Dr Ilias Ali is often referred to as the ‘population control jihadi’.
Outside the operation theatre of his hospital in Guwahati, this general surgeon has a vast playing field. For years now, Dr Ali has been roaming the Muslim-dominated areas in remote parts of Assam, including the Sandbars in or along the mighty Brahmaputra, called chars in Assamese, making people, usually agriculturists or farm labourers, aware of the benefits of planning a family.
This has been no easy task for the good doctor. During the initial days, Dr Ali met with resistance from sections of Muslims. They would say Islam prohibited family planning. Dr Ali took recourse to the Quran and the Hadith. He read out relevant portions from the Holy Book to drive home the point that there was no ban on family planning in Islam. He had to deal with both the orthodox and victims of misinformation.
The seasoned surgeon overcame all odds against him, including receiving fatwas or diktats from clerics who termed his campaign un-Islamic.
Dr Ali embarked on this tough road to make less-educated Muslims aware of family planning because, in the chars and other under-developed rural areas, Muslim families were usually thought to have large families with several children.
In the 15 years of his mission, the 65-year-old doctor has traveled even by motorbikes and bullock carts to the remote char areas to hold family planning camps and educate the people regarding what the holy texts say about limiting family and why is it necessary to plan a family, or why is it necessary to maintain a gap of 30 months between two babies.
“I’ve overcome a whole lot of odds against me. Facing a fatwa from a section of clerics to boycott calls against my visits to different densely populated localities, I have faced harrowing times. But, I believed in myself. Besides, my public relations with people from all parts of the State helped me a lot. And, today I am happy that those who had once opposed me are now convinced that family planning is not against Islamic preaching,” Dr Ali told Awaz-the Voice.
“I am often referred to as one who has been promoting no-scalpel vasectomy (NSV) to control birth rates. But, it’s just the beginning. My mission goes on to spread awareness about the Damocles sword called population explosion, promote all types of family planning and the Islamic ways to keep the planet safe.
Dr Ilias Ali walks through fields to reach the remote areas
"Polygamy is yet another cause for increased population density. I have studied the Quran and Hadith in detail. The holy texts have never approved of multiple marriages like the way our rural masses do,” the NSV expert said. He has performed about 50,000 NSV procedures so far.
Elaborating on what he tries to tell those who opposed his mission, the veteran medical practitioner said: “I want to make the teachings of Prophet Mohammed clear to the masses. There is a presumption that family planning is forbidden in Islam. However, there are mentions in the Quran about the practice of Ajol (coitus interruptus) as being mooted in the days of the Prophet.”
“Similarly, the Prophet called the Earth his mosque and asked his followers to love it. In his view, one cannot be a true Muslim if he/she does not love the Earth. A multitude of the population is always detrimental for the eco-balance of the planet and the Prophet’s preaching also says that a Muslim should love and respect all creatures around him. Thus, teeming multitudes of underfed, half-clad, and uneducated souls cannot be the essence of a truly Islamic society.”
Dr Il;ias receiving Padam Sri award from President Ram Nath Kovid
Explaining the need for the 30-month gap between two babies, he said: “There is mention even in the holy texts about it because that is the lactation period of a mother for one baby. And, if the same mother gives birth to another baby, she would be depriving the earlier baby of its share of mother’s milk.”
Dr Ali is relaxed to see the changed attitudes among the people living in the remote areas that once recorded an alarmingly high birth rate among migrant Muslims.
“However, there are much more to achieve. If the deprived section of the society is delivered holistic development such as education, electricity, infrastructure, healthcare, and other modern amenities, the birth rate will decline further in those pockets,” he added.
Dr Ali’s pioneering work in Assam has not gone unnoticed. In 2019, he was awarded the Padma Shri. He has also received global recognition for his focused efforts at population control.