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The Nurseling (1)



By Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad

And the [divorced] mothers may nurse their children for two whole years if they wish to complete the period of nursing, and it is incumbent upon him who has begotten the child to provide in a fair manner for their sustenance and clothing. No human being shall be burdened with more than he is well able to bear: neither shall a mother be made to suffer because of her child, nor, because of his child, he who has begotten it. And the same duty rests upon the [father’s] heir. And if both [parents] decide, by mutual consent and counsel, upon separation [of mother and child], they will incur no sin [thereby]; and if you decide to entrust your children to foster mothers, you will incur no sin provided you ensure, in a fair manner, the safety of the child which you are handing over. But remain conscious of Allah, and know that Allah sees all that you do. (al-Baraqah, 2:233)


And mothers may nurse their children for two whole years.” Who are the mothers that the verse is talking about? The jurists said the verse is speaking about divorced mothers since all the verses before this one speak on divorced women. So, this verse continues the discussion on divorced women who happened to be pregnant when their marriages were set asunder. But Allah said in the verse:


“…and it is incumbent upon him who has begotten the child to provide in a fair manner for their sustenance and clothing.” But clothing is not part of the rights of a woman divorced irrevocably. Clothing is part of a woman’s rights in a subsisting marriage or a woman reversibly  divorced (revocable divorce); but some of the scholars said in the case of one irrevocably divorced, even though she is only entitled to sustenance and not clothing, the father, as a means to uphold high morals, can clothe her for breastfeeding his child. Still, some of them said, the verse covers women in marriage as well as women who are divorced and who have children from their former husbands who divorced them.


And mothers may nurse their children for two whole years.”

Is this an obligatory order or is it a recommendation? Must every mother suckle her child for two whole years? The jurists said yes, in some situations, and in others, only a recommendation.

Must every mother suckle her child? This question is on the nursing itself. They said if the marriage subsists, the mother has to suckle the child, but where the union is set asunder, the mother may suckle the child if she wants, or she may decline to breastfeed the child.


And mothers may nurse their children for two whole years.

Is suckling of the baby a duty of the mother, or is it a right? If, on the one hand, nursing the baby is a duty as contained in this verse, then mothers must suckle their babies, and they will be sinning if they fail to do so. But if on the other, it is a right, then the condition changes. It means that the verse addresses the husband, to the effect that nursing the baby is a right that a woman has, so allow her to suckle her child whether she is your wife or when you divorce her.

Still on suckling being a duty or a right of the wife; it could be both. It is a duty on her where the marriage subsists; it is her right to suckle her baby in the event of a divorce. A divorced woman may refuse to suckle her baby, thus foregoing her right, but where the child rejects breastfeeding from other women except his mother, or where nursing mothers are not available, suckling the child becomes a duty on the mother.


And mothers may nurse their children for two whole years.

Two whole years mentioned is to avoid any doubt where the marriage is set asunder. Normally, divorce brings with it a lot of rancour and hatred between people that were once lovers, each one of them, except they are guided by Allah through knowledge and taqwah, will spare no effort to harm the other by making simple issues extremely difficult. So, Allah restricts the period of nursing to two years. The husband will neither be compelled to pay for an additional period of suckling beyond two years nor will he be allowed to shorten the period to be lesser than two years. Both parties have to agree on lengthening or shortening of the period of suckling and the extent of the husband’s financial responsibility in either of the cases.


“…for those who desire to complete the period of nursing..” Therefore, two years is mentioned to forestall disagreement on the duration of nursing for those who desire to complete the period. The mother and the father of the child have to agree on what is best for the child, to either shorten or complete the period of two years.

Must every child be suckled for two years? Yes, according to some of them, the scholars, but some said, if a child is born after six months from the time of his conception, that child should be suckled for two years. But one that is born after seven months should be suckled for 23 months. For children born after nine months, the period of nursing is 21 months because Allah says


“..and the bearing of him and the weaning of him is thirty months..” (al-Ahqaaf 15), so, the period of nursing increases or decreases in proportion to the increase or decrease in the period of pregnancy. If the period of the pregnancy increases, that of nursing decreases, and so on, in such a way that bearing and weaning of the child will be in a thirty-month period.


And mothers may nurse their children for two whole years.

By this also relation by breastfeeding can only be established within the period of two years. A child cannot marry his foster-mother, and her children are his brothers and sisters by fosterage. That child cannot marry the children of his foster-mother. So, for this to happen the breastfeeding must occur within the first two years of the child’s existence. A matured person drinking from a woman’s breast will not make her his foster-mother, like a husband taking milk from his wife’s breast. There is, however, a weak opinion among the scholars considering this as fosterage. But the most authentic position is that the breastfeeding must occur within the first two to three years of the child’s life. Therefore, a four-year-old child, for example, breastfeeding from a woman will not make her his foster-mother because the milk at that stage of his life is not the source of nourishment and has no nutritional value that will constitute fosterage.


And mothers may nurse their children for two whole years.

By this verse nursing of babies is the preserve of mothers, even where they are divorced by the father of the child. Some scholars extend the period of nursing to when a boy attains the age of majority and a girl reaches the marriageable age. That is when the task of nursing ends, except where a divorced woman remarries, in which case she loses the nursing right. From the very moment a marriage is contracted between her and another husband, the right of nursing is lost. Some of them said she only loses the right of nursing after consummation of the new marriage.

Now that she loses the right to nurse the child, who assumes that responsibility? The child goes to her mother, or her mother’s mother, or her aunt; in the absence of these, the mother of the husband’s mother assumes the nursing of the child, and so on, as established by the scholars.



1-She has to take care of the child properly and suckle him.

2- She will not travel with the child outside the state in which the father resides. Her movement with the child is restricted to such journeys that prayers are not shortened for qasr. Any trip that will permit the traveller to shorten their prayers, the nursing mother is not allowed to undertake with her nurseling, the baby. If she travels such distance, she loses her right to nursing.

Will the child be given to her after her return from a trip in which she forsakes the child? Some scholars said she could have the child again since the condition which brings about the seizure of the child is no longer there with her return.

3- For the woman to retain her right of nursing the child, she has to be decent in her manners, in her dressing, and in her interactions with men who are not her relatives.

We did mention earlier that contracting a marriage deprives her of the nursing rights, but what will happen where she is again divorced from her second marriage or the second husband dies? Some of them said the child could return to her, while others said with the consummation of the second marriage she loses the right to nurse the child whatever happens with the marriage afterwards, since she preferred her wedding over the child and forsook the baby, she no longer has any right to nursing. Her case is similar to that of a divorced woman who, out of rage, in the early days of the divorce, drops the child with the father and refuses to accept nursing it, but who later regrets her actions, wakes up from her slumber and seeks to take the child. Such a woman will not be given the child for nursing since she denies herself that right of her own accord. She allows her hatred of the father to affect the child, so she turns away when the child needs her most only to come back later; no, she will never have the child to nurse.