Aqiqah - Welcoming Celebration for New Baby

Muslim couple with newborn baby
Muslim couple with newborn baby. Getty Images / Juanmonino

Muslim parents do not traditionally hold a "baby shower" prior to the child's birth. The Islamic alternative is the aqiqah, a welcoming celebration which is held after the child is born.

Meal

After the birth of a child, Muslim parents often host the aqiqah at their home or a community center. The aqiqah is an optional dinner event designed to celebrate the child's birth and welcome him or her to the community.

There is no religious consequence for not holding an aqiqah; it is a "sunnah" tradition but is not required.

The aqiqah is always hosted by the parents or extended family of the newborn child. In order to provide a community meal, the family slaughters one or two sheep or goats. One third of the meat is given away to the poor as charity, and the rest is served in a large community meal with relatives, friends, and neighbors. Many guests bring gifts for the new baby and the parents, such as clothing, toys, or baby furniture.

Naming and Other Traditions

In addition to prayers and well-wishes for the baby, the aqiqah is also a time when the child's hair is first cut or shaved, and its weight in gold or silver is given as a donation to the poor. This event is also when the baby's name is officially announced. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as a naming ceremony, although there is no official procedure or ceremony involved.

The word aqiqah comes from the Arabic word 'aq which means to cut. Some attribute this to the child's first haircut, while others say that it refers to the slaughtering of the animal to provide meat for the meal.

Timing

The aqiqah is the Islamic alternative to the baby shower, which in many cultures is held before the child's birth.

Among most Muslims, it is considered unwise to host a celebration before the child is born. The aqiqah is a way for parents to show gratefulness and thanks to Allah for the blessings of a healthy child.

The aqiqah is traditionally held on the seventh day after the child's birth, but may also be postponed until later (often the 7th, 14th, or 21st day after birth). If one cannot afford the expense at the time of the child's birth, it may even be postponed longer, as long as it is done prior to the child reaching puberty. Some scholars even advise adults to make an aqiqah for themselves if the celebration was not done earlier. 

Pronunciation: ah-kee-ka

Also Known As: baby shower, welcoming celebration, naming ceremony

Alternate Spellings: Aqeeqah

Examples: The parents held an aqiqah after the baby was born, to celebrate her arrival with a community meal.