I’ve never really had a valid answer to this so could you please help? Is it allowed to celebrate birthdays? As in just buying presents and maybe a card. Not blowing candles or cakes? Or is celebrating birthdays not allowed at all?
There is no harm in a person expressing happiness at reaching certain milestones of their life. For example, if a person graduates from university or a madrasah the institution may hold a graduation ceremony for the students. Similarly, if a person secures their first job or gains a promotion they may want to celebrate this achievement. There is no harm in doing this provided no Islamic principles are violated. Some principles that should be kept in mind are that the event should not be an exclusively non-Muslim ritual or practice, there should not be any music or intermixing of unmarriageable kin. The celebration must also not be deemed to be an Islamic practice or considered necessary as part of one’s religion and it should not be done with the intention of resembling non-Muslims. If such principles are upheld then there would be no harm in celebrating these milestones.
Practices like celebrating one’s birthday have become very common in this day and age and the same principles mentioned above will also apply here. Hence, if the parameters of shari’ah are taken into consideration and there are no unlawful practice taking place at the occasion, it would not be impermissible to celebrate of someone’s birthday.
It should be noted however, that with the passing of time we get closer to our death and come closer to meeting Allah the Almighty. So, even though there may not be any sin in celebrating a birthday, it would be better to utilise this time to contemplate over one’s relationship with Allah the Almighty and think about how that relationship can be improved going forward.
It has been argued that celebrating birthdays falls within the prohibition of imitating disbelievers. However, our understanding is that unlawful imitation would be in that instance when an act is exclusive to non-Muslims and is an identifying feature of theirs, similar to a cross representing Christianity. The practice of celebrating birthdays has become universal whereby it is not exclusive to non-Muslims of a particular region. Rather, it is adopted by many people spanning through various countries. Celebrating birthdays has also become common amongst Muslims. When this is the case, it no longer functions as an exclusively non-Muslim practice and is also not a salient feature of theirs. Hence, by celebrating a birthday one will not fall into unlawful imitation of non-Muslims.
It has also been argued that birthday celebrations originate from pagan practices and therefore should be impermissible for this reason. This would be a problem if birthdays were celebrated with those specific practices in mind. If that belief is no longer associated with the celebration of birthdays, then this specific reason for prohibition will no longer apply. Based on our understanding, people today do not consider any sort of pagan origin when celebrating birthdays. Rather, it is a customary practice to hold an event to mark an individuals birthday without giving any consideration to the origins.
Based on the above reasons, it would not be impermissible to celebrate birthdays, though as mentioned above, there are more productive and beneficial ways Muslims can utilise such an occasion.
البحر الرائق شرح كنز الدقائق ومنحة الخالق وتكملة الطوري (2/ 11
ثُمَّ اعْلَمْ أَنَّ التَّشْبِيهَ بِأَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَا يُكْرَهُ فِي كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَإِنَّا نَأْكُلُ وَنَشْرَبُ كَمَا يَفْعَلُونَ إنَّمَا الْحَرَامُ هُوَ التَّشَبُّهُ فِيمَا كَانَ مَذْمُومًا وَفِيمَا يُقْصَدُ بِهِ التَّشْبِيهُ كَذَا ذَكَرَهُ قَاضِي خَانْ فِي شَرْحِ الْجَامِعِ الصَّغِيرِ فَعَلَى هَذَا لَوْ لَمْ يَقْصِدْ التَّشَبُّهَ لَا يُكْرَهُ عِنْدَهُمَا
الدر المختار وحاشية ابن عابدين (رد المحتار) (1/ 648
أقول: والظاهر أنه يلحق به الصليب وإن لم يكن تمثال ذي روح لأن فيه تشبها بالنصارى. ويكره التشبه بهم في المذموم وإن لم يقصده كما مر
الاختيار لتعليل المختار (4/ 150(
(وَالْكَافِرُ إِذَا صَلَّى بِجَمَاعَةٍ أَوْ أَذَّنَ فِي مَسْجِدٍ، أَوْ قَالَ: أَنَا مُعْتَقِدٌ حَقِيقَةَ الصَّلَاةِ فِي جَمَاعَةٍ يَكُونُ مُسْلِمًا)
لِأَنَّهُ أَتَى بِمَا هُوَ مِنْ خَاصِّيَّةِ الْإِسْلَامِ، كَمَا أَنَّ الْإِتْيَانَ بِخَاصِّيَّةِ الْكُفْرِ يَدُلُّ عَلَى الْكُفْرِ، فَإِنَّ مَنْ سَجَدَ لِصَنَمٍ أَوْ تَزَيَّا بِزُنَّارٍ أَوْ لَبِسَ قَلَنْسُوَةَ الْمَجُوسِ يُحْكَمُ بِكُفْرِهِ
الدر المختار وحاشية ابن عابدين (رد المحتار) (6/ 361)
ويجعله لبطن كفه في يده اليسرى وقيل اليمنى إلا أنه من شعار الروافض فيجب التحرز عنه قهستاني وغيره. قلت: ولعله كان وبان فتبصر
(قوله ولعله كان وبان)
أي كان ذلك من شعارهم في الزمن السابق، ثم انفصل وانقطع في هذه الأزمان، فلا ينهى عنه كيفما كان.
Ifta Research Fellow
Checked & Approved by:
Mufti Abdul Rahman Mangera
Mufti Zubair Patel