Is family planning permissible for low-income families?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
The scholars have differing opinions regarding the ruling for tanzim al-usrah or family planning due to poverty.
The scholars that prohibit family planning state the following evidences:
- Sustenance and provision are determined by Allah SWT, and He has stipulated the sustenance of every child. Allah SWT states:
وَلاَ تَقْتُلُواْ أَوْلاَدَكُم مِّنْ إمْلاَقٍ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ
“And do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them.”
Surah al-An’am (151)
- Family planning is similar to the tradition of Jahiliyyah, where they kill their children in fear of poverty, even if the method is different, where now we prevent the pregnancy at the first place. The purpose is however, the same, for the fear of being poor, thus the ruling for the purpose is the same as the ruling of the means.
- Sustenance is from Allah SWT, and family planning is a form of prejudice towards Allah SWT. One should believe and put his hopes in Allah SWT, for Allah SWT will provide whomever He wishes limitlessly. It is obligatory for him to think of only good things towards Allah SWT for he does not know the reality of his needs that has been stipulated for him by Allah SWT. Allah SWT states:
وَعَسَى أَن تَكْرَهُواْ شَيْئاً وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَى أَن تُحِبُّواْ شَيْئاً وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ وَاللّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.”
Surah al-Baqarah (216)
The scholars that ruled family planning permissible further divided family planning or tanzim al-usrah into tanzim al-nasal (planning of children) and tahdid al-nasal (limiting children).
Tanzim al-Nasal refers to the effort of distancing the period between pregnancies through medical intervention such as family planning pills or insertion of intrauterine device, or having intercourse during infertile period, wearing condoms, practise coitus interruptus and cleaning the semen from the woman’s vagina after intercourse. These methods are permissible on the condition of:
- Believe that a child is Allah SWT’s gift, no one and nothing can prevent it and it is obligatory for the couple to take care of the child, if they are gifted with a child.
- It is not harmful to the couple, especially towards the wife.
- It is done with the agreement and consent of both husband and wife.
This is in accordance to an athar from Jabir RA:
كُنَّا نَعْزِلُ عَلَى عَهْدِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَالقُرْآنُ يَنْزِلُ
“We used to practice coitus interruptus during the time of the Messenger of Allah when the Qur'an was being revealed.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (5209)
Which means, there is no prohibition from the Quran regarding it, for if it is prohibited, surely the Quran would state its prohibition. In a narration by Abu Said al-Khudri, the Prophet PBUH was once asked about coitus interruptus and the Prophet PBUH answered:
مَا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْ لاَ تَفْعَلُوا، فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ كَتَبَ مَنْ هُوَ خَالِقٌ إِلَى يَوْمِ القِيَامَةِ
"It is better that you should not do it, for Allah has written whom He is going to create till the Day of Resurrection."
In a narration by Abu Said RA, he said:
لَيْسَتْ نَفْسٌ مَخْلُوقَةٌ إِلَّا اللَّهُ خَالِقُهَا
“No soul is ordained to be created but Allah will create it.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (7409)
Hence, if Allah SWT wills a child to be born, then nothing and no one can stop it. Thus, the couple must be willing and responsible towards the child gifted to them.
Whereas, tahdid al-nasal is a permanent medical or surgical intervention of sterilization and abortion. These methods are prohibited for they fall under the category of changing Allah SWT’s creation (for sterilization) and murder (for abortion). This act also denies Allah SWT as the one who Provides for everyone, whether it is the parents or the child. It is also prohibited for unmarried man or woman. The exception for the prohibition of it is, for cases where the mother would face a high risk of health complications that could result in death due to being pregnant or giving birth. Hence, at the time abortion can be done before 120 days of fertilization or 106 days from the last day of menstruation.
According to Imam al-Ghazali, abortion is totally prohibited, even during the early stages of pregnancy for it is the basis of humans’ life. However, he states that it is permissible to practise coitus interruptus, if there are permissible reasons for it, which includes the factors of economy, wife’s health, and to maintain wife’s beauty to ensure prolonged love and care between the couple (to prevent divorce). He also states a sinful and unacceptable reason for family planning, which is the fear of getting a daughter. Refer Ihya' Ulum al-Din (2/52)
Majma 'al-Fiqh al-Islami Conference under the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Kuwait at 1-6 Jamadilakhir 1409 H equivalent 15 December 1988 M has decided, among others:
- It is prohibited to deprive the ability to reproduce for man and woman, or also known as sterilization. Exception is given to desperate situations stated by syarak.
- It is permissible to control the ability of reproduction (not permanent) with the purpose of distancing the time between pregnancies, stopping it for a certain period of time, if there is a necessity for it according to syarak, and with the agreement of both the husband and wife, on the condition that the intervention method is not harmful and in accordance to syarak, as well as it is not harmful towards the existing child in the mother’s womb.
Refer Majallah al-Majma’ Series 4 (1/73)
On May 1997, Syeikh ‘Atiyyah Saqr issued a fatwa through Dar al-Ifta’ al-Misriyyah, answering the question on sterilization for family planning due to health reasons or others for a certain duration. It is permissible on the condition that the reproductive ability is undamaged and he or she can reproduce again after the set duration. Thus, if the sterilization is absolute and permanent then it is prohibited, unless there is a desperate and serious danger or threat towards his or her life. Refer Fatawa Dar al-Ifta’ al-Misriyyah (47/10)
The 28th Malaysian Islamic Religious Council Fatwa Committee Muzakarah on 29 February 1991 discussed the Norplant Suspension System in the National Family Planning Program. Muzakarah has decided that this Norplant Suspension System is permissible. The use of this system shall be subject to the Decision of the 12th Muzakarah on 20th January 1977 which decides the ruling on Family Planning as follows:
- Sterilization of a man and a woman is prohibited.
- Prevention of birth or limiting the number of children is prohibited unless there is a reason permitted by syarak for an individual.
- Family planning from the aspect of health, education and well-being of family through the methods not included in (1) and (2) is permissible.
Refer Compilation of Islamic Rulings Muzakarah Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs (pg. 138)
Referring to the above question, it is permissible for the couple to use the method of tanzim al-nasal for family planning with the purpose of distancing the time between pregnancies, for the management of economy for low-income family. They should include the intention of believing that if Allah SWT wills for the couple to have a child, then nothing can stop it and they have to accept the child and take care of the child responsibly.