I found the quotation below in a web site:
“Muslim’s Sahih (chapter on nursing the adult) tells us that Sahla bint Suhail complained to Muhammad because her husband, Abu Huzeifa, was envious of his servant, Salem. Muhammad advised Sahla to nurse Salem five times. She protested about Salem’s having a beard. But Muhammad advised her to nurse Salem in order to cure her husband of envy, for Aisha used to nurse any man when she and Muhammad thought it was suitable. This tradition is described in detail in Ibn Malik’s Muwatta (chapter on nursing the adult).”
This seems like it is a false hadith, because Ayesha never had a baby, so how can she nurse anybody? Never heard of the concept of nursing adults was Salem a child or an adult?
I fully agree with you, the whole idea presented in the referred narrative is not only unacceptable and against the norms of all societies, in general, and the Arabs, in particular, but is also against some of the other narratives reported in books of Hadith, which expressly say that the prohibition based on nursing is only applicable to the nursing of an infant – while he is in the age of nursing.
There are two parts of the referred narrative. Firstly, the one in which the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have advised the wife of Abu Hudaifah (ra) to nurse her grown up adopted son; and secondly, where Ayesha (ra) is reported to nurse all those grown up men, whom she wanted to grant permission for entry to her chamber.
As for the first part of the narrative, the following information should be kept in mind:
a. Salem was an adopted child of Abu Hudaifah and had lived in Abu Hudaifah’s house since his childhood;
b. As would naturally be the case with a child who has grown in one’s house, Abu Hudaifah’s wife had remained quite casual with her attire in front of Salem;
c. After the Qur’an gave the directives regarding the etiquette of interaction between males and females, Abu Hudaifah (ra), being an extremely pious Muslim, became uncomfortable with Salem’s presence in the household;
d. Abu Hudaifah’s house was quite small, due to which it was difficult to restrict Salem’s interaction with Abu Hudaifah’s wife;
e. According to the etiquette prescribed by the Qur’an, it was not forbidden for Salem to continue living in Abu Hudaifah’s house, provided that the members of the household respected and abided by the directives of the Qur’an. Thus, the discomfort that Abu Hudaifah (ra) felt was, in fact, more of a psychological nature which was due to his being overly cautious in abiding by the directives of the Shari`ah in letter and spirit.
Keeping the foregoing background in mind, when Abu Hudaifah’s wife expressed her concern in front of the Prophet (pbuh), the Prophet (pbuh) realizing the nature of Abu Hudaifah’s concern advised his wife to take an action that was likely to take care of Abu Hudaifah’s concern. It seems that the advise given by the Prophet (pbuh) to Abu Hudaifah’s wife was, in fact, to take some of her milk and give it to Salem, thereby, making Salem a kind of a foster child and, subsequently, removing Abu Hudaifah’s concern regarding the issue. However, the incident, it seems, has been misreported in such a manner that it gives the impression that the Prophet (pbuh) advised Abu Hudaifah’s wife to breast-feed her grown-up adopted son.
As for the second part of the narrative, it seems only a conspiracy against the Mother of the believers. Firstly, as you have correctly mentioned that being a childless woman, it is highly unlikely for her to suckle a child. Secondly, the white lie entailed in the narrative becomes apparent merely on the grounds that not even a single person can be named with any degree of certainty from amongst the Muslims who could be claimed to have actually been nursed by the Mother of the believers. The most that can be said is that the Mother of the Believers may, in contrast to the other wives of the Prophet (pbuh), have actually mistakenly generalized the advice given by the Prophet (pbuh) to Abu Hudaifah’s wife. This opinion of the Mother of the Believers gave her opponents a chance to take advantage of the situation by incorporating, in the narrative, the fable of her nursing all those whom she desired to permit entry into her chamber.
I hope this helps.
March 23, 2003