Adult breastfeeding has been a controversial topic. It has again been raised by the Saudi clerics who have issued a Fatwa.
two senior Saudi clerics today said that Saudi Arabia’s women should give their breast milk to male colleagues and acquaintances in order to safeguard the Islamic law that forbids mixing between the sexes. The clerics, however, failed to reach an agreement among each other on how the milk should be conveyed.
There is actually a term from Islamic Jurisprudence – Rada or rida’a. It means “the suckling which produces the legal impediment to marriage of foster-kinship. This practice comes from the Pre-Islamic practices:
The concept of rada derives from Islamic and pre-Islamic notions concerning the state of consanguinity created between wet nurse and unrelated nursling — that is, a woman and a baby other than her own — through the act of breastfeeding.
The basis of its discussion comes from this Hadith reference of Sahih Muslim.
Book 008, Number 3425:
‘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.
Some say that Hadiths is not credible as there is no such reference in Quran. However, there are some folks who argue that there indeed was reference but taken out. In fact, an adult man can be barred from marriage to a woman if she suckles him 10 times. Anything less than 10 times is not supposed to be “legally” useful.
Others, such as the Shafi’is, maintained that the minimum number was five or ten, and that in fact a Qur’anic verse had once stipulated this exact number until its wording had been expurgated from the Qur’anic text
Here is another Hadith reference which explains the concept of number of sucklings:
She [Aisha] reported that ‘in what was revealed of the Kur’an, ten attested breast-feedings were mentioned as required to establish the marriage-ban. The ten were replaced by mention of five attested breast-feeds. The Prophet died and the five were still being recited in the Kur’an. No man ever called upon ‘A’isha who had not completed the minimum number of five sucklings’…
Urwa b. al-Zubayr reports that the Prophet commanded the wife of Abu Hudhayfa to feed her husband’s mawla [i.e. servant], Salim, so that he could go on living with them [upon attaining manhood]. Saalim b. ‘Abdullah reports that he was never able to visit ‘A’isha. She had sent him to be suckled by her sister Umm Kulthum who, however, suckled him only three times, then fell sick. Salim added, ‘Thus I never did complete the course of ten sucklings.’
In 2007, also a fatwa was issues by Egyptian clerics, which was met with outrage. That had very similar sentiments to the one by the Saudi clerics:
In his fatwa, Dr Atiya, the head of al-Azhar’s Department of Hadith, said such teachings could equally apply to adults.
He said that if a woman fed a male colleague “directly from her breast” at least five times they would establish a family bond and thus be allowed to be alone together at work. “Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage,” he ruled. “A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed.”