Religion News Service recently published an interesting story about the challenges facing infertile Muslim couples. Annie Snider writes that,
As scientific advances create more choices for couples trying to build families, Muslims face religious teachings that rule out many options available to other couples...
In 1980, just two years after the birth of Louise Brown, the world's first test-tube baby, a Sunni sheikh issued Islam's first fatwa, or religious edict, on in vitro fertilization. Assisted reproduction (artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization) was allowed, it said, but only with the husband and wife's own materials. That meant donor sperm, donor eggs and surrogacy were out.
Over the past 30 years, the ruling has been consistently upheld across Sunni Islam. A 1999 fatwa by a top Shiite cleric effectively permitted donor technologies, but Yale University medical anthropologist Marcia Inhorn said the bias against technological intervention runs strong among many Muslims.
Child adoption under Islam is widely misunderstood as impermissible, even though the prophet Muhammad was himself an orphan who was adopted by an uncle. According to Snider, Islam doesn't permit the adoption of children who have a living parent, but a permanent foster care arrangement, often set up among relatives, is possible.
The article doesn't discuss whether or not adoption of non-biologically related children is increasing in the Muslim community as a result of rising infertility rates, but it's interesting to note that Muslim children frequently do become available for international adoption in countries like India, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan, (generally without requirements that the child be raised Muslim). Several US agencies have recently begun touting a new international program in Morocco, though the Moroccan government requires parents to either be practicing Muslims or to sign a conversion document before a court notary while in country.