A common notion is that Islamic Sharia law forbids adoptions. Nevertheless, this belief or notion misses the complexity of Islamic Sharia law, the scope of child sponsoring and adoption law as well as the practices all over the world, and the overwhelming emphasis on adopting and taking good care of orphans and the poor children found within the Islamic sources. Even though the current adoption practices are enormously complex issues, overlapping with national and international laws, childrens rights, human psychology, social, economic, and religious concerns; the Muslims have to come out and adopt the suffering Muslim children in the UK.
Adoption of orphans and foundlings for the purpose of caring and bringing them up is not only permissible but also a good and blessed act. There has been a lot of misunderstanding and confusion whether adoption and child sponsoring is allowed in Islam. Adoption and child sponsoring in Islam are highly encouraged; it is through the false teachings of some radical Muslim leaders that various Muslims believe adoption is prohibited.
According to the teachings of Qur'an, the Muslims have to support and adopt the orphans, but the sponsored child does not become the real or true child of the fostering parents since the adopted child is named after his or her biological father and not the fostering father. The adopted child is as well a non-mahram to the adopted family members; a number of Muslims say that it is prohibited by the Islamic law, to adopt or sponsor the needy and orphans because they are non-mahram to the family. However, adoption is allowed to take care of the other children, what is referred in Arabic as Kafala, and thus the difference between adoption and fostering and Kafala. Adoption is only prohibited if the adopting parents give their family name to the adopted child, other than this child sponsoring and adoption is permissible. This is the only forbidden thing in adoption.
Kafala, which is taking care of or looking after the child and educating them is supported by the Qur'an as well as many words of the Prophet Mohammed. Allah says that righteousness is not turning our face to the east or west. However, true righteousness is when a person believes in Allah, Angels, the Day of Judgment, the Prophets, and the Holly Books, and to give prosperities or wealth in charity to the needy and orphans. Righteousness also entails taking care of the poor children and orphans. According to Arabic language orphans are children who have lost their biological parents and is in need of their affection and care. Children who have also lost their family care and turn to the society for assistance are also regarded as orphans. It is written in the Qur'an that there are great rewards for the people who help or sponsor an orphan or the poor child who lacks a family assistance. In addition, Allah says parents to do good to an orphan as well as relatives. He called for sponsoring them and treating them nicely as he says do not oppress the needy and orphans.
Sponsoring a child should not only be for financial but also educational. The Muslims should adopt and give orphans and foundlings the right guidance. They should also urge them to follow the good deeds and avoid vices. In doing so, it is important to offer good pieces of advice and a gentle touch in order for the adopted children to lead a normal and healthy life away from ethical and social problems.
Adoption and fostering are not very common among the Muslim communities because of the misunderstanding of the Sharia law. This also due to the cultural background, but it is high time the Muslim communities living in the UK raise their profile by accepting to adopt or sponsor children who are in need. Even if some of the members of the community are not aware of the requirements of adopting and sponsoring a child, they should ask the relevant authorities if they are in a position of helping. Some Muslims just have a wrong perception about abortion; thinking that it is prohibited or haram. However, this is wrong, the only thing that is forbidden is giving the adopted child the family name. Allah has prohibited a person wishing to foster or adopt a child so as to change their family name. The Muslims should ensure that they amend some of the harsh adoption laws as this will help in adoption of the suffering Muslim children in the UK as well as in other countries.
Re-considering and Understanding the Fiqh of Child Adoption
The general agreement among major madhhab (Shii fiqh schools) and Sunni are that certain type of adoption where the identity of the child is absorbed into the adoptive family identity is forbidden (haram) (Hallaq 1999). This general consensus does not involve the opinions of all Muslim scholars; some of the scholars claimed that the Quran does not forbid adoption, which they thus consider as an act of indifference in religion (mubah). The fiqh or Islamic Jurisprudence of abortion arose from the need to weigh the strong emphasis the Sunnah and the Quran place on the orphans wellbeing and the restrictions on pre-Islamic adoption practices (Hallaq 1999).
Pre-Islamic Arabian Adoption
During the pre-Islamic times in Arabia, al-tabanni (adoption) into a tribe normally occurred for patriarchal and socioeconomic reasons. Al-tabanni originates from Arabic word ibn, which means son (Muslim Womens Shura Council 2011).To keep with the patriarchal norms of those times, adoptees were always male. People adopted with a major reason of securing an heir or for getting other warriors for the tribe. Normally adoption was accepted in self-interest with an aim of usurping the orphans possessions since the adoptive parents could end managing the properties of the orphaned child (Gibb 1962). To stop this, Quran brought some restrictions; the first restriction introduced to the pre-Islamic adoption practices was on dissimulation issue through naming.
Adoptions in Islamic History
Over the past centuries, Muslim legal scholars almost unanimously came to an agreement that pre-Islamic way of adoption is prohibited, citing Quran (33:4-5) and repudiation of Zayd Ibn Haritha. Tabanni is not even discussed by the classical law books of the Islam. Scholars, however, believed that every Muslim had a communal duty to ensure that parentless and homeless children had a family or a guardian to care for them. Kafala started as an alternative system, which provided orphans or the needy children with the family environment as well as financial protection without the risk of destroying lineage (nasab). Up to date, some Muslims still hold that adoption is prohibited, however, even the jurists who regarded adoption or child sponsoring to be against the Islamic law made exceptions in particular cases. Most interestingly, these exceptions were made when adoption occurred within the local customs context and when women also became adopters.
The Twenty-First Century Adoption
In the twenty-first century, some Muslims understand that adoption is legal and supported by the Islamic law although a good number of them still believe it is forbidden. Also, many international and national laws have brought adoption and child sponsoring more in line with the Islamic doctrines. Secrecy is nowadays not a standard practice; children who are adopted, normally have the legal rights to about their biological parents or origin. They are also normally encouraged to embrace their biological, ethnic, and cultural heritage. The Muslims, especially those living in the UK should know that adoption is allowed and that there is no Islamic law broken when they adopt and sponsor the orphans.
There are more than six thousand children in waiting to be adopted in England (Muslim Institute 2011). Coram, which is the leading adoption service is doing a tremendous job in London in ensuring these children get homes. They recruit adopters from a wider range of faith and ethnic groups. Coram faces a challenge of finding adapters for the suffering children from different backgrounds and thus prioritize that the Muslims adopt the Muslim children while Christians does the same to Christian children. They have gone an extra mile and ensure they give post adoption support to various families that have adopted a child in case it is required.
It is the responsibility of the government and Islamic leaders to create awareness to correct this error in thinking among some of the Muslims. They should be reminded that orphans were given special status in the past centuries among the Islamic community, as individuals to be cared for, protected, cherished, and adopted. This is what even the teaching of the Quran says.
Gibb, H.A., 1962. Pre-Islamic Monotheism in Arabia. Harvard Theological Review, 55(04), pp.269-280.
Hallaq, W.B., 1999. A History of Islamic Legal Theories: An Introduction to Sunni Usul al-Fiqh. Cambridge University Press.
Muslim Institute, 2011. Adoption from a Muslim Perspective. [Online] Available at: http://www.musliminstitute.org/events/adoption-muslim-perspective[Accessed 27 4 2016].
Muslim Womens Shura Council, 2011. Adoption and the Care of Orphan Children: Islam and the Best Interests of the Child. American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), pp. 1-21.
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