It is a must if a woman needs to stay in a room with a man
The answer to this question makes the difference between true Muslims who faithfully follow the footsteps of Muhammad and the hypocrites who modify their religion to follow their desires. Allah described them as such in the Qur’an: “… they only follow their own desires, and who is more astray than one who follows his own desires…” Surah 28: 50
The issue of breast-feeding men has been a hot topic in Egypt during the summer 2007, and during a lot of time has been the focus of the media in many Middle Eastern countries.
It all started when Dr. Izzat Attya who is the head of the department of Hadith in Al-Azhar, which is the world’s most prestigious Islamic University, issued a fatwa, or religious opinion. The fatwa declared that, it is legitimate for a working Muslim woman to breast-feed her male colleague to avoid the sin of ‘khulwa’ (staying with a stranger in one room).
Similar fatwas had been issued in the past by many sheikhs in many Middle-Eastern countries, but this is the first time it comes from a high level academic of Al-Azhar.
A Modern Islamic problem, an old solution
The Problem: Dr. Attya noticed that Muslim women frequently work with men in the same offices, with the inevitable possibility that a woman may find herself sitting alone in the same room with one or more of her male colleagues, which, in Islam, is a grave sin. Some of these women are deeply religious, but they need to work. Both the state and the society are forcing these women to sin without doing anything about it.
Abu Huthayfa and his wife Sahla, had an adopted son (a freed slave) called Salim, who used to work and live in the house freely. As Salim was like a son to her, Sahla used to rely on him to help in the housework. She could stay with him in the same room without having to cover herself from his looks. When Muhammad cancelled the principle of adoption, Salim became a stranger in the house and could no longer be alone with Sahla, Abu Huthayfa’s wife. The Lady complained to Muhammad who immediately provided her with a genius solution- he asked her to breast-feed Salim, after which she would again be allowed to keep him as a son with her in the house. She said: ‘but Salim is a man and has a beard!’ Muhammad smiled to her and said ‘I know that’.
Muhammad’s wife, Aysha, was very happy to hear the news because she also had problems in allowing men in her house. The new ruling came handy particularly after Muhammad’s death because Aysha needed more flexibility in meeting and talking to men about Islam. Aysha was a strong advocate of this practice; she encouraged the daughters of her sisters and the daughters of her brethren to breast-feed those men whom she (Aysha) wished to allow in her home.
Dr. Attya’s vision is that women are better off making use of this authorization given by Muhammad and breast-feed their male colleagues to avoid the sin of ‘khulwa’ (staying alone with a stranger).
The Muslims Response:
Muslims are divided about this fatwa; A minority of them (the true Muslims) completely agree with the fatwa for an obvious reason; it has a precedence in Islam that happened during the time of Muhammad. The issue of whether this is morally acceptable or not has no relevance, because Allah’s wish overrides man’s wish. Allah says in the Qur’an
“It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision…” Surah 33:36
Some of these Muslims attempted to soften the impact of the fatwa on the shocked Muslim community in various ways. Some expressed reservations about the way the fatwa was presented to the public while others tried to explain that breast-feeding doesn’t necessarily imply direct contact between a man and a woman. They suggested that a woman could collect her milk in a cup and offer it to a male colleague! This group of Muslims try to reform Islam in their own way, in doing so they forget that women do not always produce milk.
With anger and embarrassment, the majority of Muslims, however, reject the fatwa. They claim that Muhammad could have never allowed something like that. Needless to say this group of Muslims never heard of the above story before, or, they assume that the hadith is a weak one.
The problem is that the hadith is a credible (strong) one, and has been reported by sahih books like Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah. Moreover, this hadith has been thoroughly investigated by a number of highly revered Islamic scholars like Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Hazm and Al Albani. Denying a hadith with such strength would be like denying the existence of main Islamic events like fasting and prayers
Muslims deliberately and consistently hide this ugly face of Islam. The majority of Muslims do not know the magnitude of Muhammad’s violations of the accepted Arabic traditions and moralities. Without much qualm, Muhammad even violated his own Islamic laws to suit his own agenda. Starting from childhood, Muslims are brainwashed to see a polished side of Islam. All of Muhammad’s atrocities, invasions, assassinations and mass murders are carefully presented as justified acts of self-defense against the enemies of Allah. Some of Muhammad’s acts, like the hadith above, are deliberately kept in the dark out of reach of ordinary Muslims.
Following the media and public outrage, Al-Azhar had to explain its position to Millions of Muslims and Dr. Attya was forced to withdraw his fatwa. In his statement, he said he only echoed the opinions expressed by early highly regarded Islamic scholars, but after extensive consultations with Muslim scholars, he now believed the permission to breast feed an adult was an exception given only to Abu Huthayfa’s wife to solve an exceptional problem, but not to other Muslims. The statement fails to explain what was so exceptional about Abu Huthayfa’s case and why Aysha encouraged it.
Such a U-turn relieved the Islamic community and the Arab media because, as they put it, the fatwa did not blend well with the high morality and logic known to be associated with Islam. It is laughable that Muslims find it difficult to believe that Muhammad women to breast feed men, but have no problem at all in believing him when he claimed he spent the night with Allah and all his prophets and toured the whole universe.
Here you will find the References (ahadith in English and Arabic), as well as some articles and links related to the controversy:
' A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Sahla bint Suhail came to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and said: Messenger of Allah, I see on the face of Abu Hudhaifa (signs of disgust) on entering of Salim (who is an ally) into (our house), whereupon Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: Suckle him. She said: How can I suckle him as he is a grown-up man? Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) smiled and said: I already know that he is a young man. 'Amr has made this addition in his narration that he participated in the Battle of Badr and in the narration of Ibn 'Umar (the words are): Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) laughed. Book 008, Number 3424:
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hadhaifa, lived with him and his family in their house. She (i. e. the daughter of Suhail came to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and said: Salim has attained (puberty) as men attain, and he understands what they understand, and he enters our house freely, I, however, perceive that something (rankles) in the heart of Abu Hudhaifa, whereupon Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said to her: Suckle him and you would become unlawful for him, and (the rankling) which Abu Hudhaifa feels in his heart will disappear. She returned and said: So I suckled him, and what (was there) in the heart of Abu Hudhaifa disappeared. Book 008, Number 3425:
Umm Salama said to 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her): A young boy who is at the threshold of puberty comes to you. I, however, do not like that he should come to me, whereupon 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) said: Don't you see in Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) a model for you? She also said: The wife of Abu Hudhaifa said: Messenger of Allah, Salim comes to me and now he is a (grown-up) person, and there is something that (rankles) in the mind of Abu Hudhaifa about him, whereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Suckle him (so that he may become your foster-child), and thus he may be able to come to you (freely). Book 008, Number 3427:
Zainab daughter of Abu Salama reported: I heard Umm Salama, the wife of Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon himy, 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 Hadhaifa. Book 008, Number 3428:
Imam Malik’s Muwatta
Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi that Safiyya bint Abi Ubayd told him that Hafsa, umm al-muminin, sent Asim ibn Abdullah ibn Sad to her sister Fatima bint Umar ibn al-Khattab for her to suckle him ten times so that he could come in to see her. She did it, so he used to come in to see her. Book 30, Number 30.1.8:
Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab that he was asked about the suckling of an older person. He said, ''Urwa ibn az-Zubayr informed me that Abu Hudhayfa ibn Utba ibn Rabia, one of the companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who was present at Badr, adopted Salim (who is called Salim, the mawla of Abu Hudhayfa) as the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, adopted Zayd ibn Haritha. He thought of him as his son, and Abu Hudhayfa married him to his brother's sister, Fatima bint al-Walid ibn Utba ibn Rabia, who was at that time among the first emigrants. She was one of the best unmarried women of the Quraysh. When Allah the Exalted sent down in His Book what He sent down about Zayd ibn Haritha, 'Call them after their true fathers. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah. If you do not know who their fathers were then they are your brothers in the deen and your mawali,' (Sura 33 ayat 5) people in this position were traced back to their fathers. When the father was not known, they were traced to their mawla.
"Sahla bint Suhayl who was the wife of Abu Hudhayfa, and one of the tribe of Amr ibn Luayy, came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, 'Messenger of Allah! We think of Salim as a son and he comes in to see me while I am uncovered. We only have one room, so what do you think about the situation?' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Give him five drinks of your milk and he will be mahram by it.' She then saw him as a foster son. A'isha umm al-muminin took that as a precedent for whatever men she wanted to be able to come to see her. She ordered her sister, Umm Kulthum bint Abi Bakr as-Siddiq and the daughters of her brother to give milk to whichever men she wanted to be able to come in to see her. The rest of the wives of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, refused to let anyone come in to them by such nursing. They said, 'No! By Allah! We think that what the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ordered Sahla bint Suhayl to do was only an indulgence concerning the nursing of Salim alone. No! By Allah! No one will come in upon us by such nursing!'
"This is what the wives of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, thought about the suckling of an older person." Book 30, Number 30.2.12:
Yahya related to me from Malik that Abdullah ibn Dinar said, "A man came to Abdullah ibn Umar when I was with him at the place where judgments were given and asked him about the suckling of an older person. Abdullah ibn Umar replied, ‘A man came to Umar ibn al-Khattab and said, 'I have a slave-girl and I used to have intercourse with her. My wife went to her and suckled her. When I went to the girl, my wife told me to watch out, because she had suckled her!' Umar told him TO BEAT HIS WIFE and to go to his slave-girl because kinship by suckling was only by the suckling of the young.’" Book 30, Number 30.2.13:
Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said that a man said to Abu Musa al-Ashari, "I drank some milk from my wife's breasts and it went into my stomach." Abu Musa said, "I can only but think that she is haram for you." Abdullah ibn Masud said, "Look at what opinion you are giving the man." Abu Musa said, "Then what do you say?" Abdullah ibn Masud said, "There is only kinship by suckling in the first two years."
Abu Musa said, "Do not ask me about anything while this learned man is among you." Book 30, Number 30.2.14:
Whatever interpretation Aisha, Umar and Ibn Masud may have given to Muhammad's instruction later on (correctly or incorrectly), the fact that Muhammad would command a woman to nurse a young man is shameful and disgusting to say the least.
Ahadith in Arabic: