Why Can’t I Adopt Muslim Children?

19 January, 2017
Q I am a Christian woman from the Netherlands and I grew up in Indonesia, so I am familiar with Islamic practices and codes of ethics. In a world where poverty strikes many families, I believe those who have excess money should help others across boundaries and that this is what Christian ethics is mainly about. I applied to adopt children from Indonesia through a relief organization, and I am now supporting a few children to help them go to school. Their parents send me cards and every few years I pay them visits. Yet, when I applied to adopt a child, I got a negative response and was told that adoption is forbidden in Islam! I also notice that people in many societies are much more strict about their Islam and there are mosques in every village, though I am aware that some people worship more than one God according to old traditions! Anyway, I am happy with the fact that I am doing my best to help, but wanted to know more about the position of Islam towards adoption and its ethics. Thank you in advance for your reply.

Answer

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

Salam (Peace) Elizabeth,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question. 

Fostering, supporting, raising, and providing for deserted children and orphans are not prohibited in Islam. Much to the contrary, these acts are highly regarded good deeds in Islam.

What is prohibited is giving them your name and claiming they are yours and not recognizing their true heritage.

Also, giving them all the entitlements of children like inheritance, while denying the legal and religious rights of kinship members stated in the Quran is what is prohibited. 

In your case, it might also be a sensitive issue that you are a Christian requesting to adopt a Muslim child and raise him/her according to your faith.

So, I guess this might be the reason for the reply you got, as Muslim societies would prefer that these children be taught the religion of Islam.

In Islam, if a Muslim actually becomes a foster parent to a child, one is doing a very virtuous deed that will be blessed by Allah. 

The confusion about adoption may come from the fact that children whose parents or other relatives are alive are not “put up for adoption” like in some Western societies. We do not consider it better to put children up for adoption or in foster care if one cannot provide for them.

Nor do we believe one cannot take the necessary responsibility of parenthood. This is because such ideas go against the sense of commitment, devotion, and essence of responsibility we should have as Muslims. Fostering in Islam is largely concerned, therefore, with orphans. 

As a parent, you must take on that task and be helped by family, community, and welfare programs. As for cases of incapability, then your extended family is responsible for the child.

That’s why only, as I mentioned -virtually speaking – orphans are expected to be the subject of such care. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him-PBUH) said that one who provides for an orphan is in paradise next to him. 

In fact, Islam is very strict about lineage and family. It considers it to be the child’s right to know his parents. It puts obligations on both parents and children, even if one of the two parties are not behaving in the most ideal manner.

Parents should tolerate and be patient, while children should be kind to their parents, even if the parents are not fulfilling their duties or are being too harsh. 

If this harsh treatment reaches violence, the community should interfere and extended family is obliged to encourage parents to behave well. This is, before resorting to the state or official bodies.

Even in cases of crimes, this is encouraged, so that the state is not given extra power as a judging force. Thus, the society is always empowered by its dynamic interaction and mutual responsibilities. 

This is the base of a powerful civil society in Islam and it has been so over centuries.  In modern societies, of course, our understanding of communal politics needs reform.

That is not because it is pre-modern or backward and “traditional”, but because of the space and distance, along with the number of people involved these days.

Also, it is due to the withering away of face-to-face interactions, strength and authority of family, extended family and community etc., which have resulted in the near disappearance of what used to be called ‘social control’ through norms, shared values, and fear of social exclusion. 

Back to adoption: in such a situation, you are not allowed to give the children your family name, but you are encouraged to foster and care for them.

This is simply because Islam wants these children’s family ties to remain through a strict system of moral obligations; through lineage, rules of marriage, along with financial arrangements.

However, I must express my respect and high regards for your way of life, Elizabeth, taking care of all those children.

Hopefully, we can try even harder to fight poverty and allow future children the blessing of being raised and provided for by their parents. This would indeed, be a worthwhile struggle. 

As for the note that people are now more strict, believing only in one God and having mosques in each village, I see no connection between believing in many gods and being tolerant.

You might have not stated it, but this can be a deduction drawn from your comment. I also see no relation between being strict and being tolerant. I am strict, but I also respect people’s choices and appreciate Allah’s wisdom for creating us so different.

I firmly believe that forbearance, based on a loose religious commitment is not necessarily tolerance, but more like indifference. 

Thank you for your kind spirit and we are happy such a devoted Christian contacted us.

Please do keep in touch and keep up the good work you are doing.

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

Not in My House – Adoption in US Muslim Communities

Who Says Islam Prohibits Adoption?

Who Said ‘Family Is Everything’

How to Bring My Family Together?