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Aqeeqah

by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
President
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
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Children are a precious gift from God to the family and whole of mankind. Arrival of a new baby is a special time in a person's life, as well as a time of great change. Children are heralds of a promise: the renewal of the world in and through the family. Our children, the springtime of the family and society, are always a sign of hope for the world.

Joseph   Smith founder of the Mormon Church said,  "The richest of all my earthly joys is in my precious children," he said. "Thank God!"
Children have the ability to bring the most wonderful sense of joy into our lives as well as the most overwhelming feelings of exasperation.  

Life is a wonderful thing. Parenting is hard, but the rewards far, far outweigh the work. Bearing children--especially sons--was the greatest thing a woman could hope for, and represented her greatest fulfillment. These days, many women have found other ways to fulfill themselves, and although we still value our children highly, the negative sides of motherhood get much more press than they used to. Further, there is a distinct sense in today's society that if a woman is "just a mother," she has somehow fallen short of her potential as a human being.  

Still, bearing children remains a desirable and even crucial goal for many millions of women in our society. Women, who want children but are unable to have them, for whatever reason, continue to feel the age-old pain of the childless woman. And women who have gone through the pain of labor continue to feel the joy-the joy that a child is born into the world. Both the pain and the joy are real.  

In the Islamic tradition the Muslims introduce the new arrival to the family, friends and the community  by performing the Aqeeqah.  

DEFINITION OF AQEEQAH

Aqeeqah is an Arabic word originally derived from the key word 'aq' which means to cut and shred. To cut or shave the hair of the child.

The occasion is associated with 'cutting' because the child's head is shaven on the 7th day after birth.  One scholar's  opinion is that 'aqeeqah' designates the child's hair itself at the time of birth.  A child is a gift of God. Child is adored and cherished. We give thanks to Allah (SWT). Aqeeqah is an expression of Thanks and gratitude to Allah for the gift.  This pleasure is shared with the family, friends and community.

Hadeeth: Whoever has a child born to him and wishes to offer a sacrifice, then let him sacrifice......
 

The aqeeqah is a sunnah (the traditions or way  or practices of  Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)). When a child is born to a family, the father is strongly recommended by the Prophet to slaughter one or two sheep and to invite relatives and neighbors to a meal, in order to allow the community to share in the happy event.  

If the Aqeeqah is made a general invitation - then it should not be restricted to the well-off to the exclusion of the poor, since this was forbidden by our Prophet Muhammad The aqeeqah is recommended to be carried out shortly after the birth of a baby, preferably on the seventh day of his/her  birth. It may be delayed for a week or two or perhaps a little longer. However, when it is delayed for a long time, the very purpose of it is lost.  

Aqeeqah: Is it obligatory?  

The aqeeqah refers to a sacrifice given by a family on the occasion of the birth of a son or a daughter. One sheep is adequate for the aqeeqah for either a girl or a boy. The meat is distributed as follows: One third to charity and the remaining two thirds to be distributed amongst friends and relatives. It should be eaten, fed to people and given in charity"

It is optional as to whether the meat is distributed raw or cooked.

Relatives and neighbors are invited, because this is a joyous occasion to be shared with the immediate community. As cited earlier, the aqeeqah is a Sunnah, which means that it is strongly recommended.  When we say it is strongly recommended, this means that it is not obligatory.  

If a family cannot afford to sacrifice a sheep, then no blame is attached to it for failing to do so. "God does not charge a soul with more than it can reasonably undertake." This is the translation of a Qur'anic statement. A poor family that finds it difficult to make both ends meet is not expected to observe the aqeeqah. The child will not be affected in any way for his/her parents' failure to observe a Sunnah, even when they can afford it.  

 THE ACT OF AQEEQAH

It is clearly evident from numerous ahaadeeth that aqeeqah should be performed 7 days after a child is born. Or later if circumstances do not permit.  

The sacrifice for the child is required from the father - since he is the one addressed by the prophetic ahaadeeth. However, it is also correct if done by someone else. So it is permissible for a near and beloved relative - such as the grandfather, uncle and brother to take on the responsibility of the 'Aqeeqa and donate it. Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as a Maternal Grand Father, gave the 'Aqeeqah of his two grandsons, Imam al-Hasan and Imam  al-Husain - and their father was present. Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Abbas has reported, "The Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam sacrificed two camels at the aqeeqah occasion of Hadhrat Hasan (RA.) and Hussain (RA.)."


 The Prophet (pbuh) mentioned the sacrifice without assigning a particular person to do it.

 

TO GIVE CHARITY, EQUWALENT TO THE WEIGHT OF A CHILD'S HAIR

The child's hair should be shaven, weighed and the equivalent amount of silver given to charity.  

On the birth occasion of Hadhrat Hasan (R. A.), the Noble Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa sallam) instructed Hadhrat Fatima (R. A.) to donate the equivalent amount to charity. The Prophet (Sallalahu alaihi Wasallam) also donated the equivalent amount to the weight of Hadhrat Fatima's hair to charity.  

Hadhrat Imam Mohammad Baqir (R.A.) narrates, "Hadhrat Fatima (R.A.) gave the amount equivalent to her daughter Zainab's (R.A.), Umme Kulthum's (R.A.), and her sons Hasan's (RA.) and Hussain's (RA.) hair to charity."(Mu'atta Imam Mohammad pg. 286).

The above narrations show that to offer the equivalent amount of the weight of a child's hair in silver is Sunnah. But if one were to give the charity in gold, then it would not harm anyone, if one can afford to. That giving silver in charity is easily managed by any person - as opposed to gold, which is more expensive.  

Is Charity to be given in Gold or Silver?

What is established in the authentic ahaadeeth is that it is to be silver, it is confirmed in the authentic Sunnah - that charity be given with the weight of the child's hair in silver. But if  one were to give the charity in gold, then it would not harm since it is reported from a group of the Salaf. But silver is better for two reasons:  

(i) It is what is established in the many authentic ahaadeeth as has preceded.

(ii) That giving silver in charity is easily managed by any person - as opposed to gold, which is more expensive.

What we should do is to work out the value of the appropriate amount of silver in modern currency. That is done by weighing the hair in grams then finding out the current value of that amount of silver. The result will then be the amount of charity that is to be given.  

An example: For hair, which weighs 2.5 grams, i.e. approximately one dirham. We multiply this by the price of a gram of silver - which is not fixed - let us say that it is  $0.16 per gram.  Then the amount of charity to be given will be 2.5 x0.16 = 40 cents and this is an amount of charity, which will be easy for every Muslim - rich or poor.

However, if this were measured in gold, it would be harder since a gram of gold may cost about $10.00  or more, - so upon our example the amount of charity to be given if it were given in gold would be 2.5 x $10.00 = $25.00.

When a child was born Hadhrat Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (RA.) would recite the adhaan in the child's right ear and the iqaamah in the left."

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