 

Answer

There are two principle sources for rulings in Islam: the Quran and the honorable Sunnah. This is indicated in the words of the Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him), "I have left you two things which, if you hold on to them, you will never go astray: the Book of God and my Sunnah. They will not part until passing over the bridge on the Day of Judgment."1

Through comprehensively reading the verses of the Noble Quran, we notice that there is no text explicitly prohibits reducing or preventing the possibility of conception. Rather, what it does include is that maintaining progeny is a necessary objective in legal rulings. However, the Sahih and other books of hadith mention narrations permitting Al-‘azl [coitus interruptus, also known as withdrawal, or the pull out method], meaning that the man ejaculates his semen outside his wife’s vagina after sexual penetration but before orgasm. Imam Muslim relates that Jabir bin ‘Abdullah (may God be pleased with him) said, "We practiced ‘azl during the time of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), when the Quran was being revealed."2 Muslim also relates, "We practiced ‘azl during the time of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). [News of] this reached him and he did not forbid it.


Scholars from the various schools have almost reached an agreement that ‘azl, i.e. attempting to prevent the husband’s sperm from reaching his wife’s ovum, is permissible with the couple’s mutual agreement. It is not permissible for either of them to practice it without the other’s consent. The evidence for this being permissible is what has been mentioned in the books of Prophetic hadith: that the Companions practiced ’azl with their wives and that news of this reached him and he did not forbid it.3

If this be so, the permissibility of birth control does not contradict the Prophetic texts, since it is analogous to ‘azl which was performed and permissible during the time of the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him).

The objective of family planning - following this meaning - is: spacing out pregnancies, preserving the mother’s health, protecting her against harm resulting from frequent pregnancies and sequential deliveries, or allowing the mother time to devote herself to raising her existing children. It is mentioned in al-Ghazali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din and al-Shawkani’s Nayl al-Awtar that matters which promote using ‘azl include looking after the interest of an infant and fearing pregnancy while nursing, avoiding having many children, and avoiding having them in the first place. However, birth control as a permanent means of ending the possibility of conception contradicts Islam and its objective of preserving human procreation until whatever time God sees fit. God says, "Do not kill your children for fear of poverty—We shall provide for them and for you." [17:31] This does not contradict the opinion of the majority of Muslim scholars, who have stated that it is permissible to use ‘azl to delay pregnancy, or temporarily suspending it for a legitimate reason; since this verse concerns forbidding infanticide. However, preventing pregnancy by preventing fertilization, which is the first step in an embryo’s formation, is not considered murder, since the embryo will not yet have been formed if ‘azl has been practiced, blocking the husband’s sperm has not reached the wife’s ovum. As God says, "We created man from an essence of clay, then we placed him as a drop of fluid in a safe place." [23:12-13]

Ruling
Based on the above, it is permissible to use contraceptives or anything that does not lead to killing the embryo after its formation - in any stage of its development, no matter how early.

God the Almighty knows best.
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1. al-Hakim, through Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him).
2. Bukhari and Muslim.
3. Muslim, through Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him).