In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 233
This ayah contains commands relating to rada’ah or the suckling of children. In the previous ayaat we studied the commands related to divorce. Now, the commands relating to the suckling of children has been taken up because generally after the divorce disputes regarding the feeding and upbringing of children arise. Since these arguments sometime lead to violence, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed an ayah to discuss these matters with grace and proper etiquette.
“Mothers may nurse their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing (period). Upon the father is the mother’s provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. And upon the (father’s) heir is (a duty) like that (of the father). And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them. And if you wish to have your children nursed by a substitute, there is no blame upon you as long as you give payment according to what is acceptable. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Seeing of what you do.” [al-Baqarah 2: 233]
This is a direction from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to the mothers to suckle their infants through the complete term of suckling, which is two years. Hence, suckling after two years is not included in this address. The suckling that establishes Tahreem [prohibition, i.e., one cannot marry his mother or sister from suckling] is what occurs before the two years end. If the infant is suckled only after two years of age, then no Tahreem will be established.
The majority of the people of knowledge among the Companions of Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and others acted upon this, that is that suckling establishes Tahreem [prohibition in marriage] before the end of the two years and that whatever occurs after that does not establish Tahreem.
Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
لَا يَحْرُمُ مِنَ الرَّضَاعِ إِلَّا مَا كَانَ فِي الْحَوْلَيْن
“Suckling establishes Tahreem only within the (first) two years.”
Suckling beyond the Two Years
It is reported in the Saheeh that ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha thought that if a woman gives her milk to an older person (meaning beyond the age of two years) then this will establish Tahreem. This is also the opinion of ‘Ata’ ibn Abu Rabah and Layth ibn Sa’ad. Hence, ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha thought that it is permissible to suckle the man whom the woman needs to be allowed in her house. She used as evidence the hadeeth of Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah, where the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam ordered Abu Hudhayfah’s wife to give some of her milk to Salim, although he was a man, and ever since then, he used to enter her house freely. However, the rest of the Prophet’s wives did not agree with this opinion and thought that this was only a special case. This is also the opinion of the majority of the scholars.
Suckling for Monetary Compensation
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “Upon the father is the mother’s provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable.”
The father of the baby is obliged to provide for the expenses of the mother and to buy her clothes, in reasonable amounts usually used by similar women in that area, without extravagance or stinginess. The father spends within his means in this case. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said in another ayah:
“Let a man of wealth spend from his wealth, and he whose provision is restricted – let him spend from what Allah has given him. Allah does not charge a soul except (according to) what He has given it. Allah will bring about, after hardship, ease.” [at-Talaq 65: 7]
Ad-Dahhak commented, “If the husband divorces his wife, with whom he had a child, and she suckles that child, he is required to provide for the mother’s expenses and clothes within reason.”
No Harm or Revenge
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “No mother should be harmed through her child…” meaning the mother should not decline to rear her child to harm its father. She does not have the right to refrain from suckling the child after giving birth, unless she suckles the child milk that is necessary for survival. Later on, she is allowed to give up custody of the child as long as she does not do that intending to harm the father. In addition, the father is not allowed to take the child from his mother to harm the mother. This is why Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala added, “and no father through his child.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala makes it man’s responsibility to spend on the family. “And upon the (father’s) heir is (a duty) like that (of the father).” Should the father die then his heir should continue to support the deceased’s family, just as the father was spending. The heir must preserve the rights of the woman and refrain from harming her.
We should state that Ibn Jarir has explained this subject in detail in his Tafseer and that he also stated that suckling the child after the second year might harm the child’s body and mind. Sufyan Ath-Thawri narrated that ‘Alqamah asked a woman who was suckling her child after the second year ended, not to do that.
Weaning Occurs by Mutual Consent
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them.” This ayah indicates that if the father and the mother decide on the Fitam [weaning] before the two years (of suckling) end, and for a benefit that they duly discuss and agree upon, then there is no sin in this case. One parent is not allowed to make this kind of decision without duly consulting the other parent, as stated by Ath-Thawri. The method of mutual consultation protects the child’s interests. It is also a mercy from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to His servants, for He has legislated the best method for parents to rear their children, and His legislation guides and directs the parents and the children to success. In Surah at-Talaq, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
“And if they nurse for you, then give them their payment and confer among yourselves in the acceptable way; but if you are in discord, then there may nurse for the father another woman.” (65: 6)
If the mother and the father both agree that the father assumes custody of the child due to a circumstance that compels her or allows him to do so, then there is no sin in this case. Hence, the mother is allowed to give up the child and the father is allowed to assume custody of the child. The father should kindly give the mother her expenses for the previous period (during which she reared and suckled the child), and he should seek other women to suckle his child for monetary compensation.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends the address by reminding us to fear Him in all of our affairs. And to know that nothing escapes His Perfect Watch.
We learn that while divorce can be an independent decision the matters after it are to be discussed and finalized in consultation with both the parents, especially the upbringing of children. Neither of the parents should deprive their children from seeing the other parent nor should they be poisoned against the other parent.
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