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Rights of Orphans
Social Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


وَآتُوا الْيَتَامَى أَمْوَالَهُمْ وَلَا تَتَبَدَّلُوا الْخَبِيثَ بِالطَّيِّبِ وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَهُمْ إِلَى أَمْوَالِكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حُوبًا كَبِيرًا  وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَى فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُمْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَى وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَلَّا تَعُولُوا  وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً فَإِنْ طِبْنَ لَكُمْ عَنْ شَيْءٍ مِنْهُ نَفْسًا فَكُلُوهُ هَنِيئًا مَرِيئًا  وَلَا تُؤْتُوا السُّفَهَاءَ أَمْوَالَكُمْ الَّتِي جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ قِيَامًا وَارْزُقُوهُمْ فِيهَا وَاكْسُوهُمْ وَقُولُوا لَهُمْ قَوْلًا مَعْرُوفًا  وَابْتَلُوا الْيَتَامَى حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغُوا النِّكَاحَ فَإِنْ آنَسْتُمْ مِنْهُمْ رُشْدًا فَادْفَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَالَهُمْ وَلَا تَأْكُلُوهَا إِسْرَافًا وَبِدَارًا أَنْ يَكْبَرُوا وَمَنْ كَانَ غَنِيًّا فَلْيَسْتَعْفِفْ وَمَنْ كَانَ فَقِيرًا فَلْيَأْكُلْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِذَا دَفَعْتُمْ إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فَأَشْهِدُوا عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ حَسِيبًا  لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ نَصِيبًا مَفْرُوضًا  وَإِذَا حَضَرَ الْقِسْمَةَ أُوْلُوا الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينُ فَارْزُقُوهُمْ مِنْهُ وَقُولُوا لَهُمْ قَوْلًا مَعْرُوفًا  وَلْيَخْشَ الَّذِينَ لَوْ تَرَكُوا مِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّةً ضِعَافًا خَافُوا عَلَيْهِمْ فَلْيَتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَلْيَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا  إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ الْيَتَامَى ظُلْمًا إِنَّمَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ نَارًاوَسَيَصْلَوْنَ سَعِيرًا(٤: ٢-١٠)

Give the orphans the wealth which belongs to them. Do not exchange their valuables for your worthless ones nor devour their wealth by mixing it with yours. Indeed, this is a great sin. If you fear that you cannot treat orphans equitably, then you may marry [their mothers] who are lawful to you: two, three, or four of them. But if you fear that you cannot maintain equality among them, marry one only or any slave-girls you may own. This will make it easier for you to avoid injustice. Give these women also their dowry the way it is given; but if they choose to give to you a part of it, you may consume it willingly. [If the orphan is naive and mentally immature as yet], do not give to these feeble-minded the wealth with which Allah has entrusted you for their sustenance and support; but feed and clothe them with its proceeds, and give them good advice. Take care of these orphans until they reach a marriageable age. If you find them capable of sound judgment, hand over their wealth to them, and do not devour it by squandering it and consuming it hastily fearing that they would soon come of age. Let the [guardian of the orphan] who is rich not touch his wealth and [the guardian] who is poor eat from it [in lieu of his service] according to the norms [of courtesy]. When you hand over their wealth to them, call in some witnesses; [Even though] Allah alone suffices to take account of all your actions. Men shall have a share in what their parents and kinsmen leave; and women shall have a share in what their parents and kinsmen leave; whether it be little or much, an ascertained amount. However, if relatives, orphans, or needy men are present at the division of an inheritance, give them, too, a share of it, and speak to them kind words. And those people should fear that if they themselves would have left their young children after their own death, they would have been very anxious. Let them fear Allah and speak for justice [in every matter]. Indeed, those that unjustly devour the wealth of orphans, swallow fire into their bellies; soon they shall burn in the flames of Hell. (4:2-10)

 The Qur’ān has referred to the welfare of the orphans and to the attitude of kindness and affection that should be adopted towards them at various places. In the above quoted verses of Sūrah Nisā, certain specific directives are given about them. They can be summarized as follows:

1. Guardians of the orphans should return their wealth to them and should not think of devouring it themselves. They should know that unjustly consuming the wealth of orphans is like filling one’s belly with fire. Furthermore, this will lead them to the fire of Hell in the Hereafter. So no one should try to swap his poor merchandise and assets for their good ones. Neither should a person try to benefit from their wealth while mixing it with his own feigning administrative ease. If such intermingling needs to be done, then it should only be for the orphans’ welfare and well being and not to usurp their wealth.

2. Protecting the orphans’ wealth and safeguarding their rights are significant responsibilities. If it becomes difficult to fulfill these responsibilities alone, and people think that ease and facility can be created by involving the mothers of the orphans, then they can marry the lawful among them. Their number should not exceed four. However, such multiple marriages should only be resorted to if a person is able to deal justly with the wives. If they think that they would not be able to do so, then even for an objective as noble as welfare of the orphans they should not marry more than once. Justice should always reign supreme. Moreover, while entering into marriage, the mothers of the orphans should also be given mahr (dower) just as other women are given1. The pretext that marriage has been contracted with them for the welfare of their own children is not acceptable in this regard. However, if such a mother gladly forgoes a portion, or all, of the mahr amount, then of course this generosity can be benefited from.

3. Wealth is a means of sustenance and subsistence for people. It should not be wasted. Consequently, the directive of returning to orphans their money should be carried out when they reach maturity and are able to properly manage their wealth. Prior to this, it should remain in the protection of their guardians, who should continue to judge the orphans regarding their ability to manage and handle daily affairs. In this interim period, however, the orphans’ needs and welfare should be provided for. The guardians should not hastily consume the wealth of the orphans fearing that they will lose access to this wealth because the orphans will soon reach maturity. In addition, the guardians must take note to speak very affectionately to the orphans.

4. If a guardian is well-off, he should not take anything from the orphans in return for his service, and if he is poor, he can take his due according to the norms of his society. Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

 ‘Norms’ (َمعْرُوْف) means to benefit from the wealth of the orphans in a way that is congruous with the nature of obligations, status of the property, general circumstances and the standard of living of the guardian. It should not be the case that even a sane person starts speedily devouring and consuming the wealth of an orphan thinking that he would soon reach the age of maturity.2

 5. When the time comes to hand over an orphan his wealth, some trustworthy and reliable people should be made witnesses in order to avoid any misconceived notions and dissensions. One should also remember that one day this account shall be presented before the Almighty. He sees and knows all things and nothing can be hidden from Him.

6. Although the shares of the heirs to a deceased are fixed, yet if at the time of distribution of inheritance some close relatives, orphans or poor people are present, then even though they may not have any legal right in the inheritance, they should be given something and be spoken to in a befitting manner at their departure. On such occasions, a person should always keep in mind that his own children can become orphans and he may one day have to similarly leave them at the mercy of others.

(Translated from ‘Mīzān’ by Shehzad Saleem)





1. The questions which arise on these conditions are answered by the Qur’ān in 4:127-30.

2. Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 2, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 255

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