By lex, on May 26th, 2007
Don’t know if you’ve been following it or not, but there has been a bit of a stir in Egyptian clerical circles recently. Turns out one Dr. Izzat Atiyya, professor of hadiths at Al-Azhar University, had been struggling with the age old question of what to do about the temptations of Our Modern Era, specifically the risks inherent in having unmarried and unrelated men and women working side by side behind closed doors. Because of the sexual relations potential that’s in it.
And who among us that has not wrestled with just this thorny issue would deny a tip of the old tarboush to Dr. Atiyya for his grasping of the nettle, like?
Nor would I, lacking the good doctor’s pedigree, have struck upon so novel a solution as did he: It turns out that the way to prevent the temptations inherent to unmarried and unrelated men and women working together is for the woman to breastfeed the man:
“The religious ruling that appears in the Prophet’s conduct [Sunna] confirms that breastfeeding allows a man and a woman to be together in private, even if they are not family and if the woman did not nurse the man in his infancy, before he was weaned – providing that their being together serves some purpose, religious or secular…
“Being together in private means being in a room with the door closed, so that nobody can see them… A man and a woman who are not family members are not permitted [to do this], because it raises suspicions and doubts. A man and a woman who are alone together are not [necessarily] having sex, but this possibility exists, and breastfeeding provides a solution to this problem… I also insist that the breastfeeding relationship be officially documented in writing… The contract will state that this woman has suckled this man… After this, the woman may remove her hijab and expose her hair in the man’s [presence]…”
Very well and problem solved: Once a grown man has breastfed from his co-worker, they are related and sex is an impossibility. I see productivity numbers soaring throughout the region.
Why didn’t I think of this?
But wait, not a bit of it, declares a significant cohort of the Egyptian parliament, the Supreme Council of Al-Azhar itself and regional intellectuals who claim that Dr. Atiyya is entirely exploded (a risky metaphor in the region):
The issue of breastfeeding adults was brought up for debate in the Egyptian parliament. Sabri Khalaf Allah from Muslim Brotherhood bloc in the parliament told the Al-Arabiyya TV website that some 50 MPs had discussed the issue, had expressed concern over the fact that the fatwa had been published in the media, but had refrained from submitting a parliamentary question in order to avoid creating too big an uproar.
Dr. Sayyid Askar, a Muslim Brotherhood MP and former member of the Academy of Islamic Studies, said that the hadith on which the fatwa is based is indeed authentic and valid, but that the accepted view among Muslim scholars is that it refers to a specific case and cannot be applied to other cases. Therefore, he concluded, Dr. Attiya’s fatwa is an erroneous fatwa that goes against the consensus. “In our modern society,” he added, “it makes no sense to talk of breastfeeding adults.”
Liberal Muslim thinker Gamal Al-Banna argued that, in ancient times, the issue of breastfeeding adults was not sensitive, but today times and perceptions have changed. He added, “We always call [to distinguish] within Islamic tradition [between] hadiths which were published in [certain] circumstances that have changed [and hadiths that remain valid]
I can sort of see their point: I mean, if you can argue yourself into a position that the best way to prevent folks shagging who shouldn’t while on the clock is a bit of the old nuzzle, then you could argue yourself into almost anything, couldn’t you? Suicide bombs. Torture. What have you.
Perverse thing, progress – gives with one hand and takes with the other. Both a boon and a curse, like.
Ah, well. Back to work.