What to do with the Afterbirth?

My sister, Rozi gave birth to a baby girl last Saturday giving my parents their 10th grandchild and Rozi's parents' in laws their 1st grandchild. When we visited her, one of the topic was the placenta or the afterbirth which my sister said I have never written about. I told her I wrote about it at least twice, once around 4 years ago and another about 2 years ago. So I checked and retrieved the articles as below:-

8th November 2006

My wife's niece gave birth to a baby girl yesterday afternoon. The baby makes us 9 time granduncle and grandaunty. I was first called nini uncle about 9 or 10 years back so by now I kinda get used to it already. Though for my sister-in-law and my biras, this makes them real grandpa and grandma rather than grandunc and grandaunt.

As usual in Brunei, a visit to the hospital whenever someone is ill or has just given birth etc, to thd that last night. It was a natural birth so the mother looks fine apart from a little tired and the father looks ecstatic. This is always interesting as father's contributions towards the baby being developed and then born can probably be measured in tablespoonfuls if you know what I mean. It is mothers who had to do all the work!

Anway, what was interesting was not so much the birth but the conversation as to what he did with his baby's placenta or afterbirth or what the Brunei Malays called tebuni.

The new dad's mother on receiving the placenta cleaned and prepared it and instructed the new dad to bury it near a mosque. Of course, he chose the biggest mosque in Brunei and proceeded clandestinely to bury it just outside the gate. He told us that was whereabouts his brother buried his children's placentas as well. Okay.... Apparently there seems to be a whole bunch of people burying placentas at the mosque's ground or outside the mosque's grounds. Now I am beginning to worry. I didn't realise there was this new place and given that there are more than 4,000 births a year, that could add up to a sizeable amount, just outside the mosque's gate.

The interesting thing about all this is that there are actually a number of ways which one can dispose of the placentas and burying it near a mosque is one of them. In Brunei society, great care is usually taken of the placenta as it is considered as the child's "younger brother" or "sister". But this is also true in a number of societies and not just Brunei Malays, the critical importance of the placenta in determining pregnancy outcome is acknowledged by its special treatment after birth. By burying it near prominent locations such as mosques, is essentially a symbolic act in recognition of the fact that the placenta was an essential in utero companion of the baby. Numerous medical studies in transgenic mice have shown that placentation is a critical regulator of embryonic and fetal development (last two sentences copied from some website - I am not good enough to write it like that).

On the way home, my better half and I discussed about the myriad ways of how it is disposed. Mine was floated down a river somewhere, I am not sure what that is supposed to symbolise - be a traveller? My wife's family has the tradition of hanging it in a basket and pencils etc are placed in the basket as well, presumably to make the child to be a better scholar. My brother-in-law once joked that in today's modern world we should put a laptop in there instead. Burying it somewhere in the home's ground or under trees etc are also a more common option. Though the more authentic Brunei culture I believed is somehere in the Brunei Museum, if I am not mistaken, there used to be dioramas which showed glimpses of Brunei social traditions including the disposal of placentas in a bayung, a palm-leaf basket which is either hung on a tree or floated downriver.

If you are a parent out there, I would love to hear what you did with yours.

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19th December 2008

Someone raised the topic about placentas, especially what happens to it after a birth has taken place. I wrote about this 2 years ago which if you are interested you can still access here and you can also read the 17 comments following that entry.

On this subject matter, I would like to highlight the opinion of my colleague who is my counterpart at PMO who kindly emailed me then about the whole placenta thing from the Islamic perspective. I highlighted then among his titles, he was formerly a Kadhi and is unique in holding double first degrees, a BA from Al-Azhar University as well as an LLB from International Islamic University. I think this opinion is a more or less definitive one. For those searching for a copy of the Mufti's fatwa - there is a 1985 fatwa regarding this matter. My colleague's email is as follows:-

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Assalamualaikum

I shared your concern regarding the disposal of tebuni. Berikut dihuraikan mengenei pengurusannya menurut Islam sebagaimana dalam fatwa;

Mengurus Tebuni
Dari sudut bahasa tebuni atau uri ialah sampul tian atau uri yang bersambung dengan tali pusat yang keluar sesudah bayi dilahirkan.

Amalan biasa kitani adalah untuk menanam tebuni tersebut, disamping ada pula yang menghanyutkan di laut, menggantung atas pokok dan mungkin ada juga yang membuangnya seperti sampah.

Menurut Islam tebuni itu tidak wajib ditanam kerana ia bukan daripada anggota badan yang haram dilihat, seperti haram melihat buru ari-ari dari anggota lelaki atau seperti rambut dan kuku dari anggota perempuanwalaupun benda-benda berkenaan telah bercerai daripada badan. Walau bagaimanapun cara yang elok(sunat) dalam mengurus tebuni itu ialah dengan menanamnya.Sepertimana juga kuku atau rambut lelaki sunat ditanam kerana ia merupakan anggota badan yang tidak haram dilihat. Berlainan halnya dengan rambut atau kuku perempuan, anggota tersebut wajib ditanam kerana ia haram dilihat oleh lelaki bukan mahram.

Berdasarkan pemahaman fatwa di atas, maka tiada nas yang menyuruh kita menanamnya di kawasan masjid. Cukup dengan menanamnya di mana sahaja yang selamat daripada ganguan binatang dan pencemaran. Masjid juga adalah milik awam, seharusnya mendapat kebenaran terlebih dahulu jika hendak menanam di kawasan masjid. In my humble opinion it is appropriate if we bury tebuni within the vicinity of our property, tanam bunga di atasnya dan ia akan menjadi kenangan yang indah. Demikian pendapat saya.

Kesimpulan:
Tebuni sunat ditanam;
Tidak elok menanamnya di kawasan masjid, kerana masjid adalah public property;
Lebih baik di tanam di kawasan milik sendiri.

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