Muslims have been urged to embrace family planning as a way of spacing their children so as to comfortably take care of them.
According to secretary of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), Kilifi branch Sheikh Abdulrahman Ahmed Badawi, family planning is only meant to space children and not terminate an individual’s fertility.
Sheikh Ahmed said sex is only permissible within marriage and family planning cannot be ignored, but there are controversies of whether or not Islam allows contraceptives.
He said provided the methods do not interfere with the health and fertility granted by Allah, they are allowed.
“Family planning is highly considered a taboo, almost a sin. However, no text in the Holy Quran or Sura prohibits family planning,” he said.
“Muslims in ancient times used ‘Al-Azl’ also known as withdrawal as a family planning method,” he added.
Sheikh Ahmed said Muslims could use condoms and intra-uterine devices (IUDs) among other methods.
However, he said permanent methods like vasectomy and tubal ligation are not allowed.
He said it was necessary to share information on contraceptives in the context of Islam, but because of regulations in the faith, it was not always easy to involve the women.
Kenya is grappling with an unmet need for family planning at 23 per cent. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS), at least 18 per cent of married women have an unmet need for family planning.
Coincidentally, in the previous KDHS (2008-2009), the Coast, home to most of the Muslim communities, had a contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) of 30 per cent against the national CPR of 46 per cent.
CPR is the percentage of currently married women who are using a method of contraception.
The Ministry of Health and the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) have started a family planning programme that targets communities in Malindi and Kilifi County which are predominantly Muslim.
The programme, which is three years old in the country, seeks to enhance the delivery of quality adolescence sexual reproductive health (ASRH) information and services.
It involves Muslim religious leaders in an effort to increase the uptake of family planning within the community.
UNFPA health specialist and project leaders Batula Abdi said the programme has been successful but more can be done.
She said some Muslim communities believe using contraceptives is a western concept and a method to control Muslim fertility which limits family planning uptake.
This prompted UNFPA and the Health ministry to conduct research and disseminate accurate information in order to dispel these fears.
She said the same was being replicated in North Eastern Kenya which is a Muslim dominated region.
According to the 2008-2009 KDHS survey, only four per cent of married women in North Eastern Kenya used any contraceptive against the country’s prevalence rate of 46 per cent.