Wa `alaykum As-Salamu waRahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
Answering your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a Senior Lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
Procreation is one of the objectives of marriage, as it is the divinely appointed method of propagating human species on the face of the earth.
Furthermore, Islam considers children as a source of blessing. The Prophet (peace be upon him), therefore, exhorted his people to “marry and procreate.”
Married couples, therefore, must not consider marriage simply as an avenue of sexual or emotional fulfillment and satisfaction, but also for the purpose of procreation.
That is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged marriage and procreation. “Marry those who are fertile, loving and caring (and hence able to nurture) for I want to boast of the number of my community on the Day of Resurrection.” (An-Nasai and Abu Dawud)
The question arises: Are we to take words literally?
I don’t think so. We know for an absolute fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) never preferred quantity over quality. He taught us to value men and women with character and moral strength and referred to those who lack these qualities as akin to foam floating on the surface of the water. Thus he foretold about end times when the Muslims would be targeted by others all over the world.
When his companions asked him: “Is it because we will be a minority then?’, He replied, “No. You will be numerically high; yet you will like foam floating on top of the water!” (Abu Dawud)
In light of these, we can never think that the Prophet (peace be upon him) wants us to produce children while we have no ability to nurture them physically or morally. If that is the case, we would prefer to populate the world with Muslims that the Prophet referred to rubbish or foam on the top of the water.
Therefore, it is safe for us to conclude that while Islam encourages procreation through marriage, it stresses the importance of rearing and nurturing children who are the future leaders and assets of the community and humanity. Parenting demands adequate care and attention on the part of parents, in the absence of which, children will simply become a burden. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A strong believer is superior to a weak believer.” (Muslim)
Therefore, if spouses strongly feel that they are not prepared to shoulder the heavy responsibilities of parenting because of their particular circumstances, they are allowed to resort to safe methods of contraception to delay conception.
The scholars base this ruling on a precedent of the Prophet and his companions: According to authentic traditions, many of the Prophet’s companions practiced coitus interruption to prevent conception. As reported by Jabir, one of the eminent companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), “We used to practice `azl (coitus interruption) while the Qur’an was coming down. Thus if it were forbidden to do so, the Qur’an certainly would have declared so.” (Muslim)
In other words, the silence of the Qur’an about coitus interruption is an indication of its permissibility.
Modern methods of contraception are no different from the `azl practiced by the Companions. It is on this basis that the scholars have declared it permissible to make use of them–through the consensual agreement of both spouses– as a temporary method of preventing pregnancy.
If we are allowed to resort to such practices for the purpose of pleasure, then there is no reason to object to those who choose to have recourse to it for enabling them to provide better care and mentoring of children.
No one can dispute the fact that in today’s world it is indeed a heavy responsibility.
We can never exaggerate the cost of providing quality education for children without which they will turn out to be a burden on others. The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught his followers to be self-reliant and never become a burden on others.
In conclusion, poor families are allowed to resort to safe methods of family planning for the purpose of spacing between pregnancy to provide better care and education for their children.
Almighty Allah knows best.