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ʿAqīqa (Arabic: العقیقة) is the tradition of slaughtering animals 7 days after one's baby is born in order to protect the baby from possible sufferings and troubles. 'Aqiqa is a practice recommended by hadiths, though some scholars maintain that it is obligatory. According to hadiths, 'aqiqa is a tradition practiced by the Infallibles (a). The Prophet Muhammad (s) slaughtered an animal for Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a), and Abu Talib slaughtered an animal for the Prophet (s). There are certain rulings about how to select an animal for 'aqiqa, how to slaughter it, and how to use the meat.
The word "'aqiqa" is from the root "'a-q-q" (Arabic: ع-ق-ق) which means to split something or to shave the hair of a newborn baby. The land, 'Aqiq, is called so because floods split it. The hair of a newborn baby is called 'aqiqa because it splits his or her skin.
In the terminology of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), 'aqiqa refers to an animal slaughtered 7 days after a baby is born, because on this day, the baby's hair is shaved.
In his book, al-Kafi, Kulayni cited about 50 hadiths regarding 'aqiqa. According to a hadith, Abu Talib slaughtered an animal for the Prophet (s), and according to other hadiths, the Prophet (s) slaughtered animals for Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a). The wisdom why an animal should be slaughtered as an 'aqiqa is, according to hadiths, to protect the baby from possible troubles and sufferings.
'Aqiqa in the practice of the Infallibles (s)
There are several hadiths reporting that the Prophet (s) made an 'aqiqa for Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a): he shaved their head 7 days after they were born, and gave silvers equal to the weight of their shaved hair as alms (sadaqa). He also gave a ram as alms. According to some other hadiths, Fatima al-Zahra (a) was the one who made an 'aqiqa for Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) and shaved their heads.
On some hadiths, when the Prophet (s) was first sent by God as a prophet, he made an 'aqiqa for himself.
Muhammad b. Muslim reported that Imam al-Baqir (a) asked Zayd b. 'Ali (a) to buy two animals as 'aqiqa for his two newborn sons who were born at the same time, but since animals were scarce and expensive then, Zayd only bought one animal, and he had hard time finding another one. He asked Imam al-Baqir (a) if he could pay sadaqa instead. The Imam (a) replied: "try to buy one, because God likes to see an animal being slaughtered and its meat distributed among the poor".
Manners of 'aqiqa
- It is recommended that a male animal be slaughtered for a boy baby and a female animal slaughtered for a girl baby.
- If 'aqiqa is not made until the child's puberty, then it is recommended that he or she makes an 'aqiqa for themselves then.
- According to the majority of Shiite fuqaha (jurists), 'aqiqa is recommended. But Al-Sharif al-Murtada and, according to Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi, Ibn al-Junayd al-Iskafi took it to obligatory. There are hadiths stating that it is obligatory, but most of the fuqaha take these to imply that 'aqiqa is emphatically recommended.
- According to some hadiths, sacrifices suffice for 'aqiqa. It is taken to refer to slaughtering an animal in hajj.
Rulings and conditions of 'aqiqa
- 'Aqiqa should be a sheep, a cow, or a camel.
- It is recommended that the general conditions of slaughtering an animal be met.
- Paying sadaqa instead of 'aqiaq does not suffice.
- It is disliked to break the animal's bones.
- The slaughtering of the animal and the shaving of the baby's head should be done in the same place.
- The animal should be slaughtered after the baby's head is shaved.
How to use the meat?
- It is recommended that the animal's shank or one fourth of it be given to the baby's midwife, and if this cannot be done, then the baby's mother should pay a sadaqa.
- It is disliked for the parents to eat the meat.
- It is recommended that the meat be cooked, and at least 10 Shiite poor people and neighbors be invited to have it.
- The material for this article was mainly taken from عقیقه in Farsi WikiShia.