Firstly, what the Muslims should do is to try to have as many children as they can, because this is the command of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who said: “Marry the one who is loving and fertile, for I will be proud of your great numbers before the nations.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, 2050; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 1805).
Having more children increases the numbers of the ummah, and increasing the numbers of the ummah is a source of its glory, as Allaah says, reminding the Children of Israel of His blessings:
“and made you more numerous in man-power”
[al-Isra’ 15:6 – interpretation of the meaning]
And Shu’ayb said to his people:
“And remember when you were but few, and He multiplied you”
[al-A’raaf 7:86 – interpretation of the meaning]
No one can deny that having a large number is a source of pride and strength for the ummah, contrary to what those pessimists think who say that large numbers causes poverty and starvation in a nation.
If the ummah increases in number, puts its trust in Allaah and believes His promises as mentioned in the aayah,
“And no moving (living) creature is there on earth but its provision is due from Allaah”
[Hood 11:6 – interpretation of the meaning], then Allaah will make things easy for them and will grant them independence of means from His bounty. Based on that, the answer to your question is as follows:
Birth control pills:
A woman should not use birth control pills, unless the following conditions are met:
1-She should need to use them, for example if she is ill and cannot cope with a pregnancy every year, or she is physically unfit, or there is some other reason that getting pregnant every year may harm her.
2-Her husband should give his permission, because the husband has the right to have children. There must also be consultation with the doctor, to find out whether these pills are harmful or not.
If these two conditions are met, there is nothing wrong with taking these pills, but that should not be on a permanent basis, because that means preventing having children.
With regard to ‘azl (coitus interruptus), or withdrawing during intercourse, the correct scholarly view is that there is nothing wrong with it, because of the hadeeth of Jaabir (may Allaah be pleased with him): “We used to practise ‘azl at the time when the Qur’aan was being revealed” – i.e., at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). If that action had been haraam, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would have forbidden it. But the scholars say that one should not engage in ‘azl with a free woman except with her permission, because she has the right to have children. Moreover, withdrawing without her permission diminishes her pleasure, because the woman’s pleasure can only be completed after ejaculation. So not asking her permission causes her to lose out on pleasure and on the possibility of having children. Hence we state the condition that this may only be done with her permission.
From Fataawa al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen.
From Fataawa Islamiyyah, vol. 3, p. 190.
Thirdly: the reason why the Sahaabah engaged in ‘azl was because they did not want the woman – especially a slave woman – to get pregnant, so that they could continue to enjoy a physical relationship with them and the woman would still be able to do their work. Abu Dawood narrated that a man said, “O Messenger of Allaah, I have a slave woman and I engage in ‘azl with her, because I do not want her to get pregnant, but I want what men want. But the Jews say that ‘azl is a lesser form of infanticide.” He said, “The Jews are lying. If Allaah wants to create (a child) you cannot prevent that.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, Kitaab al-Nikaah, 1856; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 1903).