Question # 505: Is it permissible to breast-feed a child over 2 years old for him to become a mahram?
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: According to the most preponderant opinion of the jurists, breastfeeding a child over two years old will not have the effect of making him a relative (mahram). Only ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) and few later scholars like Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah were inclined to the view of establishing Tahreem (i.e., making a male and female Mahram) through breastfeeding an adult person, as against the views of the other wives of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Most scholars are against such Tahreem and view the hadith of Saalim (the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah), where Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) asked him to be suckled to make him a foster child, a concession given for him alone.
Long Answer: The issue of breastfeeding an adult person …is a matter of Ijtihad (personal reasoning) and ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) was inclined to the view of establishing Tahreem (i.e., making a male and female Mahram [permanently unmarriageable] to each other) through breastfeeding an adult person based on the hadith about Saalim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah – who was not his son; rather, he was his freed-slave. Imam Muslim narrated that Umm Salamah said to ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنهما), “Boys at the threshold of puberty whom I do not like to enter upon me enter upon you!” ‘Aa’ishah said, “Do you not see an example to follow in Allah’s Messenger? The wife of Abu Hudhayfah said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, Saalim enters upon me and now he is an adult, and Abu Hudhayfah feels uneasy about that.’ The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to her, ‘Suckle him (so that he may become your foster-child), and thus he can enter upon you (freely).’”
The Mothers of the Believers opposed ‘Aa’ishah in this respect and were not of this view. Imaam Muslim narrated that Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to say that all the wives of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) disclaimed the idea of letting someone enter upon them through this kind of breastfeeding, and they said to ‘Aa’ishah, “By Allah, we do not find this but a concession given by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) only for Saalim, and no one is to enter upon us or see us through such breastfeeding.”
Most scholars are against such Tahreem and see that the story of Saalim is peculiar to him alone. Nonetheless, some Tabi’i (generation following that of the Companions) scholars agreed with ‘Aa’ishah, such as ‘Ata’ and Al-Layth ibn Sa’d. [Even Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah was of the view that it is permissible to breastfeed an adult when there is a need, and that, in this case, it confirms the prohibition (he becomes a Mahram).]
[Nevertheless,] it is an issue of Ijtihad, and a person who makes Ijtihad is rewarded in all cases, whether he is right or wrong, as in the hadith by ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (رضي الله عنه) who related that he heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) say, “If a ruler issued a ruling based on Ijtihad and he is correct, then he has two rewards, and if he issues a ruling and makes Ijtihad and he is incorrect, then he has only one reward.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
As regards the statement of Al-Kasani that ‘Aa’ishah withdrew her opinion, …his statement [is] as follows, “As for the view of ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) it was narrated that she withdrew her opinion. It was narrated that she said, ‘The breastfeeding that makes a person prohibited in marriage is the one that nurtures flesh and blood (i.e., the one that takes place when the child is still a baby – within two years of age).’”
But [there is no authentic] narration that proves that she withdrew her view. Some scholars were confused that she condones breastfeeding the adult while she narrates the hadith, “Breastfeeding (that establishes Tahreem) is the one that results from hunger.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Ibn Hajar addressed this confusion, saying, “Perhaps she understood his words ‘breastfeeding is the one that results from hunger’ in terms of the amount of breast milk that makes the one being breastfed satiated. This is a more general meaning regardless of whether the breastfed is an infant or an adult; thus, this hadith would not be an explicit text in forbidding the breastfeeding of an adult person.”
The same applies to pouring the milk in a container so that an adult person drinks it; [there is no authentic] …that states it, but this is only what the scholars mentioned in their interpretation of the story of Saalim. An-Nawawi quoted this meaning in his commentary on Saheeh Muslim and considered it to be good; he said, “Al-Qadhi said that perhaps she milked herself into a container and then he drank it without touching her breast and without their skins touching, and what Al-Qadhi said is good.”
[Hence,] according to the most preponderant opinion of the jurists, becoming a Mahram (forbidden in marriage) due to suckling is [possible, only] if breastfeeding takes place during the first two (lunar) years [of birth]. This is the breastfeeding that nurtures the flesh and bone; this is the view of the majority of the jurists. Therefore, [any breastfeeding that takes place after the age of two years does not make the breastfeeding mother forbidden for the child].
(The above reply is based on various answers on similar topics provided by:
- Islamweb.net, a website belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar; and
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.