In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
[Explanation in the light of Al-Baqarah Ayah 233]
Some rules concerning rada’ah or suckling of children come out from this ayah.
Suckling of Children is an Obligation of the Mother
Suckling is an obligation of the mother. If she does not feed without a valid reason or because of some hostility or displeasure, she will be a sinner. And she cannot accept any payment for suckling from her husband, as long as she is married to him because that is her own duty.
The Total Period of Suckling
The second rule is about the total period of suckling which is two years. Unless there be some special reason, it is the right of the child that this period be completed.
Nursing a child after completing two and a half years is unanimously forbidden.
Notice in the ayah, the words used for mothers is walidaat but while referring to the father, the word maulood meaning “to whom the child is born” has been used instead of the smaller word walid.
The use of al-mauloodi lahu in place of walid [father] in this setting has a secret behind it.
Since the father has been obligated to pay for the expenses of the child, even though the child belongs to the father and the mother both, it was possible that the father could take this command to be somewhat burdensome, therefore, the express al-mauloodi lahu [to whom the child is born] was preferred over walid [father]. No doubt both father and mother share in the birth of the child, however, the child is ascribed to the father. The lineage comes from the father. Now that the child is his, the responsibility of the child’s expenses should not be heavy on him.
Responsibilities of Mothers and Fathers
The third rule in this ayah is: While suckling the child is the responsibility of the mother, but the sustenance of the mother, inclusive of all necessities of life, is the responsibility of the father and this responsibility continues as far as the marriage or the post-divorce waiting period of wife [‘Iddah] continues. When divorce and ‘Iddah have matured, the responsibility of the husband toward the expenses of his wife will end, but the father will continue to be obligated to pay for the suckling of the child. [Mazhari]
The Standard of Wife’s Liabilities
When the husband and wife are both affluent, matching expenses will be obligatory. When both are poor, correspondingly matching expenses will be obligatory. There is agreement on this. However, the Muslim jurists differ if both have a different financial status. Following al-Khassaf, the author of Hidayah, has ruled that should the woman be poor and the man rich, her expenses will be medial – higher than those of the poor and lower than those of the rich. According to al-Karkhi, the status of the husband will be the criterion.
“No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child.” It means that the father and mother of the child should not stonewall each other. For instance, the mother may be unable to suckle the child due to some excuse but the father may start forcing her to do so, hoping that she being the mother of the child would finally melt down and suckle the child. Or, take the case of a mother who has no excuse, yet she refuses to suckle the child hoping that the poor husband, being the father of the child would, in one way or the other, find the means to have the child suckled elsewhere.
Forcing or not forcing a Mother for Suckling
The fifth rule deduced from the ayah is that it is not permissible for the father to compel the mother to suckle the child if she refuses to do so under some excuse or need. If the child refuses to be suckled by any other woman then the mother will be compelled to feed the child.