The Islamic Ruling on Acknowledging, Celebrating, or wishing someone happy birthday, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

I never been too big on birthday in that I didn’t go all out. However, being away from most of my family, and getting birthday wishes from my children, grandchildren and my beloved sister especially, and going out to differ with my two small children, was a special treat.  Being born is a necessity of human existence. If you were not born, you would not exist. Except for Adam (AS), every single human being who ever walked the earth had a day of their birth, and every one of them was born upon fitra, based on the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS), “each child is born in a state of fitra” [Bukhaari].

Birthdays are milestones of life; it tells you when you’ve reached a certain age. Acknowledging a birthday is a fundamental chronological function of a human being as well as a necessary function of fiqh. It was reported in the hadith of Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) that he said: “Command your children to pray at the age of seven and spank them for it at the age of ten (if they do not pray).” [Al-Albaani: Sahih] Without recognizing the day of the child’s 7th birthday, you would not be able to engage the command of the Prophet (SAWS) in it’s appropriate time. If a child turned 7 but the parents didn’t know it, then the parent would be negligent in their duty to Allah for failing to institute a command of the Prophet (SAWS) in its proper time. If they were left to guess and command the child to pray when they had not yet turned 7, then they would be instilling a Sunna, outside of its contextual time. or if they spank them for not praying when they turned 10, they would be spanking them for no reason which is transgression, and unlawful punishment (thulm). If they guessed and he or she had already turned 7, then they would be delaying a command of the Prophet (SAWS) until past its time which is also an infraction of deen. For example, In Islam, calling the iqama is done before the prayer, that’s like calling the iqama a until after the prayer.   

From a child’s perspective, knowing their birthday helps then know when the principle obligation of faith (the salat) become due upon them. As far as birthdays, when I turned 7 years old, that’s when I was given my first prayer rug. It was then that I knew that prayer was something that I must do. On a personal note, I knew that the salat was part of my religion before then. However, at 7 and with the receipt of my first prayer rug, given to me my Beloved sister and Fareedah (friend of my parents) which I kept for about 25 years until it was lost. Sister Fareedah is in her eighties now and lives in New Jersey, she still speaks of that first prayer rug she gave me, it is part of the bond of Islam between us that is kept until this very day.

From an adult perspective, it is mash’roo (part of shariah law) that a person repents, re-affirms their Islam and thanks Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala at the age of forty years old. “And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months. [He grows] until, when he reaches maturity and reaches [the age of] forty years, he says, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You will approve and make righteous for me my offspring. Indeed, I have repented to You, and indeed, I am of the Muslims.” 46:15 al-Ah’qaaf. T

This du’aa (supplication), the du’aa of ar’ba’een is part of the religion of Islam and it is required to know the time of your fortieth birthday in order to fulfill birthday action. The above three examples (and there are many more), sow conclusively that at least acknowledging one’s birthday and celebrating it by establishing prayer, making du’aa, repenting and showing thanks to Allah and to one’s parents are all a part of Islam.

Distinguishing Birthdays between aada (Cultural practice) and ibaada (worship).

In the United States of America, as in most of the world, acknowledging or celebrating a birthday is not intended or considered an act of worship. People do not worship people on their birthday except perhaps in the case of Christmas, on which case, people who worship Jesus (AS), worship him every day of the year. Thus, we must take the worship aspect out of the equation, at least for Muslims living in the united states. Secondly, we already stablished the legitimacy, even the necessity of recognizing the day that you were born if for nothing else that it is tied to initiating things that we are required to do by Islamic law, namely the salat.

Ruling: The permissibility of celebrating one’s or someone else’s birthday

We’ve Already established that acknowledging birthdays is a necessary part practicing our laws and our religious milestones. Now let’s look at the fact that birthdays are not considered a religious tradition in the United States of America, but instead a cultural practice. No sensible person, or Muslim in the United States of America considers acknowledging, or celebrating one’s birthday as an act of worship , that brings them closer to outlook although, we will show and this ruling that there are practices that one may do on his or her birthday that may bring them closer to outlook search as being grateful for another year of life


It is permissible in the religion of Islam to acknowledge someone’s birthday by way of greeting, prayer for them, celebration, wishing joy and happiness, gratefulness, gatherings, expressions of love, expressions of remembrance, giving gifts, eating cake and ice cream, going to dinner, taking a day off from work, congratulations, or any other activity that in of itself is deemed permissible according to the laws of Islam. It is prohibited o celebrate or acknowledging one’s birthday by participating in prohibited acts, just like those acts are prohibited during the rest of the year.

It is not permissible in Islam to prohibit any of the above allowable actions because of a particular day, except with proof. Doing so would be making prohibited what Allah has left allowable. This is particularly true if the birthday serves as a means to become closer to whom Islam warrants closeness, to give allowable gifts, visit with family, strnfgthen the onds of family or brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam, to make amends, to intiate contact where contact has been cut off, r as a reason to thank Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala.

Nor is it permissible to haram or prohibit someone’s birthday, even the birthday of a tyrant or an unbeliever for all the days and all the nights are decreed by Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala and owned by him.  You can deems prohibited the prohibited actions that you or someone else does on any given day accrding toor laws, but prohibiting a day because someone was born it? No. Such is of the practices of modern-day jaahiliyyah (ignorance). Your prohibiting or even cursing that day does nt negate it from beig the day of their birth and he day of oher people’s birth as well.  

The Prophet (SAWS) said that, “verily deeds are (reckoned) by intentions”.  The word and concept of celebration to Americans differ from person to person. People, not just Muslims but human beings celebrate millions of things throughout the course of life, that is inevitable. A birth of a human being who are all born upon fitra, alone is worthy of acknowledgement and celebration by people who and care about them.

Note: My du’aa from February 11th (my birthday)

Al-humdu lillaah praise to Allah for granting permission that I be born on this day, and to be granted two believing parents, who loved me, who fed me, sacrificed for me, clothed me, housed me, comforted me when I was sick, encouraged me to be righteous, advised me, protected me, taught me the way of the Lord, and raised me upon the noble religion of Islam, so that I could raise my children upon the same, and they, their children, and they, their children, if it be your will.

Yaa Rabb, I cannot count Your blessings or Your grace which you have bestowed upon me, but I ask that You grant us permission to continue to strive in Your path for the days we have left in this world, and that You count me, my parents who raised me, and my offspring, as amongst Your believing and grateful servants. Ameen.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Black American Sunni Muslims and Their Leaders, Contextually Speaking, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

In consideration of the trials that we currently find ourselves in, there are issues that need revisiting. This is one of them. Black American Sunni Muslims and converts to Islam are arguably the most leaderless Muslim demographic on the the planet. And what Imams there are, are the lowest paid imams in the United States of America, and that’s if they get paid at all. Many aren’t compensated at all. Yet, they get the lion’s share of the blame for the woes of Black Muslim and convert America. Can we blame that on the Muslim leaders themselves? Is anyone to blame? What contributes to the absence of leadership? Do the few leaders we have get the support of the people? Do they deserve it? All these questions cannot be answered in one article. However, it behooves us to at least unpack the conversation. One thing for sure, being leaderless is not a good disposition for believing Muslims in America. It is said that it is better for people to endure 100 years under a tyrannical ruler then to endure one night without a leader.

Although Muslim leaders and teachers (of any race) are obligated to call to and teach the truth, an imam or Muslim leader is no more obligated to be righteous or to follow scripture than the average Muslim. It cannot be left up to a leader or an Imam to get people to trust them. True, his style, knowledge, demeanor and other factors may play a part, however, there were people who didn’t trust prophets or who didn’t trust the Prophet himself (SAWS).

There is an arrogance amongst our people that convinces us that we cannot go or be astray and many of our people are astray in many key areas of the religion, and think that we are somehow immune to falsehood. Some of us (a minority I reckon) feel that our being Black, or converts makes us true and righteous, and that we can move forward as a civilization without leaders or leadership.

As far as leadership, any Muslim leader that calls to what we know to be right by Kitaab and the Sunna, it would seem to any reasonable believing person that you would follow or support him in what is correct. Just about any hadith about leaders and leadership would easily suggest that; Patience with your leaders, obeying those in authority, obey only in what is obedience to Allah, if you differ in a matter return it Allah and His Messenger (SAWS), the best leaders are those who you love them and they love you, hadith about the end times when people would take ignorant leaders who lead them astray, and they themselves (leaders ) are astray, the virtue of just leaders, dying without bay’at being the death of jaahiliyyah , are all concepts supported by Quran and authentic hadith of the Prophet (SAWS). I didn’t mention the verses and hadith here because it would be too long.

The issues Black Muslims have with leadership has more to do than our general state than it has to do with any leader. We routinely attack our leaders, even the best of them. We do this knowing that any of our leaders who is truthful, forward, or effective will be subject to opposition, persecution, and attack. We know that by our own history. The average Black Muslim family that has cable, spends roughly 100 bucks a month. When was the last time you heard a Muslim attack a cable company for bad service? Or they’ll complain but still subscribe. .People have abandoned the jamaa’at or their community for the most minor of infractions, only to see themselves and their families go back into jaahiliyya. I’ve seen it myself, hundreds of times.

We come up with all kinds of beautiful and inciteful suggestions and projects that we think our imams should do, or could do, or shoulda done. However, hardly ever is there any mention or offering of resources by which to embark on these lofty and inciteful suggestions. People think Imams are Leprechauns. We’re not. And when you talk about Black American Imams cooperating with the greater Muslim community’s Imams on issues, that is a great idea. However, you have to keep in mind that as Black American imams, we have maybe 1/10th of the resources they have. Cooperate how? By serving the tea at meetings? Most of our Imams are nearly dead broke, and live from week to week. Most don’t have budgets for projects, and as a group we can’t even afford to hold our own regional meetings or summits, let alone cooperate with other Imams and Muslim leadership organizations that have 10 times our resources and backing. We are invited to a seat at the table, but that is usually only to ratify what’s already been decided or to simply assume a subordinate position.

Leadership, just like following, having a Muslim leader, and everything else, comes down to believing in Allah, Hs word, and following His Prophet (SAWS), and his sunnah. On the day of rising, a leader will not be held accountable for his people, and people will not be held accountable for their leaders. That is proven by Quran and the Sunna. The Prophet (SAWS) will see some of his followers approaching the houdh of Kauthar, and will call out to them, my ummah, my ummah! And it will be said, “but you don’t know what they did after you”, and they will be shoed away. Eesa ibn Maryam will be asked about his followers, but not held accountable for them. The followers of Sayyina Musa (Moses) AS, worshipped a calf in his absence, but he was not held accountable for them. Did that make them bad leaders? Bad teachers? Musa was a chosen by Allah. Yet, his people abused him. The Prophet was the Beloved of Allah, yet, people apostate after his death, and innovated in religion.

Both, Muslim leaders and people who follow them are accountable to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. A leader has his duty, and people (who are not leaders), or followers have their duty. That is the point. So we can dig ourselves out of a lawless situation.

I know many, many Imams, none of them were or are perfect including myself. However, every single one of them from amongst our people were and are dedicated servants to the cause. Whether they had big plans or simple plans, they all stood their ground and were dedicated. Some had much help, some had little help. Some were endowed with wealth and most are poor. Most have small circles, 2-5 people whom they can trust or depend on. Imams are also targets. The more he is liked, the more effective he is, the more he is a target.

Back in the day we used to give bay’at to the Imam. Some of us still do. Bay’at means that you tell him straight, but you got his back, and that you support him in what’s right openly. The imam is a shield, and when a person makes bay’at to an imam, it strengthens that shield because people know that he is not alone. The laws regarding Imams and Amirs in Islam are strict very strict. In todays time, most people couldn’t handle what Islam says about Imams or Amirs. Our view of Imams is different today. We hardly give them the honor that pastors have in the church. People expect Imams to be like stage performers. We hardly support Imams anymore. We clap for them, or excoriate them, and ever so ready to tear them down.

An Imam has to trust his wife, people around him. He wouldn’t be a good Imam if he didn’t start off giving the benefit of the doubt. He as no choice. One of the worst possible things for an Imam is when he trusts you, and you are deceiving him. The Messengers of Allah were Imams too. Most of them were betrayed or deceived. Even Jesus, the son of Mary (AS). People will find every reason in the world not to support an Imam, even when he is upright and calling to the truth. This is why the Prophet (SAWS) said, “whomever dies and does not have a bay’at attached to his neck, (has no bay’at) then he has died the death of jaahiliyya. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to hell, it just means that you died in a state of ignorance.

And Allah knows best. – Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad. Support at cash app to: $abulaith2

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