Ibn Taymiyyah – The man who permitted the breastfeeding of adults (Nauzubillah)

Ibn Taymiyyah is famously known and particularly revered by those who call themselves the ‘Salafis’. While they do not follow him nor anyone in Taqleed (emulation) they strongly adore and hold to him as a master in Aqeedah and a master in Fiqh. The majority of Muslims today who are from the orthodox schools of the Ashariyya and Maturidiyya have classed him as a deviant of the highest order, in his understanding of the most fundamental concept of the religion : Tawheed and the divine attributes.

What is less known among many are some of the bizarre jurisprudential rulings he permitted. We must warn our readers here that while out intention is to discuss sensitive subjects in a mature and measured manner, the topic of what you are about to read may not be suitable for younger readers. We however, feel duty bound to bring to light the reality of this individual and what he permitted. We have performed our research thoroughly, and nothing we bring to you is false slander, but fact. 

In Islam, suckling occurs before two years in order to make one Mahram (forbidden in marriage to another). However,  it is widely recognised Umm al-M’umineen Aisha permitted adults to suckle / drink the breast milk of women in order to become Mahram to them and certain relatives of theirs. This is something that is attested to and accepted, and the dominant position among the Sunnis is that she erred in her Ijtihad  (judgement on a religious ruling). We will discuss what ramifications making mistakes of this degree has on ones credibility as a jurist, however we would like to bring to attention what ibn Taymiyyah had to say about this. We will quote the words of the famous modern Salafi scholar, ibn Uthaymeen, who quotes ibn Taymiyyah.

”اخراس شٛخ ا س و اتٍ ذًّٛٛ سحًّ   انرفصٛم ٔقال إرا دػد انحاخح إنٗ إسضاع انكثٛش ٔأسضغ ثثد انرحشٚى
Ibn Uthaymeen said: Sheikh ul-Islam ibn Taimiyah chose to explain in detail and said that if the breast suckling by an adult was necessary and he suckled, then the prohibition (of marriage) is established.”  

Reference: [Fatawa Nur Ala Aldarb by Ibn Uthaimeen, Volume 10 page 204]

Ibn Taymiyyah thus believed that if a mature man were to suckle on a woman not Mahram to him, he would become Mahram to her. Not only does this view go against the view of most of the companions, but it also goes against the view of most Sunni scholars. However, ibn Taymiyyah was not alone in his; Ibn Qayyim, Shawkani and ibn Hazm all shared the very same view a him and permitted it. Egypt has banned the books of ibn Taymiyyah in their country.

Some readers may recall the controversial Fatwah given by a jurist in Egypt, who permitted male students to be breastfed by female ones in order  for both to become Mahram and interact with each other more freely. This ruling spread quickly across the internet and you can read the news report on the BBC here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6681511.stm

We quote the BBC report:

“In his fatwa, Dr Atiya, the head of al-Azhar’s Department of Hadith, said such teachings could equally apply to adults. He said that if a woman fed a male colleague “directly from her breast” at least five times they would establish a family bond and thus be allowed to be alone together at work. “Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage,” he ruled.”A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed.”The legal ruling sparked outrage throughout Egypt and the Arab world.”

Unfortunately while this ruling caused a stir, many do not know that major scholars such as ibn Taymiyyah, ibn Qayyim, and others permitted the same thing. This ruling not only is grotesque in permitting a grown man to suckle from a woman, it makes those who are unlawful to see each other without prescribed Hijab do so.  We know he is not ‘infallible’ but there is a difference between not being ‘infallible’ and making an error on this scale. According to a senior Al-Azhar source, Dr Attiyah was then command to apologise and he thus complied and the latter complied and retracted his ruling and explained his rationale behind why he said it in the first place [From al-Arabiyyah news):

“My statements on the issue of breastfeeding an adult were based on the imams Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Al-Qayyim, Al-Shawkani and Amin Khattab [Al-Subki], and on conclusions I drew from the statements of Ibn Hajar [Al-Askalani].  

Reference: Alarabiya.net, May 21, 2007.

Our dear readers from all schools are urged to reflect and think deeply over whether this ibn Taymiyyah truly represents you, and Islam, and deserves the title ‘Shaykh al-Islam’ given to him mostly by those of the modern Salafi Movement.