Respect for children (part 2 of 3) [Archives:2006/910/Culture]

January 9 2006

Abdulaziz Atieq
The Cultural Center for Foreigners' Call

Under Islamic Law, Allah made breastfeeding an established right of the child, whether his mother or someone else provides it. The noble verses guaranteeing this right to the infant also guaranteed rights to all parties involved, so that none will be harmed. The breastfeeding issue has different sides to consider:

1. Rights of the child

Islam prescribed breastfeeding and commanded children do so until they attain full power and strength, as breastfeeding greatly impacts children's growth and development. Allah gave the required time period for breastfeeding. He said, “The mothers shall give suckling to their children for two whole years.” (Al-Baqarah: 233)

2. Rights of the mother

If the mother is not divorced, she should breastfeed her child as a religious obligation, not because she is the natural mother. If she is divorced, then nursing is dealt with as nafaqah (financial support), as established in the Shari`ah. Nafaqah of the child is the father's responsibility. The father must give the mother compensation for her nursing. If she refuses to nurse, then it is incumbent upon the father to find and hire the child a wet-nurse. However, scholars make it mandatory upon the mother to nurse her child if the child refuses nursing by any other or if the father doesn't have sufficient funds to hire a wet-nurse.

The Qur'an satisfactorily detailed nursing rights, “The mothers shall give suck to their children for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the term of suckling, but the father of the child shall bear the cost of the mother's food and clothing on a reasonable basis. No person shall have a burden laid on him greater than he can bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child, or father on account of his child. And on the (father's) heir is incumbent the like of that (which was incumbent on the father). If they both decide on weaning by mutual consent and after due consultation, there is no sin on them. And if you decide on a wet-nurse for your children, there is no sin on you, provided you pay what you agreed on a reasonable basis. And fear Allah and know that Allah is All-Seer of what you do.” (Al-Baqarah: 223)

Allah also said, “And if they are pregnant, then spend on them till they deliver. Then if they give suck to the children for you, give them their due payment and let each of you accept the advice of the other in a just way. But if you make difficulties for one another, then some other woman may give suck for him.” (At-Talaq: 6)

3. Rights of others

The wet-nurse has rights as well, as relationships are established as a result of the child nursing from her. `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The effect of nursing is like giving birth in regards to relationships such as marriage