How to Prove Paternity of an Absent Father?

16 August, 2016
Q As-salaamu Alaikum, if a child is born outside marriage and the identity of the father is known but not proven and the father has abandoned the mother and the child? How to Islamically prove that he is the father of the child?


This response is from About Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.

Salam Dear Mahmood,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

There are several ways we might encounter the situation you describe. One of the most compelling evidences that can be used is DNA. Some Muslim scholars are now debating whether DNA tests should be considered enough evidence to prove paternity and hence, oblige the father to take responsibility of the child financially or not.

Some of their thoughts can be stated as follows:

“The reason for not accepting DNA as a sole and complete evidence is that DNA testing cannot tell us whether the one who committed adultery did it willingly or unwillingly, be it the man or the woman.”

Islam considers establishing the intent of the parties concerned as vitally important and not something to be ignored. Without this key, ingredient paternity with all the obligations to the child it implies, cannot be established.

According to the shari’a point of view, the child who is born outside marriage cannot be attributed to a father, as long as this father denies his paternity.

On the other hand, a father cannot deny his paternity of any child, which his wife begets, throughout the time they were legally married. That is even if he has doubts towards the paternity of the child.

The institution of marriage in Islam establishes simultaneously a clear, legally established, consent of the parties for intimate relations as well as the intent to accept paternity on the part of the husband for any children produced.

Having sex outside marriage raises all kind of problems, such as false allegations of rape which result from the lack of clear evidence of consent, illegitimate children with no responsible fathers providing for them, and today we even have women who trick men into becoming fathers, claiming that they have taken contraception when they haven’t!

This matters when DNA proof is enough, as it is for example in several countries now, to establish paternity and financial obligations on the father.

There are other even more serious problems that result from sex outside marriage, as it causes many problems in society. A society where this is prevalent, for example, encourages people to seek pleasures free from responsibilities, with all the effects that this has on society’s morals.

This is why Islam has strict punishments for those who do so and it is why we should avoid even coming close to the act:

{Nor come close to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils).}

Surah 17 Verse 32

Even if Islam directs people to treat the illegitimate child with full respect and without burdening him with his parents’ sin, he will still never feel the same, deep inside himself, as a child who is born and brought up in a loving and caring, united family.

This is especially so in societies that still – due to traditions – treat the illegitimate child as inferior. A child, who grows up to find himself without a father or even the name of a father, becomes socially excluded.

It is worth mentioning that Islam never looks down, in contempt, upon human desires. On the contrary, it encourages people to promote them through the noble bond of marriage, which was made very simple in Islam. Again, Islam – practically – does not blame people if they fail in their marriage.

It never imposes a married life against the wishes of the parties concerned. Thus, it made divorce accessible by both pairs, to give them another chance to find the love they strive for.

All such regulations were revealed to make people attain this happiness of love, through a legal way, which preserves dignity for them and for their children.

Worse than this situation, that you are talking about, is when the mother herself decides to abandon the child as well! The numbers of street children, who are the victims of the so-called “love affairs” show that such relationships are the furthest from being “love”.

Add to this the children abandoned by mothers who put them into adoption as I mentioned earlier simply because they do not feel like keeping the child. Here even the most sacred feelings of motherhood are overcome by the individual will and desire, without any legal accountability, if it is done according to the right procedures!

Love is a sentiment that generates nobleness, responsibility and care. As for such casual contacts, which last for a maximum few years – if not few days or even hours- they only generate selfishness and savagery, when the pair abandons the child.

Thank you for your contribution and keep up the sharp eye and the critical mind and we always welcome your comments and contributions.

Salam and please keep in touch.