Wednesday 21 January 2009

To Birthday or Not to Birthday

All three of the kids have a birthday coming up – they’ll be 2, 4 and 6 in the coming days insh’Allah. Of course the time is flying too fast. Of course I miss the time I had with each as a little baby (funny how you forget the pains and sleepless nights and exhaustion in retrospect).

My mum is big on birthdays and has been declaring for weeks to Little Lady that hers is coming. In contrast we are not so big on birthdays and this is causing me worry as she counts down the days.

As a child, me and my siblings always celebrated our birthdays. My dad was very against this (“You’re only getting one years closer to dying!!”), so there were no parties, but we could not see what his problem was, so between us children and my mum there were still always presents and occasionally cake (my brother kindly provided the birthday beats).

When we had Little Lady, myself and my husband did a little research and decided not to celebrate birthdays. The thing that convinced me was a religious pamphlet that had a passage about birthdays. The quote in it was from a Christian Pope from the middle ages who was trying to stop the new practice emerging of people celebrating Prophet Jesus’ (AS) birthday and was amazed at the arrogance of people who would consider celebrating the day of their own birth.

When it came to her first birthday though I could not help myself, so we had a small party with a few friends and family members, which the birthday girl cried, then slept through most of. Not long after we had a streak of bad luck with one thing after another going wrong, which made me wonder what we were doing wrong. At the same time my uncle told me the story about his friend who was very religious and never celebrated birthdays, until one time his family decided to throw a party for one of their little ones. Bad luck followed with the loss of the family’s business and deaths and illnesses (you get the idea – my middle uncle is a real doomsayer). Although I don’t tend to be the paranoid type, his story really bothered me and after that we decided to stick to our principle of not celebrating birthdays. I promised my family that they would get presents and lots of fun on the two Eids instead.

As the children are getting older and more aware of what their friends do, it gets harder to just ignore the day and let it pass quietly. I wonder how to approach this matter. I intend to explain to my oldest a little about why we don’t throw celebrate birthdays and remind her we have two Eids instead (we have to save all the good stuff for then!!). If she really wishes she can take sweets to school to share (she has said no before, but I don’t think she will this time) and I will remind her that we are very grateful to Allah (SWT) every day that she came to us, not just on one day. The other thing I always remember to do is to make sadaqah for each child (including nephews and nieces), as they get older I will let them make the choice about where the money goes insh’Allah.

The Prophet (SAWS) said "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?" ~Bukhari and Muslim

The Prophet (SAWS) also said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." ~Abu Dawood

Celebrating Birthdays the “Islamic Way” – Mufti Muhammed Sajjad
Celebrating Birthdays - Moulana Abdul Hamid Ishaq (Albalagh)
Is it permitted to celebrate birthdays? - Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari (Sunnipath)


  1. Dad said (i think-or maybe I read it somewhere) if you want to celebrate your b'day you should keep a fast on that monday -sounds more sensible i guess.

  2. Interesting post. I actually wrote something similar on my blog a few weeks ago about my husband's birthday. My suggestion to you would be that if you and your husband have decided not to celebrate birthdays in your home, then you have the right to very kindly and respectfully tell people in your family that it makes you uncomfortable if they keep reminding your kids that their big day is coming up. Don’t worry about what your kids might be learning at school, you sound like a great mom, and if you and your husband teach them the strong values of Islam, your kids will be able to intelligently articulate those teachings when they are asked by friends (Muslim or non) or by teachers, strangers, etc. If you arm your children with knowledge and confidence of their deen, they'll be just fine. Also, here's a suggestion -- you could always fast, like Iss said, or you can have your children use their birthday to do some type of community service or volunteer work. They might be a little small right now, but encouraging Little Lady to donate one of her favorite toys, or buy one from a store to give to a child in need is a start. That teaches them the Islamic values of giving, they won't technically "celebrate" their birthday, and giving on a day when you're supposed to celebrate yourself will also teach them the Islamic value of humility. Good luck!

  3. Assalam Alaikum,

    We don't celebrate birthdays either. The children will share some cookies with their classmates or last year my son had his "bestest" friend over at our house. I just talked to a friend of mine yesterday and she thought that the best birthday was having her two daughters by her side...sounds like a wonderful day to me! I think we overrate these celebrations way too much and sometimes any ordinary day can be better than any birthday or celebration. But hey...Little Lady won't mind if you treat her to some nice henna...:-)

  4. bismillah
    assalamu alaykum

    I don't celebrate bdays for a few reasons, although I see nothing wrong with fasting and doing salawat upon the Nabi (alayhis salatu was salam) in recognition of his blessed birth. A few of the reasons that I don't partake in birthdays are:

    1. I believe it leads to wanting more and more out of the dunya
    2. Everyone does it and everyone ignores the reality that one more year signifies - as you mentioned, one year closer to death.
    3. Extravagance
    4. Definitely imitation with the cake, and bday wishes (which many Muslims do), etc.

    It is hard with children who ask "why" all the time, especially when there are those who celebrate it from amongst family and friends but I think they are smart enough to understand "NO" (at a younger age) and then to understand the reasons at an older age (I started explaining at about 4 years of age).

    It's very important to find families who don't celebrate it either.

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