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Does Islam look with disfavor upon a child born of fornication or adultery – an illegitimate child? I heard that there is a hadîth to the effect that such a child is disfavored? Is this true?

Answered by

Sheikh al-Sharîf Hâtim al-`Awnî
An indisputable tenet of our Islamic faith is that no person will share in the sin of another unless that person was directly involved in encouraging or assisting the other person to commit the sin.

Allah says: “That no soul shall bear the burden of another and that a person shall have nothing but what he strives for” [Sûrah al-Najm: 38-39]

Allah says: “On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It shall have the good that it earns, and against it shall be the ill that it earns.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 286]

He also says “They were a people who have gone before. They shall have the fruits of what they earned and you shall have the fruits of what you earn, and you will not be asked about what they used to do.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 134 and 141]

For this reason, it is authentically related that `A’ishah said regarding the child born of adultery: “He shares in nothing of the sin of his parents, for Allah says ‘no soul shall bear the burden of another’.” [Musannaf `Abd al-Razzâq (13860,13861) and Musannaf Ibn `Abî Shaybah (12543)]

It is also authentically related from Ibn `Abbâs that upon hearing someone say ‘The child of adultery is the worst of the three parties’, that he severely condemned the statement and said: “If he were the worst of the three parties, then the punishment of his mother would not be postponed until after he is born.” [Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhîd (24/135-136) and al-Istidhkâr (23/175)]

Ibn `Abbâs also said: “He is the best of the three parties.” [Musannaf `Abd al-Razzâq (13863)]

The statement “The child of adultery is the worst of the three parties” is a hadîth. However, it is extremely weak, as stated by Ibn al-Jawzî in al-`Ilal al-Mutanâhiyah (1282-1283).

As for the hadîth: “The child of illicit sexual intercourse shall not enter Paradise”, I am aware of no authentic chain of transmission for it. All of its lines of transmission are defective. This is in spite of some scholars declaring it to be an authentic hadîth, like Ibn Hibbân [Sahîh Ibn Hibbân (3383,3384)] and al-Albâni [Silsilah al-Ahâdîth al-Sahîhah (673)]

Ibn al-Jawzî declared the hadîth to be a fabrication [al-Mawdû`ât (1561-1566)] Al-Dâraqûtnî ruled that the hadîth is inconsistent. Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalânî declared it to be weak. A thorough discussion about the matter would be lengthy.

Scholars agree that if even if the hadîth were to be construed as authentic, it is not to be taken on its apparent meaning, because it contradicts the indisputable tenet of our faith that no soul shall bear the sin of another. Those who accepted the hadîth have offered numerous possible interpretations for it.

Possibly the best of these interpretations is the one suggested by al-Tahâwî in Bayân Mushkil al-Ahâdîth (2/372-373)] he points out that the phrase “child of illicit sexual intercourse” refers to someone who commits illicit sexual intercourse so often and so habitually as to have the action attributed to him.

Al-Tahâwî points out that this is an established convention of the Arabic language. People who are consumed with their worldly affairs are called “children of the world” and a traveler is referred to in Arabic “a child of the road”. Al-Tahâwî then cites certain verses of classical poetry as linguistic evidence for this usage of the phrase “child of illicit sexual intercourse” (walad al-zanyah).

And Allah knows best.


Question: If a man and a woman commit adultery and a child is born as a result, is that child cursed?

Answered by: Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî, former Professor at al-Imâm University

The idea that an innocent child would be cursed is diametrically opposed to Islamic teachings. Allah says: “No soul shall bear the burden of another.” [Sûrah al-Najm: 38]

Each child is born innocent and guiltless. How could Allah curse a child who has done nothing wrong? The child had nothing to do with what his father or mother did. The sin is entirely that of the parents. There is no sin whatsoever on the child.

The child may not be called a “bastard”. He may not even be referred to as “illegitimate” with the intention to derogate him.