Open Your Hearts & Your Homes

// February 4th, 2007 // Blog

Cross-posted at Nisaa.ca.
***
All the latest talk about adoption rights, has got me thinking about the issue of fostering.

A while ago, i read an urgent appeal for Muslim foster parents in the UK. The situation was, and still is, desperate. Many of the Muslim children that require homes are refugees that entered the UK without accompanying guardians. Social services always tries to place the children under their care with families of a similar background, culture, and religion, for obvious reasons. However, there is a severe lack of Muslim families volunteering their homes for this special service.

I cannot put my finger on why this is, exactly. If one was to do a search of the term “orphan” in the Qur'an and the narrations of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), no doubt you would find numerous references outlining the great reward promised to those who look after these less fortunate members of the community. In fact, a significant part of the humanitarian work undertaken by various UK-based Muslim charities overseas, involves the building and maintenance of orphanages, and schools for orphans. So why is this behaviour not being translated into more direct action here, in the UK?

I especially wonder at why the many Muslim couples who cannot have children of their own, waste thousands of pounds on repeated cycles of IVF treatment, that have a ridiculously low success rate, when they could be spending this money on real-life babies, who are in need of the parental love that would flow so freely from their hearts – subhanallah, if they just gave it a chance!

I know it is not that simple. I am not so unfeeling towards the trials faced by infertile couples, especially as my own mother suffered terribly with multiple miscarriages before i was born. The stories i have heard from her own lips about the treatment she received from certain individuals in my extended family, is enough to make my blood boil.

But when i read the appeal, i could not help but feel some kind of pre-motherly sympathy for these poor infants. It is not enough for my heart to bleed, nor for my eyes to shed tears; this is useless sentimentality that will do no good to anyone. I made a decision that if Allāh allowed it, i would one day take in at least one needy child into my home, whether I had been blessed with my own children or not. After all, i cannot urge others in my community to take on such a challenge, without getting involved myself; one must lead by example.

I have been especially inspired by the noble actions of one family of six that i know from Leicester (two parents in their fifties, and their four children, who were in their late teens to early twenties at the time) who took in two young Muslim children, that they had heard about through the local mosque. Social services had placed them into care after their father had been imprisoned, and their mother was not coping well on her own. I visited the family several times while the children were living with them, and it was such a beautiful sight to see how well they had settled into their new home. Being the youngest members of the tribe, they were heavily spoiled – but in a good way! Alhamdulillah, the children are now back with their original family, after their father was released. They regularly visit their old foster kin, and i still hear stories about their antics.

I urge any Muslim couples who may be reading this to contact your local authority to see if you can change a child's life for the better. It does not have to be for the long-term; many households experience temporary pressures, where they just need a short break from parenthood to get back on their feet. In this way you would be helping an entire family, not just one child.

I sincerely pray that of all the lofty, idealistic goals i have set for myself in life, this is one i will actually achieve. It is not as if i have to travel half-way round the world to accomplish it, nor do i even need to be wealthy, especially as foster parents receive a support allowance from the state. I just need to have a welcoming home, a lot of patience, and a soft heart (and of course, a husband who feels as strongly about this, as i do, if not more so!).

May Allāh make it easy for me; i really don't want this to be empty rhetoric.

19 Responses to “Open Your Hearts & Your Homes”

  1. Daniel says:

    What a lovely post, iMuslim. It fits in well with the new template which I loooooooooooooove!

    Mind you, as the drought drags on and the roos now think our gardens are grazing land, that green did give me a shot each time I called. But this template is more in keeping with who you are! It’s more spiritual.

    Cheers! xxxxxxx

  2. Sumera says:

    The reason why there is a lack of Muslim foster/adoptive parents is down a few things.

    If the couple have children of their own, the daughters (and the wife) need to observe hijaab infront of the male foster/adopted child since he is technically non-mahram (unless he was young enough to be breastfed by the mother. And similar story for females.

    Adopted/fostered children cannot inherit from the parents like the “blood” children can. The parents may leave something for them in their will but it has to be stated separately- the prescribed handing out of the wealth whereby mother is entitled to so much, sons X much and daughters X amount – the adopted/fostered children would not be included in the above.

    But saying that, I do know of a few Muslim couples who have adopted and fostered children for a number of years – and they didnt seem to have any severe restrictions!

    So basically if one sincerely wishes to help out those who need support – and dont succumb to the communities whispering then Insh’Allah it can be done :D

  3. iMuslim says:

    Daniel: I thought you hated the grass! Anyway, i do like this template more. It makes me want to get up early in the morning and go for a brisk walk around the park… but that ain’t gonna happen till it warms up!

    Sumera: Salaams sis. I am aware of the mahram issue, but this only applies after the children hit puberty.
    Admittedly it is a pain to some degree, but wouldn’t a woman living with her in-laws (i.e., where a brother-in-law was present) have to observe hijab in the home?

    I would feel sorry for the foster-daughter to have to observe hijab in front of the men in the house. But surely one slip of material must be worth the love and support of a family… i could not say living under the care of social services would be better for her, where her Imaan would not be nurtured at all.

    It saddens be so greatly to read you write about “communities whispering”, only because a part of me fears this would be true. Frankly, that is sick (not you, the whisperers).

    Somehow i feel the less people have, the more generous they are, because mahram and inheritance issues don’t seem to be a problem for those “back home”, who regularly look after orphans in their own families.

    Why have these good traditions been lost with migration, but all the crappy traditions have been maintained?

  4. Sumera says:

    Its such a shame that people do hold the communities whisperings to be of more importance than giving an orphan a home. A lot of things people wish to do, to pursue, their amibitions are often stifled because of the terrible power that the community have over them.

    Back home – they usually care for orphans in their own family and would have the same “ohmyGod,someone elses child in my home?” attitude to an orphan that had no familial/blood tie to themselves.

  5. iMuslim says:

    I suppose charity does begin at home, but why it should not extend beyond blood ties, is quite baffling… even with the inheritance issues. Who knows who will inherit from whom? The children may die before the parents. There might be no money left to inherit!

    Anyway, i’ve never been one to let the “community” dictate the terms. If they want to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, then by all means… but if they want to forbid the good, and enjoin the evil, well, they can just get outta ma face!

    I love that phrase! hehe

  6. Manas says:

    I have a strange idea: I am everyone. I mean I am public. Not just me, everyone is everyone. So the whole point of “nobody does it so I won’t” is bad. ( though this does not mean if everybody steals, i too should!)

    Amen to your du’a.

  7. Lucyp says:

    Fostering/Adopting a child is one of the most altruistic things a person can do. Great post.

  8. AnonyMouse says:

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

    Subhan’Allah, your post reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a sister on this exact same subject… there is a dearth of Muslim couples who are willing to take in Muslim children who desperately need to be taken care of by those who will help raise them as Muslims; yet not many people are willing to step up to the plate.

    One of the issues that people have with the idea of ‘adopting’ is that they think the kid will be ‘troublesome’, and they’re not willing to take the ‘risk’ of caring for them. Another thing is that – as Sumera pointed out – they’re almost afraid of adopting kids who don’t share blood ties with them.
    Subhan’Allah, it’s almost like they think the child has a disease or something! Finances may be another point that people are worried about (especially if they already have children).

    Anyway, I do think that the issue of adopting orphans and fostering Muslim children whose only other choice is the system is something that really does need to be addressed in the Muslim community… just like the other 101 issues that we need to deal with!

    I wonder, is there an Islamic organization of some sort that tries to support and promote adoption/fostering? Hmmmm… I’ll Google it insha’Allah, and let you know what I come up with! (If I find anything at all, that is…)

    Your little sister in Islam,
    Mouse

  9. Umm Yusuf says:

    Assalamu Alaikum iMuslim….by the way do I know you? Send me an e-mail and maybe we can meet sometime insha Allah. The fostering subject is an important one and one I really want to take part in insha Allah. You know it takes people with big hearts…

    I know one couple who have a few children of their own and they adopted a baby boy. (Adopted in the British sense, meaning they have full responsibility for the child…ofcourse the boy still has his name and identity)
    There are actually some pills that the lady took which made her breastmilk come in and she breastfed the baby, so now he is Islamically her mahram and her children’s mahram too…apparently as long as you have had a child, you can produce milk through these pills.
    Nice blog ma sha Allah….

  10. iMuslim says:

    Manas: your idea is a little strange, but i think i get it. I think. Do you mean that we are all members of society, and thus we have a say in how society runs?

    Lucy: It is one of the most altruistic, but perhaps also one of the most natural, acts of kindness – how could anyone refuse a needy child? The most cold-hearted of people would not turn away an abandoned baby on their doorstep… the problem here is that these children are just as abandoned, but we don’t see their little faces, so our hearts aren’t as moved to help them. I think there are some attempts to increase awareness in the Muslim community about this issue.

    AnonyMouse: Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,
    Finances is the only reasonable excuse people have, but in the UK at least, one receives maintenance from the government, so there should be less of a problem, inshallah. As you know, Allah increases a family’s rizk with each new addition, anyway!
    I agree that there are so many issues to tackle, but surely this is one of those problems that is quite fundamental to our deen. If we, as a community, cannot look after the most vulnerable elements, our own children (and every child is our child), then how can we hope to progress to anything greater? Do we even deserve it?
    I did have an e-mail with details of the organisation who made the appeal, but i think i accidentally deleted it… but contacting social services is a good start.

    Umm Yusuf: Wa ‘alaykum salam sis.
    I don’t know of any Fatimas that have a son called Yusuf, so i doubt it! It is quite possible that we may have bumped into one another at some event around London. I haven’t been to any talks in a good while though… for a few months. Been bogged down in the lab. I miss them! Inshallah, i’ll e-mail you anyway… sometimes i just need someone to drag me out of the lab/house by my abayah! hehe
    I am so glad to hear that you are interested in fostering, mashallah! Please do share your experiences on your blog, when the time comes, inshallah. Especially the arrangement side of things.
    I have heard about the lactation pills, but i imagine the child has to be less than two years old (age of weaning) for the “mahram” effect to be valid? It is a good option for “adopting” babies, but there are no such options for older kids. No matter, Allah will make it easy for those who strive for His sake.

    Btw, i feel a tad guilty to be speaking so emotively on this topic, when i am so far from achieving the goal myself. However, i feel by writing this entry, i am chiselling my intention in stone. It’s out there now, not just in my head… Let’s all pray that with Allah’s help, we will do more than just pay lip-service to our good intentions! Ameen.

  11. Suroor says:

    Cross-posted on NISAA:

    iMuslim, it is a wonderful, wonderful post. Very well done! You are a very good writer and the issue you have discussed here is clearly related to Muslim women and their families. You are already making a difference with your first NISAA article – great job!

    I wrote a paper on orphanages once when I was twenty years old. My husband (then husband-to-be) was with me when we visited an orphanage and we both were so moved we promised to adopt a child, a girl, when we got married and could afford. I often return to the idea but there are many things that stop us now and we haven’t been able to do what we dreamt about. Surely there must families who should be able to help a child even if temporarily.

    My father’s brother tried to have a child for nine years before adopting a girl; a cousin tried and conceived after 14 years. I think why many people keep trying is because they want a part of themselves. I know my family gave my uncle a lot of grief because he gave the child his name and since he has no child of ‘his own’ he has already given her everything in his will. Many relatives have disowned him because he is “doing something unIslamic.” I think this may be one reason people keep trying to have children of their own. I know it really scared my cousin from adopting and she insisted on painful procedures instead. Just a theory…

    Good post!

  12. Sumera says:

    I know of a Muslim woman who after years of fertility treatment and thousands of pounds decided to adopt 2 children – who were blood siblings.

    She loves them with all her heart but unfortunately encounters sour faced biddies who insist on reminding her they arent “hers”.

    Its awful and really vexes me. You dont become a parent or a mother simply by giving birth to a child. Upbringing is what instils and moulds a person into a parent and you pass on a bit of yourself to that child. Therefore if one is incredibly pedantic about linguistics, then for the “ownership” of a child, I would not side with the biological parents if they had little or next to no input into that childs upbringing.

    I feel the same when it comes to fostering/adoption and would Insh’Allah like to do it once in my life – but whether my sincere intentions will be put into practise, Allahualim.

  13. iMuslim says:

    Suroor: Salaams sis, jazakallah khair for your kind words of encouragement. I really pray my words do make a difference.
    What would you say is preventing you from adoption/fostering? Is it because you have children already, finances, work? I worry that something will also come in the way of my resolution, a’authobillah. I am not so familiar with kiddies, and have only recently had the opportunity to observe what it’s like to raise children, when my cousin and best friend both gave birth last year. Lesson 1: It’s hard!
    At least with fostering, you can skip the pregnancy part, perhaps even the teething and dodgy sleep cycles (or should i say, NO sleep cycles!).

    Sumera: yes, they will be put into practise, inshallah!

    Manas: Jazakallah! Great news… unfortunately i’m now having second thoughts… you have to pay to alter the template! Not liking the sound of that.

  14. Manas says:

    Third thought for you- the import is not working for me!

  15. Anonymous says:

    mashallah interesting notes sis! its good to see muslim sisters taking such initiaitves! another muslim sista i found doing that is http://workingmuslimwoman.wordpress.com
    god bless u all

  16. Suroor says:

    Salaam dear,

    Hmm, first we travel a LOT. We have worked and lived in 6 countries in the 10 years we’ve been married and adoption services really don’t appreciate that at all. Second, I work and I know there are times when I have neglected my children but I would not like to bring a baby into the family knowing I might neglect him/her inadvertently. I have also been studying for the past 5 years. I completed two Masters and am now working on my PhD which requires time and money. Also, I think I’m selfish and possessive. I badly want to adopt but I want the baby wholly and completely. I want the baby to take my husband’s name and I would want to treat him/her just like I treat my other children (in terms of inheritance etc). This I know will make our families flip. I guess if I can get over the family drama, have enough money and time and once we go back home to the UK Inshallah I would seriously consider adoption.

    It is hard work. Much harder than keeping a pet :)

  17. iMuslim says:

    Manas: the import was not working for me either, but i’m not bothered now, cos i’m staying with Blogger!

    Anon: Jazakallah for the URL; i’ll check it out, inshallah.

    Suroor: Wa ‘alaykum salam. Wow, you guys are busy! If you already have children, then it probably is easier to foster when the kids have grown up enough, and you’re more settled financially etc. However, IMO, if a couple have problems conceiving, then there is no time to waste! The younger you are, the more energy you have, and the more involved you can be as a parent.

    Families are another matter entirely. You know them better than i, so i cannot offer much useful advice except to makes lots of dua for a smooth ride!

  18. Manas says:

    Suroor,

    “much hardwer work than keeping a pet” what do you mean?

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