Sunnah is the Arabic word for traditions and customs, and in the Islamic community, refers specifically to the customs of the Prophet Muhammed. Those who follow and believe in the teachings of Allah and the Prophet Muhammed are bound to perform Aqeeqah when the birth of a baby occurs.
Aqeeqah is a sunnah traditionally performed 7, 14, or 21 days after the birth of a child, but it is acceptable to perform it at any point in the child’s life prior to puberty. The timing of this ritual generally is dependent on available resources. This sunnah requires the parents of the newborn to slaughter an animal, and the animal is typically a goat. The number of goats required varies based on the gender of the baby, with a newborn boy requiring two goats, and a newborn girl requiring 1 goat. The slaughter is performed as an offering to Allah and is thought to cleanse and purify the child’s life, offering prosperity and good fortune.
It is important to note, that the 2-goat requirement for a boy, and 1 goat for a girl, does not relate to the perceived worth of either gender in their society. This difference comes from Arab culture, where a boy would typically contribute more to the overall earnings and defense of the tribe. Because of this, a larger sacrifice for the birth of a boy was meant to encourage these families to be more generous. The meat from Aqeeqah is never wasted, and the birth of a boy means that more families will be fed.
Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) knows the importance of religious tradition, and how hard they can be to uphold for those who are less fortunate. To solve this problem, HHRD has a team of specialists that are in contact with families across the world who have fallen victim to crisis situations. The team on the ground consults with expectant mothers, and record their request for assistance performing Aqeeqah. By compiling a database of those requiring assistance with Aqeeqah, HHRD hopes to ensure that no one who would like to perform this ritual is unable to do so. Those who were not able to perform Aqeeqah in the traditional timeframe of 7, 14, or 24 days post-birth, are still able to receive assistance from HHRD.
As one of the main issues that HHRD seeks to resolve is hunger in less fortunate communities, they also ensure that meat from the ritual sacrifice does not go to waste. HHRD’s team consults with the donor who helped procure the goat for the ritual, and the meat can then be distributed to the country of their choice. Typically, for logistical reasons, the meat is chosen to be distributed within the local community. These communities who have been impacted by disaster, are often part of a food supply program run by HHRD, and the best option is usually local distribution. This way, religious traditions can be upheld while also making an impact on the hunger crisis in these communities.
HHRD currently serves Afghanistan, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda with their Aqeeqah service.