Question # 263: Is it allowed to celebrate one’s own or child’s birthday in Islam?
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: Since feasts and celebrations are among the religious rites, it is not permissible to celebrate what is not legislated. The regularly observed celebrations in Islam are only three: ‘Eid al-Fitr, ‘Eid al-Adha, and the weekly ‘Eid’ which is Friday (Yawm al-Jumu’ah). Therefore, celebrating one’s birthday is bid‘ah (innovation) in the religion of Allah; it’s an imitation of disbelievers and it is not permissible. This practice has crept into Muslim societies from non-Muslim customs and traditions. Hence, not only accepting invitations to birthday celebrations but also congratulating someone else on the occasion of his or her birthday is a kind of participating and cooperating in this innovation, and imitating the disbelievers.
Next, exchanging gifts is something that creates love and harmony among people and is encouraged in Islam, but if the gift is accompanied by innovated occasions like birthdays then it is not permissible in Islam because that is considered helping in falsehood and participating in bid‘ah (innovation).
Long Answer: Celebrating one’s birthday is an innovation in the religion of Allah that has crept in to Muslim societies from non-Muslim practices; its an imitation of disbelievers and it is not permissible. Hence, even congratulating someone else on the occasion of his or her birthday is a kind of participating and cooperating in this innovation, and imitating the disbelievers. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Help you one another in Al‑Birr and At‑Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment” (Soorah al-Ma’idah 5:2)
With regard to this observance which people call “birthdays” (eid milaad in Arabic), Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) issued the following fatwa: “Everything which is taken as an ‘eid’ (something which is celebrated regularly) and is repeated each week or each year and is not prescribed in shari’ah, is a kind of bid’ah (reprehensible innovation). The evidence for that is the fact that the Lawgiver prescribed ‘aqeeqah for the newborn, and did not prescribe anything after that. When they adopt these observances every week or every year, it means that they are making them like the Islamic Eids, which is haraam and is not permitted. There are no celebrations in Islam apart from the three prescribed Eids: ‘Eid al-Fitr, ‘Eid al-Adha, and the weekly ‘Eid’ which is Friday (Yawm al-Jumu’ah).
This does not come under the heading of customs because it is repeated. It was reported by Anas (رضي الله عنه) who said: “When the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) reached Madinah, he noticed that the people of Madinah used to celebrate two specific days. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) asked them “Why are you celebrating these two days?” They answered, “We used to play and have fun on these days during the pre-Islamic period.” The Prophet said: “Allah has replaced these two days with something better, ‘Eid Al-Fitr and ‘Eid Al-Adha.” (Narrated by al-Nasa’i; Abu Dawood; classed as sahih by al-Albaani in Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth al-Saheehah), even though this was one of their customs.” (From Sharh Kitaab al-Tawheed) The interpreters of the above hadith stated that they celebrated these two days only because the weather was moderate at the times they celebrated them and not for any religious purpose. Yet, Islam abrogated them (Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar)
The scholars of the Standing Committee also said: “Exchanging gifts is something that creates love and harmony among people, and dispels resentment and hatred. It is something that is encouraged in Islam; the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to accept gifts and reciprocate, and that is something that is commonly done among the Muslims, praise be to Allah. But if the gift is accompanied by a reason that is not acceptable in Islam, then it is not permissible, such as giving gifts on the … occasion of birthdays and other innovated occasions, because that is helping in falsehood and participating in bid‘ah (innovation) …It is not permissible to help others to hold these celebrations by means of money, gifts or distributing cups of tea, or by giving speeches and lectures on these occasions, because that comes under the heading of approving of them and encouraging them. Rather one should denounce them and not attend them…” (Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah)
According to Fataawa Islamiyyah: “The evidence in the Qur’an and Sunnah indicates that celebrating birthdays is a kind of bid’ah or innovation in religion, which has no basis in the pure shari’ah. It is not permitted to accept invitations to birthday celebrations, because this involves supporting and encouraging bid’ah. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an:
- “Or have they partners with Allah (false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not allowed…?” (Soorah al-Shoora, 42:21)
- “Then We have put you (O Muhammad) on a plain way of (Our) commandment. So, follow that, and follow not the desires of those who know not. Verily, they can avail you nothing against Allah (if He wants to punish you). Verily, the zaalimoon (wrongdoers) are awliyaa’ (protectors, helpers, etc.) to one another, but Allah is the Wali (Protector, Helper) of the muttaqoon (pious).” (Soorah al-Jaathiyah, 45:18-19)
- “Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord, and follow not any awliyaa’ (protectors, helpers, etc.) besides Him. Little do you remember!” (Soorah al-A’raaf 7:3)
According to sahih reports, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever does something that is a not part of this matter of ours (i.e., Islam) will have it rejected” (reported by Muslim in his Saheeh); and “The best of speech is the Book of Allah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم). The most evil of things are those which have been newly invented (in religion), and every innovation is a going astray.” There are many other ahadith that convey the same meaning.
Besides being bid’ah and having no basis in shari’ah, these birthday celebrations also involve imitation of the Jews and Christians in their birthday celebrations. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, warning us against following their ways and traditions: “You would follow the ways of those who came before you step by step, to such an extent that if they were to enter a lizard’s hole, you would enter it too.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, (do you mean) the Jews and Christians?” He said, “Who else?” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) also said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” Ahadith of the same meaning are well-known and abundant.”
(Unless stated otherwise, most part of the above reply is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.