Muslim Customs and Traditions Relating to Childbirth
Each culture and religion has its own customs and traditions for the birth of a child. During and after the birth of a Muslim child, there are certain rituals the mother and father must perform. Some of these traditions are culturally inspired, and others are performed according to passages in the Quran that detail the appropriate actions after childbirth.
1 Muslim Birth Customs
When a Muslim woman is in labor, it is customary for only female attendees to participate in the birth. This includes family members, nurses, doctors, midwives and doulas. However, there is no explicit rule against a male doctor attending the birth of a Muslim child, but a female doctor is preferred whenever possible. Although many Muslim fathers do not attend the birth of their child, there is no Islamic teaching that prohibits this. Rather, it is a cultural belief that childbirth should only involve women.
It is culturally and religiously important for Muslim women to breastfeed their infants shortly after birth. In fact, soon after the delivery of a child, many Muslim women are given ratb, which is a kind of date that improves the quality of breast milk. This tradition is a result of a passage in the Quran where Allah told the mother of the prophet Isa to eat dates so that the child would be patient and clever. There are also many references to breastfeeding in the Quran that encourage Muslim women to breastfeed their children for two years.
All Muslim fathers are to recite an adhan in their infant's right ear so that it is the first words he or she hears. An adhan is a call to prayer that is announced from mosques five times per day: at sunrise, at noon, in the afternoon, at dusk and in the evening. There are several phrases used for a call to prayer, but the most commonly-used adhan is "there is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God."
After a Muslim child is born, it is customary for an aqiqah, which is a community celebration, to be held on the seventh day after the birth. However, postponing this celebration until a later date is acceptable. To provide food for the aqiqah, a Muslim father is to slaughter one or two animals. These animals are typically goats or sheep. One third of the meat is given away to the poor, and the rest is shared in the community meal. Relatives, friends and neighbors are usually the only people invited to an aqiqah.