There are conditions governing nursing the child with respect to both the father and the divorced mother. The woman should be paid for suckling her own baby. The mistake people make is to restrict the father’s duty to provide for the child’s needs. He has to negotiate with the mother of the child how much she will accept for nursing the child. He has to provide clothing for her also, where the divorce is a reversible one, otherwise, he will only clothe the mother as a mark of generousness.
“..and it is incumbent upon him who has begotten the child to provide in a fair manner for their sustenance and clothing.”
The sustenance is for the child but the mother is the object here since sustenance to the child passes through the mother, thus, feeding the mother means feeding the child. With this maintaining and providing for the members of a household rests on the father’s shoulders before the children attain the age of majority. Such provision should be “in a fair manner”, according to father purchasing power and social status. That is why Allah said:
“No human being shall be burdened with more than he is well able to bear:”
The mother suckling the child should not be burdened with unnecessary duties more than she can bear. The father of the child should not be over-burdened beyond what he can afford of expenses regarding nursing and clothing. All parties are to maintain a middling position as regards duties and expenditure. That is why Allah has not determined or prescribed what should be expended on the issue of nursing, unlike zakah where a determined percentage is legislated with regard to animal husbandry and farm produce. Also, in expiation, the number of people to be fed is mentioned, like the feeding of sixty indigent persons. The amount of grains to be given in Zakaatul Fitr is determined. But what is due to a divorced woman in feeding and clothing when she nurses a child is not determined. It is left open to the people to arrive at what is reasonable due to economic disparities among parents.
“…neither shall a mother be made to suffer because of her child, nor, because of his child, he who has begotten it.” Notice the beauty of the expression. The child is attributed to both the mother (her child) and the father (his child). As if to remind the two of them that whatever happens, this is their child, that they should have mercy on his weak baby that has no control over anything, and whom the parents have put into the problem because of their divorce. So, the mother will not use the child as a weapon against the father. She may decide to refuse nursing the child which will make the father’s life miserable; he may look for nursing mothers and may not succeed in getting one. Or, she may prove very difficult in negotiating the terms upon which she will nurse the child, asking for the impossible. Also, the father should not employ the existence of the child as a way of dealing with the mother, like forcibly taking the child away, turning her life into hell by creating unbearable situations for the child to stay with her and preventing the mother from seeing and showing love to her child.
“And if both [parents] decide, by mutual consent and counsel, upon separation [of mother and child], they will incur no sin [thereby];” Provided this is done for the benefit of the child, there is no blame on them. Something happens before the end of the term that necessitates separating mother and child, the parents mutually agree and see that as the best for the child, they will incur no sin by doing that.
There is a share for others in what we possess. The sustenance of the child, for example, is with the child through the mother’s breast, pure, palatable milk rich in nutrients that the body needs in the lactation period. Does the mother have any justification for denying the child this sustenance?
You are a man of means, another example, in your zakatable sustenance is a share that does not belong to you. It belongs to those recipients that Allah Himself designated. You are just an emissary through whom Allah sends the wealth to the recipients. It is a test, whether or not you will restore such deposits to their owners.
In the same manner, this child that was turned from sperm to a clot of congealed blood, to a foetus out of which bones surfaced that were later clothed with flesh until Allah developed this creature, the child that we are talking about; in all the stages, what role has the father played? Nothing. It was only in the fleeting moment of enjoyment when there was nothing on the father’s mind than satisfying the animal instinct that Allah destined for him a child. The wife that was his partner in the act of mutual gratification, Allah destined for her a child. She was not aware of its presence, then she started noticing its movement, then she became heavy, and then she was delivered of the child.
This child has rights – care, nourishment, support. The sustenance of the child is in the mother’s breast for which she has not exerted any effort. She has not done anything to bring the milk. She delivered the child and her breasts were filled with milk. A painful chastisement awaits her if she denies the child her breasts without just cause.
The mother’s milk is the best nourishment for the child. Allah who created the child through the stages we mentioned earlier provides the best nourishment for this creature that none can produce but He. Formula companies and some professionals are just deceiving people into believing that they can reproduce what Allah has created in breastmilk. With all the many “improvements” they have been adding of missing ingredients, the formula is not the same as breastmilk; no formula is even close. There are many things that Allah created in breastmilk, like living cells, immune factors and antibodies that cannot be added to the formula. If you know that powdered (cow’s) milk is not the same as fresh milk, why will anyone convince you that formula is just the same as breastmilk?
By Allah’s will, every mother makes milk that is unique to her for her unique baby. We don’t have the same blood. My blood is different from yours. Even my own blood will show varying about of sodium, depending on the time of test and what I have for lunch or how thirsty I may be. So, by Allah’s design milk varies from mother to mother. The milk produced by a mother in the morning may be different from what she will produce in the evening; what she produces today may be different from the milk that she produces the next day, in accordance to the needs of various organs of the child at different stages of development. These varying conditions and changes can never be duplicated by any formula; only Allah can do that!
When the mother is ill breastfeeding does not stop as the breastmilk protects the baby against infection. Only wrong information contrived to serve the formula companies discourages mothers not to breastfeed during illness. Even the prescribed medications that will not allow mothers to breastfeed could be substituted with other similarly effective medications which are compatible with continued breastfeeding. As you watch this programme, mothers living HIV/AIDS no longer have a reason not to breastfeed since most health facilities have Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) units.
Therefore, let every mother be aware that no bottle or formula is better for her child than her breastmilk which is pure and goes directly into her baby without any human interference. Her breastmilk has a temperature similar to that in the body of her child, neither too cold nor too hot, but within acceptable condition between the body system of mother and child. No feeding bottle can match that accuracy.
By holding her baby close to her bosom and breastfeeding it, the mother is sowing the seed of affection and mercy in her child which she will reap when the child attains the age of majority. Breastfeeding, it is said, is a close, physical and emotional relationship between two people in love. These children we see today who show neither deference nor tenderness to their parents may be an example to bottle-fed babies when they were infants. Let the mothers think deeply and pray for the children; they may be blameless. Did you obey your parents? If you didn’t, then don’t expect your children to obey you. But if a mother obeyed her own parent and breastfed her children, she is certain to reap the fruit of what she did. Her children will listen to and obey her.
The bosom of a woman is created to pronounce her femininity, her beauty, and the repository of her baby’s milk. Showing gratitude for Allah’s favour is to use it for the purpose it is created. Use your hand, your eyes, and intellect for what they are created for. That is showing gratitude to Allah. An ingrate is one who does not use Allah’s grace properly.
The woman who withholds breast from feeding her child because its beauty will diminish is an ignorant fool. Breastfeeding does not harm the breast, but withholding it from the child flattens it and exposes the mother to a number of infections.