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The Sayings of the Scholars Regarding Celebrating Birthdays

The Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fatāwá, Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣaliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn, Imām ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz bin Bāz

Important questions and answers regarding the permissibility of celebrating birthdays in Islām.

[Q]: My son currently resides with his mother who throws him a birthday party annually. This consists of food and [cake with] candles whose number matches his age where each candle represents a year. The child blows them out and the party begins. What is the ruling of this from a legislative standpoint?

[A]: It is impermissible to throw a birthday party for anyone. As it has been confirmed that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Whoever innovates in this affair [religion] that which is not from it shall have it rejected.”1 Also, it represents a means of imitating the disbelievers in their celebrations. He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) also said: “Whoever resembles a people is from them.”2

The Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fatāwá

[Q]: There are some schools that will give gifts to children on the occasion of any birthdays. Is it permissible for the Muslim students present to accept such gifts?

[A]: Giving gifts or accepting them on the occasion of birthdays is impermissible. This is because these celebrations are ḥarām in Islām and that which results from ḥarām shall also be ḥarām. And with Allāh belongs true guidance. May the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon our Prophet Muḥammad, his companions and followers.3

The Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fatāwá

[Q]: Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn was asked concerning the ruling of birthdays.

[A]: It is apparent to me from your question that ‘birthday’ refers to the birthday of an individual person. That is, every time another year passes from the day of his birth, they throw a party consisting of a banquet to which his family members gather.
I say with regards to this practice: This is impermissible because there exists no celebrations in Islām for any occasion save for ʿĪd al-Aḍḥá, ʿĪd al-Fiṭr which occurs in Ramaḍān, and the ʿĪd of every week which is Friday. As narrated in Sunan al-Nasāʾī on the authority of Anas (رضي الله عنه): The people of ignorance used to have two days in the year dedicated to play. When the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) migrated to Madīnah, he said: “You used to have two days in which you would play. Allāh has traded those days for that which is better than it: the day of Fiṭr and Aḍḥá.”4 Also, such practices open the door to innovation as a person may claim: If it is permissible for us to celebrate the birthday of a person, then it should be even more befitting for us to celebrate the birth of the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم). That which opens the door to the prohibited is itself also prohibited. And with Allāh is true guidance.5

Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣaliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn (d. 1421 AH)

[Q]: What is the ruling of celebrating birthdays? That is, the day a person was born being celebrated annually?

[A]: Celebrating birthdays is an innovation for which no origin or foundation exists. It represents a means by which one gains resemblance to the Jews and the Christians. Therefore, such an act is impermissible whether it be the birthdays of the prophets like our prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) or other than him.

It is impermissible for anyone to celebrate their own birthday, or the birthday of their fathers or mothers. All of this represents objectionable innovation if done as a form of worship. Otherwise, if celebrated while believing there to be goodness in it, then it represents a means by which one resembles the polytheists from the Jews and the Christians.

Thus, it is impermissible as a form of worship, impermissible as a form of seeking resemblance. He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has said: “Whoever innovates in our affair [this religion] that which is not from it shall have what they innovated rejected.” He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) also said: “Whoever takes part in action not from our affair [this religion], will have that action rejected.” That is, unacceptable with Allāh. This action is not from among his actions (صلى الله عليه وسلم), nor is it from his religion. All the while he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is the most sincere advisor to mankind, the most complete in his delivery of the message. Considering this, he never said to the people: “Celebrate my birthday,” nor did he celebrate it himself (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Nor did the rightly guided Khalifas take part in such celebrations, nor did the rest of the companions, nor did the pious predecessors of the first, second or third generations. Therefore, it is an objectionable innovation from among the means by which one falls into shirk. This is because some of those who celebrate birthdays invoke the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) or the person being celebrated. They seek their provision from him and support. This is a form of major shirk. Some of them even hold the belief that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is present. For this reason, they stand saying: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has come. This is also from the greatest forms of ignorance and plainly evident falsehood.

Thus, celebrating birthdays if done as a form of worship will be considered an objectionable innovation. If done as a means of seeking to resemble the enemies of Allāh from the Jews and Christians, then it is also most objectionable. The reality of it is between these two matters: either an innovation or seeking to resemble the enemies of Allāh. It is impermissible in all situations and circumstances, not your own birthday, or that of your father, or brother, or the birthday of the prophets or people of righteousness. Rather, all of this is from among the innovations created by mankind. We ask Allāh for forgiveness and true guidance on behalf of everyone.

He (رحمه الله) then said:

Such a thing shall never be permissible. The door to such celebrations must be shut, and people warned from this innovation. Its reason is that some people possess a great multitude of blessings and have amassed a massive amount of wealth. However, these people do not know what to do with all their money. They have not been guided to spend it in the way of showing obedience to Allāh through building masājid or offering aid to the destitute. Instead, they engage in play by means of these celebrations and its likeness. If he seeks to re-awaken the Sunnah of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), then this is not done through such celebrations. He may re-awaken it through Islamic lessons, or conferences. This is not an innovation. Rather, this is legislated and commanded. Let him study the sirāh of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and clarify to the people what has been related with regards to these celebrations. By means of Islamic lessons taught in schools, or community centres, or masājid, or conferences.6

Shaykh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz bin Bāz (d. 1420 AH)

Endnotes:

[1] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 2697 and Muslim: 1718.
[2] Source: Fatāwá al-Lajnah al-Dāʾimah: no. 5289
[3] Source: Fatāwá al-Lajnah al-Dāʾimah: no. 19504.
[4] Authentic: narrated by al-Nasāʾī: 1556. Graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī in al-Sirāj al-Munīr:1558.
[5] Source: Majmūʿ Fatāwá wa Rasāʾil al-ʿUthaymīn 16:197-198.
[6] Source: Fatāwá Nur ʿalá al-Darb 3:108-109

Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: July 18, 2023
Edited: July 18, 2023

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