Paternity Leave Will Help Fathers Fulfil Religious Duty
In light of the upcoming amendments to the Employment Act, the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) is calling for the introduction of at least seven days of paternity leave in the private sector, similar to the current practice of the public sector. This news brings to mind the to-do list that Islam highly recommends parents, especially fathers to carry out in welcoming the new born. If paternity leave is granted to fathers working at the private sector, it will help Muslim fathers to play their roles according to the Sunnah.
For Muslims, the first seven days after the child is born is very important, especially for the father. Other than to help out and be with his wife and their new born baby, there are a few things that fathers need to do, as recommended by Islam. Although some of these responsibilities can be postponed, it is best to do them within seven days after the baby is born, following the Sunnah.
In Islam there are some recommended to do list with regards to the new born: (i) saying the azan and iqamah to the new born ; (ii) performing tahnik; (iii) shaving the baby’s head; (iv) giving name to the baby; and, (v) performing the aqiqah.
The first thing that a father needs to do is to say the azan and the iqamah to the new born. While azan is the call for prayer that we hear every day from the mosques, iqamah is the final call to prayer which is done more swiftly as it addresses those who are already in the mosques.
Normally, this takes place at the hospitals. After the baby is cleaned, the father will carry the baby close to his chest and say the azan to the baby’s right ear and iqamah to the left ear. By doing this it is hoped that the first thing the baby hears is the word of the Supreme call which contains Allah’s magnificence and glory and the shahadah which represent his first step into Islam.
Secondly, fathers are recommended to perform the tahnik. It refers to the act of placing something sweet like chewed dates or honey, inside the baby’s palate. Normally, the honour of doing this is given to a pious and righteous man, in order to seek his blessing and hoping that the baby grows up as pious and righteous. This man will chew the dates, put some of it on his fingertip, inserts it in the baby’s mouth, and gently moves his finger right and left, until the whole mouth is rubbed with the chewed dates. It is believed that this act will strengthen the muscles in the baby’s mouth and thus enhance its suckling experience.
Thirdly, Islam recommends that the head of the new born is shaved on the seventh day. The hair is then weighed and the equivalent price of silver is to be identified and given away to the poor and needy. Shaving the baby’s head will get rid of the weaker hair the child is born with and opens up the pores so that stronger hair can grow. Giving money to the poor and needy serves as a social function that reflects social solidarity and cooperation.
Fourthly, giving name to the baby. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, once said, “You will be called on the Doomsday by your names, your father’s name, so choose nice names.” Parents are advised to choose the most beautiful names, following the Prophet’s guidance.
Last but not least, aqiqah, which involves slaughtering a goat or a sheep for the new born and sharing its meat with friends and family. The Prophet peace be upon him said which means, “Aqiqah must be offered for every newly born child, to be slaughtered on his seventh day, and he is given a name, and has haircut.” Although aqiqah is not obligatory, it contains many benefits and Muslims are encouraged to perform it. It is a way of expressing gratitude to Allah for the blessing of having a child. It is also believed that aqiqah brings a child close to Allah soon after entering this world. Furthermore, it is a cause for gathering family, friends and the community in welcoming the new born. No doubt aqiqah can be done later, it is highly recommended to do it on the seventh day as what the Prophet did.
Apparently, many fatherhood responsibilities need to be done for a new born, especially during the first seven days. In that sense, the seven days paternity leave for the private sector is very much anticipated as Muslim fathers can follow the Sunnah of the Prophet in welcoming the additional member of the family.