In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Adoption in the sense of changing one’s identity and lineage for a false lineage is prohibited in Islam.
2- However, it is allowed for Muslims to adopt a child in the sense of taking him/her under his/her wing for providing both physical and spiritual care for him/her.
In his response to the question, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states:
May Allah bless you and reward you for your concern to help those who are in need. There is a great blessing and reward in taking care of orphans.
Taking Care of the Orphans
In the Quran, the believers are urged again and again to take care of the orphans.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I and the guardian of an orphan will be in Paradise like these two fingers and he joined his two fingers.” (Al-Bukhari)
In another hadith, he mentioned that “when a person puts his hand of compassion on the head of an orphan, for every hair of that orphan he will receive a blessing from Allah.” (Ahmad)
Therefore, I strongly recommend that you take care of the orphans.
Is Adoption Allowed?
As far as adoption, I can say that according to the Shariah, it is not allowed to deprive a child of his/her biological parents’ name. You can keep the child, provide him/her good home and take good care of him, but do not give him/her your last name.
Allah says, “He (Allah) has not made your adopted sons as your sons. Such is only your speech by your mouths. But Allah tells you the truth and He shows you the right way. Call them by the names of their fathers, that is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers’ names, call them your brothers in faith or your friends. There is no blame on you in whatever mistakes you made in this matter, but what counts is the intention of your hearts. Allah is oft-Forgiving and most Merciful.” (Al-Ahzab 33:4-5)
Giving the Orphans Your Last Names
In America, for the purpose of tax-exemptions, health insurance, school admissions etc. you may need to give the adopted child your last names. Such names can be provided with a clear understanding that you are only the guardians.
The orphan children should be told about the names of their real parents. In your own home, you and your children should be aware of this fact that these children are not your biological children and you are not their biological parents.
It stands to reason that when those orphans grow up then they will not be mahram (unmarriageable) to you, to your spouse and to your own sons and daughters.
They will also not inherit anything from your property unless you give them something as a special gift through the provision of will.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.