Posted: 11 Rabi-ul-Awwal 1422, 3 June 2001
|Q.) What is the Islamic ruling regarding celebrations of birthdays
and anniversaries? Some people say that celebrations like giving a party or cutting a cake
is prohibited, while just wishing the person (Happy birthday etc) and reciting Qur'an and
making dua is permissible. [Safeer]
A.) The tell-tale sign that the birthday celebrations in our times are
a western development are the song words without which this function is not complete viz.
"Happy birthday to you." No one says, "Happy birthday celebration" or
"Happy Blessed birthday" or any other words of this kind. This disease of
celebrating birthdays was never prevalent among Muslims before, but it was brought to
them, like other cultural influences, during the period of colonialism.
Birthdays are celebrated to mark the completion of another year in one's life. Now just
ponder, what wisdom is there in celebrating and showing happiness when a year has
decreased in one's life. During a birthday celebration, candles are lit on a cake,
amounting to the years of the one's life. He extinguishes these candles by blowing them
out and all present clap their hands. Hands are clapped at two occasions only, one at the
time of joy for some achievement of his. Secondly, when someone acts foolishly, then to
mock at him. Here a person is extinguishing the rays of the years of his life by blowing
them out himself. Then this is no happiness, nor is it any achievement. So the clapping of
hands--- though the participants do not realize it --- is only for mocking at this
To understand the nature of this foolishness, consider the example of a king who sent a
few people to a room full of his treasures saying that shortly he will call them back. At
that time whatever they will be possessing will be their property. Inside the treasure
room, on one side there are heaps of gold and silver, on another side are laying pearls
and jewels, then at another place in the room, delicious food and soft beds are arranged.
Now some people think that the king may send them out any minute. They quickly gather the
gold, silver, pearls and gems. They feel they will go out from there and organize the food
and beds for themselves afterwards.
There is another group of people who think that they have just arrived. They say to
themselves, "Let us enjoy the food, and then lay down to rest. After that we will
take from the treasures. There is ample time." So they eat, sleep and pass their
valuable time without taking from the treasures. Suddenly the king sends everyone out. Now
those who had collected the valuables can enjoy their lives eating and sleeping while
those that wasted their time and did not accumulate anything will begin to regret.
Birthdays are celebrated to mark the
completion of another year in one's life. What wisdom is there in showing happiness when a
year has decreased in one's life?
Every moment of this worldly life is very valuable. Here we have to earn for the long
and everlasting life of the Hereafter. Rasulullah has said that after
entering into Jannah, the people of Jannah will not be sorry about anything of this world,
except for that moment which was spent without the remembrance of Allah. It is apparent
that when reward will be granted for remembrance of Allah in this world, which is a place
for actions, then one must surely feel very regretful, that if they should have spent more
time in the remembrance of Allah, they could be worthy of more rewards. How can it be
permissible to waste time by celebrating birthdays and becoming happy that a big slice of
one's life is gone?
This world is a prison for the believer and a Jannah for the disbeliever. Allah has
bought the life and wealth of the believers for Jannah. This life is a trust of Allah with
us. Rasulullah said, "A person will not be able to move from his
place, until he replies to five questions:
- How did you spend your life?
- How did you spend your youth?
- Where did you earn your wealth from?
- Where did you spend your wealth?
- How much did you act upon your knowledge?"
A person who is concerned with replying to these questions, how can he show happiness
for the decrease in the remaining years of his life?
Besides, Islam does not permit waste. This is the reason that the poor of this Ummah
will enter Jannah 500 years before the wealthy, because the wealthy will be delayed as
they will have to first give an account of their wealth.
By spending on birthday parties, there is no benefit to Islam nor to the poor. It is
stated in a Hadith, the worst Valima feast (wedding party) is the one in which the poor
and destitute are left out and the wealthy only are invited.
Another object of the birthday parties is showoff. Islam encourages simplicity. By this
attitude of showoff, the poor feel inferior and deprived and the rich have a superiority
complex. Also, in these gatherings, music, singing, video filming and the taking of
photographs and other un-Islamic and forbidden acts take place.
May Allah Ta„la guide us and protect us from all these evils.
Moulana Abdul Hamid Ishaq is principal of Madrasah Arabia Islamia, Azaadville, South
Africa. This answer was edited by Albalagh.