Islam provides for the exercise of women’s reproductive rights and autonomy. The Qur’an favors the life of the mother over the unborn child, so women are allowed to have abortions in cases where her life is threatened, as well as cases of rape and incest (See Abortion Issue). Though the Qu’ran does not directly address contemporary family planning issues, it does not make childbearing a requirement of marriage. As such, non-permanent contraception is allowed on the basis of protecting women from the danger of childbirth, avoiding poverty, and to preserve a woman’s beauty.
“And of His signs is that he created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought” (30:21).
“And when one of of them is informed of [the birth of] a female, his face becomes dark, and he suppresses grief. He hides himself from the people because of the ill of which he has been informed. Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground? Unquestionably, evil is what they decide” (16:58-59).
People who contend that contraception and family planning are prohibited in Islam believe that the sole purpose of marriage is childbearing and use the prophetic exhortation to multiply. Contrary to this belief, the Qur’an does not follow the pre-Islamic tradition that sanctify sperm as equal to a human being, thereby married couples were not forced to have children. Moreover, contraception is permissible with a woman’s consent, especially if childbearing poses undue medical harm to her. Since the Qur’an strictly forbids the pre-Islamic practice of killing female offspring out of preference for male offspring, contraception is only disfavored to avoid female offspring. Contraception is only frowned upon if it used for the purpose of avoiding female offspring as the Qur’an strictly forbids the pre-Islamic practice of killing females in favor of male offspring.
The Qur’an also endorses breastfeeding as a prominent method of family planning and requires every woman to breastfeed her child. Thus, a mother must wait at least up to five years before having another child. Fortunately, there is no verse in the Quran preventing a husband and wife from spacing their pregnancies. In fact, the Prophet warned against women getting pregnant within the period of breastfeeding, which is considered two full years. As such, the Qur’an and Hadith actually encourage women to take ownership of their bodies through family planning.
Despite the historical and academic affirmation of advanced, accurate medicine being practiced in the Islamic world, healthcare complications are still present for modern Muslim women. Due to cultural norms, disunified scholarly opinion, and patriarchal political leadership, women feel that they do not have the independence to make reproductive health choices. However, many international organizations, such as Islamic Relief, are educating communities about sex, reproductive health and family planning by working with religious leaders, thereby cutting child mortality rates by 9.5%, enhancing women and children’s lives and uplifting families out of poverty.
We affirm that it is the woman’s right to have access to reproductive health care including access to contraception, abortions and family planning education. Cultural traditions, poverty, illiteracy and limited reproductive rights education have led to increasing populations, high infant mortality rates, and even greater levels of poverty. If women are given the resources to take ownership of their bodies, they will be able to lift up their community out of poverty, as granted by the Qur’an.
Nafis Sadik, Fatou Waggeh, Hanan Gewefel, Samia al-Amoudi, Amal Killawi, Asha A. Samad, Djingarey Maiga
Speake, Beth. “Islam and Women’s Reproductive and Sexual Rights in the MENA Region.” E-International Relations Students. Sept. 11, 2012. http://www.e-ir.info/2012/09/11/islam-and-womens-reproductive-and-sexual-rights-in-the-mena-region/