Manama: A Saudi scholar has waded into controversy after he said that women could give their milk to men to establish a degree of maternal relations and get around a strict religious ban on mixing between unrelated men and women.
According to Shaikh Abdul Mohsin Al Abaican, a consultant at Saudi Arabia's royal court, a man who often entered a house and came in contact with the womenfolk there should be made symbolically related to the women by drinking milk from one of the women.
Under the fatwa, the act would preclude any sexual relations between the man and the donor woman and her relatives.
However, Al Abaican said that the donor woman should not breastfeed the man directly.
"The man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman," Al Abaican said. "He should drink it and then becomes a relative of the family, a fact that allows him to come in contact with the women without breaking Islam's rules about mixing," he said, quoted by Kuwaiti and Saudi media on Saturday.
However, the scholar said that his fatwa did not apply to family drivers, explaining that they were not permanent and could be replaced. "The fatwa is only for those who live in the house or need to get in often," he said.
Al Abaican's fatwa was immediately rejected by bloggers as "a decision that is totally unrelated to reality at a time when people are thinking about bold and new space discoveries."
Many wrote that there was no reason for the fatwa to be issued and that scholars should focus instead on "much more significant issues."
The edict is also likely to be resisted by religious scholars keen on promoting a more modern view of Islamic values.
Exactly three years ago, on May 22, 2007, an Egyptian scholar was disciplined by Al Azhar University, one of Islam's most prestigious institutions, after he issued a fatwa calling upon women to breastfeed their male colleagues.
Dr Izzat Attiyah said that his fatwa offered a way around mixing of the sexes in the work place since breast-feeding established a maternal relation even if the beneficiary was not the woman's biological son or daughter.
However, following Islamic scholars' fierce denunciation of the fatwa as defamatory to Islam, Izzat retracted it.