Many incidents happen in societies which make so many children orphans, Incidents such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, or smaller events. Thus, the issue of taking care of these orphan kids becomes a challenge that should be dealt with. Many of these children may be sent to orphanages by the government.
And they keep waiting for some family to adopt them and take care of them. But, there are many parents who cannot give birth to a child and they wish to adopt one and make their family bigger. Some parents may have children of their own, and they want to adopt a child to help and take care of him/her.
This text explains the rulings of adopting a child according to the Islamic law.
There are four major differences in Islamic law between adoptive and biological children:
1- Adopted children are better to be named after their biological parents. If they are named after their adoptive parents, the foster parents should not precisely introduce them as their own child. (This is forbidden (Haram) since it is a lie.)
2- Adopted children do not automatically inherit from their adoptive parents. Unless it is mentioned in the parents’ will.
3- When adopted children become mature (Baligh) they will become of the marriageable kin (non-Mahram) to their adoptive family (parents, brothers/ sisters, uncles/ aunts).
4- The property of an adopted child (provided by his/her biological parents or family members) belongs to him/ her. Adoptive parents will keep it as mere trustees.
Islam has careful considerations towards orphans. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) himself had adopted a child and was fed by an adoptive mother during the first two years of his life.
It is narrated by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that “‘ The one who sponsors an orphan and I are like these two in Paradise.’ Then he joined his index and middle fingers” .
Orphans are so important in the eyes of God that Allah says in the Holy Quran “Indeed those who consume the property of orphans wrongfully, only ingest fire into their bellies, and soon they will enter the Blaze.” (4: 10)
There are specific rules in Islam with regards to adopting children.
In Islam, biological parents and the family lineage are of great significance. So, child adoption must not occur in a way that children lose their filiation. It is essential to keep in mind that according to Islam, filiation will be inherited from biological parents. Thus, by making a child adoption contract, the adoptive family will not be the child’s filiation.
According to Islamic law, child adoption is forbidden (Haram). But child protection (Kifalah) is highly recommended. By child adoption we mean, accepting a child and considering him/her as the adoptive parents’ real child. By child protection, we suggest that the child is being taken care of by his/ her foster parents. And at a suitable age, he/ she will be informed of his/her real filiation.
Thus, there is no problem in accepting a child as his/ her protector (Kafil). It becomes problematic when adopted children are not told the truth about their biological parents. It is understandable that it would be hard to tell any child that he/ she is not a family’s real child. But, consultations can help parents to find a proper way of telling the truth to their adopted child.
Besides, it is highly recommended in Islam to protect and support orphans, which means giving them financial and spiritual support in all aspects of their lives.
One of the points that Islam has in this regard is that the adopted children are of unmarriageable kin (non-Mahram). So when they grow up, they may face problems within their adoptive family.
Also if the adopted child is not aware of his/her real identity, there would be a chance of him marrying a marriageable kin (Mahram) of his/her biological family line without being aware of that. In Islam, like every other Abrahamic religion, it is forbidden to marry a marriageable kin (Mahram) [ii].
There is a tradition in some cultures that women do not feed their own children. Instead, they choose a wet nurse to breastfeed the child. The child who is breastfed from another woman, for a specific duration, will become of marriageable kin (Mahram) to the woman and her family.
Thus, if the adopted child is under two years old, and if the adoptive mother or her sister or her mother can breastfeed the child for a specific duration, a Foster (Ridha’) relationship will be created. As a result, the child will become of marriageable kin (Mahram) [i]. But the rulings with regards to inheritance is still the same.
[i] For exact information about foster (Ridha’) you should refer to your own source of emulation (Marja’ taqlid)
[ii] Read more about marriageable kin (mahram) at http://salamislam.com/content/who-are-mahrams-islam/4
- Humairi, Abdullah bin Ja’far, Qurbul Isnad, p. 9, hadith 315, Aalul-Bait (a.s.) Institute, Qom, first edition, 1413 A.H.
- Chapter Yousuf. verses 23 - 32
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them, and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed, in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (30:21)
The concept of marriage is very ancient dating back beyond Abrahamic religions and recorded history and was practiced by all people of many cultures, religions, and ethnicities throughout the earth. Among all belief systems, Islam is the only religion that accords great importance to marriage and humans’ marital life.
The religion of Islam holds that the progress and development in all aspects of a person’s life roots in how his/her family is formed. Therefore, it provides the people who are ready for committing themselves to marriage with a comprehensive guideline.
According to Islam, the first criterion of the most eligible person to marry is having faith and being pious; In other words, the candidate should have a firm belief in Allah and the principles of Islam. This characteristic is so important that without it no other criteria is worthy of attention.
The holy Quran says: “And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you” (2:221).
If a person believes in God and whatever He commands him/her to do, consequently he/she will not be seduced by temptations of Satan, will be totally devoted to his/her own family and observant of his/her behavior towards them, and will treat his/her spouse and the whole family fairly.
Another important feature in evaluating the suitable person for marriage is being good-tempered and following the codes of morality in his/her behavior. This characteristic has been defined as “being modest, well-spoken and good-natured”  by Imam Sadeq (AS).
Nevertheless, acting morally is not only restricted to being good-tempered but includes honesty, chastity, using decent language, forbearance, politeness, contentment, benevolence, faithfulness, and generosity as well. The presence of morality in one’s behavior is so vital that when Imam Reza (AS) was asked for his advice in marrying a person who was famous for being ill-natured, he strongly disagreed .
It is stressed in the religion of Islam that one should choose her/his spouse from a decent and noble family. Family nobility does not mean fame, wealth, or social status; rather it means modesty, chastity, purity, and religiousness, which will be all passed on to the next generations.
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) has said in this regard: “Marry in the lap of a decent family, since the semen and the genes have an effect.” . He has also said to avoid the greenery (herbs) growing over a sewer (cesspool); i.e., a beautiful woman born and raised in an indecent family .
Islam also lays special emphasis on compatibility in marriage. The marrying partners must be Kufw of each other; i.e., they should be equal and close to one another in terms of religiosity and morality, as well as social, financial, and also physical aspects. Spouses in the Quran are likened to clothing: “They are clothing for you, and you are clothing for them” (2:187). Just like clothes that should be of the right size, color, and material to suit you well, your spouse has to be a suitable match for you. But do not forget that in the Islamic view, the main point of similarity is in the couple’s belief and faith. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has said: “a faithful man is suitable for a faithful woman and a Muslim man is good for a Muslim woman” .
Someone who is inferior in faith to you may degrade your belief as well. Marriage is a means of the elevation of the soul, so if it results in the opposite way the whole purpose of this holy union will be wasted.
Although health problems do not preclude marriage, they have negative effects on the continuation of married life. There are various narrations in the Islamic teachings on the importance of marrying someone healthy and of sane state of mind: “when you intend to marry a woman, ask about her physical characteristics since this will create a bond of affection and love between you and your spouse” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) .
It has also been narrated from him that “Avoid marrying a stupid person since her/his company is a woe” . Moreover, we are advised by him to reject the proposal of a person who is accustomed to drinking alcohol for its detrimental effects on the body and soul.
It is noteworthy that there are other features for choosing the right person to marry like financial matters, age differences, racial differences, etc. Though there is a lot of psychological and religious advice on these issues as well, they are not of much importance in Islam as long as the girl and the boy are Muslims and have taken the five above-mentioned significant aspects into consideration.
Allah has promised to fulfill the other needs of the married couple Himself: “And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing” (24:32)
- Usul Al-Kafi , v. 2, p.563
- Wasa’il ul-Shi’a, v. 14, p.54
- Makaremul Akhlaq, v. 1, p. 432
- Al-Kafi, v. 5, p. 332
- Wasa’il ul-Shi’a, Vol. 14 , p.44
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, Wasa’il ul-Shi’a, chapter 35
- Al-Jafariat, p. 92
- Choose a Spouse in Islam
Islam is a comprehensive way of life, and one of the characteristics through which it is distinguished from many other religions is that it encompasses every aspect of a Muslim’s life. Islam teaches Muslims to respect the elderly whether they are parents, relatives, or any other old person. This is because caring for the elderly in Islam is considered an important obligation through which one seeks closeness to Allah.
There is no doubt in the special status of the elderly in Islam, as there are several texts, which urge Muslims to respect and honor them. An elderly person has a high status before Allah and His Prophet particularly if he is a believer.
In the Quran, Allah says:
“ And whomever We give a long life, We cause him to regress in creation. ; …?”(36:68)
From the verse, it is obvious that the inception of old age is a period of decline – decline comes partly from physical and partly from psychological factors. Thus, at this critical stage of life, Islam recommends adequate caring for them because they are like a prophet in a family and a blessing in the society. The Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) said:
“The elderly among his family is like a Prophet among his community” 
Moreover, honoring the elderly is synonymous with honoring Allah and His Prophet. In this regards, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was reported to have said:
“Honor the elderly because honoring them is part of honoring Allah” 
Meanwhile, Imam Sajjad (AS) while describing the right of the elderly in his book ‘Treatise on rights’ said:
“The right of him who is older than you is that you show reverence toward him because of his age and you honor him because he entered Islam before you. You leave off confronting him in a dispute, you do not precede him in a path, you do not go ahead of him, and you do not consider him foolish. If he should act foolishly toward you, you put up with him, and you honor him because of the right of Islam and the respect due to it”.
Similarly, Islam commands a Muslim to honor and respect senior citizens because honoring the elderly will guarantee the protection against every calamity on the Day of Resurrection. The Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) said:
“Whoever honors the gray hair due to an old age, Allah will definitely save him from the panic of the Day of Judgment”.
Islam is the fountain of mercy, sentiments, and sympathy. Hence, it is not strange to see Islam paying attention to the elderly and instructing a Muslim to give them compassion. There are texts from the Quran, the sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his pure Household (AS) on how a Muslim should treat an elderly person. These include:
Always honors and be merciful to the elderly. For respecting them is considered a form of worship in the sight of Allah while disrespecting them is absolutely rebuked, and it is against the pristine teachings of Islam.
In case of necessity, always render assistance to the elderly .
Consult the elderly for guidance on personal and collective decisions, for they are guides in a family and the society similar to a Prophet of God.
Never insult or scold an elderly. Because a disrespect to them is reprimanded by Allah, the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his pure Household (AS).
Allow our elderly to live with us. It is a bad habit to send them to nursing homes just because they are considered as nuisances to the society.
Respecting the elderly and honoring them are among the characteristics of a Muslim society. Therefore, it is expected of every Muslim to imbibe the culture of respecting old people whether they are parents, relatives or not. Likewise, we should always acknowledge and appreciate their presence within us especially our parents. The presence of the elderly either in the family or the society is a blessing from Allah. Their presence will bring peace, happiness, concord, tranquility, mercy, and reward from Allah. It is indeed an un-Islamic practice to consider our elderly a public nuisance and eject them from our midst.
- Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 72, P. 137.
- Wasail al-Shiah, Vol. 12, P. 100.
- Treaties on Rights, Right 44 (i.e. The right of the one older than you)
- Mustadrak Wasail, Vol. 8, P. 391.
- Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, P. 165; Jami at-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1919.