The population issue
The debate on birth control is a good example in terms of examining what falls into the scope of religion and what falls into the scope of wisdom, in other words the scope of personal preferences. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “A Muslim family does not practice birth control.”
However, in 1988, the Islamic Fiqh Academy met in Kuwait between Jan. 10 and Jan. 15 to discuss birth control, as well as other issues, expansively, concluding: “Using birth control methods is permissible and it should be done at the discretion of the married couple according to their mutual agreement and after consultation.”
I obtained this information from a book published by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). This “İlmihal” of two volumes is a perfect book, especially the second volume on Islam and society on how in our times urbanization, education and the change in gender relations alter the traditional religious interpretations and what the new interpretations are.
There may be other interpretations that would say birth control is a sin. In our youth, we were taught by Pakistani scholar Mevdudi’s book “Islam and Birth Control” on how sinful this is and how it betrays religion.
Today, Pakistan has a population of 180 million.
When one prefers more population, it should be emphasized that a “quality population” which would generate science and technology is more important.
Iran was rewarded by the United Nations because of its successful birth control policy practiced through fatwas. Now, upon the aging of its population, it has adopted a policy to increase the birth rate.
Can birth control be both permissible and a sin at the same time? What does “real Islam” say?
This is a wrong question because it confuses the fundamentals of religion with the wide field religion has left for people to decide. “Population policies” are not a religious subject; it is neither a sin nor a good deed…
Besides, apart from faith and worship, there are social and legal procedural matters in which religious interpretations vary. In the Ottoman times, foundations lending money with an interest rate was deemed a sin by one authority while another one allowed 12 percent interest rate for the sake of improvement and facilitation.
In contemporary times, underdeveloped countries suffer from extreme fertility and poverty. On the other hand, there are countries that are aging where fertility has disappeared.
In Turkey, in rural and patriarchal segments where education and employment facilities are restricted, the fertility rate is high. While in our western border city Edirne the fertility rate is 1.47, in the southeastern province of Şırnak this figure is 4.23. In another eastern province, Tunceli, it is as low as western provinces at 1.63.
As of 2050, our total population growth will become negative and our economy will be adversely affected by this.
There is a population problem in Turkey’s future. The state should develop alternative policies based on science and different opinions because there is no single absolute truth in this area; as a matter of fact, there are facts that contradict each other.
Women’s participation in work life should further be encouraged. In this case, fertility will be decreasing. I approve of the encouragements for more births for working women.
On the other hand, the state should offer complete birth control services to those mothers who have more children than they can look after due to traditions and social pressure.
This is not a religious subject; it is also one that cannot be generalized. Different policies should be developed according to different needs.