During the time of the Holy Prophet sas, some companions practiced a form of contraception. When they asked the Holy Prophet sas about it, he said:
It is better for you not to do so, for if any soul is predestined to exist, it will exist.(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 64, Hadith 182)
The Holy Prophet sas discouraged it but did not forbid. Hadrat Jabir ra narrated: If sexual intercourse were only permitted for procreation, then there would be no concept of contraception in Islam. The fact that contraception is not forbidden also demonstrates that in Islam, there is nothing objectionable in having sex for pleasure. Hadrat ibn ‘Abbas ra said:
We used to practice coitus interruptus during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger sas while the Quran was being Revealed… We used to practice coitus interruptus during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger sas. This (the news of this practice) reached Allah’s Apostle sas, and he did not forbid us(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 67, Hadith 142; Sahih Muslim, Book 16, Hadith 164)
Your wives are a tilth for you; so approach your tilth when and how you like.(Surah al-Baqarah, 2:224).
That is, your wives are like a field in which the seeds of your progeny are sown, so you may approach your field in any way you like. However, keep in mind that they are like a tilth, do not approach them in a manner which may be a hindrance to them in giving birth to children. In the early days of Islam, some men used withdrawal to avoid seminal discharge at the time of sexual intimacy. In this verse, God prohibited them to do so, and called women “fields,” that is, a field in which all sorts of crops grow. Thus, in this verse, it is expressed that as a woman is like a field that gives birth to children like grain, therefore, it is not proper that such a field be hindered from giving birth to children. However, if a woman is sick and it is certain that her becoming pregnant carries a risk of her death, or there is a good intention for some other hindrance, then such cases are exceptions. Otherwise, according to divine law, it is not proper at all to avoid giving birth to children (Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 23, p. 292).
It is clear from ahadith and the Promised Messiah that use of contraception without any reason is discouraged. Our Western culture teaches that the default mode is to not have children, and that having children is the exception. Islam teaches that the primary teaching is to have children, and that not having children is the exception. How to use that exception is up to the couple, as the Holy Prophet sas did not outright forbid contraception and the Promised Messiah left the open- ended exception that one can use contraception with good intention.
What those exceptions are is left for the couple to decide. From the Holy Quran, the use of contraception is encouraged in certain situations. Sufficient time should be given between the birth of children for the mother to recover and for the newborn to fully benefit from nursing. The interpretation of Hadrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad ra was that 2–5 years gap should be given between children. Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih III rta said in commentary of 31:15, 2:234, 2:224:
In the family planning of the Holy Quran, for the health of the child and mother, we have been taught that children should be at least 30 months apart. If one wishes to or needs to be more careful, for example, if the mother’s health is not well, then the time becomes three years or three and a quarter years.(Khutbat- e-Nasir, vol. 10, p. 290).
A couple could also decide not to have children after the wife turns thirty-five because of the increased risk of complications in childbirth after that age. The decision on what is a justifiable exception is left to the couple, and there is no Fatwa aside from the fact that it is forbidden to use contraception for fear of poverty. Allah Almighty has said in the Holy Quran:
Kill not your children for fear of poverty.(Surah al-An‘am, 6:152)
Based on this verse, use of contraception out of fear of not being able to support children is forbidden. Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih IV rta said:
The Sahaba ra [Companions of the Holy Prophet sas] would sometimes practice family planning, but not for fear of too many children because they knew that provisions are only in the hands of Allah. If family planning is not done out of fear of poverty, then it is not a sin. The means of contraception that are available should no doubt be used, but family planning out of fear of provisions is forbidden.(Friday Sermon, Jan 18, 2002)
If sexual intercourse were only permitted for procreation, then there would be no concept of contraception in Islam. The fact that contraception is not forbidden also demonstrates that in Islam, there is nothing objectionable in having sex for pleasure. Hadrat ibn ‘Abbas ra said:
The fact is that this clan of the Ansar, who were idolaters, lived in the company of the Jews who were the people of the Book. They (the Ansar) accepted their superiority over themselves in respect of knowledge, and they followed most of their actions. The people of the Book used to have intercourse with their women on one side alone. This was the most concealing position for the women. This clan of the Ansar adopted this practice from them. But this tribe of the Quraish used to uncover their women completely, and seek pleasure with them from in front and behind and laying them on their backs. When the muhajirun (the immigrants) came to Medina, a man married a woman of the Ansar. He began to do the same kind of action with her, but she disliked it, and said to him: “We were approached on one side; do it so, otherwise keep away from me.” This matter of theirs spread widely, and it reached the Messenger of Allah. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Quranic verse: “Your wives are a tilth to you, so come to your tilth however you will,” i.e., from in front, from behind or lying on the back. But this verse meant the place of the delivery of the child, i.e. the vagina.(Sunan Abi Dawud, Book 11, Hadith 2,159)
If for some reason a couple does not want to have children, they do not have to abstain from sexual intercourse altogether because the purpose is not procreation alone. There is no hindrance in Islam on a couple having sex for the sake of pleasure and emotional bonding.