By: Yusra Gomaa
At the very heart of misconceived reservations about adopting children within the Islamic framework is something… quite beautiful. Time and time again, the Quranic text and prophetic tradition remind us of the rights of orphaned children: that they retain certain exclusive rights to their own property, to their inheritance, and to their last names.
This is not merely one verse or one or two prophetic statements. There is discussion after discussion in the prophetic tradition about caring for orphans and repeated descriptions about the sin involved in taking something belonging to an orphan. There are even Quranic how-tos regarding the financial affairs of orphans, laced with concepts of justice and fairness.
Nearly every Muslim is aware of at least one verse or tradition regarding the high regard in Islam for the care of orphans. This is child advocacy par excellence.
In an example of just three of these verses, the Quran references yateem or orphaned children (which scholars say also encompass ‘abandoned’ children), saying:
And give to the orphans their property, and do not substitute worthless (things) for (their) good (ones) and do not devour their property (as an addition) to your own property; this is surely a great sin.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:2)
“…And whoever (of the orphan’s guardian) is rich, let him abstain altogether (from spending of the orphan’s wealth)…” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:6)
“(As for) those who swallow the property of the orphans unjustly, surely they only swallow fire into their bellies…” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:10)
While there may not be state laws that advocate with such fervor the inherent rights of abandoned or orphaned children, there are certainly legal avenues you can take to preserve your adopted child’s rights pursuant to faith-based guidelines.
The nuts and bolts will vary from state to state, but virtually every state (and country) has a way of creating a last will and testament, a document describing the way you’d like your assets distributed upon your death. Hiring an attorney in your state or country to draft this type of document is, oftentimes, imperative. Hiring an attorney with knowledge of the Islamic intricacies of religious inheritance rights, a definite plus.
With this document, you can protect your adopted child’s gifts and property, allocate a portion of your property to your adopted child, and preserve the natural inheritance rights of your own biological children and family members.
If the natural family members of your adopted child are known, you may be inclined to offer to hire an attorney on their behalf to draft a will that would preserve your adopted child’s birth right to inheritance.
Do important Islamic considerations prohibit legal adoptions in Islam? Hardly. The proscription only comes when you strip an adopted child of his natural birth rights, fail to protect his inheritance, and take his property as your own.
This is likely where internal misconceptions about adopting in Islam arises. But we are not in the business of stripping children of their natural birth rights. We are interested in preserving them, and giving every single child his or her birth right to a nurturing home.
-Yusra Gomaa is a civil rights and employment attorney in Illinois who spent several years advocating for and representing abused and neglected children in court. She also frequently drafts Islamic-compliant wills for Muslim couples in Illinois and assists with Muslim child adoption.
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