What is the status of the 'Aqiqah. Actually, my sister-in-law has been blessed with a baby girl. Now she is staying at her mother's place for the time being. So who will perform this 'Aqiqah. Her mother wants to do this here on the 7th day. Kindly clarify how we should go about it as per the directives of Islam.
'Aqiqah in its origin is a name for custom among the Arabs in the time of the Prophet (sws). In this custom, an animal was sacrificed and its blood poured upon the child's head, after which, the child's head was shaved. It was believed that till such an act was performed upon the child, the child remained prone to calamities and sufferings.
When the Prophet (sws) was asked about this custom, he is reported to have replied that he did not approve of it. He dissuaded people from observing the referred custom. Nevertheless, he encouraged the father of a newly born child to offer sacrifice as a show of gratitude and thankfulness towards their Lord, for blessing him with a child. Over the years, this custom of sacrificing came to be known as 'Aqiqah.
If you want to offer sacrifice as a token of gratitude to the Almighty you may proceed. There is no restriction on the matter of who offers it. You can sacrifice any kind of animal which is not declared prohibited. Of course, sacrificing an animal is not the only way to show gratitude to the Almighty; one can adopt other ways. Moreover, shaving the baby's head has no basis. One may do so for hygienic reasons but one is not required by Islam to do so.