The coming of a first new baby is a time of excitement and every Muslim mother-to-be eagerly awaits the arrival of this special gift. It is easy to find the latest advice and useful practical tips and information about what to expect of the early weeks of motherhood on a day to day basis from Western books, but because they are bereft of the guidance of Islaam, they contain little advice for Muslim Women when it comes coping spiritually with the coming of a baby.
Every baby is different and some first time mothers find things quite easy and smooth. But nearly all will have moments when they struggle to reorganize their lives and many have a very trying time if their baby suffers from colic or has trouble settling down or if the birth was complicated and long. There are many things Muslim women can do to make this time as smooth as possible and increase their Eemân (faith).
Welcome your child in the correct Islamic manner
There are many Sunnahs (Prophetic Guidances) relating to the newborn:
- The Adhân being recited to the child soon after the birth so that it is the first thing the child hears.
- Tahnîk: rubbing a small piece of softened date or something sweet on the palate of the newborn.
- Shaving the hair of the newborn on the seventh day and giving the value of its weight in silver to charity.
- Announce the good news of the birth to family and friends and you will see that everyone is happy when they hear of the birth of a new Muslim child!
- The Aqîqah is a strong Sunnah and many scholars regard it as an obligation upon the parents and it is the slaughtering of two sheep or goats for a boy and one sheep or goat for a girl preferably on the seventh day.
The Prophet ( sallallâhu alaihi wa sallam) is reported to have said, “The Aqîqah is a right (upon you). (Slaughter) for a boy two compatible sheep, and for a girl: one.” (Ahmad and others.)
Although many people send money to poor Muslim countries for the 'Aqîqah, this important Sunnah should be revived in the societies we live in as well. By having the Aqîqah in your locality, by eating of the meat yourself and having your friends and family and other Muslims gather and take part in this joyous occasion or in distributing the meat to them there are many benefits: First of all this is the way the Prophet (sallallâhu alaihi wa sallam) practiced it. The sense of identity of the Muslim community as well as Muslim children will increase, people will know that there is a new addition to the Ummah and will pray for your child Inshaa' Allâh and you will be able to enjoy this occasion and perhaps meet family and friends who you may not be able to see so often now that you are a busy mother.
- A good name is one of the rights of the child. Good names are those which are known to be pleasing to Allâh and approved by His Messenger or acceptable to the scholars of Islam.
Recommended names are those that show servitude to Allâh: 'Abdullah (Servant of Allah), Abdur-Rahmân (Servant of the Merciful) etc. The names of the Prophets and Sahâbah and the pious people before us will also have a good affect on the childs psyche. She will want to be like Mariam (‘alaihas-Salâm) and he will want to be like ‘Umar (Radhi Allâhu ‘anhu) if you give them those names Inshaa' Allâh. And the child will have a role model in their name and love to hear the story of a person in the past with their name. Make sure the name has a good meaning, don’t just name it because it sounds good. There have been some people especially from amongst the non-Arabs who have named their children names that sound good but have a bad or improper meaning for a Muslim. That name will have an affect on the character of that child and will follow that child for life. One name that we came across amongst some children was a Muslim girl called: Ilâha! Meaning ‘goddess’! We seek refuge in Allâh from such names.
- Circumcision: If you have a son, get him circumcised on the seventh day or as soon as you can so as not to cause the child discomfort.
It’s good to get a personal recommendation when looking for a doctor and the procedure is a very easy one and local anesthetic is usually used. Usually healing takes a week or two.
Du’a and other acts of worship
A common statement made by some sisters who are mothers is, “I don’t get any time to do ‘Ibâdah”. This is a misconception amongst us because we don’t realize that even the every day tasks that we do as Muslims become acts of worship if they are accompanied with a good intention. So, perhaps you are spending most of your time caring for your baby and even after the post-partum bleeding period you may not be able to pray as many superogaratory prayers or teach Qur’ân or do other praiseworthy acts that you used to do. But remember, the job that you are doing is one which Allâh has ordained for you, and a very important and rewardable one if you do it mindfully and for the sake of Allâh. You are bringing up the future worshippers of Allâh, the future scholars or Mujâhidîn (those who struggle for the deen), teachers or leaders: the future Ummah (Muslim Nation)!
Although you will not be performing Salâh as you are in your Post natal bleeding period, this is a time you need to call on Allâh regularly and using His names and attributes, call on Him sincerely, ask Him to make easy anything you may be finding difficult. Make du'a (supplication) for your child, as the du’a of the mother for her child is answered as occurs in the hadîth,
“There are three supplications that are answered – there being no doubt about it: the supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveler and the supplication of the parent for his child.”
Some du’as you can make for your child are as follows:
The du’a that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to make for al-Hasan and al-Husayn which was also the du’a that the Prophet Ibrahîm ('alaihis salâm) used to make for Ismaîl and Ishâq was:
“U’îdhukumâ bi kalimât illâhi-ttâmah, min kulli shaytânin wa hâmmah wa min kulli ‘ainin lâmma.”
(I seek refuge for you with Allâh’s complete words from every Devil and harmful creature and from every envious eye)
And the du’a of Mariam’s mother ('alaihas Salâm), when she said to Allâh,
“Innî u’îdhu hâ bika wa dhurrîyyatuhâ minashaitânir-rajîm”
(I seek Your protection for her and her progeny from Shaitan, the outcast.) (Surah Aal-‘Imraan :36)
Suratul Fâtihah, Ayatul Kursî and the last three Surah’s of the Qur’ân can also be recited for seeking protection.
You may be awake in the night feeding your child for long stretches, so take this opportunity to make du’a and make adhkâr (the remembrance of Allah) while feeding. Du’a and Dhikr are in and of themselves ‘Ibâdah. Allâh has given us many ways of worshipping him for all different situations. You could revise the Surahs you have memorized or just listen to Qur’ân recitation and contemplate on the meaning. Getting your baby used to having the Qur’ân recited to him will Inshaa' Allâh be beneficial and have an effect on him. Or get some cassettes with talks on them to listen to as this can have a very positive effect on you especially if the talks are inspirational like the Stories of the Prophets or Sahabah.
With your baby’s arrival, the first part of his Rizq or provision arrived too and that is breast milk! Allâh (subhânahu wa ta’âla) ordained breastfeeding for humans and many animals and people have been breastfeeding from the beginning of their existence.
Allâh’s Messengers too were breast-fed. Allâh (the All-Mighty) inspired Musa’s mother to put her baby Musa in a basket in the river to save him from Pharaoh’s killing decree, Pharaoh’s family found him and wanted to keep him and looked everywhere for a wet-nurse to breastfeed him and Allâh caused Musa to refuse to be breast-fed by any woman except his own mother.
The Prophet Muhammad (sallallâhu‘alaihi wa sallam) in his childhood, suckled from his mother Aaminah, Thuwaybah – a slave girl of his uncle Abu Lahab, Umm Ayman and Halimah as-Sa’diyyah.
The Prophet’s (sallallâhu‘alaihi wa sallam) children too were breastfed. His son Ibrahîm had a wet-nurse as occurs in a hadîth and when his son passed away he was only 1 year and 10 months old so there were two months of suckling left for him. The Prophet(sallallâhu alaihi wa sallam) said, as narrated by Al-Bara (bin Azib), The Prophet, after the death of his son Ibrahîm, said, "There is a wet-nurse for him (i.e. Ibrahîm) in Paradise."
It is only in modern times that the wide use of artificial forms of baby-feeding, cow’s and goat’s milk formulas, have been used and that women have left their homes in pursuit of careers which make them leave the superior role that Allâh has given them. Many of their careers and past-times have pulled them away from the home to serve others and leave their own families.
Allâh (subhanahu wa ta’âla) tells us the recommended time of suckling a child in the Qur’ân, "And the mothers are to suckle their infants for two years, for those who wish to complete the suckling." (Surah Baqarah 2:233)
“We have enjoined upon the human being to treat his parents kindly. His mother bore him with weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years.” (Surah Luqman 31:14)
Look at the importance of breastfeeding! Our Creator even mentions it in the Qur’ân a number of times!
Breastfeeding is widely acknowledged now as being the best food for babies. It provides everything your baby needs: it is clean and sterilized, the right temperature, it’s fresh, it’s easily digested, contains antibodies and anti-allergens and is designed by Allâh perfectly for your baby’s needs. As a result, breast fed babies have better immune systems, and less infections. But that is not all. Scientists agree that babies gain many psychological and emotional benefits through breastfeeding too. Some scholars say that the good characteristics of the mother are transferred to the child through breastfeeding. The child feels ultimate comfort and security through being so close to his mother and their special bond is strengthened, so much so that in Islâm if a non-related woman breastfeeds a child she becomes a foster mother to him and her children are foster sisters and brothers to him who he cannot marry! As the Prophet (sallallâhu‘alaihi wa sallam) said as is related in a number of Ahadîth, ”Indeed, Allâh has prohibited (marriage) among suckling relatives, as He has prohibited it among birth (or blood) relatives.”
What more proof do we need of the bond that is created through breast-feeding? It is permissible with the parent’s joint agreement to have a child breastfed by another woman and that wet-nurse is entitled to a wage. It was the custom at the time of the Prophet (sallallâhu‘alaihi wa sallam) to be breastfed by other women, which strengthened relationships and made more mahram men for women etc. This also took the strain off one woman if she was finding it difficult.
In Islâm, unless there is a legitimate excuse, the mother is required to breastfeed her baby. It is an obligation upon both parents – the mother provides the milk and the father provides the material support for the mother even if they are divorced. If a parent thinks there is a need to wean the baby before the end of two years it is permissible after consultation and joint agreement.
In the West, although breastfeeding is regarded as the best way to feed a child, still, some health professionals do not hesitate to advise women to give their babies formula milk top-ups or to part-breast-feed, part-bottle-feed, even without a serious reason. Unfortunately many Muslim Women take this up too. Of course if there is a serious reason then this is unavoidable (although reviving the tradition of other women feeding our children would be very useful in this case). But all too often our sisters are talked into bottle-feeding for convenience reasons or because a baby’s weight is not picking up as quickly as the chart says it should. However many women have found that even if it seems difficult at first, if they persevere, breastfeeding becomes easier. Yes you may have some discomfort early on and it is physically demanding at times because as the mother, you alone must wake up often and feed you baby whereas with bottle-feeding someone else can do it for you. But we must ask ourselves: Why has Allâh given the mother such an honoured and lofty status in Islam? Why does she have so many rights upon her children, even more than the father in many cases? Is it not because of the sacrifices she made? The pain she endured? The nights she stayed awake?
Your new baby has just come from a very secure environment where all his needs were being met and he was so close to you and now he is suddenly in this very sensuous world where he may be feeling hunger, thirst, seperation, pain for the first time. He needs you and that closeness, nourishment and security that suckling gives him.
As Sheikh Suhaib Hasan so aptly puts,
“…the child should be suckled for the first two years of his life, instead of being given powdered milk which has been stored in tins for months. Few adults would abandon fresh fruit and vegetables for stale, tinned foods, yet they are quite happy to feed nothing but tinned milk and foods to their infants. Secondly, just as the mother’s blood in the womb passes nutrients and her emotions through to the blood of her child, so her milk also passes her characteristics and emotions to her child while she is suckling him, causing him to feel immense comfort and confidence.”
The scholars of the past too knew the importance of breast milk and the following is just a snippet of Imaam Ibn ul Qayyim’s (may Allah have mercy on him) advice regarding breastfeeding,
“Babies should only be fed the (mother’s) milk until their teeth appear. Their stomach and digestive system (in the early months) are incapable of handling (solid) food. When the babies teeth come out, its stomach becomes strong and ready for food. Indeed, Allâh delays the growth of teeth until the baby needs the food. This is from His wisdom and kindness, and out of mercy toward the mother and her breast’s nipples, so that the baby would not bite them with its teeth.
The babies should be given solid food in a gradual manner, starting with soft foods, such as wet bread, (animal) milk, yoghurt, meat broth… The parents should not be too disturbed by the baby’s crying and screaming, especially when it is hungry for milk. That crying benefits the baby tremendously, training its limbs, widening its intestines, broadening its chest…
The complete breast-feeding term is two years. This is a right for the baby – if it needs it and cannot do without it…”
Patience & Gratitude
Whenever there are difficult patches in our lives we should remember Allâh’s saying, the meaning of which is,
“Indeed after every hardship is ease, Indeed after every hardship is ease.” (Surah ash-Sharh (94), âyah 6)
No pain afflicts a Muslim except that some of his sins are forgiven due to it. If things happened in labour, which you didn’t like, discuss with your husband how you could avoid those things in the future. But try not to over analyse things. Simply think of solutions and seek advice and seek Allâh’s aid and move on. Deal with any major problems you can highlight to the hospital or nursing staff, but move on. We should remember to count the blessings in our situation and we will find that even though this testing time seems difficult to us - there will always be people who are being tested more than us and our situation is still much better than that of many.
If your labour was particularly difficult, think about Mariam (‘alayhas-salâm) and how she was all alone through childbirth, no hospital and facilities, no husband, no books telling her what to expect, no family support -and on top of that the fear of being falsely accused by her people and given a bad reputation. Allâh tells us in the Qur’ân, the meaning of which is:
“So she conceived him (‘Isa) and she retired with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree. She said, “Oh! Would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!” But (a voice) cried to her from beneath her saying, “Grieve not! For your Lord has provided a water stream under you. And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe-dates upon you. So eat and drink and be glad. And if you see any human being, say, ‘Verily I have vowed a fast unto the Most Gracious (Allâh) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.’” Then she brought him (the baby Isa) to her people, carrying him. They said, “Oh Mariam! Indeed you have brought a mighty strange thing!” (Surah Maryam: âyât 22-27)
She had no one but Allâh (subhanahu wa ta’ala) to help her and of course, He was enough for her. Reflect on this: if labour pains are so difficult to bear, then how is it that we sin and do not fear Allâh’s punishment which is more bitter and longer lasting? Should we not now think twice before we sin?
There are probably women in our own families who had much less than we do, less information, facilities and support all round. So we must be thankful. You will see that Inshaa' Allâh, within weeks or months you will be physically healed and will become a lot more organized. Allâh has made us able to adapt to changes over time, so we must trust in Him and ask Him to help us overcome any weaknesses we think we may have.
Slow down & Prioritise
You may feel that there are many things to do and balance in the early days…but if you prioritise and really think about what is important and what can wait, you will achieve a lot more Inshaa' Allâh. You may have to totally concentrate on your baby and his/her needs and devote your time completely to feeding and other needs. Allâh has made doing this easier for us Alhamdulillah by lifting the obligation of praying at this time so that we can devote our time to our baby’s needs.
So for a short time, leave the less important things and concentrate on the job at hand and soon, you will be able to balance more things Inshaa' Allâh. Sleep when your baby sleeps and leave the things such as cleaning till you are on your feet a bit more, or ask friends and family to help. When things settle down more, you can write down the most important things that need to be done and try and do them throughout the day.
Seek help and advice and do your research
Find out about Islamic rulings regarding any issues you face. There is no shortage of information in our times Alhamdulillâh. And it is very advisable for sisters to be informed about childbirth, pain relief options and their implications etc. It is also useful to read up about breastfeeding and what to expect of your baby in the first weeks and months of life. If you get the things you think you’ll need before the birth of your baby then Inshaa' Allâh, this will save you and your husband a lot of running around afterwards. You may need to be shown how to breast-feed correctly. So seek help from the women in your family and your Muslim sisters or even the midwife. Sometimes this is the only way to learn how to do it properly and avoid pain and problems later.
Getting advice from our mothers and friends who are mothers is very important because they usually have tips and advice that books cannot teach us. Many sisters like to stay with their mothers in the early weeks. This way they can get as much help and advice as possible and the whole family can spend quality time with the baby! In the past and in many cultures today, extended families live together which can make things easier.
Being around good people will have a good impact on your mood and eemân (faith). The Internet has many medical websites or websites with parent and baby information, which you could look up instantly if you need advice or information quickly about any issues that come up.
Be mindful of your husband’s rights
Books by non-Muslims and magazines are always giving women excuses to behave badly! Hormones are blamed for everything unreasonable a woman does. Hormones and other pressures do have an affect and the good husband will realize this and also be understanding. But Islaam teaches us Sabr – patience and perseverance in the face of adversity and trying situations. So even at this time when you should put your needs and the needs of your baby first, your husband’s rights should not be neglected.
The coming of your child is a happy time for him too and one of changes and Inshaa' Allâh your husband will be helping you as much as he can and this will be a time for your family unit to grow even closer Inshaa' Allâh. Perhaps he can take time off work at this stage. Seek his help and explain to him how you feel so that he can help you as much as possible and make du’a (supplication) for him.
Things that seem obvious to you may not be to him so explain, so that he can empathize. Enjoy your time with your new family and Inshaa' Allâh, you will see that very soon, as things settle down, you will get more organized and your day will have more structure Inshaa' Allâh and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without the precious little one in your lives. It’s obvious but you must discuss and consult with him any decisions that need to be made. Remember to be thankful to your husband for all the help and support he will have given you through childbirth and before that. Unthankfulness is one of the bad traits that often surface in women at times of pressure, so look at this as your test.
Your good behaviour towards your husband will not go unrewarded Inshaa' Allâh. Remember the hadîth, in which Asmâ' bint Yazîd ibn as Sakan (radhiallâhu anha) came to the Prophet (sallallâhu alaihi wa sallam) and said, (this is a weak hadeeth)
“Oh Messenger of Allâh, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you. I have come to you on behalf of the women. We have believed in you. We do not go out and we remain in your homes. We are your source of physical pleasure. We carry your children. A man goes out to pray jumu’ah and jamâ’ah and follows the janazah. And if you go out fo Hajj, or ‘Umrah, or Jihâd, we look after your wealth. We wash your clothing. We raise your children. Shall we not share in the reward?”
The Prophet (sallallâhu alaihi wa sallam) turned to his companions and said, “Have you ever heard anything a woman has said better than what she has said?”
Then he said to her, “Understand oh woman, and inform the other women. Indeed a woman’s perfection of her relationship with her husband, her seeking his pleasure, and doing that which he approves of is equivalent to all of that.” Asmâ left exclaiming “La ilâha illa Allâh!”
Enjoy your baby
Enjoying the company of your child is also a blessing from Allâh. Look at the story of Musa’s mother in the Qur’ân and see how the separation of mother and child is such a test. It is one of the most moving stories mentioned in the Qur’ân. Her son is born in the year when Pharaoh has decreed the killing of every newborn son of Bani Isra’îl. She knows that soon Pharaoh’s men will come and kill her child. Allâh (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says, the meaning of which is,
“So we sent this inspiration to the mother of Musa: ‘Suckle your child, but when you fear for him, then cast him into the river and fear not, nor grieve. Verily! We shall bring him back to you and shall make him one of our Messengers.'”
Then the household of Pharaoh picked him up, that he might become for them an enemy and a cause of grief. For indeed, Pharaoh, Haman and all their men were sinners. And the wife of Pharaoh said: 'A comfort of the eye for me and for you. Kill him not, perhaps he may be of benefit to us, or we may adopt him as a son.” And they perceived not (what they were doing)!
And the heart of the mother of Musa became empty. She was very near to disclosing his case, had we not strengthened her heart, so that she might remain a firm believer. And she said to Musa’s sister: “Follow him.” So she watched him from a far place secretly, while they perceived not.
And We had already forbidden other foster suckling mothers for him, until she (Musa’s sister) said: “Shall I direct you to a household who will rear him for you, and will look after him in a good manner?”
Thus did We restore him to his mother, that her eye might be comforted, that she might not grieve and that she might know that the promise of Allâh is true: but most of them know not.” (Surah Al-Qasas, âyât 7-13)
Look how much Allâh cared for this great mother, He knew her pain and her feelings and He returned her child to her in the most unexpected way, so we must realize that Allâh is All-Hearing All-Merciful, He knows the plight of the caller when he calls and remember how Allâh has helped mothers throughout the ages and how He mentions many mothers in the Qur’ân: Mariam and her mother, Musa’s mother, Ishâq’s mother Sara, the mother of Yahya (‘alayihimus salâm).
So enjoy your new baby’s company because these days will pass- never to return. At the different stages of our lives: the beginning of parenthood and at every stage, we will find lessons to reflect upon, signs from Allâh that make us thankful and in awe of Him. From the development of your baby throughout the nine months and in seeing him grow and flower every single day there are signs for you and we can see how helpless we too were and how Alhamdulillah Allâh gave us parents and allowed us to grow. There are so many lessons and benefits for us if only we look and think.
Remember that Allâh the Almighty is more merciful to us than the mother is to her child, and He is Arhamu-rRâhimîm (The Most Merciful of those who have mercy), so draw near to Him and make Him the One upon whom you place your trust.