Can I Claim a Child from an Illicit Relationship?

Answered by Sidi Wasim Shiliwala

Question: I grew up with little familial guidance. In my early 20s I had a child from an illegitimate relationship. Ever since I found out about this child I denied it to my family, my wife and my friends. I have two young kids with my current wife. The love and devotion I have for my children has given me a wake-up call to consider my other child’s rights upon me. After 5 years of denial I finally told the truth to my entire family including my wife. I don’t know much about Islamic Fiqh but my wife called this child illegitimate. I refused her to label an innocent child as I don’t believe Allah’s creation can be illegitimate. She says that this child cannot be associated with the children we have together or call her their sister. She also says I can’t give this child my name.

My question is this:
– Can I call this child to be mine? Can I give her my name? Can my children and her be called siblings? Can I attempt to raise her under my roof?

Answer: Walaikum As-salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

May Allah reward you for your efforts to be a better parent and take responsibility for your child. It is indeed shameful that you denied your own child for so long, but the path to repentance and repairing one’s wrongs begins with the simple act of taking responsibility for one’s actions. May Allah make this path easy upon you.

All Children Are Equal Before God

Firstly, I want to stress that in no way should this child be treated or considered as less equal, illegitimate, or in any way worse than a child born in wedlock. This goes against the clear injunction of Allah in surah al-An`am that none shall bear the burdens of another. [6:164]

Indeed, it is said that A`isha (may Allah be pleased with her), when asked about a child of adultery, responded that the child has nothing of the sin of the parents, and cited this verse as her proof. [Tafsir ibn Abi Hatim]

Therefore, it is vital that this child be treated as a normal and precious human being, meaning that she should be completely free from any of the stigma attached to her parents’ actions. Your current wife is justified in being upset with you for your actions, but there is absolutely no Islamic basis for her or anyone else to extend this anger to the child in question.

The Rights of the Child

Since you did father this child, you can claim her as your own. This would make her and your current children siblings by means of their shared father. This also means that you have to fulfill the responsibilities of being her parent, including providing support and a means for proper upbringing, and also treating her in a nurturing and just manner. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Fear Allah, and be just with your children.” [Sahih Muslim]

Above all, never should your child have to feel the weight of your past sins. It is therefore your duty as a father to not only treat her as one of your own, but to furthermore do your best to right the wrongs of your past. This means that you have to do even more to make her feel loved, accepted, and supported as a child.

While I commend you for finally accepting responsibility, the fact that you rejected her for 5 years is a tremendous mistake. Not only should you seek Allah’s forgiveness, you must fix your relationship with your daughter and her mother, and do all that you can to repair the damage that your neglect has caused them both.

The Rights of Your Current Wife, and the Importance of a Sound Home

That said, it is indeed true that your current wife cannot be forced to raise a child that is not hers. Furthermore, you cannot simply take custody of the child from her mother. Custody is a very complicated and sensitive issue, so I encourage you to seek legal and religious counsel for advice on how to best approach these matters.

The dynamics of a family are important to keep in mind, as it is quite important for the health and well-being of your children that they grow up in a sound and peaceful home. No good can come from a long and bitter custody battle, nor can any good come from forcing a child to grow up in an environment where she is resented, either secretly or openly, by those around her.

It is therefore vital that you resolve these issues in a manner that prevents your children from being harmed and that preserves a safe and sound home environment for them. This is a delicate process, so I highly encourage that you seek the assistance of a professional family counselor who has experience dealing with these types of problems.

Remember that maintaining sound family relations is an important duty in Islam, and it begins with those closest to you.

May Allah make this trial easy upon your family, and may He protect your children from any type of harm.

Baarak Allahu Fikum,

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani