Q: Forty years ago, my mother gave birth to a baby boy who became ill with hyperthermia. The daughter of my paternal uncle also suffered from the same illness.
She was the same age as my elder brother. My mother used to fill half a cup of coffee with milk discharged from her breast and would mix it with medicine.
For three or four days she would give my brother a small amount to drink and put some into his eyes twice a day. She would do the same with my cousin. By doing so, my mother was only seeking their treatment, not suckling. Had suckling been her intention, she would have breast-fed my cousin. My cousin has a daughter, is it permissible for me to marry her? Please enlighten us. May Allah reward you best.
The breastfeeding that affects marriageability refers to breast-feeding a baby for five times or more during the first two years of the baby's life. One breastfeeding is counted when the baby holds the breast and sucks milk from it. If the baby releases the breast to, for example, take a breath or move to another breast, and then holds it again and sucks milk, this is a second time of breastfeeding and so on until the baby receives five times of breastfeeding, (Part No. 21; Page No. 73) regardless of whether this is done consecutively or at intervals.
If the woman discharges her breast milk in a cup, for example, and gives it to the baby to drink, this is considered one breastfeeding in case the baby drinks it once. In case the baby drinks it for five times at intervals, this is considered five times of breastfeeding. There is no difference whether she mixes it with food, drink, or anything of the sort as long as the characteristics of milk are still there. Allah (Exalted be He) says when describing Mahrams (unmarriageable relatives) for men:
...your foster mothers who gave you suck, your foster milk suckling sisters.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said:
"Breastfeeding makes unlawful what blood relationships make unlawful (regarding marital affairs)."
Intention is not a condition to prove whether breastfeeding that affects marriageability is established or not. If your mother gave your paternal uncle's daughter amounts of her breast milk which she mixed with medicine five times during the first two years of the girl's life, she would be regarded as your sister by breastfeeding and a paternal aunt of your children and you would be regarded as the maternal uncle of her children. If the times of breastfeeding happen to be less than five, it would not be prohibited for you to marry your cousin's daughter. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.