IIIT-FCNA Fiqh Forum on Adoption and Orphan Care

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Jay Willoughby



On April 13, 2017, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and
the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) brought jurists, scholars, and professionals
in the field to share their latest research on the topic of adoption
and orphan care. The day-long forum, held at the IIIT headquarters in Herndon,
VA, featured one concept paper and five panels.
The opening session featured Zainab Alwani (vice chair, FCNA; program
director, Fiqh Forum on Adoption and Orphan Care; founding director, Islamic
studies, Howard University School of Divinity), who spoke on “Orphan Care
in the Qur’an and Sunnah: Critical Reading on Adoption and Kafala.” Stating
that she is providing a framework – not a solution – grounded in the Qur’an
and Sunnah, she discussed why the number of orphans and abandoned children
has reached an all-time high; why Muslim Americans are reluctant to
adopt them; and such concerns as the un-Islamic nature of the American legal
system and the ensuring legal, cultural, and linguistic problems. She stressed
that taking care of these children is an ethical/moral issue and reminded the
audience of the biographies of Musa, Yusuf, Muhammad, and Maryam, all of
whom were raised by people who were not their biological parents, and the
importance of the family structure. In closing, she recommended that Muslims
revive the collective spirit of caring for orphans, work with lawyers to derive
Sharia-compliant solutions, integrate these children into our communities, and
reconsider some traditional fiqhī concepts (e.g., brother and mawlā). Abubaker
Al-Shingieti (executive director, IIIT) chaired.
Panel 1, “Voices from the Field,” opened with Ranya Shbeib (co-founder,
Muslim Foster Care Association; https://www.muslimfostercare.org), who focused
on meeting orphans’ immediate needs and provide family support. Her
organization works hard to achieve these twin goals and to raise local community
awareness by a four-step process: making a presentation, providing
the relevant orientation, giving practical training, and actually receiving the
child. After each step, unfortunately, the number of interested people declines ...

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