What Does Islam Say About Gender Selection?

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Gender selection, also known as sex selection, is a way of ensuring that a couple will have a baby boy or girl according to their choosing. This is most commonly practiced among couples who already have children of one sex or the other, and who desire to “balance” the family. Critics of the practice argue that it can lead to favoritism of one sex over another and more widespread population imbalance.

How Is It Done?

Low-tech methods of sex selection have been around for a long time, involving old wives’ tales such as using certain positions for intercourse, following special diets or timing the menstrual cycle. In more modern times, special medical clinics have been set up to use methods such as:

  • Sperm sorting: Sperm are sorted into male and female samples via flow cytometry. The sperm of the desired sex are then introduced to the womb via intrauterine insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). This procedure can be done with 70-90% accuracy.
  • PDG (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis): This test is used to detect genetic diseases but can also detect an embryo’s sex. Used in conjunction with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), its users claim a 99.9% success rate and pay approximately $20,000USD for the procedures.
  • Selective Abortion: In cases where a woman is already pregnant, blood and DNA tests can accurately detect the sex of the child, and selective abortion can then be used to discard unwanted pregnancies. For the highest level of accuracy, blood and DNA samples must be taken after the seventh week of pregnancy.

Isn't Gender Selection Unethical or Even Illegal?

In some countries, sex selection technologies are not approved for widespread use. All sex selection technologies are banned in India and China. Certain uses of the technology are restricted in other countries. For example, in the UK, Canada, and Australia, the PGD method is only allowed for genetic screening for medical reasons. Laws in the rest of the world are largely more relaxed. In the US, gender selection clinics are at the heart of a $100 million per year 'industry' that the FDA finds largely to be experimental. Beyond the legal ramifications, many people argue that sex selection is immoral and unethical. Among the main worries expressed is that women and young couples may fall victim to family and community pressure to have children of a certain gender. Critics also complain that vital resources are taken up at fertility clinics that could be used to treat those who are unable to have children at all. The manipulation of embryos and abortion open up another area of ethical concern.

The Quran

Muslims believe that every child that comes into the world is created by Allah. Allah is the One who creates according to His will, and it is not our place to question or complain. Our destinies are already written, and every life that comes to be was destined to be by Allah. There’s only so much we can try to control. On this topic, the Quran says:

To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows (children) male or female according to His Will (and Plan), Or He bestows both males and females, and He leaves childless whom He will: for He is full of Knowledge and Power. (42:49-50)

The Quran discourages Muslims from favoring one sex over another when having children.

For, whenever any of them is given the glad tiding of [the birth of] a girl, his face darkens, and he is filled with suppressed anger. With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it in contempt, or bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on! (16:58-59)

May we all recognize Allah's blessing in our families and ourselves, and never express displeasure or disappointment for what Allah has ordained for us.