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

Permissibility

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

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