Imam Luqman Ahmad

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The Lotus Tree Blog

The Islamic Ruling Regarding Baby Showers in America

The United States, like other countries is a culturally dynamic environment. Understanding how to apply Islamic law and maintain the required limits of Islamic protocol (adab) require a thorough understanding of the shariah and the culture, as well as the inclusion and consultation of indigenous American Muslim intelligentsia when rendering legal edicts. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people’s cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in peoples traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.”

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that (the scholar) understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah.”- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157

The Baby shower is an indigenous cultural event practiced by Muslims born and raised and residing in the in the United States of America. No adequate Islamic ruling can be made upon it without understanding the nature of the practice, its benefit and its harms if any, a thorough understanding of the social and cultural minutiae of the indigenous American Muslims who practice it, and how the practice is viewed in light of the objectives (maqaasid) of Islamic law and the letter of the Quran and the Sunna of Mustapha (SAWS).

What is a baby shower?
A baby shower is a social practice whereas women gather in a home or designated place to honor and celebrate the pending birth of a child. The practice is accompanied by giving gifts, feeding food and congratulatory gestures such as cards to announce the birth of a child. It is generally a happy occasion and it is a reason for women to come together to support each other in goodness.

The basis for baby Showers in the Quran and Sunna

The essence of a baby shower is to congratulate the mother on the impending birth of a child. The basis of this is in the Quran: “Verily Allah gives you glad tidings of John.[1]” “Oh Mary verily Allah gives you glad tidings of a word from Him whose name will be Jesus the son of Mary[2].” Childbirth itself is considered a praiseworthy act in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) “Marry fertile easy natured women for verily I shall have the largest umma because of you on the Day of Judgment”. There is no dissension amongst the scholars of Islam that Muslims having children is a praiseworthy act that merits joy, and thanks to Allah tabaaraka wa ta’ala.

The Permissibility of Baby Showers in the United States of America

A baby shower, in which there is no accompanying prohibited activity such as prohibited music, displays of lewdness, alcoholic drinks, and vulgarity, is permissible in Islam and is an accepted practice for Muslims living in the United States . Baby showers are a cultural practice (aada) and not a religious one (ibaadah) by agreement of scholars familiar with the practice. The basis of cultural practices is permissibility unless there is compelling evidence from the Quran and Sunna which would make it otherwise. This is the view of the majority of Islamic scholars and of the Imams of the four schools of religious thought. Gathering and mixing with the people at their social events, at their gatherings, their joyous occasions, visiting the sick, attending sittings for remembrance of Allah, and attending peoples customary functions was the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and was the practice of the Salaf of our umma. It is especially desirable for people who are able to enjoin the good and forbid the evil[3].

Imam An-Nawawi says: Remember! Mixing with the people in the way I have mentioned earlier is the most desirable. This was the way of the messenger of Allah, the righteous Caliphs, the followers of the Companions[4], scholars and righteous people. The majority of the followers of the Companions and their followers[5] adopted it. Imam Ash-Shaafi’ee, Imam Ahmad and the majority of other jurists followed it.”[6] Thus baby showers which keep to the Islamic behavioral protocol are not only permissible, it is a recommended practice.


Reasons for permissibility of baby showers:

Baby showers by their very nature facilitate the practice of the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). Righteous deeds frequently find their delivery through cultural practices. You have to enter the kitchen in order to prepare the food. The fact that this issue requires clarification is a testament to the sad state of the umma and the preponderance of ignorance. It has become increasingly difficult for us to distinguish truth from falsehood, even if the truth slaps us in the face. Nevertheless, the only antidote to ignorance is knowledge. Below are ten reasons why baby showers are permissible in Islam. Wallahu al-Must’a’aan

1.The majority of Islamic scholars past and present regard social and cultural actions which do not contradict the Quran, the Sunna or an agreement of the scholars, particularly the Salaf of our umma, as permissible until proven otherwise. This is based upon the principle: “Al-aslu fil ash’yaa al-ibaaha” (The basis of things is permissibility). Anytime a social or cultural action is deemed prohibited, the burden of proof is upon the one who prohibits it, not the one who deems it permissible.
2.Helping the Muslimah to care for her child: “And help each other in righteousness and piety and do not help each other in sin and transgression.[7]” By the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS): “Allah will be in assistance of His servant as long as the servant is in assistance of his brother”[8].
3.Visiting the Muslim: Baby shower require that you visit the person. In fact, it creates an opportunity to visit a Muslimah. The prophet (SAWS) said: “Whoever visits an ailing person or a brother of his to seek the pleasure of Allah, an announcer (angel) calls out: ‘May you be happy, may your walking be blessed, and may you be awarded a dignified position in Jannah.’”[9] No one can claim that they are not in need of additional blessings from Allah ta’ala. Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
4.Responding to an invitation: The Prophet (SAWS) said: “The right of the Muslim over the other Muslims is six” of those six, he mentioned; “If he invites you then respond.”[10]
5.Feeding food: The Prophet (SAWS) was asked; which is the best type of Islam? He replied: “Feeding food and spreading salaams”[11]
6.Congratulating the family of the good tidings associated with a new birth: Allah says in the Quran: “Verily Allah brings you glad tidings of John”
7.Giving gifts: The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Give gifts and you will love each other.” The giving of gifts is a Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS) and a means for softening the hearts of the believers towards each other.
8.Strengthening the bonds of sisterhood; Sisterhood in Islam is a praiseworthy pursuit based upon the verse; “Verily the believers are a single brotherhood”[12] and by the hadith of the Prophet of those who will be under Allah’ shade on a day where there is no shade except His shade: “Two men who love each other for the sake of Allah, they come together based on it and they depart based on it”[13]
9.Encouraging marriage and childbirth; Childbirth and motherhood are both praiseworthy acts by agreement of the scholars of Islam. To consider them otherwise would be in contradiction to the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). From which many opportunities for good deeds abound; obedience to parents, honoring the mother, teaching children prayer and deen, opportunities for charities and the list goes on. Both childbearing and motherhood are considered to be good actions (ma’roof) by agreement of the scholars. Allah sub’hanahu wa ta’ala has commanded the believers to enjoin each other in acts of goodness (ma’roof). “Let there be from amongst you a group who calls to good and enjoins righteousness (ma’roof) and forbids evil.”[14]
10.Allowance of maa’oon (neighborly needs). Diapers, bottles, baby blankets, baby cloths, wipes, pacifiers, strollers, basinets are all of the category of maa’oon, or neighborly needs which people routinely pass back and forth to one another on the basis of need. To prevent the practice of baby showers without just cause is to prevent the ease by which neighborly needs passes hands. Preventing the passing of neighborly needs is a major sin (kabeerah) and a loathsome act which angers Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. “And who to the worshippers; those who are neglectful of their prayers; those who pray to be seen and who prevent the passing of neighborly needs”[15]. May Allah guide us all through these times of ignorance.


Previous misinformed rulings about baby showers:

There have been several rulings by various imams and councils which prohibited baby showers in the United States . The intentions behind these rulings were admirable in sha Allah. However, because of the unfamiliarity of many imams to the nature of local customs in America , the nature of fataawa[16], and the nature of baby showers, some of the prohibitive rulings have obvious flaws and errors. The reality is that there is no evidence in the Quran or the Sunna or in the words or actions of the Salaf of our umma which would conclusively or even remotely render baby showers haram or even makrooh. The practice of baby showers is that it contains many Sunna acts. It has traditionally been in the United States a source of good tidings, gift giving, bonding, and softening of the hearts, all of which are desirable actions, encouraged or commanded by our beloved Prophet (SAWS). Additionally, the ruling of any imam or council does not take precedence over the actions of our Prophet (SAWS). Prohibition of an act in Islam requires conclusive proof. Uninformed opinion is not enough to render that which is permissible into that which is prohibited.


Is the Baby Shower Imitation of the Infidels?

Some well meaning scholars have proclaimed the baby shower a prohibited act based upon the sound hadith; “Whoever imitates a people then he is of them”[17]. They regard the practice as an imitation of the kuffar (non-Muslims) and therefore not permissible. This view although it has marginal rhetoric merit and emotional plausibility, has no basis in the shariah. This is for eight reasons.

1.The hadith is specific (khaas), and not general (aam). It refers to practices that have religious significance. This is explained clearly by ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani in Fat’h al-Baari. The Prophet (SAWS) continued cultural, ethnic and region specific practices and allowed such, even though the majority of those doing it were non Muslims in the Meccan period. As in the case of clothing; he (SAWS) continued to wear the clothes of the pagan Meccans after he received revelation. He also allowed the Muslims to continue the literary practice of poetic expression as long as it didn’t contain undesirable prose. Umar ibn al-Khattaab instituted the diwaan for pension and salary distribution which was a practice of the Persian Kings. Anyone who thinks that the Prophet (SAWS) contradicted his own statements and performed blameworthy actions is himself an unbeliever. Thus, the meaning of the hadith cannot mean non religious, cultural actions.
2.The Baby shower is a cultural practice, not a religious one. Anyone who views it otherwise is obviously unfamiliar with the practice and unqualified to speak on the matter since Allah has prohibited discussion of religious matters without knowledge. “And delve not into that which you have no knowledge of.”[18]
3.Imitating the kuffar requires performing actions which are specific to kuffar only. In other words, it is a religious action not a demo-graphic one. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims born in America by Allah’s will and decree. Many of them have baby showers. Thus, the practice is not only exclusive to non-Muslims; it is a practice of Muslims as well.
4.Baby showers are an imitation of American culture and not an imitation of a particular religious group especially since all Christians around the world do not engage in the practice. It cannot be prohibited for American Muslims to imitate Americans since they themselves are Americans. That’s like saying it is prohibited for an Egyptian to behave like an Egyptian! No human being is born in a state of prohibition or sin according to the creed of Ahlus Sunna (Islamic Orthodoxy) since all people are born in a state of fitra[19]! American Muslims should not have to repent for being born American, or for behaving as Americans as long as their actions are not prohibited by Allah and His Messenger. To suggest otherwise is sheer lunacy! You can’t make being born and raised in a particular country prohibited as some are suggesting.
5.If the practice of baby showers is prohibited for the reason of imitation. The same logic would have to apply to basketball, baseball, grade school show and tell, football, soccer, flying a kite, using a garbage disposal, tennis, bowling, and high school graduation, none of which were practiced by the Prophet (SAWS) and all of which are practiced by Muslim young and old after having been first been practiced by non-Muslims. Shariah based legal reasoning (ah’kaam shar’iyyah) cannot be applied to some issues while excluding other issues that have similar properties. This contradicts the agreed upon legislative process and the minhaj of the Salaf of our umma.
6.The fact that a non-Muslim does an act does not make it prohibited. Blindly referring to actions and practices of non-Muslims as haram has caused many problems in the Muslim community and has been a source of much confusion.
7.No one has the right to prohibit a Muslim from giving gifts, feeding food or visiting the home of another Muslim when there are no prohibited acts being committed. These are all actions enjoined upon us by the Messenger of Allah (SAWS). No scholar’s or council’s authority exceeds that of Allah and His Messenger (SAWS).
8.The name of the event has little bearing on the permissibility or non-permissibility of what takes place at the event. In the shariah you cannot prohibit the musammaa (named action) by its ism (name). For example a person can have a barbeque in his or her back yard. You cannot prohibit it simply because it is called a barbeque and this is not a name used during the time of the Prophet (SAWS)! A barbeque is judged by its content not its name. If it contains intoxicants, nudity, profanity and loud unislamic music as some barbeques do, it is prohibited. If it has halal food, good company, the prayer times are observed and there is no unlawful mixing, there is no prohibition. The same applies to a baby shower, a picnic, a graduation dinner, and many other cultural affairs about which doubt has arisen.

Does the baby shower replace the aqeeqah?

No. Sunna is never replaced by culture. If one has to choose between a cultural practice and a Sunna of Rasollillah, (SAWS) the Sunna takes precedence every time. However in the case of the baby shower, it is different in practice and purpose from the aqeeqah. The aqeeqah is a post birth event commanded by the Prophet (SAWS) which has religious significance and specific measure. The baby shower is a pre-birth event, all together different in nature, with no distinct religious significance and no particular measure. One action does not replace the other and both can be performed in its own time and place. A baby shower does not suffice as an aqeeqah sacrifice. Similarly, an aqeeqah is a Sunna, and has its merit and reward; however, it does not serve the purpose of a baby shower, nor is it meant to. The two are totally separate actions and are connected only in that both have something to do with childbirth. One is not a condition for the other nor do they affect each other. A similar example is Hajj. A person may make Hajj and visit Cairo on the way there. The Prophet (SAWS) made Hajj for sure but he was never reported to have visited Cairo on the way to Hajj. However such an itinerary does not nullify the Hajj or place the person in spiritual jeopardy, since the visit to Cairo is totally separate from the Hajj and does not affect it. .
A baby shower is an event, and the aqeeqah is another separate event. One event does not supplant the other. The former is a cultural tradition; the latter is a religious obligation. This issue is a matter of fiqh and right guidance and not a matter of street corner lawmaking or assumption. What we have explained herein should clear up the issue of baby showers once and for all. And Allah knows best wa bihi tawfeeq.
Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Sheikh Luqman Ahmad is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California ; he is also a national shura member of MANA (Muslim Alliance of North America) and an Executive committee member of NAIF (North American Imams Federation). He is also a member of the Mayors Office for Faith Based Initiatives in the City of Philadelphia and Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, a center for traditional Islamic learning based in Sacramento California . You may contact him at: imamabulaith@yahoo.com


________________________________________
[1] Quran: 3:39
[2] Quran: 3:45
[3] With proper knowledge and adaab.
[4] Taabi’een
[5] Taabi taabi’een.
[6] Riyadh us-Saaliheen; Chapter 70, section on Excellence of Mixing with People and Attending their Social Activities. The practice of participating with the people in their everyday social affairs and events was the practice of the people of knowledge from amongst the Salaf of our umma in spite of modern day statements to the contrary.
[7] Quran; 5:2
[8] Collected by Muslim
[9] Good authentic hadith, collected by at-Tirmidhi.
[10] Collected by Muslim
[11] Collected by Muslim
[12] Quran: 49:10
[13] Collected by Muslim
[14] Quran: 3:104
[15] Quran: 107:4-7
[16] Plural of fatwa (legal edict or opinion).
[17] Collected by Ahmad and Abu Dawood. This is an often misunderstood and misused hadith. People frequently use it to cast blanket aspersions upon an action to make it haram. May Allah guide us.
[18] Quran, 36:170
[19] Natural submissive disposition based upon the hadith; “Each child is born in a state of fitra.” (Collected by Muslim)

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Filed under: Fatwas and American Muslims, Muslim converts, Muslim Thought, , ,

3 Responses

  1. Unlissted says:

    Your not qualified to make rulings you havent studied enough….What do you think a few trips to sudan ,mecca gave you the right to make fatawa show us a ijaaza you have the right to make fatawa ….Show us scholars who have proceeded you in this affair.

  2. Unlisted,
    It seems that you were considering following the fatwa. Otherwise there would be no good reason to challenge my qualification for rendering it. I am honored that my opinions mean so much to you. I was a little mystified that you didn’t ask whether or not I was qualified to render a fatwa regarding a domestic matter using proofs from the Book and the Sunna, people usually ask questions before they come to conclusions. That’ s the sunna by the way. However, you simply asserted that I was not qualified to do so. . That interested me since by categorically stating that I am not qualified to render an Islamic opinion, suggests that you are qualified to declare who can, and who cannot speak upon matters pertaining to Islam and Muslims in America.

    If you are confident that you are intimately aware of the amount of knowledge of religion or understanding that I have, which I admit is small, or what knowledge I do not have, (which I admit is a large amount) . Then perhaps Allah has entrusted you with some of the knowledge of the unseen in which case, I might have some questions for you later. Since you asked me to name those who have given me authority, that suggests that you know the names of those who are authorized to tell Imams, leaders and Muslims in American what they can and cannot comment or render rulings about. If you do know these people, then perhaps you can share their names and contact information. There are several million Muslims in America and if there are particular people who have the exclusive authority to rule on matters here in America, then people need to know these people, and they need to know quickly!

    I want you to sleep well dear brother and I want for you what I want for myself; a heart which is free of rancor), As far as the ruling itself, you would have done yourself more of a service had you addressed it specifically, instead of attempting to disparage me personally. If you possess sufficient evidence that would conclusively prohibit visiting relatives, or those to whom we are commanded kindness, or giving gifts, or relieving a burden from a Muslim or non Muslim, then please produce it for us as we do not want to anger Allah by giving gifts, or clothing a child, or feeding food, or strengthening bonds with family, sisters in faith, or those to whom which kindness is mandatory such as the neighbor or the less fortunate, all of which have been prescribed by our Prophet (SAWS). so if people who go to baby showers are misguided and you have conclusive proof, send us a link to it.

    At that time, it is advisable to both identify yourself, when you give ample reason why we should not obey the commands and advisement of our Prophet (SAWS). Because without proofs to the contrary, we must assume that using a means by which we can perform good deeds and thereby gain Allah’s pleasure. is allowable. I would imagine that you agree since you have responded to my fatwa using a means invented by non-Muslims and not employed by the Prophet (SAWS). Umar al-Khattab employed the diwan to manage financial allotments and for other purposes. They certainly got the idea from the Persians. I noticed how you tried to attack my character, However, you didn’t mention your name, and statements used as evidences or disparagement’s, by (majaaheel) (unknown persons) are unacceptable by themselves as credible, according to the majority of the scholars of religion

    Scholars have put forth opinions regarding the rendering of fataawa (legal opinions) Perhaps in your haste, you forgot to mention any of their opinions. Yes my brother, there are fatwas about making fatwas. You missed mentioning some of their views, in which case, I’ll oblige. Let’s assume that I am a layman with no training in these matters. That is not the case but perhaps assuming so for the basis of our discussion may help others who are prevented from doing good without conclusive proof.

    Ibn Qayyim mentions: “If a lay person knows the ruling on a matter by virtue of its proof. Can he rule (yuftee) on it? And is it permissible for a person to blindly follow him (taqleed) in that? Ibn Qayyim mentions: “There are three views according to the Shaafi’ee scholars and others; The first is: It is permissible. That is because he has acquired knowledge relating to that particular matter, supported by proofs just as a scholars a scholar would. Additionally if the scholar is able to elucidate the strength of the argument by deeper analysis of is proofs, and sufficiently challenged evidence that would contradict the ruling, then that would serve as an additional measure in knowing the truth.

    The second opinion: It is absolutely for a commoner to issue a ruling because of his lack of qualification to present proofs supporting it his and lack of knowledge of the conditions by which proofs (are acceptable).

    The third opinion: If the proofs are the book and the sunna, it is permissible for him to rule accordingly to them because the Quran and the sunna addresses all who are responsible to comply to (the Quran and the Sunna) accountable (to follow) .

    You nor are not obligated to follow anything contained in the fatwa. However, you are obligated to consider carefully when making prohibited what Allah has allowed. Additionally, you have not identified nor cited the body, the sheikh, the council, the institution or the leader who has the authority to grant or deny us license to rule on matters pertaining to the Muslims in the United States

    Permission is not necessary to enjoin that which is permissible, judge our affairs according to what is right and beneficial in our faith, and practice righteous deeds using the means available to us. On the contrary, to teach the religion and clarify to people the mercy of Allah and the ease of His faith does not require a license. Not in America, sorry wrong country.

    You mentioned that I haven’t studied enough. You know, I tell myself ll the time. I admit that I would benefit from additional knowledge, and even if I were seconds away from my death, I would gain by acquiring beneficial knowledge. So if you intended to advise me by encouraging me to seek knowledge thn you have done well since that was the advice of our Prophet (SAWS). May you be rewarded.

    If you are looking for a knee slappin, name calling, character assaulting back and forth, then this is not the place. If you want to comment on the posts, civilly without getting personal, then al-humdu lillah, we may learn something from you. If you want to find prohibition in something, choose an easier topic like, killing, name calling, and making assumption. Picking on the baby shower as a means to find fault in Muslims is an uphill battle.

    In sha Allah, in the future, if you want to create doubt in an opinion, or disqualify someone, you do so by showing the fault of their reasoning and weakness of their proofs. Address the proofs used in the thesis and not the qualification of the individual unless you have detailed knowledge of the person. Even the Shaitaan, whom we know is a liar, has been known to tell the truth according to sahih hadith I’m sure you mean well brother Unlisted. This is the last time that I am going to engage in this type of dialog with you. Keep your name to yourself, that way I or anyone else will not be tempted to form an opinion about you. I’ll just assume that you are a young Muslim brother trying to find his way. If you know me at all or know anything about me, I don’t do personal attacks with Muslims in real life or on the internet. Never have and may Allah save me from it. As far as my employment at UMM Masjid, they have an office and a phone number. In fact I haev many friends there in the administration. Feel free to call and ask. May Allah show you mercy.

    Imam Luqman

  3. Asalamu alakum,
    I have a question and inshaallah you will have an answer, I asked many people about the ruling on baby shower in Islam and the proof, I had someone go to their Macaalin today and ask them the ruling on it and the proof and they said it is straight up haraam, and they used a couple hadiths to follow up. one of them is mentioned in this article “Whoever imitates a people then he is of them” so I agreed upon it, okay. The person told me that it is impermissible because it originated from the kufar, then I found this site and it said otherwise. I shall also add that my family is not muslim and wants to hold a “baby shower” (I call it a gathering) before I go back home, and it will be us (the muslims cooking the meat) shes only making tuna fish and egg salad, so the food will be halaal inshaallah. Also they are not practicing christians or anything like that, they believe in God, but im not sure if they believe Jesus is the “son of God”, so they do not say grace before they eat or anything like that. They are very respectful of my beliefs and practices, and do not get in the way of that. I sometimes try to explain the religion to them with the knowledge I do have, and they listen and respect that. So if you could please give me an answer with proof reguarding my question Inshaallah, That would be very helpful.
    Jazakallah Khair,
    Salaam

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