Big Reality Check: Orphans

By The Art of Misinformation

‘Upon this world and the next. And they ask thee concerning the orphans. Say: ‘Promotion of their welfare is an act of great goodness. And if you intermix with them, they are your brethren. And Allah knows the mischief-maker from the reformer. And if Allah had so willed, He would have put you to hardship. Surely, Allah is Mighty, Wise.’ (2:221)

Assalamu ‘Alaikum Warahmat Allah Wabarakatuh,

I was listening to the radio the other day and the presenter mentioned that last year sixty babies were adopted in the UK. I did not really think too much of it, until tonight. The tweeter Morafi tweeted that 1.6 million children have been left orphaned in Afghanistan due to conflict. What struck was not the 1.6 million figure, but that sixty babies were adopted in the UK. Odd, I know, but I thought to myself: If in one of the richest countries in the world only sixty babies were adopted, what chance do the orphans of Afghanistan have of finding stable homes? As a Muslim, that thought struck a chord within me and led me to my keyboard and this post. 

The break down of the UK statistics is that in 2010 only 60 babies were adopted from a pool of 2,450 babies who were put up for adoption (a fall of ten from 2009). Even more staggering is that in 1976, thirty-five years ago, 4,000 babies were adopted. The total number adoptions in the UK of all orphans stands at 2,050 orphans adopted from a possible 65,520 babies and children in care.

What saddened me the most was not just that only 60 babies were adopted, but that we, the Muslim community comprising of almost 3 million people in the UK, could not find at least a hundred or two hundred or three hundred or even 2,450 homes for orphaned babies (or the money to pay for those homes).

On an emotional level, each lover of the Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) should find great anguish at such statistics given that beloved Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was an orphan (yateem) himself. Our attitude towards orphans, as Muslims, is a reflection of our love for Islam and humanity in general. Take, for example, the reaction of the Holy Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to the daughter of Hadrat Zayd b. Haritha (radi Allahu ‘anhuma) when he had been informed that she had lost her father:

Subhan Allah, the Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) knew the feeling in the heart of a child who no longer had a father. His heart was inclined towards the quintessential reaction the Muslim heart should have towards an orphan, or a child who looses his or her parent(s). This incident is intensified by the fact that Hadrat Zayd (radi Allahu ‘anhu) was brought up like a son (not-biological) by the Holy Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), just as Hadrat ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu) was.

And so I cannot help but feel that something must be wrong if our heart do not also incline towards the orphans (our heart refers to the collective Muslim heart). And by inclination I do not talk of sympathy; I mean why do our hearts not incline to do something to help these children. If not take them into our own homes, then to support the orphan fund in the Jama’at or wherever and whenever we find a suitable appeal? Whenever many of us sit with our families or among friends, why is it that if the subject of adoption comes up people look at one another with the facial expression: Novel idea, but be serious – that’s not going to happen.

From personal experience, I can honestly say that to have orphans in one’s family is like having shining lamps in and among you. The blessing and joy of having an orphan in your family truly has no measure, not known to man anyway. Abu Hurayra (radi Allahu ‘anhu) reported that the Holy Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

“The best house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are well treated. The worst house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are ill treated. I and the guardian of the orphan will be in the Garden like that,” indicating his two fingers. (Imam al-Bukhari, al-Adab al-mufrad)

My beloved Hudur (ayyadahu Allah ta’ala bi-nasrihi al-‘aziz) has talked about this subject on many occasions. For me, Hudur (ayyadahu Allah ta’ala bi-nasrihi al-‘aziz) captured the subject in one particular Sermon when he said:

Orphans should never be made to feel that due to their deprivation they could not fully realise their potential or that if their parents were alive they would have been one of the high achievers. Whether the care of orphans is undertaken by individuals or on a communal level, their education and training and supervision is the responsibility of those who are in-charge of their care. This care should continue until such time that the orphans reach a marriageable age.

 

Hadrat Abu Bakr b, Hafs (radi Allahu ‘anhu) reported that the great Companion, Hadrat ‘Abd Allah b ‘Umar (radi Allahu ‘anhuma): ”…would not eat unless an orphan was at his table” (Al-Adab al-mufrad).

In closing this post, let me leave you with a plea; please encourage all the Muslims and non-Muslims, you come across to have that desire in their hearts that they should help the orphans in whatever way their circumstances permit. The Jama’at has an Orphans Fund for those who can contribute and each and every country has its own formal proceddures for adopting children. I call upon each of us, myself first and foremost, to re-establish the pristine Islamic community mentioned by Hadrat Hasan b. ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhuma) who stated:

“I remember a time among the Muslims when their men would shout (to remind their families), ‘O family! O family! (Look after) your orphan! Your orphan! O family! O family! (Look after) your orphan! Your poor person! Your poor person! O family! O family! (Look after) your neighbour! Your neighbour!’ Time has been swift in taking the best of you while every day you become baser.” (Adab al-Mufrad)

 

May Almighty Allah protect all of the orphans and enable each country to reduce the number of children who grow up into adulthood never having had a mother or father figure in his or her life.

______________________

  • For the ”Rights of Orphans,” listen to another Khutbah on the subject by my beloved Hudur ayyadahu Allah ta’ala bi-nasrihi al-‘aziz here
  • Interesting fact about Al-wasiyyat: ”These funds shall also be used to help such orphans, poor and needy people, and new converts as do not have sufficient means of livelihood (The Will, pg.27).

 


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21 thoughts on “Big Reality Check: Orphans

  1. Jazak’Allah khayr. Your efforts in responding to all questions are very much appreciated and will echo for years to come when this knowledge is applied in a positive manner in the future insha’Allah.

  2. Jazakumullah, Brother theartofmisinformation, for your words of appreciation. None of it comes from me; all the credit goes to the sources the answers are based upon, namely, the Noble Qur’an, the Sunnah and Ahadeeth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.), as well as the exegeses thereof of the Salaf, of the Promised Messiah (a.s.) and of his Khulafa (may Allah be pleased with them all).

    As a possible answer to the question, may I suggest that the overriding principle will be that of Rahmah, or mercy, casting its benevolent shade over the three levels of doing good: al-‘Adl, al-Ihsaan and Eetaa’ dhi al-Qurbaa – Justice, Higher goodness, and Goodness as amongst close relatives. The third level of doing good is not only for relations among close relatives; as Muslims, we aspire to reaching this level in our dealings with everyone.

    As far as catering for their needs is concerned, al-‘Adl will require that the very least a family must do for an orphan they take under their wing is Justice. They have to treat all their children the same, and they must offer this treatment to the orphan too. If anything, young orphans will often be particularly sensitive to their being bereft of biological parents and siblings, and this can negatively impact on their development. Therefore, the adopting parents will have to show al-Ihsaan too – going that extra mile for the orphan, and showing her/him extra love to compensate. Often, this will take the shape of a beautiful complicity between the adopting parents and the orphan, especially when the orphan is a young child – they might, for example, from time to time take the orphan to one side and offer her/him a gift or treat, while saying: This is only for you, and it will be our little secret! Don’t tell your siblings about it!” This has been reported in later life by many orphans who had lived in good Ahmadi Muslim homes, and who said that such secret “preferential” treatment made them feel they were special and it only increased their love for and trust in their adoptive parents. It’s a beautiful example of Ihsaan.

    There is the question of limits which arise between Mahram and non-Mahram individuals, once the orphan has reached the age of puberty. If the orphan was breastfed by the adoptive mother, he/she automatically becomes the mother’s, and her family’s, Mahram, and so, in such a case the orphan will continue to move freely among individuals of the opposite sex within the adoptive family circle, as he/she will not be able to marry any of them.

    In cases where the orphan had not been breatsfed, there will have to be a certain decorum observed once he/she reaches puberty. Care will have to be taken that the orphan realises that he/she has the legal permission to marry an adoptive sibling, or even one of the parents, and he/she will have to be told in a loving way what this entails as far as his/her interactions with the opposite sex within the family are concerned. For example, it will not be correct for a mature orphan boy to be alone in the company of his mature adoptive sister. Having said that, such an orphan will still fall into the category of trusted friends who have the Qur’anic right to eat with the family (see verse below), and this also means that the womenfolk will not be covering their faces in his presence. Having grown up in the family home, the mature orphan will still enjoy a degree of closeness that other non-Mahrams will not be allowed. This is only natural.

    This is born out in the words “except that you show kindness to your friends” in Verse 33:7
    “The Prophet is nearer to the believers than their own selves, and his wives are as mothers to them. And blood relations are nearer to one another, according to the Book of Allah, than the rest of the believers from among the Helpers as well as the Emigrants, except that you show kindness to your friends. That also is written down in the Book.”

    And as far as eating together is concerned, we read in the last portion of the verse partly quoted hereunder:

    (Part of) Verse 24:62
    “There is no harm for the blind and there is no harm for the lame, and there is no harm for the sick and none for yourselves, that you eat from your own houses, or the houses of your fathers, or the houses of your mothers or the houses of your brothers, or the houses of your sisters, or the houses of your fathers’ brothers or the houses of your fathers’ sisters, or the houses of your mothers’ brothers, or the houses of your mothers’ sisters, or from that of which the keys are in your possession, or from the house of a friend of yours. There is no harm for you whether you eat together or separately.

    For example, if a Muslim father has no fears about sending his daughter to do her shopping alone in his car with his paid driver (who is her non-Mahram), then he will obviously not have any fear in sending her with her adoptive brother, who enjoys this level of trust over and above any other kind of non-Mahram. A measure of decorum will of course be respected by all parties, and they themselves, if they are good Muslims, will naturally avoid embarassing situations, and will be trustworthy. Hence, severe rigidity in enforcing the purdah segregation in such cases will be uncalled for.

    Indeed, in all good Muslim families, genetic brothers and sisters having reached the age of puberty will no longer like the rough and tumble, close body contact games of their childhood, and will maintain a level of decorum and care when they are in proximity of each other. So in fact, what is required of a non-Mahram orphan with respect to his/her adoptive siblings of the opposite sex, will not be markedly different than what is expected of the siblings themselves in their interactions among themselves.

    Common sense should prevail in such situations. Despite their legal right to marry, in practice one will find that a non-Mahram adopted son or daughter will have absolutely no desire to marry anyone in the adoptive family anyway, and vice-versa. More often than not they will abhor it, through that innate abhorrence of incest which is born of pronounced familiarity in rather the same manner that it arises from one’s knowledge of genetic relatedness to one’s kin.

    If the parents think that in order to avoid their non-Mahram adopted son any unpleasantness they should make their boys observe the same amount of decorum towards their own sisters and mother as is required of the orphan, then that is a personal choice they make. In terms of Shari’ah, this action cannot be said to be called for by al-‘Adl, because for the mature orphan it is a question of him technically not having the right to be in close physical contact with people whom he can legally marry, whereas a son born in the family is a Mahram of the family and has other rights. One cannot deprive a boy of the right he has to be close to his own sister and mother.

    In fact, once he is of age, the orphan can easily be made to understand his special duties towards his adoptive sisters and mother, and this usually goes down well if the orphan is being treated kindly in all aspects of his life. One does not usually have to make a whole song and dance of it. And of course the adoptive father and his sons can compensate for his apparent loss of close contact by spending more quality time with him.

    Dealing with orphans requires Taqwa, sincerity, a good intention and common sense.

  3. I don’t wish to infringe on the privacy of anyone’s home but would those with personal experience be able to share with us some practical solutions to finding the balance between promoting love between siblings and the non-mehram situation. Case: having two siblings of the opposite gender, one adopted and one not. Should we strive to treat both with non-mehram status as much as possible so as not to highlight the difference between them? Or is it that families take a quiet approach of treating both as mehrams?

    I expect to receive an answer along the lines of “if everyone understands their role then that does not impact on the love shared between the family as a unit”. Is this what happens in reality?

  4. Assalam Alaikum

    A heart warming read and eye opening. With conflicts all around the world more and more children suffer. You have clearly portrayed how Islam provides the simple answer and throughout teaches us on how we can win the pleasure of Allah by ensuring that we are able to make a difference to those whom are abandoned.

    The Holy Prophet (saw) taught us how we should live our lives without boundaries , without prejudice and with only love. Love for Humanity can overcome many hurdles. We live in a world which places boundaries around many things our possessions ,our finances , our families.

    If we can break from these moulds and show more love to others than the love we have for our own and look at others pains before our own pains and families we can move closer to acheiving what our beloved prophet (saw) taught us.

  5. Holy Quran Says

    {33:5} ….nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons…
    {33:6} Call them by the names of their fathers. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah. But if you know not their fathers, then they are your brothers in faith and your friends. And there is no blame on you in any mistake you may unintentionally make in this matter, but what matters is that which your hearts intend. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.

    The following narration on Zaid bin Harithah (RA) is given in Seal-of-Prophets ( Seerat Khatamunnabiyyeen),

    “When Muḥammad(sa) heard this response he immediately stood up and took Zaid to the Ka‘bah and announced in a loud voice, “O People! Remain witness that as of this day I free Zaid and make him my son. He shall be my heir and I shall be his.” When Zaid’s uncle and father observed this sight, they were
    astounded. They happily left Zaid with Muḥamma dsa. Since then, Zaid bin
    Ḥārithah became known as Zaid bin Muḥammad. However, after the Ḥijrah,
    God revealed a commandment that it is unlawful to take an adopted child as
    an actual son.”

    With regards to your observation about kids being told at an early age about their heritage in the West, once again this is something which Islam had implemented 1400 years back.

  6. AA,

    Jazakumullah for this article, it is one very close to my heart.

    I think the reason why a lot of people are reluctant to adopt nowadays is due to the very strict adoption laws and as someone else mentioned, our accessability to fertility treatment.

    The number of people with sub fertility/infertility hasn’t suddenly increased, its just that in the past if you were diagnosed with the condition then you either had to fork out for treatment (which was in it’s infancy therefore cost considerably more than it does today) or you could adopt, which was the cheaper option.

    Nowadays the most you’d pay for one cycle of IVF starts at around £1500. Now compare that with at least £6,000 for home adoption and a prospect of a very invasive investigation plus a lifetime of social service visits.
    Which one do most people choose?

    Then there’s intercountry adoption – this costs at least £10,000!

    This is a very daunting prospect indeed.

    What’s sad is that most people looking into adoption want to have a baby under 5 years of age, and according to reports (which I’ve seen) the majority of children up for adoption are above the age of 5 in the UK.

    It seems as though adoption has become a money making game; the wealthy have the monopoly to adopt. The orphans, clearly, the losers.

    All these obstacles in place and the daunting task ahead, I’m not put off and I plan to adopt one day, insha’Allah.

    The Promised Messiah’s (as) blessed wife, Hadhrat Nusrat Jehan (ra) or Hadhrat Amman Jaan as she was/is lovingly known, brought up so many orphans.
    The orphans under Hadhrat Amman Jaan’s care were dear to her just as her own children were; she treated them all the same.
    Her amazing example shines so bright.

  7. In Islam orphans should keep their nisab (lineage) and not take the lineage (name) of their adopted parents (i.e., if an orphan is Yaseen the son of Marwan and his adopted father is called Zayd, he should not have his name changed to Yaseen ibn Zayd, but instead keep his actual lineage). Those of us living in the West tend to see this issue through the lens of western surnames, whereas the heart of the injunction goes back to lineage, e.g., ”a” son of ”b” son of c son of d and so on. Having said that, taking a different surname would amount to something very similar. Also, the child should never be led to believe he / she comes from a lineage which he / she does not and it should not be a secret within the local community that the child is not the biological child of the family he/she is adopted into.

    Two of my sisters are adopted and the fact that they have always known they are adopted and carry two different surnames makes no difference at all to the practical day to day family setup. If there is love, there is love and a surname is quite superficial. And if the orphan one day wants to meet his/her biological parent then there is no harm in that – that is their right. 15 or 20 years of loving upbringing is not going to be thrown to the side by an orphan just because they meet their biological parent.

  8. Totally agree with the article. May Allah enable us all to fulfil our responsibilities as Muslims, ameen.

    In the West there is a trend that orphans are not informed of their heritage from the very beginning…it may be out of fear the kids will leave them in search of their biological parents or other reasons, but it presents a great shock to many adopted children on discovering they are adopted. Please correct me if I’m wrong but is there not a Hadith which states something to the effect that children should be called by their real father’s name i.e. They should always know they are adopted?

  9. Whenever Islam and Adoption is discussed the matter of purdah and nursing usually arises too. Of course the Qur’an clearly states who is Mehram, and for those fundamentalist muslims out there who do strive to do everything by the book (and I admire that!), they argue that adopting a boy would raise purdah issues later in life with the mother and (any) daughters in the household. Same goes for adopting a girl and later the father and (any) brother issues.

    I cannot find the Ahmadi viewpoint on the Sharia as an English video on Faith Matters or guidelines on Alislam.org, however there’s a Q&A video in Urdu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R382CfBmFfY with Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV (I’m struggling to understand the difficult Urdu words so I cannot understand the overall point). If I have understood correctly I think it it’s the same viewpoint as I just mentioned.

    Now I don’t have any adopted relatives and although my family are all strict on purdah, our family does admittedly ‘relax’ the rules for cousins and in-laws due to practicality and perhaps we try to argue that otherwise we would be taking our dean too far.

    Now once on a non-ahmadi muslim tv channel, there was a muslim scholar (I prefer that title rather than mullah), he was saying that the way to go about this would be for a woman to obtain pills that release the milk producing hormone, and provided that the adopted child is under the age of 2 years (as prescribed in the Holy Qur’an), then she may give suck to the adopted child. The child would then become mehram to the mother and (any) other children.

    Originally we all laughed at the idea, being prejudiced towards the non-ahmadi viewpoint of course, however I cannot help now see some sense in the argument that was presented.

  10. I do think it helps if your biological children are a little older.

    In my experience, the difficulty is sometimes (in a loving home) the opposite and the orphan child becomes the one who is most elevated of all the children. Despite all of the children being treated equally and offered the same love, the orphan naturally raises in status because everyone in the family feels a great sense of personal and family honour / pride that one of the brothers, sister, kids is adopted. These things are never black and white and anything worth having naturally has to be worked at.

    If you are able to adopt at some point in your life then I think you are right to give it some serious thought. If not, then there is the orphan fund and one can always make the intention in his / her heart to adopt if the circumstances allow. May Almighty Allah bless you for your honest thoughts.

  11. Salam

    I think part of the reason why so few children are adopted in this country is the onerous and and sometimes humiliating procedures/investigations one has to go through to adopt. Investigations go into minutia such as your financial affairs, eating and drinking habits, extended family home environment, family history of illness, whether you have smoked in the past and a very long medical examination. Whislts social services are just doing their job couples are often overwhelmed and some like high profile cases in the news will just adopt abroad where it is easier and less bureaucratic.

    Having said that I agree this is not enough to put us off. The rewards and moral imperative are too strong and more of us should atleast try. Maybe there is also an inherent fear especially for thise of us with children on whether we would be able to do justice to the orpahns rights and treat them equally to your own children and then the fear of when they grow older and whether to tell them or not? Thats what I get thinking. I am not all culturally against it and I would love to at some point when my children (1 and 1 on the way) are a little older. Infact you have really got me thinking again

    Jazakallah

  12. AA

    I agree with you there is no need for apologies. I don’t believe I did justice to his advice, his answer was comprehensive during this discussion. I hope I haven’t offended anyone please forgive me if I have done so, I will take care in the future.
    JazakAllah
    Wasalaam

  13. Assalamu ‘Alaikum Sister. Please forgive me as I removed the answer you placed concerning respected Ibrahim Nonnan Sahib. I have no reason to believe what you have said is not true, and the answers you attributed to him were very sensible and praiseworthy. I am a bit reluctant to include it in case he himself might have preferred to have offered a more comprehensive answer when posting it online. What I am going to do is e-mail him shortly and ask him if he would be kind enough to post a reply here.

    Again, please forgive me for having done this, I genuinely mean no offence. Jazak Allah Khayr al-Jazaa’

  14. AA

    I’m so glad that this subject was bought up, it seems so taboo. Some people have said that it’s not a good idea to adopt for various reasons; purdah and nursing.
    During Jalsa Salana this year, a question was asked to Imam Ibrahim Noonan Sahib, as to what the view on adoption was. I cannot remember his answer word for word so please don’t quote me on this.
    But he said it was such a blessing and if anyone was thinking of adopting, then they should go for it. [deleted] he had some really good advice as do our other distinguished Missionaries.

    Even in our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) early years we find examples that stand the test of time, MashaAllah,

    Wasalaam

  15. MashAllah. What a shame. I totally agree, when the topic of the idea of adopting orphans is brought up, it is perceived with a hesitant reaction followed by an awkward and uncomfortable silence. Why is this the case? Our own master Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was an orphan. It seems like some of our hearts are hardened. Something which the Qur’an speaks of so highly and emphasizes its importance so much – is seen as a task which is left to others. Who are those others? There are no others. There is US. Us as a whole, as a community. JazakAllah so much for this article – inshAllah it will soften our hearts and make us more inclined to adopting and taking care of the orphans. May Allah(swt) make it so that we are able to open our minds and our hearts and adhere to the Qur’anic teachings and may Allah (swt) show us the right way. Ameen.

    May Allah grant Hadhrat Munir Hamid Sahib (rh) a lofty station in paradise – a truly righteous and spiritual man from whom love of Allah (swt) and the Prophet poured from his every vain, he was always immersed in the remembrance of God. I will never forget his words which he said to me: focus on your spirituality, your spirituality.

    Wassalaam

  16. P.s. Its refreshing to read a general post reminding us of our duties in Islam rather than a specific response to an allegation every now and again 🙂 please keep it up!

  17. Jazakallah for bringing this to our attention – its true, whenever the subject of orphans comes up we discuss it but rarely act on it. I’m currently not in a position to think about adopting myself, but you’re right, we can always donate to the orphan fund no matter what our age or background is.

    I also heard that statistic in the news a couple days ago; I think the shockingly low number of orphans being adopted in the Western world is largely due to the increased opportunity for IVF and other such options, which encourage the notion of ‘designer’ babies whilst neglecting the already existing ones.

    Can I also make a point regarding the term orphans which I’ve noticed in the Pakistani culture – according to my understanding an orphan is someone who has lost both their mother and father, and is therefore parent-less. In Pakistani culture I have heard of and seen people who have lost their fathers only (whilst their mothers are very much alive) claim they are orphans. Whilst it is very heartbreaking to lose either parent, surely they’ve got the wrong end of the stick here, haven’t they?

    May Allah enable us to fulfil our duty towards our fellow human beings and take special care of the orphans in our society, inshallah.

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