My readers suggest that it is not known that the companions of the Prophet used to recite the Qur'an and gift the reward of their recitation to dead people. The reason is that they would view such an action as a private matter between themselves and their Lord. Why would anyone mention to other people that he recited a surah and gifted its reward to his mother or to his friend or relative? They were to gain the maximum reward for their actions in the privacy of their own home. Your motive for such publicity may not be free of self-esteem. That is bound to reduce your reward. I do not know of any Hadith or Qur'anic verse which suggests that a recitation of the Qur'an has a special status which suggests that a recitation, pilgrimage or charitable donations may not be so credited. I know of nothing to prevent that. Indeed, Allah's generosity will ensure that the reward is credited to the person to whom it is gifted, while the reciter will be rewarded for his kindness. [This is different from the act of gathering people to recite Qur'an on behalf of the deceased. Such recitations are private matters.]
The best thing that can be done on behalf of a dead person is sadaqah or charitable donation. The best of that is something which continues over a long period of time. A pilgrimage on his behalf will be highly rewarded. Prayer to Allah to forgive him and bestow His mercy on him is also sure to be answered.
• Addressing prayers to the Prophet
1. Is it true that to pray Allah to forgive our sins taking into consideration the love and affection Allah bears to the Prophet is a form of polytheism? I am at a loss to understand how it could be so. How then can we ask the Prophet on the day of judgment to plead for us, when Allah Himself is ever closer of access to us on that day?
2. It is our belief that the Prophet will make on the day of judgment recommendations to Allah for the forgiveness of his followers. Keeping this in mind, it is appropriate to supplicate and request the Prophet to recommend us for forgiveness? Could you also please explain whether there are differences of opinion among leading scholars in this respect, i.e., addressing Allah through an intermediary.
The first point which I would like to make regarding this question, which comes up time after time, is: Who needs an intermediary? Allah Himself tells us in the Qur'an that He is near to us and that He always answers prayers by His servants. He instructs the Prophet in the following term: "If My servants ask you about Me, I am near, I answer the prayer of anyone who prays to Me. Let them, then, respond to Me and believe in Me so that they may be rightly guided."(2:186). We also read in the Qur'an "Your Lord says: Pray to Me and I will respond to you."(40:60) There are several verses in the Qur'an which emphasize the fact that Allah answers prayers when we pray to Him. Furthermore, the instructions to address Him directly are very clear in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Therefore, who needs an intermediary?
Muslim scholars and those non-Muslims who study Islam agree that one of the sources of strength of the faith of Islam is the direct relationship it establishes between every individual and Allah. You are undoubtedly aware that Islam does not establish or recognize any clerical order. Individual responsibility is a fundamental principle of Islam and its correlation is the direct access which Islam establishes between the individual and his Lord.
Furthermore, Islam tells us that our salvation in the hereafter depends on our actions. The Prophet tells his own daughter: "Fatima, work (for your salvation), because I will be of no benefit to you in front of Allah." Ask yourself: when do you need an intermediary to achieve a certain end? The answer will be that an intermediary may be needed when you do not have a direct access to the person to whom you want to put your case, or when your position in relation to him is very weak. In the latter case, you seek the help of someone who has some influence on the person concerned. Does either type apply to Allah? The answer is definitely not.
It is an aspect of Allah's grace that He has given every single one of us direct access to Him. We address Him with our prayers, whether these prayers relate to matters of this world or of the hereafter. He listens to us and answers all our prayers. Moreover, in relation to Allah, we have an equal standing. It is our actions that draw us closer to Him. When any person addresses Allah, with sincerity and humility, he is certain to have his prayers answered. Indeed, Allah answers the prayers of people who may have been a short while earlier non-believers.
The point is when they address Him, they recognize his Lordship over them and over the whole universe. When they seek His help they also recognize that the God-head belongs to Him. At that very moment of praying to Him, they, either directly or indirectly, believe in Him and in His power.
He gives us in the Qur'an the example of the people who find themselves in a boat in the sea, and fierce wind blows and they are about to drown. At that moment, they pray to Him with total sincerity and devotion: Save us and we will ever be thankful to You. He saves them, but they nevertheless turn away from Him.(11:22) He also describes himself as the One "Who responds to a person in dire need when he prays to Him" (26:62) It is to be noted that this last description comes within the context of enumerating some of the most prominent of Allah's attributes. He does not describe Himself as answering the prayers of believers, but of those who are in dire need. The only requirement is that they recognize His Lordship over them, and the fact that they address their prayers to Him is such recognition.
When we realize that by addressing a prayer to Allah we are demonstrating our recognition of His Lordship over the universe, it stands to reason that addressing our prayers through an intermediary is a form of associating an intermediary to Allah as a partner. Allah accepts no partners.
He says in a qudsi hadith: "I am in no need of any partner. I abandon anyone who associates a partner with Me. He can take what he wants from that partner."
• Adoption: A mistake to be undone — how?
My wife once brought a one-month old child from a nursing home, and the child was registered in my name. She is now 6 years of age, and my own three children love her so much. We realize now that we have done a big mistake. What should we do now?
The important thing to know with regard to adoption is that what is forbidden is to make the child you bring up as your own son or daughter, giving them your family name and telling people that the child is your own. All that is false, because you know that the child is not your own, and that you are not a parent to him or her. At the same time, it is a great act of kindness to bring up a child who is abandoned or who has no family to look after it. If your wife has brought this girl from the nursing home because she [the child] has no family and your wife found it difficult to leave her without care, then you are doing an exemplary act of kindness.
However, you must not call the child as your own. You should not give her your surname, or enter her in the records as your own child. You should tell her that she does not belong to the family in name, but you continue to extend to her a kindly treatment, bringing her up as you bring up your other children. If you do not know her real surname, you should still make it clear to her that she does not belong to the family by blood. This will affect her rights of inheritance, and her attitude to your other children. If you have a son, she may marry him when they grow up. Whether they would want to do that or not is a different matter. I am only concerned with the requirement that she needs to know that her relationship with your family is the one of upbringing, and not as a blood tie.
• Adoption: Gift by will
You have stated in the past that adoption is not allowed in Islam. Could you please quote the relevant part of the Qur'an or Hadith which supports your statement. Unaware of this prohibition, some Muslims nevertheless do adopt children. In the case of a person who has adopted a child because he has none, is it permissible for him to give the child by will all his property? If he does, what is the position of his brothers and sisters and also his parents who may survive him?
That adoption is forbidden in Islam is most certain. As you realize, all things are permissible unless they are ruled otherwise. The authority to forbid something belongs to Allah alone. When He forbids something, He either states the prohibition in the Qur'an or instructs His last messenger to declare it so. Today, we can only declare something forbidden if rulings of prohibition in the Qur'an and the Sunnah apply to it. Let us, therefore, look what the Qur'an says about adoption.
In verses 4 and 5 of surah 33, entitled "Al-Ahzab" or "The Confederates" or "The Clan" we read what may be rendered in translation as follows: "He has never made your wives whom you have declared to be as unlawful to you as your mother's bodies truly your mothers, so, too, has He never made your adopted sons truly your sons. They are but figures of speech you utter with your mouths whereas Allah speaks the absolute truth. It is He alone who can show the right path. (As for your adopted children,) call them by their real fathers' names. This is most equitable in the sight of Allah. If you do not know who their fathers are, call them your brethren in faith and your friends."
This is a clear statement of prohibition. When Allah says that He has not made a particular relationship in a certain fashion, He means that He disapproves of that fashion. When Allah disapproves of something, He forbids it. Take the other example in this Qur'anic passage. Instead of divorcing their wives, some people try to punish them by making a marital relationship forbidden to them. One of them may say to his wife that she is to him like the body of his mother, meaning that she is unlawful to him. This is clearly forbidden in Islam. In surah 58 entitled "Al-Mujadalah" or "The Pleading", we have the details of what compensation a person who makes such a statement should provide in order to be forgiven. This prohibition, however, is expressed in this verse in the same way as that of adoption. Allah has not made the children we adopt truly our children. He further tells us to call them after their own real fathers' names. There can be no clearer statement of prohibition.
This is not to say that a Muslim family may not raise an orphan child or that a woman may not bring up her sister's children or a man may not look after his brother's infants. Indeed, such an action is highly rewarded by Allah. What is most important, however, is to keep the relationship clear and according to the fact. The children must be called after their own parents.
We have also the Prophet's sunnah to confirm this prohibition. The Prophet had adopted Zaid ibn Haritha as his son before Islam. Zaid was known from that moment as "Zaid ibn Muhammad". However, when this Qur'anic verse was revealed, Zaid was called after his own father, Haritha. The Prophet continued to love Zaid and his children, especially Ussamah, very dearly.
The question of leaving one's property by will to one's adopted child is truly a separate matter. Islam establishes a system of inheritance which is very detailed and fair to all. This system is an essential part of the overall Islamic economic system which ensures the division of property generation after generation. It takes into account the fact that according to Islam, a person is "put in charge" of his property which belongs to Allah. Therefore, it is Allah who decides how property is divided after death. Every one has heirs according to the Islamic system of inheritance. Depending on his own civil status, when a person dies, we have to determine who of his nearest relatives have survived him. We then can determine his heirs. There are several classes of heirs, or that it is more appropriate to say that there are two or three lines of inheritance. The first class is the direct line of inheritance which extends from parents and grandparents to children and grandchildren. Similarly, spouses left behind are of the same class of heirs. Each of these is given a share apportioned to him or her by Allah. No one can deny any heir his or her share. When some of these groups in the direct line of inheritance do not exist, as in the case of a person who dies without having any children, then the deceased's brothers and sisters may have shares of inheritance.
Another aspect of this Islamic system is the fact that one cannot either overrule or abuse or add to the system in any way. Thus, no one may disinherit any of his heirs under any circumstances. It is Allah alone who may disinherit them. Take for example the case of a Muslim father whose children are not Muslims. They are disinherited because the rule given to us by the Prophet states: "The followers of two separate religions may not inherit one another." This means that the reverse situation holds true. If the son is a Muslim and the father is a non-Muslim then the father cannot inherit his son. But it is not possible for a Muslim father to say to his disobedient Muslim son that he will disinherit him and make a will to this effect. Such a will is of no effect whatsoever.
Islam allows a Muslim to make a will to a particular person or persons, or for a particular purpose, in an amount which does not exceed one third of his property. This is made in order to allow a Muslim to provide for those of his relatives who are not his heirs and who may be in need of support, or to leave something for a charitable purpose, or to look after individuals who need to be looked after. Whatever the situation, a maximum of one third of his property may be bequeathed in this way.
However, no one of the heirs may be given anything by will. In other words, the share of any heir cannot be increased by will under any circumstances. When you take all these rules together, you will find that the Islamic system of inheritance is most fair. The example you have cited cannot be acceptable from the Islamic point of view. The adopted child is not a child in the real sense. The person who adopted her cannot leave her by will more than one third of his property. That is if he wants to give her the maximum possible. The rest of his property goes to his heirs. Since he is childless, his direct line of inheritance may extend to his widow, his parents, or grandparents, if any. These have their apportioned shares which they must not exceed, such as one quarter of the property to his wife. The remainder goes to the nearest of his kinsfolk, namely his brothers and sisters who may share it out between them on the basis of one share for a sister and two shares for a brother.
• Adoption: Inheritance
Can a childless couple adopt a child? If so, will the child be entitled to inherit the property of the adopting couple?
I have spoken at length recently about adoption and made it absolutely clear that Islam does not allow it. It is forbidden in our faith. However, to bring up an orphan child is an act of charity which will be highly rewarded. But this must not be by way of adoption as such. The person who looks after an orphan should not call him his own child. The child must retain his or her name and must be called after his or her father. [Added: it may be that the parenthood is not known to the family who takes upon itself to bring up an orphan child. In that case the child must be treated as a brethren. This does not alter the status of the directive in Islam and the child cannot be called their own child.]
Since adoption is not allowed altogether, the question of inheritance does not arise. However, if someone raises an orphan child, he can leave him a portion of his property by will. As you know, every person is allowed to bequeath by will up to one third of his property, but the beneficiaries of his will cannot include any of his heirs.
• Adoption: Prohibited in Islam
Adoption is forbidden in Islam. But according to authentic Hadiths related by Al-Bukhari, the Prophet adopted a son named Zaid. Please comment.
Both statements of the prohibition of adoption in Islam and the Prophet's adoption of Zaid are correct. The explanation of these two apparently contradictory facts lies in their chronological order.
Zaid ibn Haritha was a young child when he was kidnapped by fighters who raided the living quarters of his tribe when their men were out on their business. Zaid was sold as a slave and he ended up in Makkah when he was given as a gift by her uncle to Khadeejah, who later was married to Muhammad, her third husband. At that time, he was 25 years of age. Lady Khadeejah was a rich woman who married Muhammad, having learned much about his character which filled her with admiration. At that time, Muhammad was being carefully prepared by Allah for his forthcoming mission as the last prophet to be sent to mankind. Needless to say, neither he nor Khadeejah knew anything at that time. Prophet-hood came 15 years after his marriage.
Khadeejah made a gift of Zaid to her husband so that he would have a good servant.
Zaid's father was full of grief when he learned of what had happened to his son. He tried hard to find out where he was carried to. Perhaps, it was a few years before he learned that Zaid was in Makkah, a slave in one of its most distinguished households. He, therefore, traveled with his brother hoping to buy his son's freedom. When they spoke to Muhammad about Zaid, they requested him to agree to sell Zaid back to them and to accept a reasonable price for him. He made them a different offer saying: "I will charge you nothing. If he prefers to stay with me, I will not part with anyone who prefers my company." They said: "This is indeed a very reasonable offer." When Zaid was called in, Muhammad asked him whether he recognized the two men. On receiving an affirmative answer, Muhammad offered him the choice of going back or staying with him. Unhesitatingly, Zaid chose to stay with Muhammad saying to his father and his uncle, "I have seen things of this man which make me keen never to part with him." When Zaid made his choice, Muhammad took him by the hand and went to the Ka'aba where he addressed the people present saying to them: "Bear witness that I have adopted Zaid as a son who will inherit me and I will inherit him." Zaid's father was gratified and he went back home with his brother.
This is how the adoption of Zaid by the Prophet came to pass, long before he became a prophet. Ever since that day, Zaid was called in Makkah and everywhere else as "Zaid ibn Muhammad." This continued to be the case throughout the 13 years during which the Prophet preached his message in Makkah and in the early years of his stay in Madinah. It was later that the verses of the Qur'an which speak of adoption were revealed. These make it clear that adoption is prohibited and that every adopted son or daughter must be called after his or her real father. This automatically abrogated the adoption of Zaid who reverted to his original name, Zaid ibn Haritha, in compliance with Allah's orders.
The Prophet was very kind to Zaid through their association. He arranged Zaid's marriage to his own wet nurse Umm Ayman who gave birth to Zaid's son Ussamah, whom the Prophet loved very dearly. Later on, the Prophet married Zaid to his own cousin, Lady Zainab, who only accepted the marriage to please the Prophet. The marriage was an unhappy one and Zaid reluctantly divorced Zainab. The seal on the prohibition was placed by Allah Himself when He instructed the Prophet to marry Zainab. Thus, the Prophet demonstrated practically the nullification of all adoption. Had adoption been of any significance, it would not have been possible that the Prophet marries a former wife of his former adopted son. The fact that the marriage took place and was specifically ordered by Allah left no doubt whatsoever that adoption is totally forbidden in Islam.
• Adoption: Voluntary-care and guardianship
You say that adoption is prohibited in Islam. But in English language, the word "adoption" means what you also say to be permitted in Islam, namely the bringing up of another person's child, and to educate and help that child. In my dictionary, the word is defined as: "to take voluntarily into any relationship, especially that of a son." The operative word here is "voluntarily." There is no sense of anything legal taking place.
I have adopted children, and I believe I am bringing them up voluntarily. I have no wish to take away their names from them. Yet I had to go through the legal process of adopting them because without the right sort of papers I would not be able to bring them up and care for them. I would have had to abandon them. I have my work here [in the Kingdom] and I could not have brought these children with me unless they have my name on their passports. To get such passports for them , there is no way other than to go through a lengthy legal process overseas. While I do not disagree with the logic of your reply on adoption, may I point out that you define it in an excessively legalistic way, whereas in English it merely means the voluntary bringing up of children who are not one's own. I am saying this because I realize that simple misunderstanding may often be the cause of major disputes.
I am grateful for bringing up this question which has great practical importance. Let me first sort out the linguistic aspect. In the dictionary I have on my computer, which is a Webster dictionary, the word "adoption" is shown to have six meanings. The one mentioned by my reader is the third one. The two that precede it are: "1. to choose or take and use as one's own: to adopt a nickname. 2. to take and rear (the child of others) as one's own child, especially by a formal legal act." These two meanings of the word are the ones which are forbidden in Islam when it comes to adopting children. It is taking the child, whether he has known parents or not, from a hospital, or an orphanage, or an agency, giving the child one's own family name and claiming that he is one's own child. This is followed by a legal process, which can be very lengthy and complicated to ensure that the child is legally recognized as belonging to the adopting couple as their own.
On the other hand, people may take into their family an orphan child, or one who belongs to a very poor family, and bring it up, giving that child the sort of care and education they would give to their own children. They have no motive to do so other than to be kind to that child. They do not try to claim the child as their own, nor do they give it their own family name. That is a great act of charity, for which God rewards very generously.
My reader points out a practical problem when a family brings up an orphan child. That is the problem of mobility. If the family wants to travel, what would they do with the child in their care? In many countries, they would not be allowed to travel with the child, and many would not give the child a visa, along with the rest of the family. But it is not merely travel that may be an obstacle. There are similar problems that may have repercussions for both the child and the family. Legal adoption, as practiced in Western societies, would put an end to these problems once and for all, because it gives the family the facility to produce documents and papers which would show the child as belonging to that family.
I know a childless couple who were keen to do whatever they could to children who had no family. They were regular visitors to an orphanage in their hometown, where they helped the staff and looked after children. On one of their visits, they were introduced to a new child who was brought in after her grandmother had died, with both her parents having died earlier. They immediately fell in love with the child who also seemed to be fond with them. She would not let go of them. They sought permission of the orphanage authorities to take her home for a few days. Then it was emotionally impossible for them to take her back to the orphanage. They decided to bring her up themselves. The idea of legal adoption did not occur to them, because they knew that it was forbidden in Islam. They arranged for special entries in the government offices concerned that they were looking after the child, but that was the beginning of their troubles. Endless formalities at every step meant that they were always going to and from the government offices, seeking one permission to do this and another to do that. They tried hard with the authorities to find a formula where they could be left in peace to look after the child and give her the best upbringing they could, but that was not possible. What added to their problem was the fact that the man was not based in his own country, as he worked for an international company. When his problems mounted, he felt that the only alternative to abandoning the child was to adopt her formally and to have her added to his passport. When he did that, all his troubles came to an end.