My husband and I took in his sister’s child when his sister died. From the beginning, we took in the child with the understanding that she would only be with us for a short while.
I have five children of my own and I can no longer care for this child. The child has mental deficiency due to her mother's extensive use of narcotics during her pregnancy.
I do not love this child like my own children and fear that my negative feelings toward her will be sensed by her, or that I may cause her harm. I also fear that I am bringing sins on myself because of my actions toward her.
I have spoken with my husband on several occasions about my feelings and my actions towards the child. However, his response is that he cannot give her up. He cannot give away his blessings of raising an orphan.
There are two Muslim families (one sister cannot have children) that are willing to take in this child and give her a home, but my husband refuses to even meet one of the families.
Is it permissible for our family to turn this child over to another Muslim family to raise if we fear that we cannot give this child the love and affection that she deserves?
In this counseling answer:
This child may not be your husband’s, but the child is his responsibility as there is no one else. Would you deprive him of this?
Try to put yourself in the child’s position.
Having more children can be advantageous; children can get busy with each other.
You need guidance on how to raise a child whose ‘mental shortcomings’ present a handicap to you.
Discuss the situation openly with your husband, and come to some understanding.
As-salamu `alaykum sister,
Sometimes we are presented with a situation we feel that we can not cope with. Yet, faced with no choice, it is surprising what we can achieve.
Things do not always happen the way we want them to for a good reason. That is because they offer us the opportunity to grow beyond the point we are at now. Do you want to throw that opportunity away?
You have indeed been fortunate to have found another Muslim family that can take on your sister-in-law’s child. However, this still does not change what most successfully fostered or adopted children go through—the yearning to belong. This exist despite the love and care that they get.
Your husband is only trying to do his duty so that his niece would have a sense of belonging. This child may not be your husband’s, but the child is his responsibility as there is no one else. Would you deprive him of this?
Try to put yourself in the child’s position. You are that child. Regardless of what your parents have done in their life that has compromised your health, you are left in this world without a father or a mother.
No one wants you because you are born in a time when everyone seems preoccupied with their personal situations. You are deprived of the individual attention that you see other children experiencing. The only thing that haunts you, as you live with other children with different backgrounds and experiences in an orphanage, is the question “Why me!”
You have no sense of belonging and no sense of the future. If your health and circumstances allow, you will be resilient and survive. However, the feeling will always be there and may grow as you see other children leave as a result of successful fostering or adoption. It is a situation no one would want to be in.
I know that this must be difficult for you because you have surely been blessed with five active children. Although it might seem as though one more child is way too much, your sister-in-law’s daughter might be a blessing in disguise.
Consider what Umm Salama asked of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him):
“O Allah’s Apostle! Shall I get a reward (in the Hereafter) if I spend on the children of Abu Salama and do not leave them like this (i.e., poor) but treat them like my children?” The Prophet said, “Yes, you will be rewarded for that which you will spend on them.” (Al-Bukhari 7: 64 # 282).
What we learn in the process of giving under circumstances like these can be immeasurable—patience, compassion, inner strength. Try to move past this child’s situation and see the child as a blessing rather than a curse.
Having one child is more tiresome because you have to be the provider, the carer, the educator, and the entertainer, but having more children can be advantageous.
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Children get busy with each other and get absorbed in their world. So you may find yourself able to get on with other things. Why not share in the blessings that your husband has spoken of; see the child as everyone’s responsibility.
For this to happen, it requires your willing acceptance and care of this child. Once you can see yourself doing this, then your children, with your encouragement, can also play their part. They do this with each other while you are busy in the home.
There must be facilities in your region where you can have access to support activities for the child. You need guidance on how to raise a child whose ‘mental shortcomings’ present a handicap to you.
Discuss the situation openly with your husband and come to some understanding on how you can both make this situation just another challenge of everyday life.
Have no more fear of what you feel you might not be able to do. It is within you to care for your own children. It is also within you to care for your sister-in-law’s child.
You just have to pull back the curtain of separation, for it is only a question of blood. If you do have moments of wishing the child away, take a time-out in prayer with Allah Most High. He can give you the inner resources that you need.
In five years’ time, you might look back and wonder what all the anxiety was about. It just happens, sometimes, that we underestimate what we can do.
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