Fatwa encouraging adult breastfeeding

A controversy is brewing in Saudi Arabia over a new fatwa issued that advocates, er, adult breastfeeding. From AOL News:
 Images 41376752 1Dae3F6367 O 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.
"Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast-Feeding" (Thanks, Michael-Anne Rauback!)

Image: Cory Doctorow's photo of Singapore's "Haw-Par Villa" theme park


  1. As an American muslim and just as a reasonable human being: this is fucking EMBARRASSING.

    1. I fully agree with this. to the people reading this article, don’t think all Muslims are crazy like these people.

  2. Are these clerics even aware that (some, not even all) women produce breast milk only after the recent birth of a child?

    1. Well, clearly they’ll just have to take hormones to simulate pregnancy until they lactate…then they can cut back, and just take enough hormones to keep them from actually GETTING pregnant.

  3. Embarrassing? That’s the only way, the cookie way, that progress could erupt in such a demented society.

  4. I can’t decide what this actually is trying to achieve, because it has so many issues on the face of it-it can’t be the reason that is being given. It is very demeaning as breast feeding is meant for an infant. Having an adult woman and adult man engage in this manner is demeaning to at least one if not both and in my gut I am sure the woman is intended to get the most degradation. Why this would be allowed when they are so paranoid of female contact is beyond me. However, it just goes to show how a religious authority can throw away one edict for another and if you can somehow subjugate women- perhaps all the better.

  5. Puritanism, taken to an extreme, is indistinguishable from perversion.

    (My captcha word was :NOURISH


  6. Don’t suppose that might be a sheikh attempting to justify his kink, do ya?

    (captcha: “onassis for”!)

  7. Squeezing the milk out is said to be awfully painful. I guess they suggest this so that women will be reluctant to men wanting to touch their breasts and this will lead into a ‘purer ‘n’ stuff’ society.

    And heck, what if a man’s got lactose intolerance.

  8. Is there some kind of sigil or accessory I can wear to indicate to women I come into regular contact with that I am participating in this?

  9. @simonbarsinister: yeah, most probably a diaper. and a rattle also helps clarifying things.

  10. The purpose is to circumvent the strict rules Islam imposes on unrelated women and men. By breastfeeding, the women become “milk-mothers” to them, therefore making it possible for them to be alone in a room (and many other normal, day to day things) without raising religious ire. This is probably very useful when you have to live together with an unrelated male.
    All this is an ingenious way of complying with the letter of Sharia, and goes to show to what extreme people go in order to maintain a foolish consistency.

  11. Do keep in mind that fatwas issued by an individual mufti are not binding on the entire Islamic community; in fact, they’re not binding on anyone since a fatwa is a legal opinion issued by a qualified jurisconsul through his interpretation of Islamic law. Unlike Western conceptions of law in which law must be rigid and homogeneous, Islamic law allows for a high degree of interpretation, rule-bending, the creation of exceptions (for which an entire sub-discipline of law developed in the Middle Ages, to the consternation of more pious, strict-minded clerics), and polycentricity in general. The existence of rather absurd-sounding fatwas like this one is simply an operation of the polyvalency and lack of centralized control or even possibility of centralized control in Islamic law.

  12. That’s quite groovy but I think I’ll continue to relate to women by, you know, treating them with basic respectfulness as fellow human beings. I know, a kooky concept to the fundamentalists!

    Props to the fetishistic clerics for working the system though.

  13. FWIW, the source link at Gulf News that the AOL article references is dead, and a search on articles containing the word ‘breast’ in 2010 reveals nothing related to this story…

  14. I much prefer “Islam, most laughed at religion today” to “Islam, most feared religion today.”

  15. I will just sprinkle the men with holy water and tell them they are now Catholic, and presto More Catholics.

  16. What thoughts do you suppose flickered through the sheikh’s head during this interview that he decided against saying for fear they’d make him sound like an jackass?

  17. This was strange and exciting until it said “but not directly from the breast”. :( Now its just strange!

  18. All this is an ingenious way of complying with the letter of Sharia, and goes to show to what extreme people go in order to maintain a foolish consistency.

    Personally, I think that this is an ingenious way of dirty old pervs in a sex-starved culture to get to think about boobs more, and, for Al Huwaini, to get a chance – nay, a requirement – to suckle on a few.

  19. Yes, yes; fatwas get pretty freaky…

    I want to know the story behind the creepy ‘adult nursing’ kitsch statues!

  20. I saw a couple lovely ladies today who’d I’d like to be related too via this method.

    Seriously, I don’t think this is much odder than Jewish dietary laws (milk and meat make god mad!) or having a Jewish mom magically makes you Jewish even if you are a Mormon.

  21. Frankly, this is a real breakthrough. Finally a fatwa that makes sense to the common man. We are fam-ily.

  22. Yes, I suppose it’s a bit strange, but not really any stranger than, say, American attitudes towards breast-feeding (many of which are coming through loud and clear in some of the comments)…

    1. Well I’m not sure what American attitudes you are picking up on, but they must not be the ones I’m familar with.

      Like the big stink over breast feeding in public…now that will get some people rilled up.

      From the comments I’ve read most people seem to think it’s weird for an ADULT male to breast feed from an unrelated (not genetically) woman….

      (And then there are those few that seem to find this enticing and somewhat of a turn on…)

  23. I think they should just have all women drop two drops of breast milk into the ocean, and any man who wants to freely associate with women should drink two drops of ocean water.

    That way, they’d be family homeopathically! To everyone! Thus keeping the letter of shari’a without actually having to, you know, be stupid.

  24. (slight correction: Any woman who wants to freely associate with men should drop two drops, etc.)

  25. Y’all know that Iran actively encourages something called ‘day marriage’. If you want to sleep with someone (of the opposite sex), you marry them, go to a hotel room and do your business, then divorce them.

    1. that just killed me.

      spit take of … milk… from my cereal bowl.

      1000 thank yous.

  26. When I get my time machine I’m going to go back and insert all kinds of ridiculous barriers into scripture, and see what interesting ways the clerics use to circumvent them.

    1. What makes you think that hasn’t already been done? Dude, have you ever READ Leviticus? If that isn’t a time travelers idea of a joke, I don’t know what is.

  27. > 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.

    WTF? That is blatant discrimination.

    If I were a driver, I’d be pretty pissed off with that fatwah (not personally of course, but just on a point of principle with regard to discrimination against drivers per se).

    Is there an appeals procedure?

  28. This is an outrage! The only way to enjoy the sweet taste of breast milk is straight from the nipple.

  29. This isn’t new in any way. In actual fact this view was held by the Prophet’s wife. She was one of the most highly respected scholars of the time. None of the male scholars agreed with her on this point, but they were in no position to disallow her view either. So in fact this has been a minority view since almost the beginning of Islam.

  30. Gotta say, still not any weirder than consuming Jesus every Sunday. I mean, even just metaphorically that’s all kind of hinky.

    1. Umm… Yes it is. The metaphorical consumption of Christ’s body does not degrade anyone. What an ignorant thing to say. Funny is not really your thing. Just sayin

      1. Nursing is about the most natural human behavior imaginable. Even babies know how to do it! Cannibalistic necrophagia, even in metaphorical form is freaky. “This is my body you eat. This is my blood you drink.” sounds like dialog from a bad zombie/vampire porn film.

        1. Antinous, it’s cannibalistic theophagia.

          All humans are necrophagous (depending where you draw the line)—except nursing babies, who are actually eating tissue from the body of a living animal (albeit a human one), which ought to make breast milk treyf* (but I’m sure there’s an exception somewhere).

          But the body in question is Christ’s LIVING body, and the blood his living blood (that it’s human flesh isn’t really debatable, since it’s “my body, broken for you,” and the divine body isn’t broken), so it’s not necrophagous.

          I’m not sure when the RCC started proclaiming literal transubstantiation, but I think it must have been considerably after the period when most Christians still considered themselves good Jews…because blood is treyf no matter what creature it comes from.
          *But not haram.

          1. Humans are treyf, but even blood from a kosher animal is treyf.

            The question is, is G-D’s FLESH treyf? That’s interesting…but His blood would be, even if gods are kosher!

      2. No, it’s not. In terms of things religions worldwide do in the name of worship that seem really weird to outsiders, eating your dead god is up there.

    2. Yes Anne it is rather barbaric to consume your prophet every week. Always thought he was rather wheatie. But at least that was pretend canibalism, this is no metaphor this is adult male mouth on tits.

      What I find really offensive is I only like cold milk.

  31. Awesome how a Muslim story gets around the Catholic-bashing! Transubstantiation is not metaphorical to true believers. What’s sacred to some is a seltzer bottle to others. So cool.

    1. You’ve confused “bashing” with a K-12 of Catholic education and all the joy and delight and consequent throwing up one’s hands in utter confusion that it entails. Comparing the practices of two religions whose practices out of context seem very strange to outsiders is hardly hateful, even if I did so with sarcasm.

      1. Wasn’t directed at you, AK. I send you an electronic glazed donut, unblessed, for your trouble.

  32. Nobody pointing out yet how this objectifies women? Commenters in the actual threat also objectifying women? This must be BoingBoing.

    1. wait, so now the GIVER of bodily fluids is objectivized? I thought it was the receiver? or do we just like to say women are objecticised no matter what their role, because we think that’s what feminism is?

    2. Probably because it’s no shock that Islam objectifies women. Widespread obligatory breastfeeding? …. that’s new.

  33. Better than the more explicitly violent fatwas that we here tell about, once in a while.
    Once again, the self-important give advice: even though none is asked, sought, or needed.
    I suppose that some will object to this not being a mandatory decree.

  34. OTOH, it is kind of nice to “hear” somebody advocate for the lesser-known causes which may otherwise be held in obscure contempt.

  35. And that image is surely of a Taoist sculpture, is it not?
    Ah, those happy Chinese heathens! What with their lustful dreams for a blissful & erotic, an eternal and yet physical, a never-ending life in this world!
    Those heathens were (and are) of course very far both in time and in temperament from the intolerant and abstemious men who have issued the decrees here under discussion.
    Even though they all liked to suckle, I guess.

    And these guys too want to suck the teats:

    At the 1:50 mark, for the impatient…

  36. Shouldn’t the original AOL link in this story have given credit to The Onion for the material they obviously stole? Come on. This has to be satire, right?

  37. Whilst I not keen on this particular idea with regards to adults doing this. if you read about adoption in Islam on sites relating to adopting children from Pakistan particularly, it is suggested that if the adopting mother gives breast milk to the adopted child, this means that it then becomes one of the blood family, thereby allowing for it to inherit under Islamic inheritance rules. So in some ways this makes complete sense.

  38. “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.

    Uh nice. I bet that “exception” was in the Koran. I guess some don’t want their lowly limo/cab drivers to share in their wives milk. I would be talkin’ to my lino/cab driver union!

  39. Actually such things were prevalent in other cultures as well. I believe it was the Greeks who would hail a woman with, “Mother have you any milk?” if they were thirsty and traveling. I believe she had an option of supplying it or not but as there were no breast pumps the only other way to handle it would be as a baby would do.

    Many of the ancients saw breasts for they are, milk bottles. While certainly a pleasure to behold and fondle during intimacy the main event was the main event and sex often happened without disrobing or even baring the breasts. That was the advantage of togas and such wardrobe or mini-skirts in our day. I am not sure when the exact date or age of man that they became what they are today in the minds of society; sex baubles.

    Some theologians posit that God only provided loin cloths for Adam and Eve after the fall since that is the area where men and women are definitely completly different.

    I have seen children nursing way past seven. I don’t agree with the fatwa since I am not Islamic and see no need for such a thing, but it is not as unique in the history of mankind as you would think. Many of the ancient cultures would have thought us perverse for making a big to do about milk bottles.

  40. If you want to understand the absurdity of religions in the modern world, there’s nothing like seeing a religion you’re not very familiar with try to navigate 2010 using the rules they made thousands of years ago. I’m sure there are many things that are just as wacky happening right now in, say Catholicism (several leap to mind, in fact), but they’re harder to see, and look less insane when I do see them, just because I’m much more familiar with a Christian view and Christian values. I blogged a little about this awesome story at http://thereisnothingforyouhere.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/muslim-extremism-just-got-sexy/

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