St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia
Why was Muhammad Nursed by the Bedouins? The Institute of Milk Kinship in Pre-Islamic Arabia in the Light of the Hadith
Abstract. According to Muslim sources, noble families of pre‑Islamic Mecca gave their children to the neighbouring Bedouin tribes for nursing. Traditionally, this custom was explained by the necessity to protect children against dangers of the city or as a means to introduce them to the “pure Arabic” culture of the desert. This article proposes a different explanation for this practice. An analysis of milk‑kinship practices in other cultures and of Prophetic hadith suggests that giving one's children to a neighbour tribe to foster was likely a ritual way to establish and maintain socio‑political ties and alliances.
Keywords: milk kinship, ritual kinship, marriage, alliance conclusion, pre‑Islamic Arabia, hadith, Muhammad, Bedouins
Acknowledgment. Author of this article expresses his sincere gratitude to Prof. Alexander Knysh and Maxim Yosefi whose advices and help with English text were indispensable.
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Received by the Editorial Board: 22.05.2018