Attributing a Child to other than his Actual Father

I married a divorced woman with 2 children. Recently the children have asked why their last (family) name is not the same as mine or their mother (she has adopted my last name). They currently retain their biological father’s name. Is it permissible if they wish, to change their names from their biological father’s name to their adopted father’s name?

ANSWER

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

In Islam, lineage (nasab) has been given great importance, and it is from the five universals (kuliyyat al-khams) that have been preserved. As such, it is a grave sin to attribute one’s self to other than one’s biological father.

Allah Most High says:

“And He (Allah) did not make your adopted sons your sons. That is only your speech by your mouths. And Allah guides you to the right path. Call them by (the names of) their (real) fathers. It is more just in the sight of Allah.” (Surah al-Ahzab, v: 4, 5)

Sa’d ibn Waqqas and Abu Bakra (Allah be pleased with them) both narrate that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Whosoever claims to be the son of other than his father, knowingly, he will be denied Paradise (i.e. he will not enter Paradise).” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4071)

Abu Zar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that he heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) says: “If somebody claims to be the son of other than his real father, knowingly, he but disbelieves in Allah, and if somebody claims to belong to some clan to whom he does not belong, let such a person take his place in the (Hell) Fire.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 3317)

Mulla Ali al-Qari (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“Claiming to be the son of other than one’s real father, knowingly, is unlawful (haram). Thus, whosoever regards this to be permissible commits disbelief (kufr), for he has gone against the consensus of the Ummah (ijma’).” (Mirqat al-Mafatih, 6/320)

Thus, it is completely unlawful to attribute one’s self or a child to other than his real father. This means, one cannot change the lineage of an adopted child and substitute the name of his real father with that of his stepfather. The child should be attributed to the real father, such as Abd Allah the son of Abd al-Rahman, etc, so that it becomes common knowledge who the real father is.

As far as changing the surname is concerned, it should be remembered that surnames have no basis in Shariah, in that they are not something that must or must not be kept.

However, due to the fact that surnames are now widely used as a form of recognition, one should not change the surname of the child. The child should use the surname of his real father, in order for people to recognize the real father.

One should remember that this should not deter the father from treating his step children as his own children. He should take care, look after and treat them like his own children. It will also be allowed for them to call him “father”. Thus, the above ruling does not mean he should treat them as strangers. Taking good care of them will be greatly rewarded by Allah Most High.

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

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