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Fostering and adoption .

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I am a Christian woman from the United States and I grew up in Indonesia, so I am familiar with Islamic practices and codes of ethics. In a world where poverty strikes many families, I believe those who have excess money should help others across boundaries and that this, is what Christian ethics is mainly about. I applied to adopt children from Indonesia through a relief organization and I am now supporting few children to help them go to school. Their parents send me cards and every few years I pay them visits. Yet, when I applied to adopt a child, I got a negative response and was told that adoption is forbidden in Islam! I also notice that people in many societies are much more strict about their Islam and there are mosques in every village, though I am aware that some people worship more than one God according to old traditions! Anyway, I am happy with the fact that I am doing my best to help, but wanted to know more about the position of Islam towards adoption and its ethics. Thank you in advance for your reply.

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Thank you for your question.

Fostering, supporting, raising and providing for deserted children and orphans are not prohibited in Islam. What is prohibited is giving them your name and claiming they are yours. Also, giving them all the entitlements of children like inheritance, while denying the legal and religious rights of kinship members stated in the Qur’an, is what is prohibited.

In your case, it might also be a sensitive issue that you are a Christian requesting to adopt a Muslim child and raise him/her according to your ethics and belief. So, I guess this also might be the reason for the reply you got, as Muslim societies would rather prefer you helping to pay for the needs of the child, but not fully adopting him/her.

In Islam, if a Muslim actually becomes a foster father or mother of a child, one is doing a very virtuous deed that will be blessed by Allah.

In Islamic teachings, children should not be “put to adoption” like in some Western societies and you do not say: “I better put my kids into adoption, if I can not provide for them, to make them happier!” Nor do we say: “ I can not take the necessary responsibility of parenthood” This is because such ideas go against the sense of commitment; devotion and essence of responsibility we should have as Muslims. Fostering in Islam is largely concerned, therefore, with orphans.

As a parent, you must take on that task and be helped by family, community and welfare programs. As for cases of incapability, then your extended family is responsible for the child. That’s why only, as I mentioned -virtually speaking – orphans are expected to be the subject of such care. Prophet Muhammad said that one who provides for an orphan is in paradise next to him.

In fact, Islam is very strict about lineage and family. It considers it to be the child’s right to know his parents. It puts obligations on both, parents and children, even if one of the two parties is not behaving in the most ideal manner. Parents should tolerate and be patient, while children should be kind to their parents, even if the parents are not fulfilling their duties or are being too harsh.

If this harsh treatment reaches violence, the community should interfere and extended family is obliged to encourage parents to behave well. This is, before resorting to the state or official bodies. Even in cases of crimes, this is encouraged, so that the state is not given extra power as a judging force. Thus, the society is always empowered by its dynamic interaction and mutual responsibilities.

This is the base of a powerful civil society in Islam and it has been so over centuries. The Judicial body was independent and funded by endowments, so as not to be governed by the state.

In modern societies, of course our understanding of communal politics needs reform. That is not because it is pre-modern or backward and “traditional”, but because of the space and distance, along with the number of people involved these days. Also, it is due to the withering away of face-to-face interactions, strength and authority of family, extended family and community etc., which have resulted in the near disappearance of what used to be called ‘social control’, through norms, shared values and fear of social exclusion.

Back to adoption: in the city, children either are deserted or escape from poor families and just disappear in the crowd. This is an outcome of the urban capitalist city where poverty belts are produced and at the same time people are encouraged to seek their own interest and children to seek freedom from parent’s authority. In such situations the society can sometimes find it hard to find the parents of a lost child and parents cannot find escaping children.

Street kids are a well known phenomenon, which can lead these children to join up with criminals of all kinds and the society then pays a high price when they grow up to become criminals. Here, the society pays for its own crime, when it deserted them. This is where capitalism shows itself as a force of social malaise and evil, which is the other ugly face of “modernity” – the price!

In such a situation, still you are not allowed to give the children your family name. This is despite the fact that you are encouraged to foster and care for them. Simply because your family members – even if distant and sometimes living isolated and far away in the urban space or even global space – still have rights and owe you obligations. Islam wants these ties to remain, through a strict system of moral obligations; through lineage, rules of marriage; who is allowed to marry who and not marry who, along with financial arrangements. If we say that these ethics belong to traditional societies and we should not apply them anymore, we would only be endorsing the fall of society and fostering capitalism and individualism.

However, I must express my respect and high regards for your way of life, Elizabeth, taking care of all those children. Hopefully, we would try even harder to fight poverty and allow future children the blessing of being raised and provided for by their own parents. This would indeed, be a worthwhile struggle.

As for the note that people are now more strict, believing only in one God and having mosques in each village, I see no connection between believing in many gods and being tolerant. You might have not stated it, but this can be a deduction drawn from your comment. I also see no relation between being strict and being tolerant. I am strict, but I also respect people’s choices and appreciate Allah’s wisdom for creating us so different. I firmly believe that forbearance, based on a loose religious commitment is not necessarily tolerance, but more like indifference.

Thank you for your kind spirit and we are happy such a devoted Christian contacted us. Please do keep in touch and keep up the good work you are doing.

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