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by Patricia Irwin Johnston, MS


The guardian/child relationship has specific rules under Islamic law which render the relationship a bit different than what is common adoption practice today. The Islamic term for what is commonly called adoption is kafala, which comes from a word that means "to feed." In essence, it describes more of a foster-parent relationship. Some of the rules in Islam surrounding this relationship:

  • An adopted child retains his or her own biological family name (surname) and does not change his or her name to match that of the adoptive family.
  • An adopted child inherits from his or her biological parents, not automatically from the adoptive parents.
  • When the child is grown, members of the adoptive family are not considered blood relatives, and are therefore not muhrim to him or her. "Muhrim" refers to a specific legal relationship that regulates marriage and other aspects of life. Essentially, members of the adoptive family would be permissible as possible marriage partners, and rules of modesty exist between the grown child and adoptive family members of the opposite sex.
  • If the child is provided with property/wealth from the biological family, adoptive parents are commanded to take care to not intermingle that property/wealth with their own. They serve merely as trustees.
  • These Islamic rules emphasize to the adoptive family that they are not taking the place of the biological family--they are trustees and caretakers of someone else's child. Their role is very clearly defined, but nevertheless very valued and important. 1

    1 Huda. "Adopting a Child in Islam" About.com islam.about.com/cs/parenting/a/adoption.htm


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