Marrying the Wives of Adopted Sons

Marrying the Wives of Adopted Sons


In one of his articles,1Mr Jochen Katz has pointed out a contradiction in 33:37 and 33:4-5. Explaining the contradiction in these verses, he writes:

It is important that Muslims can marry the divorced wives of adopted sons (33:37), yet it is forbidden to adopt sons (33:4-5).

The verses, which Mr Katz has interpreted as prohibition of adopting children are worded in the Qur'an as follows:

God has not made for any man two hearts in his body: nor has He made your wives whom you pledge to be like your mothers, your real mothers; nor has He made your adopted sons, your real sons. These are only the utterances of your mouths. God declares the Truth, and He guides to the right Way. Call them by their fathers' names; that is more just, according to God. However, if you do not know their fathers, then call them your brothers in faith, or those under your care. There is no blame upon you for the unintentional mistakes that you make, but only in things that you do with the intention of your hearts: and, indeed, Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. (33:4-5)

Explaining the implication of the Qur'anic directive (related to adoption) mentioned in the foregoing verses, I had written in one of my earlier responses to a related question2:

Adoption of a child, if seen in the modern connotation, generally implies that a child not only be given a home and the love and affection that he may, unfortunately, lack due to the absence of his home and family, but also be given the adopting family's name and, subsequently, the complete legal status of a real child of that family.

Islam does not prohibit adoption. However, the Islamic concept of adoption is somewhat different from that of the modern concept. The Qur'an has clearly directed the Muslims to maintain for their adopted children the names of their real fathers and if their real fathers are not known, then they should be considered and called brethren in faith or the adopted children of the person concerned (33:5).

This directive clearly implies that adoption of a child per se is not only allowed in Islam but the Prophet's example has patronized it as a great social service and a humane act. The directive regarding naming the child after his real father is obviously to avoid all kinds of psychological, social and emotional trauma for the child at a later stage in life.

It should, however, be kept in mind that the adopted child – who, in affect, lacks any real relationship with the adopted parents – is not a natural inheritor for his surrogate parents and vice versa. The surrogate parents may will – to any extent – in his favour. Nevertheless, in the absence of such a will, the adopted child shall not be included in the inheritors of the deceased.

As should be clear from the foregoing explanation, Islam does not prohibit 'adoption', as Mr Katz has interpreted from the foregoing verses. However, the Qur'anic concept of adoption is quite different from the modern concept of adoption. According to the modern concept, 'adoption' is, in fact, a legal change of status for the child, whereas, according to the Islamic concept, 'adoption' does not entail any legal or socio-moral obligations for the adopting parent. On the contrary, according to the Islamic concept, 'adoption' is only supporting and taking care of a child, as if it were one's own child. In fact, it is only the natural extension of this lack of legal and socio-moral status that 'adoption' is granted by Islam, and marriage between a person and the wife of his adopted son is not prohibited in Islam.

The foregoing explanation should adequately answer the objection raised by Mr Katz.

Courtesy: Understanding-Islam (

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