Who are mahrams?
A mahram is someone whom you are never allowed to marry due to a close relationship. They include your father, mother, sister, brother, son, and daughter as well as their spouses.
They also include those for whom you have wâjib al-wilâya (obligatory guardianship). This includes children over 7 years old and smaller than you as well as those who cannot look after themselves due to disability or other factors such as being insane or drunkard.
The reason that it is forbidden for women to show parts of their bodies to them is that they can never be one's spouse nor anyone from whom one requires wâjib al-wilâya. Note, that there are also different kinds of mahrams in Islam.
- Mahrams by blood
This is the most common meaning of mahram. A person is a mahram by blood to another if they are related through a line that has not been broken. For example, a brother and sister will be each others' mahrams by blood because there is no link from one to the other that does not pass through blood i.e. their parents or grandparents, etc.
Similarly, you cannot make someone your father-in-law unless you have married his daughter otherwise he will remain your brother-in-law!
- Mahrams by marriage
This means that marriage with them would be forbidden (because it is haraam for a man to marry his wife's daughter or mother).
Note, this type of mahram is established only when the woman marries someone. After she is married, all her husband's brothers are also mahrams by marriage even if they are not related to him in any way.
They remain his mahrams until he divorces or their dies after which the woman has to observe idda before re-marrying them i.e. 4 months and 10 days in the Hanafi school of thought or 3 months in most other schools.
- Mahrams by breastfeeding
A child becomes a mahram to those with whom it suckles milk whether directly (i.e mother) or indirectly (i.e grandmother). This kind of relationship only happens once when the infant sucks milk from its mother for the first time because Allah says "the mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years if the father desires to complete the term".
This means that a woman cannot leave her child with someone else and go out because she will have cheated on her husband by not fulfilling his right in full. But it is not considered cheating when one breastfeeds directly from the other i.e. grandmother-mother-child etc..
Hence, there are many hadith where Rasulullah (blessings and peace be upon him) made it clear that this relationship only happens once when milk is first drawn. However, there are differences in opinion about this matter among scholars which we will touch upon later inshallah.
Direct breastfeeding means you give your baby your breast and it sucks milk from you.
Indirect breastfeeding means the baby suckles from a vessel placed between you and the child. It can be done directly with one breast or indirectly by using both breasts.
Rulings of direct breastfeeding
You and your husband will become mahrams because all that is considered in this ruling is who enters your house, when she does so with the idda (after divorce or death of her husband), she becomes a mahram to all those in the house i.e. father, mother, brother, etc.. This also applies to women outside your house such as neighbors etc.
You cannot have marriage contracts with her nor can she have them with you even if it is through another intermediary person.
It is not permissible for you to be alone with her or vice versa because then there will be no barrier between the two of you. This applies whether the woman is an adult or not and whether one fulfills all marital rights or not i.e. just being close to each other, talking, etc.
Rulings of indirect breastfeeding
The ruling here varies according to different scholars depending on their madhabs (schools of thought). It was said that if a man has intercourse with his wife within the first 2 years after she has given birth then they become mahrams just like if she breastfed.
The author of al Bahr said that the rulings mentioned above also apply in this case i.e. it is not permissible for you to see her nor vice versa until the period has elapsed without any intercourse between the two; after which the ruling returns to what it was before giving birth which means there are no more mahrams required by either marriage or breastfeeding hence one can be with the other like non-mahram men and women. But because there was a difference of opinion on this, Allah knows best...
So, can you breastfeed your husband in Islam?
This is not forbidden because there is no proof that it is forbidden. However, if you are breastfeeding your husband in order to become mahrams with him then this is not allowed according to the Maliki school of thought because it will be considered cheating on your husband i.e. you are fulfilling his right when he has not asked for it. So every woman must only breastfeed her child from herself once when she first gives birth in order for them to become mahram and that's all.
Can you breastfeed someone else`s husband?
In this case, it will not be allowed unless the husband asks for permission to make her a mahram and she grants him permission before breastfeeding him.
But if he asks and she does not agree then we must refer back to what we mentioned above i.e. it is makruh (disliked) to breastfeed someone else's husband who is not mahram unless there is a need such as helping out with his children etc..
Other breastfeeding rules in Islam
There are some other breastfeeding rules in the noble Quran and Sunnah which are as follows:
- It is not allowed for anyone to look at any part of another person's body except for what appears e.g. hands, face, etc. It was narrated that Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) said that The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said "A man should not see the private parts of another man nor a woman see the private parts of another woman."
- And if you looked at her it does not mean she becomes mahram because there must be evidence for this ruling to apply upon you during 'idda' or when becoming mahram.
- It is not allowed for a man to be with his wife when she is giving birth if he did not look at her private parts. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said "Do not enter upon women in their cases of blood during the period of menstruation nor when they are giving birth." And it is not allowed for you to be close to them or stay with them etc.. because this will bring about hatred between you both.
- Also, impurity becomes apparent after looking or touching i.e. if someone touches an impure part on another person then they become impure i.e. wudu', ghusl, tayammum all become invalidated (if needed). Similarly, there are many other rulings that are mentioned in the noble Quran and Sunnah.
- The majority of scholars i.e. Maliki school said that it is not allowed for a woman to breastfeed anyone if she is married unless her husband specifically gives her permission.
This applies even when there is no marriage between both parties or their marriage has ended because being mahrams is not connected by any relationship, rather what is valid are the rulings which have been transmitted from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) regarding breastfeeding, etc.. One must always refer back to noble verses of the Quran and authentic hadiths in order to know about Allah's rulings in this world so that we can all live our lives according to His guidance towards happiness.
- Breastfeeding in public is not allowed and a woman must cover her 'awrah' when breastfeeding. And if a man was to breastfeed in front of people then he is sinful unless there is a valid reason such as helping the child etc. But if it's just for fun or entertainment purposes then it will be forbidden to do so.
- Breastfeeding someone from one's own family is not allowed for example your daughter, sister, aunt, etc.. because they are still considered part of your family and you cannot become mahrams with any part of your family except after marriage. Also if she gives him permission before breastfeeding him then this does not make them mahram because that which makes them mahram is the action itself i.e. the milk entering into the man's body, not the permission.
- If a woman breastfeeds someone else's child in order to keep him alive for example in case of an accident or death, then she becomes their mahram even though it was done without her permission.
However if she did give permission to make her his mother beforehand then this is fine, but whatever has already passed is valid i.e. what happened is valid and they are considered related just like how breastfeeding normally makes them related according to our school of thought which adopts actions over permissions especially when there are hadiths narrated from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) regarding these rulings. And Allah knows best.
Who are non-mahram in Islam?
Non mahram in Islam is anyone you are not allowed to look at or touch even if that person is your brother, father, uncles, grandfather, etc.. And this ruling applies to every woman meaning that her husband's brothers and other men become non mahram when she marries them. However, there are some other rulings that allow for a woman to be together with her husband's brothers and family if she is not married.
Also, whoever breastfeeds is considered a mother or a child in Islam.
Breastfeeding includes the milk going into the man's stomach whether that was done by sucking on her breast, drinking from a cup, using a syringe, etc.. because the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said "The one who takes his shirt I order you to take from me and whoever sucks my breasts, he is my son".
And this hadith does not mean that he can only do so with his biological mother but it means breastfeeding others such as your wife, daughter, sister i.e. anyone who breastfeeds someone else's child then she becomes their mahram even if that happened without her permission because the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: "A woman cannot breastfeed unless she gives permission".
And this does not make them mahram by her giving permission beforehand because that which makes them mahrams is the breastfeeding itself i.e. the milk entering into the man's stomach, not just by giving permissions.
Breastfeeding someone until they are completely satisfied is enough to consider them mahram due to the hadith where the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said "Whoever takes his shirt I order you to take from me and whoever sucks my breasts, he is my son".
And it also doesn't matter if they were drinking on one breast or both of them at once because the breastfeeding is done by one suck. However, if they are breastfeeding more than once then this cannot make them mahram because it's not valid to breastfeed someone more than once whether that be to drink or feed their child with.
A man cannot breastfeed his wife even if she allows him because that which makes them non mahram is the breastfeeding itself i.e. the milk entering into the stomach and drinking on one breast or both doesn't make a difference and drinking once are enough.
And whoever he does breastfeed until they are completely satisfied then this does not make them mahram after that has happened.
Also, it's permissible for a woman to be with her husband's brothers and family such as their children, grandchildren, etc.. even if she is married to her husband as long as there is no fear of any kind of fitnah (sexual arousal) due to the hadith.