Protection and care of parentless children in Islamic countries

August 14, 2019

Do Middle Eastern countries have structures for the protection and care of parentless children that are comparable with adoption? In their recently published anthology “Filiation and the Protection of Parentless Children”, the volume editors PD Dr. Nadjma Yassari, Leader of the Research Group on law in Islamic countries at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law; Dr. Lena-Maria Möller, Senior Research Fellow in the research group; and Marie-Claude Najm, Professor at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon, pursue this question.

The publication gathers together the results of a workshop on filiation, guardianship and adoption that the research group “Changes in God’s Law: An Inner-Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Laws” held together with legal scholars and scholars of Islam in Beirut, Lebanon, in November 2017. Here the term “parentless children” is understood to include orphans and children of unknown parentage (foundlings) as well as children who lack paternal filiation according to the often-stringent legislation by which the legal status of children born out of wedlock is judged in Muslim jurisprudence today.

The research in the book encompasses eleven countries, from Algeria to the United Arab Emirates. The researchers begin by determining how filiation (nasab) is defined in each jurisdiction – for example, by law, through the autonomous decision of the parties, or through scientific evidence (DNA testing) – and what legal and social status children whose filiation cannot be determined definitively hold. For each country, the researchers then go on to focus on the question of what, if any, structures for the protection and care of parentless children exist and whether these are grounded in a legal and social parent-child relationship.

Alongside the eleven country reports, the volume includes contributions on the theme of filiation from the perspectives of premodern Sunni and Shia legal teachings, as well as the private international law systems of present-day Muslim jurisdictions. The book also offers a comparative analysis of the research results. As the first publication to examine the filiation and care of parentless children in Islamic countries from both a country-specific and a comparative perspective, the volume is of great practical value – for example, for legal practitioners in the area of international child law.

Nadjma Yassari, Lena-Maria Möller, Marie-Claude Najm (eds.), Filiation and the Protection of Parentless Children – Towards a Social Definition of the Family in Muslim Jurisdictions, Asser Press, Den Haag 2019, XI + 412 pp.

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