Ceremonies for Birth and School
The greatest gift of the Creator to the created is his offspring, a gift of Allah’s beautiful name Al Haliq (The Creator), Al Hayy (The Ever-living) and Al Wadud (The All-Loving). Indeed, what better education in human scale can teach the creative process than the change, the weight, the selflessness, the patience and the birth-pains which a mother experiences? What better illustration is there of the continuity of life than one’s inherited name, character and even the physical resemblance that one sees in one’s child? What worldly love equals the love one feels for one’s daughter or son? Islam celebrates this trust of Allah in human beings to whom He entrusts His most valued creation, a new human being, whom he places in the hands of a mother and father.
The tradition of the celebration of the birth of a Muslim baby, known at one time even to the illiterate, may need to be recalled.
During pregnancy the mother, in addition to her five times a day obligatory prayer, is encouraged to read and to listen to the recitation of the Qur’an, to listen to the beautifully chanted Edhan, to look at beautiful things in nature, to eat the best of things in a measured amount and to show all care that her sustenance and her behavior be religiously lawful. Even the color scheme of her bedroom should be considered. Soft pastel colors are favored. Some colors like yellow (the color of bile suggesting jaundice) are excluded. Above her bed, over her head, a Qur’an, in an attractive case should be hung.
When the midwife delivers the baby, before anything is fed to the child, the midwife should touch a page of the Qur’an and let the baby suck on that finger. Thus the word of Allah becomes the baby's first taste of the world and is a catalyst for all that the child will eat during his life. Then someone with a beautiful voice should chant softly the adhan to the ear of the baby three times. Without this initiation into the world, no food should be given to the baby.
Then, as soon as possible, but certainly during the first week after the child's birth, a venerable elder, or the father should take the baby in his arms, standing and facing the direction of the Qaaba, and recite the “adhan” softly in the right ear of the child and the “kaadikamat” to the left ear. Then to his right ear he should call him by his given name three times thus: “Oh, So and So, the son or daughter of So and So.’ (Mentioning only the name of the mother). This custom shows the beauty of Islam. An “adhan,” a call to prayer, is never chanted unless it is followed by a prayer, nor is there a prayer without an “adhan” preceding it.. There are only two exceptions: the call to prayer at the birth of a child is not followed by a prayer and the funeral prayer does not have an “adhan” prior to it Thus the “Adhan chanted at birth is the call to prayer of one’s funeral. When a Muslim is placed in his eternal resting place, the “imam” calls upon him in the same manner: “Oh So and So, the son or daughter of So and So.” (Mentioning only the mother’s name)
After this, in the presence of the family and friends he should recite a private prayer, similar to the following: “Elhamdulillahi Rabbil Alemin, wesselatu, weselamu, ala Seyyedina Muhammedin wa’ala Jemil Enbiyai wal mursalin, wa ala alihi wa sahbihi ejmain. Oh, Lord bless this child with a healthy body, a bright mind and a pure soul. Sustain him and us with the bounty of Your material and spiritual sustenance. Give him faith and Islam and awareness and love of You at all times, make him your loyal servant and a follower of Your Beloved. Make him love and respect and obey his parents on the right way. Place in him the secret of your Beloved’s words that the best of men is he who is beneficent to others. Make him serve You, Your religion, Your creation, man, animals vegetation and earth and water and air alike without discrimination. Give him a long and peaceful and fruitful life. Amin.”
Our guide and Master, the Beloved of Allah, Muhammed, Allahs peace and blessings be upon him, says, “Give beautiful names.” Our sheikh says, “To be given a beautiful name to one’s child, one with a beneficent meaning, is one of the rights of a child over the parents.”
During one of the military campaigns it was necessary to milk a she camel. The Messenger of Allah asked who knew how to milk a camel. Some one said “I” and he asked his name. The man said,”Murra”, which means bitter. He said no, he did not want him to do it and asked for someone else. When he asked the next man’s name he said, “Harb”, which means war and he refused him also. Finally he permitted another man to do the work. His name was, “Yaish”, meaning alive.
Hz. Burayda reports that the Messenger of Allah never believed anything to bring bad luck, but he believed that names, both in their sound and in their meaning, influence people and create a reaction. Therefor, when he would send an emmisary somewhere he would ask his name and if he liked it he would be happy, if he didn’t, he would worry. Even if he were to go somewhere, he would ask the name of the place. If he liked it he would go happily, if he didn’t he would be reticent. He changed the names of many of the people who had been given the names of things and animals in the time of idolatry. He instead gave them beautiful names. Not that he believed that names would change one’s destiny or would bring bad luck. But he thought that if someone was called “Hasar”, which means destruction, and if somehow something would be destroyed while he was present, that people might blame him. But if he were called Hasan, no one would imagine such a thing.
A good name will present to others the best in your child and perhaps the child will make an effort to grow into his name.
Another custom amongst Muslims is called “Aqiyya”, the ceremony of cutting the hair of a new born on the sixth day. On that occasion the hair is weighed and it’s equivalent in gold or silver is distributed to the needy. In addition to this expression of thankfulness, a ram is sacrificed on the day of “Aqiyya” and the meat is given to the poor. The sacrifice is an offering, a substitute for the troubles in the life of the child which one hopes to eliminate. It is also believed that this offering will help in the formation of the child’s character. In fact, if one wishes ones son to be strong, valorous, and aggressive, while butchering the sheep one cuts the meat from the joints taking care not to break any bones. If one wishes the child to be gently, agreeable and humble, one cuts the meat breaking the bones.
On the fortieth day of the baby’s life a feast is prepared during which is recited a poem depicting the birth of the Prophet and offering praises to him. This is called the “Mevlud”. Also the Qur’an is chanted and gifts are brought for the child. In the past this was also the first time the child went out as he was kept at home for the first forty days.
Another custom is the singing of lullabys by the mother. In the Islamic tradition, in addition to the singing of hymns which were usually prayers of the mother for her child, the mother herself improvised her own music and words as lullabys, believing that her sincere wishes were like fountains watering the orchard of life in her baby and a cure for any pain or discomfort which makes the baby cry.
All of these traditions of the expression of love, care, hope and faith in Allah are more necessary to follow now than ever. May we pray, calling to our children: “Oh my beloved, you came to the light of this world crying, while we were laughing with joy. We pray that you have such a life that when you leave this world to go to your Lord, you laugh and the world cries.” Amin.
ON BEGINNING SCHOOL IN THE ISLAMIC TRADITION
The days prior to this celebration, the house, especially the children’s rooms, are cleaned, made orderly, and some decoration which will please the child are added to the room and kept that way. A special day is chosen when the child, members of the family, and some of the family’s close friends and a few of the child’s good friends are taken to shop for some clothing, shoes, school materials etc. As much as possible, the child’s wishes should be rewarded. Food, ice cream, whatever would please the child should be offered. But the child should be made to understand that this is part of the celebration of his beginning school.
The day before the celebration, a special bath, in some ways fancier than the usual washing, should be given, new clothes and shoes readied; the only obligatory thing is white socks. The whole family wakes up early, has a special breakfast together with friends and other children who will participate in the “AMIN PROCESSION”.
Someone is the captain of the procession, someone with a good voice. Behind him in the first row are the children who are beginning school, behind them two by two in an orderly fashion in rows are the other children, behind the children in rows are the parents and other adults. The captain holds a baton in his hand, and chants loudly:
BISMILLAH IR-RAHMAN IR-RAHIM
and then chants loud a poem like this:
Joy to the child Grow and be strong
Your heart made mild. Try to do no wrong.
May Allah lead Show love to everyone
You will soon read. To God all belong
When you learn things Your mother loving
Allah loves you. Your father strong
You know God’s doing Your friends together
in all and everything. Sing life’s happy song.
You are God’s baby Be a good Muslim
Good and loving be. Allah will help you.
He gives all to you He does what you do
O! Allah thank you When you serve Him.
Between each verse, the captain raises his baton as a sign and everyone shouts AAAAAMIIIIIIn!
At the end the captain chants the following dua, while everyone recites ismi jelal: Allah...Allah...Allah continuously.
Allah Allah Illallah - jelilul jabbar, Muinusettar, Halik-ul leyli wan-nehar ...
Layezal, zul jalal...Awwali Qur’an, ahiri Qur’an, Tabarekellezi nezzelel Furkan...
Then when he says:
Azameti Hudara Tekbir
everyone recites aloud:
Allahu Akbar, Allahu akbar
la ilaha illallahu wallahuakbar, Allahu akbar wa lillahil hamd
Essalatu wasselamu aleyke ya Resulallah
Essalatu wassalamualeyke ya HabibAllah
Essalatu assalamu aleyke ya Seyyid al awwalina wal ahirin
Wasswlamun alel murselin
Walhamdu llillahi Rabbil Alemin
And everyone recites aloud:
Allahumma salli ala seyyidina Muhammed and the Surah Fatiha
Then the children kiss the hand of (their teacher) and the hands of their parents and elders. This is very shortened version of the original ceremony.