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Why do not Egyptians believe fatwas birth control?

Throughout the history of government plans to confront the overpopulation, which is usually accompanied by support from official religious institutions through fatwas sanctioning birth control, the Egyptian citizen has remained in a state of skepticism about the authority’s goal of reducing the population, but his greater skepticism remained about the religious fatwas on birth control.

During the past few days, official religious institutions began campaigns similar to the propaganda campaign aimed at convincing Egyptians of the legitimacy of birth control, following the statements of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, which he launched last week regarding the seriousness of the population increase.

Social networking sites were among the means used by religious institutions to deliver the birth control message, but unlike the target, it was noticeable that a sizeable group of social media pioneers invoked this historical skepticism, through many comments about the content of the official religious message.

Religious campaign

Not a few hours passed since Sisi’s statements about the seriousness of the overpopulation and the need for the average fertility rate to become less than one child per woman, until the statements and statements issued by official religious institutions and prominent religious scholars regarding the issue of birth control were launched.

The Dar Al Iftaa, on its Twitter account, launched the tag “Birth Control is Permissible” to clarify the religious point of view on the issue, confirming that the state may take whatever measures it deems to regulate birth control and encourage citizens to do so.

In turn, the Ministry of Endowments used the sermon last Friday, whose sermons are issued as usual, the Minister of Endowments Mukhtar Jumaa, to serve the cause, and during the sermon Jumah went away and considered that birth control is a matter that went beyond the limits of leave to obligatory in light of the difficult living conditions.

The Endowments announced, through a statement issued last week, the launch of an awareness campaign on birth control through several joint seminars with the National Media Authority and the National Press Authority, and a number of intensive training courses throughout the current year.

In addition, a number of prominent religious scholars came out, through televised statements, to support the state in its approach to birth control, including the secretary of the fatwa at the Fatwa House, Dr. Khaled Omran, who emphasized that birth control is not a heresy and does not contradict the law of God, but rather considered it as Islam.

Imran added, through a program broadcast on the Sada Al-Balad channel, that the Prophet Muhammad – may God bless him and grant him peace – was not directed to the large number of people unconsciously so that Muslims would not be like the scourge of a torrent, explaining that the Companions were isolated for many reasons, including care for the health of the mother and the quality of the offspring.

History of fatwas

A follower of developments in Egypt easily realizes that popular skepticism about religious fatwas authorizing birth control has been emerging since the 1960s, with the authority in Egypt turning to the population increase as a threat not wealth, and its initiation of measures to counter the high fertility rates.

It was difficult for the citizen to be convinced of birth control in light of the legacy of the old fatwas that encourage reproduction, as well as fatwas that were not very old at the time, such as Fatwa No. 1084 issued in 1958.

In that fatwa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt at the time and the sheikh of Al-Azhar after that, Sheikh Hassan Maamoun, said that one of the most important purposes of Islamic law is to find offspring and for the survival and preservation of the human species, stressing the illegality of preventing or limiting births.

And Mamoun went on in his fatwa, “And there are no excuses for fear of poverty, the large number of children, or the increase in the population, because God Almighty has ensured the livelihood of every living being.”

What increases doubts about official fatwas is the contradiction between the terms limitation and regulation, as fatwas have been issued authorizing regulation and forbidding the specificity that Sisi currently advocates.

The word “limitation” refers to prohibiting or placing a barrier between two things. As for the word organizing, it refers to arranging something, as the former Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, explained in 2009, when he stressed that religion prohibits birth control.

In his fatwa, Tantawi said that there is a difference between family planning and limitation because the first means that the spouses, by choice and conviction, take the means to ensure that the periods of pregnancy are separated or stopped for a certain period of time to reduce the number of family members, in a way that makes parents able to fully care for their children.

The interesting thing is that Tantawi was for many Egyptians at that time a sheikh affiliated with or loyal to the authority, but at that time all the talk was about birth control rather than determining it, and no one dared to demand more than organizing.

Egyptians do not believe

The Egyptians did not believe the fatwas that allow birth control, regardless of the name, but at the same time they applied it due to the success of the government campaigns that targeted this, especially during the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, according to the member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and a member of the Al-Azhar Scholars Front, Sheikh Muhammad Auf.

He added to Al-Jazeera Net that the government has succeeded, over decades, through propaganda campaigns, in establishing the idea of ​​birth control to face the difficult living conditions, and added, “But Egyptians still do not believe that religion orders them to do so.”

A member of the Al-Azhar Scholars Front explained that there is a legacy of religious fatwas in which the citizen trusts and a community culture that prohibits and rejects birth control, and accordingly Egyptians have practically applied birth control behind the veil of the term family planning, but theoretically they do not believe it and do not believe that it is compatible with the true religion.

Nevertheless, the state seeks more birth control within the same family, and aspires to theoretically establish the idea within the minds of citizens, according to Auf.

As for the director of the Egyptian Center for Media and Public Opinion Studies, Mustafa Khoudary, he said that Egyptians do not believe all of the fatwas issued by the Egyptian Dar Al Ifta, not only those related to birth control.

He explained – in his speech to Al-Jazeera Net – that since the army officers’ coup against the king in 1952, official fatwas have become politically employed in favor of the ruling regime.

Khoudary indicated that the Egyptian Center for Media and Public Opinion Studies prepared in early 2020 a study on the extent of Egyptian confidence in the fatwas issued by Dar Al Iftaa, and 46% of the targeted sample expressed their lack of confidence in the fatwas issued by Dar Al Iftaa in general, while it increased Lack of confidence reaches 51% when it comes to fatwas with a political aspect.

Khoudary pointed out the absolute support shown by the current Mufti, Dr. Shawky Allam, for all the policies and orientations of the ruling regime, which negatively affected the confidence of the Egyptian community in the credibility of the official religious establishment.

Resisting Westernization

In addition to the lack of confidence in the religious scholars loyal to the regime, the researcher in the field of public opinion saw that the concepts of birth control have been linked since their inception with secularism and Westernization, and it has always been imposed on Egyptian society as one of the programs of donor or lending institutions such as the World Bank.

He continued, “Therefore, it meets with fundamentalist resistance not only from Egyptian Muslims, as the three monotheistic religions urge reproduction. Therefore, any official religious opinions calling for birth control will be met with a negative reaction, and may even have a backlash that contradicts the regime’s plans.”

On the other hand, the advisor to the President of the Republic for Religious Affairs, Dr. Osama Al-Azhari, commented on the comments rejecting birth control on social media sites in parallel with the campaign of religious institutions, stressing that the comments of citizens rejecting birth control indicate a lack of understanding and reveals what he called the crisis of intellectual anarchism that exists now.

Al-Azhari – who is in his forty years with a star in the era of Sisi – added that “a person in them imagines that he supports the noble hadith and does otherwise,” explaining that what Dar al-Iftaa provides is a summary of a deep and honest academic research by competent experts who are faithful to the religion, he said.

It remains that what most shows the degree of confidence of the Egyptians in the official fatwas is what happened last August and on the official page of the Egyptian Dar Al Iftaa on Facebook, where the page published a survey of the opinion of Egyptians about the place they turn to in search of the fatwa, and their choice between the Dar Al Ifta website and the engine Search Google, and the result was that a large majority chose Google!

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