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TAHDDI AL-NASL

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Tahddi al-nasl means family planning. Planning is required in everything, be it concrete, sentimental, economical, social or intellectual. God declares in the Koran: "All things have We created after a fixed decree." (54:49) Similarly, the term "family" has a broad and deep meaning. The family is the first brick or unit in the social structure. To build up a family, it requires planning and providence for the number of one's offspring.

The Koran enjoins us to have children, but at the same time warns us that children must be good and righteous. It directs us to pray to God, to give us good, honorable offspring, of an exalted position and of lofty ideals. However, when we pray to God to grant us this blessing, we must first examine our means and capacity for their sustenance.

What the child strongly hopes to get and what arouses his joy are the parents' affection and tenderness of heart. When the family has only one child for instance, the problem of equality does not arise. But when the family has several children, then the different sort of problems for the parents arise, namely the maintenance of equitable and equal treatment of children, without favourism or prejudice. Some parents commit a great mistake when they show special favor and regard to one of the children. Such discrimination may give rise to many psychological and emotional complexes among the children, such as the complex of inferiority. The Prophet is reported to have marked one man who had two children and who preferred to kiss only one of them. The Prophet said to him: "Will you not strike balance between them?" The Prophet further said: "Be fair in dealing with your children just as you would like them to be fair in dealing with you."

The Muslim world today is suffering not from a lack of people, but from a lack of great and able men. Though the early Muslims were few in number, they were able to conquer the world and spread the message of Islam. Now the wheel has taken reverse direction and the need now is not just to multiply, but to bring up this multiplicity in a proper, orderly and healthy manner. There are one billion Muslims in the world, constituting 20% of the world population. It means that one of every five persons is a Muslim in the world. There are 40 countries having more than 50% Muslims, and 7 countries with 25% to 49% Muslim population. These Muslims are combating the recent challenges of poverty and illiteracy due to many reasons, one notable being the high rate of birth. That is why, the majority of the Muslim countries (about 27 countries) have recognized and registered the Family Planning Association, affiliated with International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

In addition, if we could project ourselves into the future and look at the world in which our descendants will have to live, a most dreadful picture would appear. The world population in 1980 was 4.4 billion. It has been estimated that it will grow by another 1.7 billion by the end of this century. The world population is also expected to reach 8.2 billion in the year 2025 A.D. Each day the human race increases by 88,000, nearly the number of Wembley Stadium football crowd, and in a single year it increases by thirty-four million or two thirds of the entire population of Britain.

Margaret Sanger of United States first coined the term birth control in the year 1914. Thereafter, it generated synonyms, such as family planning, Planned Parenthood, responsible parenthood, voluntary parenthood, contraception, fertility regulation and fertility control.

The question is often asked: "is birth control (tahdid al-nasl) permitted in Islam?" A great many of the Muslim jurists have allowed family planning that was known in the time of the Prophet as azl (coitus interruptus). Contraception as practiced by the Arabs in early Islam was practically confined to two methods: (1) azl, to avert pregnancy, and (2) iskal, which was intercourse without withdrawal, and a variant of azl.

The first point is that the Koran does not permit nor prohibit family planning, which can be explained by the very fact that in the early days of Islam, this issue did not assume proportions of such a degree. The Koran says: "... And has not laid upon you any hardship in religion" (22:78).

By hardship is meant distress because of too heavy a burden, God also says: "God desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty". (2:185), "cast not yourselves with your own hands into ruin: (2:195) and "Surely! He does not love those who exceed"(7:31).

The Prophet is reported to have said: "This religion is firm, therefore go into it gently." And also: "The religion of Islam is free from narrow restriction; anybody who tries to be very strict in matters of religion must have his own purpose defeated."

There are however certain Koranic verses guiding us to solve this important issue. The Koran says: "And if you apprehend that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two or three or four, but if you apprehend you will not do justice (to so many), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that you will not do injustice" (4:3).

The word au or al-aul in the above verse is used for everything, which burdens man. The word aul literally means "to do justice by grabbing what is in excess of one's right." Thus the words zalika adna al la t'aoulu means "from this you will be saved from injustice" which has been also interpreted by Imam Shafi'i according to al-Azhari that "you may not have many children." It is well known among the Arabs that aala y'aoulu means to commit excess or injustice, while the word aala y'aeelu means "the abundance of offspring". But Kissai says that aala y'aoula means to become a pauper. The eloquent among the Arabs used the words aala y'aoulu encompassed by the meaning of many children, vide Lisan al-Arab, on the root of aul. Imam Shafi'i further maintains that the phrase "this will make justice on your part easier" (an la ta'ulu) implies a warning against the multiplicity of children. He explains the whole Koranic verse thus: "If you are afraid that the number of you family will be many, then limit yourself to one wife. This will banish multiplicity of children." This explanation of Imam Shafi'i is reported verbatim by Ibn Arabi in his Ahkam al-Koran (1:314).

Tabari (d. 923) in his Tarikh ar Rusul wa'l-Muluk (3:161) reproduced the opinion of Ibn Zaid that the word al la ta'ulu means ahwana alaik fil ayaal i.e. "do not add to you dependents." Suyuti (d. 1505) in his Dhur-e-Manthur (2:119) also quoted the opinion of Zaid bin Aslam in these words zalika adna al la yaksiru min t'aoulu i.e. "then the number of such persons may not increase who may be your dependents". Zamakhshari (d.1144), Qurtubi (d 1272), Abi Barket Nasafi (d. 1310), Ibn al-Hayyan (d. 1345), Baidawi (d. 1388), Imam Sherbini (d. 1569), Abi as-Saud (d. 1574) etc. have held similar interpretations to support family planning in Islam.

Ibn Sina (980-1037) writes in his al-Qanun fi't-Tibb (p.286) that "blood in the mother's breast is converted into milk. This is beneficial for the baby and more attractive and acceptable to its constitution." The mother's milk is the natural food, which contains, in its initial period, colostrum. It is a natural substance helping the child to grow as it contains rich doses of Vitamin A. The newborn child is usually exposed to the infection of the lungs and throat, developing pneumonia or diphtheria.

Medical experts hold that if a child gets colostrum in sufficient quantity, he develops resistance to deadly infections. If a mother suckles a child and becomes pregnant after some months, her milk becomes possibly harmful for the infant.

Hence, at one year of age the average infant weighs 21 pounds, and requires 945 calories daily; at 18 months, 24 pounds requiring 1060 calories; and at two years 26


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