Egyptian Religious Leaders Introduce “Birth Control Is Permissible” Campaign

Many Egyptians believe that Islam and the Qur’an prohibit the use of contraception; Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi hopes to dispel the myth that Egyptian Islamic leaders forbid it.

According to Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s fatwa[1]-issuing institution, “it is permissible to use anything that does not lead to killing the embryo after its formation—in any stage of its development, no matter how early.” In other words, abortion is not condoned in Egyptian Islam, but contraceptive methods that don’t disrupt the development of a fertilized egg are acceptable, regardless of the reason they are used (I’ve previously read that Islam allows contraceptive use for the purpose of birth spacing, but not for ending childbearing altogether—the Dar al-Ifta edict seems at odds with that opinion, but maybe that’s because the other opinions were issued by religious scholars in other countries? Please weigh in in the comments section below if you know!).

It’s worth noting that the religious verdicts issued by Dar al-Ifta jurists cover topics that range from loving God more than the Prophet to neutering pets to using plasma to treat COVID-19. The list—thousands of items long—is fascinating to peruse. It seems to include everything under the sun—including whether it’s permissible to wear sunblock—but pays special attention to issues of gender and sexuality.

Now, at the urging of the government, Dar al-Ifta is leading a public awareness campaign on the acceptability of Muslims using contraception to prevent pregnancy via a hashtag which translates to “Birth Control is Permissible.” (The tweets the agency has issued are in Arabic, so I’ve had to rely on English-language Egyptian newspapers’ reporting of them for the translations.)

Egyptian officials’ concern over population growth is nothing new, but emphasis on quelling it ramped up when Egypt reached a population of 100 million in 2020. The unwelcome milestone prompted the government to launch the “Two Is Enough” campaign, urging Egyptian couples to have no more than two children. This new social media public education campaign aims to bolster that effort.

Of the Birth Control Is Permissible campaign, Egypt’s Grand Mufti (lead religious legal scholar) Shawki Allam said, “The population increase is a major issue that affects the intellectual and national security and requires a decisive solution to help avert the economic crises resulting from it.” President Sisi had more to say about population and development in recent televised comments: “Living conditions are not improving, and the Egyptian people will not notice a significant improvement until the population growth rate is brought under control.” And, on the same subject, Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala al-Saeed said, “High rates of population growth affect the results of development efforts and negatively impact the citizen’s standard of living and quality of life.”

Egypt’s total fertility rate currently stands at 3.13, according to the United Nations Population Division. The UN projects with 95% confidence that the population will be between 143 million and 179 million in 2050, depending on how quickly fertility declines. The medium population projection for 2050 is 160 million—nearly 60 million higher than the current number, which the government already considers too high.

[1] a legal opinion or decree handed down by an Islamic religious leader

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