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Orphans: Bringing Up and Adoption

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Q: The Prophet (Pbuh) has spoken very highly of those who bring up orphans and said that they will be rewarded generously by Allah. Yet we see in society that orphans, particularly if they do not have known parents, are not accepted in the society, much less in homes. Fostering parents may feel it necessary to inform their family members about the origin or parents of the orphan they are fostering. A childless couple may wish to foster an orphan, but pressure of society may cause them not to consider this option which could be very highly rewarding for both of them in terms of happiness in the life and grace of Allah on the day of judgment. Is it true to say that there is a gap between theory and practice, that what people have learned of Islamic values do not have much bearing on their behavior?

This dichotomy between theory and practice is not peculiar to Muslims or Islamic society. It is indeed very common. Quite often people cannot live up to ideals they profess. You may sometimes want to point out to a friend that he needs to bring his practices
in line with his beliefs, but you try to be gentle with him by putting your comments in a very general manner. You will find him immediately concurring with what you say. He may be even more enthusiastic and say clearly that if everyone of us would care to implement about one quarter of his ideals, our society would improve tremendously. It is simply that people fail to live up to what
they profess. The fact that this is a common situation which we may encounter in most countries offers no consolation. Other communities and societies may accept this as a fact of life and try to live with it. As Muslims we may recognize it as a fact of life, but that should not stop us working to change it. The change should aim at bringing practice in line with belief.  it is important to  understand that this life of ours is merely a journey which can end up in either one of two widely different destinations. On the day of resurrection, we are judged by Allah on the basis of our actions in this life. If our actions do not match up to our professed beliefs, Allah will question us about this fact which we will not be able to justify by claiming ignorance of  Islamic values. This is because we have been claiming that we truly believe in Islamic values, so the knowledge is there. The dichotomy is a result of our failure to act on the basis of our knowledge. Hence, we will not be able to give any good answer to this question which Allah will put to us about our failure. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) has emphasized in every possible  manner that Muslims must show that their beliefs are real and that they truly implement their religious teachings. He defines true faith as something that is “deeply entrenched in our hearts and to which credence is  given by action.” This means that a person cannot be a true believer unless his actions acquire the true colors of his faith. In the example you have given, you have put your finger on something where social considerations are widely different from Islamic teachings. Allah tells us in the Qur’an to be kind to orphans. The Prophet has emphasized the high reward Allah  has in store for those who take good care of orphans. Yet, people attach too much importance to  lineage and family connections. An orphan whose parents are unknown is treated as if his abandonment by his parents is his own fault. While  this attitude is quite common, it is by no means general. Some people certainly look at an abandoned child as totally blameless. His parents may have been guilty of a very serious offense, but he bears no responsibility for their offenses. He is to be treated as free of all kinds of guilt. There are many couples who consider fostering an orphan or bringing up, in order to earn Allah’s reward. There is, however, an important point to consider in this connection. This relates to the adoption of an orphan child. As you may know, Islam does not approve of adoption, because it is based on a false attachment. While it is highly commendable to bring up an orphan child, it is forbidden to claim that child as yours.  perhaps the reluctance of Muslims to foster an orphan is due, in some measure, to that. I know of a couple who have decided to bring up an orphan girl. They encountered a long list of red-tape obstacles before they could regularize her situation with them. Whatever the reasons, we should look at the situation in a wider perspective. Everyone of us should work hard within our community in order to ensure that people give practical credence to their beliefs. We have to tell them that Allah will not accept what they profess unless they practice what they preach. We should give every encouragement to those who are brave enough to defy the social norm in order to implement the religious value. By doing so, we help make our community more  ruly Islamic. That is a great task to which we should all contribute.