Question # 233: asa’lam’ualaikum. My question is that, my aunt has fed me with her rida’a once. Now by the grace of Allah I want to marry her daughter (my cousin). So, is it permissible for me to marry her. I need an answer with sahih hadith.

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).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Breastfeeding which has an effect of creating the relationship of mahram[1] is that which consists of five feedings or more within the first two years of infancy, before weaning. You stated in the question that your aunt breastfed you only once, in which case, it is permissible for you to marry her daughter. However, if there is any doubt with regard to the number of breastfeedings, in such case, the basic assumption is that the child is not a mahram, as what is certain cannot be dispelled by what is uncertain.

Long Answer: If a woman breastfeeds a child, then this child becomes her child through radaa’ah (breastfeeding), and a sibling through breastfeeding of all her children, whether those children were there before him/her or came later. As the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “What becomes mahram (forbidden for marriage) through breastfeeding is that which become mahram through blood ties.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

However, for breastfeeding to have the effect of transmitting its benefits from the nursing woman to the child suckled, it must meet the following two conditions:

  1. The breastfeeding must happen within the first two years of the child’s life, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “The mothers shall give suck to their children for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the term of suckling…” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:233)

This is the opinion of the majority of scholars, and among the references which they quote is the aayah cited above, along with the hadith of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم): “Nothing of breastfeeding creates the relationship of mahram except what fills the stomach to bursting point, before (the age of) weaning.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said: This is a hasan sahih hadith) The application of this according to the scholars among the Companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and others is that breastfeeding does not create the relationship of mahram except when it is within the first two years, and anything after the first two whole years does not create any such relationship.”

There are some other reports from the Sahaabah, such as that narrated from Abu ‘Atiyah al-Waadi’i, who said: “A man came to Ibn Mas’ood and said: ‘My wife was with me and her breasts were full of milk (she was engorged). I began to suck it and spit it out. Then I came to Abu Moosa.’ He (Ibn Mas’ood) said, ‘What did you tell him?’ So he (Abu Moosa) told him what he had told him. Then Ibn Mas’ood stood up, took the man’s hand (and said), ‘Do you think this is an infant? Breastfeeding is what produces the growth of flesh and blood.’ Abu Moosa said: ‘Do not ask me anything when this scholar is among you.’” (Reported by ‘Abd al-Razzaaq in al-Musannaf)

In al-Muwatta’, Maalik reported that Ibn ‘Umar said: “There is no breastfeeding except for the one who is breastfed in infancy; there is no breastfeeding for one who is grown up.” (Its isnad is sahih)

[In a hadith reported by Maalik in al-Muwatta’, ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar said that Umar ibn al-Khattab said “…for (the ruling on) breastfeeding only applies to breastfeeding of infants.”’” (Its isnad is sahih)]

Ibn Qudaamah said in al-Mughni: “One of the conditions of breastfeeding creating the relationship of mahram is that it should be within the first two years. This is the opinion of most of the scholars. Something like this was narrated from ‘Umar, ‘Ali, Ibn ‘Umar, Ibn Mas’ood, Ibn ‘Abbaas, Abu Hurayrah and the wives of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), apart from ‘Aa’ishah. It was also the opinion of al-Shi’bi, Ibn Shubrumah, al-Oozaa’i, al-Shaafi’i, Ishaaq, Abu Yoosuf, Muhammad, and Abu Thawr, and was narrated in one report from Maalik.

  1. Becoming a mahram through breastfeeding can only be established through five well-known breastfeedings. The evidence for the five (number of breastfeedings) is the report from ‘Aa’ishah who said: “There was in the Qur’an [an aayah which stipulated that] ten [was the number of] breastfeedings which created the relationship of mahram, then this was abrogated [by another aayah which stipulated] five. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) died and [the aayah which stipulated five] was still being recited as part of the Qur’an.” (Reported by Muslim). In other words, the abrogation came so late that when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) died, some people had not yet heard that this aayah had been abrogated, but when they heard that it had been abrogated, they stopped reciting it, and agreed that it should not be recited, although the ruling mentioned in the aayah remained in effect. This is an abrogation of the recitation without abrogation of the ruling, which is one type of abrogation.

Ibn al-Qayyim said in Zaad al-Ma’aad: One breastfeeding (rad’ah) means when the child takes the breast and starts suckling, and then lets it go without being made to do so. That is one breastfeeding, because the Lawgiver referred to one breastfeeding in general terms, so it is to be interpreted according to custom, and this is the custom. If the child stops briefly in order to breathe or to rest or because of some distraction, then quickly goes back to the breast, this is regarded as one breastfeeding, just as when a person who is eating pauses briefly then quickly goes back to eating, this is not regarded as two meals, rather it is one. This is the view of al-Shaafi’i.  And if the infant moves from one breast to the other, this is one breastfeeding.”

If the child takes in the nipple but no milk comes out, that is not breastfeeding, and does not mean anything. It says in al-Fataawa al-Hindiyyah: Because when the milk comes out, breastfeeding takes place, otherwise it does not.

[However,] if there is any doubt concerning the number of breastfeedings, whether it was five or not, there is no proof of the child being a mahram in the case of doubt.  Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “If there is any doubt as to whether breastfeeding took place or not, or with regard to the number of breastfeedings, whether the number that makes the child a mahram was completed or not, this does not make the child a mahram, because the basic assumption is that he is not a mahram, and what is certain cannot be dispelled by what is uncertain.”

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “One breastfeeding does not have any effect, rather it must be five breastfeedings that occur before the child is weaned and before he reaches the age of two. A person does not become the woman’s (foster) child if he breastfeeds once or twice or three or four times. It must also be five known breastfeedings; if there is some uncertainty as to whether he breastfed four or five times, the principle is that it was four, because every time we are uncertain about numbers, we take the lower number. Based on this, if a woman says, I breastfed this child but I do not know if it was once or twice, or three or four or five times, we say that this child is not her (foster) child, because it has to be five known breastfeedings without a doubt.” (Al-Fataawa al-Jaami’ah li’l-Mar’ah al-Muslimah)

(The above reply is based on various answers by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)

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.

Wassalaam

[1] A mahram is a relative who is forbidden in marriage and with whom the rulings of hijab or covering do not apply