Concept of Birth Control in Islam
English Essay on “Concept of Birth Control in Islam”
In 1971 when Pakistan comprised East and West wings the total population of the country was 120 million. At the time of the parting of the ways East Pakistan was 70 million while the West had only 50 million. In the last twenty-two years, while the population of Bangladesh increased from 70 to 110 million, the population of Pakistan has registered a phenomenal growth from a mere 50 million to 110 million.
The growth rate of Pakistan has been much more than that of Bangladesh. While Bangladesh, which at one time had the highest growth rate and density per square mile of population in the world has successfully and ‘effectively curtailed this growth to 2.7 per cent. In Pakistan the current growth rate is now far ahead of Bangladesh as it has nearly hit the figure of 4 per cent. At this rate the projections are that by the year 2000 Pakistan will have more than 150 million people. Therefore, by the turn of the century the population of Pakistan will have tripled, in a short span of 30 years, from what it was in 1971.
Pakistan is facing a potential population bomb. With the rapid increase in population poverty, level is also rising manifold, Soon this can lead to a situation where Pakistan will have a large mass of under-clothed, underfed, illiterate and angry people. Poverty breeds hatred and hatred leads to violence which in turn does not distinguish between right and wrong.
It is rightly said that a problem avoided is a crisis invited, and a crisis not mastered becomes a cataclysm. Bangladesh with its teeming millions is an international basket case Bangladesh rose to the occasion and has been successful in controlling its population growth rate. If Pakistan is not careful soon she will be stigmatized by that same humiliating epithet. Populations in pre-modern times maintained themselves or slowly expanded under conditions of high mortality balanced against high and essentially uncontrolled fertility within marriage. During the Industrial Revolution which occurred in the West in the later years of the eighteenth and in the nineteenth century, mortality started to decline while fertility remained high.educationsight.blogspot.com The result was that the population in the West experienced rapid growth. Realising this, there was a deliberate effort in the West in this twentieth century to reduce fertility by control of births within marriage. Hence a pattern can be seem of a transition or movement from a condition of high mortality and fertility to low mortality and high fertility, and finally to the stage of low mortality and fertility which the West has presently reached. (Unfortunately, Pakistan is passing though the second stage which is the most critical and volatile).
The West succeeded in checking its population growth despite the total and absolute interdiction by the Christian, and especially Roman Catholic Church on any kind of control on births. In Catholicism, the church totally bans any attempt to present birth or to terminate pregnancy by way of abortion. Any such attempt is considered infanticide and a war against God.
Islam, on the other hand, is a realist religion. There is no prohibition of birth control in Islam. Birth control by no logic can be branded as infanticide before the conception of the foetus. It is, therefore, necessary to distinguish between infanticide (known as post-partum birth control) and contraception aimed at preventing pregnancy ab initio.
Infanticide practised through abortion in order to limit the family cannot be linked together or confused with contraceptive methods as instruments of birth control. Whereas the former has been totally banned by all major religions in the world including Islam, the latter has not been expressly prohibited by Islam. One the contrary many of our eminent theologians in history have upheld the use of contraception for voluntary birth control within marriage in order to space births or limit births to a certain predetermined number by the spouses for reasons of economic, social and personal needs or motives.
Due to the absence in the Holy Quran of any reference to contraception and any explicit religious injunction; the Muslim jurists dealt with the subject placing reliance on the Hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and on the biological knowledge available to them. In this regard the most comprehensive analysis for permission of contraception within Islam was presented by the eminent Shari’i jurist Al Ghazali (1058-1111). He argued that prohibition (haram) in the Islamic faith was possible only if explicitly declared in an original text, i.e., express provisions of the Holy Quran and the Hadith, or by analogy with a given text. In the case of contraception, his argument was there was no such text, nor was there any other principle on which any such prohibition could be based. According to him while abortion and infanticide were crimes against an existing being, contraception was different. This was so because the embryo did not begin to be formed merely by the emission of the male semen, but by its settling in the womb.
In legal terms Ghazali equated .the two (male and female) emissions to the two elements, offer (Ijab) and acceptance (qabul) which constitute a valid contract in Islamic law. As he put it, someone who submits an offer and then withdraws it before the other party accepts it is not guilty of any violation, for a contract does not exist before acceptance.
While permitting contraception within marriage jurists like Al Ghazali and the eminent Dàmascene Hanbali scholar, Ibn Qayyum contains a comprehensive survey of Hadith and juridical opinion on the question of birth control, placed reliance on two of the well-known Hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). According to Abu Said:
The Jews say the coitus interrupts (a term used for sexual intercourse but here it means to interrupt a sexual activity) is minor infanticide and the Prophet (PBUH) answers: The Jews lie, for if God wanted to create something, no one can avert it.
In another Hadith according to Anas: A man asked the Prophet (PBUH) about coitus interrupts, and the Prophet (PBUH) said: Even if you spill seed from which a child was meant to be born on a rock, God will bring forth from that rock a child.’
In these Hadiths the Prophet (PBUH) clearly refuted the then prevalent wrong notion amongst the Jews and Christians of equating a certain form of birth control with infanticide. Accidental pregnancies in marriage display God’s infinite powers and prove that when God wants a child to be born, he will, and similarly vice versa.
Ghazali favoured the economic motives of birth control. He supported the wish to limit the family to a manageable size as increase in the number of dependents multiplied material difficulties, led to extra toil in order to earn a living, and tempted men to engage in immoral or illegal transactions to meet their responsibilities. No doubt it was true that there was perfection and nobility in total reliance on God, therefore, contraception fell short of absolutely perfect behaviour…. But to save money, although contrary to total reliance on God, was not forbidden. Al-Ghazali went on to add: material well-being is an aid to religion, lie, however, cautioned and strongly disapproved of the people who practised contraception through fear of having daughters. Economic constraints are of vital consideration in deciding the number of dependants the family can afford. Pakistan is still passing through the pre-modern, preindustrial or rather the agricultural stage of thought, where every additional child is considered an extra hand in enhancing the family income. This is no longer true as jobs, due to mechanization and other factors, are limited in the agricultural sector as well. In Pakistan economic and industrial growth is also very slow and cannot provide job opportunities to the teeming millions that enter the job market every year. The net result is increased poverty in society and utter disillusionment. This is the major destabilising factor and the root cause of many of the vices. Islam has always been a very logical and practical religion. It allowed both divorce and birth control within marriage. Yet despite this permission birth rate is sky rocketing and the population increasing in leaps and bounds. Population growth arid economic growth are inversely correlated. Pakistan, Iraq, Russia, Poland and Ireland are the five countries cited for a noteworthy lack of progress on family planning and reproductive rights. Bangladesh, Indonesia. Iran, Peru and Zimbabwe, on the other hand, are the five countries which have been picked out for making impressive recent progress in expanding access to family planning services.
Average family size in Pakistan is well above five children. This is in sharp contrast to the family size in Ireland averaging 2.2 children, which in itself is high by European standards. It must be remembered that Ireland is an overwhelmingly and staunchly Catholic country where there is a constitutional ban on abortion and the government provides no support for contraceptive services nor information on family planning. If the above figures are anything to go by and even the average 2.2 children in the family are considered too many; then in Pakistan, with the average of five children per family, we are on the precipice of a catastrophe.