MILK BANKS THROUGH THE LENS OF MUSLIM SCHOLARS: ONE TEXT IN TWO CONTEXTS

Authors


Dr Mohammed Ghaly, Leiden University, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden Institute for Religious Studies, Matthias de Vrieshof 1, Postbox 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands. Email: m.ghaly@hum.leidenuniv.nl

ABSTRACT

When Muslims thought of establishing milk banks, religious reservations were raised. These reservations were based on the concept that women's milk creates ‘milk kinship’ believed to impede marriage in Islamic Law. This type of kinship is, however, a distinctive phenomenon of Arab tradition and relatively unknown in Western cultures. This article is a pioneer study which fathoms out the contemporary discussions of Muslim scholars on this issue. The main focus here is a religious guideline (fatwa) issued in 1983, referred to in this article as ‘one text’, by the Egyptian scholar Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī who saw no religious problem in establishing or using these banks. After a number of introductory remarks on the ‘Western’ phenomenon of milk banks and the ‘Islamic’ phenomenon of ‘milk kinship’, this article analyses the fatwa of al-Qaradāwī‘one text’ and investigates the ‘two contexts’ in which this fatwa was discussed, namely, the context of the Muslim world and that of Muslim minorities living in the West. The first context led to rejecting the fatwa and refusing to introduce the milk banking system in the Muslim world. The second context led to accepting this system and thus allowing Muslims living in the West to donate and receive milk from these banks. Besides its relevance to specialists in the fields of Islamic studies, anthropology and medical ethics, this article will also be helpful to physicians and nurses who deal with patients of Islamic background.

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