Here There and Everywhere

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Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast-Feeding

This really, really needs to go away. It makes no sense, none, for adult women to breastfeed a grown man in order to get around the rules that unrelated men and women should not be in contact with one another.

You can read this article and related articles on AOL News

Dana Kennedy

(June 5) — Women in Saudi Arabia should give their breast milk to male colleagues and acquaintances in order to avoid breaking strict Islamic law forbidding mixing between the sexes, two powerful Saudi clerics have said. They are at odds, however, over precisely how the milk should be conveyed.

A fatwa issued recently about adult breast-feeding to establish “maternal relations” and preclude the possibility of sexual contact has resulted in a week’s worth of newspaper headlines in Saudi Arabia. Some have found the debate so bizarre that they’re calling for stricter regulations about how and when fatwas should be issued.

Sheikh Al Obeikan, an adviser to the royal court and consultant to the Ministry of Justice, set off a firestorm of controversy recently when he said on TV that women who come into regular contact with men who aren’t related to them ought to give them their breast milk so they will be considered relatives.

“The man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman,” Al Obeikan said, according to Gulf News. “He should drink it and then becomes a relative of the family, a fact that allows him to come in contact with the women without breaking Islam’s rules about mixing.”

Obeikan said the fatwa applied to men who live in the same house or come into contact with women on a regular basis, except for drivers.

Al Obeikan, who made the statement after being asked on TV about a 2007 fatwa issued by an Egyptian scholar about adult breast-feeding, said that the breast milk ought to be pumped out and given to men in a glass.

But his remarks were followed by an announcement by another high-profile sheik, Abi Ishaq Al Huwaini, who said that men should suckle the breast milk directly from a woman’s breast.

Shortly after the two sheiks weighed in on the matter, a bus driver in the country’s Eastern Region reportedly told one of the female teachers whom he drives regularly that he wanted to suckle milk from her breast. The teacher has threaten to file a lawsuit against him.

The fatwa stems from the tenets of the strict Wahhabi version of Islam that governs modern Saudi Arabia and forbids women from mixing with men who are not relatives. They are also not allowed to vote, drive or even leave the country without the consent of a male “guardian.”

Under Islamic law, women are encouraged to breast-feed their children until the age of 2. It is not uncommon for sisters, for example, to breast-feed their nephews so they and their daughters will not have to cover their faces in front of them later in life. The custom is called being a “breast milk sibling.”

But under Islamic law, breast milk siblings have to be breastfed before the age of 2 in five “fulfilling” sessions. Islam prohibits sexual relations between a man and any woman who breastfed him in infancy. They are then allowed to be alone together when the man is an adult because he is not considered a potential mate.

“The whole issue just shows how clueless men are,” blogger Eman Al Nafjan wrote on her website. “All this back and forth between sheiks and not one bothers to ask a woman if it’s logical, let alone possible to breastfeed a grown man five fulfilling breast milk meals.

“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.”

Al Nafjan said many in the country were appalled by the fatwa.

“We have many important issues that need discussing,” Al Nafjan told AOL News Friday. “It’s ridiculous to spend time talking about adult breast-feeding.”

Unlawful mixing between the sexes is taken very seriously in Saudi Arabia. In March 2009, a 75-year-old Syrian widow, Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, living in the city of Al-Chamil, was given 40 lashes and sentenced to six months in prison after the religious police learned that two men who were not related to her were in her house, delivering bread to her.

One of the two men found in her house, Fahd, told the police that Sawadi breast-fed him as a baby so he was considered a son and had a right to be there. But in a later court ruling, a judge said it could not be proved that Fahd was her “breast milk son.” Fahd was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes, and the man who accompanied him got six months and 60 lashes.

The original adult breast-feeding fatwa was issued three years ago by an Egyptian scholar at Egypt’s al-Azhar University, considered Sunni Islam’s top university. Ezzat Attiya was expelled from the university after advocating breast-feeding of men as a way to circumnavigate segregation of the sexes in Egypt.

A year ago, Attiya was reinstated to his post.

June 4, 2010 - Posted by | Cultural, Mating Behavior, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues


  1. this once failed fatwa is making a come back?
    with respect to all faiths, this has got to be one of the most irrational fatwas ever; along with the saudi one which orders males to be in the room when females connect to the internet…cuz god FORBID the females happen to stumble onto porn or meet guys online…oh wait, that’s typical saudi male activity actually. ho humf.

    One reason this will fail miserably is the fact that many if not ALL the male relatives of the women who will be breastfeeding grown ass men will not allow it, honor kill the women or very simply kill the men eager to be breast fed.


    Comment by Mrm | June 5, 2010 | Reply

  2. I’m speechless. Really and truly, this doesn’t happen often. There are just no word to express my inability to understand such sexist fanaticism in the name of a religion.

    Comment by AcadeMama | June 5, 2010 | Reply

  3. As a Muslim I’m offended by this Fatwa. This is a joke and I second Mrm I can’t believe this joke of a Fatwa is making a come back.

    Comment by Yousef | June 5, 2010 | Reply

  4. Haha this is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard! 🙂
    Did anyone ask the women for their opinion? its their milk after all 🙂

    Comment by Mathai | June 6, 2010 | Reply

  5. Here’s the thing. I think it is meant well. I believe the clerics’ intentions were for the good – they were looking for a sharia-approved way that men and women who are not mahram can share the same space without worries of sexual attraction.

    I often think of the saying about when a man and a woman are alone, the third person present is Satan. There CAN be a lot of truth to that, if men and women do not know how to restrain themselves, and to discipline themselves.

    Here, we all respect one another and we all get along, meaning here, on Here There and Everywhere. Elsewhere – and it really doesn’t matter what country it is – unless men and women learn how to behave with respect around one another, there will always be that problem; it’s the way we are wired.

    So I guess my reaction – apart from the visceral disgust (!) – to the fatwa is that it is misguided. The focus needs to be on teaching us to work and play together while maintaining our self-respect and our boundaries.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 6, 2010 | Reply

  6. Words fail me.
    In almost any other country that would be sexual assault as best.
    What if she doesn’t want to do it?
    How can she produce enough milk to fill up a man 5 times!!!!
    If I were a Saudi woman I’d stay away from shopping malls. One would have to feed hundreds at a time.

    Comment by rich best | June 13, 2010 | Reply

  7. RichBest – Horrible! I cannot imagine how they think this is a religious solution! And sadly, I think they are well intentioned.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 14, 2010 | Reply

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