Breastfeeding of an adult.

Q. Riyadh: Saudi women plan to turn a controversial fatwa (religious ruling) to their advantage and launch a campaign to achieve their long-standing demand to drive in this conservative kingdom. If the demand is not met, the women threatened to follow through the fatwa which allows them to breastfeed their drivers and turn them into their sons. The campaign will be launched under the slogan: “We either be allowed to drive or breastfeed foreigners,” a journalist told Gulf News. Amal Zahid said that their decision follows a fatwa issued by a renowned scholar which said that Saudi women can breastfeed their foreign drivers for them to become their sons. “As every Saudi family needs a driver, our campaign will focus on women’s right to drive,” she said. The controversial fatwa, which was regarded as both funny and weird, issued recently by Shaikh Abdul Mohsin Bin Nasser Al Obaikan, member of Saudi Council of Senior Scholars and adviser to the king, has sparked a debate in society. The renowned scholar said Saudi women can breastfeed their foreign drivers for them to be become their sons and brothers to their daughters. Under this relationship, foreign drivers can mix freely with all members of the family without breaking the Islamic rule which does not allow mixing of genders. Breast milk kinship is considered to be as good as a blood relationship in Islam. “A woman can breastfeed a mature man so that he becomes her son. In this way, he can mix with her and her daughters without violating the teachings of Islam,” the scholar said. ‘Ridiculous and weird ‘Al Obaikan based his fatwa on a Hadith (saying) of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) which was narrated by Salim, the servant of Abu Huzaifa. Later, Al Obaikan clarified that his fatwa was being distorted by the local media which ignored the condition that the milk should be drawn out of the woman and given to the man in a cup to drink. Speaking to Gulf News, a number of Saudi women condemned the fatwa. Fatima Al Shammary was quoted by the local Arabic daily Al Watan as saying the fatwa was “ridiculous and weird”. “This fatwa has become a hot topic of debate among women. Is this is all that is left to us to do: to give our breasts to the foreign drivers?” she said. Another Saudi woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, questioned: “Does Islam allow me to breastfeed a foreign man and prevent me from driving my own car? “I have not breastfed my own children. How do you expect me to do this with a foreign man? What is this nonsense?” she said. Another woman said the fatwa should also apply to the husbands who should be breastfed by housemaids. By doing so, all will be brothers and sisters,” she said. Hamid Al Ali, a journalist for an electronic newspaper, recalled that an Egyptian driver who had a crush on a female teacher he drives to school asked her to breastfeed him. When she retorted angrily, he said: “I want to be your son. “Saudi writer Suzan Al Mashhadi sarcastically asked Al Obaikan: “Do the women have to breastfeed the driver in the presence of their husbands or can they do this alone?” “Who will protect the wife if the husband entered the house unexpectedly and found his wife breastfeeding the driver?” she asked. I understand that the fatwa has been clarified, but still I am quite confused and not convinced and I believe people are misleading due to this. What is your opinion, Should women be allowed to get a driving license. Could you please clarify me?

A. This ruling is indeed ridiculous and misleading. Breastfeeding which makes one a foster child must be done at a time when a baby is nursing and the mother’s milk is considered to be the food for the baby. Seeing that nursing a child has been allowed until 2 years or 21⁄2 years as given in the Holy Quran, it means that breastfeeding which makes a person a foster son or daughter, would only occur when nursing (by the woman) took place during the course of the first two or two and a half years of the life of the child.

In this regard there is the firm and established ruling/verdict of the great majority of Sahabahs, Tabieen and Fuqaha. They have all stated that ‘Fosterage does not bring about the prohibition except that it is done when a child/baby is young’. This means that only when a woman breastfeeds a young child, then the kinship is established as blood relationship, and marriage with this person becomes totally haram.

In this respect, the Jumhoor (majority of scholars) have cited the following verse of the Holy Quran, ‘The mothers shall give suck to their children for two whole years, (that is) for those who desire to complete the term of suckling’. (2:133) Another verse of the Holy Quran states, ‘And we have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years – give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination’. (Surah Luqman verse 14). On account of certain verses of the Quran and traditions, Imam Abu Hanifa has stated that if a woman nurses a child within 2 ½ years, then fosterage will be evident. However, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad and all the other scholars have ruled that, ‘Fosterage/nursing/suckling brings about the prohibition similar to kinship/blood relationship when it is done only within the first two years of the childhood. Regarding this, it is narrated from Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) that the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘There is no Ridha (fosterage) except that which is within two years’. (Recorded by Dar Qutni in his  Sunan and Baihaqi in Sunan Al Kubra). In another tradition narrated by Ali (RA) and Jabir (RA), the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘There is no fosterage after a child has been weaned’. ( Tabarani Mujam As Sagheer; Abdur Razzaq in his Musanaf; Abu Dawood Tayalsi in his Musnad; Baihaqi in Sunan Al Kubra- Nasbur Rayah –Vol. 3 pg. 286-287).

The above hadith means that after a child has been weaned upon the termination of two years (as given in the Holy Quran 2:133 and 31:14), the law of fosterage (which is evident by consuming the milk of a woman), would not take effect. It therefore means that if a child above the age of two years (or 2 ½ years in the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa RA), or an adult drinks the breast milk of a woman, then no sort of milk kinship will be evident between these two individuals (that is, the male who drank the milk and the woman whose milk has been taken). As such, marriage will be permissible between these two people since they are not Mahram to each other. It is about this law, the Fuqaha (expert jurists) have made clear expressions in their works in Islamic Jurisprudence. For example, in Al Hidaya it is stated, ‘When the duration of fosterage/nursing/suckling of a child has passed (which is two or two and a half years) then no prohibition will be connected to the nursing’ (Al Hidaya – Book on Fosterage). This means that  if a child, after passing the age of two years, nurses (drinks the breastmilk of a woman), then no milk relationship will be established from this. In this case, both will remain strangers to each other and marriage between them will take place.

Ibn Rushd has also mentioned that the great Sahabahs like Abdullah bin Masood, Abdullah bin Umar, Abu Huraira, Abdullah bin Abbas, all the wives of the Prophet (SAS) (besides Aisha (RA)) the other great Sahabahs, Imam Malik, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi and all the Fuqaha (expert jurists) have stated that ‘the fostering (nursing/consuming the breast milk of a woman) by an adult does not bring about a milk relationship’. In other words, ‘The fostering of an adult does not make anything Haram unlawful’. That is, it does not bring about a prohibition (to marry) between the adult male who has consumed the woman’s milk and the woman whose milk has been consumed. (Bidayatul Mujtahid vol. 2 pg.36). The same has been mentioned by Ibn Qudama as the established verdict of Imam Ahmad. Regarding this, Ibn Qudama has stated, ‘Certainly, from the condition of the prohibition of fosterage/breast feeding, is that it must occur within two years (that is, the first two years), and this is the statement of the majority of the people of knowledge’. Ibn Qudama then went on to explain this verdict from Quranic verses and sound traditions. (Al Mughni vol. 7 pg. 542-543).

The above has been the officially established verdict of the scholars of the past and it is also the well established verdict of the present day scholars. Along with the great, sound, reliable and authentic scholars of our era, it is also the official fatawa (religious verdict) of Shaikh Muhammad bin Salih Al Uthaimin of Saudia Arabia. His verdict are as follows: – ‘The breast feeding of an adult has no effect, because the breast feeding which has an effect is that which takes place five times or more during the first two years and before weaning. As for breast feeding an adult, it has no effect’. (Ibn Uthaimin  Fatawa Islamiyah ( English ) vol. 6 pg.143).

At another place, when asked about a four year old female child who was breast fed by a woman, Shaikh Ibn Uthaimin said, ‘This breast- feeding has no effect. The majority of scholars hold the view that once a child has reached two years of age, there is no effect from his being breast-fed after that’. (Fatawa Islamiyyah ( English) vol. 6 pg. 145).

Based on these explainations, it can be seen that it is a very wrong statement to conclude that ‘Saudi women can breastfeed their foreign drivers for them to become their sons’. This is in total contradiction to the fatawa of the Sahabahs, Tabieen, At ba’ut Tabieen and all the generations of scholars until our times.

The opinion which has been mentioned by Shaikh Al Obaikan is the view of Dawood of the literalists group, and has been totally rejected by the overwhelming majority of scholars from the earliest generations until today.

With respect to getting a driving license, then there is no harm for a Muslim woman to obtain a driver’s license and to drive a vehicle when there is a need/necessity to do so. It must however be understood, that the allowance is based on need and necessity and a woman must continue in this case to abide by the laws of ‘Hijaab and Modesty’ in Islam.

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan