Q.1. It has always been my dear wish to take an orphan girl into
my family, but the law in my country does not allow this except
through formal adoption. My husband is opposed to this on grounds
that adoption is un-Islamic. Is there a way out?
Q.2. At the time of my marriage I made it clear to my husband
that I wish to be always in work. He did not object. However, now he
is saying that I should not work because it is ‘un-Islamic’ for
a Muslim woman to work except in cases of financial difficulty. This
has been a cause of friction in our family. Please advise.
(Name and address withheld)
A.1. Islam encourages looking after orphans of both sexes. The
Prophet mentions very high reward for people who take good care of
orphans and bring them up as they would bring up their own children.
However, formal adoption is not allowed in Islam. It is forbidden,
as the Qur’an makes clear. You may refer for this purpose to
Verses 4 and 5 of Surah 33, which make clear that God does not
approve of anyone claiming a child as his own when that child is
born to different parents. The verses include an order to call such
children after their own parents. If their parents are unknown to
us, then we treat them as brothers or sisters in Islam, but not as
our own children.
Such are the Islamic rulings and they are clear in their import.
What is strongly disapproved is the claim that a certain child is
called after an adopting father, or given the name of the adopting
family. This is a fraud, and Islam makes it unlawful. But this does
not stop Muslims from looking after orphan children. In fact they
are strongly recommended to do so. But they should let those
children keep their own names. Laws in different countries may make
things very difficult for a family which wants to look after a
certain child. For example, I know the case of a family who wished
to look after an orphan girl and was keen to stick to Islamic
teachings. The difficulties they had to encounter were enormous.
Their task was made pretty impossible. They had no option but to
leave the country where they were living, and get the child
registered as their own before returning to their place of living
with that child. No longer did they have to face any bureaucratic
rigidity of the type that makes life difficult. They informed the
child of their true relation with her when she was able to
understand. There was no difficulty in the matter. Do we blame them
for doing what they did? They simply tried to overcome unreasonable
difficulties and look after a child that had no one to look after.
God will certainly reward them according to their intention. They
had no desire to disobey God’s rules. You may be able to approach
the difficulty in your country in a different way. You may need to
seek advice. A sympathetic government official may be able to
understand the Islamic requirements and suggest to you a way of
meeting them while taking an orphan girl to look after. But I
encourage you to seek some way of carrying out your plan. May God
reward you generously for it.
A.2. If your husband had agreed to your working at the time of
marriage, then he may not withdraw this commitment without a very
good reason. To claim that it is un-Islamic for a woman to work is
wrong. Some of the Prophet’s women companions had their own work,
and he did not object. A woman who was in her waiting period after
her husband had died asked the Prophet whether it was permissible
for her to supervise the work in her farm. Some of her relatives
objected to her doing this. The Prophet told her to attend to her
work, adding: “You may have a chance to give something in charity
or do some other good.” If a man is married to an educated woman
who has a good job, or to a skilled woman who does some skillful
work, like dress making, farming, or some handicraft, it may be
highly beneficial to the family if she continues with her work, even
though the income is not of paramount importance. The fact that the
woman enjoys self-fulfillment as a result is very good for a better