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November 2012Vol. 13, No. 10Adoption Practices and Islamic Principles

A new effort by the Muslim Women's Shura Council aims to address the complex issue of adoption and Islamic law. The Shura Council is a global initiative composed of Muslim women scholars, activists, and specialists dedicated to connecting Islamic principles to strategies for social change. A new white paper and brochure by the Council explores the concerns of Muslims interested in adoption and identifies what it means to serve "the best interest of the child" according to Islamic principles.

Adoption in Islam is complex given the religion's guidelines pertaining to naming and inheritance, and the Council suggests that current misconceptions of adoption as forbidden under Islamic law apply to what is commonly referred to as open adoption. After consulting several Islamic texts and social science data, the Council asserts that when all efforts to place a waiting child with family or kin have been exhausted, open adoption is an acceptable alternative to institutional care. The white paper and brochure point to the many mentions in the Quran emphasizing the importance of taking care of orphans and others in need.

The Council contends that, as long as appropriate ethical guidelines are followed, the six objectives and principles of Shari'ah—the sacredness of life, mind, family, wealth, dignity, and religion—support adoption.

  • The Protection and Promotion of Life: Adoption can create a nourishing environment for children, providing the necessities of food, care, and emotional support for healthy development.
  • The Protection and Promotion of Mind: Adoption can counteract the experience of neglect and abuse, severe emotional and behavioral issues, and setbacks in cognitive and physical development suffered by many children who grow up in group care.
  • The Protection and Promotion of Family: Adoption can provide children with a family model and a sense of family lineage and community.
  • The Protection and Promotion of Dignity: Adoption can promote secure attachment, which helps build self-esteem.
  • The Protection and Promotion of Wealth: Adoption can help develop children into productive members of society, encouraging them to pursue their professional goals and foster their personal financial stability.
  • The Protection and Promotion of Religion: Adoption can encourage spiritual growth.

Adoption and the Care of Children: Islam and the Best Interests of the Child, the brochure, is available here:  (2 MB)

Adoption and the Care of Orphan Children: Islam and the Best Interests of the Child, the white paper, is available here: (594 KB)