Question: In the case of an illegitimate child, who is mahram to him/her, who has to support him, and what rights and obligations does the biological father have?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
Although a child born out of wedlock is technically not the child of the biological father, as a point of human and Islamic decency he should step up and help both financially and emotionally, where possible.
The bed and the stone
The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘The child will be attributed to the “bed” and the adulterer will receive the stone.’ (Muslim)
The “bed” here means the marital bond, such that the child will be ascribed to the husband of the wife unless he undertakes a public imprecation of her (lian). (Sharh Muslim, Nawawi)
In the case of a married woman committing adultery, the child would be the mahram of the husband of the child’s mother, and the mahram of his relatives. (Again, unless her husband legally disowns the child (lian wa nafy).)
Now if the woman was not married, she and her relatives, children, and future husband would all be mahrams to the child.
In the case of adultery when the husband does not legally disown the child (lian wa nafy), the husband of the child’s mother would be obliged to support him/her, and he/she will inherit from him. This would apply even after divorce.
Now if the woman was not married, then the child will only be ascribed to her and will have no legal father, so she, or whoever is obliged to support her, would be obliged to support the child. So, for example, if she got married in the future, her husband would then have to support the child.
The child would only inherit from her mother, and not her biological father or new stepfather.
The biological father would in principle have no rights or responsibilities whatsoever. Hence, the stone analogy in the hadith.
Taking some responsibility
When one is old enough to have sex, then one is old enough to take responsibility for one’s actions. Someone who gets a woman pregnant and walks away literally leaving her carrying the baby is extremely inconsiderate.
Being a single mum, no matter what government support this is no easy task. It is emotionally, physically, organisationally, mentally draining, and, for many, financially taxing.
Although it is true that a Sharia court would not oblige the biological father to take any emotional or financial role in the child’s life, there is nothing to say one should not step up and help out someone else in need. This is especially the case when one was the cause of the difficulty placed upon them.
I pray this helps.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language