Birth

The main rites of passage during the life of a MuslimThe main rites of passage during the life of a MuslimBBC Religion & Ethics Online; British Library; RE Online, RETRIEVED 2013

At the moment of birth, many Muslims speak the words of the Adhan (the call to prayer) in the ear of the baby so that the call to serve Allah is present from the start of the child's life.

Aqiqah ceremony

On the seventh day after birth, the child's head is shaved. This is called Aqiqah and is performed as part of the naming ceremony. The baby is often named after one of the prophets or one of the great men or women of early Islam, though it is common for boys' names to follow the pattern 'servant of' plus one of the ninety-nine names of Allah, eg 'Abd Allah or 'Abd al-Rahman. Many Muslims view Aqiqah as desirable, but some see it as compulsory.

At the Aqiqah ceremony the parents give thanks to Allah for the gift of the baby. The shaving of the head symbolises the cleansing of the baby from impurities and the start of its life afresh in the presence of Allah.

The baby is given a taste of honey to reflect the sweetness of the Qur'an. A sheep or a goat may be offered in sacrifice to mark the occasion.

The shaved hair from the baby is weighed and the equivalent weight in silver or gold is given to charity.

Once a child has been purified by Aqiqah, he or she should try to stay faithful to Allah and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

Circumcision

At the time of Aqiqah, seven days after birth, boy babies are circumcised. Some Muslims regard this as the equivalent of a sacrifice to Allah.

Muslims cleanse themselves before prayer and circumcision is said to make this total cleanliness easier to ensure.

Circumcision also connects Muslims today with the beginning of the religion of Islam. It follows the example of the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim). Muslims believe that circumcision shows that they are continuing the traditional religion.