Shari`ah focuses on children’s rights, especially foundlings, because they lack natural, parental care. Jurists have defined who is to be regarded as a foundling and they have made rulings pertaining to this category of society in all its aspects. A foundling in the juristic point of view is defined as: ‘A living child left by its (unknown) parents out of fear of poverty or scandal (due to being born from an illegitimate relationship).’
This definition depicts the conditions that often cause parents to abandon their child. Parents may do so because they are too poor to care for it, or because the child is the result of an illegitimate relationship and the parents are afraid of scandal. According to jurists, it is a duty upon the one who finds a foundling to take it and look after it, for this is saving a life that Allah, the Almighty has destined to exist. This is also a way of giving a helping hand to a fellow human being that may play a good and positive role in society someday. Allah, the Almighty says: ‘Whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! Many of them became prodigals in the earth.’ (Al-Ma ‘idah: 32)
In fact, if a person found a foundling but did not take it, even though he is able to care for it [and the child died], that person would be considered a cause for its death. Such an act may be considered a criminal act in terms of law. Hence, jurists have called upon people to take care of foundlings and have warned them against avoiding such responsibility. They said: ‘He who leaves a foundling is sinful, and he who takes care of it will be a winner [of Allah’s rewards].’ Reviewing the biographies of great people, one finds that Allah, the Almighty bestowed His blessings on some foundlings and made them take on great positions.
Concerning naming the foundling, jurists are of the opinion that if a Muslim man claims for certain that so-and-so foundling is his son/or/daughter, the foundling is to be named after that man. Having a known linage will be a source of dignity for this foundling. This will guarantee the foundling all filial rights regarding its rearing, inheritance, etc. If no one comes forward claiming to be the father of the foundling, it is to remain in the care of the person who found it, and the public treasury of the state is to provide for the expenditure of rearing and educating it. In that regard, it was reported that `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) said to a man who had found a foundling: ”It is under your custody and we (i.e., the authority in government) are to provide for its needs.
”`Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) would give people who took care of foundlings sufficient money to take care of their needs per month and would advise them to be kind to the foundlings in their care. If a man from the people who are responsible for rearing foundlings appears not to be up to his responsibility, the custody of the foundling under his care is to be taken from him, and is to be put under the direct care of the state.