Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD

my flight of ideas

Islam’s Take on Contraception and Abortion

Posted on | October 6, 2010 | 2 Comments

(Reposted with permission from the original Facebook note by author Former COMELEC Commissioner Mehol K. Sadain)

Contraception, which is the prevention of conception, has long been legally practiced among married Muslims. The rationale for allowing contraception ranges from health to economic reasons, and includes improving the quality of life of children and their family. Hence, the methods (pills, mechanical barriers and natural family planning) are all allowed by Islamic law.  Contraception is to be distinguished from abortion, which is the extraction of a fetus already formed in the mother’s womb. While contraception is allowed in Islam as a means to prevent pregnancy (hence, no taking of life is involved) abortion is generally prohibited, except in very rare medically justifiable cases.

Let us first deal with contraception. To begin with, all the major schools of law in Islam allow azl or withdrawal or coitus interruptus, with the sole condition that the wife’s consent should be obtained. This is understandable because it may happen that the wife wants to have a child and hence, will not welcome withdrawal.

Using ijtihad or judicial analysis and interpretation, the jurists (fuqaha) of Islam reasoned that if withdrawal is allowed, then other methods achieving the aim of withdrawal (which is prevention of pregnancy) should also be allowed. Ibn Sina (Avicenna to the West), a great Muslim Philosopher and Physician discussed twenty different methods of contraception in his book “Qanun” or “The Law”, and Abu Bakr Ar-Razi in his book “Hawi” listed one hundred seventy six birth control substances. According to Sa’diyya Shaikh in her article “Undertaking Khilafa” published in “Sacred Choices: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions”, as early as the 9th century female contraceptive techniques like intra-vaginal suppositories and tampons were already part of both medical and legal discussions in Islam.

It appears that the primary reason for allowing contraception in Islam is the principle that reproduction is a voluntary choice for married couples. Islam has never made it obligatory for Muslim couples to have children, although one of the objectives of marriage is procreation, and children are considered as gifts from Allah that bring joy to the family.

The other condition in the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy is that the method should not result in permanent sterility. Here the law draws the line between what is permissible and forbidden. While the law gives to the Muslim couple the choice of having children and when to have them, the law does not allow them to voluntarily kill their babies, nor their chances of having babies, unless for a very justifiable medical reason. The rationale for this is Islam’s recognition of Allah as the source of all life, hence, the giving of life (once conceived) and its maintenance is primordial in Islam.

Viewed in this manner, Islam approaches the issue of contraception and abortion with practicality and due regard to the preservation of life. While acknowledging God as the source of life, it leaves the couple the choice of when to have children. While acknowledging the couple’s discretion to have children, it regulates that discretion by ensuring that it does not lead to the death of the unborn fetus. And while prohibiting the killing of the fetus, it leaves room for medical intervention to extract the fetus under specific and stringent conditions to save the mother from certain death. The rules recognize the importance of the baby’s life, once it is conceived; but at the same time, favors keeping the mother’s life should there be an unavoidable choice between keeping the baby alive or saving the mother from death.

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2 Responses to “Islam’s Take on Contraception and Abortion”

  1. maia
    May 17th, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

    Quoted: ‘While the law gives to the Muslim couple the
    choice of having children and when to have
    them, the law does not allow them to
    voluntarily kill their babies, nor their chances
    of having babies, unless for a very justifiable
    medical reason.’

    Point of Inquiry: Don’t these CONTRACEPTIVE methods limit the chances of having babies?

  2. Frohnie d. Cagalitan
    June 2nd, 2014 @ 11:06 am

    For couples who don’t want anymore children and opt for Permanent Family Planning Method, like ligation & vasectomy, is this allowed?

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