What does Islam say about adoption?

What does Islam say about adoption?


Assalamu alaykum, brother Osama. IMPORTANT question: I heard that Islam does not allow adoption, but that quickly raises questions because of Zayd In Harithah. I don’t know if maybe you studied this and can help me out or clarify. Cause I would think adoption is a good thing, not bad.

Wa alykum as-salaam,

Although it was not an explicit part of my lecture, I did address this issue in the Q&A portion of this lecture, but let me explain it here.

When people say that Islam “does not allow” adoption, they mean that Islam does not allow adoption that denies the adopted child their heritage, in that, the parents will give that child their name, which we have to understand Arab nomenclature to proceed.

In Arab societies you are known as (your name) ibn/bint [son of/daughter of] (your dad’s name). So if your dad’s name is Hussein, and your name is Nawal, you would be Nawal bint Hussein.

Therefore, adoption that Islam forbids is to deny someone their heritage of their origin, so let us–as briefly as possible–go through the story of Zayd ibn Harithah as it is critical to understand the dynamics that we’re talking about.

Zayd was kidnapped while in a caravan and sold into slavery, and was purchased by the nephew of Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, and he gave Zayd to her as a gift. Zayd was given to The Prophet by his wife Khadijah as a wedding present, and The Prophet raised him in his household, and Zayd’s family did not know his whereabouts. When they finally found him, they rushed to Mecca to find The Prophet, where Zayd’s father, Harithah asked The Prophet to name his price for Zayd.

The Prophet replied: “Would you like something better than buying his freedom?”

Harithah (and his brother Ka’b) were confused and asked: “What could that be?”

The Prophet said: “I will call him for you. Give him the choice between going with you and staying with me. If he chooses you, you may take him without paying anything. But if he chooses me, I will not push him away from me.”

They were astounded and exclaimed “You are fair and just beond what anyone could hope!”

The Prophet asked Zayd who they were, to which Zayd said: “This is my father, Harithah ibn Shurahil, and that is my uncle, Ka’b.”

The Prophet gave Zayd the choice, without any caveats, and Zayd said he would rather stay with The Prophet, to the shock of Harithah, who cried “Would you choose slavery over your own father and mother?”

Zayd responded, “Afte rknowing this man, I wish to spend the rest of my life with him.”

The Prophet took Zayd by the hand and walked to the Grand Masjid and declared:

“People of Quraysh! Bear witness to the fact that this boy is my adopted son and heir!”

Harithah was so taken aback by how much The Prophet cared for his son, he thought it would be best for Zayd to stay with him. From that day forward, Zayd was known as Zayd ibn Muhammad, until the following ayah of The Qur’an was revealed:

“[As for your adopted children,] call them by their [real] fathers’ names: this is more equitable in the sight of God; and if you know not who their fathers were, [call them] your brethren in faith and your friends. However, you will incur no sin if you err in this respect: [what really matters is] but what your hearts intend – for God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!” [33:5] Muhammad Asad

Zayd’s name returned to Zayd ibn Harithah, yet Zayd would always be known as the adopted son of The Prophet and was known to be particularly loved by The Prophet to the point that his nick name was “Zayd al-Hubb” (Zayd who is loved) and his son, Osama ibn Zayd, was treated like his grandson, illustrated beautifully by the following Hadith in Bukhari:

“That the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to take him (Osama) and Al-Hassan (in his lap) and say: ‘O God! Love them, as I love them.’”

So, the issue here is not adoption in the sense of taking in a child into your home and raising them, the issue here is that you cannot deny that child their heritage, and the principle way of doing this (during The Prophet’s time) was through the way a person is named.

So to not tell a child they are adopted, to say you are their father or mother, to deny them that, is a denial of the child’s rights.

It must be said, that many Muslim societies do not engage in adoption nearly as frequently as is done in America (for example) because if–God forbid–something happened to a child’s parents, they would be taken in by other members of the family, and that process has been the predominant method of dealing with orphans.

I think people may confuse that process with a denial of adoption, as again, the issue is the method in which we adopt a child, i.e. that we do so by enshrining the child’s rights.

I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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