What is child adoption in islam?
Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him-, who, as a child, was presented to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- by his honorable wife Khadijah -Allah be well-pleased with him- before prophethood, was freed by the Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-. Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him-, however, preferred stay with the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- over returning home with his father. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- thus adopted him as a child.
Because he loved Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him- very much, the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- first had him married to Umm Ayman, a former slave just like Zayd freed by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, and then to Zaynab bint Jahsh –Allah be well-pleased with her-, the daughter of his aunt. Although Zaynab, at first, was hesitant about marrying Zayd, the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- wish, reinforced by the below ayah, ultimately held sway:
“Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you…” (al-Hujurat, 13)
“It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.” (al-Ahzab, 36)
Yet Zaynab’s heart could not warm to Zayd and, as a result, they were on the verge of divorce merely a short while into their marriage. Zayd, too, had his complaints regarding her. When he eventually opened up to the Prophet of Mercy -upon him blessings and peace- about his marital problems, he was advised to:
“Hold on to your wife and fear Allah!”
In fact, informed through Divine Revelation, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- had meanwhile become aware that Zaynab would ultimately end up becoming wed to him; yet hesitant over the possible protests by the hypocrites, that they would raise a storm of malice over the fact that ‘Muhammad had wed the ex-wife of his adopted son’, he was keeping it secret. The custom of the time gave adopted children a natural born status – they were called by their father’s names and given their due of his inheritance.
Not long after, Zayd and Zaynab -Allah be well-pleased with them- were divorced, followed by another Revelation. The Almighty had decreed that His Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- marry Zaynab. This meant that the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- would become the first to implement a command that carried the ultimate aim of abolishing the practice of child adoption, in the way that had been practiced in the Age of Ignorance.
“And when you said to him to whom Allah had shown favor and to whom you had shown a favor: Keep your wife to yourself and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and you concealed in your soul what Allah would bring to light, and you feared men, and Allah had a greater right that you should fear Him. But when Zayd had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the Believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them; and Allah’s command shall be performed.” (al-Ahzab, 37)
Zaynab -Allah be well-pleased with her-, whose marriage to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was entailed by the Divine Command, would always express her appreciation by saying, “It was my Lord who wed me!” (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 33/3213)
But the event sparked the circulation of malicious rumors among the hypocrites, who began expressing their spite by leveling bitter criticisms at the Seal of the Prophets over what they labeled was his marriage to his son’s former wife. But the answer came directly from the Quran:
“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Last of the prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things.” (al-Ahzab, 40)
The event thus marked an end to the practice of child adoption, as had been observed throughout the Age of Ignorance.
The allegations made today by contemporary hypocrites, who claim that the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was attracted to Zaynab’s beauty which was hence the reason for the marriage, are unfounded chatters of ignorance. For Zaynab -Allah be well-pleased with him- was the Noble Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- cousin, his aunt’s daughter to be precise, which means that he did see her on numerous occasions before that. Had the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- nurtured such an intention, he could have easily married Zaynab -Allah be well-pleased with her- well before Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him-, a marriage Zaynab would have absolutely had no scruples with.
Simple and shallow minds so accustomed to evaluate marriage solely from the perspective of lust are forever inept in comprehending the reality of the marriages of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- . Silly and prejudiced judgments inferred by those who have filled their minds and hearts with egoistic inclinations can only be reflections of their sinister, dark worlds. The Noble Messenger’s -upon him blessings and peace- spent the first twenty-four years of his marital life, the years of youth where one naturally carries the most vigor, with the honorable Khadijah -Allah be well-pleased with her-. The marriages he contracted thereafter were completely motivated by certain considerations, be they political or social, but always of Islamic import. An overwhelming majority of these women had been widowed and were older than the Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-. Among them, Aisha -Allah be well-pleased with her- was the only one who was young and never before married. Even that marriage was to maintain, in the long run, the transference of authentic Islamic knowledge, especially those issues pertaining to females, to the generations of Believers to come. In retrospect, Aisha -Allah be well-pleased with her- was gifted with an intelligence and prudence that enabled her to completely grasp all the intricate details of legal matters regarding women, and for long years following the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- passing away continued to enlighten female Believers with her profound insight, her knowledge effectively becoming a major pillar of an important aspect of Islamic law. One of the seven fukaha to have excelled amongst other Companions, it was through her knowledge that Islamic Law became prevalent among female Muslims.
If lust was the motivation behind these marriages, as claimed by the spiteful, then the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- would surely have not spent the most vigorous years of his life with a woman fifteen years his senior who moreover had children from a previous marriage. Only people of wisdom and conscience, who have insight into the unique logic of iman, may appreciate the subtle wisdom in play within these marriages and the sublime ends they were directed to.