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Muslim Birth Rites #6 : Shaving of Head and Alms-giving

So here’s the final part of the birth rites series.

It is recommended in Islam to shave the baby’s hair on the seventh day. This practice is clearly mentioned in many narrations as what was being performed by the beloved Prophet Muhammad for his grandchildren.

We know t (from the companion Anas bin Malik) that the Prophet ordered to cut the hair of his grandsons Hassan and Hussayn on the seventh day after their birth. After cutting their hair an amount of silver ( in other narrations, gold) was given as alms, and the weight of the silver was equal to the weight of the hair that was cut.

I have heard that the reason behind the full shaving is that it improves hygiene, given that the hair grew inside the body, passed through the passage with blood covering it, and the only reference I could find with regards to this advantage is this:

Ibn Al-Qayem (Allaah’s mercy upon him) said about the benefit of shaving the newborn’s hair: Shaving his head removes the harm from him, removes the weak hair so that stronger and firmer hair replaces it and it is beneficial for the head. In addition, it comforts the newborn and opens the head’s skin openings. And along with this is a strengthening of his eye sight, his sense of smell and hearing. Refer to Ahkamul Tifl: Ahmad Al-Eesawee 192.

 From <http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080921224613AAtXkQ4>

 While there is a typical traditional ceremony in Malay society where the baby’s hair was cut (a bit, not clean-shaved as required), and the parents throw a huge feast (these days the ceremony looks more like weddings), we beg to differ and stuck as much as we could to the prophetic tradition i.e. sunnah.

Isa was shaved on the seventh day, according to his father’s calculation. My mom who has strong hands took charge of shaving him, assisted by my husband. It took nearly an hour to remove all his hair, first cutting them short using a pair of scissors, then shaved clean using a razor. I remember Isa was sound asleep throughout the process – and mommy got to rest the whole time!

And yes, Isa was not hurt at all during the process. I know some people who hire professional lady to do this since they have no confidence in doing it themselves.

On the second part where parents are supposed to give charity, we did that too Alhamdulillah. Since we didn’t have a scale at that time, we made a guesswork on  the weight of the shaven hair. I googled, and found some blogs that estimated the typical weight to be in the range of 1-2 grams.We took the higher amount i.e. 2 g, check the gold price at that moment was around MYR170/g, so my husband gave approximately twice of that amount to charity.

 I know that some Muslim parents neglect this practice. Especially if it is a girl – who would want their cute baby girl to be bald? While it is not compulsory, I would highly recommend this to contemplating parents, for these reasons:

  1. It is sunnah. It means that it is a practice loved and done by the Prophet. I agree that we did not know fully the benefit, but is not it enough a reason to provide an environment with the possibility blessings and barakah from God for following the prescribed tradition?
  2. The new hair will grow. Don’t worry about that. Sooner (or maybe a bit later) your baby will be ‘cute’ again.  Isa hair grew very quickly that his head was not hair-free after a week.
  3. It helps to reduce things to manage with regards to your baby. Most babies have cradle cap for example, and without hair it is easier to be treated.

The outcomes

The Shaving Process

 

Happy shaving new moms & dads!

 

*****

This post is the final part of the Muslim Birth Rites Series.

birthrites series

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Muslim Birth Rites #5 : Aqeeqah

(Isa is nearly one and half year old, but I am yet to finish writing about the birth rites! )

Another near-compulsory rite in celebrating the birth of a child is to perform ‘aqeeqah’, involving the slaughtering of a goat or lamb on behalf of the child.  The meat is then distributed to the poor, or the parents can hold a feast.  Typically, for a male child two sheep or goats are sacrificed, while only one for a female child.

It was narrated from the Prophet himself, that until slaughtering and sacrificing of the animal is done on behalf of the child, the child will not be able to intercede for his parents on the Day of Judgement.

My father, being the money-savvy dad he always is has earlier advised us to make sure that we saved our money separately for this purpose while we were still pregnant. I told you, goat or sheep costs a lot these days. And we are blessed with a son – which means approximately MYR1500 for two goats.

Isa’s aqiqah was rather a small event. It is a trend observed nowadays where parents make it a big deal – with special door gifts, decorations and all – but we tried as much as possible to be moderate. Aqiqah was supposed to be performed on the 7th day after birth, but Isa’s was done almost a month after – to be precise, on the day I ended my strict traditional post-natal confinement i.e. 45th day. The idea was soon after that I could return home with my husband after that.

Our plan was to hold the ceremony at my parents’ place, where supply of good goats is easier to find. Since my parents live close to my extended relatives, we imagined the ceremony to be feast for about 50-60 guests. It is the kind of ‘kenduri’ or feast that I love.

Everything went well all praise be to Allah. The food was delicious, many attended and prayed for Isa’s good health.

But many too, asked on my husband’s whereabout.

Which deserves another story itself.

 ***

My husband promised to be there for the ceremony (he stayed in Kuala Lumpur, while I spent my confinement days at my parents’, about 6-hour drive away). We invited his parents to came along, as well as his best friend, who offered to drive them all in his car. They began their journey around 8PM, so I expected them to arrive around 2AM. My mother-in-law was unwell, so it was three of them in the car – hubster, his best friend and my father in-law.

However, when I was feeding Isa that early morning he texted me saying that the car broke down at a place (not even half way). He confirmed that everything was okay, there was no need for me to worry.

Came morning only he texted me again saying that he won’t be able to make it, and wanted to talk to my father. I let him.

I was sure that I did feel a bit of disappointment and a slight anger at that moment. If the car break down I thought, go fix it and come here – what is so hard about that? It is our son’s aqeeqah, and it would be weird if he is not around after all!  I kept that to myself of course, and answered very briefly when the guests asked of him, trying to contain my sadness.

It was not until late afternoon that he sent me the photos of the car.

I cried.

The car didn’t look anything like a car. It was true that it broke down, but what he did not tell me is that as one of the tires punctured, the car slipped of the road hitting the road divider. It was fairly a massive accident, and they were lucky the road was empty with no other motorists, and that the car was Japanese-made. Should it be our national car (infamous for the low quality) the policeman who handled their case thought that all three of them might have been killed due to the impact.

Well, apparently he has explained the whole thing to my father that morning, asking my father to keep the real story from me. He feared that I would be too emotional about it with post-partum blues and all.

That is surely very thoughtful of him.

So yes, Isa’s father was not around during his aqeeqah ceremony, and I am pretty sure this would be a good story to tell to Isa once he is all grown up.

p.s. None of them was injured, but it seems that my FIL did suffer a bit temporary amnesia. My husband had a bit of chest pain. His best friend, well, he was fine, thanks to the air bag, but he lost his car. Irreparable that his car insurance’s company declared it as a total loss.

Muslim Birth Rites #4: Naming the Child

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Giving our first born a name was rather a long-winding road.

In the midst of the current trend of giving long, bombastic names to babies in Malaysia, both of us agreed that ours should have a simple name. As Muslim names in Malaysia are patronymic (officially registered with ‘bin’ which means ‘son of’ or ‘binti’ which means ‘daughter of’), and my husband’s full name is long (it has three words to be exact), and our son is to have the pre-fix ‘Wan’ like my husband (as a Patrilineal Noble descent), it just makes sense to ease our son’s life with a short name. Imagine if he’s sitting for an exam, and having to write the full name – wouldn’t it be frustrating to have to write six words in such urgency?

I remember telling my husband, just a week after we both knew that we were pregnant : Let’s make a deal. If it is a girl, I’ll choose the name, and if it’s a boy, he will pick the name. And me, being impulsive and decisive as usualm already had a name (though it was not yet 5 weeks into pregnancy!) for a girl. It was Maryam, after the Virgin Mary, or Maryam as mentioned in the Holy Quran, one of the four noblest women in Islam.

But upon scanning for the gender, we knew that it was going to be a boy (I knew it even before that actually, thanks to my motherly instinct) at the fifth month of pregnancy. And since then, I kept bugging my husband to suggest a name. My argument was that I want my unborn baby to be addressed by his name even before he’s born.

It took my husband four months to figure it out.

My husband loves to read historical books – precisely on Islamic history. I remember at that time he was finishing a book on a Muslim commander named Khalid al-Walid. He since then had been toying with some historical names of famous Muslim warlords – but none really stuck.

It was not until nearer to my due date that we finally managed to choose a name.

We’d love initially to name our son with the name most loved to Allah – which is either Abdullah (Slave of God) or Abdurrahman (Slave of the Most Merciful), but combined with ‘Wan’ these names are going to be too long to our liking. Plus, we want to eradicate the possibility of his full name being shortened until it loses its good meaning.

So we moved to names of 25 Prophets mentioned in the Holy Quran, listed them one by one and crossed the names we thought are not suitable:

  1. Adam – it’s my nephew’s name, so NO.
  2. Idris – those with this name is normally called ‘Deris’ so NO
  3. Nuh – our mutual friends’ son’s name. Sounds weird when we put ‘Wan’ before it. NO.
  4. Hud – our mutual friend’s name. Also sounds weird when we put ‘Wan’ before it. NO.
  5. Saleh – My maternal grandfather’s name. NO.
  6. Ibrahim – our mutual friends’ newborn son’s name. NO.
  7. Lut – Sounds weird when we put ‘Wan’ before it.
  8. Ismail – Usually shortened to Mail. NO
  9. Ishaq – People are normally confused on how to pronounce it, and most do it wrongly. It should be IS – HAQ, not I-SHAQ. So NO.
  10. Yaakub – NO. Can’t remember the reason though.
  11. Yusuf – We have a friend with the exact name of Wan Yusuf. So NO.
  12. Ayyub – MAYBE
  13. Shuaib – MAYBE
  14. Musa – NO. I just thought this won’t match my son. Just mommy’s irrational instinct.
  15. Harun – MAYBE.
  16. Zulkifli – NO, just because it is too long.
  17. Daud – MAYBE
  18. Sulaiman – NO, it’s too long with the risk of being nicknamed.
  19. Ilyas – My cousin’s name. NO.
  20. Alyasa‘ – MAYBE. My husband actually likes this one.
  21. Yunus – MAYBE
  22. Zakaria – NO
  23. Yahya – MAYBE. My husband likes this one. It’s a special name given by God he said.
  24. Isa – MAYBE. Though it’s our mutual friend’s name.
  25. Muhammad – My father’s name. NO.

After coming out with a short list, we finally agree that Isa would be it (and save the other agreeable names for the next son, if there’s any).

Isa.

In the Quran, there are not many specifics on Isa, except that He was one of the four noblest Prophets/messenger of Allah due to his steadfastness and patience in trials and tribulations.

And Isa is often described (without quoting any particular source) as a prophet who had great wisdom and knowledge, an obedient son to his mother, who spoke the truth and confronted materialism, persistently calling others towards worshipping Allah. And I wish for my son Isa to have all these beautiful traits and characters – the underlining prayer whenever I call him ‘Isa’.

Muslim Birth Rites #3: Circumcision

I supposed my posts on birth rites are not following the correct order – I can only write whatever I feel like at the moment.

The third rites that we as parents have successfully fulfilled for Isa is circumcising him.

We in fact had him circumcised on his second day.

Just for the record, having him circumcised very early in his life met a lot of opposition from our parents. In Malaysia, it is common to have the boys circumcised around the age of 6 to 9. Some even go to the extend of making it a special occasion by throwing a feast.

My husband begs to differ.

On my side, I am actually okay with any thing, but earlier when I was pregnant and we attended a talk by an Islamic scholar from South Africa, who could not help but expressing his surprise to learn that Malay boys are circumcised very late in their life. He even thinks that it is actually a kind of torture that we are putting them through that as the healing time increases as they age!

So we had Isa underwent the procedure, with the general surgeon from the same medical centre he was born in.

As I recall, the surgeon came to my room (in the maternity ward) and briefed us about the procedure. My husband asked me to go with him and Isa, but I refused – I said I could not stand seeing my newborn son being hurt (though I was fully convinced that this is good for him), and that I was still weak at that time.

Isa came back sleeping after 15 minutes – to my surprise. My husband told me that the procedure took less than 10 minutes, and Isa only cried for a short while.Talk about being brave!

So for the next one week, Isa had the ring attached to his private part, and paracetamol dose a few times a day to ease his pain. We were assured that it will heal in less than a week, and it sure did!

It did cost us quite a lot to have the procedure done early, but I guess going against the tide does have its cost, no?

P.s. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember Isa’s X before circumcision.

And So I Delivered a Baby

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My baby, fresh from oven

*This is a long post, intended mostly as a record of what happened. Feel free to read if you have time! Pardon the incorrect medical terms used by the way. This is reblogged from my other page, written some moments  after I delivered Isa.

I gave birth to a boy last Saturday, all praise be to Allah.

I know a post on such a momentous event deserves a more dramatic opening line but i suppose the first line summarises every important points I’d like to convey. It was not until I hear how my mother described my labour process to others that I realised mine was not exactly a smooth one – the truth is I did not know what exactly is normal!

It was on Thursday when I went for my weekly checkup that the doctor again reiterated the fact that I didn’t ‘look’ engaged (and I was not) and we found out that I was 1cm dilated. She warned me, it could be tomorrow the D-day – and I should come back tomorrow for another checkup. The verdict was still 50-50 on whether it would be normal or Caesarean, given that my baby is in posterior position and the head is considerably large at 9.8cm.

I prepared myself for the possibility of C-sect. I am not at all sentimental about how I’d deliver; vaginal or otherwise. The most important thing is the safety of the baby. I informed everyone necessary that I might go into labour the next day, and at 1 cm dilated I didn’t feel a thing. I drove my way back home (the partner, for the first time could not accompany me to checkup), even managed dropped by a stall selling coconut juice after having my lunch.

The next day my husband took a leave – one that we thought would be a paternity leave – and went to the hospital, only to find out that I was only 2 cm dilated (I’d have been warded if it’s 3) with mild contractions. The doctor said that since it is slow-progressing we should only come back on the due date itself which is 4 days away.

That afternoon both of us paid a visit to my parents who arrived in Shah Alam the day before. There were contractions along the way but mild enough for me to ignore it.

The night came and as usual I woke up several times to go to the toilet. At around 3 in the morning when I woke up for the third or fourth time perhaps, the contractions were already bothering me. I managed to sleep but the pain got me turning left and right – I was restless by the time we rose for Fajr prayer.

My husband was concern of course,  he kept asking on whether we should head for the hospital, which is less than 5 minutes away. I said no – with the sole reason of me not knowing what contraction should feel like! I had breakfast in such a discomfort, and by 10 am I have basically tried every single position suggested in Miriam Stoppard’s book to ease early labour pain. I told my husband if this lasted until 12 we’d go to hospital, but at 11 things seemed to get better I refused to go, to the dismay of my husband who called my doctor.

The doctor asked how far apart the contractions were and I said 20-30 minutes. Funnily, as soon as I hung up the contractions came less than 10 minutes apart!

My husband went to buy lunch, as I said I could wait until after Zuhur( mid day prayer) prayer before going to the medical centre and if I were to deliver I would want a full stomach. I was hungry, but I could not finish the meal – I tried squatting (which was the most efficient position to reduce discomfort so far) but it didn’t help – then only I begged my husband to rush me to hospital – not to the A&E, but to get CTG done (even at this time I still did not think that I am actually close to labour).CTG showed some contractions and upon internal exam I was found to be 3cm dilated – which means I had to be admitted.

I was then transferred to the Labour Room (I think it was LR2 for record purpose), asked to change, given enema and told to relax. Seeing me in so much pain (I would not call that pain actually, it was more like menstruation cramp that does not go away), the nurse asked whether I would like to get epidural anesthesia – I said I would think about it (and no, you could not think while you have a cramp) and when my husband arrived in the labour room after settling the admission thingy, I already surrendered.

The nurse then prepped me for the procedure – the drip and urinary catheter. I did squirmed when the anaesthetist tried to insert the catheter; my spine is always too sensitive to touching. Looking at the unusual mess the anaesthetist left, my doctor who came later  guessed that it was an abnormal  procedure – because he is a neat one in normal condition!

And now I have to say, the pain relief is such a Godsend mercy! As soon as it took effect I felt relieved and my body started to relax. I recalled the fact that I have been restless since 3 in the morning – which means my body is tired due to 12 hours of turning left and right, sitting and standing due to the contractions, so the pain relief is very much welcome.

At 5pm I was 6 cm dilated, and the doctor said she will come back at 7.30, predicting that by then I’d be ready for delivery. I was laden with surges of tiredness at that time, and I told them I wanted to sleep and rest. My husband went off to pray, and came back informing me that my parents and siblings, as well as my in-laws were already there.

The truth was I could not sleep except for a bit during that 2-hour window. After a while the pain came back, though of a lower level than  before – to the dismay of my husband who thinks I should not feel any pain AT ALL. The nurse told us that at 8cm dilation it is normal that I would still feel the pain – and I could not help imagining how much worse it could be without the relief.

The nurses trained me to push – which mostly was a failure because they could not feel a thing when I said I have pushed, in rhythm with the tightening of the uterus. My husband was coaching me on breathing (thanks to the antenatal class we attended and a partner who doesn’t suffer pregnancy brain) – but all I could think of at that time was how cold it was that I shivered. Lying there in a hospital gown, there was nothing much i could do – I tried pulling the blanket but the nurses persistently removed it from me.

The doctor came at around 7.40 pm. I was not so sure if I was already fully dilated, but what I knew was that the baby was still high. The nurse had to help pushing him down while I waited for the contraction to come to start pushing.
It did not work even after a number of tries – I was sleepy ( my eyes were half-opened most of the time.) The doc and the nurses were, credit to them, a very good team of cheerleaders I would say. And so was my husband who’s there, catching my hand whenever I took a break from pushing.

With the baby pretty high and his head in posterior position, the doctor gave me until 8pm to push on my own, and if he’s still not out I’d need the help of vacuum. She kept motivating me to push ‘Buat geram, betul-betul geram’, ‘Doktor cuma boleh tolong je, ibu sendiri kena usaha untuk anak (Loosely translated: Push as if you are angry, really really angry. I can only help, but you yourself got to push hard for your baby.) ‘. At 8pm I still could not have him out, so the doctor started briefing me about using vacuum – the fact that I still need to push hard because the work is still 50-50 between me and the machine. And she gave me three pushes max – or we’d have to resort to C-sect.

I waited for the tightening to come – it was all on my own time having told the nurses not to help push the baby out of my belly until I started pushing (I could not feel the contractions when my belly is being pressed). My husband, without any invitation help out too – and to the surprise of the doctor, a father’s push worked wonder – it seemed to give more effects than the nurses’!

To tell you the truth, I almost gave up that I asked for a C-sect (of course the doctor rejected this idea seeing me still able to produce polite smiles now and then) in the middle of pushing – what was I thinking, right? My husband still teases me about this – and I guess he is right to do so: you claim to be tough and now half an hour into labour, fully dilated and all you choose to Give up?

In the midst of all that, there were several things that I noticed: it was raining outside ( which contributed to my shivering) and the tv screen before me were showing a documentary about crop circles on Nat Geo.

Despite the pain relief  giving me a dry mouth and stuffy nose which didn’t help when I was to make several pushes in one breath, All praise be to Him, I managed to nail it in one try (and one continuous push) – I remember telling myself just do it once and for all, and when the husband told me the head was already crowning that he could see the baby’s hair (I doubted it though, he was beside me he could not really see any of that) and the nurses cheering in high pitch that I should not stop.  I kept pushing until this weird sensation came – as if you are passing a very big stool – then I knew it was almost over.

The next thing I remember was a warm little creature was put onto my chest that is my little angel. There was my son, my child – one that I carried for nine months, who causes such a mixture of feelings – but still a blessing I would not trade for anything.

Within seconds all that I could hear was his screaming – loud and clear – announcing his arrival. I remember my husband kissing my forehead whispering softly ‘Afni, this is Isa, Afni’.

And no, I did not cry. Or to put it correctly – I could not cry. I have rehearsed this moment in my mind so many times before, and I knew I would not be able to hold my tears when it actually happens but the sleepiness took the best of me. All that I do was hugging my baby while the doctor finished her job and stitched me up.

I bled – a lot – according to the doctor and my husband who witnessed the whole thing and my blood pressure was pretty low. The doctor most probably won’t say this out loud that I tore up pretty badly – and stitching me up took quite sometimes, but she kindly increased the anesthesia dose (previously lowered to help me feel the contractions hence assists in pushing) while letting me cuddle my precious child.

I think it was quite some times before they removed my son and put him next to me in his warmer, nicely swaddled.

I could not take my eyes off him.

He is indeed the most beautiful baby I have seen.

Muslim Birth Rites #2: Tahnik

Tahnik is the custom of chewing something sweet and putting it into the mouth of a newborn baby. This is a tradition coming from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself, where it was narrated by Anas bin Malik:

I took Abdullah bin Abi Talhah to the Prophet on the day he was born. The Prophet was wearing a woollen cloak and smearing the camels with tar. He asked me: “Have you got any dates with you?” I said yes and gave some to him. He chewed them, then open the boy’s mouth and put the sweetmeat in it. The child began to lick it, and the Prophet said:”The Helpers love dates.” He named the boy Abdullah.

For our case, Isa’s tahnik was done on the second day by his father (who is rather too skeptical when it comes to trusting others to do it – we typically ask a scholar/imam/respected people in religion to perform this ceremony) in the hospital. My parents-in-law brought some dates and zamzam water for Isa, my husband performed it, and we were done. Some made this ritual into ceremonies, but we are really not into that.

Why dates and zamzam water you might ask. Those are food and drinks which are considered full of blessings in Islam, with dates being the Prophet’s staples and water from a blessed, God-guarded source and good muslims who love the Prophet would try hard to emulate him.

People say that the reason why you invited a trusted, God-fearing person (now that we don’t have the Prophet around) is so that those good traits will be passed to the newborn – and that was what my MIL said she saw happened to my husband. His tahnik was done by his grandfather, who is extraordinarily money-savvy and a man of very few words – and somehow my husband grew up having those traits.

I could not say much about that. Though I did wish someone else would perform the ritual for Isa, having another man in the house who can take care of my money and listen to me talking, I don’t mind.

Muslim Birth Rites #1: Reciting Azan

Isa was born on May 19 (I wrote about the labour I went through in my other blog), and we are more than happy to fulfill among our many responsibilities as parents to a newborn – and the first one is to recite Azan to Isa’s tiny little ears.

My husband dutifully did that, though he did funnily doubt when would be the right time (Is it now when the baby is still being held on my chest? Or now when he’s in the baby warmer?). I did miss the beautiful moment of him whispering those God-inspired words to our little son – thanks to the epidural pain relief I was taking which made me drowsy.

I could not wish for any other words to be heard by my son other than these:

Allahu Akbar
God is Great
(said four times)

Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah
I bear witness that there is no god except the One God.
(said two times)

Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah
I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
(said two times)

Hayya ‘ala-s-Salah
Hurry to the prayer (Rise up for prayer)
(said two times)

Hayya ‘ala-l-Falah
Hurry to success (Rise up for Salvation)
(said two times)

Allahu Akbar
God is Great
[said two times]

La ilaha illa Allah
There is no god except the One God

Those are beautiful words that I pray would guide his life- such a basic, fundamental thing to hold on to as a Muslim.

***

The other day, when we were laughing at the fact that the little one sleeps A LOT (which all babies do, right?), I told my husband he should have recite the azan for Fajr (early morning) prayer – which has one additional line: As-salatu Khayrun Minan-nawm, which basically means, Prayer is better than sleep.

Haha.