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Conditions of breastfeeding which establishes the mahram relationship

 

Praise
be to Allah

In order to
establish the mahram relationship on the basis of breastfeeding, the
following conditions must be met:

The first
condition:

There must be
five or more breastfeedings, and no less than that. This is the correct view
according to the madhhab of Imam Ahmad.

Ibn Qudaamah
(may Allah have mercy on him) said:

Abu’l-Qaasim
(may Allah have mercy on him) said: The (number of) breastfeedings
concerning which there is no doubt that it establishes the mahram
relationship is five or more.

Concerning this
matter there are two issues:

i.       

That on which establishing the mahram relationship depends is
five breastfeedings 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-Shaafa‘i…

End quote from
al-Mughni (11/310).

The evidence for
this is the hadith of ‘Aa’ishah, in which she said:
Among the things
that were revealed of the Qur’an was that ten definite breastfeedings make a
person a mahram, then that was abrogated and replaced with five definite
breastfeedings, and the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be
upon him) passed away when this was among the things that were recited of
the Qur’an.
Narrated by Muslim (1452).

An-Nawawi (may
Allah have mercy on him) said:

What is meant is
that the abrogation and replacement of the ruling with five breastfeedings
came very late, to the extent that when the Prophet (blessings and peace of
Allah be upon him) died, some people were reciting five breastfeedings 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 reach 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 breastfeedings. The second type is
where the recitation is abrogated but the ruling still stands, as in the
case of five breastfeedings… End quote from Sharh Saheeh Muslim
(10/20).

The guideline
concerning a single breastfeeding is that the infant should breastfeed in a
single sitting until he lets go and stops breastfeeding by his own choice.

Ibn al-Qayyim
(may Allah have mercy on him) said:

If it is asked:
What is the dividing line that separates one breastfeeding from another, and
what is its definition?

The answer is:
One breastfeeding is when the infant latches onto the nipple and starts
sucking, then lets go by his own choice, without any other distraction. That
is one breastfeeding, because when the religious text speaks of
breastfeeding, it refers to it in general terms, therefore it is to be
understood according to what is customarily referred to as one
breastfeeding, and this is what it is according to custom. Brief
interruptions for some reason, to breathe or take a brief rest, or because
of something that distracts the infant, but then he soon goes back to the
breast, do not cancel out its being one breastfeeding. This is like when
someone is eating; if he pauses briefly, then soon goes back to eating, this
is not counted as two meals, rather it is counted as one.

With regard to
the madhhab of Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him), the author of
al-Mughni said: If the infant stopped breastfeeding for a clear interval by
choice, that is one breastfeeding. Then if he goes back (to the breast),
that is a second breastfeeding.

But if he stops
because he wants to catch his breath, or to move from one breast to the
other, or because of something that distracted him, or because the nursing
woman stopped feeding him, then we have to examine the case further. If he
does not resume to breastfeeding soon afterwards, then that was one
breastfeeding. If he goes back to the breast immediately, then there are two
scholarly views, the first of which is that the first instance was one
breastfeeding, then when he went back to the breast, that was a second
breastfeeding. He said: This is the view favoured by Abu Bakr and is the
apparent meaning of Ahmad’s words in the report of Hanbal – where he said:
Do you not see that the infant is nursing at the breast, then if he needs to
catch a breath or let go of the breast in order to breathe or to rest, if he
does that, then this is one breastfeeding.

The shaykh [Ibn
Qudaamah] said: That is because the first one is regarded as one
breastfeeding if the infant does not go back to it. Therefore it should be
counted as one breastfeeding even if he does go back to it. This is similar
to the case when he stopped by choice.

The second view
is that all of that is one breastfeeding.

I say: The words
of Ahmad may be understood in two ways, the first of which is what the
shaykh mentioned. So his words “that is one breastfeeding” refer the second
breastfeeding. The second way in which his words may be understood is that
all of it is a single breastfeeding, so his words “that is one
breastfeeding” refer to both the first and second breastfeedings. This
interpretation is more likely to be correct, because he referred to taking a
break in order to breathe or rest. Therefore it should be regarded as a
single breastfeeding. It is well-known that it is more appropriate to
understand both the first and second as being a single breastfeeding, rather
than regarding the second as being a separate instance of breastfeeding. So
think about it.

End quote from
Zaad al-Ma‘aad (5/511-513).

What you should
do is err on the side of caution, so as to avoid a matter concerning which
there is a difference of scholarly opinion. So what matters [to establish
the mahram relationship] is breastfeeding in five sittings, each of which is
separate from the others.

Shaykh Ibn
‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

What is the
breastfeeding that establishes the mahram relationship? Does it refer to
sucking, so that if the infant sucks the breast five times, even if that is
with one breath, the mahram relationship is established? Or does one
breastfeeding mean that the infant latches on then lets go in order to
breathe, then latches on again? Or is breastfeeding to be compared to a
meal, in the sense that each instance of breastfeeding is separate from the
others, and they do not all occur in the same place?

Concerning this
matter there are three scholarly views, the most correct of which is the
last one, which is the view favoured by our Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan ibn Sa‘di
(may Allah have mercy on him). The reason being that we cannot rule that the
mahram relationship is established with a particular woman except on the
basis of evidence that is not subject to different interpretations. This
last view cannot be interpreted in any other way, because this is the
longest period suggested in terms of time. Based on that, if the infant
breastfed four times, and in each instance he paused and took a breath five
times, the mahram relationship is not established according to the correct
view, unless each breastfeeding was separate from the others [and there was
a fifth breastfeeding].

End quote from
ash-Sharh al-Mumti‘ (12/114).

The second
condition:

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, may He be
exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):


“Mothers
may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to
complete the nursing [period]”


[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.

End quote from
Tafseer al-Qurtubi (4/109).

It was narrated
from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (blessings
and peace of Allah be upon him) 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-Bukhaari (5102) and Muslim (1455).

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 breastfeedings? 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.

End quote from
Fath al-Baari (9/148).

Al-Qurtubi (may
Allah have mercy on him) said:

“for
breastfeeding is only through hunger”. These words of the Prophet (blessings
and peace of Allah be upon him) 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.

End quote from
al-Mufhim (4/188).

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, may He be exalted, says
(interpretation of the meaning):


“Mothers
may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to
complete the nursing [period]”


[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 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
(blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) 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.

End quote from
ash-Sharh al-Mumti‘ (12/114-115).

What appears to
be the case is that according to either view, in the case of your child the
breastfeeding that occurred was the kind that counts and establishes the
mahram relationship, because your child is still younger than two years and
has not yet been weaned. What is meant by weaning (fitaam) is that the child
stops breastfeeding, as it says in al-Mu‘jam al-Waseet (p. 695).

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.

With regard to
the madhhab of Imam Ahmad, about which the question was asked, breastfeeding
at this age, so long as it meets the conditions, undoubtedly establishes the
mahram relationship.

 And Allah knows
best.