The legal status of Aqiqah and its ruling
Writen by: Mufti Farooque Darul-Uloom London
Translation by: Iftkhar Khan
The legal status of Aqiqah and its ruling is commonly misunderstood in our communities. Therefore it�s understandable to know about Aqiqah in a great detail.
Aqiqah is an Arabic word which refers to those hairs found on a newborn�s head. Then later on its usage was being referred to goats which were being sacrificed for the newborn and shaving of the head.  Soon the word was not just limited to the goats only but gradually started to be used for sheep as well and later on to all those animals which were being sacrificed in the name of the newborn child. 
Historically even before the prophet hood of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم the Arabs used to practice Aqiqah widely for their children.
It�s mentioned by the companion of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم, Hadhrat Bredah that Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم has urged the Muslims to practice Aqiqah. 
Also in Jamih Tarmizi and Sunnan Abu Dawood (two famous Hadith books), there is a narration in which Prophet (Peace be upon him) is practicing Aqiqah on behalf of his grandsons Hasan and Husain bin Ali.
Keeping these narrations in mind most of the Muhadatheen (commentators of the traditions) have stated that Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not just urge the Muslims verbally but also showed them practically.
Regarding the Hadith mentioned according to most of the scholars this does not mean it has become farad (compulsory) or Wajib (necessary) and they are also not denying its Sunnah or Mustahab.
According to Allama Zufar Uthmani, the Hanafi school of thought practices Aqiqah as Mustahab (preferable) from this the legal states of Aqiqah is much clearly understood. 
Some people give such an importance to Aqiqah that they make it obligatory. These people think that who has not made an Aqiqah their Qurbani (ritual sacrifice) is not correct or acceptable however this way of thinking is entirely wrong. Because when someone has become a Sahib-e-Nisaab (financially independent) during the days of Qurbani (Ritual sacrifice), only then performing Qurbani has become a must. Regardless of if Aqiqah has been preformed or not.
And there are some people who are involved entirely in the opposite and give no such importance at all to this practice. Whilst being Sahib-e-Nisaab (financially independent) and don�t even think of performing Aqiqah.
Some points to remember
Aqiqah is one of the valued and much loved practices preformed by the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم which holds many benefits and advise as it has been stated by Molana Ashraaf Ali Thanwi.
1. From the above mentioned Ah-Hadith one can take advice that by performing Aqiqah the childes name is spread and people get to know about him.
2. It contains the meaning of sincerity.
3. The Christian baptise their newborn with water and say by performing this, the chilled has become a Christian; therefore it seems suitable that in Islam there should be something similar too. Therefore by practicing Aqiqah a Muslim child can be crowned as the flower of the righteousness of Prophet Ibraheem and Prophet Ishmael (Peace be upon them). Among the many practices of Prophet Ibraheem and Prophet Ishmael (peace is upon them) the most famous of them all has to be the agreeing to perform the ritual sacrifice of Prophet Ishmael (Peace be upon him) and then agreeing to perform the greatest act of them all, the Hajj. From this Hajj has to be the most well known practice, in which both shaving of ones head and ritual sacrifice take place. So keeping this in mind we see there is a remarkable similarity. By performing Aqiqah, we are establishing the Milat-e-Hanafee (creed of righteousness) of Prophet Ibraheem (Peace be upon him). 
4. Allah the almighty has bestowed us with this blessing in the form of the newborn child therefore by performing Aqiqah we are being thankful to Allah (the almighty) and seeking protection from him . The other benefit is that the child is protected from all evil as it is stated by many scholars that, Aqiqah can not be done for the behalf of the deceased person this is because Aqiqah only protects one from worldly evils. 
5. Famous scholar Mullah Ali Qari explains by elaborating one Hadith that, who ever wish for their children to grow up and be obedient to them, then they should perform Aqiqah. 
above mentioned, only indicates one thing that performing Aqiqah
is important not only from its apparent benefits also more importantly
it�s the Sunnah (practice) of our beloved Prophet صلى
الله عليه و سلم.
How Aqiqah should be performed
Another important thing to notice is that the pure Shariah (Islamic law) has said that the Aqiqah should be done for both male and female, yet there are some people who only do it for the male but not the female which is utterly wrong. This was the practice of the Jews like mention in Fathulbari. 
It is mentioned in Tarmizi that the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم says that two sacrifices should be from the male and one sacrifice of goat or sheep from the female. [10 - 11]
The reason behind this is to oppose the Jews because they sacrifice only one animal for the male and none for the girls. 
But one should remember that if one can not sacrifice two animals then one is enough. [13 - 14]
Some people believe that for a male child a male animal should be sacrificed and for a girl a female animal should be sacrificed but this is baseless. It has been mentioned in Tarmizi that you don�t have to specify what animal should be sacrificed in regards to its gender. 
What type of animal should be sacrificed, what is permissible, what age should it be and what faults should the animal not have?
To know all the answers to this, one should refer to the rules and regulation regarding Qurbani (ritual sacrifice) so which ever animal is permissible for Qurbani, is for Aqiqah.
According to this, one can hold parts of Aqiqah in a Qurbani when it is of a large animal like a cow or even a camel because they have seven parts. 
It is stated in Bahiqi that Hadrat Aaisha narrated, while sacrificing the Aqiqah animal one should recite;
الله والله اكبر� اللهم لك واليك هذه عقيقة فلان
Instead of فلانthe name of the child should be said) 
There is an unclear issue regarding the bones of the animal of Aqiqah, should they be broken or just dislocate them form the joints. One should know that not breaking the bones of the Aqiqah animal from the middle or dislocating them from the joints holds no virtue according to the Hanafi and Malaki schools of thought.
people have given the states of Wajib (necessary) in not breaking
the bones and made it not permissible to do so. This thinking needs
to be corrected as it is totally wrong and this is the very reason why
scholars reject this notion. 
How should you distribute the meat of Aqiqah
The meat of Aqiqah can be distributed ether cooked or raw. If one likes to give the meat in a feast he can.  As long as no money or any type of gift is accepted in return like it is very common in weddings. If accepted in what ever form the Aqiqah will not be valid. If in some circumstance one can�t stop this then the money or the gifts taken in return of Aqiqah should be given in charity to the poor. 
Respected Mufti Lajpoori has advised us that even those functions which don�t involve any money or gifts should also be avoided because the fear of becoming a custom therefore it becomes Makroo (disliked in Islam).
The Aqiqah can also be consumed by the parents and grand parents. It has become very common that they can not consume the meat which obviously wrong. 
When should Aqiqah take place?
The preferable method for Aqiqah is that it should be preformed on the seventh day if not then the 14th or 21st and so on. The meat should be divided in three parts, one for the household, and one for the relatives and the last part for the poor and the needy. 
Sheikh Abdulhaq Muhadith Dahlwee writes that after 21 days the pattern can be carried on, for example after 21 days the Aqiqah still can be done on the seventh day from the child birthday. Say if the child was born on Friday the Aqiqah should be done the following week on Thursday and if the child was born on Wednesday then the Aqiqah should be done the following week on Tuesday. 
Some scholars have said that this method can be carried on till the child has become mature and say Aqiqah can be performed then. However after this period performing Aqiqah is irrelevant.
Some of our most respected scholars, the likes of Molana Anwar Shah Kashmiri and Mufti Rashid Ahmed Ludyanwe have given Fatwa that Aqiqah is valid till the day of ones death.
If some one after becoming an adult performs his own Aqiqah, according to some scholars it�s not valid but scholars like Imam Rafaa say it�s permissible as it�s also understood form Fadhul Bari. 
1) اعلاء السنن ص 120 ج 17
2) سبل السلام ص 95 ج 4
3) مشكواة المصابيح ص 323 ج 2
4) اعلاء السنن ج 17 ص 108
5) احکام اسلام عقل کی نظر ميں ص 152،153،ج 2 بثغير يسير
6) مزقاة شرح مشكواة ج 8 ص 157
7) احسن الفتاوائ ج 7 ص 536
8) مرقاة ج 8 159
9) فتح الباري ج 9 ص 506
10) ترمزي ج 1 ص 183
11) Ibid (9)
12) اعلاء السنن ص 122 ج 17
13) Ibid (9)
14) Ibid (7)
15) Ibid (10)
16) Ibid (9)
17) Ibid (1)
18) Ibid (7)
19) ردالمختار ج 5 ص 213
20) فتاوئ رحيميه ج 9 ص 319 � ج 6 ص 172
21) اعلاء السنن ص 118 ج 17
22) Ibid (10)
23) شرح سفر السعادة ص 383
24) فتح الباري ج 9 ص 509 � فيض الباري ج 4 ص 337