Friday, November 12, 2010

Is Adoption Allowed In Islam?

Frankly, I was startled by this statement that Islam does not allow adoption. This is so strange, why would Islam do that? Such a novel act of taking in a human being in your folds, caring and protecting him/ her and then raising them to be the productive members of the society - at least in intention if not in reality. Does Islam totally prohibit that? does it place restrictions on it? What is really going on, I asked myself and then set about making myself understand it.

The verse that deals with 'prohibition' of adoption is as follows.

33:4 - 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.

33:5 - Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is juster in the sight of Allah. But if ye know not their father's (names, call them) your Brothers in faith, or your maulas. But there is no blame on you if ye make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts: and Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.

Mere reading of these verses does not suggest that adoption is not allowed. Quran is alluding to a certain issue. For example, when it says  'nor has He made your wives whom ye divorce by Zihar your mothers', it is alluding to a custom wherein the husband who wanted his wife divorced equated her to 'being like his mother' - meaning she is no more treated his wife.

Something similar is being mentioned with regards to adopted children but it is not clear. Lets explore some more. The next verse mentions that the adopted children should be called by their father's name. Still, no explicit prohibition on adoption but one can see that the name of father is being given importance. But what for? Whats in a name?

When Quran talks about adopted children, it talks in terms of Orphans*1 because that is most likely scenario to occur. Couple of things to discuss here. First is the notion that since adoption is not allowed so it follows that the adopted child will not be able to inherit. This is not the case if we are to read Quran.

4:7 -  From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large,-a determinate share.

4:8 -  But if at the time of division other relatives, or orphans or poor, are present, feed them out of the (property), and speak to them words of kindness and justice.

So orphans can have a share in inheritance as well and if you mention it in the form of a will - even better, because Quran stresses importance of having a will to decide inheritance matters. *2

You can argue that the verse is simply stating orphans and not adopted children. I will not refute your assertion but at least it shows you can give your inheritance to anyone - no restriction on 'adopted children'. Of course Quran focuses a lot on justice and being compassionate.

That was on side of the coin. How about if the adopted child had some property? Could it be that Quran is talking of this? Lets read further.

2:220 -  ... 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."

17:34 - Come not nigh to the orphan's property except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength; and fulfil (every) engagement, for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).

4:2 - To orphans restore their property (When they reach their age), nor substitute (your) worthless things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by mixing it up) with your own. For this is indeed a great sin.

4:5 - To those weak of understanding Make not over your property, which Allah hath made a means of support for you, but feed and clothe them therewith, and speak to them words of kindness and justice.

When Quran discusses orphans as adopted children, it focuses more on protection of their rights. One has to be extremely careful in dealing with orphans properties because according to Allah that is one grave mistake.

4:10 - 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!

So one can see that when Quran talks about adopted children 'not really being your children', it states in terms of not eating up their property and preserving their rights. The issues of adopted children not being part of inheritance, as you have seen, is not the context of Quranic verse - and you can give them share of inheritance. So adoption is totally allowed in Islam but it impresses upon you to maintain their lineage so as to not encroach upon their rights - hence the name of their fathers as reference. I am open to discussion.


*1 - Quran also talks of adopted child in another scenario wherein it allows marriage to divorced wife of adopted son. (Quran 33:37)

*2 - 2:180 - It is prescribed, when death approaches any of you, if he leave any goods that he make a bequest to parents and next of kin, according to reasonable usage; this is due from the Allah-fearing.

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