Breast-feeding in medieval islamic thought: A preliminary study of legal and medical writings

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Abstract

The way medieval Islamic writings discuss breast-feeding reflects not only general attitudes of adults toward children but also concepts that adults held of the first stages of socialization, the status of women, and the power relations that obtained within the family. The nursling's well-being was a central point of deliberation among Muslim religious scholars as well as physicians, whose understanding of the nursling's needs and of parental sentiments is impressive. Moreover, a mother's rights to breast-feed her own children and have custody of them, as formulated by Muslim jurists, constituted the foundations of a sort of female autonomy within the patriarchal domain. By having nonmaternal breast-feeding create a complex and ramified network of impediments to marriage, Islamic law made this natural activity play an important role in social life - it influenced the way relations between different families were established, reduced the occurrence of endogamous marriages, and created semiprivate spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-123
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Family History
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1998

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