Published on Sunday, February 23, 2014

'Adoption' of child in Islam is mainly guided by the socio-economic dimension. It is primarily viewed as an act of charity. It is the social obligation of supporting the orphans. In Islam adopted boy or girl becomes 'na-mehram' on reaching adulthood. Adopted boy/girl cannot inherit the property of adoptee parent(s). Taken to the extreme, the adopted boy or girl can marry daughter or son of his/her adoptee parent(s). The whole picture negates the emotional bondage and legal rights of the adopted child and the adoptee parent(s).

Islamic adoption was shaped by Muhammad during Madina period which was marred by about 100 battles with consequence of large number of widows and orphans. Whatever emotional angle and legal ramification thereof were attached with 'adoption' in pre-Islamic Arabian desert came to naught with the following verse of Qur'an:

"Nor has He (Allâh) made your adopted sons your sons. Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths. But God tells the truth, and He shows the way. Call them by (the names of) their fathers, that is better in the sight of God". (33:5).

If we look at the background of the verse, we find that 'Zayd' the slave boy given to Muhammad by his first wife Khadeja became Zayd bin Muhammad in Mecca. But in Madina when Zayd had to divorce his wife for Muhammad to marry her, the above verse of Qur'an came handy for the Prophet. It was not at all strange that Allah was always at the back and call of Muhammad with verses which would help Muhammad. And to further justify the marriage of Muhammad with the ex-wife of his adopted son, Zayd bin Muhammad was renamed as Zayd bin Hâritha as per Zayd's original blood line.

It will be absolutely wrong to judge Muhammad's directives about 'adoption' from today's perspective. He was at liberty to define adoption in whatever way he felt to be right in his own tribal social situation of 7th century Arabia. But the self styled and ruthless custodians (Ulema) of Islam have been jealously defending and imposing all the old tribal rules and customs of Arabia, including that of 'adoption', as sacrosanct Islamic laws known as 'Sharia' in every Islamic community since 1400 years. This is the misfortune of a stagnant religion. One wonders, why Ulema cannot compel all the Muslims throughout the world to lead the tribal life style of 7th century Arabia. Why Islamic rules of adoption, like many other burning issues (including divorce), should be 1400 years old. Why childless Muslim couples of today should be deprived of parental satisfaction by denying them the choice to adopt child legally and accord him/her all rights as their biological offspring?

On 19th February 2014 Indian Supreme Court, in a case, ruled that Muslims can adopt a child under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act as this cannot be obstructed by Muslim Personal Law of India. Not surprisingly a renowned Indian Alim has expressed that the said verdict has divided the Indian Muslims in two factions. However, the Muslim optimists also agree that without the support of Ulema, the Court verdict will have little value and official adoption rate among Indian Muslims is unlikely to go up. But, it is a silver line in 'Sharia' cloud that in some educated and well-to-do urban Muslim families of India, 'adoption' has been liberated from religious clutches.

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