Muslims typically know the word ‘Aqiqah,’ and we know it happens when a baby is born. How much more do we know about it before we need to know about it?
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I always thought an Aqiqah was a celebration that happened within the first year of the baby’s birth. Often attending Aqiqah’s for newborns, I enjoyed cake, holding the new baby, good food, and a social gathering. I didn’t see what was happening “behind the scenes” or never really internalized it, I guess.
It wasn’t until I was about 8 months pregnant with my first-born, that my parents asked me about my plans for the Aqiqah. I didn’t really have much to say, except that I will shave the baby’s head and I will then think about planning the celebration within the year. There wasn’t much more to it than that, so I thought.
I was quickly informed that there was more to an Aqiqah than just shaving the baby’s head and hosting a celebration – there was purpose and meaning to each act we take under the banner of an Aqiqah. I figured it couldn’t be too far from what I’ve seen growing up, so I started to look into the process.
After taking the time to research this topic, it didn’t take long before I started getting confused with the cultural versus Islamic aspects of an Aqiqah. I feel that, as years go on and the rituals become habits within us, that line between culture and religion gets blurred, making the whole process convoluted.
The new information I was learning, was drastically different from what I once understood to be an Aqiqah, and my mind frame was shifting. I was starting to understand the importance of this process for the first time. I eagerly wanted to dissect what was cultural versus what was Islamic, to consciously understand the why, what, and how one should carry out an Aqiqah as I brought my newborn baby into this world. Integrating cultural traditions are important as well, but I did want to make sure that I was addressing all the Islamic recommendations before incorporating the cultural elements.
Learning more about the Aqiqah process has truly allowed me to appreciate the beauty of this tradition even more. Knowing why you’re doing something increases its value tenfold.
Due to the variety of information I was finding during my research, I opted to consult the book of Al-Kafi, which is widely known to be one of the first and foremost comprehensive books of hadith (scripture) of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.w.) with his family as narrators. I chose this book to get to the core of each ritual that encompasses the Aqiqah process.
In this post, I will aim to address a few common questions I had:
- What is an Aqiqah?
- Why is the Aqiqah Important?
- Is an Aqiqah Obligatory?
- Four Recommended Acts to Perform an Aqiqah
You can gain access to a detailed document with the steps on HOW to perform the Aqeeqah in my resource library!
What is an Aqiqah:
By definition, the word Aqiqah is Arabic for “sacrificing an animal.” This is far from what I originally thought it meant, but so reassuring to have clarity on now.
Why is the Aqiqah Important:
Children are a gift from Allah (SWT) in the Islamic faith. We should celebrate their birth with gratitude.
According to hadith, sacrificing an animal for a newborn’s birth will safeguard the child (Al Kafi, H10331, Ch.14, h4). The act of offering an animal dates back to Prophet Ibrahim (p.b.u.h.) when he was asked to sacrifice his only son, Ismail. Without hesitation, and due to his devotion to Allah (SWT), he accepted this sacrifice willfully. However, Allah (SWT) sent a ram to be sacrificed in place of Ismail and spared Ismail’s life. His life was spared because Prophet Ibrahim (p.b.u.h.) demonstrated his obedience and submission to Allah (SWT) and His commands. The act of sacrificing an animal is a reminder of Prophet Ibrahim’s (p.b.u.h.) obedience and piety toward Allah (SWT).
One should also distribute the Aqiqah meat (cooked or uncooked) to family and friends and provide a portion to the poor. The act of giving food to someone in need, in itself, is favored by Allah (SWT) (Al Kafi, H10333, Ch.14, h6). In our society and abroad, there are a tremendous amount of people in need. Providing a luxurious meal such as meat to someone who may otherwise not have the ability to consume such a meal allows them to participate in your celebration. It enables you to gain the reward that will come from such an act.
An Aqiqah Celebration, which includes family and friends’ invitation to assemble, referred to as a Walima, is held because this is one of the recommended acts of celebrating a child’s birth. This is also an opportunity to introduce the baby to close family and friends.
Each of these allows us to show gratitude toward Allah (SWT) for the blessing(s) He has bestowed on us while keeping others in mind and inviting family and friends to pray for a virtuous child.
These are the reasons why an Aqiqah is important.
Is an Aqiqah Obligatory:
This seems to be a debatable topic within Islam. Some scholars and jurists have indicated that an Aqiqah is necessary; however, during my research, I found that most scholars and jurists across Islamic sects have suggested that an Aqiqah is a recommended act and not obligatory.
We know that an Aqiqah is considered a Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet (s.a.w.w.). This is undisputable across Islam.
It is narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.w.) offered an Aqiqah for his grandchild, al-Hassan (a.s.) (Al Kafi, H10366, Ch. 21, h1).
It is also narrated that the daughter of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.w.), Fatimah Al-Zahrah (a.s.), offered an Aqiqah for her two children (al-Hassan (a.s.) and al-Hussain (a.s.)). She shaved their heads on the seventh day and gave charity equal to their hairs’ weight in silver or gold (Al Kafi, H10366, Ch.21, h1).
Keeping in mind that Islam is not a religion of hardship, and while it is highly encouraged to offer an Aqiqah on the birth of a child if one cannot afford to do an Aqiqah, it is not required and may be foregone (Al Kafi, H10341, Ch. 16, h1).
The Recommended Acts to Perform an Aqiqah:
- Aqiqah (sacrifice an animal)
- Shave your baby’s head
- Give your baby a good name
- Prepare a Walima (Aqiqah celebration)
To learn HOW to perform the Aqiqah, you can access this document in my free resource library! I provide the details with hadith and sources so you can easily validate the information!
Aqiqah Online Services in North America:
If you’re reading this and live in the west, it is likely a significant challenge to find someone to sacrifice an animal for you in your hometown. Although this is the best method, it is not always an available option.
Often, we rely on our relatives living abroad to carry out the sacrifice for us. We try to coordinate the remaining acts at home.
You may be in a situation where you don’t have family or friends abroad and can’t find a local animal sacrifice option. In that case, I have found a few reputable resources that may be helpful:
Response USA: https://www.rusard.org/cause/aqiqah/
Hidaya Foundation: https://www.hidaya.org/social-welfare/aqiqah/
Qurbani Foundation: https://www.qurbani.com
Islamic Relief Canada: https://www.islamicreliefcanada.org
For most of my information, I consulted Al Kafi’s book, Volume 6. This book is a compilation of hadith by Thiqatu al-Islam, Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al Kulayni. Al Kafi is one of the first books of hadith of the Prophet (s.a.w.w.) that his Ahlul Bayt (family) narrates. This particular volume gives light to the recommendations surrounding the Aqiqah process and is a tremendously useful source.
If you’re expecting or a loved one is planning an Aqiqah; I pray that it is meaningful and pleases the Almighty.
This post is all about offering an intentional and meaningful Aqiqah.