Foster Relationship

The Quran is quite clear on this issue:

“Forbidden to you are your mothers and your daughters and your sisters and your paternal aunts and your maternal aunts and brothers’ daughters and sisters’ daughters and your mothers that have suckled you and your foster-sisters and mothers of your wives and your step-daughters who are in your guardianship, (born) of your wives to whom you have gone in, but if you have not gone in to them, there is no blame on you (in marrying them), and the wives of your sons who are of your own loins and that you should have two sisters together, except what has already passed; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (An-Nisa: 23)

However, there are certain conditions.

A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reports: “Once the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) entered my house while a man was with me. He said: “O A’isha! Who is this?” I replied: “My foster-brother” He said: “O A’isha! Be careful in determining who your foster-brother is, for suckling is only valid if it takes place in the suckling period”. (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 2504 & Sahih Muslim, no. 1455)

The brief answer to your question is that if your mother breastfed your cousin more than five times when she was under the age of two, then your cousin is your milk-sister and your mahram, and she is haram for you to marry.

Here are details and proofs on this issue:

For breastfeeding to have the effect of making a mahram relationship, two conditions must be met: (1) The number of breastfeeding sessions should be five or more, and (2) this should happen within the first two years of the child’s life. If these two conditions are met, then the rulings concerning breastfeeding will apply, i.e. the child will be considered a relative and marriage will be forbidden, etc.

Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, states:

“It is permissible for you to marry the daughter of your maternal aunt in this situation, because breastfeeding (rada`ah) only makes the woman (and her daughters) themahramsof the child who nursed if it takes place five times. [Amahramis a relative whom one is forbidden to marry and with whom the rulings of hijab or covering do not apply]. The evidence for that is the hadith narrated by Muslim from `A’ishah who said: “One of the (rulings) that was revealed in the Qur’an was that ten known sessions of breastfeeding make the child a mahram, then that was abrogated and replaced with five.”

An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

The scholars differed concerning the number of sessions of breastfeeding for which the ruling on breastfeeding (rada`ah) applies. `A’ishah and ash-Shafi`i and his companions said that there is no proof for any number less than five. The majority of scholars said that the ruling applies if breastfeeding occurs once. This was narrated by Ibn al-Mundhir from `Ali, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Umar, Ibn `Abbas, `Ata’, Tawus, Ibn al-Musayyib, al-Hasan, Makhul, al-Zuhri, Qatadah, Hammad, Malik, al-Awza`i, al-Thawri and Abu Hanifah (may Allah be pleased with them). Abu Thawr, Abu `Ubayd, Ibn al-Mundhir and Dawud said: The ruling applies in the case of three sessions of breastfeeding, not less than that. Ash-Shafa`i and those who agreed with him followed the hadith of `A’ishah which mentioned five known session of breastfeeding.

Sheikh Ibn Baz was asked whether breastfeeding from a woman three times makes her a mahram.

He replied: this breastfeeding three times does not make her a mahram through breastfeeding. The ruling on becoming amahramthrough breastfeeding only applies if breastfeeding occurs five times or more. Then he quoted the hadith of `A’ishah as evidence. (Source: Fatawa Islamiyyah, 3/326)

Sheikh Ibn `Uthaymeen said:

One session of breastfeeding does not have any effect, rather it must be five sessions of breastfeeding that occur before the child is weaned and before he reaches the age of two. A person does not become the woman’s (foster) child if he breastfeeds once or twice or three or four times. It must also be five known sessions of breastfeeding; if there is some uncertainty as to whether he breastfed four or five times, the principle is that it was four, because every time we are uncertain about numbers, we take the lower number. Based on this, if a woman says, I breastfed this child but I do not know if it was once or twice, or three or four or five times, we say that this child is not her (foster) child, because it has to be five known sessions of breastfeeding without a doubt. (Source: Al-Fatawa al-Jami`ah lil-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 2/768)”

Abd Allah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said about Hamza’s daughter: “I am not legally permitted to marry her, as foster relations are treated like blood relations (in marital affairs). She is the daughter of my foster-brother.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 2502)

Therefore, the relationships that are unlawful through blood and lineage will also be unlawful through fosterage. As such, a foster-father (foster mother’s husband), foster-brother, foster-uncle, foster-nephew, etc will all be considered to be a woman’s Mahram, and one will be a Mahram to a foster-mother, foster sister, foster niece, etc.

And Allah knows best.

If any readers have some additional advice for this questioner, feel free to post your comments below.

“(O Allah), Guide us to the straight path; The path of those whom you have favored; Not those with whom you are angry; Nor those who go astray.”

The word “rada” or “rida” stems from the root “radaa” and means sucking milk from mother’s breasts in Arabic. As a noun, it means foster brotherhood and sucking milk.

There are various verses about a child sucking milk from his/her mother or another woman in the Quran: “Prohibited to you (for marriage) are … foster-mothers (who gave you suck), foster-sisters” (an-Nisa, 4:23); “The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term.” (al-Baqara, 2:233); “If ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you” (al-Baqara, 2:233); … if they (women you divorced) suckle your (offspring), give them their recompense: and take mutual counsel together, according to what is just and reasonable. And if ye find yourselves in difficulties, let another woman suckle (the child) on the (father’s) behalf.” (at-Talaq, 65:6); “The Day ye shall see it, every mother giving suck shall forget her suckling” (al-Hajj, 22:2); “So We sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses: “Suckle (thy child), but when thou hast fears about him, cast him into the river, but fear not nor grieve: for We shall restore him to thee, and We shall make him one of Our apostles.” (al-Qasas, 28:7); “And we ordained that he (Moses) refused suck at first…” (al-Qasas, 28:12). 

Islamic jurisprudents agree that mothers should suckle their children according to religion because a mother has to protect her children. However, if a woman does not want to suckle, there are different views on whether she can be forced to suckle or not.

According to the majority of Islamic jurisprudents, it is mandoob (recommended) for a mother to suckle her child. She cannot be forced to suckle as long as there is not an obligation. Feeding children with milk is wajib (obligatory) for fathers. He cannot force his wife to suckle; because, the verse “The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term.” (al-Baqara, 2:233) is only a suggestion. However, if the child refuses to suck milk from any woman other than his/her mother, then it is an exception.

A mother can be forced to suckle her child in the following three situations: 

1.If the child refuses to suck milk from any woman other than his/her mother, the mother suckles her child in order to protect him/her from dying.

2.If a breastfeeding mother cannot be found, she suckles her child in order to save the child’s life.

3.If the child has not got a father to take care of him/her and they cannot afford to pay a breastfeeding mother to suckle the child, woman suckles her child herself.

The father must find a foster mother if the mother avoids suckling their child except for the situations listed above. The breastfeeding mother suckles the child near his/her real mother because the mother has got the right of keeping her child near herself so as to bring him/her up. That right continues until the child becomes about seven years old. The woman has got the right to demand payment for hiring a foster mother via suing if the father of the child does not hire a foster mother.

The father does not have to pay the mother to suckle the child, within marriage or within the period of iddah (the period of waiting for a woman who has divorced) after rij’i talaq (revocable divorce) because in this case, he has to pay alimony to his divorced spouse. The mother cannot be forced to suckle her child after bain talaq (irrevocable divorce). According to a sound view of Hanafis, the mother can demand payment for suckling because the following is stated in a verse: “if they suckle your (offspring), give them their recompense” (at-Talaq, 65:6). This verse is related to divorced women. A foster mother is not held responsible for anything except for suckling and what traditions require. Depending on traditions, the foster mother may need to prepare the child’s food, protect him/her, bath him/her, and wash his/her clothes.

If the child sucks from any women other than his/her own mother, as a baby, foster relationship is established between this child and the woman who suckled the child and the woman’s relatives. Blood related relationship is called “bloodline relationship” and relationship established via marriage is called “marital relationship”. Foster relationship has got the same restrictions with bloodline relationship, except for some specific situations.

The conditions under which foster relationships makes it haram to marry: 

1.The milk must belong to a woman. According to the majority, the conclusion is not affected by whether the woman who suckles is married or single or has not got a husband. Foster relationship is not established via sucking anything other than milk; for instance, impure flux, blood or vomit. A man’s milk or an animal’s milk does not cause foster relationship either.

2.The milk must reach the stomach of the child. Sucking the milk from a breast and drinking it from a jug or glass are the same. If the child takes the breast into his/her mouth but if it is not known whether s/he sucked it or not, relationship is not established because conclusions cannot be based on suspicions. However, according to Malikis, the relationship is considered to be established, acting cautiously. On the other hand, Shafiis and Hanbalis put forward the condition of sucking five times because according to a  narration from Hazrat Aisha, firstly a verse stating “haram is established with ten sucks” was sent down in the Quran, but later it was decreased to five times with another verse sent down later. The Prophet passed away while that verse was being read in the Quran. (see: Darimi, Marriage, 49; Muslim, Rada, 25; Abu Dawud, Marriage 10; Tirmidhi, Rada, 3; Malik, Muwatta, Rada, 18).

According to Shafiis, although the verse which decreased the number of sucks to five was abolished, it is still valid as a judgment. It is like the verse: “If an old man and woman fornicate, stone them.” (see: Ibn Majah, Hudud, 9; Darimi, Hudud, 16; Malik, Muwatta, Hudud, 10).

Ibn al-Humam (death: 861/1457) stated that not only the reading of the verse which decreased the number of sucks to five was abolished but also the judgment of it was abolished. (Ibn al-Humam, Fath al-Qadr, Egypt, 1316/1898, III, 345).

According to Hanafis and Malikis, the amount of the milk sucked does not affect the judgment. The evidence to it is the verse “Prohibited to you (for marriage) are … foster-mothers (who gave you suck) and foster-sisters” (an-Nisa, 4:23) and the hadith “Who is haram because of bloodline relationship is also haram because of foster relationship.” (Bukhari, Shahadah, 7; Muslim, Irada, I). This verse and hadith do not mention an amount or number of sucking.

3.Sucking must be through mouth or nose; because, milk can reach stomach only through those two ways, and nourishment occurs.

According to Hanafis, Shafiis and Hanbalis, relationship is not established if milk goes into urethra, eyes, ears or an open sore.

4.The milk must not be mixed with any other kind of liquids. If milk mixes with another kind of liquid, the one whose amount is more is taken into consideration according to Hanafis and Hanbalis. If milk is more, then foster relationship is established. According to Abu Hanifa, when the milk is mixed, foster relationship is not established no matter how much the milk is. This is because the mixed liquid decreases density of milk. The mixed liquid is considered to be more than the amount of milk.

Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad base the judgment on the one which is more in amount.

If the milk is mixed with another woman’s milk and then given to the child, the judgment is based on the one which is more in amount than the other according to Abu Hanifa and Abu Yusuf. If they are equal, the foster relationship is established with both of women. According to Malikis, Imam Mohammad and Zufar, foster relationship is established with both of women in both cases. Judgment is not affected by whether they are equal or one is more than the other. It is the view that is mostly preferred because the milks are of the same kind. When two things of the same kind come together, there is not superiority of one to another.

Breast milk, which is mixed in “Breast Milk Bank” seen in some countries and regions in our day, needs to be sorted out according to the criteria listed above (al-Kasani, Badayi as-Sanayi, Beirut 1394/1974, IV, 135 ff.; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni, Cairo 1970, VII, 537 et al.; Ibn Rushd, Bidayatul-Mujtahid, Egypt (n.d..), II, 34 et al.; az-Zukhayli, al-Fiqhul-Islami wa Adillatuh Dimashq (Damascus)1405/1985, VII, 705 ff.).

5.According to the majority, milk must be sucked in the first two years of a baby in order to establish foster relationship because, the following is stated in the verse: “Mothers suckle their offspring for a whole of two years”. That verse which is about bloodline children also covers other children who suck from a woman. Hadith: “Foster relationship is established only within the age of two.” (Bukhari, Marriage, 21).

However, according to Abu Hanifa, the length of sucking time is 30 months. The evidence is this verse: “The carrying of the (child) to his weaning is (a period of) thirty months.” (al-Ahqaf, 46:15). Both pregnancy and weaning last for 30 months.

According to the majority of Islamic jurisprudents, 30 months is the total of two years of sucking period and six months which is the shortest period of pregnancy. As a matter of fact; there are other proofs proving that the period of sucking is two years. As stated in another verse: “And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail up on travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning” (Luqman, 31:14).

It is stated in the Quran that “Prohibited to you (for marriage) are … foster-mothers (who gave you suck), foster-sisters…” (an-Nisa, 4:23). Only two foster-relatives are mentioned in this verse. The general principle on the issue was established with this hadith: “Who is haram because of bloodline relationship is also haram because of foster relationship.” (Bukhari, Shahadah, 7; Muslim, Rada I). In addition to the relationships established through bloodline and marriage, relationship is also established through fostering. However, there are two exceptions to it:

The ones prohibited to each other for marriage are as follows 

1.One’s lineal foster ancestors such as foster mothers, foster grandmothers…

2.One’s lineal foster descendants such as foster-daughter, daughter of foster-son’s and children and grandchildren descending from them.

3.One cannot marry his/her foster-parents’ descendants. One cannot marry his/her foster-siblings born from the same parents, from the same father but different mother or from the same mother but different fathers. It is also prohibited to marry the children and grandchildren descending from them.

4.One cannot marry his/her foster-parents’ immediate sisters and brothers. They are the foster uncles and aunts of the suckled person.

5.One cannot marry his foster-father’s and foster-grandfather’s spouses. Whether there was a sexual intercourse between them or not does not affect this judgment. As a matter of fact, one cannot marry his bloodline (biological) father’s spouse, either.

6.It is prohibited for one to marry his foster-son’s or his foster-grandson’s spouse and it is also prohibited to marry his foster-daughter’s son’s spouse. Whether there was a sexual intercourse between them or not does not affect this judgment. As a matter of fact, one cannot marry his daughters-in-law.

However, according to Hanafis, there are some exceptions:

a. One can marry his foster-brother’s or foster-sister’s mother. However, it is not permissible in bloodline relationship. For instance, if a woman suckles a child and if this woman has got a bloodline (biological) son, this son can marry the mother of that child.

b. One can marry his foster-son’s or foster-daughter’s foster brother/sister. However, it is not permissible in bloodline relationship. For instance, if a woman suckles a child, this woman’s spouse can marry the sister of this child. (see: al-Kasani, ibid, III, 4, 5; al-Maydani, al-Lubab, III, 33; az-Zukhayli, ibid, VII, 138, 139).

In conclusion, this principle can be uttered on the issue: The one who sucked is prohibited to marry to the descendants of the one who suckled him/her. However, except for the upcoming children of the one who sucked, there is not a foster relationship established between his/her other bloodline relatives and foster-mother’s bloodline children and marital relatives. In short, there is not a prohibition of marriage between the foster-child’s bloodline siblings and foster-mother’s bloodline children. This is because they did not suck from the same woman and thus there cannot be anything in common in these children’s biological and physical structures.

Rules about Foster-Relationship: Foster-relationship brings about an absolute prohibition for marriage. Except for the exceptions listed above, if foster-relatives have got married somehow, they must get divorced as soon as this situation is realized. Marriages of such people are invalid according to Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad, and immoral according to Abu Hanifa.

Foster-relatives are not strangers to each other. If there is not a risk of mischief, they can look at each other. Though relationship is established because of sucking milk, it does not bear the rights of inheritance, alimony, rejection of evidence, guardianship of property or marriage.

Foster-relationship is limited to the issues described in axioms. It does not bear the same rights as bloodline relationship. For this reason, a foster mother cannot ask for alimony from her foster-son. She cannot be his inheritor and cannot claim custody for him. (Hamdi Donduren, Delilleriyle Islam Hukuku, Istanbul, 1983, p.222).


The man who enabled breast milk to be produced in foster-mother and who is married to her is foster-father. By the way, the death of the foster-father or divorce does not change this judgment. Foster-father and other marital relatives are prohibited to the foster-child. All the children who belong to the foster-father biologically are foster-child’s foster-siblings. (Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni, VI, 572; al-Maydani, ibid, III, 32).

Proofs of Foster Relationship:
Foster relationship is proved with either confession or evidence.

Razai behan bhai ka leya ap ny 8 Sharait ka zikar keya wo Kya hain? Or agr 1 dafa dodh beya ho tu wo Behan Bhai ban jatay hain?
Answer . Bachche ko dhodh pilaana jo mahram banne ka sabab banta hai, oski 8 shartein hain: (1) Bachcha zinda aurat ka dhodh peeye. Pas agar wo mard aurat ke pistaan se dhodh ki kuchh miqdaar peeye jo razaat mein motabar hai to os ka koe faida nahin. (2) Aurat ko dhodh sharee (jayez) zachgi ki wajah se ho, agarcheh wait shaba ki bina par ho. Pas agar farzan dhodh baghair zachki ke uutara ho ya aise bachche ka dhodh ho jo waladul zina ho kisi dusre bachche ko diya jaay to os dhodh ke tausat se wo dosra bachcha kisi ka mahram nahin banegaa. (3) Bachcha pistaan se dhodh peeye. Pas agar dhodh os ke halq mein uondela jaay to bekaar hai. (4) Dhoodh khaalis ho aur kisi dusri cheez se mila hua na ho. (5) Dhoodh ki jo miqdaar maujib hurmat hai wo dhodh ek shauhar ka ho. Pas dhodh pilaane waali aurat ko agar talaaq ho jaay aur wo aqd saani kar le aur dusre shauhar se haamla ho jaay aur bachcha janne tak os ke pahle shauhar ka dhodh os mein baaqi ho maslan agar os bachche ko khud bachcha janne se qabl pahle shauhar ka dhodh aathh dafa aur waza haml ke baad dusre shauhar ka dhodh saat dafa pilaay to wo bachcha kisi ka bhi mahram nahin banta. (6) Bachcha kisi beemari ki wajah se dhodh ki qay na kar de aur agar qay kar de to bachcha mahram nahin banta. (7) Bachche ko iis qadr dhodh pilaaya jaay keh os ki haddiyaan os dhodh se mazboot hoon aur badan ka gosht bhi ooa se bane aur agar iis baat ka ilkm na ho keh iis qadr dhodh peeya hai ya nahin to agar os ne ek din aur ek raat ya 15 dafa pait bhar kar dhodh peeya ho tab bhi (mahram banne ke liay) kaafi hai jaisa keh os ka (tafseeli) zikr aane waale mas,ale mein kiya jaay ga. Leikin agar iis baat ka ilm ho keh os ki haddiyaan os dhodh se mazboot nahin huyegaee aur os ka gosht bhi os se nahin bana hala na keh bachche ne ek din aur ek raat ya 15 dafa dhodh peeya ho to os jaisii suurat mein ehtayaat-e-waajib ka khayaal karna zaruri hai. Pas mazkura mawarid mein shaadi na ki jaay aur mahramana nazr bhi na daali jaay. (8) Bachche ki do saal mukammil na huye hoon aur agar os ki umr do saal hone ke baad ose dhodh pilaaya jaay to wo kisi ka mahram nahin hota balkeh agar misaal ke taur par wo umr ke do saal mikammil hone se pahle aathh dafa aur os ke baadd saat dafa dhodh peeye tab bhi wo kisi ka mahram nahin banta. laikin agar dhodh peelane waali aurat ko bachcha jane huye do saal se ziyadah muddat guzar chuuki ho aur oo ka dhodh abhi baaqi ho aur wo kisi bachche ki dhodh pilaay to wo bachcha on loogo ka mahram ban jata hai jin ka zikr opar kiya gaya hai. (Ref:Aayat-ul-Allah Seestani (d.b), Tauzeehul masael,Edition# 39,Mafhoom e Maslah #2438 ) Note: 1 dafa dhoodh pilana se mehram nahi bacha ya bachi ban jatay.

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