Can a Muslim woman take contraceptives?
Allah the Almighty has blessed family and child birth with His Grace and has ordained that Muslims must look after and provide for their wives and daughters. Having said this, the Lord has not prohibited ‘family planning’ when the birth of more children can become too heavy a burden for the parents or when a Muslim woman is still young and needs more experience in life.
Here are the reports by Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim of the words that were said by Jabir Ibn Abdullah who was the last to die of all the Prophet’s companions and one of the best known narrators of the Hadith and Islamic scholars: “We used to practice coitus interruptus during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger while the Quran was being Revealed. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 5208) “We used to practise azl (coitus interruptus) during the days when the Prophet was alive, and when he learned of it he did not forbid us.” (Sahih Muslim, 1440) Dwelling further on the subject, the Hadith narrator Abu Sufyan, the ruler of Mecca who had been an opponent of the Prophet and became his staunch follower and companion after converting to Islam, said: “If coitus interruptus were to be prohibited, the prohibition would be recorded in the Quran!”
Therefore, a Muslim woman may indeed take contraceptives. However, having said that, one must not forget that a man’s life lies solely in the hands of Allah, it comes about or does not do so only by His Will and at His Behest. If the excuse to take contraceptives is dire financial circumstances and fear of the family’s inability to support yet another child, one must begin the contemplation with a prayer and supplication with Allah to ask enlightenment and strength, for He did say that ‘when He provides a child, He also provides for the child’: “Do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them.” (6:151) And surely, if Allah allows you to avoid getting pregnant, this happens exclusively in conformity with His Will, since no contraceptive can prevent a woman from being with child if Allah wishes her to be so: “A man said: Messenger of Allah, I have a slave-girl and I withdraw the penis from her while having intercourse, and I dislike that she becomes pregnant. I intend by intercourse what the men intend by it. The Jews say that withdrawing the penis azl is burying the living girls on a small scale. He the Prophet said: The Jews told a lie. If Allah intends to create it, you cannot turn it away.” (Abu Dawood, 2171)
The one mandatory condition allowing a Muslim woman to take contraceptives is her husband’s consent. Otherwise, prevention of pregnancy shall be deception, sin. ‘Family planning’ is a matter of mutual assent between husband and wife. And of course there should be no harm done by the contraceptives to the woman’s health, because God decreed that man must look after himself and avoid any bodily damage willingly done.
The decision to avoid pregnancy by way of contraceptives must be thoroughly weighed. It is indeed God’s Will and Pleasure for Muslims to have as many children as they can bear to have. The Lord says to us that many children is a way of multiplying the number of Muslims on earth, a way of helping Muslims combat the infidels and spread the teaching of Islam throughout the world. This is the reason why the Lord sends Muslims many children. “Then We gave back to you a return victory over them. And We reinforced you with wealth and sons and made you more numerous in manpower.” (17:6) However, the Lord issues no direct prohibition of birth control. Hence after considering in a very diligent manner all pros and cons and after discussing the matter with the husband a Muslim woman may indeed resort to contraceptives. Doing so she will understand that this will not bring her any special grace from the Lord, while if she finds it in herself to change her mind, Allah’s reward shall be definitely with her for that.