Is Contraception Permissible?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Salaam

My question is in regards to contraception in Islam. Allhamdulillah we have been blessed with 3 beautiful children. We are now in a position where we do not plan to have any more children. Are we allowed such procedures which prevent pregnancy on either a temporary or permanent basis?

Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Merciful,

May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon His Messenger Muhammad, his folk, companions, and followers.

Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

Contraception is permitted; however, it is superior not to engage in contraception without genuine reason or benefit, because the Qur’an and Sunna have encouraged having children, and there is great benefit to the individual and society in raising righteous children.

Allama Jad al-Haqq (Allah have mercy on him), the pious late 20th Century Shaykh al-Azhar, wrote in a legal verdict (fatwa) dated 1399 AH (1979 CE), that:

1. Contraception is permitted if the husband and wife agree, as there is nothing in the Qur’an or Sunna to prohibit it; rather, the hadiths and practice of the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) indicate permissibility, and this is confirmed by the words of the jurists across the schools of Islamic law.

2. It is not permitted to engage in contraception without the agreement of the spouse – for both husband and wife.

3. Contemporary forms of contraception, whether used by the husband or the wife, are akin to the ejaculating outside the vagina (`azl) mentioned in the hadiths, as is explicitly understood from the words of the jurists of the Hanafi and other schools. Rather, they are superior, more natural, and less harmful.

4. It is not permitted to use irreversible contraception such as sterilization.

5. It is not permitted for there to be state-imposed forcible population planning.
[Summarized from Jad al-Haqq’s fatwa, from Mawsu`at Fatawa Dar al-Ifta’ al-Masriyya]

Other contemporary jurists (fuqaha) state likewise.

While some texts indicate that it is somewhat disliked (makruh tanzihan) to do so, this is not what most of the major jurists of the Hanafi school state. Even jurists who stated that it is disliked mentioned that if there is a sound reason or benefit to engage in contraception, then it is not disliked. In our times, this would include reasons such as having a manageable family size, when one does not have the support of extended families in raising the children, the desire to give the children the attention, education, and support they need in difficult times, genuine (physical or emotional) health reasons, and so on.

We understand at the same time, however, that one of the purposes (maqasid) and wisdoms of marriage is to have children, as mentioned by Imam Ghazali in his Ihya’ Ulum al-Din.

The Qur’an and sunnah of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) have encouraged having children. There is great benefit to the individual and society in having children. Not only does having righteous children maintain healthy communities and societies, but it also teaches humanity; few things are more effective in teaching good character, mercy, compassion, and true love than having children.

For this reason, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Marry and multiply.” [Abu Dawud and Nasa’i]

Regarding the Permissibility of Contraception

Sayyiduna Jabir ibn Abd Allah (Allah be pleased with him), the notable Companion of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), relates that, “We used to engage in contraception (`azl) while the Qur’an was being revealed. Had it been something that was interdicted, the Qur’an would have forbidden it.” [Bukhari (5209); Muslim (4220)]

Kasani (Allah have mercy on him) states in Bada’i` al-Sana’i` [Qur’an 2:334-335]:

“It is disliked to engage in contraception or preventative ejaculation (`azl) with one’s wife without her permission. This is because intercourse with ejaculation is the means to having a child, and having a child is her right. By resorting to contraception, without her permission, having a child is prevented, which is akin to being a reason for not fulfilling her right; however, if the contraception was with the wife’s agreement (rida), then it is not disliked. In such a case, she will have willingly forgone her right.”

This is also mentioned by Marghinani in al-Hidaya, and Nasafi in Kanz al-Daqa’iq. Zayla`i confirms this in his commentary on Kanz al-Daqa’iq. [Tabyin al-Haqa’iq Sharh Kanz al-Daqa’iq, 6.21]

Ibn Taymiyya (Allah have mercy on him) and others relate that the permissibility of contraception with the wife’s permission is agreed upon by the four schools of Sunni Islam. [al-Fatawa al-Kubra, 2.101]

Ibn Nujaym (Allah have mercy on him) says in al-Bahr al-Ra’iq Sharh Kanz al-Daqa’iq, “The permissibility of contraception (`azl) is the position of the generality of scholars, because of the [above-mentioned] hadith in Bukhari…” [3.214]

Is Contraception Disliked, Though?

Ibn Nujaym then quotes Ibn al-Humam (Allah have mercy on him), who mentioned in his magnificent commentary on al-Hidaya, Fath al-Qadir, that some scholars of the Hanafi school considered contraception to be permitted yet disliked, while others did not consider it disliked. [ibid.]

Mulla Khusro, the great Ottoman master jurist, said in al-Durar that it is permitted to engage in contraception. He does not state that it is disliked [1.315]. Shurunbulali (Allah have mercy on him) does likewise in his marginal commentary, al-Shurunbulaliyya. In fact, he relates that some scholars permitted it even without permission because of the bad times.

The Fatawa Hindiyya, compiled by some of the greatest jurists of Moghul India under commission from the righteous Sultan Aurangzeb, explicitly negates that it is disliked by stating, “Contraception is not disliked with the wife’s permission…” [1.315]

This is also what Haskafi relates in al-Durr al-Mukhtar, and is confirmed by the words of Ibn Abidin in his marginal commentary (hashiya), Radd al-Muhtar.

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani