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The word ‘orphan’ is mentioned 23 times in the Quran, in 12 different surahs in 12 distinct ways. The most famous orphan known in the Islamic culture, is the prophet himself, peace be upon him. His father died before his birth and he lost both his mother and his grandfather by the time he was only eight years old. Leaving his uncle, Abu Talib, to take care of him, protect him and raised him until his own death. As mentioned in the Quran: “Did He not find you (O Muhammed) an orphan and gave you refuge?” (93:6)
Adoption is highly recommended in the Islam culture and there are numerous references that show how Islam instructs Muslims to show compassion and justice towards orphans. It also shed light on the importance of taking in homeless children and giving them care. The notion of children’s adoption is well established in Islam, and given these facts, it is staggering to hear and see Muslims claiming that adoption is prohibited in Islam. However, the Islamic views and practices regarding adoption are different from the customs and practices of adoption in non-Islamic parts of the world like the U.S. and Europe. The confusion comes from the precision of the definition of the term ‘adoption ‘and what is meant by it in the Quran.
How it works
In Islam, the word ‘adoption is referred to as ‘kafala’ which means sponsorship. Kafala is also derived from the root word meaning ‘to feed’, that is why, the correct connotation to term Kafala in Islam is ‘foster parenting’ and not adoption. In true meanings, the word ‘Kafala or legal fostering’ is the oath of a person to undertake the protection, financial upkeep, and education of a minor, in the same manner a father would do to his son/daughter, while maintaining their own true identity. This means, according to the Quran, a person cannot become a child’s real parent but rather only by virtue of statement.
The essence of adoption in Islam refers to it as more of a foster-parent relationship, which renders a relationship that is different from those of adoption in other cultures, where the adoptive child becomes effectively identical to a biological child on the eyes of the law. In the nature of Islam, the adopted child does not carry the name of the adoptive parents but rather retains their own biological family name. in addition, since the adopted child is not considered blood related to their fostering family, he is considered a ‘mihrem’ to them. A ‘mihrim’ refers to a legal relation that constitutes rules regarding marriage and other aspects of life. Therefore, members of the adoptive family members are permitted to possibly become marriage partners with the grown child.
Adoption in its legal form is prohibited by the Islamic law. However, Islam permits people seek sponsorship of orphaned children, in terms of financial and protective support. This means that when you ‘adopt’ a child, he or she maintains their true identity. Adoption in the Islamic law means, means that the parents offer affection and care to the child without any legal obligations i.e. inheritance.
“… Allah has not made your adopted sons your true sons. That is merely your saying by your mouths, but Allah says the truth, and He guides to the right] way. Call them, the adopted children by the names of their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, they are your brethren in faith. But there is no blame on you if you make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts…” [Quran 33: 4-5]
When a person wishes to adopt a child, he or she are subjected to what is referred to as ‘Fitness’ in the Islamic law. Fitness is the persons ability to provide and become of the best interest of the child/orphan. This person’s life is then evaluated with regards to their financial stability, career stability and obligations, physical and mental health, marital status, other children and of course their criminal history.
With that being said, there are additional rules to which these parents must follow. For example, the child’s biological parent’s identity should not be hidden, and their ties to the child should not be cut or undermined in any way. The Quran stresses on the notion that the adoptive parents are not the biological parent of the child and are not to take such role. Under the Islamic law as well, there are rules regarding the child’s inheritance. The adoptive child does not automatically inherit from the adoptive parents, but rather from their own biological ones. In addition, the child is provided with wealth and/or property from the biological family, the adoptive parents are obligated to protect this wealth and/or property for the child, and should not interfere with it as of its their own. They are merely considered trustees of this wealth and should hand it over when the child is of legal age to take care of themselves and make their own decisions.”
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