A LOVE LIKE NO OTHER
You have survived the 40 weeks of pregnancy together with your wife, you are exhausted from the whole ordeal of labour and the steady stream of hospital visitors, and now you are finally home, just the three of you (or four or five, if you’re staying with your parents and parents-in-law)… Welcome to the fourth trimester!
If you are wondering WHAT in the world is the fourth trimester, I do not blame you because the doctors certainly don’t tell us anything about how to cope with life once the baby is born. The fourth trimester is defined as the period from when your baby is born and lasts until she is three months old and was coined to describe a period of great change and development in your newborn, as she adjusts to her new world outside your womb.
Don’t get me wrong – nothing beats having a newborn in the house. The smell, oh the smell, is divine! And everything your baby does besides crying will be adorable. Every accidental smile, burp, poop, pee, will make you look at your baby as if she is an angel, though come to think of it, if an adult were to do the same things, it will be labelled as gross.
However, that little milk-guzzling machine is A LOT of hard work. Humans have the longest known dependence stage in the world and up until she is about one year old and can get around on her own, she will be fully dependent on you and your wife for survival.
So, what can a man do to help his wife in coping with this fourth trimester? A lot basically. Firstly, since your wife is in confinement and recovering from birth (for some, and especially C-section cases, the recovery can be almost a month long), she will be feeling uncomfortable and in pain for quite a bit. Hence, you might want to chip in with the housework and take turns to wake up at night to change the baby’s diaper.
We will cover more on the confinement period in the article for the mothers-to-be; for now, we want to give you some tips on how to handle the birth of your baby the way only a father can!
- Adzaan for the baby
Depending on which school of Islamic law you follow, this practice can vary. Fundamentally, all schools of thought agree that the adzaan should be recited almost immediately after the baby is born; how this is done differs. Of course, it is best if the adzaan is recited by the father of the baby, so make sure you know how to make this call to prayer before going into the delivery room.
I remember my ustaadz once telling his class a hilarious story about how a nervous young father, instead of reciting the adzaan, recited aloud the takbeer that one hears during Eid. Well, nerves and excitement can certainly get the better of a first-time father.
According to the Hanafi school of law (mazhab), one should give the adzaan in front of the baby, turning one’s face to the right at “Hayya ‘ala as-solah” and to the left at “Hayya ‘ala al-falah”, as per a normal adzaan.
However, according to the Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, the adzaan should be recited in the right ear of the baby and the iqama given in the left ear.
No matter which practice you want to adopt, the fundamental basis is the same – to let the first words that the child hears be words that glorify Allah swt and call him to worship the Lord.
Tahneek is the act of placing a small piece of date, that has already been moistened or chewed in the mouth of either the father or a pious person in the community, on the palate of the baby. This is based on the hadith that the Prophet SAW used to moisten a small piece of date with his mouth and then place it on the palate of the newborn whenever a child who had just been born was brought to him (Bukhari, Muslim).
The wisdom behind the Tahneek is that by sharing a date with a pious and upright Muslim, it is hoped that child will share the blessings and grow up pious and upright too. During the tahneek, the pious person would usually offer du’as for the newborn as well, and it is hoped that the du’as or supplications will be accepted.
The Tahneek has its medical benefits as well. It has only been discovered by the medical community that when a baby’s blood sugar level is too low, it may turn fatal. When a baby is born, his source of nutrition (ie. the mother) is cut off along with the clamping of the umbilical cord. He then relies on his mother’s breastmilk for his nutrition and survival.
However, for most mothers, the breastmilk will only kick in a few days after delivery. Today, hospitals are able to monitor infants who are in danger of malnutrition from lack of breastmilk and intervene through other means. However, in the past, it would have meant that these babies would starve during the first few days, which could lead to death.
This is where the wisdom and miracle of the Tahneek kicks in. Even a small piece of date has a large storage of sugar, hence rubbing it on the baby’s palate and letting him suck on it will give him the much-needed sugar boost. (Of course, do not overdo it and give the baby an entire date!)
MasyaAllah, how Wise is Allah SWT, how free from deficiency is He, that something that has been practised for hundreds of years is only now being recognised as having medical benefits? What other evidence do we need to be convinced of carrying out this sunnah?
Now, the other question is, how do we get a pious person to carry out Tahneek? More on that later on in this article.
- Practices on the seventh day.
There are a few recommended practices that should take place on the seventh day after the baby is born. Do note that once again, none of these rituals or acts are obligatory, but it is better to follow as they are sunahs.
What are these sunnahs?
2. Giving the child a good name on the seventh day
Though it is not wrong to name the baby immediately after she is born, some narrations mention that it is better to give her name on the seventh day.
In Islam, it is the parents’ obligation to give a good name and a child’s right to be given a good name, with the best ones being those that bear good meaning. The best names are those that show servitude to Allah SWT, or names of prophets or pious Muslims.
You can refer to this website for a comprehensive list of names along with their meanings: https://www.momjunction.com/baby-names/islam/#gref
Of course, do double check with a knowledgeable person who is fluent in Arabic for the meaning as sometimes, the names and meanings given can be taken out of context.
3. Shaving the head
According to the Shafi’i, Hanbali and Maliki schools of thought, it is a recommended practice to shave the head of the newborn, whether it is girl or boy, and then weigh the hair of the baby and give away as charity the weight of the shaved hair in silver or gold (don’t worry, it is just a few grams!)
Some scholars believe that it removes harm from the baby and provides him some relief along with medical benefits.
Ibnul-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said in At-Tuhfatul-Mawlood (p.121):
“Removing the harm from him, and the removal of weak hair so that stronger hair replaces it, which is firmer than what was there before, and it is better for one’s head. Alongside that there is relief for the child and opening of the pores in the scalp so that the unpleasant vapour may escape with ease. And in that there is a strengthening of the eyesight, the nasal passage and the hearing.”
It is also a practice in many communities and cultures to shave the hair of newborns to allow the hair to grow thick and strong. Generally, this practice is believed to bring about benefits for the baby. As for baby girls, many scholars are of the opinion that this sunnah should also be practised.
Now, if you do decide to practise this sunnah and shave the hair off your baby, please make sure that you have the skills to do it! Babies have delicate skin, so it is of utmost importance that the person shaving the head has some experience in dealing with babies. In both of my daughters’ cases, my husband was the one who shaved their heads, but he made sure to buy razors that are meant for sensitive skin.
If you are not confident about shaving the baby’s head without hurting him, then leave it to the experts! There are some ustadz in Singapore who provide Tahneek and shaving services for newborn babies. The details can be found at the end of this article.
Aqiqah is the act of sacrificing an animal – usually a goat – out of gratitude for being blessed with a newborn and then feeding people with its meat. The ruling for this ritual is the same as that for shaving the newborn.
Most people carry out this ritual on the seventh day. However, it can also be done on the 14th day or 21st and so on. This practice is from the Prophet SAW’s time when a newborn baby’s arrival s celebrated by sacrificing an animal and inviting people to a feast. Being bestowed a baby is a great blessing, so sacrificing an animal is one way to show thanks to Allah SWT. Feeding the poor with the meat is also something that is liked by the Lord and should be done with the intention of pleasing Him.
Many people perform these three rituals – naming, shaving, and aqiqah – all on the seventh day.
For a first-time father, all these might seem like quite a lot of things to handle, especially since you’re still adjusting to life post-birth. You will be tired and cranky due to the lack of sleep. Luckily for you, there is a service in Singapore that organises all these rituals for you – Islamicevents.sg.
This is the specific web page that you can refer to for the packages that they have to offer:
Some of the services offered are:
- Shaving for newborns
- Umbilical cord and placenta burial
Don’t make what is a recommended ritual become obligatory
As aforementioned, these rituals are only recommended. However, for some cultures, it is something that is expected to the point where even if a couple cannot afford to carry out some of the more expensive rituals – such as giving away the weight of the newborn’s hair in gold or the aqiqah – they feel forced to do it.
In Islam, what is not wajib should not become an obligation, what more a burden to Muslims.
However, in the event that you are more blessed in the financial department, it is then recommended that you carry out these practices, especially since it is easier now with all these services in Singapore.
At the end of the day, these practices should stem from gratitude to Allah SWT for gifting the family with a child and should increase one’s faith and iman in Him. It is also hoped that when the child’s birth is celebrated with rituals that are steeped in the remembrance of the Lord, he will grow up to be pious and upright.
About the writer:
The writer is Sis Suliyati, the founder of @MuslimParents.SG, a parenting platform for Muslim parents in Singapore. MuslimParents.SG conducts kids-friendly Quran andparenting classes and events for moms.
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This article is sponsored by Aqiqah.SG