25 Jun 2020 2:00pm - 6:30pm ONLINE


Links to registration for the conference can be found under related links.


Muslim beliefs and practices with regard to the adoption of children and foster care is currently a subject of increasing attention. Besides various circumstances that can leave many Muslim children in the care of social services, the urgent needs of unaccompanied minors coming to the UK and Europe from war-torn countries have highlighted particular challenges. Meanwhile, legal issues related to the definition of adoption and its Islamic alternative (kafala) remain a longstanding problem, often resulting in families divided across borders. Responding to such concerns, Muslim community leaders and organisations are taking an interest in formulating revised Islamic guidelines on adoption and foster care.


These efforts coincide with a recent growth of scholarship in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies on childhood and the family. Research in Islamic family law has investigated the complexities of child custody and precursors to the notion of ‘best interests of the child’. Historians have documented various forms of fictive kinship in Muslim societies of the past, and the modern development of institutionalised care of orphans. Sociologists and anthropologists have likewise challenged simplistic assumptions about religious norms: while the shari`a is understood to prohibit adoption, it often coexists with an array of culturally legitimised practices (such as the custom of secret adoptions in Morocco). Critical insights from related research in other fields also invite comparison, including British social history before adoption came to be legalised less than 100 years ago in 1926, as well as the factors behind the more recent emergence of so-called ‘open adoption’.


This conference seeks to explore how such diverse perspectives can inform a new ethics of adoption and the care of orphaned or abandoned children in Muslim communities. It will bring together scholars, professionals and others concerned, with an eye towards bridging the gap between academic knowledge, social work, and public education.


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CRASSH grey logo   Cambridge Centre for Islamic Studies

Supported by

Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)

Cambridge Centre for Islamic Studies


This event is live-streamed on the CRASSH YouTube channel.

Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk

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Thursday 25 June, 14.00 – 18.30


Welcome Address: Khaled Fahmy, Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa’id Professor of Modern Arabic Studies, and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge


Session 1: Care of Children in Islamic Law and Society

Moderator: Omar Anchassi, Early Career Fellow in Islamic Studies, University of Edinburgh


  • Arafat A. Razzaque, Research Associate, Centre of Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge: ‘Adoption in Islamic Law and Society: Historicizing the Problem’
  • Nadjma Yassari, Senior Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, Hamburg, Germany: ‘The Placement of Parentless Children in New Homes in Muslim Jurisdictions’
  • Nermeen Mouftah, Assistant Professor of Religion, Butler University, Indianapolis, USA: ‘Muslim Americans Negotiating the Islamic Law of Adoption: Expertise and Adoptive Parents’ Fiqh Ambivalence and Pragmatism’
  • Rositsa Atanasova, Migration and refugee advocacy expert, Sofia, Bulgaria: ‘Care and Protection of Muslim Children in Migration’

Comfort/Tea/Coffee Break – PLEASE STAY ONLINE


Session 2, Keynote: Sariya Cheruvalil-Contractor, Assistant Professor and Research Group Leader, Faith and Peaceful Relations, Coventry University: ‘The Salience of Faith to Muslim Children’s Experiences of Identity, Family and Well-being in Care’


Comfort/Tea/Coffee Break – PLEASE STAY ONLINE


Session 3: Perspectives on Fostering in the British Muslim Experience


  • Tay Jiva, Social Worker and Quality Assurance Manager, UK Fostering: ‘Prejudice and ignorance as barriers to the recruitment of Muslim adopters and foster carers: A social work practitioner’s perspective’
  • David Pitcher, Family Court Adviser, CAFCASS (Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service): ‘The Experience of Muslim Children who are Removed from Home: A Research Study by Cafcass’

Roundtable Discussion:

  • Sariya Cheruvalil-Contractor (moderator)
  • Sonia Hamdani
  • Sabbir Ahmed
  • Mohammed Bashir

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