Q / A
24_Using a Wet Nurse, and Other Questions
Bathing after a sexual intercourse is not only “recommended”, but is “obligatory” for both partners, to be eligible for performing prayers or Hajj:
* O you who have believed, do not draw near to prayer (when) you are drunken until you know what you are saying, nor (when) you are ritually unclean, except when you are traversing a way, until you have washed yourselves. (English meaning of Qur’an 4: 43)
Although fulfilling an obligation is not conditional on precisely knowing the wisdom behind, yet every aspect of Islamic legislation have always proven to conform to scientific facts. The wisdom behind the obligatory bathing after sexual intercourse is two-fold:
1- In the human body there are two sources of sweat secretions: eccrine sweat glands all over the body skin whose secretions increase with temperature, and Apocrine sweat glands under the armpits, around the navel and the sexual organs. The latter group secrete actively on sexual arousal and during intercourse. If left, these odoriferous secretions – due to bacterial action - would produce odious smells. Bathing of the whole body is then essential to keep the Muslim in the best acceptable pleasant odor.
2- Sexual activity is accompanied by increased blood circulation, pressure and pulse rate, together with increased hormonal secretions, muscular work and loss of calories. The result is overall fatigue and inactivity. A full bath or shower is an ideal requisite to restore vitality and freshness of the body, mind and soul.
Obviously, the situation is different on urination or defecation. Here, a Muslim has only to carefully clean those contaminated private parts with pure water, in order to remove any trace of contaminants (such as infective microorganisms) and their smells. It would have been neither necessary nor reasonable to bathe for these daily repeated reasons. So, as a prelude to prayers, only those parts of the body exposed to normal daily life contaminants (such as fine particles of dust or air-borne bacteria) are to be cleaned by ablution. These parts are the face, arms up to the ankles, head (wiping) and feet. Other highly recommended “Sunnah” during ablution include also mouth washing, nose rinsing, tooth-brushing (with “Siwak” or otherwise), ears cleaning … etc.
Now also, what is wrong with kissing a lovely newly-born baby. The obligatory bathing after intercourse does not mean that the parents are tainted; neither is the baby. To the contrary, having intercourse with one’s wife is considered a charitable rewardable act. It is noteworthy that it is the view of some Fiqh scholars (e.g. Ash-Shafi’I and Ibn Hanbal) that the semen fluid in itself is not considered an impurity.
Urban Arabs, before Islam, used to send their children to be suckled in the desert for one or both of two reasons:
The mother could not have enough milk, due to poor health or malnutrition. Another reason was to benefit the children from the healthy air and open space of the desert. With the advent of Islam, mothers became requested to breastfeed their babies, as far as possible, for a complete period of two years, as per the verse, that means:
* And (women) giving birth, shall suckle their children two rounds completely, for the one who is willing to perfect the suckling. And it is for the man to whom children are born to offer them provision and raiment with beneficence. (English meaning of Qur’an 2: 233)
The perfect medical wisdom behind this divine guidance was realized only recently, fourteen centuries after the revelation. For th mother, breastfeeding activates the secretion of the hormone Prolactin, essential for the uterine to contract and regain its original size. This uterine contraction also stops bleeding in the uterine arterioles and venules, after the separation of the placenta. Neglecting breastfeeding was found responsible for most of the cases of enlarged uterus. Moreover, the continual secretion of milk protects the breasts from chronic absesses caused by milk gathering. This minimizes the possibility of benign or malignant (cancer) tumors. Suckling usually delays menstruation, and thus acts as a subsidiary contraceptive. This is important in order to postpone pregnancy until the prescribed (two years) period of breastfeeding is completed.
As for the child, his mother’s milk is a vital matchless source for his nutrition and safety. Mother’s milk is rich in proteins, calories, salts, and antibodies. This milk is always aseptic and has a moderate temperature that is fit for the baby in summer and winter. Its composition gradually changes from the moment of birth, according to his needs. The milk of the first three days (colostrums) is rich in proteins and antibiotics that immunizes the infant against infections, allergy and oral diseases. In addition to this, breastfeeding gives a feeling of motherly warmth and support. As a result, world campaigns and programs were organized to spread the awareness and to affirm the importance of continuing breastfeeding all through the first two years of infant’s life.
As pointed out before, it may be that the mother of our noble Prophet was too weak to breastfeed him. As to whether she could have suckled somebody else, books of Seerah (Prophet’s biography) did not mention anything in this respect. On the other hand, the Prophet (peace be upon him) had suckling brothers:
- through Thuwayyibah the bond-maid of his uncle `Abdul-`Uzza (Abu-Lahab), who suckled the Prophet soon after his birth. Earlier she breastfed his uncle and great companion Hamzah ibn `Abdul-Muttalib, as well as her son Masruh, both are thus foster brothers to the Prophet (peace be upon him).
- Through Halimah As-Sa`diyyah, his Bedouin wet-nurse, who suckled him for most of his suckling period. Her three children are also honored for being foster brothers of the Prophet (peace be upon him). They are; the well-known Ash-Shayma’, Anisah and `Abdullah.
To conclude, we hope these answers could satisfy your queries regarding the obligatory after-intercourse bath and the prescribed two-year breastfeeding. The demonstrated scientific wisdom of these two aspects of Islamic legislation is a further proof that it could only be the handicraft of the All-Knowing Allah (SWT).