January 22, 2012

Drawing Closer to Allah During Pregnancy

We all want the best for our children. But as Muslims, providing the best isn’t limited to financial, physical or emotional provisions; it includes provisions for the soul as well. And what better way to spiritually provide the best for our children than by our own example? And what better time to improve upon our relationship with Allah than during the nine long months of pregnancy?

In her book, Heaven Under Your Feet: Pregnancy for Muslim Women, Umm Hasan bint Salim writes, “As mothers-to-be we become acutely aware of how our children will learn from us as soon as they meet us. This may not be how we have thought about it, but this is the time for us to embark on a journey of self-rectification as essential preparation for the grave responsibility [of parenting] awaiting us.”

Because our children will watch and learn from everything that we do, improving upon ourselves as servants of Allah is a vital part of laying the foundations for raising righteous children, inshaAllah. If we prepare and do our job well, Allah, subhana wa ta ala, has promised us rewards in the akhira.

Allah says in Surah at-Toor (translation), “And those who believe and whose offspring follow them in Faith – to them We shall join their offspring, and We shall not decrease the reward of their deeds in the least.” –Qur’an: At-Toor, ayah 21

MashaAllah, pregnancy is an ideal time for us to focus inwards. Below are a few ways that we can work to improve ourselves and our closeness to Allah during this time:

1. Purify Our Intention
The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said (translation), “The reward of deeds depends upon their intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.” –Bukhari

Umm Hasan writes, “Every minute of every day with our babies can hold potential rewards for us if we have the best of intentions. If our intention to have babies is one that Allah, subhana wa ta ala, is pleased with then inshaAllah our pregnancy, our babies, and our lives with them, will bear fruit upon fruit.” –Heaven Under Your Feet, Part 1

2. Be Thankful to Allah
Although we may not like to think of it, pregnancy and childbearing is not something guaranteed for everyone.

Allah, subhana wa ta ala, has said in Surah Ash-Shura, ayahs 49-50 (translation), “He gives to whom He wills females, and He gives to whom He wills males. Or He couples them as males and females, and he renders whom He wills childless. Indeed He is Knowing and Capable.”

The simple fact that Allah, subhana wa ta ala, has allowed some of us to be pregnant while many others are not able, is a gift and a blessing. And when we show gratitude to Allah for the blessings he gives us, He promises to give us even more, mashaAllah! 

Allah tells us in Surah Ibrahim, ayah 7 (translation), “And remember when your Lord made [His promise] known: If you are grateful to Me, I shall most certainly give you more and more, but if you show ingratitude, truly My punishment is severe.”

One way of showing our gratitude to Allah is to perform a prostration of thankfulness, known in Arabic as Sujood ush-Shukr.

It’s narrated in Abu Dawood that whenever something would befall the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, that made him happy, he would fall to the ground in prostration to give thanks to Allah. –Also reported by Ibn Majah and at-Tirmidhi

A second way to show gratitude to Allah is to constantly say “Alhamdulilah” (Praise be to Allah).

In an authentic hadith found in Ibn As-Sunni, when something happened that pleased the Prophet, he would say, ‘Alhamdulilaahi lathe bini’matihi tatimmus-saalihaat’ (Praise is to Allah Who by His blessings all good things are perfected). And if something happened that displeased him, he would say, ‘Alhamdulilaahi ‘alaa kulli haal’ (Praise is to Allah in all circumstances).” –taken from Fortress of a Muslim: Invocations from the Qur’an and Sunnah

A third way to show thankfulness to Allah is show thankfulness to the people.

In a hadith narrated in Abu Dawood, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said (translation), “Those who do not thank people do not thank Allah.”

3. Improve Our Salah
MashaAllah, pregnancy is the only time that women are able to pray non-stop which, by the Mercy of Allah, leaves us with ample time to perfect whatever may be lacking in our prayers. Over and over again we see both the Qur’an and hadith emphasize the importance of praying all of our prayers and praying them with khushoo’.

In Surah Al Baqarah (2:238) Allah says (translation), “Guard strictly your prayers, especially the Middle prayer; and stand before Allah in a devout frame of mind (i.e. with khushoo’).”

The prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, even warned us what could happen if we don’t do this.

In a hadith recorded by Abu Dawood, the Prophet said, “A slave may pray and have nothing recorded for it except a tenth of it, or a ninth, or an eighth, or a seventh, or a sixth, or a fifth, or a quarter, or a third, or a half.”

4. Make Du’a
No matter how much we prepare and plan the best for our children, our efforts can never be successful without the help and mercy of Allah, subhanAllah. The importance of du’a in the life of a Muslim can never be overemphasized. And when we reach those points of our pregnancy where we feel like we’re facing an uphill battle that no one in the world could possibly understand, du’a can bring us closer to the One who is All-Knowing, All-Hearing, and Most Merciful.

In Surah Al Baqarah, ayah 186, Allah says (translation), “And when my slave asks you concerning Me, then answer I am indeed near. I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me.”

One of the best times for us to make du’a and ask of Allah is while we are in sujood.

In Saheeh Muslim, it’s recorded that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said, “The closest that the slave can be to his Lord is when he is prostrating, so increase your du’a [at that time].”
In another hadith, the Prophet said, “As for sujood, strive hard to make du’a in it, for it is bound to be answered for you.” –Sahih Muslim

Some of the du’as we can make include asking Allah for healthy pregnancies and deliveries, righteous children, patience and gratitude for His endless favors, courage and strength to face the large task of motherhood ahead of us, protection from Shaytan, and purification from any sin we commit.

Fortress of a Muslim is an excellent book for specific du’as from the Qur’an and Sunnah.

5. Exercise Patience
With pregnancy comes enormous change, both physically and emotionally. It’s beneficial not only to our own health but to our family’s sanity as well that we try to take things easy and do our best to maintain our composure even under the most stressful of times.

Allah spoke of having patience in the Qur’an when he said (translation), “By Time! Surely the human being is at loss. Except for those who have faith and do righteous deeds and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to patience,” –Surah Al Asr, ayahs 1-3

To help us be patient, let us remember that every ounce of discomfort we face during pregnancy, or at any other time for that matter, is actually to our benefit because it is designed to help purify our souls.

In Sahih Bukhari it’s recorded that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said (translation), “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.”  

An important part of being able to have patience with what Allah decrees for us is to know and trust that whatever happens to us is from Allah, therefore everything that happens is exactly as it should be.

In Sahih Muslim, it’s recorded that the Prophet said (translation), “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, and both are good. Pay attention to that which could benefit you, seek the help of Allah and do not feel incapacitated. If anything befalls you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such-and-such, such a thing would have happened.’ Say instead, ‘It is the decree of Allah, and what He wills, He does,’ for saying ‘if only…’ opens the way for Shaytan.”

In Surah Al Baqarah, ayahs 155-157, Allah says (translation), “And give good news to the patient, who, when struck with disaster say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah and to Him we will return.’ Upon them be blessings from their Lord, and Mercy, and they are the rightly guided.” 

January 15, 2012

Sunnah of Childcare: Welcoming the Newborn Part 2

When a Muslim child is born, welcoming him or her into the world includes certain religious rituals. Some of these rituals are considered obligatory to perform while others are not. And for some others differences of opinion exist. Below is a list of these rituals compiled from various sources and continued from our previous post, Sunnah of Childcare: Welcoming the Newborn Part 1

5. Performing the ‘Aqeeqah
‘Aqeeqah refers to the religious animal sacrifice made on behalf of a child when he or she is born as a way of thanking Allah, subhana wa ta ala, for the blessing he has bestowed.

In a hadith reported by Abu Dawood, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Every child is held at ransom by his ‘aqeeah. A sacrifice should be offered on his behalf on the seventh day. (On this day), his hair should be cut and he should be given a name.”

The aqeeqah is performed for both male and female children and may be offered on the seventh day after the child is born, the 14th day, the 21st or any day after that. Animals to be sacrificed must be healthy sheep. They cannot have a limp, broken bones, sickness, or be only one-eyed.

When one performs aqeeqah, two sheep should be sacrificed for a boy, while only one need be sacrificed for a girl. In addition, the meat should be distributed evenly; some is kept to eat by the family, some is given in charity, and some is used to feed the people who attend.

Umm Kurz once asked the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, about the aqeeqah and he replied, “two sheep for a boy nad one for a girl. And it does no harm to you whether they are males or females (the sheep).” –reported by abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, and AnNasaa’ee

--Taken from Raising Children in Light of the Qur’an and Sunnah

6. Shaving the Child’s Head
In relation to the aqeeqah, the child’s head should be shaved on the seventh day after its birth.

When the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, performed aqeeqah for his grandson Hasan he said, “O Faatimah! Shave his head and give charity the weight of his hair in silver.” –Reported by Tirmidhi

Shaving the head of the child, whether male or female, is a way of removing harm from them as the Prophet, sallallahi alayhi wa sallam, said,When it is the child's seventh day, then spill blood for him, remove the harm from him (i.e. shave the head) and name him.”—Recorded in at-Tabaraanee, declared hasan by Ibn Hajar

Once the child’s head is shaved, the hair is to be weighed and its amount equal in silver is to be donated as charity (see above hadith recorded in Tirmidhi)

7. Initiating Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is considered an essential right of the Muslim child and should begin as soon as possible after birth and last until the age of weaning, which is two years. 

For a detailed explanation of breastfeeding in Islam, please see our previous post A Mother’s Milk: The Command from Allah

8. Circumcising the Child
Circumcision is part of the fitrah for male children as the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said

The Fitrah (natural way) is five: circumcision, shaving the private parts, trimming the mustache, clipping the nails and plucking hair from the armpits.– Reported by Bukhari and Muslim

It is recommended to perform circumcision on the seventh day after the child is born, but can be performed before or after that as well, if needed.

The benefits of circumcision include implementing a sunnah of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, and reducing the risk of infection from dirt and bacteria that can get caught underneath retained foreskin.

9. Making Dua’a for the Child
It’s recorded in both Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, would seek make dua’a for his grandsons, saying, “I seek refuge (in Allah) for the two of you through the perfect words of Allah from every devil and poisonous pest, and from every evil (envious) eye.”

For more on making dua’a for children see our previous post, Sunnah of Childcare: Seeking Protection