Question # 333: Some Muslim brothers here in my country want to adopt orphans by allowing them to live in their homes and feeding them. A scholar here said that it is Haraam to adopt someone in Islam, whereas I have heard a hadith where the Prophet said that the one who takes care of an orphan will be with me in paradise. Can you please explain the claim of this scholar?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Adoption was prevalent during the Jaahiliyyah, where a man would adopt a son and give him his name, along with share in inheritance. Allah abolished this system of adoption and instructed not to attribute one’s name to the adopted child rather he/she should be attributed to the (biological) father, in an effort to forbid changing realities, losing knowledge of one’s lineage and to prevent loss/reduction of the rights of inheritance.

On the other hand, sponsoring an orphan to live in one’s house or somewhere other than one’s house, without giving him his name or forbidding that which is permitted or permitting that which is forbidden, as is the case with adoption, is permissible. In fact, sponsoring an orphan is a generous deed, which is encouraged in Islam. Nevertheless, the orphans, when they reach adolescence, should be separated from non-Mahram members of the sponsor. However, if the woman that adopts can breastfeed the adopted child five times before the age of two years, then he/she would become a son/daughter to her through breastfeeding (rida’a), and her husband would become the father to him/her and their children, his/her siblings.

Next, to circumvent the peculiar circumstances in the West, adoption has been allowed as an exception, if it is the only legal way to conserve a Muslim child from converting to a different religion. However, it should be remembered that it is just a legal process to authorize a Muslim to be the legal guardian of the sponsored child and in no way should the sponsored child get the name of the adopted father as well as the legal status of being one`s own child, giving him/her inheritance rights. However, they may get a share of the will up to one-third of the estate unless the rest of the heirs permit them to take more.

Long Answer: Adoption means that a man takes an orphan and makes him like one of his own children, calling him after his name, so that the orphan is not allowed to marry one of the man’s daughters, and so the sons of the adoptive father are regarded as brothers of the orphan and his daughters are regarded as his sisters, and his (the father’s) sisters are regarded as his paternal aunts, and so on.

Adoption was known among the Arabs during the Jaahiliyyah and after Islam came. During the Jaahiliyyah, if a man admired another’s man strength and looks, he would take him as a son and give him his name, and give him the share of one of his own sons in terms of inheritance, and he would be attributed to him as “So and so [the adopted son] the son of So and so [the adoptive father].” The Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) adopted Zayd ibn Haarithah before Allah honored him with the message, and he used to be called “Zayd ibn Muhammad”. This is how it remained until the words of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) were revealed: “nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons. That is but your saying with your mouths. But Allah says the truth, and He guides to the (Right) Way. Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers, that is more just with Allah. But if you know not their father’s (names, call them) your brothers in Faith and Mawaaleekum (your freed slaves)” (Soorah al-Ahzaab, 33:4-5). Thus, Allah abolished the system of adoption and instructed those who had adopted someone not to attribute him to himself; rather he was to be attributed to his (biological) father, if he had a father who was known. If his father was unknown, he was to be called “mawla” or a “brother in faith”. Thus, the people were forbidden to change realities, and the rights of inheritance were prevented from being lost or reduced.

It was narrated that Anas said: When Zaynab’s ‘iddah came to an end, the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to Zayd ibn Haarithah, “Go and tell her about me (that I want to marry her).” So he went to her and found her kneading dough. He said, “O Zaynab, good news. The Messenger of Allah wants to marry you.” She said, “I will not do anything until I consult with my Lord.” Then she got up and went to her prayer-place, then the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) came and entered upon her.

Concerning this, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) revealed the words: “And (remember) when you said to him (Zayd bin Haarithah the freed‑slave of the Prophet) on whom Allah has bestowed grace (by guiding him to Islam) and you (O Muhammad too) have done favor (by manumitting him): ‘Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allah.’ But you did hide in yourself (i.e. what Allah has already made known to you that He will give her to you in marriage) that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people (i.e., their saying that Muhammad married the divorced wife of his manumitted slave) whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him. So, when Zayd had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them). And Allah’s Command must be fulfilled” (Soorah al-Ahzaab, 33:37) (Narrated by Muslim)

Hence, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has forbidden adoption because it causes knowledge of people’s lineage to be lost, and we have been commanded to preserve people’s lineage.

It was narrated from Abu Dharr (رضي الله عنه) that he heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) say: “There is no man who knowingly calls himself after someone other than his father but he has committed kufr. Whoever claims to belong to people to whom he has no ties of blood, let him take his place in Hell.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim) What is meant by “committed kufr” is that he has done an act of kufr, not that he is beyond the pale of Islam.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) also said: “Whoever claims to belong to someone other than his father, will be cursed by Allah, the angels and all the people, and Allah will not accept any deeds or excuses from him on the Day of Resurrection.” (Reported by Muslim)

This may generate hatred and resentment between the adopted son and the children of the adoptive father, because it will cause them to lose out on something that is rightfully theirs, which will go to this orphan unlawfully who they know is not entitled to it as they are.

On the other hand, sponsoring an orphan means that a man brings the orphan to live in his house, or he sponsors him somewhere other than his house, without giving him his name or forbidding that which is permitted or permitting that which is forbidden, as is the case with adoption. Rather the one who sponsors an orphan is doing a generous deed. So, there can be no comparison between one who sponsors an orphan and one who adopts a child, because of the great difference between them and because sponsoring orphans is something which is encouraged in Islam.

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “…And they ask you concerning orphans. Say: The best thing is to work honestly in their property, and if you mix your affairs with theirs, then they are your brothers. And Allah knows him who means mischief (e.g. to swallow their property) from him who means good (e.g. to save their property). And if Allah had wished, He could have put you into difficulties. Truly, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:220)

The Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said that sponsoring orphans is a means of being together with him in Paradise. It was narrated that Sahl ibn Sa’d said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “I and the one who sponsors an orphan will be like this in Paradise” – and he gestured with his index and middle fingers, holding them slightly apart. (Narrated by al-Bukhari)

But we must point out that when (male) orphans reach adolescence, they must be separated from the wives and daughters of the sponsor and vice versa. We should not do good with one hand and do evil with the other. On the other hand, if the woman that adopts can breastfeed the adopted child five times before the age of two years, then he would become a son/daughter to her through breastfeeding (rida’a), and her husband would become a father to him through breastfeeding, and their children would all become brothers and sisters to him through breastfeeding.

(The above reply is based on various answers provided by Islamqa.info on the topic)

[To circumvent the peculiar circumstances in the West,] AMJA (Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America) officially declared that adoption could be allowed only for Muslims outside the Muslim World, if it is the only legal way to conserve a Muslim child from converting to a different religion. It is to be noted that this is an exemption to the rule. However, when legal adoption occurs through the governmental judiciary system, all possible measures have to be taken by the adopting father and the Islamic center …to ensure the nominal nature of this adoption and that it is just a legal process to authorize him to be the legal guardian of the child.

[Furthermore, the child should be aware of his/her real parents and he/his does not get the legal status of one`s own children, which means:

  1. The inheritance rights; however, they may get a share of the will up to one-third of the estate unless the rest of the heirs permit them to take more.
  1. The child`s last name must be kept unchanged, or if it is not known, then he/she can be given any good last name.

(The above reply is based on various answers provided by Main Khalid Al-Qudah, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America on the topic)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam