If a woman takes medication to produce breast milk, and then breastfeeds an unrelated baby, are nursing relations between her and the child established in terms of marriage, Hijab, etc, and between her husband and the child? Furthermore, can a couple who are unable to have children or an unmarried woman use this method when adopting a child?
Allah Most High says:
‘And if you decide to get your children breastfed [by another woman], there is no blame on you, provided you pay off what you offered with fairness, and fear Allah, and be assured that Allah is watchful of what you do.’ (Qur’an: 2/233)
It is Islamically permitted for a couple to have their child breastfed by another woman, and likewise, it is permitted for a woman to breastfeed a child that is not her own. This is clearly established from the above Qur’anic verse and other texts, and agreed upon by the classical jurists (fuqaha). The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) himself was breastfed by Thuwayba (Allah be pleased with her), the slave of Abu Lahab, and Sayyida Halima bint Abi Dhu’ayb (Allah be pleased with her). (See: Sirah Ibn Hisham, 1/132)
Given this, it is permissible for a couple unable to have children or a woman unable to get married to use medication for producing breast-milk, and then breastfeed an unrelated (or adopted) baby within the period designated for it which, according to the sounder position, is two lunar years. As such, if a mature woman (baligha) takes medication and breastfeeds a baby within this period, the relationship of fosterage/nursing (radha’a) will be established between her and the child. If the child is a male, then upon puberty she does not have to observe Hijab from him, and neither will marriage be ever permitted, since she will be considered his mother through nursing.
Imam Ibn Nujaym, the renowned classical Hanafi jurist, states in his Al-Bahr al-Ra’iq:
“If [in a rare case where] a virgin woman breastfeeds a child, she will be considered the child’s mother [by way of nursing], and as such, all the rules related to nursing [in terms of marriage and Hijab] will be established between the two.”
As for the husband of a woman who uses medication to produce breast milk and then breastfeeds an unrelated child, if he has consummated his marriage with her, then nursing relations will be established between him and the child. Thus, he will be considered a father by nursing, and if the child is a female, he will be a Mahram to her. Conversely, if the marriage was not consummated, the relationship of nursing (radha’a) will not be established between him and the child.
Imam Ibn Nujaym (Allah have mercy on him) further explains that if the virgin woman who breastfeeds a female infant goes onto marry a man but divorce occurs prior to consummation, then it will be permitted for this man to marry the child she suckled after she grows up because he will not be considered her father or Mahram, and the rules of nursing have not been established. However, if divorce takes place after consummation, he will not be permitted to marry the girl since he has become her father by way of nursing. (See: Al-Bahr al-Ra’iq, 3/333)
Finally, it should be remembered that even in the case where nursing/foster relationships are established, caution must be observed once the child reaches puberty. Being in seclusion (khalwa) should be avoided especially when there is fear of a sin being committed.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK