Joined: 27 September 2006
Islamic medicine has known about birth control for centuries - for example the Muslim writers Avicenna (980-1037) and Al-Razi (d 923 or 924) refer to different methods of contraception.
Islam is strongly pro-family and regards children as a gift from God.
Muslim sexual ethics forbid sex outside marriage, so its teachings about birth control should be understood within the context of husband and wife.
There is no single attitude to contraception within Islam; however eight of the nine classic schools of Islamic law permit it.
But more conservative Islamic leaders have openly campaigned against the use of condoms or other birth control methods, thus making population planning in many countries ineffective.
This resistance to birth control was reflected in 2005 when a conference involving 40 Islamic scholars from 21 countries urged fresh efforts to push population planning and better reproductive health services.
But although all the participants were in favour of promoting the use of contraceptives for married couples, they were reluctant to make it part of their joint declaration for fear of reprisals from the more conservative Islamic scholars in their respective countries.
The Qur'an does not refer to contraception explicitly, but Muslims opposed to birth control often quote the Qur'an as saying "You should not kill your children for fear of want" (17:31, 6:151) and interpret this as including a ban on contraception as well as infanticide. Supporters of birth control argue that this interpretation is wrong.
In practice most Muslim authorities permit contraception to preserve the health of the mother or the well-being of the family.
There are a number of hadith which indicate that the Prophet knew of birth control and approved of it in appropriate circumstances.
Hadith are said to describe and approve of the withdrawal method ('azl).
Scholars point out that this method may deprive the woman of both sexual fulfilment and of having children, and so should not be used without the woman's agreement.
Egyptian scholars have argued that any method that has the same purpose as 'azl - i.e. preventing conception - is acceptable, so long as it does not have a permanent effect.
Contraceptive methods that do not prevent conception but cause a very early abortion are not accepted.
Contraception with the aim of having a permanently child-free marriage is not accepted. So sterilisation is wrong - partly because it prevents children permanently and partly because of a text forbidding men to castrate themselves.
Joined: 27 September 2006