US Muslims seek to reconcile Islamic, Western law on adoption to find homes for orphans

Refugee children from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are being resettled here. Muslim couples who can’t conceive want to adopt but don’t want to violate their faith’s teachings. State child welfare agencies that permanently remove Muslim children from troubled homes usually can’t find Muslim families to adopt them because of the restrictions in Islamic law.

The prohibition against adoption would appear contrary to the Quran’s heavy emphasis on helping orphans. The Prophet Muhammad’s father died before his son was born, so the boy’s grandfather and uncle served as his guardians, setting an example for all Muslims to follow.

However, Islamic scholars say the restrictions were actually meant to protect children, by ending abuses in pre-Islamic Arabic tribal society. Advocates for a new interpretation of Islamic law are more hopeful, at least about the prospect for a different approach to the issue in the United States. Mattson argues that the flexibility in Islamic law for accommodating local cultures and customs can lead to a solution.