I have a question about marriage and breastfeeding. I was breastfed by my mother’s brother’s wife once when my mom was away and I was crying. This same uncle of mine has another wife, who has a daughter that my mother really likes and wants me to marry. I hear different opinions about this where some say that it is forbidden for me to marry her and some say that it is OK to marry her. Looking on the internet, it seems that Shafi scholars say that you should be breastfed 5 times while Hanafis say that even once is enough. There are also those who say that the intention of the women who breastfed you should be considered-did my uncle’s wife meant to make me her son or not.
I am not sure what Shafis mean by 5 times. Do they mean breastfeeding until the baby is full and doing that for 5 times or do they mean if the baby stops drinking and then a while later starts drinking again which will then count as twice?
Is it allowed in any school of thoughts for me to marry her? What do the Ahle-hadith say?
I believe I was younger than 2 years at the time and my uncle’s wife fed me till I was not hungry anymore. We had known about the breastfeeding since long ago but we didn’t know that we might not be able to marry until recently. Many people know that we were going to marry and my mother is sad about this condition. Also, I am a Hanafi but I feel it might be OK for me just to do one thing from another school of thought.

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1 Answer 1


If this woman is considered your foster mother what would be the consequences?

What is rendered illegal because of blood relations, is also rendered illegal because of the corresponding foster-relations. (Sahih al-Bukhari)

See also in sahih al-Bukahri.

and finally in Jami' at-Tirmidhi:

“No prohibition results from suckling except for what penetrates the intestines while on the breast before weaning.”

This means that assuming you have been breastfed from any wife of your uncle before you have reached an age of 2 years:

فإذا أرضعت المرأة طفلا حرمت عليه لأنها أمه ، وبنتها لأنها أخته ، وأختها لأنها خالته ، وأمها لأنها جدته ، وبنت زوجها صاحب اللبن لأنها أخته ، وأخته لأنها عمته ، وأمه لأنها جدته ، وبنات بنيها وبناتها لأنهن بنات إخوته وأخواته . (tafsir al-Qurtoby)

Then those women would be considered as haram for you to marry according 4:23 and the above hadiths and especially this part of the verse

... your [milk] mothers who nursed you, your sisters through nursing ...

and it's implications due to the given rule of the hadith are:

  • She (the wife of your mother's brother whom fed you) as she is your foster mother and
    her daughters as they are your foster sisters
  • and the sisters of your foster mothers as they are (maternal) aunts
  • the mother (and mother's mother etc.) of the foster mother as she is your (foster) grand mother
  • and the daughters of the foster mothers husband as they are your foster sisters (too)
  • and the sisters of the foster mothers husband as they are your (paternal) aunts
  • and the mother (and mother's mother etc.) of the husband of your foster mother as she is your grand mother's
  • and the daughters of her daughters and sons as they are your foster siblings.
    (This is a detailed translation of the quote from tafsir al-Qurtobi)

So according to this assumption you are not allowed to marry this girl as she is a foster sister. (See also this fatwa from al-Muwatta')

Explanation of the shafi'i view on the number of sucklings

According to the Hanafi and Maliki (The Imams a-Thawry, al-Awza'y, ibn al-Mubarak and many of the sahaba had the same view, this was also one of the statements of Imam Ahmad) view a breastfeeding counts once a child has been fed so that his mouth was filled with milk. (See also the hadith from jami' at-Tirmdihi and this statement from al-Muwatta')

While the definition of the Shafi'i and Hanbali school is:

that the child should take the breast and drink milk from it, then leave it of his own accord in order to breathe or to change position, and so on. (See this fatwa)

And only a feeding amount of at least five times count according this view. See my answer here for the Maliki view on the hadith which is the basis for this rule. Note that most websites like islamqa and islamweb in their fatwa adapt the Shafi'i view.
You should also be aware that both definitions may end up with the more or less same result as a baby who is breastfed may from time to time leave the breast and come back to suckling, so honestly it would be hard to count whether it was during one single feeding only once or even five times. Note that sahih narrations support the idea that one or two sucklings are not enough for a suckling to be considered as a breast feeding see for example in sahih Muslim on the authority of 'Aisha, Suwaid and ibn a-Zubair on the authority of Umm al-Fadl see also the next ahadith in the same chapter) of (Some details on the view of Imam a-Shafi'i about the definition of a breast feeding can be found in this fatwa in Arabic, where the custom plays a role whether a suckling is considered or not, and the discussion of the meaning of an interruption by an act of the feeding mother means the beginning of a new suckling or not a-Shafi'i say no it's just a continuation of the former suckling!)

Is it allowed in any school of thoughts for me to marry her? What do the Ahle-hadith say?

Assuming you could find a confirmation that the number of sucklings was less than five times or

In the case of doubt concerning the number of breast-feedings, Ibn Qudaamah, may Allah have mercy on him, said: "If there is some doubt concerning whether breast-feeding took place, or concerning the number of feeds and whether it was enough to make the child a relative (mahram) or not, then there is no proof that the child must be considered a relative, because the general rule of life is that a child does not breast-feed from anyone except his own mother, and one cannot dismiss certainty in favour of doubt. (al-Mughni 11/312). (same fatwa as the quote from above)

according the shafi'i and hanbali view you are not considered as a foster son of this woman according this school and could marry that girl. Else if there's a confirmation that you might have been fed more than five times you are not allowed to marry that girl as she is your foster sister.

If it was more than two times you already would fall in a grey zone because of the ahadith saying that one or two sucklings are not enough to make prohibition.

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