Q. It is customary, especially at Islamic functions, that after a good speech, a member of the gathering utters audibly "Takbir," which is then followed by others saying "Allahu Akbar." Is this a sunnah?

Also, what is the ruling regarding the calling of the adhan and iqamah in the right and left ears of a newborn?

A. As far as the takbir being a sunnah or not, it does not fall into this category. "God is Great" is supposed to be a response that is purely on the spur of the moment, and certainly not a ritualistic exclamation. Since in North America, the language of communication is English and the customs non-Arab, it would seem appropriate to say or do something which is natural to a particular community, be it the clapping of the hands, or some such thing. To say "God is Great" in English would seem meaningless in context. No one should be ordering the audience in any way, shape, or form to yell "Allahu Akbar."

Regarding the newborn, there are several ahadith on this issue. Assuming that they are correct, they only serve a ritualistic commendation of the child unto God's way, in that we are showing that we wish the child to be exposed to things Islamic in its first minutes. These ahadith are problematic for the simple reason that a baby's faculties at this time are not trained to perceive and understand what is being addressed to it. Yet we know that tradition is the thread that binds us to those who went before us. Therefore, if one wishes to observe the practice on the premise that it is in the ahadith, and a practice faithfully observed by the Muslims who went before us, it seems quite normal. However, if there are those who say that the ahadith are problematic to begin with, and that we have no absolutely clear report to show that the Prophet did it, and that this may probably be a practice that came at a later date, and even in a best case scenario, it is merely a sunna and not a fard, and for these reasons do not see the need to do it, then that is also correct. And Allah knows best.

Posted March 7, 1999