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Sex while Breastfeeding in Islam

05 December, 2023
Q As-Salamu `alaykm. What does ghilah—which is mentioned in the hadith “I intended to prohibit ghilah. . ." —mean? And what is the legal ruling pertaining to it?


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

  • The word ghilah signifies both “sexual intercourse during the breastfeeding period” and “breastfeeding during pregnancy”.
  • Ghilah, therefore, is permissible as long as there is no harm on the breastfeeding baby.
  • Trustworthy doctors are those who can decide whether or not sexual intercourse during pregnancy or breastfeeding during pregnancy could harm the breastfeeding baby.
  • If there is a possibility that being pregnant during the breastfeeding period will affect the milk, then it will be better for the spouses to use a suitable and safe contraceptive means during the period of breastfeeding .
  • If the wife conceives, and it is thought that milk will cause harm to the child, she should stop breastfeeding him.

Answering your question about sex during breastfeeding period, The Kuwaiti Encyclopedia of Jurisprudence states the following:

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What Is Ghilah?

Linguistically speaking, the word ghilah indicates deception. For example, when it is said that someone was killed by means of ghilah, this means that he was deceived and taken to a place where he was murdered.

In Arabic, the word also implies killing by a surprise attack.

According to the Shariah, the word ghilah indicates having sexual intercourse with one’s wife during the breastfeeding period, and it also signifies the woman’s breastfeeding of her child while she is pregnant.

Early Arabs disliked having intercourse with their wives during the breastfeeding period and [the wife] breastfeeding during pregnancy. Thus, they abandoned these acts [intercourse and breastfeeding during pregnancy]. For they believed this would spoil the milk and be a cause of ailment and weakness for the child’s body.

Did Prophet Muhammad prohibit sex during breastfeeding period?

If this claim were a matter of fact, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would have forbidden doing it [ghilah].

Prophet Muhammad said, “I intended to prohibit ghilah, but I considered the Byzantines and Persians, and knew that they do ghilah and this does not cause any harm to their children.” (Abu Dawud)

The hadith points out that if sexual intercourse during the breastfeeding period and breastfeeding during pregnancy were harmful, then they would have harmed the Byzantine or the Persian children.

They had so many physicians who would have forbidden them from doing so if it had been injurious. That was why Prophet Muhammad did not prohibit doing such acts.

Moreover, Sad ibn Abi Waqqas narrated: A man came to Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and said, “I do coitus interruptus while having sexual intercourse with my wife.” Prophet Muhammad asked, “Why do you do that?” The man replied, “I fear for her child.” Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger said, “If that were harmful, it would harm the Persians and the Byzantines.” (Muslim)

Sex while breastfeeding in Islam

Relying on the former hadith and the latter one narrated by Sad ibn Abi Waqqas, Muslim jurists deduced that it is allowable to have intercourse with one’s wife if she is breastfeeding a child and for a woman to breastfeed a baby during pregnancy, since there is no harm in such acts.

Had it led to harm, Prophet Muhammad would have guided us not to do so, for he is merciful for the believers.

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.