Aqiqah literally means cut and it is often used for the hair of a new born baby that is cut or shaved.
Aqiqah is defined as the animal that is slaughtered on the occasion when the hair of a new born is shaved.
The animal is called aqiqah and it is also encouraged for the animal to be called nasikah or zhabihah.
THE LAWS OF AQIQAH
The performance of aqiqah is sunnah muakkkadah ( highly encouraged ).It is to be performed by the parents or the guardians of the child.
Prophet Muhammad and his companions used to perform aqiqah when they were bestowed with a new born.
It was narrated in Sahih Bukhari, that the Prophet ( Peace be upon him ) said :
" With a ghulam ( young boy ) his aqiqah, then pour on his behalf blood and remove from him all that is offensive."
TIME OF AQIQAH
The time to perform aqiqah begins with the birth of the baby. It continues until the baby reaches the age of puberty or independence. Once the person is independent, the responsibility of performing aqiqah rest on his ownself and he can perform it for his ownself if this act has not been done previously.
The best time to perform aqiqah is on the seventh day after the birth of the baby.
This was reported in Abu Daud where the Prophet ( Peace be upon him ) said :
" A young boy is cleansed with his aqiqah. An animal is slaughtered for him on the seventh day, his name is given and his head shaved."
THE PURPOSE OF AQIQAH
There are many benefits in the performance of aqiqah and some of them are :
1. Announcing the blessing of Allah with the birth of a baby.
Being bestowed a baby is a great blessing from God.It is only with God's grace that a couple could enjoy the joy of receiving a baby. Thus to show gratitude and joy to God for this gift,blessing and great occasion, an animal is slaughtered and the meat shared amongst friends and relatives.
2. Making known the baby's genealogy and his family.
Aqiqah is also an occasion to pronounce the birth that has taken place in a family.This is to inform friends and relatives about the new member in the family and to avoid misunderstanding or gossips that could arise from that birth.It is also to confirm the baby's rights to the family's wealth and name.
3. Promoting acts of benevolent and promoting kinship and friendship by giving meat to family, friends and neighbours.
Gathering families and friends on this joyous occasion would promote better relation, understandings and love.Even the poor is not left out from this festivities as they are also entitled to the food and meat served on this occasion.
TYPES OF ANIMALS TO BE SLAUGHTERED
There are practices by Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him ) where he slaughtered a goat for a boy, and a goat for a girl.
It was narrated in Sunan Tirmizhi where the Prophet made aqiqah for Al Hassan ( his grandson ) by slaughtering a goat.
The most recommended for the parent or the guardian of the child is to slaughter 2 goats on the occasion of a boy and 1 goat for the birth of a girl.
THE CONDITIONS OF ANIMALS FOR AQIQAH
Since aqiqah is an act of devotion, the type, age and condition of the animal must be acceptable before the aqiqah is valid.The condition of the animals in aqiqah is the same as theconditions for the animals in korban.
It was reported in Tirmizhi and Abu Daud, that Al Barra' Ibn 'Azib narrated that the Prophet ( Peace be upon him ) said :
" Four things should not be found in a sacrifice ( korban ) : an obvious handicap, a clear sickness, a crippled animal and broken bones."
NAMING THE BABY AND SHAVING HIS/HER HEAD
On the seventh day after birth, the name of the baby should be announced.
It is the responsibility of the parents to give the baby the best name.
It was reported in Abu Daud that the Prophet ( peace be upon him ) said :
" Verily all of you would be called out in the Day of Judgement by your name and the name of your fathers, so be good in naming yourselves."
On the seventh day, it is also encouraged for the baby's hair to be shaved for boys and also girls.The weight of the hair should be translated to the weight in gold and the value be donated to the poor.
CIRCUMCISION ( KHITAN )
Khitan literally means incise. It is the procedure where the outer skin covering the penis head ( hasyafah ) is incised.
According to the Syafie's school of thought, it is obligatory for boys and girls to undergo circumcision.
In the case for girls, a tiny portion of the the skin on the top most of the vagina ( faraj ) is cut. ( Please note that khitan is far from genital mutilation practiced by some African countries.)
It was reported in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim, that Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet ( Peace be upon him ) said :
" Five things are included in instinct (fitrah) : circumcision, shaving of pubic hair, removal of hairs in the armpit, cutting the nails and shortening of the moustache."
Tahnik is the practice of feeding the baby with chewed dates.The dates are chewed by an adult and spread on the baby's palate.
It was reported in Sahih Muslim that Anas Ibn Malik said :
" I brought Abdullah Ibn Abi Thalhah Al Ansari to meet the Prophet ( Peace be upon him ) after his birth. That time, the Prophet was wearing a sweater and was spreading oil on his camel. The Prophet asked : Did you bring some dates ? I answered : Yes. Then I passed him a few dates and he started chewing them. He then opened the baby's mouth and placed some dates and this made the baby lick and swallow the dates. Then the Prophet ( Peace be upon him ) said : People of Ansar love dates. Then he named the baby Abdullah."
It is encouraged for the tahnik to be performed by revered personality in the community. This is for them to make supplication and invoke blessings upon the baby.