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What Do Religions Say About Birth Control and Family Planning?


Updated June 21, 2014

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What Do Religions Say About Birth Control and Family Planning?

Islamic Prayer

Photo Courtesy of Antonio Melina/ABr. 01.Dec.2003
Widespread variation on contraception attitudes can be found in the Islamic faith. Because contraception is not expressly prohibited in the Qur’an, many Muslim scholars approve of family planning. Yet, some also believe that birth control is forbidden as the Qur’an contains the command to “procreate and abound in number.” These scholars argue that only God can decide the number of children that a couple will have.

Early Sunni Muslim literature discusses various contraceptive methods, and reveals that the practice of azl (withdrawal) is morally acceptable since it was practiced by the prophet Muhammed. Sunni doctrine in favor of contraception suggests that that any contraceptive that does not produce sterility is morally the same as azl and is therefore accepted.

Despite these varying views, Islam emphasizes that procreation within the family is a religious duty, so there is unanimous rejection of sterilization and abortion. Most Islamic traditions will permit the use of birth control where maternal health is an issue or where the well-being of the family may be compromised. The Islamic faith prioritizes human life, so being able to space out births allows a mother ample time to care for each child. In Shia Islamic countries, contraception is not only taught to married couples, but is encouraged to youngsters as well. Birth control is supported for economic reasons; it helps protect the mother’s life and provide for her children. Muslims also believe that contraception helps to preserve the attractiveness of the wife, thereby increasing the enjoyment of the marriage. For Muslim women, family planning is key to their empowerment. The Islamic faith allows a lot of latitude in interpretation, which is reflected by the various differences in family planning policies by distinct Muslim groups and countries.

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