The ruling of a child born of fornication.
A child born of fornication is ascribed to the mother. This is the most correct saying of the scholars. So if the mother is a Muslim, then the child is considered a Muslim, and if she is a non-Muslim, then the child takes the ruling of a non-Muslim. The child is ascribed to her and not to the man who fornicated with her―and the child is not harmed in any way by the sin of his mother or by the sin of the man who fornicated with her due to the saying of Allāh:
وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ
“No bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another…” (Al-An’ām 6:164)
Rights of the child born from fornication.
His rights are the same as the rights of any child from the Muslims if his mother was a Muslim. That is because the child follows her in Religion―and he (or she) has rights over his mother and over everyone from whom he inherits, among his mother’s relatives. Furthermore, he has rights over the general Muslims (just like any other Muslim), the rights of Islam. But the child has no rights over the one who fornicated with his mother because that man is not his father in the Sharī’ah Law.
The child is not tainted by the fornication of his parents.
A child is not tainted by the fact that his mother committed fornication with a man she was not married to―the child is free from any crime because he was not responsible for their actions so the sin is upon the adult woman and man.
لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ
“He gets reward for the good which he has earned, and he is punished for the evil which he has earned.” (Al-Baqarah: 286)
So his position is the same as any other person―if he is obedient to Allah, works righteous deeds and dies as a Muslim, he’ll go to Jannah (Paradise). If he disobeys Allah and dies upon disbelief, he’ll be from the people of Hell. If he has mixed between good deeds and sins but still dies as a Muslim, then his affair is with Allah―if Allah wills, He’ll pardon him and if He wills, He’ll punish him, but in the end, his abode will be Paradise as a bounty from Allah and due to His Mercy. As for what is stated in a so-called hadīth that the children of fornication will not enter Jannah, then it is a fabricated narration!
Can the child of fornication be ascribed to the man?
The children that are born from fornication are not the children of the man (who had sex with the woman) according to Sharī’ah Law, and it is not allowed to ascribe the child to him. That is because the seed (sperm) that impregnated the woman was impermissible. Therefore, the child is ascribed to the mother only.
What if the man admits to being the father?
Even if the man admits to being the one who fornicated with the woman and admits to being the father, then the lineage is still not affirmed for the fornicator. However, it is allowed for the fornicator to marry the woman he fornicated with after her ‘iddah has come to an end (i.e. after the baby is born or if she is not pregnant, after one menstrual cycle)―and after they have sincerely repented from their sin.
(Based on fatāwā from Al-Imām Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh), see Al-Jāmi’ fī Fiqhil-‘Allāmah Ibn Bāz (pp. 862-863), also Fatāwa Al-Lajnah Ad-Dā’imah)
The Prophet (ﷺ) stated:
“Any man who fornicated with a woman, then the child is a child of fornication, and he does not inherit [from the father], nor does [the father] inherit from him.” (Tirmidhi 2113, sahīh) At-Tirmidhi stated: “The scholars understood this to mean that the child of fornication does not inherit from his father.”
So the child of fornication is attributed only to the lineage of the mother and not to the lineage of the man she fornicated with. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “The child is attributed to the owner of the bed [in which it was born]…” (Al-Bukhāri 2053, Muslim 1457) The owner of the bed is the husband of a woman and no man can claim to be the father of a child other than the man who was her husband when the baby was born. However, if she was not married, the owner of the bed is the woman herself, so the child is attributed only to her and carries her family name.
* Li’ān: The man who accuses his wife of adultery and does not produce four witnesses: What is upon the husband and wife? by Abu Khadeejah: Shaikh Al-Fawzān’s explanation of Buloogh al-Marām, no. 1095 (eng. 936)
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