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There is a word Bid'ah in Islam and it means innovation in religious matters. Some Islamic scholars says that birthday is Bid'ah as it was not celebrated by any of the prophets, apostles and their companions so if we celebrate it then it connotes that we are followers of Bid'ah. But, I am always urged to think that Birthday's celebration doesn't belongs to religion and nor there is any rulings about birthday's celebration in Islam then why is it said to be prohibited?. We know very well that innovations are much here as compared to the era of prophets, companions and companions of companions. For instance, Hazrat Bilal (Rz) never used electronic mikes to pronounce Adhan, There were no guns usage in wars etc. But today, guns are used and mikes are also used but they are not called Bid'ah. Then why call birthday's celebration Bid'ah?

Now, when there is no answer to this, the scholars show the ayah of Koran as stated,

“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!” [al-A’raaf 7:3]

And I have also an answer to this argument which is quite logical. My answers says that the God, here, commanding us to not follow something beside' about which God has given order.

For instance God has declared that fast is what during which a believer has to stay hungry and thirsty till a certain time. But if anyone says that we can drink and can't eat during fast or vice versa then, to me it is actually Bid'ah and celebration of birth is not so because no any restrictions have been made by God about this nor there are commands that oppose birthday's celebration.

There are other Ayahs which are placed before us be like argument and that is,

“O you who have believed! Do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.” [Koran 5: 51]

"And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. Those are the defiantly disobedient." [Koran 59: 19]

“Follow [O Mankind] what has been revealed to you from your Lord and do not follow other than Him any allies…” [Koran 7: 3]

Hadiths related to current argument:

1-

“He who imitates a people will be from among them (on the Day of Judgement).” Anonymous

2-

[Abu Daawood] And in another narration, he sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “The one who imitates people other than us (i.e., in faith) is not from us. Do not imitate the Jews or the Christians.” Anonymous

Again I arise a question here that what if I discover a day, say "pencil day" and I announce it's celebration every year. Since I am a Muslim other than Jewish and Christians thereby the peoples can follow me and celebrate this day. And as far as my knowledge is concerned, I don't think that the imitation of a Muslim is prohibited in Islam... So my argument says that the Ayahs and hadiths quoted above must be telling us something different.

What I think is that it may be disliked to attempt imitation and not Forbidden.

  • Imitation, what do you say about imitating to Christians and Jews in celebrating birthdays? – ozbek Feb 10 '15 at 1:09
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    @ozbek I know that we are restricted to imitate the life styles of Jewish and Christians but what do you think if I discover a new day, say "pencil day", to celebrate it every year. Then to celebrate this day would not be a sin because the people are following a Muslim guy i.e. me. I think the ayah is telling us something different... – Sufyan Naeem Feb 10 '15 at 7:00
  • An answer related to Imitating – servant-of-Wiser Apr 14 '15 at 14:12
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Bid'ah - If you add something new to the belief of Islam without having a proof from Quran or Sunnah then this is considered Bidah. (as seen in What is Bidah)

So, in the past when there were no Mercedes cars people didn't have the opportunity to drive them, but today we all drive Mercedes ryt? Is it either Bidah or an act of copying the disbelievers?

No. It is technology. It is evolution. There is no problem with that.

Well birthday celebrations might be considered Western culture or regional but are also very much prevailing. This is a contemporary issue and has to be dealt carefully.

Exchange gifts as that will lead to increasing your love for one another. (Sahih Bukhari)

Similarly, on birthdays, the host organizes a feast(party) to his friends and that is a way by which you can mingle with your Believing friends.

Despite the above facts, we need to stay away from the following things,

  • Mingling of men and women in the occasion
  • Forcing the host to give a party.
  • Mingling with non believers (According to your quoted verse Qur'an 5:51)
  • Hurting the birthday boy especially by beating his butts (this often happens among the youngsters)
  • Having wine or getting high by some sort.
  • Celebrating birthdays just because non believers are celebrating. (Hadith say that we should not copy their style.)
  • By any means celebrating birthdays causes you to miss Salah or delay it.
  • Amusing a lot and idle unnecessary chatting. (Qur'an 57:20)

As long as you don't break the basic Islamic laws, it is fine if you celebrate birthdays(but don't make it a custom) in moderation without exceeding limits and complying 100% to Sharia laws.


Imitations Issues

The imitation issues as put forward in the Hadith explain us that, we ought not to imitate the Jews or Christians or non believers by any means. That would apply here, as I discussed above, driving a Mercedes just because Jews or Christians are driving is termed as imitation and so is celebrating birthdays. If you're celebrating birthdays just because they're doing it, then as said by almost any Islamic scholar, it is clearly Haram.

As for the pencil day celebration, it is a different question, I suggest you raise another question for that. (That's a good question actually)

May the creator guide us all.

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    Yeah, on the whole, I reckon it could be considered as a detailed appropriate response by observing some points which you mentioned such as avoiding doing unlawful act such as wine, delay salah and so forth. And another significant point is that we ought not to term it as an Islamic custom as you mentioned. – اللهم صل علی محمد و آل محمد Apr 13 '15 at 6:48
  • Additional reading can be done here – servant-of-Wiser Apr 14 '15 at 14:26
  • Very much to the point! – Sufyan Naeem Apr 14 '15 at 14:40
  • I said, "very much to the point", that doesn't imply that it's my answer. I have voted it up since it is helpful but I can't mark it as the accepted answer. I have some issues left! If you would read my whole query again and answer to me comprehensively then surely I shall accept it! :) – Sufyan Naeem Apr 14 '15 at 14:48
  • Here is how 'copying the Christians' is applicable here.... Did ahlul bayt celebrate mawlid? – servant-of-Wiser Apr 28 '15 at 10:06
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I thought i would enter my personal thoughts from a lot of research and reasoning and looking at the evidences in our beautiful religion, I believe the right view would be to abstain from birthday celebrations for several reasons,since from what i have heard is that the general consensus as long as the celebration is not religious in nature it not permissible.The major point would now be to show whether or not birthday celebrations have their origins in any religion. The idea of celebrating the birth of someone, is not found within the shariah itself so obviously it is a borrowed tradition brought from the christians themselves, whom funnily enough copied it from the pagan traditions, which they were surrounded by, the funny fact is upto around the 4th to 5th century the Christians were quite opposed to the idea of celebrating birthdays until finally giving leave way and celebrating the birth of their god, which was a common theme found in the ancient world of celebrating the birth of gods and goddesses. So what we can already see from a shariah point of standard is a tradition, which may have some basis in shirk, which can be seen as a big no no, that being said I'm talking from a greco-roman perspective, we shouldn't assume that all form of birthday celebrations originate from the west and therefore have a basis in superstition and pagan beliefs, that being said the prevailing way of celebration of a birthday currently done is holding a party, gathering as many people as possible and blowing out the candle on cakes. If you guys do a bit of research you'll come to a few conclusions, obviously nothing is set in stone but, you'll come to see that there is a lot of symbolism behind what we do for our birthdays, for example according to some historians the reason behind why birthday cakes have candles, was that it was a borrowed tradition started by the greeks, who would represent their moon goddess artemis by placing moon shaped sweet offerings with candles on them, to represent the light of the moon another theory postulates the tradition was bought from germany,where the candles represented the light of life. What is well established though is that the idea of bringing people to your parties was to ward away any evil spirits, which would harm you on the day of your birth, which was considered a day of major change and hence make you susceptible to such evil forces. Once again i would like to re-emphasise that I'm taking from a western perspective, many other cultures may have birthday traditions, which aren't steeped in superstition, that being said with the current day, most of these traditions we see come from a western orientated world.

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