Adopted child and a gift by will

Q18 : You have stated in the past that adoption is not allowed in Islam. Could you please quote the relevant part of the Qur'an or Hadith which supports your statement. Unaware of this prohibition, some Muslims nevertheless do adopt children. In the case of a person who has adopted a child because he has none, is it permissible for him to give the child by will all his property? If he does, what is the position of his brothers and sisters and also his parents who may survive him?

A18 : That adoption is forbidden in Islam is most certain. As you realize, all things are permissible unless they are ruled otherwise. The authority to forbid something belongs to Allah alone. When He forbids something, He either states the prohibition in the Qur'an or instructs His last messenger to declare it so. Today, we can only declare something forbidden if rulings of prohibition in the Qur'an and the Sunnah apply to it. Let us, therefore, look what the Qur'an says about adoption. In verses 4 and 5 of surah 33, entitled "Al-Ahzab" or "The Confederates" or "The Clan" we read what may be rendered in translation as follows: "He has never made your wives whom you have declared to be as unlawful to you as your mother's bodies truly your mothers, so, too, has He never made your adopted sons truly your sons. They are but figures of speech you utter with your mouths whereas Allah speaks the absolute truth. It is He alone who can show the right path. (As for your adopted children,) call them by their real fathers' names. This is most equitable in the sight of Allah. If you do not know who their fathers are, call them your brethren in faith and your friends." This is a clear statement of prohibition. When Allah says that He has not made a particular relationship in a certain fashion, He means that He disapproves of that fashion. When Allah disapproves of something, He forbids it. Take the other example in this Qur'anic passage. Instead of divorcing their wives, some people try to punish them by making a marital relationship forbidden to them. One of them may say to his wife that she is to him like the body of his mother, meaning that she is unlawful to him. This is clearly forbidden in Islam. In surah 58 entitled "Al-Mujadalah" or "The Pleading", we have the details of what compensation a person who makes such a statement should provide in order to be forgiven. This prohibition, however, is expressed in this verse in the same way as that of adoption. Allah has not made the children we adopt truly our children. He further tells us to call them after their own real fathers' names. There can be no clearer statement of prohibition. This is not to say that a Muslim family may not raise an orphan child or that a woman may not bring up her sister's children or a man may not look after his brother's infants. Indeed, such an action is highly rewarded by Allah. What is most important, however, is to keep the relationship clear and according to the fact. The children must be called after their own parents. We have also the Prophet's sunnah to confirm this prohibition. The Prophet had adopted Zaid ibn Haritha as his son before Islam. Zaid was known from that moment as "Zaid ibn Muhammad". However, when this Qur'anic verse was revealed, Zaid was called after his own father, Haritha. The Prophet continued to love Zaid and his children, especially Ussamah, very dearly. The question of leaving one's property by will to one's adopted child is truly a separate matter. Islam establishes a system of inheritance which is very detailed and fair to all. This system is an essential part of the overall Islamic economic system which ensures the division of property generation after generation. It takes into account the fact that according to Islam, a person is "put in charge" of his property which belongs to Allah. Therefore, it is Allah who decides how property is divided after death. Every one has heirs according to the Islamic system of inheritance. Depending on his own civil status, when a person dies, we have to determine who of his nearest relatives have survived him. We then can determine his heirs. There are several classes of heirs, or that it is more appropriate to say that there are two or three lines of inheritance. The first class is the direct line of inheritance which extends from parents and grandparents to children and grandchildren. Similarly, spouses left behind are of the same class of heirs. Each of these is given a share apportioned to him or her by Allah. No one can deny any heir his or her share. When some of these groups in the direct line of inheritance do not exist, as in the case of a person who dies without having any children, then the deceased's brothers and sisters may have shares of inheritance. Another aspect of this Islamic system is the fact that one cannot either overrule or abuse or add to the system in any way. Thus, no one may disinherit any of his heirs under any circumstances. It is Allah alone who may disinherit them. Take for example the case of a Muslim father whose children are not Muslims. They are disinherited because the rule given to us by the Prophet states: "The followers of two separate religions may not inherit one another." This means that the reverse situation holds true. If the son is a Muslim and the father is a non-Muslim then the father cannot inherit his son. But it is not possible for a Muslim father to say to his disobedient Muslim son that he will disinherit him and make a will to this effect. Such a will is of no effect whatsoever. Islam allows a Muslim to make a will to a particular person or persons, or for a particular purpose, in an amount which does not exceed one third of his property. This is made in order to allow a Muslim to provide for those of his relatives who are not his heirs and who may be in need of support, or to leave something for a charitable purpose, or to look after individuals who need to be looked after. Whatever the situation, a maximum of one third of his property may be bequeathed in this way. However, no one of the heirs may be given anything by will. In other words, the share of any heir cannot be increased by will under any circumstances. When you take all these rules together, you will find that the Islamic system of inheritance is most fair. The example you have cited cannot be acceptable from the Islamic point of view. The adopted child is not a child in the real sense. The person who adopted her cannot leave her by will more than one third of his property. That is if he wants to give her the maximum possible. The rest of his property goes to his heirs. Since he is childless, his direct line of inheritance may extend to his widow, his parents, or grandparents, if any. These have their apportioned shares which they must not exceed, such as one quarter of the property to his wife. The remainder goes to the nearest of his kinsfolk, namely his brothers and sisters who may share it out between them on the basis of one share for a sister and two shares for a brother.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )