Do you know anyone who was adopted or raised in a home other than his biological parents? Sure you do . . . three of them are mentioned in the Quran—Prophet Musa, Prophet Yusuf, and Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Musawere orphans, while Prophet Yusuf was abandoned. Evidence shows that adoptions have taken place since early historical times. The need for others to support and maintain children not born of their loin or womb existed thousands upon thousands of years ago and still exists today.
In the West, during the early 1900’s, one of the primary ways in which adoption was practiced was as a solution for mothers who had become pregnant out of wedlock, similar to how abortions are primarily used today.
Because societal regulations during that period sought to protect birth parents and adopted children from the stigma related to an unmarried mother having a child, adoption was and still remains today, a taboo subject, often shrouded in secrecy and shame. Allah, however, presents a different perspective regarding orphans and adoption. He bestows upon adopted orphans honor, dignity and justice, and demands that others do so, likewise.
Allah says in Quran,
Those who swallow the property of the orphans unjustly are actually devouring fire into their bellies and they shall enter the burning fire.”(Al Ahzab 33:4-5)
Allah also says in Quran,
“Therefore, treat not the orphan with harshness.” (Ash-Sharh 94: 9)
He commands us to:
“Worship none but Allah (Alone) and be dutiful and good to parents, and to kindred, and to orphans…”
These verses from Quran present clear evidence that orphans should be treated honorably and respectably.
Adoption, in both Islam and the West, involves raising and maintaining a child which is not the caregiver’s offspring. However, Islam provides additional stipulations, unlike the West, that provide added protection for the adopted child. One requirement of adoption in Islam is that the child should be made aware that the adoptive parents are not his biological parents. Another is that the orphan retains the name of his parent(s).
Allah says in Quran about adopted children:
“…Nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons. That is but a saying with your mouths. But Allah says the truth and he guides to the right way.” (Al-Ahzab 33:4)
“…Call them by the names of their fathers, that is more just in the sight of Allah, but if you do not know their father’s names, (then they are) your brothers in faith, or your wards. But there is no blame on you if you make a mistake there in: What counts is the intention of your hearts. (Al-Ahzab 33:5)
These stipulations presented in Islam are truly from Allah the Most High—The Knower of the inner recesses of the heart. Allah who created everything and who knows everything.
Man’s inferior laws are in no way comparable to Allah’s perfect wisdom. It is now becoming more and more apparent to those working in the professional spheres of child welfare that preventing adopted children from knowing their true origin can be counterproductive for the child. Of late, there has been an influx of parents who have given up their children at birth and children who have been adopted who are now seeking information surrounding the particulars of their adoption.
Adopted children who have been informed they were adopted have a natural tendency to want to know more about their birth parents. This desire to know more does not in any manner or fashion minimize the love these children have for their adoptive parents. It is merely a tendency that naturally exists within the person. This innate desire to identify one’s biological origins is known to Allah, as previously mentioned, who created each individual. And truly, He knows the nature of His creation.
Numerous stories abound of children who were not informed of their adoption early on and once they became aware of it, felt betrayed by their adoptive parents and completely confused about their identity. Islam ensures adopted children are informed of their adoption. This is truly a mercy from Allah, The Most High. It helps to alleviate some of the problems that may occur in adoption.
Another benefit of the Islamic stipulations requiring that the child know of his true ancestry, and retain the name of his biological parents is that it helps prevent the child from inadvertently marrying his sibling or those relatives unlawful for marrying. This type of situation occurring is not unheard of. It can be utterly devastating, as would be expected, for both parties involved once the truth becomes known.
The conditions of adoption set forth in Islam allow for a more effective and productive adoption process for all parties involved. An effective system for adoption is important, because taking care of orphans is an honorable act in which Muslims are encouraged to participate and where many blessings can be found. The following hadith speaks volumes of the enormous reward those who take care of orphans will receive, insha’Allah:
The Prophet said, “I and the one who takes care of an orphan will enter Paradise together.” Then he joined his index and middle finger together. (Bukhari)
A noble endeavor indeed!