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Rida' (breastfeeding)

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Riḍā' (Arabic: الرضاع) or breastfeeding is a topic that is discussed in several chapters of Islamic jurisprudential books like tahara, sawm, nikah and hudud.

Under certain conditions, rida' causes mahramiyya, and ones who have become mahram through rida' are called al-maharim al-rida'i. There are special etiquette, rulings and laws in hadith collections and jurisprudential sources about breastfeeding.


Rida' means to suckle.[1] In jurisprudence, Rida' is used for breastfeeding. Under certain conditions, Rida' causes Mahramiyya,[2] and ones who have become Mahram through Rida' are called Maharim al-Rida'i.

In Sources

The issue of Rida' and some of its rulings are mentioned in Ayat al-Rida'.[3] The Qur'an has also explicitly banned the marriage with Maharim al-Rida'i and has enumerated some of its instances.[4] Moreover, in most hadith collections, a chapter is dedicated to hadiths about Rida'.[5] Shi'a faqihs have discussed the issue of Rida' in several jurisprudential topics, such as: Purity (Taharat),[6] Fasting,[7] Trading,[8] Marriage,[9] Testifying,[10] Hudud and Diyat.[11]

Al-Mahramiyya al-Rida'iyya

Al-Mahrramiya al-Rida'iyya is a kind of relationship caused by breastfeeding between two or more people under certain conditions. Each side of this relationship is banned from marrying the other side.[12] In Shi'a jurisprudential terminology, a baby who has suckled milk form another woman is called "Murtadi'" (breastfed baby), the woman who has breastfed is called "Murdi'a" (breastfeeder), and the man from whom the breastfeeder has become pregnant is called "Fahl" or "Sahib al-Laban" (the owner of the milk).[13]


As Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi the author of Jawahir al-kalam says, most of Shi'a jurists do not believe that breastfeeding is wajib (obligatory) for the mother, rather she has priority over other women,[14] and also she can ask the father of the baby for remuneration.[15] However, some jurists say that the mother is obligated to breastfeed the colostrum (the first milk).[16]

There are special rulings about a woman who breastfeeds a baby. For instance, execution of Hadd or retaliation (Qisas) will be postponed to the end of the breastfeeding period, provided that no wet nurse is found for the baby.[17] Moreover, if fasting is harmful for the mother or the breastfed baby, the mother is not obligated to perform fasting.[18]

Duration of Breastfeeding

According to Quranic verses, a baby should be breastfed for two lunar years.[19] However, it is permissible to be a few months less or more.[20] Based on a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), breastfeeding the baby for less than twenty one months in an oppression to the baby.[21]


Hadiths have mentioned some etiquette for breastfeeding. Some hadiths say mother's milk is superior to other milks[22] and is the most useful milk for the baby.[23] It is narrated that Imam al-Sadiq (a) ordered to breastfeed the baby from both breasts, as in one of them is [what replaces] food and in the other is [what replaces] water. [24]

Moreover, hadiths have talked about the role of breast milk in spiritual and natural development of the baby; thus, the infallible Imams (a) have advised not to choose an unintelligent woman as a wet nurse for the baby or one who has faulty eyes[25] or one whose milk is a result of an unlawful intercourse.[26] In a narration, Imam Ali (a) says choose someone who has beautiful face and good morals, as the baby will be similar to the wet nurse in appearance and personality. Therefore, some jurists have said that women who has beauty and moral virtues are superior to others to be chosen as the wet nurse to breastfeed the baby. Furthermore, some have advised the mother to breastfeed her baby while having wudu.

Civil Laws

According to the Article 1176 of Iranian Civil Law, the mother does not have to breastfeed her baby, unless feeding the baby with another food is impossible.[27] On the other hand, breastfeeding is the mother's right and the father or anyone else is not allowed to stop her from doing so. In addition, the Article 1024 of Iranian Civil Law mentions some conditions for al-Mahramiyyat al-Rida'iyya.[28]


  1. Farāhīdī, al-ʿAyn, vol. 1, p. 217.
  2. Ḥillī, Sharāʾiʿ al-Islām, vol. 2, p. 226.
  3. Qurʾān, 2:233.
  4. Qurʾān, 4:23.
  5. See: Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 6, p. 40-41; Ṣadūq, Man lā yaḥḍaruh al-faqīh, vol. 4, p. 375-380.
  6. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 6, p. 167.
  7. See: Ṭūsī, al-Mabsūṭ, vol. 1, p. 285; Yazdī al-Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 2, p. 56-57.
  8. Ibn Barrāj, al-Muhadhdhab, vol. 1, p. 481.
  9. Ṭūsī, al-Mabsūṭ, vol. 4, p. 205; Ibn Barrāj, al-Muhadhdhab, vol. 1, p. 481.
  10. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 29, p. 344.
  11. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 43, p. 313.
  12. Ḥillī, Sharāʾiʿ al-Islām, vol. 2, p. 226-228; Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 29, p. 264-309.
  13. Ṭūsī, al-Khilāf, vol. 5, p. 93.
  14. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 31, p. 280.
  15. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 31, p. 272.
  16. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 31, p. 273.
  17. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 41, p. 337.
  18. Ṭūsī, al-Mabsūṭ, vol. 1, p. 285; Yazdī al-Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 2, p. 56-57.
  19. Qur'an, 2:233.
  20. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 31, p. 277.
  21. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 6, p. 40.
  22. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 6, p. 40.
  23. Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 2, p. 34.
  24. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 6, p. 40.
  25. Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 2, p. 34.
  26. Ṣadūq, Man lā yaḥḍaruh al-faqīh, vol. 4, p. 479.
  27. Manṣūr, Qānūn-i madanī, p. 207.
  28. Manṣūr, Qānūn-i madanī, p. 186-187.


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  • Ibn Barrāj, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz. Al-Muhadhdhab. Edited by Jaʿfar Subḥānī Qom: Daftar-i Intishārāt-i Islāmī, 1406 AH.
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