Contraception & sterilization

Q122 :I have four children and I am considering resorting to a sterilization operation to be done for my wife. She is thin and weak and can hardly cope with the demands of the family, especially during my prolonged absence, away from home to work here in Saudi Arabia. May I also say that my financial situation is not that bright. Indeed, I can hardly cope with the great demands placed on me.

A122 : Let us first of all deal with the financial aspect of this question. We know that Allah provides sustenance for everyone of His creation. I personally have experienced an improvement in my financial level with every child I have had. Indeed, that improvement was very tangible in the case of one of my children. Some people may not have such a tangible experience. It is true to say, however, that Allah will not neglect to provide sustenance for any human being. It is up to the breadwinner of the family to make use of the opportunities that Allah provides for him. Having said that, I should also point out before attending to the question on sterilization that resorting to methods of contraceptions which are safe and do not affect the health of the mother is permissible. That must be kept at the individual level. By this I mean that a family may resort to contraception in order to limit the number of their children if they determine that such a thing is desirable in their particular circumstances. At the time of the Prophet, some of his companions resorted to coitus interruptus, which was the only method of family planning known to them, and the Prophet was aware of what they did. He did not instruct them to stop, nor did he tell them that what they did was forbidden. Therefore, it is permissible. Other methods of family planning have the same verdict provided they are safe. Sterilization which involves a surgical operation is a special case. Unlike other methods of contraception it is permanent. Therefore it has to be viewed separately. Preventing pregnancy by surgery is known as sterilization which can be performed for either the husband or the wife. It is perhaps more accurate to say that we cannot make a general, sweeping statement in order to say that such an operation is either forbidden or permissible. Any surgery may be considered, from the strictly religious point of view, as required, recommended, discouraged or forbidden, according to the different circumstances of its person. If a highly competent doctor advises his patient that a certain operation will not only cure his illness but also prevents a speedy deterioration of his case, which is otherwise inevitable, then we can say that the operation is recommended. On the other hand, if there is no strong medical grounds for operating on a certain patient, but the doctor advises the operation only to get his fee, then the doctor commits a sin by giving such an advice. In the case of sterilization, what we have to look for is the effect of pregnancy on the health of the mother. If a competent doctor determines that every pregnancy is likely to pose a real threat to the life of the mother or to cause serious threats to her health and that other methods of contraception may also have a bad effect on her health, then the woman may have such an operation without any qualm of conscience. It is permissible in her case. On the other hand, for a woman who asks her doctor to perform such an operation because she feels that a pregnancy may spoil her figure or having children may stop her from taking a lengthy holiday every few months, such an operation is forbidden. In your particular condition, I do not think the reasons you have advanced for such an operation constitute a sound argument to justify the operation. Your wife may be thin and weak, but you can easily delay pregnancy by resorting to other methods of contraception. On the basis of what you say in your letter, you are only with your wife for a month or so every year. If you take adequate precautions, you can almost certainly prevent pregnancy. Therefore, the operation is not required on medical grounds. Hence, it cannot be lawful in your case.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )