The Fiqh of Aqiqah: Rulings When a Child is Born

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By Mufti ʻAbd al-Qādir Ḥusayn

What is the meaning of Aqeeqah

A distinction needs to be drawn between the literal meaning and the technical meaning of the term used by the jurists and the scholars of Islam. In the literal meaning of Aqeeqa according to the Lexicon Dictionary, we find that the letters in Aq – ‘A and ‘Q – means to cut. Nabi Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said not regarding the minor sins or the major sins but the worst and most heinous crimes, Uqooqul Waalidayn –which is the cutting of ties with ones parents, showing disobedience and disrespect to parents. This is considered a major crime, one of the worst crimes a person can commit. Therefore the literal meaning of Aq is to cut. When we discuss the word Aqeeqah technically it means the slaughtering of animals. When a baby is born, it is a joyous occasion, but we do not forget to thank All Mighty Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala and thus slaughter a goat or a sheep. It serves as a thanksgiving to All Mighty Allah Subhanahu Ta’ala and as a mark of this joyous occasion – the birth of a child.

When should the Aqeeqah be carried out??

Aqeeqah should be carried out on the seventh day bearing in mind how one calculates the seventh day. If a baby was born during the day on a Thursday for example, the seventh day would be the next Wednesday. If a baby was born on the night of Friday for example, then the seventh day is calculated as the next Thursday and for clarity’s sake if a baby was born on Monday then the seventh day is calculated as the next Sunday. One must take cognisance of the fact that in Islam the night precedes the day. Sunset serves as the ushering in of a new day. When we speak about the slaughtering of animals it is important to take note that some animals must be slaughtered in a particular place and particular time. An example, people performing Hajj who have to slaughter the hadi, referred to as such because one has to guide the animal to a particular place. When one performs tamattu or kiraan Hajj the animal has to be slaughtered in Makkah or Mina, in the Haram area. In this case the place and the time are specified, that is one has to slaughter on the 10th, 11th, 12th of Zul Hijjah. For the slaughter of some animals, only the time has been specified. Udhiya – Qurbani has to be slaughtered on the 10th, 11th, 12th of Zul Hijjah – the Shafi’i madhab includes the 13th – but can be done anywhere in the world. This particular slaughtering is referred to as Udhiya because slaughtering usually takes place at Duha, at around 10am or 11am when the sun is at its zenith. There is also the case where one can slaughter an animal any time during the year but it must be done in a particular place. dham, the penalty paid for a crime one commits while in the state of Ihraam can be slaughtered at any time of the year but must be slaughtered in the precincts of the Haram. Aqeeqa can be slaughtered anywhere and at any time. It is Sunnah that it is done on the seventh day. If it cannot be done on the seventh day for financial reasons for example, then it can be done later.

What are the Sunnahs of the day of birth??

The day the baby is born adhan should be given in the right ear. If the father is not present the mother may also do it. One gives the adhan softly in the right ear and Iqamah in the left ear. These are both Sunnah acts according to Ahadith. One the same day Tahneeq can also be done where dates are chewed and placed inside the mouth of the baby, on the palate. Nabi Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) did tahneeq for Abdullah bin Zubayr (radhiyallahu anhu) and made ‘dua’ for him. The rationale for both these Sunnahs is so that the ears hear the name of All Mighty Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala first and then the name of honourable Nabi Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). The first thing that goes into the mouth of the baby is that which is halaal and tayyibah, nourishing for the baby.

One the seventh day, is Aqeeqah the only Sunnah or are there other Sunnahs as well. Must Aqeeqa be repeated when one changes the name of the baby??

On the seventh day there are several Sunnah that need to be performed. The baby’s head needs to be shaved where all the hair is removed. After this is done, saffron is mixed with water and applied on the baby’s head. This was done as a refutation, to demolish the custom of paganistic ritual during the times of Jaahiliyah where they would take the blood of an animal and smear it on the baby’s head. Islam abolished this act and made it a good practice to use the saffron. Aqeeqah is the second practice to be performed where one goat/sheep is slaughtered for the birth of a baby girl and two sheep/goats are slaughtered for the birth of a baby boy. The leg or thigh of the sheep is given to the midwife. Charity can also be given to the poor. These are Sunnahs that many overlook. Often the number of animals slaughtered for the different genders is questioned. It’s similar to the situation of inheritance in Islam. A daughter must be sustained by her father from the day of her birth until the day of her nikah. A son must be sustained until he is 16 or 17, which is until he can stand on his own feet, whatever is done for him after that is done as a favour. On the seventh day the baby is also given a name. The most beloved names to All Mighty Allah  are Abdullah and Abdurrahman for a boy and Ammatullah and Ammaturrahman for a girl. Choose good names, 25 Prophet’s names are mentioned in the Noble Quraan and thousands of Names of Sahaaba and Sahaabiya (alayhi al ridhwan). The Aqeeqa can be eaten by the family but it’s best to do what one does during Qurbani where the meat is divided in three portions – one for oneself, second for relatives and the third for the poor. This is not compulsory. Shafi’i scholars said regarding the Aqeeqah that the meat is cut in big chunks not small pieces; this is Tafaul – a good omen to keep the baby protected and is a good etiquette not a Sunnah.

Aqeeqah does not need to be repeated if a baby’s name is changed.

Who should perform the Aqeeqah on behalf of the baby??

The onus is on the father as he is the breadwinner. In time when the father cannot perform this duty because of constraints another person can. Sometimes the paternal or maternal grandfather requests to buy the animal or buy one in the case of a boy, this is permissible. Nabi Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) paid for the Aqeeqah of Sayyidinah Hassan and Hussain (radhiyallahu anhum). The Ulama reconciled the Ahadith. In principal the responsibility is on the father to pay for the Aqeeqah. It is a Sunnah in terms of ruling, not Waajib.

Can Aqeeqah be performed for deceased children??

When a child is born and lives for a few days, months or years, and then passes away there is no Aqeeqah. There is no concensus. For those who are deceased young and old there is no Aqeeqah. If you wish to slaughter a goat or sheep for the deceased in the name of Allah and give to the poor as Esaale Thawaab, that is permissible. This is not called Aqeeqah. These are not the same issues and should not be confused.

Until what age can Aqeeqah be done??

The Hanafi Ulama say that if parents did not perform Aqeeqah for a child then the child may perform it for themselves at any age. The Shafi’i scholars say that once the child reaches the age of puberty, no Aqeeqah can be made.

What happens if no Aqeeqah was done at all??

If the child is still living and one is aware that their Aqeeqah was not made, the Hanafi madhab allows one to perform it as per the requirement for the gender. In terms of the Shafi’i madhab if one’s parents do not remember performing the Aqeeqah then the child should perform their Aqeeqah. If the parents are living in difficult in conditions example a war zone, then it’s best for the adult child to perform it if they have the means. If a person is in real financial difficulty and is unable to perform the Aqeeqah then it is not regarded a sin as Aqeeqah is a Sunnah and not Waajib.

What is the rules regarding circumcision for the new born??

The Shafi’i Ulama say it is best to circumcise the baby boy on the seventh day also on this day. It is highly recommended to perform circumcision very early on. If one is travelling on a Thursday and their wife gives birth and they are unable to perform the Aqeeqah the following Wednesday because they are travelling, then you are able to perform it on any subsequent Wednesday. The day one was meant to perform it, then on the same day of any other week one must perform it. Similarly for circumcision which is one of the salient features of Islam.

What is the Aqeeqah for multiple births such as twins?

If twin boys are born then the Aqeeqah is four goats/sheep or two sheep and two goats (making four animals), according to what one prefers. If one girl and one boy are born, one sheep/goat for the girl is slaughtered and two sheep/goats are slaughtered for the boy making it three animals in total. If one does not have the means then they are allowed to slaughter according to their means. Grandparents and relatives assistance in this regard is highly recommended and desirable.

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