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ISLAMIC TEACHINGS ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND FERTILITY TRANSITION IN MUSLIMMAJORITY COUNTRIES

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Title: ISLAMIC TEACHINGS ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND FERTILITY TRANSITION IN MUSLIMMAJORITY COUNTRIES


1
ISLAMIC TEACHINGS ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND
FERTILITY TRANSITION IN MUSLIM-MAJORITY COUNTRIES
  • Mehtab S. Karim, Ph.D.
  • Head, Reproductive Health Program
  • Professor of Demography
  • Department of Community Health Sciences
  • Aga Khan University
  • mehtab.karim_at_aku.edu

2
  • As societies transform from a predominantly
    traditional to a predominantly modem system they
    tend to experience considerable demographic
    changes. Ansley Coale (1984) notes that this
    "transformation is the substitution of slow
    growth achieved with low fertility and mortality
    for slow growth maintained with relatively high
    fertility and mortality rates."

3
  • During the 1960s and 70s while trying to
    explain persistently high fertility in the
    developing during, most Western Demographers had
    taken the view that high fertility was generally
    embedded in cultural and religious factors,
    which encouraged high fertility in most countries
    of Latin America, Africa and Asia.
  • In this respect, much more has been written
    about high fertility among Muslims than about the
    followers of any other religion.

4
  • For example even when no considerable
    fertility decline was noted in any developing
    country, Dudley Kirk (1966) in his review of
    Muslim fertility, observed that
  • Muslim populations tended to have high
    fertility, that there was no evidence of decline,
    and that in a given country, Muslims tended to
    have higher fertility than adherents of other
    religions.

5
  • Caldwell took a similar view about sub-Saharan
    Africa, arguing that high fertility rates in the
    region , "have much to do with a religious
    belief system, that operates directly to sustain
    high fertility.
  • He further contended that in his study of several
    developing countries, the commonest factor in
    explaining high infant mortality was the
    predominance of Muslim countries. He argued that
    high infant mortality in these countries was due
    to lower status assigned to women in theses
    predominantly Muslim countries, which also leads
    to higher fertility .

6
  • However, taking a broader view, Bongaarts, in his
    theory of proximate determinants of fertility
    postulates, that due to socio-biological factors,
    fertility is likely to be lower than its
    maximum value as a result of

? delayed female age at marriage, ?
higher use of contraception, ? high
prevalence of induced abortion and, ?
prolonged practice of breastfeeding
7
  • In Islamic scriptures, as recorded in the
    revealed book the Quran and Hadith (sayings of
    the Prophet), views on each of the four
    proximate determinants of fertility are
    available.
  • These issues have also been widely debated in the
    writings of the early Muslim jurists and
    scholars.

8
  • ISLAMIC TEAHINGS ON FAMILY PLANNING

9
  • In Islamic scriptures, as recorded in the
    revealed book the Quran and Hadith (sayings of
    the Prophet, PBUH), views on each of the four
    proximate determinants of fertility are available
    in the writings of the early Muslim jurists and
    scholars.

10
On Marriage
  • Among His signs is this, that He created for
    you mates from among yourselves, that you may
    dwell in tranquillity with them The
    Quran, Surah 3021
  • The Prophet (PBUH) discouraged celibacy and
    encouraged all Muslim males and females to get
    married.

11
  • One finds general references in the Quran and
    Hadith regarding marriageable age and the age of
    sound judgment, without specifying a fixed age.
  • However, some scholars have argued that, if a
    girl is married at too young age, an element
    mentioned in the Quran of dwelling in
    tranquillity could be missing.

12
  • Thus, Imam Abu Hanifa suggested an age of
    marriage of 18 years for boys and 17 for girls.
  • Subsequently, these were adopted in the Ottoman
    Family Law before the First World War.

13
On Lactation
  • Mothers shall suckle their children for two
    whole years The Quran,
    Surah 2233
  • Imam Al-Ghazali was of the opinion that since
    mother must breastfeed the children for two
    years, therefore, while the mother is lactating,
    to avoid another pregnancy, couples should
    practice birth control.

14
On Contraception
  • In Hadith, azl (coitus interruptus) is mentioned
    either as a saying of the Prophet or as his tacit
    approval. The Prophets (PBUH) companion Jabir
    relates
  • We used to have recourse to azl during the days
    of the Prophet while the Quran was being
    revealed. He came to know of it but he did not
    prevent us from doing so.

15
  • Throughout the Middle Ages, Muslim physicians
    instructed people on contraceptive methods.
  • Thus the most well known Muslim physician al-Razi
    gave illustrations of the different methods of
    contraception in his book Al-Hawi. He suggested
    three ways for preventing conception
  • ? withdrawal
  • ? prevention of ejaculation or
  • ? apply to the uterus a tampon or a certain
  • spermicide.

16
In sum, there was a general consensus among
early Muslim scholars that contraception is
permitted in Islam. However, most scholars
accept that contraception is not acceptable in
two situations ?if it is used to avoid having
female children or ? if it is used to avoid
parental responsibilities
17
On Abortion
  • Those who support abortion quote the following
    verse
  • We created man from a product of wet earth.
    Then placed him as a drop (of seed) in a safe
    lodging. Then fashioned We the drop a clot,
    then fashioned We the clot a little lump, then
    fashioned We the little lump with bones, then
    clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced
    it as another creation.... The Quran,
    Surah 2314

18
Imam Bokhari quotes a Hadith of the Prophet
  • All of us have been kept as a drop of seed which
    remains in the shape of a drop in the mothers
    womb for 40 days. Then for another 40 days, it
    remains in the form of a clot of blood. Then
    another 40 days it remains in the form of a lump
    of flesh. Then an angel is sent to the fetus who
    blows spirit (life) in to it.

19
  • The most recent formulation on abortion,
    given by the grand Mufti of Egypt and Rector of
    Al-Azhar reads as follows
  • During the first four months, fetal life is
    not believed to be human. Thus, juristic
    consensus exists only to the point that abortion
    after four months amounts to taking a life, but
    this limit may be set aside, if the mothers life
    is at risk.

20
Opposing Views
  • Maulana Maududi, a highly respected scholar
    from the Indian sub-continent makes the
    following arguments in his book Birth control,
    first published in 1943
  • The birth control movement is a plot against
    Islam.
  • To import birth control methods into developing
    countries would be tantamount to ushering in
    moral malaise and,
  • Women would feel free to join the labor force and
    abandon their traditional roles.

21
  • Maulana Maududi, however, allowed the practice
    of birth control if a couple so desires for
    personal reason but not as a concern for
    population growth

22
Do Muslim countries have a typical demographic
pattern?
  • In The Demography of Islamic Nations, Weeks
    (1988) found noticeable regional and temporal
    diversity in fertility among Muslim countries.
    He argued that,
  • The single most remarkable demographic aspect of
    Islamic societies is the nearly universal high
    level of fertility.

23
Samuel P. Huntington in his well publicized
book, The Clash of Civilizations states The
Resurgence of Islam has been fueled by equally
spectacular rates of population growth
Population growth in Muslim countries, provides
recruits for fundamentalism, terrorism,
insurgency, and migration. thus demographic
growth threatens Muslim governments and
non-Muslim societies alike and Each of these
challenges is having and will continue to have
into the 21st century a highly destabilizing
impact on global politics
24
  • In a monograph on Reproductive Behaviour in
    Muslim Countries (1997), which I prepared for
    UNFPA in 1997, based on the analyses of DHS data
    from 12 Muslim countries, I had had taken the
    view that
  • while poor socioeconomic conditions might have
    played an important role in maintaining high
    fertility in Muslim countries, more recently
    effective family planning programs coupled with
    high female literacy seem to have become major
    factors in achieving fertility transition in
    these countries.

25
  • Post 9/11 there has been considerable
    interest in Muslim population living around the
    World.
  • For example, the Economist of London came out
    with a special issue on 13th September, 2003,
    with an estimated population of 1.5 billion and
    the following regional distribution

26
Distribution of Muslim Population by Region
27
I am of the view that
  • Demographic transition begun in most of the
    Muslim-majority countries at some time over the
    past two decades, and in some, it has moved very
    rapidly. Elsewhere, there is only little evidence
    of the onset of fertility decline.
  • I support my view with the following data and
    illustrations

28
AN OVERVIEW OF DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION IN MUSLIM
MAJORITY COUNTRIES 1970-2000
  • of countries with CDR
  • of 1970 2000
  • 25 10 0
  • 20-24 6 4
  • 15-19 12 7
  • 10-15 10 6
  • 5-9 5 18
  • Total 43 43
  • of countries with CBR
  • of 1970 2000
  • 45 28 6
  • 40-44 4 8
  • 35-39 8 4
  • 30-34 2 3
  • 25-29 1 7
  • 20-24 0 8
  • Total 43 43

29
Trends in Fertility Decline 1960-2000
  • Till the early 1960s, fertility rates in
    almost all Muslim countries were fairly high.
    During the past 40 years many countries have
    experienced substantial declines. The most
    dramatic regional declines occurred in North
    Africa, where Egypt began with the greatest early
    decline, quickly joined by Tunisia, Morocco, and
    Algeria. All three South-East Asian countries
    experienced similar declines.

30
  • Thus, in a majority of countries in the
    Muslim world, there is considerable evidence of
    demographic transition, particularly in
    fertility, during the past 25 years.
  • Muslim countries in East and West Africa saw
    only modest declines in fertility, while in Asia,
    Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Oman were the
    exceptions. The most remarkable recent declines
    on the other hand, were experienced by Bangladesh
    and Iran.
  • Regional trends in fertility declines are
    demonstrated in the following illustrations.

31
Fertility Decline in North and North-East African
Countries
32
Fertility Decline in West African Countries
33
Fertility Decline in West Asian Countries
34
Fertility Decline in South-Central Asian
Countries
35
Fertility Decline in South-East Asian Countries
8
6.7
6.7
7
6
5.4
4.7
5
4.4
4.2
4
TFR
2.9
2.5
3
2.4
2
1
0
1960-65
Malaysia
Indonesia
1975-80
Brunie
Daressalam
2000-05
36
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37
IN CONCLUSION
There appears to be no typical pattern of
reproductive behavior which could be described as
Islamic. Islam as such seems to be neither a
hindrance nor a stimulating factor in fertility
decline. It seems that governments in most
Muslim countries, due to a pragmatic thinking
have adopted a positive approach to birth
control. However, with a few exceptions,
contraceptive use rate is low and consequently
fertility is high in some Muslim countries,
similar to other countries in the same region.
38
  • Recently Prof. Mehtab Karim co-edited a book
    with Prof. Gavin Jones on Islam, the State and
    Population. Hearst Co. London. 2005
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