Yasmina El Habbal dreamed of a daughter. She planned to name her Ghalia, Arabic for “precious.” But El Habbal never married. She thought her dreams of motherhood were lost—until at age 40, she finally found her Ghalia in an Egyptian orphanage where she volunteered. When the fussy baby girl with large brown eyes fell asleep in El Habbal’s arms, she thought: “God has created her for me.”
“There’s no way I could have loved her more or become more attached to her had I given birth to her,” the mother reflects. She expresses precisely the complete union that adoption brings to parent and child. That same union is ours when, through Jesus Christ, we are adopted into the family of God. God calls Jesus “the firstborn of many brothers,” and us “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17, 29)
But El Habbal, along with the majority in Egypt, is Muslim. Under Islam, adoption is not legal—at least not adoption in its fullest sense. Islam emphasizes blood lineage. Adopted children are not allowed the legal rights and privileges of biological offspring. Instead, Islam designates a condition called Kafala. Under Kafala, an adult may become an orphan’s guardian—but the orphan is never elevated to heir.
Orphans in Egypt are often stigmatized. That society looks down upon them as less worthy due to their status of parentless-ness, whether that’s because they were abandoned or born outside of marriage. But God does not abandon or devalue the orphan. He calls Himself the Father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) and defines pure religion as showing love for widows and orphans. (Exodus 22:22, James 1:27)
Today, Egypt has a problem of too many homeless children. Muslims look at Kafala with mistrust, fearing even fostering children—which isn’t prohibited—is somehow “unholy” under Islam. El Habbal’s own father is not supportive of the adoption. He refuses a relationship with the “unrelated” little girl.
So El Habbal and others try to change cultural views about orphans and adoption. They share their stories on social media to normalize adoptive families as real and complete.
El Habbal has shared snippets of life with Ghalia on Facebook: the girl giggling as she’s rocked; bundled up by a campfire; mother and baby sporting matching Superman T-shirts.
The message is this: Louli—her nickname—is an ordinary child. She laughs, cries, gets sick and gets better, without shame. And she is dearly, dearly beloved—just as any child should be.