“Surely, Muslim men and Muslim women, believing men and believing women, devout men and devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, and the men who give Sadaqah (charity) and the women who give Sadaqah, and the men who fast and the women who fast, and the men who guard their private parts (against evil acts) and the women who guard (theirs), and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember (Him) – for them, Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” (The Quran 33:35)
When the order of Allah is same for men and women, then why there is discrimination against women?
The Question is of the health and life of woman
The health of woman and welfare of family
Accomplished under: Health & Population Innovation Fellowship
We do not like myths and delusions in stories only, but we believe in myths and delusions in our daily life. We live by their support. The myths and delusions play an important role to form views and build the fabric of social relation.
Sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, such views are left to grow. Some of the views are based on them; especially such views contribute to formulate mental hegemony. The delusions and myths help in widening the gulf between two communities and efforts are made to prefer one on another.
This is true in regard to gender as well. In the relation of man and woman also, patriarchy takes the support of myths and delusions to retain the hegemony of man. The foundation of man’s ‘potency’ is laid down on myths and delusions, while woman is taught it to be natural law. The hegemony of man is developed in her mental formulation as natural. For her, it is easy.
Reproductive health, reproductive right, population, family planning and birth control have got stuck into the cobweb of myths and delusions. These issues are utilized, on one side to promote hatred while on the other side to take control over wombs. But, most interesting thing is: where the voice of woman who owns the womb is? In this discussion, the voice of woman has been suppressed.
In this background, we have tried to look at the issue of reproductive health and right from the view of the woman. I believe that it will remain an issue of two communities or genders until it is seen with the view of woman. Therefore, it is necessary to challenge the myths and delusions; especially it is more essential in the case of Muslim women.
Population … Population … Population
If you ask anyone what is the root cause of most of the problems in the country. The common reply you will receive is: population!!! Someone calls ‘population blast’ while someone calls it: ‘population bomb’. Some people call it ‘gift’ while some others term it the root cause of all evils. Not only this, but also they think that if the growth of population is restrained the problems of most of the people will be solved and their lives will changed. This is common thinking, then who is increasing the population?
We talk of population, but we do not support the view that increasing population is cause of all problems in the world; since:
• Apart from India, there are several other countries where the growth of population is more than India.
• After Independence, as the population increased threefold, the production of grains also increased more than fourth time.
• Today, one couple gives birth to half of the children which they used to do 50 years ago (1970—5.3 and 1994—3-5).
• Those who are poor, financially weak, ignorant and unhealthy, they produce more children.
• Those who are educated, financially sound and of middle class, they have less children.
• The women face discrimination.
• Generally, the women are not given the right to decide on their own.
• There are efforts to control the life of the woman in the name of religion.
• The population of India increased manifold after Independence; since the life and age of people improved i.e. death rate decreased.
Then Why Talking of Population?
We talk of population, because it is the base of the politics of number.
On this base, a community is projected as the enemy of the other.
Since, in this matter, the voice of woman is not heard.
Since it is woman whose body is victim of this politics.
Why we Advocate Family Planning or Less Children
Since we believe that woman is not only child-bearing machine.
She has her own life, health and personality.
Every couple should decide how many children they want and when.
The government should not have the right to impose anything on couples.
On government level, there should neither be any such law nor any policy which may punish those having more children.
Some Religions Want to Increase their Population
It is a strong concept that the population of the country is increasing due to some classes and religious communities. This issue intensified once again in 2004 after the report of census about some religious communities. Especially some Hindu organizations, on the basis of estimations, started arguing that Muslims and Christians are increasing very speedily and Hindus are shrinking. They raise the slogan: “Hindu ghata, desh banta, Hindu bacha desh bacha” (Once Hindus will decrease, the country will be divided, If Hindus are safe the country is safe) and say that one day will come when Hindus will turn in minority. That will be a dangerous day, the country will disintegrate.
Those who bear such notions say that it is because increasing population is basic teaching of Islam. Islam rejects the concept of small family; since it is against the teachings the religion. This is the reason that Islam is against birth control and concept of family planning or using contraceptives.
Due to it, Muslims will prevail everywhere, not only in the country, but in the entire subcontinent. This reproduces another slogan: ‘woh paanch unke pachees’ (they five and their twenty five) i.e. a Muslim man marries four women and they give birth to twenty five children. This concept can be seen on walls or in print in the form of slogans: ‘Musalmanon ka aik hi nara: ham paanch hamare pachees’ (Muslims have only one slogan: we five our twenty five).
The Gujrat Chief Minister Narendra Modi brought this number to 625. Modi says: “paanch na pachees, aane pachees na 625” i.e. five will reproduce twenty five and twenty five will reproduce 625. The thread of hatred goes beyond it as well, e.g. “the refugee camps of riot victims have turned into centres of bearing children”, “some people do not want to decrease population, we have to teach lessons to them” or “they are hurdles in the way of progress” and “this is the reason that there is a long row of puncture-menders”.
… and see a police character of Vibhuti Narayan Rai’s novel also states some year ago: “The catuwe (circumcisers i.e. Muslims) have no business but to produce children, they will bear children like mice and die.” It reflects how deep this myth is rooted. Finally a day will come when the Muslims will outnumber the Hindus. The increasing population of Muslims is dangerous since it threatens creation of another Pakistan.
As a result, a common man easily believes in all these views and the image of a particular community emerges in his mind as villain, a villain who is cause of every trouble, evil and difficulty. And based upon the view, the criterion of patriotism is also developed. A reader writes in his letter to the editor of a newspaper: “…Today the issue of population is the most serious issue. …Muslim brethren are also not less sinner in population growth. One Muslim brother has 8-10 children. … Do they not love the country?”
Such views cause separatist mind and hatred. We see such mentality occasionally in the society in different forms. These views are provided intellectual base as well. This is the reason that we find its glimpse in the scientific paper. An article published in ‘Artha Vijana’ reads: “In Islam, the institution of marriage is based on agreement, this agreement allows every Muslim to marry four women. In Islam, marriage is not only to increase family but to widen the network of followers of Islam.”
Generally one can hear such view among the social workers, doctors and health workers which reflects their mentality towards a particular community. For example:
• “If the Muslim population kept of growing at this pace, one day they will outnumber the Hindus.” (A cultural nationalist worker)
• “Muslims do not adopt family planning, they are extremists, they say it is forbidden in Islam.” (A progressive nationalist worker)
• “I have observed great resistance in Muslims about it i.e. family planning. (A gynaecologist).”
These comments of people connected to different sectors are not mere shallow opinions. This is the concept which operates in the minds of people. Some may express it very openly, while some in particular time of emotion. This concept is part of politics against Muslims. None made effort to know the truth, they just believed the hearsay, i.e.:
• Muslim population is increasing very speedily.
• Muslims will outnumber the Hindus in some days and the country will be divided.
• Islam advocates increasing population.
• This is the reason that a Muslim man marries four women.
• This is the reason that they are against birth control.
• The Muslims adopt no family planning or birth control method.
What the Muslim Men Think?
On the other side, there is a strong voice among Muslims which affirms nearly the same that was mentioned above. This class rejects the concept of family planning in principle. Maulana Syed Abul A’la Maududi is a great scholar of Indian subcontinent and founder of Jama’at-e-Islami. He wrote a book in 1935 named: ‘Islam aur Zabt-e-Wiladat’ (Islam and Birth Control) which was published by him in 1943. The value of this book can be understood in Maulana’s words: “The principles of birth control are totally against the Islamic principles. One of the objectives of Islam is to remove this human thinking which gives birth to movements like that of birth control.” This book of Maulana Maududi came as powerful argument among the Muslims at least in the subcontinent against birth control and family planning. This is the reason that the book is in market after 65 years also. Those among Ulama who are opposed to it, in their arguments we can see an impression of the book. There are countless articles and books of this kind.
The Arguments Given in General
• This concept if a gift of the western culture.
• No such concept is allowed in Islam.
• Planning is unlawful.
• It is conspiracy against Muslims.
• It aims to restrain their population.
• So that they are not powerful.
• This will grant women full freedom.
• It is conspiracy to promote obscenity.
i.e. Muslim are assaulted by two sides. There is one force which is trying to alienate Muslims and project them as enemy of the country. On the other side, there is another powerful force among Muslims which regards family planning an anti-Islamic concept. Those, who are struggling to weave a healthy fabric between development, family, woman and children, are also fall prey of these notions.
If we see carefully, the internal force of Muslims, in some way, has understanding with the force outside the community. Also, it provides sufficient stuff for circulating to the force outside community.
But, it is collusion of man-dominated concepts. Where is the one whose body is the platform of such concepts, what she thinks? What are her grievances? Is she made only for sharing bed? Is she only child-being machine? The mainstream thinking about family planning inside and outside community indicates that in this theory there is no room for woman’s life, her personality, identity and thoughts. If there is no room, then how is it possible to talk of reproductive right and health? Is any human society and family possible by overlooking the half population of the world.
Why Talk of Women?
As we saw before, when this issue is discussed the women are not included, sometime in the name of community and sometime in the name of religion. For a Muslim woman, is there any thing like reproductive right or not? Can the population be seen only in the context of increasing number or it has some human aspect as well? Has the politics of numbers any place for human being?
For me, population has a human aspect. This means that the population has a direct link to the body of woman, her health and her life. If anyone says that the concept of family planning is against Islam, then it becomes necessary to see whether Islam says anything about the betterment of relations or not, what Islam says about conduct with women. Does the Muslim woman deserve the same which seems as ground reality? And further more, is really Islam against upbringing children, health of women and the concept planning and keeping the family in control? Actually, the responsibility of women’s bad conditions lies in the concept which regards men superior to women. This concept is called patriachism; its effects can clearly be seen in the explanations of religious concepts.
When the politics of womb is taking the form of number’s politics, then the talk of woman gets lost. But, we shall talk only the women; since it is only woman who can conceive, the nature has given womb only to her. It is violation of human rights if the womb is used by anyone else.
The Name Does Matter, It Made the Matter Mess
Birth control i.e. nasbandi (surgical sterilization)
Family planning i.e. nasbandi
Privar Niyojan (family planning) i.e. nasbandi
Tahdeed Nasl (limiting offspring) i.e. nasbandi i.e. terminating offspring
Nasl Kushi (genocide) i.e. conspiracy of terminating offspring i.e. nasbandi
Nasbandi and only nasbandi
Whether you take a layman or a religious scholar (alim), generally he takes privar niyojan or family planning as nasbandi. He regards planning and limiting family equal to terminating offspring. Planning is understood only as nasbandi. This is the most popular method of birth control, but for women not for men.
People think that birth control and nasbandi are synonyms. When a man comes across planning birth control, he thinks that he will have to undergo nasbandi. Since yon chhamta for men? (text missing: translator) which he links with his potency and power, perhaps it is the biggest reason to oppose it.
Whereas the responsibility of pregnancy lies on both man and woman, but the man has distanced himself from the responsibility of its controlling. Since the woman owns the womb and her status is secondary in social and family arena; therefore she only has been burdened with the responsibility of controlling it.
The reason is that during emergency the way nasbandi was promoted and force was used, it turned to be equivalent word for family planning. This has inflicted harm to the concept of family planning and particularly the health and life of women. Therefore, there should be efforts to strongly defuse this myth and delusion as early as possible. Therefore, it is better for us to talk of reproductive health and right, to which family planning is a part.
What Reproductive Right and Health?
The word ‘Reproductive Rights and Health’ was known after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo (Egypt) in 1994. According to ICPD:
“Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and its functions and processes.”
• Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life
• They have the capability to reproduce
• And the freedom to decide when and how often to do so.
Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as it is mentioned in the Human Rights charter.”
Every country should ensure that men and women have access to health services on equal basis.
India also signed the proposals passed in the conference. It means that every Indian man and woman, especially the women should receive the reproductive rights and health decided by the ICPD; since ICPD believes in the existence of gender discrimination and appeals to remove it.
In the ICPD conference and later, there were efforts to raise the issue that the matter of reproductive health and rights is not in accordance with the principles of Islam. This issue surfaced in the Beijing International Women Conference in 1995. Several Islamic and orthodox Christian countries opposed many proposals of the two conferences. The ICPD, for the first time discussed reproductive health in the circle of human rights and took unanimous decision to remove gender discrimination. The extremists and orthodox did not like it. They contradicted that inside marriage the Muslim woman do not have equality and reproductive rights as the other women have.
It was a new challenge faced by organizations working with Muslim women. The Muslim women also face the same problems of reproductive health which are faced by other women. Here also, death of women during pregnancy and birth is common. There is no access to health services. There is inequality in marriage relation. (The below-mentioned example will confirm the same.)
Muslim Woman and Reproductive Right
In view of this challenge, in 1998 ‘Sisters in Islam’ of Malasia held a workshop on: ‘Islam, Reproductive Health and Women’s Rights’. It aimed at forming an understanding about the reproductive health and women’s rights in the light Islamic teachings. It was attended by several renowned women activists, academic and Islamic scholars most important among them were: Masdar F Masoodi from Indonesia, Dr Abdullah Al-Nayeem, Dr Amina Wadood, Dr Fati Usman from America and Dr Abder Rahim Omran from Al-Azhar University.
After discussion, the workshop passed resolution that Islam gives the below mentioned reproductive rights.
• Right of child inside marriage
• Right to make decision on reproductive issues without fear, coercion and violence. It includes the right of choosing partner, right to choose the contraceptive method, right of children’s number and spacing between them and right of safe sexual relation.
• Right to access to best and cheapest health services, the right of help from family, community and government, the right of privacy.
• Right of reproductive security and health
• Right to point-blank information, education and communication
• Right to have satisfactory and safe sexual relation inside marriage
Zaina Anwar says that the workshop came to a conclusion that the four principles of ICPD related to reproductive health and right are in harmony with the Islamic principles, they are not contradicted to each other. The four principles of ICPD:
• Right to decide freely about the number of children and gap between them along with right of information and recourses
• Right to access to best of sexual and reproductive health
• Right to make decision on reproductive issues without fear, coercion and violence
• Right to have satisfactory and safe sexual relation
The Islamic scholars agree that these rights are extracted from the five objectives of Shariah:
• Protection of life
• Protection of beliefs
• Protection of lineage
• Protection of mind
• Protection of property
According to Islamic scholars attending the conference, in the Islamic Jurisprudence, the rulings and laws which serve the objectives of Shariah are considered lawful. They believed that “the circle of the five objectives of Shariah is wider than that of four principles”.
The conclusion of this workshop is very important as per the life of Muslim women. Based on this, it will be difficult to state that it is conspiracy of western countries to promote obscenity which is against the principles of Islam.
Ground Realities According to Muslim Women
Condition of Reproductive Health
But, in the ground reality of reproductive health, the voice of women is unheard. It is not only a matter of health but also a major issue of human right. If you are not to believe, listen it in their own words:
Condition of Muslim Women in 1935-36
“Muhammadi: I have every thing, husband, house and children, but youthfulness? Who will call me youthful? I look like old lady of seventy years. Every-day disease and every-year childbearing, but who will be fortunate than me.
… the lady doctor asked me my age. I said: 32 years.
… I said: Miss! Why do you smile, you should know that I was married away at 17 and from that time I bore one child every year, except the one when my husband went to wilayat (Europe) for one year and second time when we had a quarrel. …
… Neither he minded night nor day, he always needed wife. And not only wife, he is not abstaining to go here and there as well.
Muhammadi: Moreover, he threatens: if you suckle I will have a second marriage, I want woman always, I will not have so much patience that you keep yourself busy in looking after the children. …
Aaftaab: May Allah save from such men! Animals also have some fear. They are worse than the animals. May no one has to face such men! …
(But, when the doctor finds out that months-long patient Muhammadi is expecting, she feels surprised.)
Muhammadi: I said, miss, your are in better condition, you earn, eat and have sound sleep. While to us, (as the proverb says) though the dead goes to hell or heaven, people mind to have their sweet only. So, whether the wife is fine or dying, the men mind merely their business of lust.
Mumtaz of Forty in Sixties
Mumtaz lives in a village near Lucknow. She is around 40, but seems quite older. She is fifth-class passed and was married at 16. Soon the couple had seven children; six daughters and one son. Twice she had miscarriage. Earlier, she used to make bangles, but successive child birth, deteriorating health and weakening eyesight made every thing mess. Now, she lives by sewing and weaving. The husband sells bangles, but the income is not so much that they can live comfortably.
How did you have so many children? “Just to have son, we had so many.” Mumtaz says.
My husband does not care for health. He did not even talk of children ever, but only he insisted for a son. He never listens, just two minute long love and nothing else. Husband can have intercourse when he likes but she cannot say if she wishes so. There is force as well which she dislikes. She says: “A forced thing is never good, will we like if someone thrusts food in our mouth? Forcing is crime.”
Did you adopt any contraceptive method or not? “The husband used not to do it earlier, but now he does. Had I been to any method it would have been so good.”
It is said: It is good to have less children, is it right? “Why not, if we would also have less family our condition would not have been so.”
Shagufta is 35, she has four children. Her nikah was solemnized at 13 and met her husband at 16. She has two daughters and two sons. She did schooling till 8th and knows Arabic and Urdu. She teaches Arabic to the children of the locality. The husband is a tailor. They do not have any discrimination towards daughters.
Do we have control over number of children? Shagufta replies: “Though the children are given by Allah, but it is in our hands also.”
How it is in your hands? Is there any method? “Nasbandi is wrong, but a woman can have it. There are other things, we use them.” Shagufta informs.
Now, her health is not so well, so she does not like sex, but she cares for the desire of her husband.
Sumaira does not like more Children
Sumaira is 27 year old. She was married at 18 and had two children within four years. The husband is regularly ill; her health is also deteriorating steadily. She feels tiredness and does not have food full of stomach.
Now, she likes no more children. She says: “How would I bring them up, it is difficult to look after those are already born.” Why? “Small family is in one’s hands, small family is peaceful.” She says that children are gift from Allah, but it is we who serve as resources.
Sumaira aspires: “Had I opted for operation it would have been better.”
Why does she not resort to any other method? In fact, Sumaira is neither aware of any contraceptive method nor anyone came to her area to tell about.
She Likes to Adopt Birth Control
The condition of women is well understood by those working among women. Naish Hasan is associated with the movement and works in Lucknow. She says about Muslim women: “Women are trapped in the name of religion. They are tied with several traditions and other things. I know many women opting for birth control secretly or wishing to have it. It is one’s private affair. It is up to the husband and wife to decide when and how many children they want to have. There is no wrong in resorting to any contraceptive method.”
Women Want to Get out of the Trap
Likewise, Shakila who works with ‘Aghaz-e-Insaf’ in another village says: “Muslim women want to have less children. This eagerness is quite visible. They wish to put a stop to quick and successive conception and the children are born at considerable gap, but they do not the right decide all these things, whereas the couple should have the right to make decision. Birth control is adopted in many Muslim countries.”
Women and Film
Pakistan is an Islamic country. The Islamic principles are the source of its rules and regulations. Religion many a times interferes in one’s personal life. However, reproductive health is a major issue there. Film is strong medium to convey a message. In Pakistan also, so many films were made, but it is proper to mention two of them; one is ‘Aahat’ second is ‘Aik Hi Rasta’. Aahat has been a popular drama of Pakistani television. The central theme of both the films is reproductive health of woman, her life and true mirror of the woman made as child-bearing machine. Not only this, but also how the health of woman causes difficulty for the entire family, it can be seen in the TV drama and films. These two are reflecting the life of Muslim women. How?
It is in one’s Hand to Change Boon to Bane
The film ‘Aik Hi Rasta’ was prepared by Shirin Pasha for The Film Makers Pvt. Ltd. It represents the feeling of man. The film touches the issues like reproductive health, birth control, family development under the Islamic Nizam (system) in Pakistan. But, from nowhere it looks like advertisement. The film evolves around the thinking of man in spite of being woman-centric.
‘Satputri Maan’ has a son Noor. Once it used to be a family of much land. The family kept on increasing, the land kept on being distributed and the family went on scattering. Now, small land is not enough for a family, so the family members turned to the cities, whereas Noor Muhammad remains with his mother in village.
Noor marries a very thin girl Sakina who is about 15-16. The husband and wife start the life and work hard. Meanwhile, within six years of their marriage, Sakina has four children. She starts falling ill and keeps on withering. People think that she has been victim of evil eye.
“As there should be some distance between two plants, rather as for a good crop sometime the land is left empty, the same rule is applied to women as well.” Noor is not convinced by this argument of Zainab aunty.
Sakina, the life partner of Noor, is unable to express her grief. She passes away at the time of delivering the seventh baby. The seventh daughter is adopted by her paternal uncle.
Noor feels it in his old age. He says: “I started feeling she is not having equal share of life with me. With the change in the viewpoint of modern age, not only the already departing pleasures can be regained but the society can be turned prosperous.”
Ultimately, Noor feels regretful: “Sakina asked me some period of time for herself and for her children, but I could not give it to her.”
There is magic of language in the film. The environment also has been given due importance, it did not look like artificial. Instead of being Pakistani film, it reflects the Indian environment. The regret of Noor in the film is in fact the regret of male society what responsibility they have towards the health of women.
A dialogue of the film is weightier than all the arguments given against reproductive health. “It is in man’s hand to change a boon to bane, Allah has given us thinking power, we have to decide what to do.”
Let us Listen to the Men as well
Parvez is about 50 year old. He learnt up to high school and now he is doing tailoring. He was married at 18 and had so many children. He is shy of telling: 7 daughters, 1 son.
Was there any plan for children? “No plan at all, just they kept on coming up. We had all daughters while waiting for the son. What to do, the boy came later, then we had an operation.”
Yours? “No, the wife’s.”
We heard it is forbidden in Islam? “Yes, it is, but I did not have the operation, only the wife got it, however happened what happened, but nothing takes place without the wish of Allah, it was his wish so it did take place.”
Did you use any other thing? “Yes I did, but to no avail.”
However, how many children one should have? “See, 2-3 are enough, we were stuck waiting a boy and have all daughters. The expense also multiplied, they are to be married away, there is only trouble ahead. It was wrong that we married at early age and secondly we had so many children.”
Why were you eager of boy? It is said boy and girl are same. “How a girl can be equal to boy, if you want you can say anything, but a boy is boy.”
Did you ever used force? “Force… no. But, whenever I demanded, so whether she is well or not, I got my demand fulfilled. We did not fight ever for this matter.”
This is the life of some women, but in this light we can have a look at the condition of Muslim women. Only by proclaiming reproductive health and right, neither it is achieved nor are the women let to achieve it.
The Religion is for People’s Relief
The Quran is the most important source of Islamic sciences. The words of the Quran are the foundation of Islam. After interviewing the scholars of Al-Azhar , it is clear that Islam does not want to create trouble for its followers. It is one of the principles of Islam. Some of the Quranic verses bear witness to it:
• “Allah intends (to provide) ease for you and does not intend (to create) hardship for you.” (Surah Baqrah 2:185)
• “And did not impose any hardship on you in the religion.” (Surah Hajj 22:78)
• “Allah intends to make things easy on you. And man has been created weak.” (Surah Nisa 4:28)
• “Allah does not obligate anyone beyond his capacity.” (Surah Baqrah 2:286)
Likewise, there are traditions:
• Do not get harm to yourselves and do not get others in trouble. (Narrated by Malik 2:745 and Ibn Majah 2:784)
• “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdened himself in his religion he failed to be able to continue in that way. So you should be on the right path, as you are in the morning and night and in the journey of early night.” (Bukhari & Muslim )
Now, the question is if quick and successive conception affects the health of woman, more children cause trouble for family and the children are deprived of proper upbringing and education, then whether family planning is against the Quran and the hadith of the Messenger, peace be upon him? I think: no; since it is clear from the verses of the Quran and these traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that Islam does not want to see its followers to face poverty and trouble.
From the Point of Islamic Traditions
Hadith is the most important and oldest source of Islamic tradition. There are many examples of ‘azl’ (coitus interruptus) mentioned in hadith. ‘Mishkwat Sharif’ is collection of important traditions on different topics. In this book, under the chapter of intercourse , such kinds of traditions are mentioned. The Arab society knew one method to avoid conception which they called: ‘azl’ i.e. withdrawing penis during intercourse with woman at the time of ejaculation i.e. the method of intercourse in which a man avoids letting his sperm in the vagina of wife. The Prophet (peace be upon him) knew it but he did not stop from it. Neither the Quran indicates against it by any of its verse. In the traditions of Sahaba, the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), azl finds mentioning:
It is narrated from Hadhrat Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him): “We used to do azl (coitus interruptus) at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him).” (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmizi)
Hadhrat Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates: “We used to do azl while the Quran was being revealed.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
The narration of Sahih Muslim adds: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) knew about us doing azl, but he did not stop it.”
Likewise, there is another hadith narrated by Hadhrat Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) in which he went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) to ask whether azl is allowed so that conception can be avoided, the Prophet replied: “You can do so if you wish.”
Hadhrat Abu Sayeed Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) also narrates about azl. According to hadith, a man came and asked about avoiding conception, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) replied: “If you wish, you can do.” (Ibn Hanbal, Muslim)
These traditions nowhere prove that the Prophet (peace be upon him) in his time prohibited the practice of azl. There are other traditions which prove that at the time of the Prophet this method was used for contraception.
Some arguers put azl also in the category of murder. In this regard, a hadith is very important. Hadhrat Abu Sayeed Khudri narrates: “A Jew asked me that azl is a kind of burying alive though at very small level. I came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and told him what the Jew said. The Prophet said twice: lied the Jew, lied the Jew.”
Dr Rafat Usman , the Professor of Al-Azhar, Egypt states about family planning that there is nothing in the Quran which suggests prohibition of preventing conception. It is proved from hadith that the sahaba used to practice coitus interruptus at the time of the Prophet while the Quran was revealed. It was their method of birth control.
Dr Abdel Rahim Omran claims that after intense research and exploration of Ulama, there is no verse found in the Quran which prevents the husband and wife to keep gap between pregnancies or limit the number of children as per their physical, economic and cultural ability. Shortly, there is nothing in the Quran which rejects the azl or coitus interruptus prevalent at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
The Indian scholar, Allama Shah Zaid Abul Hasan Farooqi, Sajjadah Nashin (Successor) of Khanqah Shah Abul Khair Delhi, says: “Every contraceptive method is called ‘azl’ in Arabic, this i.e. azl can be adopted either by man or by woman.”
Argument of Imam Ghazali
Abu Hamid Muhammad bin Muhammad Al-Ghazali is known around the world with ‘Al-Ghazali’. He was genius Islamic scholar and philosopher, his masterpiece book is: ‘Ihyau Uloomiddin’ (The Revival of the Religious Sciences). This book is considered an important resource of Islamic studies. A chapter of the book is: Kitabu Adabin Nikah i.e. the etiquettes of marriage. Along with many other things Imam Ghazali discusses azl also.
Imam Ghazali says that according to him azl is lawful. He explains in detail that azl is neither murder nor abortion, as some people argue against it.
Imam Ghazali divided azl to five categories, he advocates two of them very strongly. One of them is very powerful argument in the favour of the women.
In his view, azl is allowed in order “to keep the beauty of woman persistent”. Why? Since, according to Ghazali, “childbirth is troublesome process, which sometimes endangers the life of woman; she loses her health, her beauty and charming.” Azl will prevent successive conception and retain her health.
Ghazali says: “So many children cause various problems; one has to do more hard work to earn. Sometimes, the lawful sources are not enough, so one is forced to adopt the unlawful ways.” Azl can be adopted to prevent numerous children. It is not wrong in the eye of Imam Ghazali. Why? Since less troubles are helpful in religious matters and one finds more time to worship Allah.
It is not wrong to state that at the time Islam arose in Arabia, the Arab knew only one method to avoid pregnancy i.e. azl. They might not know other methods. Now, so many contraceptive methods have been discovered. The today’s contraceptive methods to retain the health of woman, avoid quick conception, keep the family under control or small, are extension of azl somehow or the other. If we agree with Allama Shah Zaid, then all these methods are lawful on the basis of azl.
Will the Voice of Woman be Heard
If man does not understand the problem of woman, she is ill or she fears that conception may threaten her life or her troubles may increase or the family may undergo difficulties, then according to retired professor of Al-Azhar University and Islamic scholar Dr Rafat Usman: “The woman can use contraceptives as per her own experience. She does not require the opinion of physician as well. She can adopt any method to escape conception. This is because the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised repeatedly to avoid undergoing any harm. If physician also suggests that conception may inflict any harm to her, then the husband is strictly prohibited to stop his wife to resort to any method. It is haram for him to stop. In both the cases, a woman can decide herself, and once physician also agree to it then it is haram for him to stop her.”
Likewise, late Dr Abdel Rahim Omran, former Chief Population Adviser of Al-Azhar University, expresses his opinion saying: “If there is tension or dispute between husband and wife, then the concept of mutual harmony and approval creates difficulty, especially when the woman is concerned inferior to man. According to Hanbali Fiqh, in special cases (as for the welfare of family), the wife can overlook the opinion of husband. Similarly, if one more child may have bad effect on her health and life or the status of family is not too good to nurture the children well, so in such cases the woman has right to use contraceptives without husband’s permission.”
Another scholar and expert of Islamic Jurisprudence in Al-Azhar, Dr Hamid Abu Talib says: “In sexual relations, the wife also has the same rights as men. She also owns the right to decide when to make the relation. The marital agreement of Muslims allows sexual relation and enjoyment between wife and husband, this enjoyment is for both the spouses, not only for husband.”
Maulana Umar Ahmad Usmani is an Islamic scholar of Pakistan. He has been also associated with Darul Uloom Deoband. His Tafseer (commentary) of the Quran ‘Fiqhul Quran’ is very famous. Maulana Usmani writes at a place: “If someone’s wife is sick or the family life is unwell, then this precaution can be opted for, rather it should be adopted so that there is proper gap between children and the life of wife and previous children is not endangered and there is no disturbance in their education, nurturing, health etc.”
Fatwas of Jamia Al-Azhar, Cairo (Egypt)
Jami’ Al-Azhar Al-Sharif issued various fatwas about keeping the family in control. An important fatwa was released by Al-Azhar 70 years before:
(1) A person has one child. He fears if more children will be born he will not be able to nurture them, he also fears that quick and repeated conception will affect his wife’s health. He wants to know whether he and his wife can adopt any method prescribed by physician to keep gap between children so that they can lighten their burden. (Question put forward on 25 January 1937)
The then Mufti of Egypt, Shaikh Abdul Muqeet Saleem replied the question, he said: “We went through the question and we believe that according to Hanafi teaching (Fiqhi school of Imam Abu Hanifah), as per the conditions mentioned in the question, there is no wrong in adopting birth control.
(2) A married man has a child. He fears that more children will cause him trouble and he will face difficulty in bringing them up. Can the husband and wife adopt any method of birth control to retain the health of mother and to avoid more economic burden on father? (This question was received by the Fatwa Committee of Al-Azhar on 10 March 1953)
Answer: We went through the question and we believe that according to Shafe’i Fiqh (Fiqhi School of Imam Shafe’i), birth control is not prohibited. Therefore, if it aims at protecting people from unnecessary economic difficulties and health-related problems, then the committee allows it (birth control). Allah says: “Allah intends (to provide) ease for you and does not intend (to create) hardship for you.” (Surah Baqrah 2:185) But, it is prohibited to adopt permanent method of contraception.
The present chief imam, Shaikhul Azhar Professor Muhammad Syed Tantawi also issued several fatwas from his office about birth control.
(3) One couple lives in a 2-room set flat with one child. They have an income of 100 LE per month in 1998. They wan to prevent conception for some time so that they can have proper gap for upbringing the child. They have firm belief in Allah as Almighty and Omnipresent. Can they do so? i.e. can they prevent conception?
Tantawi says: I replied that so long as they aim at upbringing the child, they can do so definitely.
(4) A couple lives with its daughter and son in 3-room set flat. They had an income of 200 LE per month in 1998. This much suffices hardly for two time bread. They want to avoid future conception so that they can lead their private life separately in their rooms. They wanted to know whether they can do so.
Professor Tantawi replied: There is nothing wrong and against Shariah; since they want to bring up their children well, as the Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“Teach you children to offer salah when they are seven years old, while at 10 beat them if they do not offer salah and arrange separate bed for them.”
(5) A couple lives with its three children. They neither have any kind of economic problem nor any health related matter. But, they wish to prevent conception for some time. This decision has nothing to do with their personal life; rather they want to do so in view of the need of the country. They feel that the country at this time needs family planning. Is it allowed?
Tantawi states: I believe that their sentiment towards the country is appreciable, it should be admired. Your interest in the development of the community is in harmony with the teachings of the Prophet, as the hadith says:
“One who is not worried about Muslims’ well being, he is not one from amongst us.”
If you think so, then there is no wrong in preventing conception as long as you wish; since you have good intention.
Concept of Family Planning and Contribution of Indian Ulama
It is common thinking that the Indian Ulama cannot even think of matters like family planning. The opponents say that the concept of birth control has intruded from outside or Western countries. It is a conspiracy against Muslims. It is being hatched to control the population of Muslims. In this opposition, there is no mentioning of the lives of Muslim women and their health.
But, deliberate fro a moment. The Indian Ulama have contributed a lot to Islamic studies, they have carried it forward. Many of Indian institutes are known around the world. It accommodates several centres and characters of religious thoughts.
Then, this question may rise in anyone’s mind whether the Indian Ulama and intellectuals have not expressed their views about issues like health of women, family planning, upbringing children, difficulties of changing scenario or birth control? Did they not regard it a subject of their research?
After extensive research, sufficient information comes out. These information are not so common, as most of the works have been made in Urdu; therefore their access is limited to a particular circle. This author is not a scholar of Islam, but surely he is student pursuing the knowledge of Islam. Being a journalist by profession; it is a part of his profession to do research. He tried to make the opinions and information of the scholars as base of his study who have discussed this topic.
If we keep our mind open and do not look for the ‘smell’ of conspiracy, then we might see the thing which not only can change the picture of Muslims but also that of other classes of the society.
In this study, we will mention only the things which are related to Indian Ulama. It is surprising that as much the treasure of knowledge the Indian Ulama possess by centuries, it is with no one in the Islamic World. In spite of it, when the health of woman, reproductive health, birth control or family planning is discussed, the opinion of Islamic scholars is seen nearly equal to nothing. Whereas in fact, there is a long row of sensitive Islamic scholars who believed that thinking about one’s family is in complete accordance with the spirit of Islam. It is probable rather true that the terms we use today were not necessarily used those days as well. Many things come up with new name and new form with changing time and they have ruling according to today’s values. In next lines, we shall mention some Indians who have contributed a lot to this matter. Their views are necessary to be presented.
Fatawa Alamgiri: Permission of Azl and Abortion
‘Fatawa Alamgiri’ is known in many countries as ‘Fatawa Hindiyah’. This collection of Islamic law was compiled by nearly five hundred Ulama on the order of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (who is also called ‘Alamgir’). It has 30 sections. It is considered an important source of Hanafi Fiqh. In the fatwas of Fiqhi school of Imam Abu Hanifah, azl (coitus interruptus or any method of avoiding conception) and abortion were permitted in clear words.
According to it: “If the condition of time is not good and the children are feared to be deprived of proper education and upbringing and to deviate from religion, then azl is allowable.” Generally, abortion is said to be prohibited in Islam, but the fatwa says: “If the body parts of foetus are not yet created, it is allowed to abort it.” Those who issued fatwa they even said: “It is allowable in our age in any case.” These Ulama are of the view that “in general conditions, for azl it is necessary to have the permission of wife”.
There is another condition in which these two things are allowed. If a woman is conceived who already has a child to suckle, also she has no enough resources to keep a wet nurse and she fears the life of the child, then she can opt for abortion, provided it is within 120 days of conception.
It is surprising that in spite of so much clarity, this issue has been a cause of dispute till today. i.e. if the condition of the time is so that proper upbringing and education of children is impossible or difficult, then azl is permissible. Azl is mentioned here as a method to prevent conception, thus it can be said that other similar methods which prevent conception are lawful. (See the complete fatwa at the end)
Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlwai
In the Persian Tafseer of Shah Abdul Aziz, written in nineteenth century, there is a fatwa which says: In the light of reliable and well-known traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), azl is lawful. Using medicines for preventing conception whether before or after azl is lawful and permissible like azl. Imam Shafe’i says in the commentary of the verse of the Quran (4:3-4) that in this verse single marriage has been advised; since it is better method to avoid many children.
Iqbal and Concept of Population Hundred Year Ago
Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal (9 November 1877 – 21 April 1938) was not only poet but also he was renowned scholar of Islamic philosophy. It seems a bit surprising that Iqbal also talked of putting a stop to increasing population, whereas there is vast difference between his and present time. The concept of looking at the population has also changed. But the matter related to population discussed by Iqbal has its importance even today. He wrote a book on economics hundred years ago in 1904 in Urdu named: ‘Ilmul Iqtisad’. Its price was one rupee. Iqbal was then an Assistant Professor in Government College, Lahore.
In this book, he discusses population in detail. His writing is highly influenced by the population theory of Malthus. Out of five sections of the book, three chapters of one section are related to population. In these chapters, he mentions economic resources, scopes of employment and scarcity of land for inhabitation due to increasing population. Also, he discusses its effect on family and upbringing of children.
At a place, he writes: “Any theory or religion which cannot march with the pace of human social system and its mental development will vanish due to not fulfilling the modern needs of mankind.”
He believes: “Increasing population beyond proper limit causes poverty and other adverse effects.” He explains the principle of Malthus in detail and tries to make understand the ways of increasing population and its effects in diagram. He writes: “A country where population is increasing unrestrained, the inhabitants should show some wisdom and adopt the ways which check the increasing population. The reproductive skill of mankind is naturally so made up that if its functionality is not prevented deliberately or by chance, it may lead mankind to disaster and destruction.”
Today, one may be quite right to argue the view of Iqbal on the effects of population. Many things have changed completely today. The new research advocates looking at this issue with new prospect. However, in this discussion, it is necessary to note what was the thinking one hundred year ago about population. But, it is at least clear that Iqbal supports adopting methods to control population. He appreciates these methods and says if there had not been these methods the population would have greatly increased, the people will run shortage of economic resources, poverty will increase more, the resources of livelihood will lessen, epidemic will burst out, crimes will multiply … etc.
Therefore, according to Iqbal: “The only way to get out of the jaw of this black monster is to control the population, so that the current economic resources can be protected.” He states that the land is also not so enough that people can reap the advantage of increasing population. “Therefore, it is our duty to adopt the methods to restrain the population which are in our control.” Iqbal discusses his view in detail about controlling the population. The hundred year old concept of Iqbal can thus be understood in his words. He advocated controlling child marriage and polygamy. When Iqbal is of the view then it cannot be rejected as mere propaganda and conspiracy. In his words: “In our country, economic and livelihood resources are less and the population is increasing day by day. The nature cures it with famines and epidemics. But, we should free ourselves from the constitutional bond of childhood marriages and polygamy, spend our small asset more wisely, increase the wage rate of our country by paying attention to handicrafts and production and worry ourselves with farsightedness about the consequence of our people so that our country is protected against the awful consequences and reach the height of civilization and culture to which real welfare is attached. Therefore, economically it is the welfare of mankind to avoid fulfilling the animalistic lust as much as possible and bear lesser number of children as much as possible. This objective can be achieved by late marriages or in other words by lessening the birth rate and controlling the carnal desires generally.”
Though, we oppose using any force, but Iqbal is of the view that stern steps also should be taken if it is the question of economic progress of the country.
In the preface of the book published in 2004 in Pakistan, Dr Saleem Akhtar writes: In Ilmul Iqtisad what seems amazing is the faith of Iqbal on family planning and his firm belief in its advantages.
On the contrary, Professor Dr Rasheed Ahmad Jalandhari in his article refers to the book published in 1977 by Iqbal Academy saying that Iqbal had a look on the subject with Islamic viewpoint.
According to Professor Jalandhari, Iqbal writes: “The Islamic Shariah did not overlook to give advice in the social matters. The ruling was left to any knowledgeable scholar to decide the matter as per the need of the time and conditions. Therefore, if one does not aim at fulfilling lust only, there is need in fact and the couple approve it, then as far as my knowledge goes, birth control is not objectionable in Shariah. According to Shariah principles, it is known that a husband cannot force her wife against her will to reproduce children. But, whatever presently happens in the world mostly depends on fulfilling lust, and doing so for lust, according to me, is reaching to an extent of haram. Whatever I have expressed from Islamic aspect, it is not as per a Shariah expert, but it is based only on my knowledge and understanding.
As a whole, it can be said that the theme of Iqbal’s view is that if reason is applied with farsightedness, such methods can be applied which prevent conception. Had Iqbal felt that it was Western propaganda and conspiracy, he must have opposed it. Not only this, but as far as we know, Iqbal had no major change in his views later also.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
Imamul Hind Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was one of the founders of modern India. He was known as Islamic scholar. His opinion about family planning (as it was those days known with the term) was: “There seems no reason for Shariah to interfere in the matter of birth control. It is completely a medical and social matter. If reasonable people think that it is necessary to be adopted by the society, they can do so. There is hardly any aalim having such a clear-cut view, free from doubt and complication.
Dr Zakir Hussain
Zakir Hussain was also a great scholar. As educationist and president of India, he did not hesitate to express his view on birth control. As we know, he wrote a booklet on family planning in 1969 in Urdu. He was of the opinion that any religion including Islam does not interfere in how many children one should have.
Allama Kakorwi from Lucknow
There is a scholar from Lucknow who worked on family planning. It is Allama Mustafa Hasan Alwi Kakorwi. He was a graduate of Darul Uloom Deoband. He did his honours in Persian and was an MA and PhD. He used to teach in the Arabic Faculty of Lucknow University. He wrote a booklet in 1976 namely ‘Khandani Mansooba Bandi aur Ulama-e-Islam ke Faisali’ (Family Planning and Decisions of Muslim Ulama). That time 75000 copies of the booklet were published. The booklet is known with another title: ‘Islam ka Mauqif and Tahdeed-e-Nasl’ i.e. Stand of Islam on Birth Control. There is no question of Allama Kakorwi being a scholar of Islam; therefore the booklet is very important. Not only this, but this booklet was also published at a time when this matter was much politicized in the country. The booklet is not available now, not even with his friends. Yes, they say that he wrote a book which created havoc at that time.
In the beginning of the book Allama Kakorwi mentioned a hadith which indicates to the direction of his thinking on the matter. The hadith is: “Having less children is prosperity while having more children is a kind of poverty.” Further more, he wrote the verse on the cover:
Toda kamr-e-shakh ko kasrat ne samr ki
dunya mein granbari-e-awlad ghazab hai
(Bearing abundant fruits causes the branch to break down; likewise having more children is cause of trouble in the world)
From both the references, one can have an idea of the concept of Allama Mustafa. In his eyes, more children are a cause of trouble.
He nowhere rejects the religious concept, as he says: “Increasing offspring and having more or less children is our religious and natural right, but to an extent which is in accordance with our personal, family and country’s resources, then it will be counted among the fundamental needs of the religion.” (Bolded by the author) But, he is not in favour of any ban or legal binding on the matter; since if it is so, then according to him: “the fatwa and ruling about the matter is that it will be indexed as interference in religion.”
Allama Kakorwi goes ahead and clarifies his stand: “But if, due changing time, the economic resources and national issues are so that it is hindering the development, and thus it is banned, then according to the explanation of Ulama, the fatwa is that it is neither interference in the matter of religion nor it is right to oppose it; since it is the requirement of time and in the favour of the country.
In this booklet of 36 pages, he refers to the Quran, Hadith and the opinions of Ulama as references. It is common thinking that a madrasa-educated person is traditionalist and conservative. But, it is surprising that Allama Kakorwi, who graduated at Deoband, is more visionary in his thinking than many modern educated people.
If you are not sure, you should see these views: “As far as I know, I can say that the concept of Islam about more or less children is quite open without any restriction. But, if more children cause trouble for the family or disturb the social and national system, then imposing ban is not against the Shariah as per the explanations of Ulama. The increasing number of family members is a boon only when they are well qualified and skilled, and they can be qualified only when they are properly nurtured and educated as per the need of the time. And, it depends on the economic condition of the parents, the resources of income and expenses are well; otherwise the same children will be a cause of trouble and difficulty, and mostly it happens so.” He adds: “But, if our life system feels that more children will be useful for the family or community in future days, it is necessary to pay attention to it i.e. the teachings of Islam will walk parallel with the pace of time and will not put hurdles in its way.
Interview with Maulana Kalb Sadiq
Islam also Allows Birth Control
Maulana Kalb Sadiq is known as Muslim scholar not only in India, but in the entire world. He openly follows the women’s rights in Islam and supports birth control. Due to these thought he hits the headlines. He has a complaint about media that they most of the time draft a news without understanding his views fully. As he talks of ‘birth control’ and media publish it calling ‘family planning’. He makes a difference between the two. He regards birth control a need of the society. Maulana Sadiq, Vice-President of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, says in which people (Ummah) the Prophet will take pride, which is ignorant and backward? He states that Islam forbids abortion, but using methods preventing conception is not forbidden. He further supports his views that there are fatwas which confirm that using methods of birth control is no where prohibited in Islam. But, he does not like the government to compel and use any force to used methods of limiting the family. He goes to such an extent that without advancing in the field of modern education Muslims cannot progress.
Important extracts from his interview:
Q. Why you use ‘birth control’ instead of ‘family planning’?
Since, the concept of family planning was not present in the era of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but birth control was there.
Q. Is there a place for birth control in Islam?
Among Muslims, there are two major sects; Shia and Sunni. All the Shia mujtahids (scholar having skill of independent reasoning) in Iran and Iraq allow birth control. The Sunnis have also allowed birth control. The Sahaba (companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him) used to practice azl which is the oldest method of birth control. They say that they used to visit their wives in the nights of holy Ramadhan and used to do azl. Had it been wrong, the Quran would have rejected it. The Sahaba asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the same, so he said: “Let one who does so do it, Allah shall certainly create whom he destined to be created.” The Prophet himself did not prohibit it.
One can see that Fatawa Alamgiri and Fatawa Aziziah also mention the permissibility of birth control. Moreover, there have been international Islamic conferences on the matter in Ankara, Istanbul, Jakarta and Cairo which have unanimously decided that birth control is allowed in Islam.
Q. What type of permission?
It is optional permission. You cannot impose it on anyone. However, there is a little difference among the Ulama about the way of permission, but all of them have allowed azl. On this ground, birth control is also allowed.
Q. Those who oppose birth control say that it is like murdering children due to fear of poverty?
The Quran commands not to kill the children out of fear of poverty. Murder means killing any living being, abortion is not allowed in any religion. But abortion is something and birth control is something else.
Q. … but it is narrated from Hadhrat Ali how the life is created, and abortion is permissible in special cases?
If the life of mother is in danger, then she can opt for abortion also, but abortion is not allowed in the form of birth control. Islam does not allow killing a life, and when a foetus gets life it can be better suggested by a physician.
Q. What methods of birth control can be adopted nowadays?
Condom or pills, which are impermanent solution, can be adopted. In Iran, the Ulama have permitted nasbandi (surgical operation) too.
Q. There is an argument against birth control, given by those who oppose it, that the Messenger (peace be upon him) asked to increase the number so that he can take pride in them on the Day of Judgement?
See, a scholar says that one cannot understand any verse of the Quran fully until one is aware of its background. The same rule applies to Hadith as well. This hadith is related to the time when the number of Muslims was very less in the Arabia. Today, this can be true in regard to Europe and America. But, here in India, whether the Muslims are killed due to birth control or due to lack of it.
Muslim is weak, dying of hunger, falling prey of diseases. Is it better that children keep on coming and dying of hunger and disease or is it better that children are born less.
Q. But, it is said that Allah provides livelihood to every born child?
He has taken responsibility of every thing. He has taken the responsibility of curing a disease as well, then do not go to hospital for treatment. Livelihood does not mean that you should sit quietly, if it is so then leave the newborn alone. Livelihood is important.
By Abdul Khan, Mudassar Kolta and Muhammad Qasmi