Skip to comments.Controversy in Saudi Arabia over Fatwa Permitting Breastfeeding of Adults
Posted on 08/22/2010 7:58:35 PM PDT by SJackson
Controversy in Saudi Arabia over Fatwa Permitting Breastfeeding of Adults
Sheikh 'Abd Al-Muhsin Al-'Obikan, an advisor at the Saudi Justice Ministry, recently issued a fatwa allowing the breastfeeding of adults. The fatwa is aimed at enabling an unrelated man and woman to be secluded in the same room, a situation which Islam considers forbidden gender mixing. The rationale behind the fatwa is that breastfeeding creates a bond of kinship between the man and woman, rendering the man her mahram, thus making it acceptable for them to be together in seclusion.
The fatwa created a stir in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab media at large, arousing a wave of criticism from clerics and columnists alike. Clerics claimed that breastfeeding could not create a bond of kinship between a female and an unrelated male over two years of age, and some claimed that the fatwa contradicted the shari'a. Columnists argued that such grotesque fatwas are insulting to women, and also tarnish the Muslims' image. One columnist pointed to a paradox, namely that the fear of gender-mixing is prompting clerics to encourage lewd behaviors like women breastfeeding grown men.
Despite this criticism, Al-'Obikan has stood his ground, and even reiterated his position in greater detail.
It should be noted that this issue first arose in Egypt in May 2007, following a similar fatwa issued by Dr. 'Izzat 'Atiyya, formerly head of the Hadith Department at Al-Azhar University, which permitted a woman to breastfeed a man with whom she must work in private. This fatwa led to 'Atiyya's dismissal from his post at Al-Azhar.
The following document presents the fatwa issued by Al-'Obikan and several reactions to it.
Al-'Obikan: Adult Breastfeeding Permissible in Two Specific Cases
In a May 21, 2010 interview for the Al-Arabiya website, Al-'Obikan said it is permissible for a woman to breastfeed a man who is not a family member: "If a family [employs] an outsider who visits the home frequently, and [this man] has no relatives besides this family and his presence burdens the members of the household, especially when women are present it is permissible for a woman to breastfeed him." Al-'Obikan based his argument on a hadith attributed to Muhammad's wife, 'Aisha, which relates that Salem, the adopted son of Abu Hudheifa, was breastfed by Abu-Hudheifa's wife when he was already a grown man with a beard, by the Prophet's decree. Al-'Obikan stressed that the principle represented by this hadith is not limited to a specific time or place, but is universally applicable. He added, however, that a man should not be breastfed directly from a woman's breast, but should be given milk which has been breast pumped.
In a communiqué he posted to his website, Al-'Obikan claimed that the breastfeeding of an unrelated male is also permissible in cases where a family decides to adopt an orphan child, who is likely to find himself in seclusion with the women of the household. According to the communiqué, one of the women in the family must pump milk for the orphan enough for five mouthfuls and this renders him the woman's son, thereby solving the problem of seclusion.
Al-'Obikan's statements met with severe censure in the Saudi press. A number of articles in the daily Al-Riyadh presented readers' comments on the issue. Some of the readers argued that only moral education could address the issue of male and female seclusion. Others called for the establishment of a body that would prevent the issuing of strange fatwas such as these, or publish a clear response to any such fatwa issued. Al-'Obikan's statements were also disapproved of by Saudi clerics and columnists.
In response to this criticism, Al-'Obikan clarified that his fatwa is not meant to permit women to breastfeed men in their workplace hinting at the Egyptian fatwa, which did permit this because such a permission was improper and extreme. He added: "It is regrettable that there are those who are hasty to react to religious rulings, and misinterpret [them] without verifying them... Some understood my fatwa to apply to drivers, servants, and other 'outsiders,' but this is only permissible in rare cases." In an interview with the Saudi government daily 'Okaz, Al-'Obikan reiterated his previous statements in greater detail, explaining that by "outsider" he did not mean a non-Saudi, but a Saudi who was not considered the woman's mahram. In another interview, Al-'Obikan said that his ruling is based on shari'a proofs, and that he does not therefore intend to reconsider it.
Saudi Mufti: Adult Breastfeeding Goes against Shari'a
Saudi Mufti Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Bin 'Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh said that adult breastfeeding contradicts Islamic law and the norms shared by Muslims. According to Al-Sheikh, this kind of breastfeeding is permissible only when the male in question is a baby under two years of age. Otherwise, it does not render him the woman's mahram. The mufti added that adult breastfeeding has negative and undesirable results, and has been rejected by the majority of Muslims.
Similarly, Dr. Muhammad Al-Nujeimi, a civics professor and member of the Islamic law faculty at King Fahd University, called on Al-'Obikan to rescind his ruling, as "adult breastfeeding is not [a way to turn a man into the woman's mahram] and whoever permits it is wide of the truth... There are caveats in the shari'a regarding adult breastfeeding: How should the adult breastfeed? [Should he nurse directly] from the woman's breasts, or should she pump the milk into a cup for him? How can he nurse from her breasts if he has reached the age of reason and is not her mahram? Even if he drinks the milk from a cup, we are talking about a grown man... who has no need for [mother's] milk..."
In a June 25, 2010 sermon, Sheikh 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, imam of the Al-Harram Mosque in Mecca, denounced the fatwa, demanding an end to the phenomenon of people "who invade the domain of shari'a ruling" while ignoring the ramifications of their rulings on society and on the Muslim ummah. In his sermon, Al-Sudayyis referred to Al-'Obikan's fatwa specifically, and to other fatwas that had recently been issued by various Saudi clerics, cautioning against opinions that deceive the ummah and cause confusion and conflict, and form the basis for strange and aberrant fatwas.
Conversely, Sheikh Dr. Saleh Al-Sadlan, professor at the Imam Mohammad Bin Saud Islamic University, expressed his support for the fatwa, which he said applies only in specific cases. He said the fatwa should not be regarded with disdain, as it is in line with the Sunna and the opinions of numerous clerics. Al-Sadlan also said that since the fatwa seems strange to the public, it behooves the mufti or the Senior Clerics Council the Saudi Arabia's supreme religious authority to examine the fatwa and issue their endorsement of it. A particularly unusual reaction came from Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hashem, a senior cleric in the Saudi Ministry of Religious Endowments., who said he expects the fatwa to meet with significant resistance "because a woman is not [entitled to] market her milk, which is not her property but her husband's, with whose sole authority she nurses her baby."
Saudi Columnists: Fear of Gender Mixing Is Leading Clerics to Issue Ridiculous Fatwas
In an article titled "To Legitimate Gender Mixing Women, Breastfeed the Men!" that appeared in the Saudi daily Al-Watan, liberal columnist Halima Muzaffar wrote: "...It is strange that Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Obikan should issue such a fatwa... as if it were a solution to [the problem of] an unrelated man mixing with women in their home, or with his [female] colleagues at the workplace... Will the honorable religious police punish a woman for breastfeeding her driver?... Will she be judged guilty of infidelity and adultery when her husband comes home and finds her implementing the fatwa, and breastfeeding one of her relatives who is not her mahram, or one of her co-workers, in order to prevent gender mixing between them at the workplace?! We must do away with this phobia of gender mixing, which afflicts numerous Saudis..."
Columnist Layla Ahmad Al-Ahdab also expressed a similar view in Al-Watan: "...This fatwa does not suit the times or the place, [which is why] several Saudi clerics have criticized it... Someone who lives with his brother because he has no [relatives] besides him and his wife this is a rare situation... What is to be done if his brother's wife is not nursing and neither are her sisters? What if the woman is a widow or divorcee and has no milk in her breasts?... How long will the 'gender mixing phobia' serve as a source for fatwas that cause the world to laugh at us?"
Saudi Journalist: The Fatwa Is Offensive to Women
In an article for the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Nadine Al-Budair, a Saudi journalist and presenter for the U.S. Arabic-language TV station Al-Hurra, wrote: "...[A senior employee] will breastfeed her clerks; a [common] employee will breastfeed her colleagues; we will all begin breastfeeding: mothers, sons, brothers, and sisters. The extremism of several clerics has led... to something unacceptable, which is foreign even to the Western societies... The issue is rare and fascinating, but [its implementation] in reality is repugnant. [The fatwa] is a frightening public pronouncement... meant to ensure individual freedoms in a way that is beyond primitive.
"Do not be surprised if this fatwa is implemented, since everything in the Islamic world is being made permissible. Proof of this is that we are witnessing new types of marriage [that only] yesterday were forbidden. Today or tomorrow perhaps they will announce a new form of breastfeeding. All this [is due to the fact that] most fatwas deal with the same domain, namely with male-female relations. Therefore, the woman is consistently targeted: in one instance she is required to conceal her body, in another to expose it or to unabashedly pump [milk] from it, without any right to voice her opinion or interfere [in issues that concern] her body and personal needs. The fatwa-issuing thugs give orders, pass judgment, and make decisions: love is forbidden; looking [at a man] is a sin; expressions of love are contemptible [but] as for breastfeeding, that is permissible, permissible, permissible."
Cartoon in Saudi Daily
Woman's Clothing Store Sign Reads: "New! Abaya with Opening for Breastfeeding!"
* Y. Admon is a Research Fellow at MEMRI
 A man whom a woman is forbidden to marry due to blood kinship i.e. a father, grandfather, brother, or son in which case there is no prohibition against seclusion.
 See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Report No. 355, "Al-Azhar Lecturer Suspended after Issuing Controversial Fatwa Recommending Breastfeeding of Men by Women in the Workplace," May 25, 2007, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/2215.htm.
 Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 26, 2010.
 Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010.
 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 17, 2010.
 Al-Sho'la (Saudi Arabia), June 13, 2010.
 Al-Wiam (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010. It should be noted that additional clerics opposed Al-'Obikan's fatwa. Among them, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Hassan Al-Dari'i, a member of the teaching faculty at the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University. He said that had the fatwa been issued under the previous Saudi mufti, Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Bin Baz, the mufti would have demanded that Al-'Obikan be imprisoned and his tongue cut out. Sabq (Saudi Arabia), May 28, 2010.
 www.alarabiya.net, June 26, 2010. Saudi cleric Dr. Hamoud 'Ubah called Al-'Okiban's fatwa aberrant and loathsome. He said its author was relying on a specific case whose circumstances could not be applied to other situations. Dr. Muhammad Al-Harfi, a lecturer and columnist, was of the same opinion, and said that clerics needed to limit the age during which breastfeeding was permissible to two years. He added that it was improper for Al-'Obikan to issue such a fatwa, knowing it to be unusual. Al-Harfi also said that the ruling was too general, allowing people to apply it as they see fit, and that this could eventually devalue the shari'a in people's eyes. Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010.
 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 10, 2010.
 Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010.
 Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010.
 Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 31, 2010.
 This refers to various types of marriage that are permitted in Islam. Mut'a ("pleasure") marriage, permitted in Shi'ite Islam, is contracted for a limited period of time, and divorce is not needed to end it. 'Urf ("custom") marriage is an arrangement that does not require an official contract and grants the woman no rights. It is considered legal matrimony as long as they meet the legal criteria for marriage. In a "friend" marriage, the girl remains at her family's home, and she and the man do not maintain a shared household, but meet whenever and wherever they want. This type of marriage is aimed primarily at meeting the needs of young Muslims in the West, who wish to have a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship as is customary in Western society, but with religious legitimacy. Misyaf marriage is practiced among rich men from the Gulf who go on summer vacation in Yemen and marry local girls for a particular period of time a fortnight to two months without the brides being aware of the time limitation. Misyar is a marriage in which the woman relinquishes some of the rights that Islam grants her, such as the right to a home and to financial support from her husband, and, if he has other wives, the right to an equal share of his time and attention.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 11, 2010. Al-Budair has written extensively against the persecution of women in the Muslim world. In one article on the issue, she asked why only men were allowed to practice polygamy. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2773, "Saudi Journalist: Why Is Polygamy Only for Men?" January 27, 2010. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3934.htm.
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
I know, it's a cultural thing. I hope I misunderstand the meaning of man and adult, that it's a mistranslation.
I admit it if a chick is hot, and she’s breastfeeding I have impure thoughts that as a Catholic, I feel the need to the confess, but am too ashamed to. It has nothing to do with the breastfeeding, mind you, it’s just the breast part.
LOL! You can’t make this stuff up.
Not only a barbaric religion, but creepy too.
Gee. Just when you think you’ve heard it all.
No kidding. Kept looking for the /sarc tag, but no...
They sure have lots of rules, these Muslims.
...and what does the women’s spouse think about all this....?
This is most high on the creep-o-meter.
I waited until the last minute. They can ax me.
The serial killers (aka “moslems”) won’t eat bacon, but they’ll breastfeed at their neighbor’s boob?
This reminds me of the moslem suicide-bomber recruitment: They began raping female (and male) moslems, to shame the victims so badly that the victims embraced suicide as their only option.
After the rape, they’d let the victim stew a while, then say “Here’s your bomb belt, you should probably kill yourself now.”
I admit it if a chick is hot, and shes breastfeeding I have impure thoughts that as a Catholic, I feel the need to the confess, but am too ashamed to. It has nothing to do
with the breastfeeding, mind you, its just the breast part.
Bless you. With all due respect, this is why women should not breast feed in public.
Misyaf marriage is practiced among rich men from the Gulf who go on summer vacation in Yemen and marry local girls for a particular period of time a fortnight to two months without the brides being aware of the time limitation. Misyar is a marriage in which the woman relinquishes some of the rights that Islam grants her, such as the right to a home and to financial support from her husband, and, if he has other wives, the right to an equal share of his time and attention."
WOW...ISLAMists will do anything to make a rule so a guy gets WHAT HE WANTS.....sheesh....how ridiculous is this? HEY....feminazi's ....where ARE YOU????
Am I mistaken, but, does this not read like ZerOcare?
So, what is the proper etiquette, for such matters, pay first or later, cash or credit, drop-in or by appointment; who should we ask for guidance- Ms. Mariam.
Or contact nearest Mosque for advice and do they make the appointment, collect the appropriate funding and vig, and have the room ready with clean sheets when you arrive. Could you see it now Whores for Allah, Mo and Ali, a nonprofit cultural center and operations, having prayer, teaching and terrorists and such well trained virgins with the publics support.
Sometimes the jokes just write themselves.
I wish Johnny Carson was alive and still on NBC.
Now I understand why liberals like the idea of sharia law... it's a living breathing moral code that can be altered whenever people feel like it.
It seems evident the Muslims cannot live by The Law when they must constantly reinterpret and rewrite the "truths" to fit the immorality of the times. Without a savior they are only going to get crazier trying and failing to live up to billions of ever-changing rules.
Is it just me or is anybody else sick at their stomach?
Foot note #16 is interesting. These Muslims are still stuck in the 15th Century.
Even in Victorian times if a wet nurse was needed, people just put an ad in the paper.
As to men these days with a need for such a thing, they fall into the personal choices which society has available for them to connect with women willing to be part of that.
But no Westren woman is forced to do go along as this fatwa seems to propound.
Man finds woman who he thinks is suitable and makes demands of her under a fatwa? She must go along or be found in violation of a religious edict?
The situation is theoretically allowed because the fatwa makes the relationship to be within the imposed ground of a husband, son or some such, so that the prohibition of seclusion with a man outside the family is not in effect. Great.I do not know how women manage to exist in these societies. They must undergo tremendous suffering.
What, no Fatwa on getting to 3rd base?
Let’s see, how about “Mo’s Ground Zero Mosque and Milk Bar” instead of Cordoba, which nobody understands?
“Cows ‘R’ Us”?
“Starbucks Mosque and Latwa Center”? (We want to pump. You. Up.)
The home of Islam and Wahabism...go figure. =.=
Another reason is that we don’t need America to look even more like something out of National Geographic. We are culturally devolving at a frightening pace.
They do have a very high suicide rate. Here's another gem from the article:
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hashem, a senior cleric in the Saudi Ministry of Religious Endowments... said he expects the fatwa to meet with significant resistance "because a woman is not [entitled to] market her milk, which is not her property but her husband's, with whose sole authority she nurses her baby."
More muslim depravity
I think that is the purpose of the “pleasure marriage”.
Recently, this topic has been of worldwide interest when an al‑Azhar academic proposed an Islamic solution to prevent the sex segregation in Islamic offices. He suggested that the lactating (or women who could produce milk, somehow or other) women in the office breastfeed their male counterpart, for the men to become their mahram. This meant that having suckled the breast of the women, these men will become haram to the women who had breastfed them, and therefore, these men will be permitted to visit these women in the privacy of their office rooms.
Please do not have a guffaw.
The al‑Azhar academic gave his recommendations based on a few ahadith. Deeply embarrassed, the al‑Azhar authority, subsequently, claimed that Muhammad had instructed this procedure only as a once off case. Later, the academic lost his job for indulging in hadis fabrication.
Was the al‑Azhar academic correct? He was, of course right in his assertion of the hadis. However, whether Muhammad made this one off or not is fiercely contested by opposing camps. There are controversial ahadith on this, so this has become a subject of fierce debate.
Let us read this interesting hadis.
A woman can suckle a grown up bearded man so that she becomes haram for him (i.e. they cannot get married; Hudhaifa, let his young wife suckle Salem, the freed-slave of him to make Salim sexually haram for her) (Sahihh Muslim, 8.3428).
Because this is such an amazing hadis, let us read the full text.
Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3428: Zainab daughter of Abu Salama reported: I heard Umm Salama, the wife of Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him, saying to 'A'isha: By Allah, I do not like to be seen by a young boy who has passed the period of fosterage, whereupon she ('A'isha) said: Why is it so? Sahla daughter of Suhail came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Allah's Messenger, I swear by Allah that I see in the face of Abu Hudhaifa (the signs of disgust) on account of entering of Salim (in the house), whereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Suckle him. She (Sahla bint Suhail) said: He has a beard. But he (again) said: Suckle him, and it would remove what is there (expression of disgust) on the face of Abu Hudhaifa. She said: (I did that) and, by Allah, I did not see (any sign of disgust) on the face of Abu Hudhaifa.
Sunaan ibn Majah narrates a similar hadis.
A woman can suckle (breastfeed) a grown up (with beard) man to make him unlawful to her for marriage (Sunaan ibn Majah, 3.1943)
This event is better understood from the following narrations (Muhammads Companions, p.188‑189):
Abu Abdullah Salim remained a freed slave of Abu Hudhayfa. Salim married Hudhayfahs niece Fatima bt. Waleed. Abu Hudhayfahs wife was Sahla bt. Suhail When he became a bearded adult he was breastfed bySahla. He was not an Arab but an Iranian. Abu Hudhayfa, the son of Utba b. Rabiah, adopted him.
Abu Hudhayfas freed slave was Salim. Hudhayfa disliked the free entrance in his house of Salim, then a grown up adult with beard. Muhammad permitted Sahla to breastfeed a bearded Salim so that he became her foster son (ibid, p.415). Sahla bt. Suhail breastfed Salim. Muhammad said to Sahla, Feed him the milk from your breast, and thus he will become your confidant and shall be able to be admitted into the womens apartment (ibid, p.190).
Muhammad, however, recommends that a man should not have sex with a lactating woman. In Sunaan ibn Majah (3.2012) we read that do not have sex with a woman who suckles a baby, if you do, her child will become a very weak rider, he will die falling down from the horse.
Reminds me of work- one time a gal there used a breast pump while she was at work and she would take the milk home with her at the end of the day to feed her kid. She would put the bottle of milk in the breakroom fridge to keep it fresh. Problem was, she didn't label it.
So every day the geezer who used to nab people's lunches when they weren't looking would also use her milk for his coffee, and for other people's too if he was getting them a cup.
I had noticed him pouring from that bottle for weeks and weeks but didn't realize it was special milk until one day, after there had been many meetings and much coffee consumed by many visitors, she took the bottle out and kept staring at it with a furrowed brow.
I asked her what was wrong. Was it sour?
She said no, she thought there would be more in it than that. Then she pulled a breast pump out of her bag and asked me if I'd mind if she did some pumping.
Then I realized what that milk was... and told her she'd better label that bottle because the kids who had been into it were way too old to play trick or teat.
Interesting the more you hear about this Cult the more peverse it sounds. Anything to degrade women.
Paragraph breaks are our friends....
So, if I get this straight: It is not permissible for a non related or unmarried man and woman to be in seclusion with each other.
Thats understandable, if not a little whacked. We all want to protect our little girls from perverts. But, if a woman is lactating and a man suckles her then they are engaging in a closeness that resembles a “pleasure” marriage, and it is then OK for them to be alone together.
And really, what woman would not want to be suckled by a man with an almost full set of teeth and a nice prickly beard. I know when i don’t shave my wife loves to have the top couple of layers of skin rasped off. Who wouldn’t want that on the nipple, with its couple of thousand nerve endings.
The girls must be lined up waiting for this, huh?
These guys kill me with their laws. And anyone can write them? This is great.
Why not just engage in this pleasure marriage and have at it. I am sure some lawyer could argue that a limited time could mean, say, an hour or two for a couple of hundred drachma’s.
Of course if you wanted to suckle they charge you more. At least thats the way it works in our neighborhood.
This guy is truly the perfect example of a suckup. You think 0 got the message?
I wonder what Monty Python’s take on this would be?
Don’t be so critical — we have given this diabolical sect equal status with religions in our country. That fact alone should make you sick in your stomach.
no... you almost got it.
It is illegal for unrelated people of different genders to be alone together unless the guy has his mouth on her nipple, then you’re good to go.
See how well this works out if you just move some commas around?
“Please massa”, don’t stone me.
There was no sex between us, I was only trying to suckle her breast for her milk” That’s halal.
Hey big guy over on my right with rags on your head, no f##kin big stones, ok.
Hey you, you with all the pubic hair on your face, drop that big stone you piece of shite.
Ah, shite I’ll get even with you as soon as I get out of this gravel pit!
The contortions they go through to make what is a normal action [men and women that aren’t immediate family being seen together in public] is simply astounding.
These people are NUTS, absolutely CRAZY.
Just when you think you’ve heard everything and that islam couldn’t get any more bizarre......
Well, I don’t know about the other men on FR, but I have been breast feeding since I was about 14 ,and I still try it every chance I get.
Too much information (TMI) - Dude. This is not a confessional here.
These people are unbelievably sick.
It is illegal for unrelated people of different genders to be alone together unless the guy has his mouth on her nipple, then youre good to go.These people are unbelievably sick.
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