1. An `Aqeeqah is the animal or animals that are slaughtered on the seventh day after the birth of a baby.
From Samurah (radiyallaahu `anhu) that Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallaam) said:
“A child is held in pledge by his `aqeeqah that is slaughtered on his behalf on the seventh day, the harm is removed from him (i.e. the head is shaved) and he is named.”
(Reported by Ahmad (7/5), Abu Dawood (2838), At-Tirmidhee (1522). It was graded Saheeh by: At-Tirmidhee, Al-Haakim, Abdur-Razzaaq Al-Ishbeelee and others.)
2. Legislated Ruling of the `Aqeeqah:
Ibn Mundhir (rahimahullaah) stated:
“It is a custom established in the Hijaaz region past and present, and practised by the Scholars. Maalik (d.179H) mentioned that it is an affair concerning which there is no differing amongst them. From those who held that the `aqeeqah should be done is: `Abdullaah Ibn `Abbaas, `Abdullaah Ibn `Umar and `Aa’ishah, the Mother of the Believers (radiyallaahu `anhum).
A large body of scholars have followed in this affair the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) – and when it is established by Sunnah, then it becomes incumbent to speak with it – and this practice is not harmed by those who turn away from it.
However, the practice was rejected by the People of Opinion (As-haabur-Ra’ee) who did not hold the `aqeeqah to be a Sunnah. In that they opposed the existing body of narrations from the Messenger of Allaah (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam), and from his Companions (radiyallaahu `anhum), and those Taabi`een who narrated it.”
Abu Zinaadah (rahimahullaah) said:
“The `aqeeqah is an affair practiced by the Muslims and leaving it off was hated.”
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (d.241H, rahimahullaah):
“I do not like that a person who has the ability to perform an `aqeeqah on behalf of his child, yet he does not do so. It should not be left because the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) said: “The child is held in pledge by his `aqeeqah.” And this is the severest of what has been narrated in this affair.”
Al-Haarith said to Abu `Abdillaah Ahmad Ibn Hanbal: “What if a person does not have something to slaughter?” He replied:
“If he was to take a loan, I have hope that Allaah will replace it for him due to him giving life to the Sunnah.”
3. The Time for the Slaughtering of the `Aqeeqah:
At-Tirmidhee (rahimahullaah) said:
“Acting upon this affair with the Scholars: is that the `aqeeqah is slaughtered on behalf of the child on the seventh day – and if it is not possible on the seventh day, then on the fourteen. And if that is not possible, then on the twenty first day.”
This order is reported from the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) wherein he said:
“The `aqeeqah is on the seventh, or the fourteenth or the twenty first.”
(Reported by At-Tabaraanee in Al-Awsat (4882), Majma` az-Zawaa’id (4/59). It was authenticated by Ad-Diyaa’ from the hadeeth of Buraidah; and it is supported by the hadeeth of `Aa’ishah (radiyallaahu `anhaa) reported by Al-Haakim in Al-Mustadrak (4/238-239))
4. The Meaning of the saying of the Prophet (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam): “Every child is in pledge by his `aqeeqah.”
Yahyaa Ibn Hamzah said: I asked `Ataa Al-Khurasaanee: What is the meaning of: “Every child is in pledge by his `aqeeqah.” So he said:
“He is prevented from the intercession of his son.”
Others who said the same: Al-Hasan Al-Basree, `Ataa Ibn Abee Rabaah, Qataadah, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal and Al-Baghawee.
(See: Al-`Iyaal of Ibn Abee Dunyaa (76), Sharhus-Sunnah of Al-Baghawee (11/268), Sunan al-Kubraa of Al-Bayhaqee (9/299), Tahfatul-Mawlood (p.119))
And this pledge remains in place until the `aqeeqah is performed – or that a person performs an `aqeeqah on his own behalf. It is reported from the Prophet (salallaaahu `alaihi wassallam) that he performed an `aqeeqah on his own behalf after he was appointed as a Prophet.
(Reported by `Abdur-Razzaaq (7960), At-Tabaraanee in Al-Awsat (994), Ad-Diyaa’ in Al-Mukhtaarah (1832,1833), At-Tahaawee in Mushkilul-Aathaar (1053,1054), and graded authentic by Al-Albaanee in As-Silsilah (2726))
Likewise some of the righteous Salaf performed the `aqeeqah on their own behalf, such as `Ataa’, Al-Hasan, Ibn Seereen and others (rahimahumullaah).
5. How many are to be slaughtered on behalf of the girl and the boy?
Umm Kurz Al-Ka`biyyah (radiyallaahu `anhaa) said: I heard Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) say:
“On behalf of the boy there are two equivalent sheep, and for the girl just one.”
There occurs in a narration:
“It does not harm whether the animal is male or female.”
Meaning a male or female sheep.
Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said:
“Equivalent means: The two sheep should be the same or similar.”
(Abu Dawood (2835,2834), At-Tirmidhee (1016), Ibn Maajah (3162), Al-Haakim (4/237/238), Ibn Hibbaan (5313). It was authenticated by At-Tirmidhee, Al-Haakim, Ibn Hibbaan and others)
Ibn Abee Mulaikah said: Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Abee Bakr had a boy, so it was said to `Aa’ishah: “O Mother of the Believers, slaughter a camel in his behalf.”
So she replied:
“Refuge is with Allaah! Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) said: Two equivalent sheep.“
(Ibn Abee Dunyaa in Al-`Iyaal (59), At-Tahaawee in Sharh Mushkil al-Aathaar (1042), Al-Bayhaqee in As-Sunan Al-Kubraa (9/310))