The Islamic Ruling on Baby Showers in the United States


By Sheikh Luqman Ahmad, Imam, Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California

 Bismillahi Arrah’maan Arra’heem wal-humdu lillah wa salaat wa salaam alaa Rasoolillah (SAWS)

Question: Are baby showers haram (prohibited ) in Islam?

Answer: al-Humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen. 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).Islam in America is at a critical crossroad. American Muslims increasingly find themselves caught between issues of American culture and their Islamic identity. Despite the valiant efforts of scholars to elucidate the lines between these two variables (culture and religion), a great deal of ambiguity remains about how to reconcile the two. Many rulings regarding cultural practices and habits of American Muslim are rendered without an intimate understanding of the nature of these practices, as well as the Muslim Americans who practice them, which are essential ingredient to any Islamic ruling placed thereon.

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 answer to the original queery is as follows, wa billahi tawfiq

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-Shafi’i, 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, 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[16]. 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 seven reasons.

  1. The hadith is specific, not general and 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.”[17]
  3. Imitating the kuffar (unbelievers) requires performing actions which are specific to kuffar only.  In other words, it is a religious action not a socio-demographic 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[18]
  5. American Muslims should not have to repent for being born American, or behaving as Americans as long as their actions are not prohibited by Allah and His Messenger. To suggest otherwise is sheer lunacy! People are born in a state of fitra, regardless of where they are born. A person cannot be considered morally or spiritually deficient by virtue of their country of birth. You can’t make being born and raised in a particular country prohibited as some have suggested. This argument, simply does not stand up ti scrutiny.
  6. 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, 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.
  7. 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. Furthermore, 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. However, it is permissible in Islam that a sunna can be enconced inside of a cultural practice. For example, maintaining relationships with one’s relatives is a command from Allah and it is the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). If a person achieves that by attending a family picnic or barbque, that is permssible. 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. 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 aqeeqa sacrifice. Similarly, an aqeeqa 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 be. 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 aqeeqa 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. What we have explained herein should clear up the issue of baby showers once and for all. We should keep in mind that the truth is with the dalil (proof) and Allah knows best wa bihi tawfiq.

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 Executive  Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, a center for research and 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] Riyaad 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]

[17] Quran, 36:170

[18] Natural submissive disposition based upon the hadith; “Each child is born in a

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6 thoughts on “The Islamic Ruling on Baby Showers in the United States

Add yours

  1. Very good article and resource for information. I felt is was clear, especially the point about baby showers not replacing Aqiqah. The only thing I would add is tis point: The baby shower is a celebration of the mother and a way for the community to contribute to the new expense of the impending soul to be born. The aqiqah is a birth rite a child has over the parents.

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  2. In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful, may peace and blessings be upon our master Muhammad and upon his Family and Companions

    As salaamu ailakum

    Masha’allah very good artical May Allah continue to bless you and reward you for your efforts ameen.
    I think it’s unfortunate how brother ask scholars across sea’s for ruling about a particular practice. Instead of asking home grown scholars with knowledge of the practices.And it’s more unfortunate that I believe the scholars know the prerequisite for making ruling if not then why are they in that position.
    Just a thought for the mind

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    1. Alaikum salaam wa rahmatullah, I’m not sure what your point is. If you are asking did the Prophet (SAWS) sanction Muslims coming together to wish each other well, or to give gifts, or to offer assistance, or to show thanks to Allah, or to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood or sisterhood, or make preparations for the birth of a child, or to make food for each other, eat together, or to check on each other’s condition, then all of the aforementioned were sanctioned by Allah and His Prophet (SAWS). If you’re asking did the Prophet (SAWS) call such a gathering a baby shower then the answer is no. If that makes it haram in your view, then the same goes for graduations, grand openings, enrollment in schools, stopping at traffic lights, using a computer, visiting a blog, having an email account, saying hello, rallies, block parties, and demonstrations since the Prophet did not do any of that. The simple fact that the Prophet (SAWS) did not do something does not make it haram according to all the four major schools of law. This was the principle acted upon by the companions of the Prophet (SAWS), the taabi’een and those with knowledge that came after them.

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