Children are a precious gift from God, and the blessing of a child is a special time in a person's life. All cultures and religious traditions have certain ways of welcoming a newborn child into the community.
Muslim women tend to prefer all-female attendants at the birth, whether they be doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, or female relatives. However, it is permissible in Islam for male doctors to attend to a pregnant woman. There is no Islamic teaching that prohibits fathers from attending the birth of their child; this is left up to personal choice.
The practice of regular prayer is the most fundamental practice in Islam. Muslim prayer, which is performed five times a day, can be performed almost anywhere -- either individually or in congregation. The time of prayer is announced by the Call to Prayer (adhan) which is called from the Muslim place of worship (mosque/masjed). These beautiful words which call the Muslim community to prayer five times a day are also the first words the Muslim baby will hear. The father or a family elder will whisper these words in the baby's ear shortly after its birth.
Islam prescribes male circumcision with the sole purpose of facilitating cleanliness. The male child may be circumcised at any time which is convenient without ceremony; however parents usually have their son circumcised before his trip home from the hospital.
Muslim women are encouraged to give their children the nourishment of breast milk. The Quran instructs that if a woman breastfeeds her children, their period of weaning is two years.
To celebrate a child's birth, it is recommended that a father slaughter one or two animals (sheep or goats). One third of the meat is given away to the poor, and the rest shared in a community meal. Relatives, friends, and neighbors are thus invited to share in celebrating the happy event. This is traditionally done the seventh day after the child's birth, but may be postponed to later. The name for this event comes from the Arabic word 'aq, which means "cut." This is also traditionally the time when the child's hair is cut or shaved (see below).
Shaving the Head
It is traditional, but not required, for parents to shave the hair of their newborn child on the seventh day after birth. The hair is weighed, and an equivalent amount in silver or gold is donated to the poor.
One of the very first duties that parents have toward a new child, besides physical care and love, is to give the child a meaningful Muslim name. It is reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "On the Day of Resurrection, you will be called by your names and by your fathers' names, so give yourselves good names" (Hadith Abu Dawud). Muslim children are usually named within seven days of their birth.
Of course new mothers traditionally get many happy visitors. Among Muslims, visiting and assisting the indisposed is a basic form of worship to bring one closer to God. For this reason, the new Muslim mother will often have many female visitors. It is common for close family members to visit right away, and for other visitors to wait until a week or more after birth in order to protect the child from exposure to illnesses. The new mother is in convalescence for a period of 40 days, during which friends and relatives will often provide the family with meals.
Although allowed, adoption in Islam is subject to certain parameters. the Qur'an gives specific rules about the legal relationship between a child and his/her adoptive family. The child's biological family is never hidden; their ties to the child are never severed.