Home Prof. Yuli Tamir
How should one behave towards an orphan?
Chapter 1

فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْيَتَامَى قُلْ إِصْلاَحٌ لَّهُمْ خَيْرٌ وَإِنْ تُخَالِطُوهُمْ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَاللّهُ يَعْلَمُ الْمُفْسِدَ مِنَ الْمُصْلِحِ وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لأعْنَتَكُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ (سورۃ البقرة, آيۃ 220)

...upon this life and the Hereafter. And they ask you about the orphans: say, "Bringing them up as righteous persons is the best you can do for them. If you mix their property with yours, you shall treat them as family members." GOD knows the righteous and the wicked. Had GOD willed, He could have imposed harsher rules upon you. GOD is Almighty, Most Wise (Sura, The Cow, Verse 220).

Hussein, a fifth-grade pupil, is a mediocre learner but is a sociable child who excels in art. His father was killed in a car accident about a year ago. They live in an adjacent apartment to Hussein's uncle, who has taken the family under his wing. The uncle does not allow the mother to go out to work, saying that it is unacceptable in their society. He has taken all the money that the father left, and has told the mother and her son that he will give them what they require. Recently the uncle has demanded that Hussein leave school in order to help support the family. The mother is passive and doesn't say a word, but Hussein doesn't agree; he wants to continue going to school. The uncle curses him and beats him because of this. Hussein has already run away several times and sleeps on the street. Recently Hussein came crying to the school counselor's office, told her everything that had happened, and showed her the signs of the beatings he received from his uncle.

The counselor invited the uncle for a discussion. He was full of excuses and of stories about Hussein's bad behavior. The counselor listened to the uncle without interrupting, and when he finished, she read him just one sentence, Verse 220 from the Sura, 'The Cow': "And they ask you about the orphans: say, 'Bringing them up as righteous persons is the best you can do for them. If you mix their property with yours, you shall treat them as family members.' GOD knows the righteous and the wicked."

The uncle remained silent. He clearly understood the severity of his actions. The school counselor did not content herself with this, and suggested that she visit the uncle at home, accompanied by a respected religious figure, and that together they would work out how to help him obey the Quaran's commandments regarding the treatment of orphans.

Explanation: Not everything in life is easy. We have to honor commitments that we have not willingly chosen. Looking after an orphan child, a relative, is one of these commitments we have to fulfill with all our hearts. No society can allow itself to leave these children without care, not because of moral considerations or because of the future of the society, but rather because a child who is not looked after can become a burden to society in a variety of ways. He is liable to be incapable of earning a livelihood, or to become involved in crime etc. Family members sometimes feel guilty that they do not take care of their orphan relative in the same way they would like their children to be taken care of if, God forbid, some tragedy were to occur. These guilt feelings are healthy and positive, and motivate the relatives to take care of the orphan. Sometimes, however, the relative feels no commitment and no guilt feelings, but rather uses the situation to exploit the orphan and his family. In such cases, the Quran and the divine commandment do the work that no therapist or authority figure can. Quite simply, the person is told how to behave with the member of his family, the orphan, who should not be discriminated against in any way. Hussein, like any other child, needs a good father who can take care of him and love him, otherwise it will be difficult for him to develop properly. This is the direction the Quran points to.