Islamic Family Planning
While Islamic views on sex before and within marriage are quite similar to other religions, followers of Islam have perhaps the most options when it comes to the use of birth control. In fact, for those Muslims that are using birth control, Islam places very few restrictions on the use of contraceptives.
Sex Before Marriage
In the Islamic religion, rules regarding pre-marital relations are quite simple: no relations of any sort are allowed between the sexes. While both the Jewish and Catholic religions allow a courtship to take place between a woman and a man (although abstinence is recommended during this time), the Islamic religion does not. This likely leads many people to wonder, "So how do people get married in this religion?"
In Islam, marriage occurs through family involvement, prayer, and careful thought and consideration. When an individual feels that they are ready to marry, they approach their family who will set about finding them a potential mate. Once a suitor is chosen, a chaperoned meeting is arranged so that a man and woman may get to know each other. A chaperone is necessary so that neither will be tempted to behave inappropriately during this meeting. If either the man or the woman are not happy with the potential suitor picked out for them, they can choose to call off the marriage and their family will set about to try and find another match.
Islam views sex before and outside of marriage very harshly. In some cases, Sharia Law (the governing and religious laws behind Islam) calls for the execution by stoning of individuals who have sex outside of marriage. However, it is very important to note that not all countries with predominately Muslim religions enforce this sentence. Many Muslim countries have gotten rid of it all together while others keep it on the books but do not actually enforce it. While some countries do still strictly follow Sharia Law, there is increasing pressure from other countries, as well as from other Muslims, to stop these practices.
Sex Within Marriage
Not surprisingly, like the Jewish and Catholic faiths, Islam views sexual relations between a wife and husband as an ideal expression of love. Sex between married spouses is both for the sexual pleasure of each partner as well as for procreation. All forms of sexual expression, from intercourse to caressing and kissing, are encouraged between partners. The only stipulation according to the Qur'an is that intercourse should not take place while a woman is menstruating. However, other forms of sexual pleasure are allowed, so long as a woman's genitals are avoided.
Almost all forms of birth control are thought to be permissible in Islam. Those that are not accepted include surgical sterilization (unless it is medically necessary), as it is viewed as a form of castration as well as alters the body without need, and the withdrawal method, because it interrupts a woman's pleasure and prevents a woman from conceiving if that is what she wants. However, the withdrawal method may be used if the woman agrees to it.
Birth control use may be allowed for various women. Instances when Islam permits the use of contraception include:
- Allowing a woman to rest between pregnancies
- Preventing the transmission of infectious disease, such as an STD
- A women's health requires the use of birth control
- A husband cannot financially support more children
There is some disagreement among Islamic scholars as to whether or not the Qur'an allows abortions to take place and, if so, when. The cause for the confusion lies in the following verse: "You should not kill your children for fear of want" (17:31 and 6:151). Some have interpreted this verse to mean that all birth control and abortion should be banned. However, many Islamic leaders and scholars say that this interpretation is incorrect. The verse in fact refers to infanticide and killing a child that has been born due to poverty. With that in mind, most say that abortion is in fact legal under Islamic law, so long as it is done before ensoulment. Precisely when the soul enters the body, though, is often debated.
Some Islamic schools feel that ensoulment occurs when an embryo has implanted itself into the womb (although this still allows for the use of the "Morning After Pill" to prevent a pregnancy). Others say it occurs much later, anywhere from 40 days after fertilization to 120 days after fertilization. While the various schools may have differing opinions as to when ensoulment occurs, they all agree that abortion should not take place once the soul has entered the body. They also agree that abortion should not be performed for vain reasons, such as trying to keep your figure, but out of necessity, such as saving the life of the mother.