CAIRO: Religious scholars condemned the breastfeeding fatwa that Sheikh Ezzat Atiya, president of the Hadith (Prophet Mohamed’s (PBUH) Sayings) department at Al-Azhar University, issued last week.
Atiya had drawn on Islamic traditions which forbid sexual relations between a man and a woman who has breastfed him to suggest that symbolic breastfeeding could be a way around strict segregation of males and females.
The ensuing furor led to an apology and retraction from Atiya on Sunday and then his suspension from Al-Azhar and transferal to a disciplinary committee Monday.
“This fatwa is nonsense, Gamal El Banna, an Islamic intellectual told The Daily Star Egypt.
While clearly indignant about the fatwa, El Banna felt that it was more important to “move on to more important issues because “this fatwa doesn’t have any importance .
However, El Banna believes that Atiya should keep his job.
Sheikh Khalid El Gindy, an influential sheikh, concurred.
“Those fatwas are completely unrelated to Islam. They are based on no certified or credible sources, El Gindy said.
“Al-Azhar has collected all the legal and reliable hadiths and kept them at the Al Azhar institution, he added.
El Gindy also told The Daily Star Egypt, frustrated, that Al Azhar has announced so many times that fatwas like these should not be released to the public.
“Al-Azhar has held many seminars and lectures about the harms of these fallacious fatwas on the mentality of the people, but obviously some people don’t care about all that and they are unaware of the negative consequences which follow the release of such fatwas, El Gindy said.
Last week Atiya had told Al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based media channel, that after five breastfeeding sessions the man became a symbolic relative of the woman and the two were allowed to be alone together and the women could remove her headscarf in his presence. In his apology, Atiya stated that breastfeeding a male colleague at work is reserved only for a special situation and that only a minority of scholars had supported this position.
The storm of criticism, fed by wide coverage on Arab media channels, reached all the way up to the People’s Assembly (PA) where around 50 members discussed submitting an investigative questioning last Wednesday, as reported by Al-Arabiya website .
The PA decided instead to give Al-Azhar a chance to retract the fatwa itself, hoping this would lower the media attention on the issue because they felt it was detrimental to Al-Azhar and Islam’s image. The controversial fatwa comes on the heels of another controversialclaim in a book published by Ali Gomaa, Egypt’s GrandMufti, which declared that the Prophet s companions used to drink the his urine, considering it a blessed act, reported Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
According to Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, Gomaa stuck to his position despite criticism, claiming that everything which emanated from the Prophet [PBUH] is pure and sacred.