Imagine that a Muslim in your community dies today. The priority for your community is now to ensure that a janāzah is done. However, that was not a priority yesterday while he was in hospital, ill with COVID-19. Instead, the prime concern the day before was to provide medical assistance. Thus, it is evident that priorities change with circumstances. In fact, today we have a new area of concern which must be addressed as soon as possible by the Muslim community.
Today, there are approximately 90,000 children in social care in England. Estimates suggest that around 5 percent of them are Muslim, that is, young children born to Muslim parents but now in need of a guardian. Rather than have them move from one foster carer to another, a court often decides that it would be best for the child to be adopted. That way, they can be brought up just like any other child, as they will have parents, a family unit, and develop a sense of belonging.
The vast majority of children who go through adoption are below the age of 6. They find themselves in a stage in their lives where they would not survive without adult care. To put it bluntly, they need parental care. Across England, there are presently around 3000 children waiting to be adopted. If we go by such estimates, this means that around 150 Muslim children are waiting for a family to take them in. Some of these children – especially from Black and mixed race heritage – wait four times longer than other children before being adopted. The stark reality is that there are just not enough Muslim families that have come forward to adopt these children.
This is the present situation which Muslims in England face, and as a community, we need to look at our options. Should we be thinking about opening a residential care home or an orphanage, or should we just sit back and let others take these children in?
First and foremost, as a community we need to get a clearer idea of what options we really have. A child waiting for adoption will not be placed in a care home as a permanent solution. The only permanent solution is – and understandably enough – adoption. Many of these children may have come from homes where they would have been at risk of harm, while for others their parents might have died. Whatever the underlying reasons may be, the local authority has stepped in as the corporate parent, and has placed the child in emergency foster care. The local authority and the court will seek a long-term or permanent solution for the child. This is because the longer a child is out of familial care and without parental care, the greater the potential harm that child will undergo. While there may be a place for residential care homes – or what we traditionally call orphanages – the real question is: as a community, is this the best option we have?
And as a Muslim community, is this really the best we can do? Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the verse:
كَلَّا ۖ بَل لَّا تُكْرِمُونَ ٱلْيَتِيمَ
“No! But you do not honour the orphan.”
As a community, what honour would we be exhibiting if we were happy for a Muslim child to be adopted by a family of another faith? Consider the hypothetical case of the baby girl Aisha Islam. Her parents are Muslims, but unable to care for her. And since Aisha has no other family, now she waits to be adopted. If a family of another faith comes forward to adopt Aisha, I am certain they will look after her and ensure that she is happy and fed. On the other hand, however, it is very unlikely that she will grow up as a Muslim. In fact, it is not hard to imagine that her name might be changed to Aisha Smith. And while adopters would help her stay connected to her birth culture and faith, she may end up growing up and identifying as a non-Muslim. In truth, if we let this happen, we are not honouring Aisha. In fact, we have not shown her the slightest amount of mercy, as we simply were not there for her.
We are supposed to be the role model community, that is, the best nation to be sent for mankind. Simply put, it is not befitting for us to sit back and do nothing. What comes to mind in this context is the powerful hadith of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ:
“Whoever does not show mercy to our young ones and honour to our elders is not one of us.”
If we fail to show mercy to the most vulnerable children in our community, then we have failed to properly order our priorities. The stark reality today is that adoption is the only real option for all of these children, regardless of whether they are from Muslim families or other backgrounds. If they were adopted into one of your homes, then not only will they be cared for and find safety, but maybe they will grow up to be a Muslim. They might perhaps even become a good and sincere Muslim, even if their birth parents were non-Muslim.
The problem we face is that we do not know much about adoption and how it works here. It is not a familiar concept for many of us. Some of us think it is not allowed because of misconceptions about the way it works in this country. In fact, the way adoption works in England is similar to the practice of kafālah in the Muslim world, where families care for children who are not from their own progeny.
What has been prohibited in Islam is to adopt a child and claim them as being from one’s own offspring, or to hide a child’s true identity from them. However, in England the adoption system allows for an adopted child’s true identity to be recorded, and their real lineage is preserved in their birth certificate. In addition, adopters are trained to keep a ‘life story book’ as a record of the child’s birth history. This often includes photographs of birth parents; in most cases, contact with birth parents is promoted. If we take all of these factors into consideration, it means that the practice of adoption in England is something Muslims should be doing. In fact, in light of the present situation, it should be a priority.
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِى رَسُولِ ٱللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌۭ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلْيَوْمَ ٱلْءَاخِرَ وَذَكَرَ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرًۭا
“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.”
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ is a brilliant example and a model for us when it comes to assuming responsibility for children and caring for them. In a hadith narrated by Ibn ʿUmar, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
“All of you are guardians and responsible for your wards and the things under your care.”
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ cared for and looked after the members of his household well. In addition to looking after his wife and daughters, he also looked after a boy who he had adopted. After the Messenger of Allah ﷺ married Khadijah رضي الله عنها, she gifted him a young boy named Zayd رضي الله عنه as a servant. However, the Messenger ﷺ freed Zayd رضي الله عنه and took him as a son. Not for one moment did he treat him as a servant. Instead, he showered him with so much love and care that he would often laugh and play with him. This was to the extent that Allah praised the Messenger ﷺ in the Qur’an for how he treated Zayd رضي الله عنه by saying, “You showed favour to him.”
Zayd رضي الله عنه was not even an orphan child; his parents were still alive. And when they found him, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ gave him the option to go and live with them. Yet, Zayd رضي الله عنه opted to stay with the Prophet ﷺ. That makes us wonder how safe, loved, and valued Zayd رضي الله عنه must have felt for him to decide not to go back to his parents.
This is the ideal model of a family home that we need to emulate once more in our households today. We need to raise the profile of adoption in our community once again, especially in the local setting. This is because so many of us here in England – while happy to send money to look after a child in another country or to set up an orphanage back home – simply do not think of the responsibility we have to these children here in England. Our priority – in the local context – is that we should be welcoming adopted children into our own homes. If the best example of a family home is one where an adopted child is treated like all the other children, then maybe this is a Sunnah that we need to revive.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
“The best house among the Muslims is one where an orphan is well treated, and the worst house among the Muslims is one where an orphan is badly treated.”
This hadith teaches us so much about what it is that can make our houses from the best houses of the Muslims. To get that status of ‘the best house of the Muslims’ in this world, all it takes is to welcome an orphan inside one’s household and to treat them well. As far as worldly status goes, this is certainly a goal worth aspiring to. When it comes to the status that one will receive in the Hereafter, then it is an entirely different rank altogether. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him will be in Jannah like this.” The Prophet then put his index and middle fingers together.
It really is time for us to reflect. There are young and vulnerable Muslim children here in England who are in need of adoption, as some of them are orphans. Professionals in the sector are clearly telling us that there are simply not enough Muslim adopters coming forward. If we as a community do not adopt these children, they will end up being adopted by other communities, and may end up losing their faith altogether. If we sit back and let this happen, we could be blameworthy for not honouring the orphans and failing to show them mercy.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ, who was our role model, adopted orphans. Furthermore, the reward of taking an orphan into our homes, caring for them, and treating them well earns us the status of ‘the best house of the Muslims’. In addition, it also comes with the promise of a status in the Hereafter where we have the closeness and company of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ in Jannah.
It seems then that it is time for the Muslim population in England – for those amongst them who have the means – to adopt and welcome a child into their homes, with the love and care they so eagerly yearn for.
This is not a call for charitable donations. This is a call for you to do one thing. It is something that you will continue to do for the rest of your lives, an act that will change you and raise the rank of your home and family. Take in another child, and bring them up as your own. Adopt a child and you will find that this one thing you do – by opening your home to welcome another child – will provide constant blessings. In fact, Imam Ibn al-Jawzī said, “Those who have orphans in their homes are never free from the angels sending peace and praying upon them.” And the reason for this is because the one who takes care of an orphan at home is literally a manifestation of living charity for every moment that they do something nice for the child or make them feel safe and happy.
Bear in mind that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had Zayd رضي الله عنه in his house, despite Zayd not even being an orphan. So whether you open your doors and look after an orphan or simply take another child that needs care under your wing, that deed in the sight of Allah and that consistency in showing care, compassion, and kindness will certainly be rewarded. Provided that your intentions are sound, these noble acts will certainly bring blessings in your life.
It cannot be stressed enough that adoption is a priority for Muslims in England today. If you can adopt, then perhaps the time has come for you to seriously consider coming forward and taking care of a child in need.
Organisations like My Adoption Family are a support service for Muslim parents who are considering or going through the adoption process. They are here to support you throughout your adoption journey. With the help of partner adoption services, community organisations, and faith groups, My Adoption Family seeks to represent the voice of Muslims in the adoption sector through its membership status in the National Adoption Recruitment Steering Group.
Since 2019, My Adoption Family has been raising awareness, supporting Muslims, and providing assistance to individuals from Black and mixed heritage backgrounds to become adopters. Over the past year, My Adoption Family has delivered faith and cultural literacy training to over 500 social workers and sector professionals. More recently, they have developed toolkits for the adoption sector with the aim to support prospective Muslim adopters. They have encouraged and provided resources to sector professionals and Imams to raise awareness and educate people about the need for more adopters from Black and mixed heritage backgrounds. They have also emphasised the importance of working within the Muslim community to help break down the barriers around adoption, and tackle any existing myths and misconceptions.
You can find out more about adoption by clicking here. You may also follow their social media pages on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to find out about the latest campaigns and most up-to-date information around adoption, including the Islamic perspective on adoption and all of My Adoption Family’s services. For a free confidential consultation service, membership in a support network, or access to a buddy service, contact My Adoption Family on 0208 935 5095 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Adoption Family is working in collaboration with Muslim Census to get an insight into Muslim understandings and attitudes towards adoption.
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Monday 18th October to Friday 22nd October is National Adoption Week 2021. During this week My Adoption Family are running an Adoption Friday Campaign with Friday 22nd October as the biggest day for raising awareness about adoption within the Muslim community. Mosques across the country will talk about the important role adoptive parents play and the demand for adopters from a variety of backgrounds to come forward to meet the present needs. Please join us to spread this important message and ask your local imam and mosque to dedicate the Jummah Khutbah to adoption for this week. Click here for more details or to register your mosque and receive the Friday sermon guidance pack click here.
 Statistics briefing, ‘Looked after Children,’ 2021, NSPCC.
 Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, Savita De Sousa, Mphatso Boti Phiri, and Alison Halford, ‘Among the last ones to leave?: Understanding the Journeys of Muslim Children in the Care System in England,’ 2018.
 Adoption UK, https://www.adoptionuk.org/pages/category/you-can-adopt, 2021.
 Krish Kandiah, ‘Black boys wait too long to be adopted. Is the system institutionally racist?’ 15 October 2019, The Guardian.
 al-Qur’ān, 89:17.
 al-Qur’ān, 33:21.
 al-Qur’ān, 33:37.
 Ibn Mājah.
 Omar Suleiman, The Fiqh of Adoption and Fostering (Part 1), 2017, Yaqeen Institute.