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How Does Shari’a Define An Illegitimate Child?

20 February, 2017
Q Which child can be classified or called a ‘bastard’ according to shari’a?


Asalamu Alaikum Mahmoud,  

The term “bastard” is a derogatory term for a child conceived outside of marriage. Such a child should not be called “bastard” because it is hurtful to the individual who is not responsible for the sins of others or how they came into being.

There are two attitudes towards him/her according to the Islamic shari`a
1) The social attitude 
2) The legal attitude 

As for the social status, he/she is considered an equal individual/citizen, who should not inherit or pay for a sin, which he/she is not responsible for.

Islam denies that any person should be blamed for a sin that is committed by another person, even if that person is the father or the mother. Islam confirms that everyone is only responsible for his own deeds. This has always stressed in the Quran:

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{[…] Every soul draws the consequences of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear of burden of another. Your goal in the end is towards God: He will tell you the truth of the things wherein you disputed.} (Quran 6:164)

That is the reason why Islam does not share the belief of inheriting any “original sin” and confirms the concept of original innocence. How can God punish people for things they have not done?

Such is the justice of God. The original innocence of each person is put wonderfully in the following verses of the Quran:

{By the Fig and the Olive,
And the Mount of Sinai,
And this City of security,-
We have indeed created man in the best of molds,
Then do We bring him (to be) the lowest of the low,-
Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.
Then what can, after this, contradict thee, as to the judgment (to come)?
Is not God the most just of judges?}
(Quran 95:1-8)

If Allah’s justice demands that no one is held accountable for acts they did not commit, then how can we do so? Clearly, we must not.

This illustrates the basis of ethics in Islam, which states that we should behave to others with the generosity, justice, kindness, and forgiveness that we hope Allah will show towards us.

This is exactly what Christ taught people to pray in what is known as the Lord’s Prayer: 

[…] forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us […]. 

Thus, according to shari`a, it is forbidden for members of society to discriminate against illegitimate children or humiliate them, not even by simply calling them “bastards” when addressing them in daily life, since it aims to humiliate them. 

As for the strict legal situation, it is different. If the child’s paternity is not known, then the child is not supposed to carry the name of a “suspected” nor a foster father, nor should he/she inherit from him. 

Thus, the legal situation becomes that such a child carries the name of his/her mother’s family and only inherits from the mother or her family.

If the child was deserted by his/her mother after birth he/she is usually given any name and raised by foster parents or in an orphanage. Even so, that person deserves kind and generous treatment from society to guarantee him/her equal opportunity in life in the future. 

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

The Child’s Rights: The Parents Duties

Accountability On The Day of Judgment

How Should Illegitimate Children Be Treated? (Part 1)

How Should Illegitimate Children Be Treated? (Part 2)