WHAT DOES AQEEQAH SIGNIFY?

Assalam oalaikum,

The birth of a child is a special occasion which creates a tumult of joy in the family. This exhilarating occasion calls for a grand celebration. However, besides the factor of happiness and merry- making associated with the birth of an infant, there also happens to be some aspects which need to be given a thought. Satan, who is the deadliest enemy of mankind, tries his level best to harm the newly born child, if he gets the opportunity. Therefore, besides enjoying the beautiful experience of having a new member in one’s family, a pious Muslim should also take adequate measures to protect the child from this enemy. There is evidence from the ahadith which proves that Satan tries to harm every child at the time of its birth.

According to a Sahih Bukhari hadith, Prophet Mohammad (saw) said,
‘When any human being is born, Satan pinches the body with his two fingers, except Isa, the son of Maryam, who Satan tried to pinch but failed, for he touched the placenta cover instead’. (Sahih Bukhari-4:506).

In order to protect a newly born, vulnerable infant from the assault of Satan, Islam has commanded the Muslims to perform certain rituals at the time of birth of the infant. Aqeeqa is one such ritual, which may not find its mention in the Holy Quran but is definitely mentioned in the ahadith.

I have mentioned a few ahadith which throw light on the significance of Aqeeqah in Islam:

Hazrat Ayesha (ra) is reported to have said, ‘The Prophet (pbuh) did the aqeeqah for Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain on the seventh day and gave them names’. Ibn Hibban 12/1227

Abdulah Ibn Abbas has reported, ‘The Prophet (pbuh) sacrificed two camels at the aqeeqah occasion of Hasan and Hussain (Nasai)

It was narrated from Salmaan ibn Amir al-Dabbai that the Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘Aqeeqah is to be offered for a (newly born) boy, so slaughter (an animal) for him and remove all dirt fro him. (Narrated by Al-Bukhari-5154)

Every child is held in pledge for his Aqeeqah, which is sacrificed for him on his seventh day, and he is named on it and his head is shaved’. (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawood and the remaining 3 Sunan)


So generally speaking, Aqeeqah is a tradition of our Beloved Prophet (pbuh) in which an animal is to be sacrificed on the seventh day after a child’s birth. The Aqeeqah ceremony of an infant can fulfill two purposes. Firstly, through this religious ceremony, the guardians of an infant can offer thanksgiving to Allah (swt) for having blessed them with a child. Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran:

And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I shall surely increase you (in favor); but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe’ (TMQ-14:7)

Besides this, performing the Aqeeqah ceremony also assures that the newly-born child will get protection from Satan as he would be unable to protect himself. Therefore, performing an Aqeeqah ceremony, according to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), can prove to be the best gift for a newly born!

   

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THE PREREQUISITES OF AN AQEEQAH

Assalam oalaikum,

The ritual of Aqeeqah was practiced even before the advent of Islam. The pagan Arabs used to celebrate the birth of an infant by sacrificing an animal. After the spread of Islam, this ritual was not abandoned completely but was continued after some modifications.
It is related by Hazrat Ayesha (ra), ‘During the age of perversion the custom was that when people performed Aeeqah of a newly born child they dipped a piece of cotton wool of the sacrificed in the blood of the sacrificed animal and when the head of the child was shaved, it was placed on its head. (Since it was an uncivilized custom) Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said, ‘Do not apply blood on the child’s head. Apply Khalooq instead’.
The sacrifice of an animal in Aqeeqah is primarily meant to please Allah (swt) and as Thanksgiving to Him. The infant does not require the blood of the sacrificed animal on its shaved head in any way. Consequently, this perverse practice of the pagan Arabs was abandoned by Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

There was another perverse practice which was associated with Aqeeqah before the advent of Islam. The birth of a female child was considered to be a curse during the pre- Islamic days. So the Jews used to celebrate Aqeeqah ceremony in such a way that they used to offer sacrifice of an animal only in case a baby boy was born. If a girl was born then they used to avoid the sacrifice. However, Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), who had championed the cause of women during his lifetime, put to an end this unfair treatment towards the girl child.
It is reported by Abdullah bin Amr bin al-asl that the Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘To whomsoever a child is born and he wants to perform a sacrifice of Aqeeqah on behalf of it, he should sacrifice two goats for a boy and one for a girl’. (Sunan Abu Dawood 2:2836).

Through another hadith we come to know about the appropriate time for conducting an Aqeeqah ceremony for an infant.
It is reported that Hazrat Ayesha (ra), ‘The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did the Aqeeqah for Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn, on the seventh day and gave them their names’. (Narrated by Ibn Hibban 12/127).

There are some more ahadith which throw light on the rules of an Aqeeqah ceremony. Hazrat Ali (ra) reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) slaughtered a goat on the occasion of Hasan’s birth, the son of Fatima (ra) and Ali (ra) and said, ‘’Oh Fatima! Shave the head of Hasan and pay silver equal to the weight of the hair as charity’. (Sahih Sunan at-Tirmidhi 2:1226)

Last but not the least, there is another ahadith which can answer all the questions that can arise in our minds, related to Aqeeqah.
Yahya related to me from Malik from Hisham ibn Urwa that his father, Urwa ibn az-Zubair made an Aqeeqa for his male and female children of a sheep each. Malik asked, ‘What do we do about the Aqeeqah is that if someone makes an Aqeeqah for his children, he offers a sheep for both the male and the female. The Aqeeqah is not obligatory but it is desirable to perform it and people continue to come to us about it. If someone makes an aqeeqah for his children, the same rules apply as with all sacrificial animals- one-eyed, emaciated, injured or sick animals must not be used and neither the meat nor the skin is to be sold. The bones are broken and the family eats the meat and gives some of it away as charity. The child is not smeared with any of the blood’. (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 26.2.7)  
So we find that on the seventh day of the birth of an infant, two sheep /goats/camels should be preferably slaughtered for a boy whereas a single sheep/goat /camel should be sacrificed for a girl child. The hair of the child is also supposed to be shaved on the same day and the required charity should be done. However, the Sunnah of Aqeeqah is not compulsory, if one cannot afford the expenditure.

Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: ‘And Hajj to the House (Ka’abah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence).’ (TMQ-3:97).
Hajj is the most important ceremony which a Muslim is commanded to perform. However, those who cannot afford to perform Hajj are exempted from performing it. So an Aqeeqah ceremony cannot be an exception and it is also not compulsory if the guardians of the newly born cannot afford it.



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AQEEQAH IN THE LIGHT OF AHADITH (SUNAN ABU DAWOOD)

Assalam oalaikum,

In order to thoroughly understand the Islamic ritual of Aqeeqah we will have to analyze the ahadith collection as there is no mention of Aqeeqah in the Holy Quran. All the aspects related to the ritual of Aqeeqah have been mentioned in detail in the ahadith of Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Malik’s Muwatta and Sunan Abu Dawood. I shall discuss about these ahadith in this post and in the next one so that the concept of Aqeeqah is easily understood.

Narrated Umm Kurz al-Kabiyyah, ‘I heard the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) say, ‘Two resembling sheep are to be sacrificed for a boy and one for a girl. Abu Dawood said, ‘I heard Ahmad (Ibn Hanbal) say, ‘The Arabic word ‘Mukafi at’ani’ means equal in age or resembling each other. (Sunan Abu Dawood, Book of sacrifice, no.2828)
Narrated Umm Kurz, ‘‘I heard the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) say, ‘Let the birds stay in their roosts. She said that she also heard him say, ‘Two sheep are to be sacrificed for a boy and one for a girl, but it does no harm whether they are male of female.   (Sunan Abu Dawood, Book of sacrifice, no.2829)
Narrated Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn al-‘As: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was asked about Aqeeqah. He replied, ‘Allah does not like the breaking of ties as though he disliked the name. And he said, ‘If anyone had a child born to him and wishes to offer a sacrifice on its behalf then he may offer two resembling sheep for a boy and one sheep for a girl. The he was asked about Fara (the first baby of a camel). He replied, ‘Fara is right. If you leave it i.e. let it grow till it becomes a healthy camel of one year or two years then you give it to a widow or give it in the Path of Allah for using it as a riding beast, it is better than slaughtering it at a age when its meat is stuck to its hair and you turn over your milking vessel and annoy your she-camel. (Sunan Abu Dawood, Book of sacrifice, no.2836)
Narrated Burayday ibn al-Hasib, ‘When a boy was born to one of us, we sacrificed a sheep and smeared its head with its blood. However, when Allah brought Islam, we sacrificed a sheep, shaved his head and smeared his head with saffron. (Sunan Abu Dawood, Book of sacrifice, no.37)

In my next post, I shall Inshallah discuss about the remaining ahadith (Sahih Bukhari and Malik’s Muwatta) which throw light on some important aspects of the Islamic ritual of Aqeeqah.



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AQEEQAH IN THE LIGHT OF AHADITH (SAHIH BUKHARI AND MALIK’S MUWATTA)

Assalam oalaikum,

In this post I shall mention the remaining ahadith, i.e. Sahih Bukhari and Malik’s Muwatta which shed light on some important details related to the Islamic ritual of Aqeeqah.

Narrated Salman bin Amir Ad- Dabbi that he heard Allah’s Apostle say, ‘Aqeeqah is to be offered for a (newly born) boy, so slaughter (an animal) for him and relieve him of his suffering. (Note: It has been mentioned in Fateh-al-Bari that there is unanimity amongst majority of Islamic scholars regarding the ahadith mentioned in Sahih At-Tirmizi in which the Prophet (pbuh) was questioned about Aqeeqah ceremony and he instructed two sheep for a baby boy and one sheep for a baby girl. This has been accepted as a Prophetic Tradition.) Sahih Bukhari 380, Book of Aqeeqah.
Yayha related to me from Zaib Ibn Aslam from a man of the Banu Damra that his father said that when Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) was asked about Aqeeqah he said, ‘I do not like disobedience (uquq), as if he disliked the name. He further said, ‘If anyone has a child born to him, and wishes to sacrifice for his child then let him do so’. (Malik’s Muwatta-26:1:1)
Yahya related to me from Malik from Jafar Ibn Mohammad that his father said that ‘Fatima (ra) weighed the hair of Hasan, Hussa, Zainab and Umm Kulsum and gave away in charity the equivalent weight in silver.  (Malik’s Muwatta-26:1:2)
Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi that if any of Abdullah ibn Umar’s family asked him for an aqeeqa he would give it to them. He gave a sheep as Aqeeqa for both his male and female children. (Malik’s Muwatta-26:1:4)
Yayha related to me from Malik from Rabia ibn Abi Abd ar-Raham that Mohammad ibn Ibrahim ib Al-Harith at-Taymi said, ‘I heard my father say that Aqeeqa is desirable, even if it was only a sparrow’. (Malik’s Muwatta-26:1:5)

The above mentioned authentic ahadith highlight the significance of Aqeeqa in Islam. They show that Aqeeqah is a highly desirable Tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) through which not only can we show gratitude towards Allah (swt) but we can also protect the newly born from Satan.



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THE IMPORTANCE OF AQEEQAH IN ISLAM

Assalam oalaikum,

The ritual of Aqeeqah is important in Islam in more than one way. Aqeeqah is not just a superficial celebration of a child’s birth by throwing a feast and making merry. The Islamic ritual has some sound reasons behind it due to which it is highly recommended.
Satan is our biggest enemy and there is enough Quranic evidence to proof this.
Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: ‘Surely, Satan is an enemy to you, sp take (treat) him as an enemy.’ (TMQ-35:6)
In another Quranic verse Allah (swt) says, ‘And let not Satan hinder you (from Islamic monotheism). Verily, he (Satan) to you is a plain enemy’. (TMQ-43:62)
In verse 2:208 of the Holy Quran Allah (swt) says, ‘O you who believe! Enter into submission one and all and do not follow the footsteps of Satan, surely he is your open enemy’.

The above mentioned verses show that the Holy Quran has categorically stated in various verses that Satan is our deadliest enemy and we should beware of his cunning tactics lest we fall into his trap. Unfortunately, Satan being the biggest enemy of the human race does not even wait till the birth of a child, in order to harm him. This is evident from the following hadith:
Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said, ‘If anyone of you while having sexual intercourse with your wife says, ‘Bismillah, Allahumma Jannibna-sh - shaitan  wa jannibi-sh-shaitan ma razaktana’, (O Allah! Protect us from Satan and also protect what you grant us (i.e. coming child) from Satan and if it is destined that they will have a child, then Satan will never be able to harm him’. (Sahih Bukhari 7/94)
This hadith proofs that even an unborn child is susceptible to the attacks of Satan. Moreover, there are a plethora of cases where the pregnant women suffer from successive miscarriages due to black magic spells cast on them by some envious. This is also a proof which shows that Satan is on the prowl even before the child is born and if it gets a chance it tries to harm the child irreparably.  This is why a hadith states that, ‘Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said that when a child is born Satan pinches the child with his two fingers, except Isa, the son of Maryam, whom Satan tried to pinch but failed for he touched the placenta instead;. (Sahih Bukhari-4:506). The pinching by Satan is the reason why the child cries immediately after birth. Satan does not spare the child even when it is so vulnerable at the time of its birth. This reflects the hatred and enmity of Satan towards the human race.

Aqeeqa serves as a protective shield for the child and it reverses the damage inflicted by Satan on the baby while it was still in its mother’s womb. This is evident by the following hadith:
It was narrated Salman bin Amir Ad- Dabbi that he heard Allah’s Apostle say, ‘Aqeeqah is to be offered for a (newly born) boy, so slaughter (an animal) for him and remove all dirt from him’. (Sahih Bukhari 380, Book of Aqeeqah.)

So, after a careful analysis of the hadith related to Aqeeqah we come to know that this Islamic tradition is not just a frivolous celebration of a child’s birth but it has an underlying aim and a meaningful purpose of protecting the child from its worst enemy, i.e. Satan.



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IS AQEEQAH COMPULSARY IN ISLAM?

Assalam oalaikum,

Up to now we have discussed the significance of the Islamic ritual of Aqeeqah. The ritual includes shaving the child’s head and offering sacrifice of an animal, ideally on the seventh day after the child’s birth. However, after exploring the various aspects related to Aqeeqah there is a question which still remains unanswered. Is it incumbent on every Muslim to perform Aqeeqah or not?

We know that a large part of the populace, mostly in under developed and developing countries, lives below the poverty line. So for the poor who have a tough time trying to make both ends meet and who live hand to mouth, will Aqeeqah be compulsory?

In order to find an answer to this question let us see some other examples of the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).
Marriage in Islam is also a Sunnah like Aqeeqah but Islam has shown a way out for those who cannot afford to marry.

Abdullah (B.Masood) ra reported that Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) said to us: ‘O young men! Those amongst you who can support a wife should marry, for it restrains eyes (from casting evil glances) and preserves one from immorality; but he who cannot afford it should observe fast for it is a means of controlling the sexual desire’. (Sahih Muslim, Book of Marriage, no.3233)
So we find that if a man is unable to afford a wife then he exempted from the institution of marriage instead of being punished for his inability.
Let us move on to another example of Hajj, which is the fifth pillar of Islam. Whereas the institution of marriage is a Sunnah,   Hajj is obligatory. However Allah (swt) says about Hajj in the Holy Quran, Chapter 3- verse: 97:
“In it are manifest sign (for example) the Maqam (place) of Ibrahim; whosoever enters it, he attains security. And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Ka’aba) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provisions and residence); and whosoever disbelieves (i.e. denies Hajj, then he is a disbeliever of Allah) then Allah stands not in need of any of the Alamin (mankind and jinnd).
So this Quranic verse makes it clear that even though Hajj is a compulsory in Islam yet those who cannot afford it have been exempted from it.
So from these examples we can draw a conclusion that Aqeeqah, despite being a highly recommended practice and a Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh), is not compulsory for those who cannot afford it.
Islam is a moderate religion and this moderation pervades all the acts of worship.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said, ‘Take upon yourself only those actions for which you have the strength to carry out consistently. (Sahih Bukhari-1100)
This hadith speaks volumes about the fact that Islam does not burden any Muslim beyond his capacity, whether physical or financial, because Islam is a religion of moderation and not extremism, in any way.




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THE SPIRITUAL ASPECTS OF AQEEQAH



Assalam oalaikum,

In this post, I shall discuss about the spiritual aspects of an Aqeeqah ceremony. The birth of a child family is celebrated with lots of joy and gaiety in every society. In Islam, sacrificing of an animal (a goat or a sheep) and shaving the hair of the newly born child on the seventh day is known as Aqeeqah. Silver, weighing as much as the infant’s shaved hair, is given as charity. The occasion calls for a celebration and it serves as a family get- together too. However, the real essence of this Islamic ritual is beyond this superficial merry-making. It is essential to understand the spiritual aspects of Aqeeqah in order to understand the underlying purpose behind it.
Sacrificing of an animal on the occasion of Aqeeqah is a way thanksgiving to Allah (swt) for the gift of a child. According to a hadith offering a sacrifice on behalf of a child also helps to remove the harmful effects and dirt from him. I have discussed in my previous posts that Satan tries to harm the unborn child in its mother’s womb and it also pinches the child at the time of its birth. According to a Sahih Bukhari hadith, Prophet Mohammad (saw) said, ‘When any human being is born, Satan pinches the body with his two fingers, except Isa, the son of Maryam, who Satan tried to pinch but failed, for he touched the placenta cover instead’. (Sahih Bukhari-4:506).
Since Satan in our biggest enemy of mankind so he starts his cunning ploys as soon a child is conceived. Offering a sacrifice of an animal relieves the child of all the harm that Satan might have tried to bring about.

Narrated Salman bin Amir Ad- Dabbi that he heard Allah’s Apostle say, ‘Aqeeqah is to be offered for a (newly born) boy, so slaughter (an animal) for him and relieve him of his suffering. (Sahih Bukhari 380, Book of Aqeeqah.

The hair of the child is weighed on the day of Aqeeqah and its equivalent weight in silver is given away in charity. The benefits of charity in Islam are well known. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said, ‘Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date fruit in charity’. (Sahih Bukhari) volume 2, hadith 498).

So, we find that behind the feast and celebrations associated with an Aqeeqah ceremony there are some underlying, spiritual reasons due to which Aqeeqah is a much preferred Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). If we become aware about the spiritual aspects of Aqeeqah then we can understand the significance of this Islamic ritual in a better way.




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