And the [divorced] mothers may nurse their children for two whole years, if they wish to complete the period of nursing; and it is incumbent upon him who has begotten the child to provide in a fair manner for their sustenance and clothing. No human being shall be burdened with more than he is well able to bear: neither shall a mother be made to suffer because of her child, nor, because of his child, he who has begotten it. And the same duty rests upon the [father's] heir. And if both [parents] decide, by mutual consent and counsel, upon separation [of mother and child],219
they will incur no sin [thereby]; and if you decide to entrust your children to foster-mothers, you will incur no sin provided you ensure, in a fair manner, the safety of the child which you are handing over.220
But remain conscious of God, and know that God sees all that you do.
Most of the commentators understand the word fisal as being synonymous with "weaning" (i.e., before the end of the maximum period of two years). Abu Muslim, however, is of the opinion that it stands here for "separation" - i.e., of the child from its mother (Razi). It appears to me that this is the better of the two interpretations inasmuch as it provides a solution for cases in which both parents agree that, for some reason or other, it would not be fair to burden the divorced mother with the upbringing of the child despite the father's obligation to support them materially, while, on the other hand, it would not be feasible for the father to undertake this duty single-handed.
Lit., "provided you make safe [or "provided you surrender"] in a fair manner that which you are handing over". While it cannot be denied that the verb sallamahu can mean "he surrendered it" as well as "he made it safe", it seems to me that the latter meaning (which is the primary one) is preferable in this context since it implies the necessity of assuring the child's future safety and well-being. (The commentators who take the verb sallamtum in the sense of "you surrender" interpret the phrase idha sallamtum ma ataytum bi'l-ma'ruf as meaning "provided you hand over the agreed-upon [wages to the foster-mothers] in a fair manner" - which, to my mind, unduly limits the purport of the above injunction.)