Summary of 7.37 “Marital Relations II (Wife’s Rights)”
Last time we talked about the non financial rights of the wife and we indicated that according to the Quran one has to dwell with his wife in equity and kindness.’ The Prophet considered that one of the criteria of faith and goodness from a’ spiritual sense also is for a man to be good to his wife.’ This includes not hurting her, and being considerate, cheerful and providing reasonable recreation for her.

The other aspect that we covered was jealousy and the acceptable and extremes of it.’ We also talked about the case where there are hard feelings towards one’s wife.’ Even if affection and the romance are missing it should not cause mistreatment or injustice to one’s wife.’ The Quran in chapter 4 indicates that one may hate something but God can place lots of good in the thing that one hates.’ Also, we referred to the teachings of the Prophet that one may dislike certain aspects of their wife’s behavior but that he should find something else in her to dwell on that satisfies him and to remember that the husband also has his own faults.’ Towards the end we discussed the Muslim wife’s right to have her instinctive physical needs satisfied.’ We even indicated the variety of teachings in the Quran and the saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that this a duty on the person and should be performed with patience love,considerations and proper preliminaries so that it is not a mechanical act.’ We also said that within the Islamic and spiritual framework and responsible attitude there is no hang up in the mind of the Muslim concerning sex so long as it falls under the wholesome and proper framework.

7.38′ Marital Relations III (Related Issues)

Host:’ What happens if the husband continues to deprive the wife from her matrimonial rights?

Jamal Badawi:

The majority of Muslim jurists require this as a duty.’ Some say that it is his right and do not mention the other side.’ I think the more accurate and common view is that it is her right as well.’ If someone doesn’t fulfill their duty or obligation, as with all rights, then it has to be enforced someway or other.’ The Arabs before Islam had a method called eela’a which meant an oath of abstention from one’s wife.’ This was an attempt to hurt the wife if there was a problem or for disciplinary measures a person does not divorce his wife, she lives with him but he does not satisfy her basic matrimonial needs.’ This could go on for years.’ In the Quran in (2:226) a stop was put to this endless type of suspense and the verse says that those who have an oath of abstention from their wives have four months.’ Within these four months they either repent and go back on this unfair oath that they made or if the four months elapsed and he still abstains from his wife then divorce should follow.’ The majority of Muslim jurists say that after the elapse of the four months the wife can demand that he change his behavior and be fair to her or that he should divorce her.’ If he refuses to divorce her according to the Maliki School of Jurisprudence that if he refuses to divorce her a ruler or judge would have the right to force him to divorce her because this is a kind of harm to her.’ In Islamic Law they can force him to divorce her if she desires. ‘Other jurists like Ahamad and Shafi’ say that a person like this could be punished or imprisoned till he changes his behavior or divorces his wife.’ Whichever way it is looked at we see that there are serious consequences in Islamic Law for the husband to deliberately neglect the needs of one’s wife even in the most physical and most intimate types of relationship.

Host:’ What is the position of Islam on birth control?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all, I have some reservation with the term itself.’ It sometimes gives the impression that as humans we control who is to be born.’ In Muslim belief it is only God who controls birth and death, there may be means that humans may use to bring either about but the ultimate controller is God.’ We know many people who use many kinds of means and still if God wants them to have a baby they will have a baby.’ In general Islam encourages having children.’ The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) indicated in more than one Hadith that people should get married and have children.’ It is encouraged to have children in quantity and quality.’ The other thing about birth control is that I have not seen any consensus among Muslim jurists that birth control should be adopted as a national policy; this is not appropriate aproach.’ There are some scholars who dispute all the Mualthusian and other similar alarmist approaches that there would only be a standing place for every person if the world continues to multiply as it is.’ There are lots of untapped resources and there are lots of injustice in the world which cause this problem.’ A great jurists Maulana Maududi wrote a whole book about birth control.’ As far as a national policy about birth control this is not an acceptable thing.

However, when it comes to birth control at an individual case by case situation we find that if there circumstances which may provide reasonable justification for birth control it is not regarded as unlawful in Islam.’ Indeed in the two most authentic sources of Prophetic Tradition after the Quran, Bukhari and Muslim, in a saying narrated by Jabir he said that in the days of the Prophet (PBUH) we used to use a particular method of birth control, withdrawal and the Quran was reveled.”’ In another saying in Muslim it says that the Prophet knew of this method that they used to prevent pregnancy and he did not object to it.’ It is well know that whenever something was done which was unlawful or against Islam and the Prophet knew of it he always spoke against it and stopped people from doing it.’ The fact that he knew and did not object is an implicit consent.

As narrated in Al Nassa’i and Ibn Maja a person asked the Prophet about these things and he said ‘If Allah wanted to create a child he would not be able to do anything about it.” Again he did not say don’t do it but that one should always believe that God is the one who determines and decides on these issues.’ I would say these are the general consensus.

There are minorities who have opinions on this subject who feel that it should be regarded as unlawful.’ They say that avoiding pregnancy is an irresponsible attitude.’ But we can not generalize that in all cases it is an escape of responsibility, there might actually be good reason for it.’ Second they say that in one of the sayings of the Prophet that it is a hidden killing of infants.’ Hidden is a sort of reference to something that is not real.’ One is not killing a fetus but rather just preventing fertilization from the beginning.’ Just like the term hidden associating others with God is used to describe something much more minor than the major association of others with God.’ So this can not be taken literally in that sense.’ The maximum that one can go with this prophetic saying is that it is a discouragement rather than an absolute prohibition.’ So long as there is no abortion involved it can not be regarded as unlawful.’ Most importantly we can not stick to one saying make a rule with it alone, because there are other sayings of the Prophet’s on the same subject.’ They should all be put together and interpreted in the context of each other and the general indication is that it is permissible.’ The only thing that I should add is that one should make sure that the birth control method used does not involve any early abortion.’ There are some methods like the loop or IUD, after checking with gynecologists, they said they were not quite certain as to how it works.’ I asked specifically whether it may possibly be a sort of early abortion of a fertilized egg because of the presence of a foreign body in the uterus and she said this is not certain but the possibility might be there.’ This is the thing that one has to watch for but if it is a matter of prevention of fertilization then I don’t see much problem with it in view of the various Prophetic texts.

Host:’ You mentioned that there should be good reasons for birth control methods to be pursued, what are some examples of this?

Jamal Badawi:

Perhaps the first clear reason is the protection of the life of the mother.’ There may be medical reasons where if a woman gets pregnant it may effect her life or health.’ If this advise is given by a trusted doctor then it could be a good reason to avoid pregnancy.’ Some contemporary jurists feel that if there is strong indication that if a woman gets pregnant the child may be deformed (for one reason or another) then avoiding pregnancy might be advisable.’ Some Muslim jurists in the past added, based on a saying of the Prophet in Muslim, which made a hint that if a woman gets pregnant while she is still nursing a baby that this may hurt the health of the baby.’ This again could be a good reason.’ There should be some gap between them.’ In fact some jurists refer to the Quran which says that the suckling period of the baby could go as long as two years and they say it is better that they avoid pregnancy so that the child gets enough attention both physically and psychologically.’ Some even added that if a person is very poor (even though the Quran indicated that it is God who provides for all) and his resources are limited, or his or his wife’s health might not allow them to take care of a large number of children and they are very fertile some jurists say that this is a justifiable reason.’ There might be personal reasons which each person would have to ask his or her consciousness as to weather it is a justifiable reason.’ A wife might be interested in completing one particular program of study and finds that it might be difficult in the initial year or two to get pregnant and have a child while continuing her studies, could be a justifiable reason so long as it is not done out of convenience or for avoiding responsibility.’ Some jurists say that one has to take the permission of the wife because she is just as entitled to have a baby as the man is.

Host:’ What is Islam’s position on abortion?

Jamal Badawi:

We covered this several months back in the Moral Teachings of Islam and the preservation of life and the sanctity of life.’ Abortion is unlawful except in the case of saving the life of the mother.’ Some contemporary scholars like Sheik Yusuf Al Qaradawi in his book The Lawful and Unlawful in Islam (in Arabic) he adds that if there is indication through tests that the baby is likely to be deformed he has taken the position that abortion in this early stage may be justifiable.’ But like I say that with reservation because this does not necessarily reflect the position of all Muslim jurists.’ I don’t even know if the case of rape could be made analogous to that situation.

However, jurists refer to one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) where he indicates that the child develops in the womb of the mother in different stages and that after the 120th day the ‘soul’ is breathed into the baby.’ This doesn’t mean the biological life because this is found on day one.’ We know that the early stages of the development of organs take place in the early pregnancy.’ What is meant is that the fetus after the fourth month really becomes more distinct as a human being, of course it is still a potential human before this.’ Some jurists take this and say that abortion prior to the 120 days if there is a necessity for it.’ It is not a commendable act unless there is a life threatening situation but otherwise it becomes a detestable act.’ It also becomes clearly unlawful after the fourth month of pregnancy.’ Al Khazali in his book Ihya’a Ulum Al Deen he indicated that any sort of abortion is wrong, even in the early stages.’ Once the fetus develops into a lump it becomes worst (to have an abortion) and if the soul is breathed into the fetus after the fourth month then it becomes even a greater sin.’ Of course the greatest sin is to kill a person after he or she is already born which is an absolutely sinful act with no question about it.’ When it comes to abortion one has to approach it very carefully and not just call for abortion on demand for whatever reason and make all kinds of silly reasons to destroy a human life or a potential human life.

Host:’ Can you clarify Islam’s view on test tube babies or surrogate mothers?

Jamal Badawi:

It depends on the situation in question, because there are all kinds of situations.’ At lease we can distinguish between a minimum of three basic cases.’ There are three basic cases: one is where the woman is fertile but there might be tubal blockage, which prevents fertilization.’ What they do sometimes is that they try to take the egg from the mother and the sperm from the father and they try fertilize them outside the uterus and then they implant the fertilized egg inside the mother.’ The other case is artificial insemination involving the use of the sperm of another man other than the husband’s, from the bank.’ This is usually done in the case where there is a problem with the man.’ So they take good sperms from another person and they fertilize the egg of the mother.’ This is a completely different situation in terms of the rules.’ Then there is the case of surrogate mothers.’ For example they take the egg from the mother and the sperm from the husband or someone else and they fertilize it then implant it in another woman.

Host:’ Lets start by assessing the first one you mentioned; how is that regarded?

Jamal Badawi:

The jurists tend to be more lenient in that particular situation because one has the egg from the natural mother and the sperm from the natural father.’ It is regarded as a treatment and is not done unnecessarily and it does not play around with the natural process.’ In this case the general tendency is that there is nothing wrong with it.’ It is a treatment of infertility provided that there is no other, better way.’ ;

Host:’ What about artificial insemination of another man’s sperm?

Jamal Badawi:

The consensus of Muslim jurists on this topic say that it is unlawful, haram.’ There are a number of reasons for that: first it is the closest thing to adultery.’ To have a sperm of another man other than the husband to use to fertilize the egg resembles adultery.’ Two, it leads to confusion regarding the lineage of the child because it is the egg of the mother but the sperm of another man.’ How could the husband of the woman claim that this is his child if it comes from the sperm of another man.

Host:’ How does Islam view having a surrogate mother?

Jamal Badawi:

This is a more complex problem and in a recent book of jurisprudence by Sheik Yusuf Al Qaradawi Contemporary Verdicts he discusses this issue.’ He says there are a number reasons why we can consider surrogate motherhood incompatible with Islam.’ One reason is that it destroys the beauty and meaning of motherhood.’ Because it is the motherhood, suffering through pregnancy, childbirth, feeding the fetus from her own blood that really causes this natural tie between the child and mother.’ This is why Islam emphasizes kindness to mothers.’ Another related issue is the question of suckling.’ The Quran says its the mother who gives birth to the child who can claim to be the mother of the baby and suckling is connected with pregnancy and childbirth.’ Another aspect is that it reflects an irresponsible attitude towards motherhood as if it is commercializing childbearing.’ A woman who wants to keep her waist small and doesn’t want to suffer in pregnancy hires a poor woman to do that for her.’ It is just to degrading the natural process of pregnancy.’ Another reason is that in Islamic law one can try to remove hurt, but one can not remove hurt by creating another hurt.’ This is considered to be hurtful to the surrogate mother because after pregnancy no matter how much she is paid it is still a hurt that she went through all of it and then the baby is taken away from her.’ Many times the surrogate mother after the baby is born is not willing to give the baby to the parents.’ This might raise difficult legal problems.’ Furthermore if this is done a person can have 500 children in their lifetime.’ Every month they take the egg from their wife and just hire a new surrogate to carry their child.’ It opens the door for lots of problems and difficulties and he said that it should not be resorted to unless there is an absolute necessity for it, but even then it is doubtful.