Breastfeeding of Infants and Adults: What is Allowed, What is Prohibited and the Effect of Suckling in Establishing Relationships and Prohibiting Marriage.

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All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.

His Brother’s Wife Suckled Her, So He Is Her Uncle Through Breastfeeding (Ar-Radā’ah).

‘Ā’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) stated: Aflah asked permission to visit me but I did not permit him. He said, “Do you veil yourself before me although I am your uncle?” Ā’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) said, “How is that?” Aflah replied, “You were suckled by my brother’s wife with my brother’s milk.” I asked Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) about it, and he said, “Aflah is right, so permit him to visit you.” (Bukhari 2644)

In a narration, Ā’ishah said: “But it was the woman who suckled me, not the man.” The Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) replied: “He is your uncle, admit him.” (Muslim 1445)

‘Ikrimah (rahimahullāh) stated that Ā’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) would say: “What is unlawful through blood relationship is also unlawful through suckling relationship..” (Muslim 1445)

Whoever Is Unlawful To Marry Due To Blood Relationships Is Also Forbidden To Marry Due To Breastfeeding

Ibn ‘Abbās (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) narrated that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) was offered the daughter of Hamzah ibn Abdul-Muttalib (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) to marry. So he said: “She is not lawful for me to marry because she is the daughter of my foster brother through suckling―and what is unlawful due to blood relationships is also unlawful due to breastfeeding.” (Bukhāri 26545, Muslim 1447)

Though Hamzah was the paternal uncle of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam), so his daughter would be allowed for the Prophet to marry under normal circumstances, but Hamzah was also his foster brother because they were breastfed by the same woman. They were both breastfed by Thuwaybah, the slave of Abu Lahab (the paternal uncle of the Prophet). So, the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) and Hamzah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) became foster brothers through breastfeeding. Therefore, that makes the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) the uncle of the daughter of Hamzah due to breastfeeding. This hadeeth is proof that foster relationships spread throughout the branches of the family because the daughter of Hamzah is a family branch of Hamzah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu), and the Messenger was his foster brother (through suckling) which then made the Prophet her foster uncle. (See Tas-heelul-Ilmām of Al-Fawzān, p. 91-92)

It is not permitted for the one who was breastfed to marry his foster mother or her mahrams (ever)―nor is it allowed for him/her to marry the mahrams of the husband of the foster mother because the milk the foster mother produces is due to her husband making her pregnant. So nikāh (marriage) is prohibited and they are allowed to be alone with each other (as long as they are trustworthy): the breastfed child with his foster mother, her mahrams and the mahrams of her husband. A man is allowed to mix and be in seclusion with his foster sisters from suckling, his paternal aunts through suckling, his maternal aunts through suckling, his grandmothers through suckling and so on. They are like his real blood relatives―he is allowed to look at them, be alone with them, his foster mother does not require a hijāb in front of him, nor her daughters, the male foster relatives are mahrams for journeys and so on. It should be noted that foster relatives through suckling do not have any rights to inheritance.

As for the actual blood relatives of the breastfed child, then they have no connection whatsoever to the foster family of the child. The familial rulings of suckling do not extend to them―what applies to the breastfed child does not apply to his real brothers and sisters, and nor to his real mother. The only exception is the children of the breastfed child―the rulings of foster relationships do extend to them―but not to his parents or uncles or grandparents, etc. (See Tas-heelul-Ilmām of Al-Fawzān, p. 85)

These interactions are all built on the premise that they are trustworthy practising Muslims who recognise these laws, and abide by the limits set by Allah and will not fall into immoral conduct as is the case in certain ignorant communities.

One Or Two Sucks Have No Effect.

Umm Al-Fadl reported that a bedouin came to Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) when he was in my house and said: “O Messenger of Allāh! I have a wife, and then I married another besides her. So my first wife claimed that she had suckled once or twice my new wife.” Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “One or two sucklings do not make the marriage unlawful.” (Muslim 1451, An-Nasā’ī 3308)

Breastfeeding An Adult

‘Ā’isha (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) reported that Sālim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah, lived with Abu Hudhayfah and his family in their house. So Sahlah bint Suhail (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) said to the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam):

“Sālim has reached puberty as men do―and he understands what men understand, and he enters our house freely. However, I sense that something rankles in the heart of Abu Hudhayfah.” So, the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said to her: “Suckle him and you will become unlawful for him, and the discomfort which Abu Hudhayfah feels in his heart will disappear.” She returned and said: “So I gave him some of my breast milk [expressed into a vessel], and whatever discomfort was in the heart of Abu Hudhayfah departed.” (Muslim 1453)

Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullāh) explained that a group of scholars from the Salaf accepted this Fatwa, such as ‘Ā’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā). However, most of the scholars did not take this understanding―instead, they gave precedence to the ahādeeth stating the time period of suckling (that makes marriage unlawful) must be done before they are weaned (before they start eating solids), and while they are still young within two years of birth. This is due to a number of reasons:

  1. The numerous narrations that mention the time constraint (of two years) for suckling as compared to the one narration of Sālim (as an adult).
  2. All of the wives of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) except for ‘Ā’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhunna) held that view.
  3. It is the safer position.
  4. The breastfeeding of the adult does not put flesh onto the person nor does it make his bones grow―the adult does not attain growth of limbs which is the reason that would make any future marriage impermissible.
  5. It can be understand that this hadeeth is specific for Sālim only―for this reason it is not mentioned except in relation to Sālim (radiyallāhu ‘anhu).
  6. Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) entered upon ‘Ā’ishah and she was with a man seated―so that was hard upon him and he was angered. So she said: “He is my brother through breastfeeding.” So he said: “O ‘Ā’ishah! Be sure about your foster brothers, as fostership is only valid if it takes place in the period while the suckling is satisfying the hunger.” (Bukhāri 2647, Muslim 1455) i.e. when the milk is the child’s only food.

Ibn Al-Qayyim further clarified that the story of Sālim has another consideration and that is that there was a need for him to be breastfed because Abu Hudhaifah had adopted Sālim and raised him so he had no option but to enter upon the family of Abu Hudhaifah. So if a need similar to this arises then it is allowed according to the scholars who permit ijtihād in the matter. And perhaps this is the stronger view in this affair―and this was the view of Shaikhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah. And Allāh knows best. (See I’lām al-Muwaqi’īn of ‘Allāmah Ibn Al-Qayyim)

Shaikh Al-Fawzān stated (slightly abridged): “[The First view of the scholars is that] this matter of breastfeeding an adult was specific for Sālim and no analogy can be made for other than him. This was a specific event for this questioner that is not general―and it cannot be applied to other situations. So, therefore suckling is in the first two years for a child who takes milk as nourishment. And this is used as a proof and it is general. As for the question of Sahlah bint Suhail (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) regarding Sālim, then this hadeeth is specific to her only―and that is the saying of the majority of the scholars―i.e. breastfeeding adults does not make them impermissible to marry; because the proofs show that breastfeeding that establishes familial relations and makes marriage harām is the breastmilk that provides the nourishment of growth and is given within two years of birth.

The second view: A group of scholars hold that this hadeeth is general and specific just for Sahlah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā). So just as it was allowed for Sahlah to [express her milk and] give it to an adult and he became mahram for her, then likewise it would apply to others besides her. From those who held this view was ‘Ā’ishah the mother of the believers and others from the virtuous Sahābah (radiyallāhu ‘anhum)―and that is based on this hadeeth of Sahlah, and these scholars held that the allowance was for Sahlah and for others also.

The third view: The preferred view of Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah was that it is allowed if there is a necessity that requires one to take this allowance. However, if there is no such necessity, then it is not allowed. So, this hadeeth is only acted upon in times of necessity. If a woman finds herself in the same situation as Sahlah, then in that time of necessity, there is no harm in her [expressing her milk and] giving it to an adult.

However, the most correct view is the first due to the number of narrations that limit the breastfeeding to a child whose nourishment is based on the breastmilk and that it must be in the first two years.” (See Tas-heelul-Ilmām 5/87-88)

Background: Sahlah bint Suhayl Ibn ‘Amr (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) was the wife of Abu Hudhayfah Ibn ‘Utbah Ibn Rabee’ah―both were from the Muhājiroon. They had a youth in their home named Sālim, who was a freed slave. Abu Hudhayfah had previously married an Ansāri woman―she had freed Sālim. Thereafter, Abu Hudhyafah had adopted him as if he was his own son before that was abrogated (and it became disallowed to ascribe the son of someone else to oneself). So, Abu Hudhayfah adopted him and married him to his brother’s daughter; and due to that, Sālim became a part of them and attached to them completely. So he was a mawlā of Abu Hudhayfah through patronage and not through him freeing him, because he was freed by the Ansāri wife of Abu Hudhayfah. Thereafter, he was connected to the household of Abu Hudhayfah. So, it is easy to understand why Sahlah bint Suhayl asked about him entering the home since he was used to entering as a child. Sālim grew up and was from the excellent Companions, a well-known reciter among them and was martyred at the battle of Yamāmah as a standard-bearer (radiyallāhu ‘anhu).

The Number Of Sucks (Rada’āt) That Makes A Person A Mahram And Forbids Marriage

Ā’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) said: “In that which was sent down in the Quran, it was: ‘Ten distinct sucks that would make marriage unlawful.’ Then that was abrogated to: ‘Five distinct sucks.’ Then Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) died, and it was this that used to be recited in the Quran.” (Muslim, no. 1452)

The limit of sucks after which a baby would become mahram was ten distinct sucks, then that was abrogated and it became five sucks. The number of suckles was revealed in the Quran, initially as ten sucks―then this was abrogated both in ruling and wording. Then the ruling revealed in the Quran was five sucks―then the wording was abrogated (no longer found in the Quran), but the ruling of five sucks remained, as proven by this hadeeth of ‘Ā’ishah. (See Tas-heelul-Ilmām 5/89-91)

The Origin Is That Suckling That Makes Marriage Unlawful Is That Which Nourishes The Child And Is Done Within Two Years Of Birth

Umm Salamah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Suckling that makes marriage unlawful is that breastmilk that reaches the intestines and is taken before weaning.” (Tirmidhi no. 1152, Ibn Hibbān no. 4224 and declared saheeh by Al-Albāni)

Weaning is the act or process of causing a baby or young animal to stop feeding on its mother’s milk and to start eating other food.

Ibn ‘Abbās (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) said: “Suckling is not except in the first two years of life.” (Dāruqutni 4/174, Ibn ‘Adiyy in Al-Kāmil as a saying of the Prophet and of Ibn ‘Abbās 7/104 no. 2019, but he concluded it was the saying of Ibn ‘Abbās).

Ibn Mas’ood (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) said that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “No suckling [forbids marriage] except that which gives life to the bones and causes the flesh to grow.” (Abu Dāwood no. 2060, Musnad Ahmad no. 4114)

Prohibition Of Marrying Someone Who Is Related Through Suckling

‘Uqbah ibn Al-Hārith narrated that he married Umm Yahyā daughter of Abu Ihāb. Then a woman came to them and said: “I breastfed the two of you.” So he went and asked the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam). He said: “How can you hesitate when this is being said?” So ‘Uqbah separated from her and she married another man. (Bukhāri, no. 88)

There are two issues that are to be given consideration in this hadeeth:

One: What establishes the fact that breastfeeding took place? Answer: It is established with proof by witness testimony. What is the minimum requirement of an accepted testimony? Answer: One woman. This hadeeth proves that the witness of one [trustworthy] woman is sufficient.
Two: If it is established that the married couple are related through breastfeeding, they are to be separated and are excused for their mistake due to their ignorance of the fact. Any children conceived are ascribed to them and they are pardoned for the marriage contract they made out of ignorance. And it is not allowed for them to remain together after the affair is made clear. (See Tas-heelul-Ilmām 5/93)

Choosing The Right Woman To Breastfeed If The Need Arises: A Woman With Good Manners And Character Who Is Not Foolish Or Sick

Shaikh Al-Fawzān stated: “It is a must that a child is breastfed by a good woman [if the need arises for other than the mother to suckle], a woman with good character, good manners and good health―that is not afflicted with leprosy or sickness of the stomach. She should have good character and not stupid, foolish and deficient in intellect such that she has no common sense because it may affect the child and he may inherit the foolishness. Breastmilk has an effect and due to it, meat and flesh form and the bones develop.

Likewise, parents should avoid the sinful and unbelieving woman from breastfeeding their child because this has an effect on the child. One should choose a woman of good religion, good character and body―this is from the cultivation of the child and having concern for it.” (See Tas-heelul-Ilmām 5/94)

Cow’s Milk And Powdered Milk Instead Of Breast Milk Is Harmful To Children

Shaikh Al-Fawzān stated: “In these times we see that [many] mothers no longer breastfeed their babies―instead they feed them milk from cattle: cow’s milk, sheep’s milk or buffalo milk. There is no doubt that this is harmful to children. Physicians state that the mother’s milk should not be exchanged or replaced with other types of milk.” Likewise, parents should avoid the sinful and unbelieving woman from breastfeeding their child because this has an effect on the child. One should choose a woman of good religion, good character and body―this is from the cultivation of the child and having concern for it.” (See Tas-heelul-Ilmām 5/94)

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.

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  1. JazakAllahu khairan Katheera Ustadh. SubhanAllah. You have clarified so much in this, Barak Allahu feeka
    May Allah increase you and accept

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