Family planning and Islam

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Scholarship Description:

Family planning and Islam is open for . The scholarship allows level programm(s) in the field of taught at . The deadline of the scholarship is .

“And kill not your children for fear of poverty — We provide for them and for
you. Surely the killing of them is a great wrong” (17:31).

In no way does
this verse refer to family planning because it is talking of ‘killing’ and you
kill one who exists. No law in the world will permit killing one who is already
born and hence the Quran rightly condemns the killing of children. Some people
suggest that the verse in question refers to the practice of burying girl
children alive and when asked they would say they could not provide for them and
hence Allah responds that He provides for them.

Imam Razi suggests the
verse refers to both male and female children being kept ignorant. Thus killing
them has not been used as in killing the body but the mind which is as bad as
killing the body. The word used here is ‘awlad’ i.e. children, which includes
both male and female.

Imam Razi’s suggestion seems to be quite reasonable
and in fact a large family means children cannot be properly educated by poor
parents and hence parents ‘kill’ them mentally by keeping them

They cannot even clothe them properly nor can they provide
proper living space. In such circumstances one cannot raise quality human
beings, and quantity does not matter much. That said, we should understand that
at the time of the revelation of the Quran, the problem of family planning did
not exist, nor did the need for population control.

It is a modern problem which has arisen in our time. Most nation states in the developing world
do not have the economic means to support large populations, and when we say
supporting large populations it does not mean only feeding them but also
includes education and the provision of proper health services. These are the
basic duties of modern nation states.

In fact, in view of the paucity of resources, it has become necessary to adopt family planning. When the Quran was
being revealed there was neither any properly organised state nor education nor
health services being provided by a state agency.
It is important to note
that the Quran, which shows eight ways to spend zakat, does not include
education or health which is so essential for the state to provide today. Thus
what Imam Razi suggests is not only very correct but also enhances the
importance of family planning in modern times as a small family can support
better education and health services.

It would be interesting to note
that as for verse 4:3 (which is used by Muslims for justification of polygamy)
Imam Shafi’i interprets it rather differently. It ends with the words alla
ta’ulu, which is generally translated as ‘you may not do injustice’ i.e. do not
marry more than one woman so that you may not do injustice. But Imam Shafi’i
renders it as ‘so that you do not have a large family’. The Quran has already
mentioned that ‘if you fear injustice then marry only one’ woman and so there
was no need to repeat it. That is why Imam Shafi’i feels it should be translated
as ‘so that you do not have a large family’.

It can be seen that in understanding the Quran even very eminent imams and great scholars differed with
one another. One should not impose one single meaning of a verse on all Muslims.
The Quran could be interpreted differently by different people in their own
context and circumstances, as has historically been the practice. Family
planning being a modern need, one should not reject it out of hand and quote
Quranic verses out of context.

Family planning does not mean killing children after they are born but to plan the birth of children in a way that
parents can bear all the expenses for their education, health, living space,
upkeep, etc. in a proper manner. The Quran also suggests that a child be suckled
for two years, and it is well known that as long as the mother suckles she may
not conceive. Thus, indirectly, the Quran suggests spacing between

In hadith literature, we find that the Prophet (PBUH) permitted
prevention of conceiving in certain circumstances. When a person asked the
Prophet for permission for ‘azl (withdrawal) as he was going for a long journey
along with his wife and he did not wish his wife to conceive, the Messenger of
Allah allowed him. In those days this was the only known method for planning the
birth of a child. Today there are several more methods available.

Imam Ghazali allows even termination of pregnancy if the mother’s life is in danger
and suggests several methods for termination. He even allows termination of
pregnancy on health grounds or if the mother’s beauty is in danger, provided it
is in consultation with her husband. Some scholars referring to the verse 23:14
conclude that one can terminate pregnancy up to three months after conception as
the Quran, in this verse, describes the stages of development of the sperm
planted in the mother’s womb; it takes three months for life to

However, many ulema today oppose the termination of pregnancy.
Whatever the case one cannot declare family planning as prohibited in Islam as
it in no way amounts to killing a child. Even the termination of a pregnancy is
allowed in order to properly plan the birth of a child according to one’s
financial resources.

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