Can I donate or receive donated breast milk?

Question

Assalaamu Alaykum I hope this email reaches you in the best of health. I am a dietitian from the Provincial Department of Health and I contacted the MJC yesterday regarding breastmilk banking. Currently we are introducing this concept to the community which includes donating and receiving donor breastmilk from the NGO called Milk Matters. We have a few questions regarding this matter and I was made aware that there is already a Fatwa passed. It would be highly appreciated If you could share this with the DOH so we can answer queries coming from the community. Once we have read through the Fatwa we will forward our questions to your department Insha Allah.

With regards to your query (and with due appreciation for the additional information provided), be informed of the following:

  1. Interest in the Sharʿī status of milk banks and their social consequences was first raised in the 80s. Scholarly opinion at the time was divided.
  2. One group of scholars adopted the position that milk banks do not present an unlawful phenomenon, and that the negative consequences that may possibly be perceived to flow from them could be satisfactorily mitigated. Included in this group were ʿulamā such as Shaykh Aḥmad Huraydi (the Mufti of Egypt for the period 1960 to 1970) and Dr Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī.
  3. Another group held the view that milk banks should not be allowed. In December 1985 the Fiqh Academy of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC, an umbrella body representing over 50 Muslim countries) passed a resolution that declared milk banks unlawful and prohibited their establishment.
  4. The OIC resolution rests upon three considerations:
    • Milk banks represent a foreign encroachment upon Islamic culture.
    • Since breastfeeding, in terms of Sharīʿah, creates a relationship analogous to kinship by blood, milk banking creates social complications.
    • The availability of natural breastfeeding by persons other than the mother makes milk banking unnecessary.
  5. Our reading of the situation at Milk Matters, however, leads us to conclude that—
    • considering that the beneficiaries of this kind of institution tend to be premature and low weight babies from primarily underprivileged families, the milk banking to which your query pertains represents not a cultural encroachment, but a social imperative;
    • the potential of social complications through milk-kinship is mitigated by the combined elements of separate storage, unambiguous identification of donors, and access to records;
    • if generalized, the assumption that alternative natural breastfeeding is always available would be quite displaced;

As such, we have no hesitation in stating that there are no impediments for Muslims to donate or receive milk from a milk bank such as the one run by Milk Matters.

We would urge, however, that where Muslim children are beneficiaries, a register be kept that identifies the donors from whose milk each child was fed.

Since matters of this nature do affect the Muslim community in general, and the imams in particular, the MJC would be more than happy to conclude an agreement with Milk Matters to initiate and keep such records. It would be appreciated if this could be explored further.

والله تعالى أعلم

And Allah knows best.

MT Karaan

MJC (SA)

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