Is My Adopted Son Mahram?

Shaykh Jamir Meah advises on adoption, the rulings on mahram, and telling the truth to an adopted child.

My question is: I was childless me and my husband adapted the son of my husband’s brother. Ten years ago my husband died. This boy is 29 and I am 60 so there is huge age gap. My son doesn’t know I am not his real mom, so like an actual mother, when he comes home he shows his respect with hugs, and kisses on the head. What are the rulings on this? I need guidance.

This is a very sensitive issue, however, if handled carefully, will work out fine insha Allah. There are two issues that need to be dealt with; informing your husband’s nephew and adopted son of his real parents, and how to interact with each other.  

Telling the Truth

You should tell your adopted son the truth about his parents. This may be very difficult to do, but he has a right to know who his real mother and father are. It is not clear from the information given whether his real parents are alive or not, which may simplify or complicate the process. 

Either way, hopefully he will realize that what you and your husband did was out of love. He is a grown man and should understand the complexities of the situation. You may also want to seek advice from other family members who can support both you and him during this process.  

Mahram (Non-Marriageable Kin)

Because he is your late husband’s nephew, your adopted son is not your mahram, unless you breastfed him when he was under the age of two years old, with certain conditions fulfilled. For further details on who would be your mahram please consult this answer

This means that a) you will have to fully cover in front of him except for your face and hands, b) avoid seclusion with him, and c) avoid physical contact.  

I understand that this is going to be the most difficult and strange thing to you both as your relationship is of mother and son. Therefore, be patient and know that your love and care for each other will not go unrewarded and whatever hardship you undergo for the sake of Allah, will be recompensed. It may take more thought and effort, but try to find ways you can be in each other’s company lawfully, such as with another female family member present, so you can still enjoy one another’s company.  

If at times, the maternal bond over takes you and you forget or slip in your interaction, or your adopted son towards you, then do your best to stay within the limits while being assured that Allah Most High is most Knowing and ever Compassionate.  

I wish you both every happiness, and that your bond is made stronger for the sake of Allah Most High. 

Warmest salams,


Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Can I Give an Adopted Child My Surname?

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat is asked about adoption, giving an adopted child one’s name, and how to make the child one’s mahram.


Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I am planning on adopting a baby. I am aware of the rule against naming the child after your surname. It is not permissible.

However, I have come to know of babies whose birth certificates were never completely filled out, or the mother named them not after themselves or named them after a drug or did not name them properly at all (i.e. I found a little girl up for adoption and her name was “Baby Girl” as her full name). Surely if I were to face a situation like this I can give her my surname?

Also, I cannot produce breast milk, so if I were to adopt a boy/girl, how do I make them mahram? Is there some other way? Please tell me there is.


Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

The short answer is that it is permissible for you to give your surname to a child that you adopt. There are also a few means you can take to make the child a mahram to you if he or she is less than two years old.

Adoption In Islam

Adoption, meaning taking legal responsibility for the upbringing of a child, is permissible in Islam. There is a lot of confusion around this topic.

The Sacred Law prohibits the pre-Islamic (Jahili) practice of “tabanni.” This is when a person “adopts” a child and essentially changes the lineage of the child.

The child is not known as the son or daughter of his or her father, but rather, as the offspring of the adopter. This is a problem because the Shari‘a aims to preserve lineage as much as possible. Discarding one’s lineage and taking someone else as one’s father is ingratitude for the blessing of parentage.

There is also the point of a number of rulings of the Shari‘a being based on lineage – such as the impermissibility of marrying certain individuals, financial obligations, inheritance, dress, seclusion, etc. The jahili practice undermined all of these rulings and obligations. For this the Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever knowingly claims that someone other than his real father is his father, Paradise is prohibited for him.” (Bukhari)

Lineage gives one a sense of belonging to a greater community, and Allah has created us as tribes and sub-tribes so we can have good relationships with each other (Sura al-Hujarat 49:13). Experts on trauma mention that having strong relationships with people helps prevent trauma set in when people undergo difficult situations.

For these, and other wisdoms, Allah abolished the pre-Islamic form of adoption saying, “Address them as [being descendants of their] fathers; that is fairer in the sight of Allah.” (Sura al-Ahzab 33:5). (Sayis, Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam)


A surname is not an indicator of one’s lineage. Many a time it is an old family name, or the name of a distant ancestor, or even the husbands surname name for a lady who changes her name.

Giving an adopted child your surname is not tantamount to changing his lineage – especially if you make it clear to him that he is adopted. Doing so when it will make legal procedures easier makes sense too.

Becoming A Child’s Mahram

You only need to be concerned here if the child is of the opposite gender to you. Also, before puberty there is usually no need to be worried this issue.

If you adopt a boy, and he is less than 24 lunar months old either you or one of you sisters can breastfeed him, and he will become a mahram for you both. If it is a girl, one of your husband’s sisters could breastfeed her for the same ruling.

It is possible to lactate without getting pregnant. There are various hormone regimens which you could take to produce this effect. Any child who drinks that milk would become a mahram to you. (Al-Midani, Al-Lubab)

If this is not possible, then you should consult with a reliable local scholar as there are others means which to bring about this ruling, but they require detail.

May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.


Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Infertility: Why does Allah Not Bless Some With Children?

As part of the SeekersHub Ramadan series, Supplications from the Qur’an, Shaykh Ahmed Sa’ad al-Azhari addressed a sensitive and sometimes painful topic:


Why does Allah bless some of us with children, and others not? Is it better to be a happy, childless couple than to be an unhappy pair of parents to a child, who has been sent to test us? When praying for Allah to grant us children, what should we pray for – just any child or one that is a “trust bearer”?

This is a beautiful, concise explanation – just ten minutes, that is sure to move you and humble you.

Listen to it on our podcast or watch it here:


Resources on infertility and parenting:

The Powerful Dua of a Parent
Maryam: Blessed Mother & Child
Raising a Muslim with Manners
Prophetic Advice For Raising Righteous Children
Raising Children with Deen and Dunya
Making Ramadan a Time for Young Hearts to Grow
Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children
The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children
On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children
Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz’s advice on duas to read during pregnancy and labour and for infertility

Who is an Orphan?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalamu alaykum,
We have, from the child welfare, been given the responsibility of a two days old baby. His mother dosen’t want anything to do with him, and the father is said to be immature.They are non muslims.
Is this baby a yateem/orphan? What are his rights that we have to fulfill?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
The orphan is the child whose father dies. [Nasafi, Tilbat al-Talaba]
What you have described would be considered to be adoption. Treat the child as your own, give him a healthy, religious upbringing, and ask Allah to make this opportunity a means of winning unto His Supreme Good Pleasure in this life and the Next.
Please see the following articles for further advice and details: The Fiqh of Adoption and: Giving an Adopted Child Your Family Name and: The Position of Islam on Divorce, Adoption and Abortion
And Allah alone gives success.
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Giving an Adopted Child Your Family Name

Answered by Shaykh Rami Nsour

Question: I’ve read “The Fiqh of Adoption” on your website. I have questions regarding the legal issues that arise when we want to care for an orphan, particularly an abandoned baby. Please shed some light on this important issue that is the cause of many people not helping when they are able.

In some Muslim countries, there are thousands of babies abandoned each year who are sent to orphanages. Since there are so many that are not being cared by people within that country, is it permissible to “adopt” those children and bring them to one’s own country?

In the US, a new birth certificate is issued with the adoptive parents’ names on it. Is this a hindrance if the child is raised to know the adoptive parents are not his blood parents?

What do we do about naming a child when the father’s name (and mother’s name) are unknown as in the case of babies found on the streets? Can the child in this circumstance be given the adoptive father’s family name or should it be given some other sort of name?


The Obligation of Caring for Orphans

In terms of caring for orphans or abandoned children, this is an obligation upon the Muslim community and a very noble act. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “I and the caretaker of the orphan will be in Paradise like these [two fingers]” then he held up his index finger and middle finger together [Bukhari]. If you are planning on caring for an orphan or an abandoned child, I ask that Allah ennoble you in this life and the next and that He give me the ability to follow in your footsteps.

What is Prohibited When Adopting?

In terms of adoption, the thing that is prohibited is changing the lineage of the child. This would be where the child refers to the adoptive parent as their father or mother, and does not claim the true parent to be their parent [Maharim al Lisaan, Muhammad Mawlud].

If a person needs to file legal paperwork to be given the guardianship of a child or to process visa work, there may be a requirement to give the child the family’s name. This is permissible as long as the child is raised to know his or her lineage and that the legal last name is merely for registration purposes.

Historical Examples of Taking on Another Family Name

One thing to point out is that in many societies, entire tribes would take on the names of other tribes for various reasons. Many times, this would be for protection. By taking the last name of another tribe that was more powerful, it would give protection to tribes with less power.

As an example, many of the Idirisi Shurafa in Morocco would not go by their family name of Idrissi hundreds of years ago. They were living at a time when the Idrisi family was being persecuted by the ruling government. So you find some Idrisi families today that hold the last name of other families, but they usually know that they are Idrisi.

This has at times led to people losing track of their lineage though by the obscurity that it causes. For this reason, extra care should be taken when another family name will be used by the “adopted” child. The caring family should help create a written document or family tree for the child. They may also encourage the child to legally change the last name back to the original name once they are 18 or 21.

And Allah knows best.

Adoption and Creating a Mahram Relationship Through Nursing

Answered by Ustadha Shaista Maqbool

Question: Please shed some light on adoption and mahram.

My father was adopted and when he was 7yrs old, his mother (the who adopted him) conceived and gave my father some of her breast milk with a spoon.

Would that make my father her mahram? Also would that make our uncle our mahram?

Answer: Wa’alaikum assalaam warahmatu Allah,

I pray this finds you in the best states.

According to the Hanafi school, when a baby under 2 lunar years is fed any breastmilk then he/she becomes the milk son/daughter of the woman who fed him, and she thus becomes his milkmother, etc. After a child is two lunar years, it is not permitted to feed him breastmilk nor does it make the woman his milk mother.

Therefore, for your situation, no, your father’s adopted mother is not his mahram. Likewise, his “brother” from his adopted mother would not be your mahram either.

May Allah ta’ala bless your family.

Shaista Maqbool

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Developing a Mahram Relationship Through Nursing in Maliki Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Rami Nsour

Question: Assalamualaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu

My father was adopted and when he was about 7 yrs old his mother (who adopted him) conceived and she gave my father some of her breast milk with a spoon.

Does this make him her mahram? Will that also mean my uncle is now my mahram?

JazakaaAllahu Khairan

Answer: According to the verse in the Quran in Sura Baqara (2:233), “Mothers shall nurse their children for two complete years.”  The years here refer to lunar years.  From this verse the scholars have deduced that two years is maximum time that nursing can cause the mahram (non-marriageable) relationship.

Some scholars, such as the Maliki scholars, have added two months to the two years. This is based on the principle that “proximity to something will incur the same ruling.”  Two months were deemed as being close enough to the limit to be given their ruling.
Beyond this, nursing will not cause a mahram relationship to occur.  Thus, your father will not be considered to be the mahram of the caretaker who gave him milk when he was seven years old.  Since the mahram relationship did not occur, your “uncle” who is the caretakers son, will not be your mahram.
As a note, the Maliki scholars do not require that milk reach the child directly from the mother’s breast.  If the milk was given through a bottle, syringe, spoon or the like, that will be sufficient. But again, this would have to be before the 2 year and 2 month limit.
And Allah knows best.
[Mukhtasar Khalil]

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani – “The Position of Islam on Divorce, Adoption and Abortion” – YouTube

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani – “The Position of Islam on Divorce, Adoption and Abortion” – YouTube

[This was a challenging talk, as I had 30 minutes to cover an overview of three complex, nuanced topics–divorce, adoption, and abortionin Islamic Law. – Faraz Rabbani]

2nd Annual United For Change Conference – Our Families: Our Foundations Conference – Montreal, Canada


SFR in Montreal

The Fiqh of Adoption

Answered by Sidi Faraz A. Khan

Question: Assalam Alaikum,

My wife and I are thinking of adoption. What is the fiqh of adoption? Is there a difference in the ruling for a girl vs boy? What are the mahram rulings for the adopted girl or boy? What is the wisdom in keeping the child’s family name (instead of my last name)?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.

The Immense Virtue of Caretaking (kafala)

In general, there is tremendous baraka and reward in fulfilling the needs of a fellow believer. Our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, Allah will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Judgment. Whoever provides ease to someone in difficulty, Allah will provide ease for him in this world and the next… And Allah continues to help the servant so long as the servant continues to help his brother.” [Muslim]

This virtue is only magnified when the recipient of one’s help and support is an orphan. The Prophet said that the one who cares for an orphan would be with him (peace and blessings be upon him) in Paradise, and he held up his blessed index and middle fingers with a slight gap to show how close together they would be. [Bukhari, Muslim]

The orphan should be treated with kindness and gentle care, as even rubbing his head out of love is something beloved to Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).

The Underlying Basis of Adoption

The key principle to keep in mind when understanding the fiqh of adoption is that the adopted child is not deemed a relative of the new caretakers at all; rather, the child is simply under their care. As established by the Qur’an and Noble Sunna, the child must retain his lineage despite his new upbringing.

From the Qur’an: Allah Most High states, “…nor has He made your adopted sons your sons. That is but a saying of your mouths. But Allah speaks the truth, and He alone guides to the way. Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is more just in the sight of Allah.” (33:4-5)

From the Noble Sunna: The well-known incident of the companion Zaid ibn Haritha (Allah be well-pleased with him), who was adopted by the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and send him peace) before Islam and hence called Zaid ibn Muhammad. After the above verses were revealed, the Prophet called him by true lineage, Zaid ibn Haritha.

As for the wisdom of this principle, it is stemmed in the Sacred Law’s preservation of lineage, one of the central aims (maqasid) of the Sharia. As Imam Biqa’i states in his tafsir, “A child cannot have two fathers. If that [a new name of the adopted child] were given consideration, lineage would be lost and resulting doubt [regarding ancestry] would be widespread. Truth would be turned upside down, which would result in the opening of several doors of corruption.” [Biqa’i, Nadhm al-Durar fi Tanasub al-Ayat was-Suwar]

Imam Biqa’i’s statement, “Truth would be turned upside down,” highlights the very essence of the matter. Simply put, an adopted child cannot be ascribed to the lineage of the new caretakers because the child is not actually from that family.

The Fiqh of Adoption

Based on this guideline, the following rulings apply (assuming, of course, that the adopted child was not already a relative of either caretaker):

(1) Because the child is not deemed a relative, neither the new caretakers nor any of their relatives are deemed unmarriageable kin (mahram, pl. maharim) of the child. Hence, he or she may marry any of them, and the family must abide by the proper rules and etiquette of hijab with the child upon his/her reaching puberty (and vice versa if the child is a girl).

(2) The child does not inherit from the caretakers or any of their relatives. The child can, however, be designated as recipient of a bequest by any of them, with the condition that the bequest not exceed 1/3 of the deceased’s estate. If the bequest made was greater than 1/3 of the estate, then the amount exceeding 1/3 would not be given unless the rightful inheritors that are sane and adult gave their consent (which is considered only after the deceased’s death).

(3) There is one case, however, that would render the child akin to the caretakers’ real child with respect to marriage and hijab (but not inheritance) – namely, if the mother were to nurse the adopted child (whether boy or girl) within the first 24 lunar months of the child’s life. If in that period the baby ingests any amount of her milk, even if a little, both caretakers along with their relatives (unmarriageable kin) would become unmarriageable kin of the child: marriage would be impermissible, and the hijab would not be mandatory.

[Maydani, Lubab; Haskafi/Ibn Abidin, al-Durr al-Mukhtar/Radd al-Muhtar; Ibyani/Qadri Basha, Sharh Ahkam Shar’iyya fi Ahwal Shakhsiyya]

(4) Lastly, if the child has any wealth of its own, the caretakers must safeguard that wealth. They cannot spend it except on the child if there is a need. Allah Most High states, “Devour not their property [by adding it] to your property – that is indeed a grievous sin.” (Qur’an 4:2)

Our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) highlighted this when he warned of the seven destructive enormities in Islam and listed among them “squandering the wealth of an orphan.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

And Allah knows best.


Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani