Muslim Orphans: Are their cries less real?

Muslim Orphans: Are their cries less real?


Many of the boys had financial “sponsors” but they don’t live with them, and remain in the orphanage. Orphans are a trust (amanah) for which the Muslims are responsible.

It is an Islamic social obligation for the Muslim community to care for them, as well as others who are in need.

Today we are faced with an epidemic of millions of orphaned Muslim children. Why is this happening?

What do Islamic teachings tell us about it?

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), himself was orphaned when his father died while his mother was pregnant with him, and his mother died when he was 6 years old. Then he was under the care of his uncle. Later in his life, he cared for an orphan.

Prophet Muhammad said:

"I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise like this," putting his index and middle fingers together. (Al-Bukhari)

Statistics on Orphans

Most often, especially in third world countries, orphan children are not cared for, and thus are left to roam the streets and are subjected to exploitation.

According to UNICEF’s 2010 Orphan statistics report, estimates show that there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide. That's about 48-70% of the population of the United States.

UNICEF only includes children who have lost one or both parents to death in its calculation of the worldwide orphan population. In their reports, numbers do not reflect sold or trafficked children who are living in slavery. Nor do they include those living in countries (including several Muslim countries in the Middle East) who fail to report orphan statistics, nor the scores of orphaned children whose living parents have abandoned them to institutions or life on the street. (New Hope)

In the 2008 Third Annual Report to Congress on Highly Vulnerable Children, they stated that orphans forced into illicit activities (specifically production and trafficking of drugs) (aged 5–17) estimated a total of 600,000 in 2000.

Orphans of War Zones

In these times of the Arab Spring revolts taking place in the Muslim world, there are orphans increasing in dramatic numbers by the minute. Who can best take care of them?

We Muslims are the ones that can do it, and should be the ones to take this role.

{… and do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet)…} (An-Nisa' 4: 36)

The Prophet said:

"The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah's Cause, or like him who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day."  (Al-Bukhari)

So, why are the majority of Muslims so hesitant to care for orphans other than just making donations? 

Dr. Khalifa Al Mohrezi, a specialist in family training and human resource development, said that: 

“Compared to Western communities, Arabs had a negative image of children of unknown parentage.” He then states:

I couldn’t understand how people could logically believe that money alone is all these children needed.

“According to the statistics available, we have about 44 million children in the Arab world who are orphans,” adding that “these children felt inferior as society refused to accept them.” (The Peninsula)

The Plight of Orphan Boys

I once visited a well-known children’s orphanage in Egypt with a friend who was giving classes to the orphans, and the experience melted my heart in unexpected ways.

When we arrived, a mentally challenged boy around 13 years old came up to me and my husband and stood between us arm in arm, smiling ear to ear. We had not even spoken yet, and he was just thrilled to see a “couple” at the orphanage. The boy was so hopeful that we were there to adopt him and take him home with us, and when he realized we were there just as volunteers and observers, his heart broke, and left us crying. It broke my heart.

Of all the 30+ children living in the orphanage, there was only one girl. When I asked the staff why there were so many boys, they told me that no one wants to adopt boys because the women would have to wear hijab around the boys at home.  She told me that many of the boys had financial “sponsors” but they don’t live with them, and remain in the orphanage.

This news devastated me. I couldn’t understand how people could logically believe that money alone is all these children needed. These children long for love and attention, and a sense of belonging to a family. The sponsors only visit the children once or twice a month. My heartstrings were pulling at me from every direction. 

Misconceptions on “Adoption in Islam”

In the western ideology, adoption is usually defined as taking in an orphaned child, supporting them by your means, treating them as you would treat your own child, and giving them your family name.

In Islam, there is no such thing as “adoption” in the western sense of the term. When a Muslim wants to “adopt”, the proper term is “sponsoring” the orphan, because if the orphan is “adopted”, it is understood to be taking the name of the adoptive father.

There are two main types of adoptions called “open adoption” and “closed adoption”.

According to the rules set forth in the Quran:

{…nor has He made your adopted sons your sons. Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths...Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is more just in the sight of Allah…} (Al-Ahzab 33: 4-5)

The Prophet said:

"If somebody claims to be the son of any other than his real father knowingly, he but disbelieves in Allah, and if somebody claims to belong to some folk to whom he does not belong, let such a person take his place in the (Hell) Fire."  (Al-Bukhari)

We often find in western societies that orphans are typically raised truly believing they are the biological offspring of the adoptive parents for their entire lives. Sometimes the child may accidentally find out, most often when they are teenagers or young adults, which can cause severe emotional trauma to the child due to the perception of being deceived their entire lives by the people they loved and trusted most – their parents.

Life-long emotional and psychological affects result, and can include, but not limited to, feelings of abandonment, trust, and anger issues. These affects are very unhealthy for the mental stability of growing children.

Adoption agencies do not help in this matter, but actually encourage it. How?

There are two main types of adoptions called “open adoption” and “closed adoption”. Open adoption is where orphans can keep their family name, and their biological relatives may keep in touch with them, or locate them in the future; whereas, in closed adoptions, orphans take the name of the adoptive parents, and all ties to biological families are severed. The majority of adoptions in the West are “closed” adoptions. 

Inheritance is strictly defined for Muslims in the Quran, thus if a child is thought to be the biological offspring of his parents, this can cause controversy if the parents were to die. It could deny rights given to the real biological children if the child takes the name of the adoptive parents. Muslim orphans are to keep the names of their fathers to prevent these social dilemmas.

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