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Adoption: An Islamic Perspective

Posted on February 29, 2012 by Abdullah M Khouj

Adoption: An Islamic Perspective


 Abdullah M. Khouj

When we become distant from Allah, the Creator, we become distant from our own selves. Then we neglect our essential need; that is the spiritual. It means simply we do not follow His mandates and it follows that we will be deprived from His guidance. When this happens we easily fall into practices that bring unhappiness or trouble into our lives.

In the case under discussion in this article, many Muslims, in this overall environment, have begun to practice adoption, as it is practiced in civil law, a practice which uproots the child from his/her origin and detaches him/her from the past. The child grows up knowing only of his/her current adoptive family, but knows nothing of lineage. Allah has shown that such an approach is inadequate for human beings, and would create problems as the child grows. Allah informs that He prohibits such procedure by saying:


“Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body: nor has He made your wives whom ye divorce by Zihar your mothers: nor has He made your adopted sons your sons. Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths. But Allah tells (you) the truth, and He shows the (right) way. “Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is more just in the sight of Allah. But if ye know not their father’s (names, call them) your Mawlas. But there is no blame on ye if ye make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts: and Allah is oftforgiving, most merciful.” (33:4-5)


Allah thus illuminates realities concerning our life. If we ponder in His guidance, we find that He does help us to deal with the causes of all problems that afflict us and how to resolve them. We must not grope about in awkward confusion, not follow all kinds of different paths, but follow the one, straight path that Allah has drawn for us and that agrees with our human nature. Allah explains that He has made one heart for every human being, and thus the one way is the way to follow that is appropriate to each person and his life. Allah makes clear that a man’s wife can never be his mother. No matter what the relationship might be called, a man’s wife is his wife and must never be his mother. The true nature of a relationship cannot be changed with just a word, and thus who ever makes Zihar is saying an abomination and speaking falsely. Then Allah says:


“Nor has he made your adopted sons your sons.”


AI Qurtebi says in his tafseir (interpretation) of this verse that all the mufassirorn have agreed that this verse was revealed concerning the case of Zaid Bin Haritha.’ The Imams narrated that Ibn Omar (may Allah be pleased with them) had said, “We called Zaid Bin Haritha Zaid Bin Muhammad” until Allah revealed:


“Call them by [the names of] their fathers.”


The prophet had adopted Zaid and had said: “O people of Quraish, be witness that he is my son, he inherits me, and I inherit him.”


From this story we understand that adoption was practiced both before and during Islam. However, Allah abolished this practice, to return the relationship of lineage to its natural course.
This natural course is determined by relationships of blood and real fatherhood. Allah explains that talk does not change reality, nor can talk create a relationship other than the blood and genetic relationship that is carried through the sperm which determines the lineage of a family. Besides the genes, this relationship carries with it the natural feeling of a man for his child, in which the son is a part of him and of his living body and being.

Thus, Allah commands us to call these children after their natural parents, and not their adoptive parents. The calling of children after their adoptive parents deforms the human character, uproots its origins, and sets the adopted child on a continuous search for the truth of his lineage.

Today, we often receive calls from Muslims who want to practice adoption. Some may be confused and do not know Allah’s prohibitions against it. Others may know Allah’s law against it, but see no harm in it because we live in a different time and place than Prophet Mohammad and Zaid. Nevertheless, the practice of adoption courts dangers to family ties, human relations, and thereby the whole society.

Islam abolished adoption in the way that it is practiced in many parts of the world today. This is because it uproots the child and severs his connection to his own lineage. This causes distinct problems: Children do not feel the tie to their natural parents, because the blood tie does not exist. Many problems can be caused if the child then finds out that he is adopted later in life through different circumstances. The child can react in different ways to the shock of this knowledge. Some are filled with hate because they believe that they were deceived. Others may accept the truth, but are propelled on a continual search for knowledge about themselves and their family, and sometimes this search gives them no rest or peace. All kinds of anxieties and psychological disorders can arise from this trauma.

Adoption practices in which the child knows nothing of his natural parents and family can also have grave consequences: A child may grow up and marry his sister or the sister may marry her brother without even knowing it. Such relations are strictly prohibited, precisely because they produce disturbances in the genetic makeup. Adoption as it is practiced today can also lead to broader social problems. People become no longer concerned with the legitimacy of their children.
The business of baby-selling for purposes of adoption begins to proliferate. Unseemly struggles and fights can arise between the real and adopting families of a child. Islam abolished adoption for all these reasons, and also to protect the unity of the family and the unity of the Society, from forces of social disruption.

It is just that a child should be called after his father, because of the affection and love that binds the two. This natural relationship between parent and child is the core of family responsibility and establishes the family on solid principles and aids the society in dealing with overall social problems. Societies which ignore the family relationships, which are based on weak and limp family structures, leave their people vulnerable to criminality and all kinds of psychological imbalances.

Allah however did not simply abolish adoption, without providing a solution for the care of children whose parents, for whatever reason, are unable to provide that care. He offered practices such as guardianship. If adoption is prohibited by Allah, He also commands and encourages the believers to guard, supervise, and protect orphans and foundlings, children without parents. Allah considered the caring of orphans to be a great deed. Allah says:


And remember We took a covenant from the children of Israel (to this effect): worship none but Allah; treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need; speak fair to the people; be steadfast in prayer; and give Zakat, then did ye turn back, except a few among you, and ye back slide even now.” (2:83)

They ask thee what they should spend (In charity). Say: whatever wealth ye spend that is good, is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers. And whatever ye do that is good, Allah knoweth it well.(2.215)


Allah commands us to be fair in our treatment of orphans, to treat them with kindness and goodness. Allah says:


 Therefore, treat not the orphan with harshness, nor repulse him who asks;” (93:9)

“Seest thou one who denies the judgment (to come)? Then such is the one who repulses the orphan, and encourages not the feeding of the indigent.” (107:2)

“They ask thee concerning orphans. Say: “the best thing to do is what is for their good; if ye mix their affairs with yours, they are your brethren; but Allah knows the man who means mischief from the man who means good. And if Allah had wished, He could have put you into difficulties: He is indeed exalted in power, wise.” (2:220)

“Those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans eat up a fire into their own bodies; they will soon be enduring a blazing fire!” (4:10)

That ye stand firm for justice to orphans. There is not a good deed which we do, but Allah is well-acquainted therewith.(4: 12 7)


Islam also set standards of practice toward foundlings, young children whose natural familial origins are unknown. Islam commands Muslims to provide foster care for such children as an act of social solidarity among all Muslims. Allah says:


Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancor: fear Allah, for Allah is strict punishment.


Islam’s rules for foundling include:

– The person who found the baby should have witnesses that will testify that he found the baby and testify to what was found with it.

– If there was money with the baby, then the person who found the baby is permitted to spend that money.

– If no money was found with the baby and the person who found it cannot afford to support the baby, then he can request from the Muslim house of funding to support the baby.

– If that is not possible, then the community or the government should collectively support the baby.

(Saied Bin Mansour narrated that Senin Bin jamilah said, “I found an abandoned baby, and I went with it to Omar Bin Al Khatab. Someone introduced me to Omar and said, ‘O ruler of the believer, he is a pious man.’ Omar said, ‘Is he so?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ Omar said. ‘Take the baby with you. He is free, and you are his guardian, and we support him from the Muslim house of funding.'” Or as it is put in a different narration of the same story, Omar says, “We will pay for his foster care.”)

– The Muslim house of funding inherits the foundling if the person who is taking care of the baby dies.

– If a man or a woman admitted that the child is his or hers, and the conditions also show that he or she was a parent, then he or she can have the baby.

– Those who find a baby should not claim the parenthood of the baby. They should provide the baby with care and affection as if he were their own. As the child grows older, they should help him to understand his life story.

When Allah mandates a law, it is always beneficial for the human being. As in the case of adoption, when a child knows the facts of his life, he can understand how to set expectations for his entire life. If a child is raised to believe that he is the natural child of his actually adoptive family, when he discovers the big lie, that they are not his natural parents, this may have a seriously detrimental impact on his personality. The person may not be able to trust anyone again in his life. So why not make the truth easy for him from the beginning?

As Muslims, when Allah and his messenger determine a course to take on a matter, we must listen to it, because its benefit is for us. Allah says:


It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision: If anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong path. (33:36)


Sahal Ibn Sad narrated the prophet (pbuh) saying:” I and the one who takes care of the ophant in heaven”. (Al Termizi)


Taking care of a human being being is a great deed in Islam to the extend that it is concusive to heaven. we also find that misusing the orphant and mishandling his wealth could lead to seriouse truble with Allah. The prophet (pbuh) says: “stay away from the seven serious sins: one of them eating the wealth of the orphant”.


1 Zaid Bin Haritha was the son of Haritha AI Kalbi of one of the Arab tribes in the days before Islam. Zaid was captured as a young man during an attack on his tribe by another Arab tribe. Hakiem Bin Hiezam then bought him for Hakeem’s aunt (may Allah be blessed with her). When the prophet (PBUH) married her, she gave Zaid to the prophet as a gift. Then Zaid’s father and uncle requested from the prophet that Zaid be permitted to return to his family. The prophet gave Zaid the choice to remain with him or go with his family. Zaid chose to stay with the prophet, who then gave him his freedom and adopted him. People used to call Zaid the son of Mohammad.