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A Nursing Mother’s Ramadan Reflections, by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil thought she knew what a challenging fasting day was…until she became a mother and began nursing her baby.

I thought that my hardest Ramadans were the ones I spent in Jordan, as a young student of knowledge. The days were incredibly long, and the blistering summer heat was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I missed the comfort of my mother’s cooking, and the familiar faces of my family and friends. In place of the loved ones I left behind, Allah blessed me with the warm company of new friends. May Allah reward the families who opened their homes to me, especially during Ramadan.
Almost a decade later, I find myself faced with an entirely different set of circumstances. I am married, living in Malaysia and nursing my baby daughter. She is almost one, and I am so grateful that she enjoys eating solids. Fiqh rulings about fasting while breastfeeding have taken a whole new meaning for me. Once, I would have thought it impossible. Nursing mothers like myself often experience a hunger that accompanies nursing a baby. Despite that, I’m realising how much Allah sustains my baby daughter and me, from heartbeat to heartbeat. Is it easy to fast while nursing a baby? Absolutely not. It’s humbling, it’s exhausting, it’s possible, and for now at least, I’ll keep going.

Tips for nursing mums:

1)   Drink plenty of water after iftar, alongside chia seeds soaked overnight.
2)   Have a solid suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and ask Allah to sustain you.
3)   Nap during the day when your baby naps!
4)   Express milk after suhoor or iftar, or both, if you need to.
5)   If you start getting unwell or your milk supply drops enough to impact on your baby’s nourishment, then know that it’s OK to stop fasting. Pay it back later, and look at the rules of fidyah for your school of thought. Some women can fast while nursing, while others can’t. Allah knows.

Extra Worship Is Another Matter

This Ramadan, I haven’t been able to step into a masjid, because my baby daughter doesn’t sleep through the night. Some nights, she can stay asleep for long stretches, and other nights, she wakes up continuously. I’ve made my peace with that. Instead of the luxury of hours of tarawih like in days gone by, I have precious moments of solitude as my daughter sleeps, or plays with her father and grandmother. These are the moments where I close my eyes and remember the power of intention. Every day looking after my baby is a day spent in love and service, for the sake of Allah Most High. Keeping connected to that intention is challenging, even on the best of days. What’s helped me stay present with that intention is listening to the SeekersHub Ramadan Podcasts in between putting her to sleep, feeding her, and playing with her. Mercy, forgiveness, and salvation – we are all in need.
May Allah help us make the most of the days we have left, help us be of service to others, and help us be pleased with His Decree.

Resources for seekers

I Think That My Mother-In-Law Has Breastfed Me. Is My Marriage Valid?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

I’m married to my cousin. A few years after my wedding, I heard my mum saying that my aunt (my mother-in-law) breastfed me when I was a baby. My aunt said it isn’t true. I can’t seem to remove my mum’s previous comments that I was breastfed by my aunt.

Is my marriage still valid?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

Your aunt confirmed that she did not breastfeed you as a child. As such, you need not think about this or investigate any further. Misgivings are unhealthy and unnecessary.

Focus on bringing up your children in love of Allah Most High and His Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and having a healthy relationship with your husband.

Consider taking the following free class: Parenting in Islam: How to Raise Righteous Children

And see: Struggling to Have Children: Ten Key Etiquettes of Du’a and: Our Children: Nurturing the Prophet’s ﷺ Spiritual Intelligence, by Anse Tamara Gray

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

wassalam,
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.

Should I Be Breastfeeding My Baby for Two Years?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

When should solid baby food be introduced to infants?

Is milk supposed to be their primary food until age two per the sunnah?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

Breastfeeding for two years is not necessary. The Qur’anic command simply gives a mother the right to breastfeed for this period if she wishes: “Mothers may breastfeed their children for two complete years for whosoever wishes to complete the the nursing period.” (2:233)

The verse continues by giving the option to wean children when the parents agree to do so. It states, “If they desire to wean by agreement between them and mutual counsel, then there is no blame in doing so.” (2:233) As Ibn Abbas and others state, this applies to the period before two years or after. [al-Tabari, al-Jami al-bayan; al-Qurutbi, al-Jami li-ahkam al-qur’an]

Therefore, there is no specific time period that the religion stipulates for when a child should be introduced solid foods and weaned. Rather, this decision returns to the parents based on what they see is in their best interests and the best interests of their child. In making such a decision, parents may seek advice from professionals and read the literature present on this subject. It should also be noted that one can introduce solids in a manner that allows a child to still continue being breastfed.

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir.

Is Breastfeeding an Excuse to Not Fast?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum,

My wife will be pregnant in Ramadan. She may also be breastfeeding our daughter. When she fasts she has very little milk for our son who then struggle throughout the day.

Does my wife has dispensation from fasting this Ramadan?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

The basis is that pregnant and nursing women are obligated to fast.

As such, your wife should take the reasonable means in order to be able to fast by consulting with medical professionals and seeking the advice of other religious, pregnant or nursing women and behaving in a way that is conducive to actually fasting.

If, however, fasting results in some kind of harm to herself or the child, such as, (1) a limited milk supply, and she cannot give the child other food, (2) her falling sick in some way or another, whether by considerable dizziness, feeling faint and nauseous, or other similar matters, or (3) any other reasonable fear of harm, she may break her fast. The fast would then need to be made up later and after Ramadan.

If she tries this a few times and continues to struggle, she may consider herself unable to fast for the time being. Reasonable harm would be established by clear signs, relevant past experience, or the instruction of an expert, outwardly upright Muslim doctor.

Note that you should ask the doctor for his medical opinion, and not a legal verdict. Dr. Asim writes, “As an example of this, my wife once asked a Specialist Muslim OBGYN whether a pregnant woman should fast, and received a straight answer: ‘no.’ She then asked, ‘under what circumstances might an otherwise healthy pregnant woman abstaining from food and drink for 14-16 hours – but nourishing herself well outside of these times – be detrimental to mother or foetus, and in what way?’ The specialist went away, researched the question, and then came back with a nuanced, referenced and well-supported medical answer with no reference to any sort of legal verdict. (The short answer, out of interest, was ‘there are very few circumstances.’)”

As for past experience, it needs to be relevant and applicable in the current situation as there is a difference between a lady who is two months pregnant, and one who is nine months so; and, similarly, a lady nursing a newborn baby, and one nursing a six month old child, and so on.

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah (2.354); Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (2.116)]

Please also see: Pregnant Women & Fasting and: Pregnancy & Making Up Fasts: Does She Really Have To?

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

My Friend’s Baby Breastfeeds Throughout the Day. Is She Exempt From Fasting?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: A friend is breastfeeding her 16 month old baby throughout the day. She didn’t fast last year as her baby wasn’t getting enough milk. She is now worried about this coming Ramadhan because of her baby and she might find it difficult to fast. Is she exempt from fasting?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for having such sincere concern for your friend.

Nursing mothers

This is a common challenge faced by nursing mothers. Some women have abundant milk supply and/or babies who don’t require much milk. Other women have more fragile milk supplies and/or babies who require a lot of milk. Your fasting days are also extremely long, subhanAllah.

Fasting

Your friend must pay back the days she missed, so I suggest that she start once a week, and monitor both herself and her baby. If that is too difficult, then she can try again when her baby is older. Some women are only able to pay back their fasts after their babies are completely weaned off breastmilk. Other women are able to still fast while breastfeeding. Please ask your friend to start with sincere dua and to ask Allah for ease.

Please refer to this section:

“The normal case is that Muslim women who are pregnant and nursing must fast. They should also take the means to ensure this.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani has outlined from Ibn `Abidin’s Radd al-Muhtar the case of when a pregnant or nursing woman is exempt from fasting. She may leave fasting if she has a good reason to fear harm for herself or her child. This is through

1. advice from reliable Muslim medical opinion (or a non-Muslim medical opinion if it confirm’s one’s own good reason for fear)
2. previous experience
3. or clear and unmistakable signs”

[Excerpt from Pregnant Women & Fasting by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari and Ustadha Sulma ]

Please read this detailed article by for a more thorough explanation, based on all four schools of thoughts:

Pregnancy & Making Up Fasts: Does She Really Have To?

Solids

A 16 month old needs more solid intake for sufficient nutrition. Is there a health professional she can consult, to help her improve her baby’s consumption of solids? Once your friend’s baby needs less breastmilk, inshaAllah your friend will stand a better chance of fasting.

I pray that Allah make things easier for her and all nursing mothers.

Please refer to the following link:

Fasting Ramadan: Pregnancy, Breastfeeding & You

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What Are the Consequences for My Family After Breastfeeding My Brother’s Daughter?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: I have breastfed my brother’s eldest daughter. Will my son become a mahram to other kids (meaning siblings of the child I breastfed) as well? Will my son become mahram to my brother’s wife?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

The general case is that the child who is nursed is considered to be akin to a member of the family, yet this ruling is not applicable to the siblings of the nursed child.

As an example, Zaid and Khalida have two children: Sara and Ahmad. Khalida nurses her friend’s son Dawud. Dawud is now considered to be a milk brother to both Sara and Ahmad. However, Dawud’s sister, Mona, remains unrelated to the family and could marry Ahmad if she so wanted.

[Kasani, Bada`i al-Sana`i fi Tartib al-Shara`i]

I hope that is clear, insha’Allah.

Please also see: Adoption and Creating a Mahram Relationship Through Nursing

And Allah alone knows best.

في البدائع للإمام الكاساني: ويجوز للرجل أن يتزوج أخت أخيه لأبيه من النسب وصورته منكوحة أبيه إذا ولدت ابنا ولها بنت من زوج آخر؛ فهي أخت أخيه لأبيه فيجوز له أن يتزوجها، وكذا يجوز للرجل أن يتزوج أخت أخته من الرضاع وهذا ظاهر اهـ.

wassalam,
Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Is It Permitted to Breastfeed in Public?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalam’aleykum

What is the Islamic stance on breastfeeding in public?

These days there are many things you can buy that help you cover up while breastfeeding, so you don’t expose yourself.

Is it frowned upon to breastfeed in public?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

​Nursing in public would be permissible, with ​two considerations:

(1) she must remain covered, by Islamic standards​–​which is possible by using appropriate coverings;

(2) she should choose a place that, in her societal context, is appropriate and dignified, whenever possible.

wassalam,

Faraz Rabbani

Can a Wife Demand Payment for Nursing Her Child? (Shafi’i)

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

Can a wife demand payment from her husband for breastfeeding their child?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

If a mother wants to breastfeed her child, it is not permissible for the father to prevent her from doing so.

However, it is not considered obligatory for a woman to nurse (breastfeed) her child, unless there is no one else available to do, and no other available options that would preserve the welfare of the child.

An exception mentioned in classical works is the mother’s nursing the child in the immediate period following childbirth, which was thought to be specific to the mother and without which the child would not usually survive. However, the obligation here is with respect to preserving the life of the child, and is not necessarily specific to nursing itself.

In any case, a woman can demand reasonable payment from her husband for breastfeeding their child, commensurate to what one could expect for performing such a task. This is because of the general ruling in the Qur’an: If they nurse your infants, pay them for it [Qur’an; 65.6].

Source: Hashiyat al-Bujayrami

Shuaib Ally

Are We Allowed to Read and Listen to the Quran While Breastfeeding and Pumping?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaikum.

Are we allowed to read and listen to the Quran while breastfeeding and pumping?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray that you are well, insha’Allah.

Yes, you can listen to the Qur’an while breastfeeding your child.

Technically, the breast is not considered to be from your nakedness (`awrah) in front of your unmarriageable kin (mahrams).

However, in both cases it would be superior to cover yourself with a nursing cover or the like, particularly in the latter case when there are cultural sensitivities to be aware of in addition to the dictates of modesty and propriety.

Please also see: Who is a Mahram?

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Fasting Ramadan: Pregnancy, Breastfeeding & You

beautiful-muslim-mother-and-daughterThis is series of articles surrounding the intricacies of fasting whilst pregnant and breastfeeding, both from a scientific point of view, looking at studies that have been published over recent years on the subject, and also from a fiqh point of view.
We pray the articles are of benefit.
This is a project by Umm-Hasan bint Salim & Umm-Eesa bint Sayeed.
The full website and related articles can be found here.

Preface

Ameer ul-Mu’mineen, Abu Hafs `Umar ibn al-Khattaab (r.a), said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) say: “Actions are but by intentions and every man shall have only that which he intended…”

The intent of this site is two-fold: to clarify common misconceptions on the status of fasting for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and to encourage one another in good.
What we aim to present here inshaAllah is an earnest effort to collate all the available knowledge and information that we have with regards to fasting in pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.
We have shared an overview of the various standpoints in fiqh that we had access to and then turn to scientific literature to assess any potential risk, precautionary measures and advice.
Throughout our collection we bear in mind the hadith of Jabir (r.a) warning us that we need to have mercy and exercise caution whenever this is applicable:
Jabir (r.a) said, “We were on a journey and one of us got injured. Later, he had a wet dream. He asked his companions, ‘Can I perform tayammum?’ They said, ‘No, not if you have water.’ He performed ghusl and died. When they came to the Messenger of Allah, they informed him of what had transpired. He said, ‘They killed him, Allah will kill them. Do you not ask if you do not know? The rescue of the ignorant person is the question. He could have performed tayammum and dropped water on his wound or wrapped it with something and wipe over the wrapping, and wash the rest of his body.” (Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and others)
Our intention is not to push those already in genuine hardship into fasting; rather, the following pages are an encouragement for healthy sisters and an attempt at raising awareness surrounding the Islamic and scientific standpoints on fasting. In essence, this is that it is our duty to fast, it is safe to do so and that the minimum requirement upon us is to TRY.
We hope to fulfil the obligation presented to us by the Prophet s.a.w. upon each other: “None of you will truly believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” May each and every one of us reap the barakah and unimaginable rewards of the blessed month of Ramadaan.
May Allah s.w.t purify our intentions and accept this work from us and make it a means of salvation for all who contributed to it, ameen.
Umm-Hasan bint Salim & Umm-Eesa bint Sayeed
Sha’baan 1434/ July 2013