Years ago I sat across a couple describing their desire to become parents and the losses they experienced in their attempt to have a child biologically. I watched as slowly the husband moved his hand to touch the hand of his wife while she tried to hold back tears. I remember being so caught up with this small compassionate gesture and became choked up. It isn’t hard to be touched by the simple loving gestures between family members, but in this case it surprised me because the wife was wearing a burqa (the enveloping outer garment worn by some in the Islamic tradition.) For religious Muslims, public displays of affection are typically not seen, including that of handholding.
Prepared for the appointment, I refreshed my knowledge on adoption in various Muslim communities as well as polite ways to greet an observant Muslim couple. I myself dressed modestly with a long skirt and long-sleeves to attempt to make the couple feel comfortable.
I learned that for Islamic word for “adoption” is called kafâla, which literally means sponsorship, and comes from the root word meaning “to feed.” It is the promise to undertake without payment, the care, education and protection of a minor, in the same way a parent would do for their child. The importance of taking homeless children to care for them is well established in Islam.
The most famous orphan in Islamic culture is, without doubt, the Prophet Muhammad. His father died before he was born and by the time he was eight he had lost both his mother and the grandfather who named him. Muhammad was then raised by an uncle who continued to be his protector until his uncle’s death. Muhammad himself can be considered as an adoptive father as his wife gave him a slave named Zaid, and Muhammad freed the boy and raised him as if he were his own son.
Still today, the topic of Adoption and Muslim is not familiar to many. Recently an article was published called The Case for Adoption in Islam, describing the lack of Muslim adoptive and foster families. I can attest to that, outside of the couple described above, we have almost always needed to go outside of the agency’s clientele to “recruit” Muslim prospective adoptive parents when we had a birth parent specifically requesting a Muslim family. Though over the years we have had only a handful of Muslim birth parents, there remains an obvious lack of Muslim adoptive parents.