It never fails to amaze me how in a country where women are only seen covered head to toe in black and get educated and work in mostly gender segregated institutes, and yet men are completely obsessed with them. The latest is a fatwa that originated in Egypt and was recently renewed by Shiekh Al Obiekan in a TV interview. He was asked if it was alright to breastfeed a grown man in order to be able to raise the segregation rule between a man and a woman and he replied with a yes! This was given major coverage in both AlWatan Newspaper and AlRiyadh Newspaper. But before I go into the details of the fatwa, some background information:
Breastfeeding is encouraged in Islam up to the age of two, after which the child has to be weaned. If a woman breastfeeds a child that is not her own, that child becomes her son by breastmilk and she and her daughters do not have to cover from him when he becomes an adult. However she has to breastfeed him before he turns two and it has to be five separate fulfilling sessions of breastfeeding. This is popular in Saudi Arabia especially among sisters because then they won’t have to worry about segregating their kids later. The cousins would be considered as “breastmilk siblings”.
It all began in May 2007 when an Egyptian Sheikh called Mohammed Atiya came out with a fatwa advising women to breastfeed their male coworkers if their job entails spending time alone together. Shiekh Atiya was quickly fired from his post at the Azhar University and the whole thing was swept under the rug. Until this week when Shiekh Al Obiekan, a royal judicial consultant at the Saudi Ministry of Justice renewed it all by replying to a question on a TV interview. He stated that in cases where a household needs an unrelated man like a driver to repeatedly visit the house, it is allowed for the woman of the household to breastfeed the stranger so he becomes a relative! The shiekh’s only condition is that the man does not drink directly from the woman’s breast but that the milk be pumped and then offered to the man in a glass. But this condition was revoked by another sheikh, Abi Ishaq Al Huwaini, who insists that the breastmilk must be sucked by the man directly from the breast!
The whole issue just shows how clueless men are. All this back and forth between sheikhs and not one bothers to ask a woman if it is logical, let alone possible to breastfeed a grown man five fulfilling breastmilk meals. As I’m writing this, I’m cringing at just the thought of it. I’m a huge advocate of breastfeeding and I’ve exclusively breastfed my three kids for at least six months each. Plus I’ve also done the “breastmilk sibling” thing for two nephews and a niece. Breastfeeding a baby is hard work and it takes a toll to be able to produce enough for a one year old, I can’t even imagine how much a thirty year old would need. Women do not produce breastmilk on demand, you have to have had a baby recently and breastfeed that baby daily or otherwise the milk will dry up within a few days. Also breastmilk is not that appetizing, it has the look and taste of skim milk, so not that many men would be able to stomach five meals of it. Moreover the thought of a huge hairy face at a woman’s breast does not evoke motherly or even brotherly feelings. It could go from the grotesque to the erotic but definitely not maternal!