Breast Feeding a Man, Re-Visited
Recently, Dr. Ali Gom’a, the former grand mufti of Egypt, argued that the issue of adult breast feeding was treated unfairly by the media(1). He described Dr. Izzat Atiyya’s ‘controversial’ fatwa in 2007 as principally correct but misunderstood by both the public and the media. He elaborated that a woman is only required to offer a glass of her milk to her colleague, therefore, no direct suckling involved. He also suggested that hormonal treatment can be used for women to enhance their milk production.
The background (2)
Back in 2007, Dr. Izzat Atiyya, who was the head of the department of Hadith at Al-Azhar, which is the world’s most prestigious Islamic University, issued a fatwa that it was 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). The fatwa came like a bombshell and attracted unrivalled interest and generated an abundance of debate and outrage.
Until Dr. Atiyya addressed the subject, most ordinary Muslims didn’t even know about that matter and those who did, assumed it was one of those ‘shubuhat’, or controversial topics, that have already been refuted by the Muslim scholars.
Like other scholars before him, Dr Ali Goma was doing his part to reassure the Muslim community and strengthen their faith. Immediately after the fatwa in 2007, the vast majority of the Muslim scholars were against it and Dr. Attiya was forced to resign from his position. As the years went by, other opinions started to surface, like the one expressed by the former grand mufti. However, most scholars still hold the opinion that even though the hadith on which the fatwa was based is authentic, it has no relevance to our time, because the hadith was meant to solve a specific problem for a specific person at a specific time. Only a handful of scholars believed that the hadith was a valid sunna that can be legitimately emulated exactly as it happened in Mohammed’s time. Surprisingly, this last uncompromising opinion was the one held by the scholar most revered by the current Islamists — Ibn Taymiya.
The main reason behind the Muslims’ outrage and the explicit hostility of the media towards the fatwa in 2007 was the widespread ignorance about Islam. Even though Muslims spend most of their time worshipping and reading the Quran and hadith books, their knowledge remains hovering around the polished side of Islam. Most Muslims keep reading the same thing again and again without venturing beyond what they learned at school. They know things like the five pillars of Islam and the good manners it teaches; such as being nice to parents and older members of the family, not to lie or steal and to avoid extramarital relations.
Saturated with such information, Muslims are unable to fathom the notion that Islam could possibly be sanctioning something as explicit as a woman offering her breast to a stranger. The idea appeared to them so ridiculous and bizarre they simply couldn’t cope with it. The issue seemed to them like a notch on an otherwise perfect religion; the last thing they wanted to hear was a suggestion that the hadith was authentic. In a way, Dr. Atteyya was considered as the last defence because he was the most qualified person to dismiss the hadith as unauthentic, but he didn’t.
Thanks to the efforts of Muslim scholars, the Muslim community was satisfied with their explanations; the integrity of their faith appeared to have been restored. It was a great relief for them to learn that their women didn’t have to offer their breasts to strangers. As always, those Islamic minds with unshaken faith in their exemplary religion didn’t notice the big oversight: if it is morally wrong for a woman to offer her breast to a stranger, then Mohammed was morally wrong to order Sahla to do just that! please read on.
The reason why Muslims reached the stage to discuss such unethical and shameful situation of adult breast feeding is Mohammed’s own immorality. In short, Mohammed’s companion, Ibn Huthayfa, adopted a boy, named Salim, who helped in the work around the house. Mohammed banned adoption to facilitate his marriage to Zainab, the wife of his own adopted son. By that time Salim grew up to become an adult. Huthayfa’s wife, Sahla, complained to Mohammed that banning adoption created a problem for her because she could no longer allow Salim in the house. Mohammed asked her to breast feed Salim, “he is a man with a beard” said Sahla with disbelief, “yes, I know” said Mohammed with a big smile. Sahla listened to Mohammed and breast fed Salim five times. Ayesha, Mohammed’s favorite wife, made use of the new legislation and asked her female relatives to breast feed the men she wanted to meet in private.
The above story is based on an authentic hadith which Muslim scholars believe. It is clear to us that the situation at Huthayfa’s house was not desperate, it was only a matter of convenience. The matter could have been solved easily in many other ways without the need to resort to such unethical ruling. Ayesha’s copying of Sahla’s lead was evidence that important Muslims of the time considered the incident as an example to emulate. It is also clear to us that Mohammed didn’t mention a cup and Sahla didn’t use one, so why did Dr. Ali Gom’a suggest it? All the breast feedings that took place in Mohammed’s time were through direct suckling. Does Ali Gom’a imply that modern Muslims have a higher sense of morality than Mohammed and his companions? Besides, Mohammed did not hint in any way that his new ruling applied only to the Huthayfa’s household. If the intention was so, Mohammed should have made that very clear, which he didn’t. This Hadith is recorded in Sahih Muslim and other Sahih books. It is highly unlikely that those early scholars included such a hadith unless they knew it had applications to other Muslims.
It may look laughable to us but Muslims do believe that Islam is morally faultless, which is why they frown with disbelief at notions like adult breast feeding as anomalous concepts that are alien to Islam. To me, it is much like they frown with disbelief at the notion of a terrorist attack carried out by a Muslim.
Short term marriage (Muta’a)
If something is deemed immoral, such as adultery or breast feeding an adult, it is always immoral. There are no circumstances that justify immoral practices. This is a principle agreed upon by all civilized people. In the civilized world, if a man visits a brothel and hires a lady for a few hours or days for an agreed sum of money, people agree to call it prostitution. In Islam it is called muta’a marriage.
In a way, the Muslims’ view regarding adult breast feeding is a reminder of their view regarding the muta’a marriage, which is sanctioned in the Quran and was widely practiced in Mohammed’s time. It is still considered halal according to Shi’a Muslims. The Sunni Muslims believe it is a form of prostitution and look down at the Shi’a because they allow it. Some claim it was banned by Mohammed shortly before his death, others say it was banned by Caliph Omar. Let us ignore the irrationality of Mohammed, or any human, cancelling something in the Quran because the big question which all Muslims should be asking is: Why did Mohammed allow this form of prostitution in the first place? Why did he allow his followers to practice it for over twenty years? Why did the Quran approve it?
Muslims have their unique concept of morality. They believe that Islam is the only religion that consistently scores full marks on ‘their’ morality scale. This high confidence boosts their belief in Islam as divine. Logically, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone since Islam was tailor-made by the Arabs for the Arabs, therefore it is expected to fit them nicely. The non-Arab Muslims were easily integrated to become copies of the Arabs. Just think of today’s converts; it takes them only a few months to become more Arabs than the Saudis.
The Islamic legislations largely reflected the pre-Islamic traditions in Arabia with a few additions/ omissions that suited Mohammed’s own taste. As an example, according to the Arabs’ traditions, men were given twice the inheritance of women; their statements as witnesses had double the value of women’s statements, and the blood money for a man was twice that of a woman. All those traditions were incorporated into Islamic legislations. Adoption was also incorporated in Islam, hence Mohammed’s adoption of Zaid. Adoption was only cancelled after Mohammed had that infamous glimpse of Zainab’s seductive figure.
A Muslim may live for a hundred years without it ever occurring to him that Islam failed to score top marks in any morality issue. They see with clear vision that Islam is moral and are completely blind to spot any of its immoralities.
They can see that Islam forbids adultery because of its harsh penalties. But they do not see that Islam actually legalized adultery by allowing men to have sex with unlimited number of women. Four women in the category of wives, unlimited number in the category of slaves, the muta’a wives and the right hand possessions (a woman may give herself as a gift to a man).
They can see that Islam promotes decency because women are requested to cover up from top to toe. But they do not notice that women slaves can walk topless in the streets as they only need to cover from the waist to the knees.
Muslims can see that Islam teaches Muslims to control their sexuality but they do not see that Islam actually uses the sex instinct as a recruiting factor, and as an incentive to facilitate its cause. Instead of being taught that sexual overindulgence is immoral, Muslims are taught they will have plenty of it in this life, but far more in the afterlife. As Mohammed was recruiting Muslims to join his army against the Roman empire (the Mu’tah campaign) he came across a Muslim who had no intention to join. Mohammed wanted to know the reason, and the Muslim explained that he was too old to join. “There will be plenty of yellow (blond) women” said Mohammed in an attempt to make the man change his mind but it didn’t work. The man said “ o prophet of Allah, I reached an age not to care about women”.
Muslims see that Islam prohibits Theft and robbery by its harsh punishments, but they do not see that both crimes are allowed, even encouraged, against non-Muslims in ‘dar al harb’ (house of war) like Europe and America. The Muslims’ greatest jihad ever, the battle of Badr, was nothing but a straightforward piracy.
All the fiasco of adult breast feeding came as a result of Mohammed’s scandalous marriage to Zainab, who was happily married to his adopted son Zaid(3). Mohammed accidentally looked at Zainab’s seductive figure with minimal clothing while at her own home and found it to be too tempting to resist. To solve his problem, Mohammed created a far greater problem for generations of his followers. He made up his mind to have that woman for himself, therefore, he asked his adopted son to divorce her, which the poor boy did immediately. To facilitate his marriage, Mohammed had to ban the noble practice of adoption. Of course, all those breaches were done through the Quran.
To satisfy his lust, Mohammed ruined the family life of his adopted son. By forbidding adoption, he was cruel not only to his son but to generations of orphans who were denied the warmth and security of family life. Surrounded by this shameful mess, he still causes split and confusion among his followers to this day.
3. http://www.islam-watch.org/authors/68-mumin/127-zaynab-beast-zaynab-divine-marriage-to- muhammad-zayd-loss.html