As the founder of Pakistan Adoption Group, I have had the privilege of helping thousands of adoptive families adopt babies from Pakistan over the past 10 years. As the mother of two daughters, both adopted from Pakistan, and having built a community with other adoptive families, I felt good about having made a difference in the world.


However, several recent events have compelled me to take a hard look at what the realities are, and how much more work needs to be done on this subject. One was an article about how thousands of infants born out of wedlock are killed at birth in Pakistan and the second a recent inquiry via our website from a birth mother looking to place her new born baby for adoption with a Muslim family.


Another catalyst was a recent murder suicide in a Houston Muslim family where the father killed the mother, injured both children and killed himself. As a result the two children are left injured and orphaned with no family around to take them in. These events led me to take a more proactive role in creating awareness about Foster Care and Adoption in the Muslim community in the United States!


Whenever there is a case involving Department of Family Services placing Muslim children in non-Muslim foster homes, there is quite a bit of hue and cry over why the children are placed in families where their religious and cultural values are incompatible, check out the following article highlighting this issue: However, the real reason for this phenomenon is the absence of trained and certified foster families in the Muslim community. Unless we, as a community, unite to protect all our children, whether biologically related to us or not, we do not have the right to question anyone providing them a family and home under the rule of law!


There is a general misconception that “adoption is not allowed in Islam”. Islam does not prohibit adoption, rather, Islam provides teachings to allow adoption while, at the same time, preserving the integrity of the family line. With the prophet of Islam, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) being born an orphan and raised by his grandfather and uncle, if adoption was not practiced, where would Islam be today? The issue is one of semantics, i.e.; change of parentage, rather than the practice of taking in and providing love and care to an orphan, which is the core concept in foster care and adoption if practiced with the right intent.


The fact is that the Islamic form of “adoption” is called kafâla, which literally means sponsorship, but comes from the root word meaning “to feed.” It is best translated as “foster parenting.” Algerian family law defines the concept thus: “Kafala, or legal fostering, is the promise to undertake without payment, the upkeep, education and protection of a minor, in the same way as a father would do for his son”.

It is very much encouraged in Islam to look after the orphan and there are many authentic hadiths [sayings and action of the Prophet (PBUH)] on the subject. Adoption of children for the purpose of bringing them up and caring for them is not only permissible, but in fact considered a very blessed deed, especially in the case of orphans and foundlings. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I and the one who sponsors an orphan are like this in Paradise.” Then he joined between his index and middle fingers.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (5304)]

Adoption is not prohibited in the Quran. All aspects of adoption, as defined in the English language, and in most countries, particularly, in all the western countries, are not only allowed in Islam, but encouraged fervently, except the aspect of ascribing parenthood; and by parenthood, it means only the biological parenthood. There are references to adoption in Quran clearly implying that one could adopt children. Allah requires us to maintain a distinction between adopted children and biological children for obvious reasons (this does not imply we love the adopted children any less). Allah’s law is to give the adopted children names that preserve their relationship with their genetic parents (if the parents are known). The child and society must know who the child’s biological parents are.

[33:4] GOD did not give any man two hearts in his chest. Nor did He turn your wives whom you estrange (according to your custom) into your mothers.* Nor did He turn your adopted children into genetic offspring. All these are mere utterances that you have invented. GOD speaks the truth, and He guides in the (right) path.

[33:5] You shall give your adopted children names that preserve their relationship to their genetic parents. This is more equitable in the sight of GOD. If you do not know their parents, then, as your brethren in religion, you shall treat them as members of your family. You do not commit a sin if you make a mistake in this respect; you are responsible for your purposeful intentions. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

We can see from this verse that calling one’s adopted ward “son” or “daughter” out of affection without meaning it literally is allowed. The same can be said for an adopted child calling the people who adopted him “father” and “mother” out of love and respect. This is perfectly alright. It is lawful to bring up children in one’s house and to love them as one loves their own children by blood, but their attribution of those children should always be to their true, biological parents. The prophet Muhammad too had an adopted child, Zeid (mentioned in [33:37] in connection with laws of marriage). Thus adoption is clearly allowed. What is unlawful is to attribute one’s adopted child to oneself, as if there is a biological relationship. This is because Islam seeks to safeguard biological lineage and not confuse it.

Because the adopted child does not receive a fixed portion of the guardians’ estate, the child’s guardians should make a bequest to their adopted ward during their life time. A person can bequeath up to one-third of the total estate to non-inheritors. Indeed, this means that, in many cases, an adopted child can receive more of the estate through a bequest than the biological children receive through their fixed and unalterable share of the inheritance. The wisdom behind this might possibly be that an adopted ward may have less of a community support structure than a child who has a family. In any event, the amount of the estate that an adopted child may inherit as a bequest is left to the wisdom and discretion of those who adopt the child, up to one-third of the estate.

In the United States, for the purpose of tax-exemptions, health insurance, school admissions etc. you may need to give the adopted child your last names. Such names can be provided with a clear understanding that you are only the guardians. The orphan children should be told about the names of their real parents (if known). In your own home you and your children should be aware of this fact that these children are not your biological children and you are not their biological parents.

It stands to reason that when those orphans grow up then they will not be Mahram (unmarriageable) to you, to your spouse and to your biological sons and daughters. However, if the child is under the age of two years, a Mahram relationship can be established through induced lactation, check out this link for comprehensive information on adoptive breastfeeding They will also not inherit anything from your property unless you give them something as a special gift through the provision of will.

In light of the above, I encourage you to take a fresh look at the practice of providing foster care to orphans and needy children, and if they do not have parents capable of providing for them, offering them a home and family and yes, “adopting” them! From personal experience I know that there are no two ways to love a child. A child who lives in your home, whether biologically yours, a child you are fostering temporarily, or an adopted child, needs the love and security of a family and returns your love the same way. There is tremendous reward in this duniya as well as aakhirah for providing that love and security.