Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Adoption in Islam: Should Muslims Keep Following a 7th Century Law

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam 25 January 2022 Most Muslims Are In Dilemma Whether They Can Change Something That Was Practiced By The Prophet Himself. Main Points: 1. The NCPCR has criticized Deoband for their position on adoption. 2. Deoband has long argued that adopted children are not like ones. 3. The Prophet of Islam married the wife of his adopted son. 4. Most Muslims are confused whether they can change something that was mandated by the Prophet himself. ------- Recently the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had castigated the Dar al Ulum Deoband for certain ‘misleading fatwas’ which harm the interest of children. The issue in question is that of adoption wherein the position of NCPCR is different from that of Deoband. Following centuries of legal practice, the Deoband has taken the position that while Muslims couple can adopt, the adopted son or daughter will not be considered as real children. In short, no property rights will devolve on the adopted child. Moreover, when such an adopted child reaches puberty, Islam mandates that proper purdah should be observed between the adopted son and his mother or between the adopted daughter and her father. While the law of the land treats adopted children as real, Islam has a different take on the issue. In 2014, Muslim couples were permitted to adopt by the Supreme Court under the Juvenile Justice Act. But for observant Muslims, this poses a problem as their religion does not make any provision for it. The reasons lie in the life history of Prophet Muhammad who is seen as the perfect manifestation of Islamic faith. Muslims are obliged to follow the path shown by the Prophet. However, Islamic history tells us that the Prophet ended up marrying the wife of his adopted son, Zaid. It appears that before this incident, the Arab society permitted adoption in the fullest sense. But since the Prophetic way became the Sunnah, whatever the Prophet did became the new Islamic norm. And couple of centuries later, it became the Islamic law. Henceforth, Muslims were allowed to care for orphans but could not treat them as their own sons or daughters; far less devolving any property rights on them. The NCPCR is right in highlighting that such rulings from the Deoband seminary infringe on the rights of children. However, there are many other things going on in this country which do the same. The NCPCR, for example, was silent when schools were burnt during the Delhi riots, affecting the fundamental rights of children. In selectively highlighting the regressive opinion of Deoband with regard to adoption, it lends itself to the criticism that it is promoting Islamophobia. And this is what the Students Islamic Organization (SIO) which is the student wing of Jamat e Islami seems to suggest. It accused the NCPCR’s statement as ‘yet another attempt at targeting madrasas and their education by cherry-picking some fatwas and sensationalizing them’. It also stated that fatawa is a personal opinion of religious scholars and none of them carry any legal sanctity or institutional approval. The SIO is also right to argue that Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to minorities. But it overlooks the fact that such freedoms should not transgress the rights of individuals, especially children and women. It is one thing to find fault with the NCPCR for their selectivity but quite another to not recognize that the issue of adoption remains a peculiar problem within the Muslim society. The SIO is doing precisely that: it is putting a veil over the issue so that the problem cannot be discussed openly. Madrasas have been targeted before but accepting this does not mean that everything about these institutions is beyond reproach. Moreover, if there is a fatwa from Deoband, then it carries institutional weight behind it. It is certainly not legally enforceable but we should not forget that millions of Muslims follow it as a statement of Islamic truth. And Deoband is not known for its progressiveness, rather through its fatawa, it has time and again reminded us of its antediluvian mindset. Here are two examples of their fatwa on the issue of adoption: World over, traditional institutions do transform themselves with times. The Christian church was extremely dogmatic during its heydays but today it has accepted even gay marriages as a move towards greater inclusion. But it is a pity to observe that Islamic institutions take special pride in resisting new social and normative changes. The Muslim position on adoption, for example, has not changed for several centuries. Imagine the plight of a Muslim couple who wants to adopt a child but is advised that they can only become its guardians for limited period of time. Imagine the trauma of a Muslim mother or father when they are told to observe purdah from the child that they have brought up since infancy. It is as if the religion itself is incapable of appreciating human sentiments. It is as if the religion of Islam condemns childless couple to have sub-human feelings towards their own children. There is something fundamentally wrong with the way Islamic legal code has been designed. What religion stops human beings from showering love and affection towards their adopted child? What kind of religion would expect that a mother or son could develop a feeling of lust simply because adoption is involved? One might go on arguing that ‘others’ seem to take an unhealthy interest in Islam. But we as Muslims need to recognize that there is something unhealthy indeed about our religious law. And it is only us Muslims who can put a stop to such thinking and practice. Most of us are in a dilemma over changing something that was mandated by the Prophet himself. But then, we need to ask if Islam is all about following the Prophet or is it about a connect with the Almighty? As Muslims, should we be dictated by the contexts and moral standards of 7th century Arabia or should we chart our own contemporary course? ----- A regular columnist with NewAgeIslam.com, Arshad Alam is a writer and researcher on Islam and Muslims in South Asia. URL: https://www.newageislam.com/debating-islam/adoption-muslims-7th-century-law/d/126232 New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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