General Instructions Concerning a Newborn for Muslim Parents
What must a guardian do on the birth of the child?
Islam has laid down the fundamental principles in unambiguous terms for rearing the child.
Congratulations may be conveyed on the birth.
It is commendable that we congratulate our Muslim brother on the birth of his child and thus add to his happiness. This creates an atmosphere of love and compassion among Muslim families. If congratulations cannot be conveyed, prayers for the well being of his child must be offered. The Noble Quran refers to the glad tidings to Sayyidna Ibrahim (Alayhis -salam) and his wife.(Hud 11:69-71) Similarly, Sayyidna Zakariyya (Alayhis -salam) too was given the glad tidings of the birth of Sayyidna Yahya (Alayhis -salam) (Al Imran 3:39, Maryam 19:7) On the birth of the Noble.Prophet ( Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) the slavegirl of Abu Lahb, Sayyidah Thuwaibah, congratulated the uncle, Abu Lahb, who freed her on the occasion .
In our congratulatory message to the parent, we may add a prayer to Allah: That He bless the child, That He guide the parents to be thankful, That the child turn out to be righteous, That he have a long life. Irrespective of whether the new born is a boy or a girl, we must offer congratulations. Some people offer gifts, sweets or cash. This practice is within the limits of the Sayings of the Noble Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) that Muslims must present gifts to one another to foster friendship and love. However, we must neither turn it into a mere custom nor consider it obligatory. We must avoid the ways of non-Muslims and must not indulge in wasteful expenditure .
Adhan (Call of Prayer) and iqamah may be said in the child's ears
In the right ear of the new-born baby, the Adhan may be recited, and in the left ear, the iqamah This is done immediately after the baby is bathed. On the birth of Sayyidna Hasan to Sayyidah Fatimah (Radhiallaho Anha) the Noble Prophet,(Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) had said the Adhan in his ear. (Abu Dawood and Tirmizi.) This practice ensures safety to the child from epilepsy.
Hafiz ibn Qiyyim (Radhiallaho Anho) says the significance of saying the Adhan and the iqamah in the ears of the child is that the first words he hears declare the greatness and majesty of Allah. The words of testimony are those which a man recites on embracing Islam. In other words, this is a pronouncement of the creed of Islam. Besides, at the sound of Adhan and iqamah, Satan distances himself. At this early age, the child is thus invited to Allah the Majestic, to Islam and to the worship of Allah. This call forestalls temptation by Satan and ensures an unblemished faith. Moreover, it is a forearming against Satan and temptation.
Tahneek is the practice of chewing date and applying a part of the chewed portion to the palate of the child so that it goes down the child's mouth easily. If date is unavailable, one may apply any thing sweet, like sugar-candy, honey or juice, to the child's palate. Thereby, the sunnah is fulfilled. The veins and the muscles are strengthened. The dental palate, the jaws and the mouth are made active. As a result, it is easy for the child to suck milk from the breast of its mother. A pious and God-fearing scholar or a venerable saint may be invited to do Tahneek. Tahneek is mustahib. Sayyidna Abu Musa said, "When my son was born, I brought him to the Noble Prophet, (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) who named him Ibrahim and performed his Tahneek with date, blessed him and then returned him to me''(Bukhari and Muslim) Sayyidna Anas carried the new born son of Sayyidna Abu Talhah to the Noble Prophet.(Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) chewed a date and gave some of it in the mouth of the child, carried out Tahneek, and named the child, Abdullah (Bukhari and Muslim
Shaving the head
The hair on the head of the new-born must be shaved on the seventh day. It is mustahib (desirable) to give silver in sadaqah to the poor and needy equal to the weight of his or her hair. Shaving the hair of the head provides the child with strength and opens up the pores of the skin. It is also beneficial to the eye-sight, the hearing and the sense of smell. Thereby the poor is helped, too. Sayyidah Fatimah (Radhiallaho Anha) distributed silver as sadaqah equal in weight to the hair on the heads of Sayyidna Hasan Husain Zainab, and umme Kulthum. (Malik in Muwatta and Yahya bin Bukair) on the birth of Sayyidna Hasan, the Noble Prophet,(Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) asked Sayyidah Fatimah (Radhiallaho Anha) to have his head shaved off and offer silver equal in weight to the hair as sadaqah. The hair weighed a dirham or a little lesser than a dirham. (ibn Ishaq)
The entire head must be shaved. To shave some hair and to leave some on the head is called qaz' and is disallowed.(Bukhari and Muslim) This is not fair with the head because some of it is bared and the rest hidden. It is exactly as though a part of the body receives sunlight and rest of it is in shade. Also, it may be compared with a shoe on one foot and none on the other. Both these things are forbidden. The intention is to prevent the defacing of one's appearance. It also aims at discouraging the adoption of unreasonable pretense or resemblance to non-Muslims. You must act on these mustahib deeds so that it is then easy to act on the fard (compulsory deeds).
Instructions on naming the child.
People name their children to distinguish them from others and to call them by their names. Islam is a complete faith. It recognized this habit and its importance. Therefore, it gave a set of instructions on naming the child.
When must a child be named?
According to a hadith, a child is pledged with its aqeeqah; it is sacrificed on behalf of the child on the seventh day when it is given a name and the hair is shaved off its head. (Ashab-us-Sunan) Thus, the child must be named on the seventh day. According to some Ahadith, the child must be named promptly on birth. When Munzir bin abu Usaid was born his father took him to the Noble Prophet, (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) who took the child in his laps and asked the father its name. On being told his name, he said, "No, call him Munzir". (Bukhari and Muslim) it is reported in a tradition that the Noble Prophet said, " Last night a son was born to me, and I have named him Ibrahim after my grandfather, Ibrahim, (Alayhis -salam) (Muslim)
Names that are preferred, and that are undesirable.
The name given to the child must be meaningful, lovely and good. On the Day of Resurrection, a person will be called by his name and the names of his parents. Therefore, a good name must be selected. (Abu Dawood) Allah, the Exalted, likes best the names Abdullah and Abdur Rahman. (Muslim)
Those names must not be given to the child, that affect his personality or become a cause of ridicule. The Messenger of Allah, (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) always changed names that were derogatory (Tirmizi) The name of one of the daughters of Sayyidna Umar was Asiyah (meaning, disobedient), the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) changed it to Jamilah. (Tirmizi and ibn Majah) Besides, the Noble Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) changed such names as Aziz, Utlah (hardness, thickness), Satan, Hukm, Ghurab (crow), Habab (snake, Satan). (abu Dawood) He also changed the names, Harb (war) into Silm (peace), Muztaja' (one who lies down) into Mumbais (one who is prepared, ready), Banu az-Zania (the product of adultery) into Banu ar-Rushdah (good people) Banu al-Maghwiyah (one who misleads) into Banu ar-Rushdah.
We must not give names that intimate to ill omen or bad character. The grandfather of Sayyidna Sa'id bin al Musayyab presented himself before the Noble Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) asked him his name "Hizn" was the reply (meaning, hard ground, surliness). He said, "Your name is Sahl (easy) . He replied, "How can I change the name given to me by my father?" Sayyidna Sa'id says that from then on hardness of character is found among us. (Bukhari) Sayyidna Yahya bin Sa' id says that Sayyidna Umar asked a person his name. He replied, " Jamrah" (live coals "And the name of your father?" ' Shihab (meteor). "With whom are you connected? He replied, "Harqah" (burning). Sayyidna Umar asked him, "Where do you live?" "Harrat un-Nar" (heat of fire). "Where is it?" "Zat Lazza" (flames of fire). Sayyidna Umar e (Radhiallaho Anho) said to him, "Go home, quickly! The people of your house have perished from burning". It turned out so truly (Malik in Muwatta)
The name selected for the child must be other than a name of Allah; thus, it should not be Ahad, Khaliq or Razzaq. It is permissible, however, to name the child Abdul Ahad, Abdus Samad or any other name of Allah compounded with Abdul.
When Sayyidna Hani came to Madinah with his people, they called him Abu Hakm. The Messenger of Allah, (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam), said, "Only Allah, the Exalted, is Hakm. He alone is the One Who decides. Why do they call you Abu Hakm?" He replied, "If a dispute arises among my community, they ask me to decide between them. Both the parties are happy with my decision". He said, "This is commendable. We must settle the disputes of our folk. Say, do you have any son?" "I have three sons, Sharih, Muslim and Abdullah." "Who is the eldest?" "Sharih is the eldest." The Prophet said, "Your kuniyah (title) is Abu Sharih.( abu Dawood)
According to a hadith, on the Day of Resurrection, the worst of all persons in the eyes of Allah - and liable to punishment - will be he whom people will call Shahinshah.(King) Only Allah, the Exalted, is Shahinshah (meaning, King of the monarchs) and kingdom belongs to Him alone. (Muslim)
We must not give names to our children that indicate good fortune. Suppose the names to be Aflah (successful) Nafe' (profitable), Ribah (beneficial), Yasr (easy). if in a gathering, someone calls out a person by such a name and he is not there, the answer "not here" might imply that this characteristic is lacking in that assembly. Ahadith says: Allah, the Exalted, likes most four phrases subhaan Allah, wal. hamd u lillah, wa la ilaha ill Allah and Allah u akbar.
Do not give your sons the names of Yasar, Najeeh or Aflah. You will ask for them. If they are not there, the person replying would say 'not here'. These are four names; do not refer to me after adding to these names (abu Dawood, Tirmizi)
While naming their children, parents must ensure that the names they select signify servitude to Allah alone and to no false deity. They may not associate or bondage even to the name Nabi. Certain forbidden names include Abdul Uzza, Abdul Ka'bah, and Abdun Nabi. Similarly, parents must not give names to their children that emphasize love and romance. Some of these names are: Hiyam, Beef'a, Nihau, Sosan, Miyadah, Gadah, Ahlam. These mean 'violent love', 'slim waist', 'large bosomed', 'fragrant flower', 'walks swinging to and fro', 'soft and delicate woman', 'dream'. Islam envisages Muslims as a people of remarkable attributes. When parents select vulgar and romantic names, they risk tainting the character of the child.
The Messenger of Allah,(Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) has encouraged his follower (Ummah) to call their children with meaningful names. He has suggested names of the Noble Prophets, (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) Abdullah or Abdur Rahman. This, because they may stay the best of Ummah and fulfil their duty diligently in guiding humanity to Islam and truth. The words of a hadith are: Keep the names of the Noble Prophets,(Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) Allah, the Exalted, loves most the names Abdullah and Abdur Rahman. The most truthful names are Harith and Humam. The most disliked names, and vulgar too, are Harb and Murrah (respectively, war and bitters
It is sunnah to use kuniyah (honorary title) for the child
The use of a kuniyah (honorary title) for the child creates in him feeling of self-reliance and nobility. Call him Abu so and so. He cultivates a sense of confidence in the society. When the designation is lovely and fitting and used in a light-hearted vein, he feels happy about it. This also teaches him how he may address his elders and those younger than him. It was the habit of the Noble Prophet, (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) , to give kuniyah to children. He called the brother of Sayyidna Anas (Radhiallaho Anho)
Abu Umair when he lost his bird the Noble Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) asked him, "What happened to Abu Umair Nugair (Bukhari and Muslim) The kuniyah may not necessarily refer to one's own children; it may refer to anyone. For instance, Sayyidna Abu Bakr (Radhiallaho Anho) had no son by the name Bakr but his designation was Abu Bakr. The kunnyah of Sayyidna Umar (Radhiallaho Anho) was Abu Hafs. The kuniyah given to Sayyidah Aishah (Radhiallaho Anha) was umme Abdullah- Sayyidna Anas (Radhiallaho Anho) had as kuniyah Abu Hamzah and Sayyidna Khalid bin Waleed had Abu Sulaiman. Kuniyah may be given to all, young or old.
Some considerations upon naming the child.
If father and mother do not agree on a name, then it is the privilege of the father to name the child. The child is known by his father. This is the command given in the Noble Quran. (al-Ahzab, 33:5 ) The Noble Prophet, (Sallallaho alahe Wasallam) had named of his son, Ibrahim.(Muslim)
It is not permitted to give the child a contemptuous or a disliked name. It is not proper to select such names as which refer to child's shortcoming as far as his body and appearance concern, such as Thagnay, Bhingay, Gungay, Kabray,. Kuloo, and the like. The Noble Qur'an has disallowed the use of names with the intention to tease (alHujurat, 49:11) lest children develop bad habits.
What about the designation Abul Qasim The Islamic scholars (Ulama) are agreed that the name of the Noble Prophet,(Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) may be chosen for the child. An individual named his son Muhammad. People objected to it. He went to the Prophet and narrated his predicament. The Noble Prophet asserted, "Give your children my name. However, do not use my kuniyah because I am the one to divide. I divide among you (Muslim)
How is it to use the kuniyah (title) of the Noble Prophet Abul-Qasim? There are different opinions on this. Some Ulama have disallowed its use altogether. (Bukhar and Muslim) Others have concluded that it is correct to use it as reflected in some Traditions. yet others have opined that it is inadmissible to use both the name and the designation for the same child. (abu D awood) Some others have contended that the inadmissibility was during the lifetime of the Noble Prophet but now that he is passed-away it is permissible to use both the name and the kuniyah. (abu Dawood ) This last conclusion is superior.
Aqeeqah and its instructions
What is aqeeqah.
The Arabic word aq means 'to cut'. Thus uqooq waldain is 'disobedience to parents and suspension of relations'. In the terminology of Shari'ah it is the sacrifice of a goat for the child on the seventh day after the birth.
According to a hadith, we must perform aqeeqah on the birth of a child. Pay a ransom on his behalf and remove filth from him. (Bukhari) According to a hadith, every child is pledged to his aqeeqah that may be sacrificed for him on the seventh day; the same day he must be named and his head shaved. (A hab-us-Sunan) The sacrifice on behalf of a boy is two goats and for the girl one goat or their equivalent. (Ahmad and Tirmizi)
The opinion of the jurists regarding the legality of aqeeqah.
Aqeeqah is sunnah or mustahib (desirable in the view of Imam Malik, Imam Shafa'l, Imam Ahmad, Ishaq, Abu Thaur and others. They based their opinion on the Ahadith mentioned earlier. They do not consider it obligatory as they find no evidence in the Ahadith. Also, it is left to intention. Hanafi think this is (istehbab) praiseworthy. Hasan Basri and Lais bin Sa'd and others think it is obligatory. They based their opinion on the hadith that says that every child is pledged to its aqeeqah. (Tirmizi and Nasai) They also rely on the Tradition that, on the Day of Resurrection, people will be questioned about aqeeqah just as they will be asked about obligatory prayers. (Ishaq from sardah)
The approved time of aqeeqah.
According to Ahadith, it is commendable to rerform aqeeqah on the seventh day. The Noble Prophet, (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) did the aqeeqah of Hasan and Husain on the seventh day after their birth. It may be done on the fourteenth or twenty-first day;' it is valid, too, on the fourth, eighth or tenth day or later. (Maimooni)
How is the aqeeqah of a girl performed?
Aqeeqah is sunnah mustahibah for both, boy and girl. Two goats are sacrificed on the birth of a son and one on the birth of a daughter (Ahmad and Tirmizi and ibn Shaibah) However, if anybody sacrifices one goat on the birth of a boy, he has performed a valid aqeeqah. (Abu Dawood) This does not imply preference of a boy over a girl but this is because the Noble Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) had done it. It may be, too, because man is given excellence over woman by reason of his superior physical power, heavier burden of responsibilities and supervision.
The bones of the animal must not be broken
We must not break the bones of the sacrificial animal (Abu Dawood) This is a sign of good omen of health and strength of the child. The poor and the neighbors get large pieces, too. However, there is no harm if someone does break the bones of the animal.
Other general instructions regarding aqeeqah.
The animal that is valid for sacrifice is valid too in the offering of aqeeqah. These include goat, sheep and ram. The animal must be one year old, fully. However, a six-month old ram may be offered in sacrifice and aqeeqah if it is sufficiently fat and healthy and looks like a year old. The goat must be a year old. The animal must be free from defect. It must not be blind, squint eyed or so much thin that there is no marrow in its bones. It must not be so lame that it cannot walk by itself to the place of sacrifice. That animal, also, is invalid for sacrifice whose tail or ear is cut off more than two-thirds, or most of its teeth have fallen off, or it has no ears since birth or is so much mad that it does not eat or drink.
The sacrifice of an animal is valid if its ear is torn or a horn is split. Also, if an animal is lame but it can walk on its three legs its sacrifice is allowed. If some of its teeth are broken but most are intact, the animal is not very mad or the ear, tail or hip is only one-thirds cut off, then, in all such cases, the sacrifice of this animal is valid.
The sacrifice of a cow or a buffalo is not valid before it is two years old. The camel must have completed five years of age.
It is legitimate to share in aqeeqah and sacrifice.
We may offer a cow or a camel instead of a goat in aqeeqah.
The division of meat during the aqeeqah are subject to the same injunctions that apply (Bayhaqi) for division of meat of a sacrificial animal. We may eat the meat ourselves, distribute as sadaqah, or gift it. However, in the case of aqeeqah, it is legitimate to give some to the nurse also. in celebration of aqeeqah we may invite others and cook the meat for the feast.
It is commendable to perform aqeeqah on behalf of the child. According to a hadith, while offering the animal of aqeeqah, one may say: I sacrifice in the name of Allah. O Allah, it is for You alone and it will return to You. O Allah, this aqeeqah is on behalf of so-and-so.( Ibn Munzir) However, if at the time of sacrifice, the parent has not yet named of the child, even then aqeeqah is valid because of the intention behind it.
The wisdom behind the legitimacy of aqeeqah.
On the birth of the child, the animal is offered in aqeeqah to obtain nearness to Allah and to offer ransom for the child. The child intercedes for its parents. Parents find in the fulfillment of the obligation under Shari'ah a source of happiness. Also, it promotes love and compassion among the individuals of society and all participate in the happiness. It opens a new fount of income. It diminishes poverty and need. In Islam, there are different occasions of feast. These may be when guests or visitors arrive, on the birth of a child, on the marriage of a son, on circumcision of a newborn boy, when the travelers returns home, when aqeeqah is performed and when a house is built.
Circumcision and its injunctions.
The literal meaning of circumcision is 'to cut the skin that is at the tip of the reproductive organ'. In Shari'ah it is 'the round part on the edge above the conical vascular body of the penis'.
The lawfulness of circumcision.
To rinse the mouth, to take in water in the nose, to bare the moustaches, to brush the teeth, to cut the nails, to remove the hair in the armpits, to strip the hair below the navel, and to circumcise'(Ahmad and abu Dawood) - these are innate to human natured Ahmad, Bukh ar i and Muslim
Is circumcision obligatory or sunnah?
Imam Abu Hanifah, Hasan Basri and some followers of Imam Hanbal, consider circumcision a sunnah. According to a hadith, circumcision is sunnah for men and virtuous for women.(Ahmad) In the hadith quoted earlier, it is one of the sunnah. Thus, this supports their view that circumcision is sunnah. Besides, the Noble Prophet, (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) did not enquire of those who embraced Islam whether they were circumcised. If it was obligatory he would not have omitted to ask.
Imam Malik, Imam Shafa'i, Imam Ahmad, Sha'bis and others hold that circumcision is obligatory They did not allow an uncircumcised man to lead the prayers or to give evidence. Once, the Noble Prophet (sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) ordered a person who had embraced Islam, to shave off the hair grown during unbelief and to circumcise. He said: Whoever joins Islam must circumcise howsoever old he is. Harb Ibn Abbas and Sayyidna Ali (Radhiallaho Anho) in the light of this hadith.(Bayhaqi) Circumcision is a sign of religion. It distinguishes a Muslim from an unbeliever. Then, cleanliness and, therefore, ritual prayers - of the uncircumcised person are questionable. The skin may retain drops of urine. If left unwashed, ablution and prayer are incomplete. An uncircumcised man is not permitted to lead the prayers. Circumcision is the sunnah of Sayyidna Ibrah lm and the Prophet was asked to adhere to the practice. (an-Nahl, 16: 123) Sayyidna Ibrahim was circumcised at the age of eighty years.(Bukhari and Muslim) He was the first person to perform circumcision. Circumcision is the sunnah of the Messengers; (Tirmizl and A hmad) it is a sound natural disposition and a sign of Islam and obligatory on men. He who does not circumcise commits a sin.
Is it necessary for women to be circumcised?
According to the leading qualified jurists, circumcision is not obligatory on women; it is mustahib (desirable) According to one ruling of Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on him, it is obligatory. However, according to the traditions, it is merely praiseworthy (istehbab).
When is circumcision recommended?
Circumcision of the boy is recommended before he attains maturity. It is advisable to do it with aqeeqah. At this age he does not suffer much pain. The question of his being shy does not arise, too. The Noble Messenger (sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) had the aqeeqah and circumcision of Hasan and Husain performed on the seventh day after their birth. (Bayhaqi)
The wisdom behind circumcision.
It is the basis of inbred nature, a symbol of Islam, an indication of the law of the Lord, and the attainment of the true society (an-Nahl 16:123)
It distinguishes Muslims from the followers of other religions. It also indicates the submission to the injunctions of Allah and discharge of his commands.
It ensures perfect cleanliness and tones down sensual desires.
It prevents many illnesses. Dr Sabri al Qabani in his book, 'Our Sexual Life', lists the advantages of circumcision:
- Man is relieved of the collection of harmful greasy matter and unpleasant dampness.
- The tip of penis is not imprisoned.
- He is immune from cancer of the penis.
- If performed at an early age, the tendency to urinate in bed is checked.
- The habit of masturbation is curbed.
The foregoing instructions emphasize upon the guardians that attention must be paid to rearing the child right from its birth. They must go over every matter concerning the child. Observance of these injunctions guarantees the health of the Child. When it opens its eyes, the child may find itself in a practicing Muslim family, whose guideline is Islam and who comply with the rules of Shari'ah. Thus, Islam establishes itself in the heart of the child. It strengthens the faith of the child. It encourages the child to be gentle, well mannered and pious.