Using contraceptives due to having many children

Q 8: What is the ruling on using contraceptives? It is worth mentioning that having too many children leads to great hardships, whether in the common affairs of life or in one's Din (religion) of Islam, in some European countries.

A: The ruling on using contraceptives differs according to the objective of using them, the kind of medicine, its effect on the woman, the husband's attitude towards this, and the timing of taking these medicines. As for the objective, it might be to maintain the woman's beauty, which is contrary to the wisdom behind marriage. Allah (Blessed and Exalted be He) has prescribed marriage and encouraged the people to engage into it. One of the Shar`y (Islamically lawful) objectives (Part No. 19; Page No. 293) of marriage is to have children. On the authority of Ma`qil ibn Yasar (may Allah be pleased with him) who narrated: A man came to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and said, "I have found a woman of rank and beauty, but she does not give birth to children. Should I marry her?" He (peace be upon him) prohibited him from doing so. He came again to him (repeating the same question), but the Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited him again. He came to him a third time and he (peace be upon him) said, "Marry women who are loving and fertile, for I shall outnumber the nations by you." (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Nasa'y, and Al-Hakim) He said that its Sanad (chain of narrators) is Sahih (authentic). The woman who uses contraceptives to maintain the shape of her body is like an infertile woman whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited men from marrying. According to the general meaning of the Hadith, a woman is prevented from using contraceptives for this objective. Another case is to use contraceptives for the sake of protecting the woman's health because she suffers from physical weakness as a result, for example, of giving birth to a child every year, and she is too weak to bear the pains of pregnancy and childbirth, and there is a strong probability that she will (Part No. 19; Page No. 294) be greatly harmed. In such a case, if she intends to use contraceptives for a limited period of time to prevent harm, this is permissible provided that using them does not lead to a similar or greater harm. Using contraceptive pills sometimes leads to menstrual disorders, uterine fibrosis, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeats, and other side effects recognized by the doctors. The permissibility of their use in this latter case is due to the general evidence derived from Shari`ah (Islamic law), which all indicate easiness and the necessity of warding off harm. Allah (Exalted be He) says: Allâh does not want to place you in difficulty The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "There should be neither harm nor reciprocating harm." Scholars deduced from this Ayah (Qur'anic verse) and others like it, and also from that Hadith, the rule of "Hardship begets ease". As for the difference in the ruling according to the type of medicine, it can be said that it is permissible to use contraceptives only if they are free from side effects similar to the harm for which they are used to avoid. However, if they cause a similar kind of harm, (Part No. 19; Page No. 295) it is impermissible to use them, as harm should not be repelled by another form of harm. In this case, you should refer to specialists who can analyze these medicines and indicate their side effects. As for the difference in the ruling according to the husband's permission, he might permit this or not, or he might not know that his wife is using contraceptives. It is enjoined upon a woman to take her husband's permission if there is an excuse to use them and he must permit her to do so. However, if there is no excuse, she cannot use them in the first place, regardless of his permission. If she asks his permission in this case, he should not allow her. As for the timing of taking these medicines, it differs and, thus, entails different rulings; they might be taken orally before intercourse, or after intercourse when the embryo is still a Nutfah (mixed drops of male and female sexual discharge), a `Alaqah (a piece of thick, coagulated blood), a Mudghah (a small lump of flesh), or even after the soul is blown into it, which is absolutely impermissible, according to the following Ayah: And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) is questioned: For what sin, was she killed? (Part No. 19; Page No. 296) Al-Tabary, Al-Qurtuby, and others mentioned that the Arabs used to bury infant girls alive in the times of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic time of ignorance). If the soul is blown into the Mudghah and then it dies because of the use of contraceptives, this is considered killing the embryo, so the general meaning of the Ayah applies to this case. However, if it is before the soul is blown into it, the ruling differs according to the objective. If a woman uses contraceptives so that she does not beget too many children, such matters should not be considered, as every human being comes to life when their sustenance, deeds, and lifespan are ordained by Allah. A person should anticipate the good from Allah (Exalted be He), and Allah will be as they think of Him. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.