In recent articles we have looked at some of the pressures from religions to reproduce. Procreation is embedded in the Islamic religion. Although, as a researcher at Harvard University states in her article, “Female Leadership in Islam,” www.irfi.org/articles/articles_401_450/female_leadership_in_islam.htm, “there is no term in the Quran which indicates that childbearing is ‘primary’ to a woman,” having children is nevertheless central to a Muslim couple’s life.
www.us.singlemuslim.com./marriage_articles/birth_control.php is a site that “provides the best possible help for our brothers and sisters to find their ideal Muslim marriage partner and complete their faith within a happy and successful Islamic marriage.” Muslims can discuss matrimony there as well as read articles designed to help them succeed in marriage. “As procreation is the main objective of marriage, and Islam encourages having many children,” birth control is a subject with various rules attached and is “permitted for valid reasons only:”
- If pregnancy or delivery would threaten the mother’s life
- To allow appropriate gaps between having children
- If the married couple is not mature enough to start a family
- If members of the couple are students and having children would create difficulties
The use of birth control is prohibited or limited if:
- It leads to permanent sterility that is not medically necessary
- The couple uses it due to fear of being unable to afford to bear a child (suggests a lack of faith in Allah)
- Although not prohibited, Islam does not approve of spouses who put off bearing children in order to take the time to enjoy each other.
In our research, we found nothing that expressly allows for a childfree lifestyle within the Islamic community. But what if a couple simply can’t bear children? Dr. Musa Mohd Nordin, Consultant Pediatrician and Neonatologist in Damansara Specialist Hospital, Malaysia, wrote an essay titled “An Islamic Perspective of Assisted Reproductive Technologies.” Dr. Nordin points to Old Testament prophet Abraham, and his barren wife Sarah who prayed to God for rectification of her infertility, which did result in a child. However, if a couple’s prayers do not bring success in this endeavor, Allah has probably decreed it: “To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what he wills. He bestows (children) male or female according to His will. Or He bestows both males and females, and He leaves barren whom He wills, for he is full of knowledge and power.”
Along with the complete acceptance of Allah’s will, assisted reproductive technology is acceptable in Islam, only if “it is practiced within the husband and wife dyad during the span of the marital contract.” This means that artificial insemination is permissible, as long as the sperm belongs to the husband.
Adoption of a son or daughter, which would be an avenue to raising offspring without making more children, is prohibited in Islam. The reasons range from issues regarding natural paternity to claims on inheritance. Muslims may foster children, but the children must be called by “(the names of) their fathers; that is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, they [the children] are your brothers-in-faith and your wards,” (33:4-5) of the Qur’an.
According to the web site www.us.singlemuslim.com/marriage_articles/introduction.php, “one of the main purposes of marriage is to raise pious children, who are faithful to Islam, in order to continue the Muslim Ummah,” (community or nation). About one in four people is Muslim – the second largest religion behind Christianity. In spite of these numbers, which point to an already sizeable nation of Islam, a childfree lifestyle may not, if ever, be accepted by Islam for generations to come.
In our book Enough of Us we consider the ramifications of religious pressures to multiply. We question whether ancient mandates to preserve the faith are still relevant as we face an ever-more overpopulated planet whose human inhabitants threaten to devastate God’s, or nature’s, or the universe’s natural legacy bestowed this tiny, unique orb as it hurtles alone through space.
We’ll discuss additonal religious principles in upcoming posts.