Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the third year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
My wife Priya and I are blessed to have a beautiful, baby girl named Madina. She is a little more than seven months old now and every day with her has been more amazing than the day before. Hearing her laugh and watching her grow are things that I would never trade for anything. I truly love her more and more every day and am so grateful to have been given such a treasure.
Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The best house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are well treated. The worst house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are ill treated. I and the guardian of the orphan will be in the Garden like that," indicating his two fingers.
Sometimes when I look at my daughter's face, my mind takes me to those young children, some only a day old, who are left to take on the challenges of this world on their own. I look at her and how she is surrounded by people who love her, mashallah, and feel a deep affinity for those who are without their own parents, regardless of how that reality came to pass.
Throughout the Qur'an we find verse after verse that tells us to be kind to orphans and to treat with affection, care and dignity. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, himself was an orphan, having lost his father before he was born. His mother then also passed away when he was at a very young age as well.
Yet there is always a hesitation on the part of Muslims to venture into the idea of adoption. The number of people who have said to me, "I always thought adoption is not permissible in Islam" is alarmingly huge. What Islam prohibits is the assumption of a child's natal identity. The idea is that a child born into this world will always be of the lineage of their parents and one would not be able to change that. That does not mean a bond of kinship cannot be formed and established or, when that is not possible, that it is still not praiseworthy and necessary to do what we can to take care of those who are in need and on their own.
Similar to adoption, we have communal responsibility to enter more broadly and in large numbers into the Foster Care systems within our respective cities. Most of us have received emails, Facebook messages, tweets, etc. stating that we have to mobilize to respond to the needs of young Muslim children who have been placed in the homes of families that are not respectful of their faith or just aren't aware of the details of it. The preemptive solution to this problem is to already be well situated and listed with the foster care system, rather than running reactively in response to situations such as the one mentioned. I would also argue that our motivation shouldn't be to become foster-care families to avoid Muslim children from being placed in non-Muslim homes. Rather we should become foster care families because it's the right thing to do and we have been endowed with enough blessings and resources to comfortably provide for others during their time of need, whether they are Muslim or not.
Mundhir at-Tawri reported what Muhammad ibn 'Ali (ibn al-Hanafiyya) said about, "Is the repayment of kindness anything except kindness?" He said, "It is not denied to either the pious or the deviant."
We should all take a moment to reflect on what is keeping us from being of better assistance to those children who have no parents or families. Sending your money overseas is helpful, but if you have the means to open up your home, be it for a short period of time or for something more permanent, than you should do so. No child should be left without loved ones. And there are many children who unfortunately will be left to deal with this world on their own. An estimated 153 million children are orphaned by one or both parents worldwide every year. 400 million children worldwide suffer from hunger But at least the one that you will help won't feel that kind of pain.
Abu Bakr ibn Hafs reported that 'Abdullah would not eat unless an orphan was at his table.'
If your community doesn't have a program or relationship set up with Child Services, you be the one to build it. If your family has never considered adopting or providing foster care, you start the conversation. Ramadan has shown us what we have and how much we have been given. Assess if you can handle one more at your table at then do what you need to do for them to be able to take a seat and share if everything you can offer to them.