Friday Sermon: The Population Bomb 1

By Babatunde Jose

Nigeria is projected to be the world’s third most populous country by the year 2050, according to a report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Though, many nations today have crossed the biological poverty line, there is fear that we might not escape the poverty Tsunami that the population bomb might cause, particularly with the crop of leadership we have and are likely to continue having in the foreseeable future. People who have been unable to manage and provide for our current 180 million people cannot be trusted to provide for the exploding population. 

Yet, it need not be so. While the recent history of most nations is replete with stories of how they have been able to conquer famine, we are here debating how best to feed ourselves. Where other nations are pumping excess milk into the Ocean, we are here suffering from a deficit of dairy products. While other nations are preserving their farm products and turning simple commodities into industrial products, we are here watching most of our harvests waste away for lack or preservation. While others are farming and exporting excess rice, we are not only farming and consuming all but importing all the rice we can to satiate our inordinate appetites. Though we have land that could produce enough food to feed ourselves, we prefer to starve due to laziness and poverty of spirit. How then can we manage the coming population bomb? Not only does it demand a concerted will to control population, it also demands a high level of economic engineering. Do we have leaders who are capable of leading the challenge? I am afraid the answer is NO!

The first point to note is the prevalent of a mindset that will not allow any concrete effort to control population to work in this clime. That is the religious, or simply the Islamic factor which sees any attempt at controlling or manipulating birth control as ungodly. Secondly is the institution of polygamy that is prevalent in our society, not only among Moslems but cut across all tongue and tribes, rich and poor.

“No good Muslim will ever accept any human directive which contravenes the laws of Allah.” So begins a response to a national population control program adopted by the Nigerian military government in 1988 under pressure from aid donors and the World Bank. The writer, Alhaji Usman Faruk, one-time governor of North Western State, is a highly respected religious leader. His response to the population program was published in April of 1988 as a booklet, Family Planning: The Islamic Viewpoint. According to Faruk:“Man in his limited knowledge and wisdom always concentrates on the number of mouths to feed and the resources that are immediately available without taking into consideration some hidden factors that also control life and means.”  “But God, on the other hand, being the Creator of all and Master of all, cannot be said to be taken unawares of certain developments …. In other words, the Islamic stand is that whatever our numbers are, it is easy for Allah to provide for all in His own Divine way.”

But, is this correct, in the face of current socio economic realities? Can we rely on people with this warped mindset to lead us to the Promised Land?

There are however, contrary opinion from several other Islamic sources on the issue of birth control.  Is birth control permissible in Islam?  A Muslim has three sources of knowledge to obtain answers to the questions pertaining to various aspects of human life. These sources are: 1. The Holy Qur’an; 2. Sayings (hadith) and acts (Sunnah) of the Holy Prophet (pbuh); and 3. The views of the leaders of juristic schools qualified to interpret the teachings of Islam.

The Holy Qur’an; No Qur’anic text forbids prevention of conception. There are, however, some Qur’anic verses which prohibit infanticide and these are used by some Muslims to discourage birth control.

Hadith; The principle of preventing conception was accepted in those sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) which allowed some of his followers to practice ‘azl or coitus interruptus.

Views of medieval Muslim jurists; Muslim jurists do not speak with one voice on the question of birth prevention, on it’s lawfulness, on conditions for practice and on methods that may be used.

Most detailed analysis of Islamic permission of contraception was made by the great leader of the Shafi’i School, al-Ghazzali (1058-1111). He discussed this issue in his great work, Ihya’ ‘ulum al-Din (The Revival of Religious Sciences), in the chapter on biology in religion. Al-Ghazzali stated that there was no basis for prohibiting ‘azl.

Another great scholar, Ibn Taymiyah, discussed Divine providence, procreation and contraception (in this way) in the early fourteenth century. He argues, “Allah creates children and other animals in the womb by willing the meeting of parents in intercourse, and the two semens in the womb. A man is a fool who says, ‘I shall depend on God and not approach my wife and if it is willed that I be granted a child I will be given one, otherwise not and there is no need for intercourse.’ This is very different from having intercourse and practising withdrawal, for withdrawal does not prevent pregnancy if God wills a pregnancy to occur, because there can be involuntary pre-emission of semen.”

All Muslim scholars agree that the foetus changes to a human being after 120 days of conception. The following hadith also supports this point.

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Each of you is constituted in your mother’s womb for forty days as a nutfah, then it becomes an ‘alaqah for an equal period, then a mudghah for another equal period, then the angel is sent and he breathes the soul into it.”

Grand Mufti of Jordan, Shaykh ‘Abd Allah Al-Qalqili, issued a fatwa in 1964 in which he said: There is agreement among the exponents of jurisprudence that coitus interruptus, as one of the methods for the prevention of childbearing, is allowed. Doctors of religion inferred from this that it is permissible to take a drug to prevent childbearing, or even to induce abortion. We confidently rule in this fatwa that it is permitted to take measures to limit childbearing.

Another Muslim scholar, Dr Ismail Balogun of Nigeria’s University of Ibadan, wrote about the lawfulness of modern contraceptive methods: The question that arises because coitus interruptus  was the only contraceptive method known by the Prophet’s Companions, and which practice the Prophet (pbuh) condones, is this: can Muslims of today practice any other method? The answer can only be in the affirmative, as long as other methods are not injurious, either to the man or woman. The question is tantamount to asking whether a Muslim can today wear clothes different in shape from those worn by the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions during their time.

In conclusion, we should understand that the early followers of Islam were few and weak in the midst of a vast majority of aggressive and oppressive people. The good of the Muslims then required that there should be a call for the multiplication of their numbers, in order that they might be able at the time to fulfil their responsibilities in defending the mission of Islam and protecting the religion against the power and multitudinous adversaries threatening it. But now we find that conditions have changed. We find that the density of population in the world threatens a serious reduction in the living standards of mankind to the extent that many men of thought have been prompted to seek family planning in every country so that the resources may not fall short of ensuring a decent living for it’s people to provide public service for them.

This brings us to the problem of Biological Poverty Line that is occasioned by overpopulation, which we will address next week. In Sha Alah!

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend


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