Here’s an unusual Sharia Alert, and an interesing insight into the much-ballyhooed high moral standards of Islam, from the most respected institution in the world of Sunni Islam, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University. According to an Arabic article in Al-Arabiyya (thanks to Ibrahim and War On Hate), the Egyptian Parliament is now discussing a fatwa from an Al-Azhar cleric that aims to circumvent the prohibition on a male and a female who are not married to each other from working together in private. All she has to do, you see, is suckle him. Then he becomes her foster child, and they can be together without a chaperone.
This bizarre ruling is based, of course, on Muhammad’s words.
‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hadhaifa, lived with him and his family in their house. She (i. e. the daughter of Suhail came to Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) and said: Salim has attained (purbety) [sic] as men attain, and he understands what they understand, and he enters our house freely, I, however, perceive that something (rankles) in the heart of Abu Hudhaifa, whereupon Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said to her: Suckle him and you would become unlawful for him, and (the rankling) which Abu Hudhaifa feels in his heart will disappear. She returned and said: So I suckled him, and what (was there) in the heart of Abu Hudhaifa disappeared. (Sahih Muslim 3425)
Muhammad tells the daughter of Suhail to suckle Salim. This will make her unlawful to him, that is, he won’t be able to marry her because he will be her foster child. Thus it will be lawful for him to be in the house with her, and Abu Hudhaifa will no longer be angry.
There are related ahadith here.
War On Hate has kindly provided this translation of a portion of Al-Arabiyya piece, which notes the controversy over this matter. (War On Hate says that it’s unclear if Dr Atiyya is being directly quoted or paraphrased.) It also registers concern that this topic not be publicized, for obvious reasons.
The Book Removing the Suspicions
He [Dr. Atiyya, the head of the Hadith Department in Al-Azhar’s Usool El-Din Faculty] added that: They [people who ran a campaign starting three weeks ago against the faculty for this fatwa] attacked a book that was written by Dr. Abdul Muhdi Abdul Qader Abdul Hadi, a Hadith teacher in the Faculty of Usool Al-Deen. The book was titled “Removing the Suspicions from the Sunna of the Prophet”. They said that he is teaching it to his third-year students, and that the book shows proof that the topic of adult suckling is a Sahih [sound, or reliable] Hadith, but that it did not explain these matters properly — it covered that topic briefly by bringing up the suspicion and responding to it….I brought a sample of the hadiths that they were objecting to, including this hadith in detail so people can understand it. We then said, in short, that scholarly studies should not be brought up in the media outlets, because these outlets only give the final conclusion. This makes it difficult for the general public to understand this concept. Hence, a concept like adult suckling needs to be explained in a large public lecture.
Dr. Izzat Atiyya continued: After we refuted their objection with the solid evidence of the adult suckling hadith, they brought their suspicions with regards to infant suckling. They said that it forbids marriage, however it does not permit being alone with her (khalwah). This is despite the existence of a passage as well on this: When someone entered upon Aisha but she prevented him. So the prophet said, “He is your uncle, so let him enter upon you” And when we said that, they accused Al-Azhar University of lying.
[They are apparently referring to this hadith.]
He said that the book of Dr Abdul Mahdi Abdul Qader, which they are attacking, is a study he had conducted at an early stage of his scholarly life. When he now personally teaches some of the suspicions and responds to them, he does not just blindly quote the book. Rather, he prepares for it, and he presents it to his students in a scholarly, simplified manner so they can completely understand its meaning. He asks them to correct some matters that he sees as needing a correction or explanation.
He elaborated: The book served us well, as well as its writer. We have shown that what they are denying is a fundamental from the Sunnah. However, until now there is no independent subject in the scholarly curriculum in the Hadith Department called “Refuting the Suspicions,” which is the title of the book. Nevertheless, we decided that this topic be taught in the next academic year. And until now, we select hadiths that have suspicions, and we explain and respond to them, and the adult suckling hadith was not among those hadiths.