Children are born with the directive of God; however, the process adopted by God in this regard is not that He sends down a child directly from the heavens in whatever number He wishes for whichever parent He intends. Children are born through the means of human beings and through their intention, decision and initiative. Regarding human beings it is common knowledge that their Creator has blessed them with intellect and cognizance and also endowed them with the freedom to exercise their will. It is a requirement of both these bestowals of God that before taking any decision a person must evaluate its consequences, understand the matter in the light of knowledge and intellect and then take any step. We may understand this through the example of a gardener.
The Almighty has said: ءَاَنۡتُمۡ تَزۡرَعُوۡنَہٗۤ اَمۡ نَحۡنُ الزّٰرِعُوۡنَ (56:64). The implication of this verse is that it is not human beings but God Who makes an orchard bear fruit and a harvested land bear produce. But does this mean that the task of a gardener is only to spew seeds or sow plants? Everyone will answer this question in the negative and say that it is the gardener’s responsibility to evaluate whether he can bear the expenses and other needs that involve sowing, looking after trees and taking their fruit to the market? Has he prepared the land? Has he left the requisite space while planting trees? Does he have enough information about the demand of the fruits of these trees in the market? It is after evaluating all these factors that he should decide what and when to plant and whether he should even proceed with planting or not. People debate whether birth control is allowed or prohibited whereas just as assessing all these factors is essential for a farmer, it is similarly essential for the parents to asses them. If a farmer does not take them into consideration, he will end up facing the consequences and if parents also do not give them due importance, they too will face the consequences. Our society is replete with such examples.
Thus before planning for a child, parents should see whether the mother can bear it or not. Does her health allow her to produce and nurture an offspring? Can she spare time from taking care of any previous child to take up this new responsibility? Keeping in view their circumstances, do parents have the time, opportunity and essential means for the upbringing of the child and the essential finances to educate them? If the answer to all these questions is in the negative, then parents should restrain themselves or adopt various means of birth control; however, they should never plan a child.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that our decision can impede any decision of God. If His wisdom requires that a child must be born, then it shall be born. This strategy of ours is to follow the law of God and not to impede His decision. Diseases come with God’s permission, yet if guidelines that safeguard health are not followed then the general law and practice is that diseases shall afflict people. Cure is in the hands of God, but if remedies are not sought, then the general law and practice is that sickness will increase. Sustenance is also in the hands of God yet the general law and practice is that it is acquired if one strives for it. This world works on achieving goals through the means provided and man has been given the understanding to use these means to his advantage. In many matters, the fate ordained by God relates to our intentions, decisions and the practical steps we take. ‘Umar (rta) while commenting on running away from a place afflicted with plague is reported to have said: “We are going from the fate of God towards the fate of God.”When once the Prophet (sws) was asked about a method of birth control, he directed the attention of the questioner towards this very reality. It is narrated by Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri (rta) that the Prophet is reported to have said:
مامن کل الماء يکون الولد، واذا اراد الله خلق شيئ لم يمنعه شيي
Every sperm does not produce a child; but when God decides to give birth to something, no one can stop Him.
(Translated by Dr Shehzad Saleem)