Controversy in Saudi Arabia over Fatwa Permitting Breastfeeding of Adults

Pat McMahon Contributor
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Sheikh ‘Abd Al-Muhsin Al-‘Obikan, an advisor at the Saudi Justice Ministry, recently issued a fatwa allowing the breastfeeding of adults. The fatwa is aimed at enabling an unrelated man and woman to be secluded in the same room, a situation which Islam considers forbidden gender mixing. The rationale behind the fatwa is that breastfeeding creates a bond of kinship between the man and woman, rendering the man her mahram,[1] thus making it acceptable for them to be together in seclusion.

The fatwa created a stir in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab media at large, arousing a wave of criticism from clerics and columnists alike. Clerics claimed that breastfeeding could not create a bond of kinship between a female and an unrelated male over two years of age, and some claimed that the fatwa contradicted the shari’a. Columnists argued that such grotesque fatwas are insulting to women, and also tarnish the Muslims’ image. One columnist pointed to a paradox, namely that the fear of gender-mixing is prompting clerics to encourage lewd behaviors like women breastfeeding grown men.

Despite this criticism, Al-‘Obikan has stood his ground, and even reiterated his position in greater detail.

Full story: MEMRI – The Middle East Media Research Institute