Question # 426: Assalamualaikum brother, I had a question regarding a statement which I heard that to become a milk child or milk sibling, you must drink the milk before weaning. I wanted to know a source which agrees with this and whether this is true? And, by ‘weaning’, does it mean eating solids alongside breast milk or also eating things like mashed soup?
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: In order to establish the mahram relationship on the basis of breastfeeding: a) there must be five or more breast-feedings, in accordance with the hadith of Ai’shah (رضي الله عنها); and b) breastfeeding must occur within two years according to the Qur’an (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:233). This is because when the two-year period ends, breastfeeding is complete, and breastfeeding after that period does not count in establishing the mahram relationship, regardless of whether the child was weaned or not. Although weaning (fitaam) means that the child stops breastfeeding, it does not mean that the child is nourished only on milk. So long as the child is nourished by breastfeeding and has not stopped it altogether, the mahram relationship may be established by breastfeeding. Hence, it does not matter that the child is also eating solid food.
In fact, feeding of the infant after the age of six months is one of the matters that are completely governed by custom, and it not a matter of worship. And customs are permissible except that which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has forbidden; so, the issue of feeding infants should be based on what is in the child’s best interests. It is well-known that the infant’s teeth usually begin to appear around the age of six months indicating that the infant’s body is ready to receive food other than the mother’s milk. Before the appearance of the teeth, their stomachs are weak and unable to digest food. Moreover, depriving infants of regular food altogether after the age of six months may be harmful, because mother’s milk may not be enough. So suitable food may be gradually introduced at this age. Also Refer Question # 46: Marriage forbidden among milk siblings (breastfed by the same woman), Question # 130: Maximum Breast-feeding Period, Question # 233: Relationship of Mahram through Breastfeeding and Question # 407: Number of Breastfeedings to Establish Relationship of Mahram.
Long Answer: In order to establish the mahram relationship on the basis of breastfeeding, the following conditions must be met:
- There must be five or more breast-feedings, and no less than that. This is the correct view according to the madhhab of Imam Ahmad.
Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Abu’l-Qaasim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The (number of) breast-feedings concerning which there is no doubt that it establishes the mahram relationship is five or more.
Concerning this matter there are two issues:
- That on which establishing the mahram relationship depends is five breast-feedings or more. This is the correct view according to our madhhab. That was narrated from ‘Aa’ishah, Ibn Mas‘ood, Ibn az-Zubayr, ‘Ataa’, and Taawoos. It is the view of ash-Shafi‘i… (al-Mughni)
The evidence for this is the hadith of ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) in which she said: Among the things that were revealed of the Qur’an was that ten definite breast-feedings make a person a mahram, then that was abrogated and replaced with five definite breast-feedings, and the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) passed away when this was among the things that were recited of the Qur’an. (Narrated by Muslim)
An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “What is meant is that the abrogation and replacement of the ruling with five breast-feedings came very late, to the extent that when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) died, some people were reciting five breast-feedings and regarding that as part of the Qur’an, because news of the abrogation had not yet reached them as it was so recent. When news of the abrogation reached them after that, they stopped reciting that, and became unanimously agreed that this is not to be recited as part of the Qur’an.
Abrogation is of three types, one of which is where both the ruling and the recitation are abrogated, as in the case of the ten breast-feedings. The second type is where the recitation is abrogated but the ruling still stands, as in the case of five breast-feedings… (Sharh Saheeh Muslim)
- The breastfeeding must occur within the time when the infant is usually nourished by breastfeeding, but is that regarded as being two years, or until weaning?
There are two scholarly views. The madhhab of Imam Ahmad states that it is two years. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:233)
Al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Maalik (may Allah have mercy on him), those who followed him and a number of other scholars, understood from this verse that the breastfeeding that establishes the mahram relationship that is the same as the mahram relationship through blood ties can only occur within the first two years, because when the two-year period ends, breastfeeding is complete, and breastfeeding after the first two years does not count [in establishing the mahram relationship]… This is also the view of az-Zuhri, Qataadah, ash-Sha‘bi, Sufyaan ath-Thawri, al-Awzaa‘i, ash-Shaafa‘i, Ahmad, Ishaaq, Abu Yoosuf, Muhammad and AbuThawr. (Tafseer al-Qurtubi)
It was narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) came in to her house, and there was a man with her. His expression changed, as if he disliked that, but she said: He is my brother [through breastfeeding]. He said: “Consider who are your brothers through breastfeeding, for breastfeeding is only through hunger.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The meaning is: Think of what happened (with regard to the breastfeeding in question: was it true breastfeeding that fulfilled the condition of occurring within the period of breastfeeding and with the required number of breast-feedings? For the ruling that stems from breastfeeding [and establishes the mahram relationship] only applies if the breastfeeding met the conditions. The words “through hunger” mean: the breastfeeding that establishes the mahram relationship and makes khulwah [being alone with a member of the opposite gender] permissible is that in which the breastfed child was an infant whose hunger could be satisfied with milk, because his stomach was weak and milk was sufficient for it, and his body grew and was nourished by that, so that he became as if he were part of the one who breastfed him, therefore he shares the mahram relationship with her own children.” (Fath al-Baari)
Al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “for breastfeeding is only through hunger”. These words of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) establish a general ruling which clearly states that the breastfeeding that counts for establishing the mahram relationship is only that which occurs during the time when the child is exclusively breastfed (and eats no other food). That can only be in the first two years or thereabouts. (al-Mufhim)
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The second condition is that the breastfeeding should occur within the period in which the child is exclusively fed with breastmilk. But should it be applied as a general rule because that is what happens in most cases, or should it be applied on a case-by-case basis?
There are two scholarly views concerning this matter:
- The first view is that it should be applied as a general rule, which is based on a two-year period. Therefore, if breastfeeding happens after two years, it does not count for anything, whether the child was weaned or not. Breastfeeding that occurs before the two-year period ends does establish the mahram relationship, regardless of whether the child was weaned or not.
This is the well-known view in our madhhab [the madhhab of Imam Ahmad]. They quoted as evidence for that the verse in which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:233) They said: This limit is more precise than connecting it to anything else, because two years may be defined precisely… There is no doubt that this is more precise.
But what may undermine this argument is the fact that breastfeeding after weaning has no impact on the growth and nourishment of the body, so there is no difference between breastfeeding when the child is one year and eight months old, if he is already weaned, and breastfeeding when he is four years old, because he will not benefit from this breastfeeding, or be nourished and grow because of it. This is supported by the fact that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “There is no breastfeeding [that establishes the mahram relationship] except that which is the sole nourishment for the child and occurs before weaning.” This rules out the effect [of establishing the mahram relationship], without ruling out reality, because a child may be breastfed after that. In other words, the breastfeeding that counts [in establishing the mahram relationship] is only that which is the sole nourishment for the infant and occurs before weaning.
- This second interpretation makes more sense, but the first is more accurate in defining the time period. (ash-Sharh al-Mumti‘)
…What is meant by weaning (fitaam) is that the child stops breastfeeding, as it says in al-Mu‘jam al-Waseet. It does not mean that the child is nourished only on milk. So long as the child is nourished by breastfeeding and has not stopped breastfeeding altogether, the mahram relationship may be established by breastfeeding. It does not matter that he is also eating solid food, because this is something common and well-known when a child passes the age of one year.
[As for second part of the question,] the feeding of the infant after the age of six months is one of the matters that are completely governed by custom, and it not a matter of worship. The basic principle with regard to such matters is that they are permissible, and nothing is disallowed unless there is evidence to that effect from Islamic teachings. If there is no such evidence, then the matter remains permissible and allowed. This is the established principle according to Islam.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “People’s actions and words are of two types: acts of worship through which they fulfill their religious duties, and matters of custom and tradition that are connected to their worldly interests.
By studying the fundamentals of Islam, we learn that with regard to the acts of worship that Allah has enjoined or that He loves, matters can only be based on religious texts.
As for matters of custom and tradition, this refers to things that people are accustomed to doing for worldly purposes and serve their worldly interests. In principle, these things are not disallowed, so nothing is to be regarded as being disallowed except that which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has forbidden.
The basic principle with regard to customs and traditions is that they are overlooked and permissible, and nothing of them is to be regarded as disallowed except that which the religious texts prohibited. Otherwise, what Allah says about the mushrikeen would be applicable to us: “Say, ‘Have you seen what Allah has sent down to you of provision of which you have made [some] lawful and [some] unlawful?’” (Soorah Yoonus, 10:59) Hence, Allah criticized the mushrikeen who introduced a religion to which Allah has not consented (cf. 42:21), and they prohibited things that He had not prohibited.… This is a useful and important principle. (Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa)
[Therefore,] the issue of feeding infants, and other similar, permissible customs and traditions… should be based on what is in the child’s best interests, and other interests. Whatever custom and tradition have shown to be in people’s best interests, on the basis of practice and experience, then people may adopt it and act in accordance with it, as is the case in all their affairs. This is what may be understood from the great principle that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) taught to his companions: “You know better about your worldly affairs.” (Narrated by Muslim)
It is well-known that the infant’s teeth usually begin to appear around the age of six months, and the main function of the teeth is to chew food. This is an indication that at this age, the infant’s body is ready to receive food other than the mother’s milk. So suitable food may be gradually introduced at this age.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “They (infants) should be restricted to milk only until their teeth begin to appear, because their stomachs are weak and unable to digest food. Once the infant’s teeth begin to appear and his stomach becomes stronger, then he may be nourished with food. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has delayed the growth of the teeth until the time when the infant needs food, by His wisdom, kindness and mercy towards the mother, so that the child will not bite the breast with his teeth.
Food should be introduced gradually. The first thing that infants should be given is soft food, so they should be given bread that has been soaked in hot water, yoghurt and milk. After that, cooked food and broth without meat may be given; then after that, very soft meat that has been thoroughly chewed or chopped very finely may be introduced. (Tuhfat al-Mawdood bi Ahkaam al-Mawlood)
Moreover, depriving the infant of regular food altogether after he has reached the age of six months may be harmful to him, because his mother’s milk may not be enough for him. Furthermore, he may desire real food after the age of six months, so depriving him of it would be a kind of cruelty and would reflect a lack of compassion for him. Introducing food to him gradually prepares him for weaning, so that when the time comes to wean him, his body will be ready to do without milk, and he will be content with food.
The gradual introduction of food that is suitable for his age has another psychological benefit: it will make it easy for him to be weaned from his mother, when he reaches the age of weaning. This is stated by specialists in psychology. Thus, stopping breastfeeding will be done gradually, and that will be kinder to him when breastfeeding comes to an end and he reaches the stage of weaning.
(The above reply is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on similar topics)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.