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Keywords:

  • Family planning;
  • Social traditions;
  • Islam

Abstract

This article explores the doctrine of Islam and the different theological interpretations of the position of Islam about family planning in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran and Jordan, following the Sunni and Shia traditions. Principles that led to fatwas (rulings) in both these theological traditions, together with the main arguments of the debate between the proponents and opponents of family planning in Islam and the Higher Judge's interpretation (Islamic Courts in Jordan) of the position of Islam on family planning, are included. Men's and women's views are summarized, based on the findings of natural group discussions and in-depth interviews conducted in 1998 with couples and individuals within their social networks in the different contexts in Jordan. Based on a gap analysis between doctrine, policy and people's beliefs, this study shows a need for family planning programmes to address men and women in a culturally sensitive manner: Men shape reproductive decisions. It is therefore argued that if men were more pro-actively involved in family-planning awareness campaigns, there might be a transformation of values and perceptions around fertility and family planning. Another conclusion drawn from the findings is that local resources, especially religious men, can be instrumental in promoting political trust in—and a sense of ownership of—family planning programmes in Jordan. Using local resources in advocacy for family planning, based on the cultural context of Shari’ah, seems effective in changing the reproductive behaviour of men.