Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

Is Islamic inheritance law unfair?

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

The British newspaper The Telegraph published today an article with the heading “Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs”. The author, John Bingham, alleges in the article that British lawyers will now for the first time be able to write wills for their clients that “deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether.”

Is that true? Have testators never been able to exclude from their wills heirs they resented, or wished to penalize, and given some heirs more than others and even given people who were totally unrelated to them a large portion of their estate? I doubt that, since the English law, as far as I know, regards the testator as the sole owner of his or her estate and therefore the only one who has a say in how the estate is to be distributed. Probate courts only interfere when a litigator contests the will as being contrary to common standards of fairness.

One article I found, written by a lawyers group, spells out how a testator can disinherit some heirs. I’m sure you can find many other.

However, is Bingham’s Islamophobic allegation true about Islamic law? Does Islamic law of inheritance deny women an equal share of inheritance and exclude unbelievers altogether?

Not quite as stated. The reason women inherit half of what men inherit is because Islamic law requires men to financially support women! If this requirement is not found in a Muslim community, then the division becomes invalid. I hope that the legal guidance the article refers to has taken into consideration that important proviso. Bingham really should have asked about it before he published his article.

And what about non-Muslims, can they possibly inherit from a Muslim? While some schools of thought do not allow it, there really is nothing in the Quranic verses that makes that ruling. A Muslim testator certainly can specify a bequest in his will, not to exceed one third of the estate, to be given to any one person or group who is not a regular heir.

The questions and answers page of this software may answer more of the readers questions about Islamic law of inheritance. God says in the holy Quran “Verily, God does not wrong even the weight of a speck.” (4:40) Don’t let Islamophobic writers give you the wrong impression about God.

Bingham also reports in the article that the legal guidance documents will exclude out-of-wedlock children and adopted children from inheriting. Is this true? Apart from the fact that any British testator can probably do that already under British law, Islamic law does not deprive out-of-wedlock children. The Quran does not say they are excluded! As for adopted children, they are not regular heirs for the reasons we explained in previous posts, but they can inherit by way of a bequest.

Next Islamophobic allegation in the article is the exclusion of people married in a church or in City Hall! Where is that written exactly in the Quran? If the reader can point to the verse, I’d appreciate it.

Is that guidance document “the first step on the road to a parallel legal system” for British Muslims, as the article quotes some campaigners? My humble answer to this question is that it can be, but never has to be. It all depends on how Islamic law is defined. If the definition is made by a school of thought, or some influential person, then the fears expressed in the article are legitimate. But that does not qualify as Islamic law. Islamic law is the Quran and the authentic Hadeeth, properly interpreted according to universally recognized logic, called in Islamic disciplines Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction). Anything else is somebody’s opinion.

This whole issue of fear of “Sharia”, which resulted in several American states banning Sharia altogether, mixes two things which are not always related: Islam and Muslims! What Islam teaches is not necessarily followed by Muslims, and what Muslims do is not necessarily taught by Islam. To ban unfair laws is a good thing regardless of who wrote those laws. But to ban something based on misunderstanding it, or on mixing it with something else, is unwarranted.

If I were to advise the Law Society of Britain, I would only say that what they are told is Sharia may not be. It could simply be a tradition, or somebody’s refutable interpretation, and therefore should not overrule British law. They and the detractors and even many Muslims may be surprised to learn that much of British law has always been Sharia-compliant. In fact, the beginnings of the English Common Law were much influenced by Islamic law.

How does Islam regard adoptions?

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Assalaam walaikum,

Can a Muslim adopt (be a foster parent to) a non-Muslim child? And how does one rear such a child?

If an infant is adopted and the child has no name what is the ruling? Child born in hospital; father unknown; mother gives it up for adoption… what do we do Islamically?

Am I correct in understanding that the issue of adoption stems from inheritance laws?

Need response by yesterday!

Islam strongly encourages fostering orphans. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “I, and the foster of an orphan, are in Paradise like these (and he held up his second and third fingers tightly together).” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Muslim who rated it authentic.

What Islam forbids is giving the child the last name of the foster parent, which is what normally happens in adoptions. The reason is inheritance and marriage laws. These laws are structured around blood relations. A son inherits but a foster son does not, though he may be given a bequest. A man cannot marry the divorced or widowed wife of his son, but can marry the divorced or widowed wife of his foster child.

The Prophet (PBUH) adopted his servant Zayd, before Zayd’s father became known. People started calling the boy Zayd ibn Muhammad! Zayd was overjoyed by that name. Then, after verse 33:5 was revealed, the Prophet (PBUH) sent out for folks who are gifted in telling paternity from looks, voice and mannerism. They asserted that Zayd’s father was Haaritha ibn Shuraaheel (RA). The Prophet (PBUH) was very delighted that the father was now known. Zayd, however, was not that happy! He would never again be called Zayd ibn Muhammad.

Then, a most surprising consolation prize came from God to Zayd. God mentions his name in verse 33:37, the only companion of the Prophet (PBUH) to get this honor!

What to call a foster child? Any decent name, as long as the last name is not the same as the foster father’s name.

How to raise the foster child? Just like one would raise his own child.

There is no difference between Islamic perspective on fostering a child and the common perspective on adoptions except in that one issue: legally regarding the child a son (or daughter) of the foster parents. That is not allowed in Islam, for the reasons of inheritance and marriage laws as I mentioned above.

what happens is you decide to become a foster parent to a child that is practicing a faith other than Islam. You gain custody after they have professed a faith. What is a Muslim parent to do.

I await a response.

What is the main responsibility of a Muslim toward his or her fellow human being? It’s to call him or her to God. For a stranger, this may be done by preaching or by being a good example. For a close person under one’s care, it is by raising him or her to be a good Muslim. If the foster child rejects that, they cannot be forced to become Muslim. Recall that Prophet Noah, peace be upon him, could not force his son to ride with him in the Ark even after the flood started!

Can Muslims adopt children?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Muslims can foster children, but cannot adopt them as adoption is understood in the West, i.e., giving the children their name. This is not unkind; it has to do with the laws of marriage and inheritance. These laws are affected by whether a person is a blood relative.

Fostering an orphan is one of the noblest things a Muslim can do. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “I and the foster of an orphan in the Garden are like these”, and he put two fingers together!