Relationships By Fosterage

Question

I would like to ask about the fosterage relationship. I want to marry my cousin but my mother told me that she had fed once her milk up to two sips while she was weeping bitterly. This she did without the permission of my cousin's mother. I want to know that does it entail fosterage relationship between us. I asked this question from many religious scholars and muftis. They all told me that I cannot marry her. I was not satisfied by their reply. Then I studied Tafsir of Ibn. Kathir and Sahih of Muslim. I found that that the fosterage relationship is entailed by at least one and maximum 5 times feeding and the feeding should be enough to fill the belly of the baby. The relevant hadith has been ascribed to Hazrat Aishah (rta). Please comment.


Answer

We believe that a chance feeding does not make someone a foster son/daughter or related relations. In his book Meezaan, Mr Ghamid writes:

"While explaining how exactly a foster relationship is formed, Imam Amin Aḥsan Iṣlaḥi writes: Such a relationship is not formed by some chance episode of suckling a child. The words of the Qur'an stated in this verse clearly testify that this relationship is established only with the full intent of those involved. In other words, an accidental happening does not establish this relationship; it only comes into being after it is planned and is well thought of. Consequently, in the first place, the words used by the Qur'an are اللَّاتِي أَرْضَعْنَكُمْوَأُمَّهَاتُكُمْ(your mothers who have suckled you). Secondly, the word رَضَاعَة (raḍa'ah) is used viz: وَأَخَوَاتُكُمْ مِنْ الرَّضَاعَة. People conversant with the subtleties of the Arabic language know that إِرْضَاع (irḍa') is from the if'al category which in general has an element of emphasis in it. Moreover, the word رَضَاعَة (raḍa'ah) is absolutely inappropriate to be used when a lady suckles a crying child to soothe him."4

The Prophet (sws) has also explained the above purport of the Qur'an in the following words:

'A'ishah (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): If one or two drops are drunk by chance, then this does not prohibit a relationship.5

'A'ishah (rta)narrates: Once when the Prophet (sws) came over to my house, a person was sitting there. He disliked this situation and I could see a feeling of disgust on his face. I said: "O Messenger of God this is my foster brother." The Prophet (sws) replied: "Be careful regarding all such brothers because a foster relationship is only established at the time when a child is suckled in the age when he needs milk."6

I hope this answers your question.

4. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 275.

5. Muslim, No: 2628.

6. Muslim, No: 2642.

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