Muslim Birth Rites Series

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

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.

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.