He said that if a woman fed a male colleague “directly from her breast” at least five times they would establish a family bond and thus be allowed to be alone together at work. “Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage,” he ruled. “A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed.”
Atiya based his fatwa on a hadith—a documented saying or doing of Islam’s prophet Muhammad and subsequently one of Sharia law’s sources of jurisprudence. Many Egyptians naturally protested this decree—hadith or no hadith—though no one could really demonstrate how it was un-Islamic; for the fatwa conformed to the strictures of Islamic jurisprudence. Still, due to the protests—not many Egyptian women were eager to “breastfeed” their male coworkers—the fatwa receded, and that was that.
However, because it was never truly rebutted, it kept making comebacks.
For instance, three years later in 2010, a high-ranking Saudi, Sheikh Abdul Mohsin al-Abaican issued a fatwa confirming that “women could give their milk to men to establish a degree of maternal relations and get around a strict religious ban on mixing between unrelated men and women.” But unlike Atiya’s fatwa, “the man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman. He should drink it [from a cup] and then [he] becomes a relative of the family, a fact that allows him to come in contact with the women without breaking Islam’s rules about mixing.”
Now, a report titled “Kuwaiti Activists: Husband Breastfeeding from Wife not Prohibited,” published earlier this month by Arabic RT (see also Garaa News) opens by announcing that “The adult breastfeeding fatwa has returned once again to the spotlight, after Kuwaiti Islamic activists supported the adult breastfeeding fatwa issued by the Egyptian Salafi, Sheikh Jamal al-Murakbi [different from Al Azhar’s Sheikh Atiya]. This time around, the Kuwaitis examined the adult breastfeeding fatwa in the context of relations between a man and his wife.”