Q. If a child dies at a young age and the parents never did the aqiqah while the child was alive, should the aqiqah be done for the child posthumously?

A. This answer should be read in conjunction with our ancillary material pertaining to the aqiqah. The general rule is that something may be done later only when it is a fard, -- an obligation, be it kifayat or 'ain -- i.e. communal or individual responsibility. There are some instances where one may make up for something that is missed, such as a fast, if one is accustomed to make a sunna or a nafil fast on a particular day. This, even though done by some, does not have any proof, and is just done to show regularity. In fact, one may opine that it is against the entire concept of Islamic legislation, which deals with the basis of "baraa'at al dhimma" -- meaning we are free from something until ordered. Now for the aqiqah, our position on this, after weighing the evidence adduced for three different positions, is that it is commendable. The three positions are that it is obligatory, sunna, or forbidden. After examining the arguments, we feel, as do the majority of jurists, that there is no basis for making the aqiqah more than a commendable ritual.

Given this, one cannot make it for a child who has died. If the basis for those who advocate doing it is the hadith, "Every child is liable for his aqiqah," or "The people on the Day of Judgment will be liable for the aqiqah as they are liable for the five prayers" -- then both hadith are unacceptable in terms of their subject matter. How can a child be responsible for something that he is not able to do? And if the aqiqah were on the same level as the prayers, why did God not explain this in the Qur'an, instead leaving such an "important" thing to be transmitted by the hadith which can always be rejected on its probability, or defect in the chain of transmission? Again, baraa'at al dhimma protects us against any non-scriptural obligation, and this is a manifestation of Allah's wisdom, power, and glory. If we did not have this rule, then anyone could come at any time and claim a certain authority. Wa Allahu A'lam.

Posted November 14, 2000