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'Is this baby mine?' asks a husband

Q. Fifteen months after I returned from vacation, I was informed by my wife that she has delivered a baby. When I asked how could that happen, she gave me an explanation which is supported by the midwife. I was told that the pregnancy was not going well at first, and that my wife needed medication to get the fetus to develop properly. May I ask whether this is possible? What does Islam say about the baby: is it mine or not?

Most schools of thought give the maximum duration of pregnancy as two years. Some scholars suggest an even longer duration. Scholars have ruled on this point on the basis of information available to them in the periods in which they lived. Moreover, rulings of this type are made taking extreme cases into consideration. When they learned that a woman continued to be pregnant for two years, they considered that that was the maximum.

Therefore, on the basis of this view, in all major schools of thought, the baby is yours. This is confirmed by a different Islamic ruling which applies to all cases, where there is a suspicion about the parenthood of a child. The Prophet himself has given this ruling which is authentic and very specific. The Prophet has used four Arabic words to make this ruling, but I am reluctant to give a literal translation of this Hadith. Therefore, its import, which is unanimously agreed, may be paraphrased as follows: "Once a baby is born in wedlock, it belongs to the husband. Anyone else claiming parenthood receives nothing but disgrace." What this means in effect is that if a married woman is guilty of adultery and gives birth to a child, that child belongs to her husband, who is considered his father. The child is considered legitimate and receives all the rights which belong to the other children of the husband. If the woman claims that she got pregnant by another man, her claim does not affect the preceding rule. She is actually confessing to adultery and she is punished on that basis. The adulterer receives nothing but disgrace as a result of his own confession to adultery. As you realise, the punishment of adultery is very severe.

On the basis of the foregoing, the child is yours since it was born by your wife when she was married to you, living in the accommodation which you have provided for her. It may be that your doubts will not disappear easily. You should remember that, in Islam, nothing can be proved on the basis of doubt. From the practical point of view, however, you are in a better position to judge the character of your wife. If you know her to be good, then you should try hard to dispel your doubts. It is important, however, to try to bring her to live here with you, or to finish your own stay and go back home to live with her. Whichever way you decide, you have to put your doubts out of your mind in order to lead a healthy family life. If you cannot, it is open to you to divorce her. In this situation, you have to give her all her rights. The child, as I said, is yours. This means that the rules of custody in case of divorce apply to your child in the same way as all other children.

Courtesy of Islam in Perspective, Arab News