It is not only childless couples who choose to adopt, many couples with children choose to adopt either family members or orphans to nurture and take care of. Looking after a child as well as arranging for his/her education and well being is an admirable thing. However it should be kept in mind that by adopting a child his/her lineage does not change according to the Shari'ah.
The purpose of this discussion is to explain the laws concerning the adoption of children. These laws should be adhered to at all times and under all conditions. By doing this the adoptive parents will ensure that the rights of the adopted child are not transgressed and in so doing the act of adoption will become most beneficial to the parents.
1. To change the lineage of the adopted child or to write the adoptive parents’ name in place of that of the real parents will be Haram. Care should be taken that at every juncture the real parents’ names are written and that the child is referred to as the child of his/her real parents. It should be made clear as to who the child's real parents are so that people may call the child by his/her original name, ensuring that the child is well aware of his/her true background.
Allah SWT mentions in the Qur’an – “…and Allah has not made your adopted sons your real sons. That is your saying with your mouths. But Allah says the truth. And he guides to the (right) way. Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers, that is more just with Allah. But if you know not their father's (names, call them) your brothers in faith/Islam and freed slaves.” [Sura Al-Ahzab, verses 4&5]
2. If the wife of the adopting couple breast-feeds the child, then the child will become the Ridhau’ee (breast-fed) child of the couple. This means that the child is not required to observe Parda before her adoptive parents and any other children that they may have. The Ridhau’ee will not be permitted to marry any other children that his/her adoptive parents may have had. Finally, the adopted child will not be a heir to the adoptive father’s estate.
3. If the adopted child did not drink the breast milk of the adoptive mother, then the laws of Nikah and Parda will apply as per normal. It will therefore be correct for the adopted child to marry one of his/her adopted parents' children. An adopted girl won't be Haram on the man that adopted her, i.e. he can marry her. Similarly the adopted son won't be Haram on the woman that adopted him, i.e. she can marry him, and he is also allowed to marry the wife of the man that adopted him. It is incumbent upon them to carry out the laws of Pardah. Negligence with regard to this matter may result in many evils.
Nabi(Sall Allahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) made Hadrat Zaid bin Haaritha his son. The Sahaba started to call him Zaid bin Muhammad (Zaid, son of Muhammad). When the aforementioned verses were revealed, the Sahaba once again began calling him Zaid bin Haaritha. When Zaid Bin Haritha (RA) divorced his wife Zainab bint Jahsh, after the completion of her 'Iddah, Nabi(Sall Allahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) married her, even though she was the divorcee of Nabi(Sall Allahu 'Alayhi Wasallam)'s adopted child. It is well known that the son's wife is Haram on the father forever, but because the adopted child is not the real child, the Nikah could therefore be allowed thereby refuting the famous false notion that it is incorrect to marry the adopted son's wife. This marriage is explained in detail in Sura Ahzab.
4. Even though the adopted child is naturally accepted as part of the family, the adopted child will not inherit from the estate of the adoptive parents. To subject the adopted child to the same laws of inheritance as that of the real children will be incorrect. However the adopted child may inherit as a family member, as is the case when one adopts one’s brother's child, it then becomes permissible for the child to become an heir. To be certain this type of case should be discussed with a prominent ‘Aalim.
If the adopted child is not an heir, a bequest can be made on his/her behalf. If the adoptee has real heirs i.e. children, father, brother, sister, husband or wife etc. then the bequest can only be up to a third (1/3) of the total inheritance. If the adoptee has no real heirs then the bequest can be for more than a third (1/3).The adopted child will only have rights over the wealth of the adoptee if he/she is an heir or a bequest was made for him/her or if he/she is the niece/nephew of the adoptee. Besides the above cases the adopted child has no right to claim the wealth of the adoptee.
5. After adoption the child must be allowed to visit his/her real parents, and there must be no difficulty experienced by meeting them. If this child is stopped from meeting his/her real mother, father, brother or sister, this will become Zulm (oppression).
6. The adopted child should not be treated in a different way. It is important to treat the adopted child with love and affection, especially if the child is helpless or in need of more attention. If a person feels that he/she can not maintain a good relationship with an adopted child, then they should not adopt, because instead of being worthy of reward he/she will be regarded as sinful.
7. While the adopted child is a minor, their wealth should be kept safe and not misspent. If the adoptee is needy then he/she can use the wealth of the orphan to provide for any necessities e.g. food clothes etc. In this a lot of precaution should be taken and no wastage should be incurred.
Allah mentions in the Qur’an that “Verily, those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, they eat up only fire into their bellies, and they will be burnt in the blazing fire”
(Sura Al-Nisaa’ verse10).
Therefore care should be taken that one should not spend the child's money on unnecessary things, and the wealth should be used according to the child's needs only. Wastage is to be avoided at all costs. The wealth must not be loaned, charity must not be given from it and it can not be invested. When the child reaches puberty and one feels that he/she is capable of handling the wealth, then the money should either be given to him/her or it should be deposited in an account. Once the child reaches puberty then Zakah will be Wajib on his/her wealth. At this stage he/she has the option of investing their money, on their own free will or by the advice of their guardian and to give out some money as Sadaqa. The guardian should always give that advice which is geared towards the best interests of the child in order ensure that waste is minimal.
8. When the child reaches a marriageable age, find a suitable family into which they can marry. Do not be negligent in finding a suitable family, especially concerning an adopted girl. Try to find the best family. Do not place the adopted child in an unsuitable family for any personal gain or greed or marry them off early for the same reasons. Likewise do not delay the marriage because of greed towards their wealth. Do not marry the child off without his/her consent, and do not force them into an unwanted marriage.
In conclusion we would like to say, that in adopting a child there are huge responsibilities. They deserve more attention than your real children. If a person adhered to all the above mentioned conditions, then he\she is worthy of great reward. However if these conditions are not fulfilled, then the adoptee will be deserving of great punishment.
And Allah Ta’ala knows best.
Mufti Muhammad Ashraf.
Taken (with minor linguistic corrections) from http://www.mahmoodiyah.org.za/adoption_in_islam.htm