Aqiqah: Welcoming Baby
The arrival of a new baby brings joy to any family. Islam has a way to cement that joy in a ritual called the Aqiqah, or Welcoming Consecration, which is held seven days after birth. When a baby is first delivered, the father or mother whispers the Islamic call to prayer in the newborn’s ear, welcoming the baby into the life of the world where the responsibility to respond to Allah’s call is greatest.
A bit of mashed date is then lovingly fed to the baby by custom, and a beautiful supplication for its good fortune in life is made.
Next, the selection of a name is made that reflects the values of Islam. The name can be overtly religious in nature, such as ‘Abdullah (Servant of God), or it can be more mundane, like Asma (Names) or Jameelah (beautiful). Many Muslims name their boys after prophets or famous companions, while girls are often named after members of the Prophet’s household or terms derived from the Qur’an that call goodness to mind. It Is Written in Qur’an:
“We have given a duty to every person concerning his parents. His mother carries him in her womb while suffering weakness upon weakness and then weans him for two years. That’s why We commanded people: ‘Give thanks to Me and to your parents, and remember that back to Me is your final goal.’” (Qur’an, Surah Luqmqn, 31:14)
Circumcision of male babies usually happens within the first few days after birth. It is not considered a religious sacrament in Islam. Rather, it has a more practical function related to good hygiene and cleanliness.
Female circumcision, contrary to popular imagination, is not at all encouraged or required in Islam, nor is there any benefit in doing so from a religious standpoint. The practice is virtually unknown in most of the Muslim world except in parts of Africa where it is a pre-Islamic tribal custom. In that case, local Christian natives engage in the practice as well. Muslim organizations have been in the forefront trying to abolish this practice, though long-standing local customs are difficult to change.
On the seventh day after birth the actual Aqiqah ceremony takes place. Families gather for a special dinner. A sheep or goat is ritually sacrificed (usually at a butcher shop), and the meat is cooked and served to the guests. A portion is also donated to the poor. The baby’s hair is shaved off, and its weight in silver is given in charity.
People congratulate the parents on their newborn and give gifts for the baby.
Janazah: Muslim Funerary Rites:
The Muslim funeral procedure is conducted with a unique frame of mind. Islam teaches that death is merely a doorway into the third stage of life, our time in the grave until Judgment Day. Consequently, the traditional condolence to the bereaved is, “To God we belong and to Him we return.” While sincere crying and sorrow are allowed for the mourners, loud wailing and the tearing of clothes is forbidden.
The body is usually brought to a mosque for the special funeral prayer, known as the Janazah, but it can be performed anywhere. The people line up in rows, with the coffin on a stand in front of them. They begin the prayer in the usual fashion; however, there is no bowing or prostration during this ritual. The entire procedure is conducted standing up. It takes about five minutes to perform, and the words that the mourners recite silently to themselves center on asking God to forgive the deceased.
The rule in Islam is to bury the body as soon as possible. Long drawn-out wakes and showings are not a part of Islamic tradition. The body, which was washed with water and then wrapped in white sheets, is carefully raised over the shoulders. A funeral procession to the graveyard is conducted, and the body is laid to rest in the grave while verses of the Qur’an are read.
Wooden coffins are allowed, but steel ones are frowned upon. It is best to have no container at all so that the Earth can reclaim our physical bodies as quickly as possible. It is customary for people to bring gifts of food and to visit the survivors for several days after the funeral. Tombstones that rise above the ground are forbidden, though many Muslims disregard this rule.
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