What Does Islam Say About Orphan Care?

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The Quick Answer

Orphan care is highly urged, praised, and rewarded in Islam in this life and the real life to come (See Caring for the Orphan in Islam).

Islam holds sponsoring the orphan as one of the greatest and most solemn good works a person can do in this worldly life. Hence, God compensates it immensely, both here and in the Hereafter.

For this reason, though men vie for the airs of repute and distinction through material acquisition and external recognition in this world, Islam confers true nobility on the house of the believing orphan sponsor.

This nobility, though mostly unacknowledged in our lives, becomes indisputable in the Afterlife, when God shall grant the orphan-sponsoring believer admission into the highest station in the Garden and with the greatest honor: Living ever after alongside His beloved Messenger Muhammad, on him be peace.

How does sponsoring an orphan help you in this life?

The call for believers to take in orphans and care for them like family is among the most compelling admonitions in the Quran and highly incentivized in the appeals of the Prophet, on him be peace. (See Sponsoring the Orphan in Islam.)

But the blessings of orphan sponsorship do not come to one only in the Hereafter. They begin benefitting the believing sponsor immediately and enduringly in this world. Here are six of the greatest blessings one can have in this life that God gives to the orphan sponsor on this earth.

1. It Ennobles Your House Among Muslims

Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace, reportedly said:

The best household among the Muslims is a household wherein an orphan is treated well. And the worst household among the Muslims is a household wherein an orphan is ill-treated” (Ibn Majah).

This means the families that sponsor orphans with love, kindness and honesty are of the genuine nobles in this faith-community. It is a rank conferred in Islam by neither wealth nor birth or title, but only by acting on the highest commands and most urgent advisements of Allah and His Prophet, on him be peace, to save the vulnerable.

2. It Blesses Your Wealth

 The Prophet, on him be peace, said of spending on the orphan:

Indeed, this wealth is fresh and sweet. For blessed is all the Muslim possesses from which he gives the poor, and the orphan, and the wayfarer (Bukhari and Muslim, 1465 and 1052, respectively)”.

The Prophet, on him be peace, said this after a man asked him if good ever brings about evil. At that moment, he received revelation from Allah, and answered that in no way does good ever yield evil.

He illustrated this with the example of an animal at a creek-side lush with herbage, with vegetation that is wholesome and other plants that would kill or sicken it.

Yet the animal grazes only from the succulent vegetation, eating of it to satiation. Then it basks in the sun, digesting its nutritious goodness and eliminating waste, until it returns to grazing.

He likened the wealth given to the orphan (and the poor and the wayfarer) to that of the wholesome vegetation that flourishes amid the harms of an ill-gotten abundance that destroys or poisons whoever consumes it.

This is the sadaqah given to the orphan. It nourishes its giver to fulfillment. It leads him into the light. It sheds a profusion of grace upon all his wealth and removes the contaminants from it. It yields, moreover, rich growth among the most needful, while setting in motion a charitable cycle that perpetually replenishes these blessings.

3. It protects its giver from the trials and temptations of wealth and miserliness and elicits Allah’s forgiveness

 Allah commands us:

So fear God as much as you can. Thus, hear and obey His commandments and spend charitably on what is good for your own souls. For whoever is safeguarded from the avarice of his own soul, then it is these who are the truly successful. If you lend God a goodly loan by your charitable offerings, He will multiply for you its reward. Moreover, He will forgive you. For God is ever thankful, most forbearing” (Surat Al-Taghabun, 64:16-17).

Giving is the greatest cure for the sinful but native human impulse to insatiably amass and hoard material stores of wealth. While this inclination comes from our lower clay natures, it is accompanied by an even meaner desire: to see that others have less than us, even to the point of depriving them of their fair provision and basic needs.

Voluntary charitable giving — sadaqah in our common usage — is the divine check on this base urge within us, and the remedy for our greed and miserliness. It calls forth our heavenly high natures that Allah has originally breathed into us (See Why Is Sadaqah Important?).

It is significant that Allah calls our charitable giving (as with sponsoring an orphan) a “loan” — not to the orphan or another recipient — but to Him. This makes sadaqah the very definition of godliness, or taqwa.

All-importantly, sponsoring the orphan is the kind of charity that activates for its giver Allah’s promise of amnesty from our sins — a prerequisite for being saved from Hellfire.

4. It Softens Your Heart

The Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace, said:

Call the orphan to you. Pat him tenderly on the head. Then feed him from your food. This will soften your heart and bestow upon you [the blessing] of gaining what you need” (Kharanti, The Noblest Virtues, p. 661).

Again, a man came to the Prophet, on him be peace, lamenting his hardness of heart. The Prophet, on him be peace, said to him:

If you want to soften your heart, feed the poor and pat the head of the orphan in tenderness” (Musnad Ahmad, No. 7576).

A soft heart is itself a most cherished grace, for it renders the heart responsive to Allah’s guidance and draws one by its cords near to Him and everlastingly to His Paradise.

5. It helps place one among the righteous in the sight of God

 God states:

Righteousness in the sight of God is not the mere turning of your faces toward the East or the West. Rather, true righteousness dwells in one who believes in God, and in the coming Judgment of the Last Day, and in the angels, and in every revealed Book, and in all the prophets; and dwells in one, who — despite his love for it — gives of his wealth in charity to close relatives and orphans, and to the indigent and the wayfarer, and to beggars, and for the emancipation of slaves; and dwells in one who establishes the Prayer and gives the Zakat-Charity; and dwells in all those who fulfill their covenant when they make a covenant, as well as in those who are patient during periods of affliction and harm and times of conflict. These are the ones who have been truehearted, and it is such as these who are the God-fearing.” (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:177)

6. It will continue to stream good deeds into your divine scales after you die

Sponsoring an orphan can be a dynamic sadaqah jariyah, that is, an ever-flowing, perpetual source of charity, for its giver. That means your orphan sponsorship can keep the good deeds flowing into your Heavenly Balance from multiple charitable wellsprings, even when your earthly actions have ended and you are in your grave. (See What is Sadaqah Jariyah?)

Your orphan sponsorship holds three potential sources of sadaqah jariyah for you:

  1. For sustaining the basic needs of the orphan

  2. For every good benefit your sponsored orphan gives others in the world in its life

  3. For as long as your sponsored orphan’s benevolent deeds continue to flow to others on earth

The Prophet, on him be peace, said:

When the human being dies, all one’s deeds cease, save three: a sadaqah jariyah, [religious] knowledge [one leaves behind] from which others benefit, and a righteous child who prays for one” (Muslim).

What will orphan sponsorship give me as a donor in the next life?

Jannah, the Garden of Paradise, for the admitted believer.

But this will not be just any residence in the Seven Heavens. It will be in Jannat Al-Firdaws Al-A‘la, the Gardens of the Highest Paradise.

Moreover, the accepted orphan sponsor has been promised close company with the best of all humanity.

The Prophet, on him be peace, said:

‘I and the one who sponsors an orphan shall be in Paradise like these two’ — and he raised his index finger and the one next to it, holding them together, barely separate” (Bukhari, No. 5304).

Does orphan sponsorship provide the giver other benefits?

Yes. In addition to what can literally be saving the life of a human being — which the Quran says Allah tallies for us as though one has saved the life of all humankind — the sponsorship of orphans often implies another strongly urged charitable action: To labor in the care of a widow impoverished by the loss of her husband.

Commonly, these suddenly bereft women have children to care for all on their own. Moreover, they usually remain mired in the cruel circumstances that caused the loss of their husbands to begin with.

Islam deems these children orphaned by the death of their fathers. (Recently, UNICEF, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, has also come to recognize such children as orphans.)

The Prophet, on him be peace, praised the person who assumes responsibility for a widowed woman by sponsoring her, as a person who exemplifies the most noble virtues of piety, valor, and self-sacrifice. This implies the promise of eminent Heavenly reward for the one who gives the sadaqah that sustains her, which often means sustaining her orphaned children.

He said:

The one who looks after and works for a widow and for a poor person is like a warrior fighting in the way of God” (Bukhari).

Notably, the Prophet himself, on him be peace, conjoined the conditions of women and orphans in his caution to this community — us — not to let them down. He called Allah to witness, saying:

“O Allah! I have forbidden failing the right of the two vulnerable ones — the orphan and women.”

How does Zakat Foundation protect its sponsored orphans?

Zakat Foundation of America’s Orphan Sponsorship Program works hard to ensure adherence to the Quran’s guidelines for securing the best interests and treatment of orphans in two ways:

  1. The program seeks to keep orphaned girls and boys in their families, with a surviving parent as first preference (often a mother). If the option of living with a parent is not possible, then we seek to keep them with their nearest relatives, like grandparents, aunts or uncles, or other close relations.
    Relevant research shows the policy of keeping orphans in families of relatives gives orphans the best potential outcome for their lives and the well-being of these orphans’ future families.

  2. The program works to preserve for the orphan the proper bonds of its biological parentage and the rights and limits that flow from this.

What does orphan sponsorship mean in Islam?

Orphan sponsorship in Islam is not merely giving money to or for orphans. It means providing for an orphan boy and girl alike in four interlaced humanitarian spheres:

  1. Guidance in faith and personal affairs in the context of a loving home, with sufficient clothing and good nutrition

  2. Education and training

  3. Moral admonition, spiritual know-how, and religious facility

  4. Security in their persons, well-being, property, and future, until they attain discerning maturity

These are the aspects of orphan sponsorship Zakat Foundation’s Orphan Sponsorship Program seeks to secure for the orphans and their supporting families to whom it delivers your care (See Caring for the Orphan in Islam).