the Fatwa Department Research Committee - chaired by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî
The question of adoption in Islam is one that is very often misunderstood.
Islam does not prohibit adoption. Rather, Islam provides teachings to allow adoption while, at the same time, preserving the integrity of the family line.
Adoption of children for the purpose of bringing them up and caring for them is not only permissible, but in fact a very good and blessed deed, especially in the case of orphans and foundlings.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I and the one who sponsors an orphan are like this in Paradise.” Then he joined between his index and middle fingers.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (5304)]
Adoption is certainly not prohibited. What is unlawful is to attribute one’s adopted child to oneself, as if there is a biological relationship. This is because Islam seeks to safeguard biological lineage and not confuse lineage.
Allah says in the Qur’ân about adopted children: “Call them by the names of their fathers: that is more just in the sight of Allah, but if you do not know their father’s names, (then they are) your brothers in faith, or your wards, but there is no blame on you if you make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts.”
We can see from this verse that calling one’s adopted ward “son” or “daughter” out of affection without meaning it literally is allowed. The same can be said for an adopted child calling the people who adopted him “father” and “mother” out of love respect. This is perfectly alright.
It is lawful to bring up children in one’s house and to love them as one love’s one’s own children, but their attribution of those children should always be to their true, biological parents. If the identity of the child’s parents is unknown, then the child should be given a general attribution that originates with the child.
As Allah says in the Qur’ân: “...but if you do not know their father’s names, (then they are) your brothers in faith, or your wards.”
In Islamic Law, since adopted children retain their own family identity and do not assume that of their guardians, they may even marry from the families of their guardians. This is because the biological children of the guardians are not, in Islamic Law, the adopted child’s brothers and sisters, though they may have a close friendly relationship with each other.
Likewise, adopted children do not automatically inherit from their guardians who adopted them.
Because the adopted child does not receive a fixed portion of the guardians’ estate, the child’s guardians should make a bequest to their adopted ward. A person can bequeath up to one-third of the total estate to non-inheritors. Indeed, this means that, in many cases, an adopted child can receive more of the estate through a bequest than the biological children receive through their fixed and unalterable share of the inheritance.
The wisdom behind this might possibly be that an adopted ward may have less of a community support structure than a child who has a family. In any event, the amount of the estate that an adopted child may inherit as a bequest is left to the wisdom and discretion of those who adopt the child, up to one-third of the estate.
And Allah knows best.
Source: Islam Today