ORPHANS

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The basic meaning of the word "Yateem" (orphan) is the one who somehow or other is left alone and helpless in society; he may be of any age. But in the context of the subject under discussion, "Yateem" shall mean the children whose father (or both parents) have died. The provision of sustenance, education and upbringing of such children is the responsibility of an Islamic State. But the question is not of upbringing alone: the real problem is that they should be brought up in such a manner that the dignity of their 'self' does not get injured. To keep such children in orphanages, fed on charity, is the destruction of their human 'self'. This leads to the downfall of nations. In Surah 'Al-Fajr' (89th Chapter of the Quran) it is said that one of the reasons for the destruction of nations in that they do not treat orphans with honour: (89:17) . Thus the real question is the cultivation of their self-respect. They should not be brought under undue pressure: (93:9) .

A satisfactory arrangement for their proper nurturing is essential. They should be treated as your own brethren: (2:220) "They ask thee about orphans. Say: settling their problems is a deed that produces 'good'. Hence you live together and if during the period of mutual living you have but to conduct their affairs with your own, always keep in mind that they are your brethren. Allah knows which of you means their good and which of you creates mischief. You are being given such instructions because without it you could have fallen into difficulties; but Allah wants to make things easy for you."

This provision of facilities does not mean that you go on doing what you like without any hindrance.

Allah's Law of Requital is exalted in power, yet it is based on wisdom.

Their wealth and property, if there be any, must be protected with utmost care. The one managing their affairs, if he is wealthy enough, should not take any remuneration; but if he is needy, he can take a compensation for it. When they reach the age of maturity and they become capable of handling their own affairs, their wealth and property should be handed over to them in the presence of witnesses: (4:5-6) "Remember! Allah has made wealth, the mainstay of a nation's economy, therefore place it not in the custody of those who are weak of understanding; feed them and clothe them therewith and speak to them words f kindness and justice."

Also make arrangements for the upbringing of orphans; and keep checking as to how far their potentialities are developed, until they reach the marriageable age. (6:153; 17:34; 40:67). If then you find them of sound judgement, deliver their property over to them. [But if they are not fit for it yet, act according to (4:5)]. But in the meantime do not consume their property wastefully, nor in a haste, fearing that they shall demand it when they become grown up. If the guardian is well off, let him claim no remuneration, but if he is poor, let him have what is just and reasonable. When you release their fortune to them, take witnesses. While counting, keep it in mind that you are submitting the account to Allah who knows what is hidden as well as manifest; therefore He is the Best of all those who take account.

This point has been emphasised further in (6:153) and (17:37).

Do not take a single pence from their wealth unlawfully. It has been ordained in Surah An-Nisa (4th Chapter of the Quran): (4:2) "According to this law no difference remains between your own children and the orphans, therefore take care of their rights and benefits like those of your own offsprings. Keep their property safe with utmost care; do not exchange (your) worthless things for their good ones; do not eat up their assets, keep their assets separate from yours; embezzlement in their substance (by mixing it up with your own) is most unjust. One who is left alone in the society, he ought to be helped rather than his rights usurped."

It is said further: (4:10) "Those who unjustly eat up the property of the orphans, they are filling their bellies with fire which leaves their passions of greed ablaze". They being always dissatisfied, run after unlawful wealth like a lunatic and thus put their own potentialities into a blazing fire.

If widows and orphans are left behind in society, marrying more than one wife may be allowed by making exception to the law of monogamy, in order to give them a respectable place in society. (Details were given earlier).

For an Islamic State it is essential to frame necessary laws under the guidance of the Quran. According to the Arabic dialect, a boy is called "Yateem" (orphan) till he reaches the age of maturity; and a girl continues to be called an orphan till she gets married. Even widows can be included in the category of orphans. (4:127).

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