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Is it halaal to eat birthday cake?

When I ask this question, I do know that celebrating birthdays is a practice of non-Muslims and so we aren't allowed to celebrate it. However, that is not the aspect of this matter that I am talking about. Also, the cake itself is of halaal ingredients, so that too is not the question.

Rather, a friend once told me that when we sing "Happy birthday to Ahmed" (assuming it's Ahmed's birthday), it is as if Ahmed's name has been invoked upon the birthday cake as it is being cut. This thing itself makes the cake haraam since a name other than Allah has supposedly been invoked upon it.

This question is very relevant to my situation because, though my wife and I never celebrate birthdays (we are reminded by phone calls from family and friends that it's our or our kids' birthday), in many of the companies that I work in birthdays are celebrated with much gusto. After the cake-cutting the entire staff is given a piece of the cake (including myself). I avoid eating the cake owing to this issue, though I do not mind eating any of the other food on the plate other than the cake. However, I would like to have more accurate information on this.

I would be grateful for any information about this matter. Jazakaalhu khairan!

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    I think you can eat <strikethrough>birthday</strikethrough> cake. Just don't eat mine and you would be good to go:) – Noah Mar 10 '13 at 16:45
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This is an issue where you need to speak to a local scholar, really and truly.

Let me attempt to summarize my notes. I took a class called "fiqh of food and clothing," and we discussed this issue under the "food" section. I assume you know already that eating/drinking haram, free mixing, etc. are all prohibited in any kind of event, and also here.

  • First of all, there's the issue of personal vs. societal celebrations (think birthday vs. Christmas). As the shaykh said, "Islam deals with societal celebrations" -- hence the hadith of "we only have two 'Eids."
  • Second, if Islam only deals with societal celebrations, and birthdays fall under personal celebrations, and our previous caveat about "no drinking, mixing, etc." falls into place, then the question becomes one of: what does your culture say about this?

Birthdays are something many people in many cultures celebrate individually. If there isn't a shari'ee prohibition on it, then it becomes a question of culture. Therefore, if it's part of your culture to celebrate it, you have no reason preventing you from celebrating it.

Here in "The West," our culture -- both as people living here, and as Muslims -- is largely variable and still undergoing a lot of change. For example, men wearing earrings (one or two) has become semi-mainstream over the last decade or so. This is something that can affect the ruling of "men should not dress like women and vice-versa." Similarly, birthdays.

Therefore, what the shaykh recommend is simple: if you want to be safe, don't celebrate it. At the same time, if your kids classmates invite them over for a birthday party, or your extended family invites you, or your work brings donuts on someone's birthday, you have the option of participating or not participating.

And know that the historical and majority opinion is and always will be that celebrating is haram. This fatwa on Islam-QA puts forth that opinion, which is solid and supported by many big 'ulama throughout time.

Wallahu a'lam.

Source: Fiqh of Food and Clothing class, circa 2008

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Salaam Brother,

Seriously you can eat the cake, the only prohibition in the Quran is swine(apart from Ghamr) brother. If there is no swine or anything in the cake which will intoxicate you then you can eat from it. Please note only ALLAH alone prohibit's (make Haraam) no one not even the Nabi of ALLAH could prohibit.

Surah 66:1 Sahih International: O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what Allah has made lawful for you, seeking the approval of your wives? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

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    "Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and ..." Holy Qur'an (5:3) => quran.com/5/3 – Najeeb Mar 7 '13 at 15:55
  • Salaam Brother, In this verse GOD speaks about animals dedicated/offered to GOD not cake or food my brother. However if you feel this – user2235 Mar 8 '13 at 7:16
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Source: islamqa.info

The title of the question from the source is:
It is not permissible to eat foods that are prepared by the kuffaar for their festivals

The question asked in the source is:
Is it permissible for a Muslim to eat the foods that the people of the Book or the mushrikoon prepare for their festivals or accept such foods if they are given on the occasion of their festivals

The conclusion derived from the source is:
It is not permissible for the Muslim to eat foods that the Jews, Christians and mushrikoon make for their festivals.

Quoted hadith from source is:
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Whoever introduces anything into this matter of ours that is not part of it, will have it rejected."

You can read the full thing here.

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    Yes Brother, a birthday celebration is not a religious festival but is a secular celebration. The link you provided talks of not imitating the non-Muslims, whether in religious or secular matters. Agreed. However the crux of the matter is: should the cake be considered to be halaal owing to the fact that someone's name has been "invoked" on it? Should the fiqh (per se) as used by my friend be considered correct? – Najeeb Mar 7 '13 at 15:52
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According to this question from IslamQA:

But if the food has been made for that celebration, it is not permissible to be there at the time of the party, but after the party it is permissible to eat the food and that is better than throwing it away.

Note that in the name of something other than Allah is for slaughtered animals.

In my opinion, I really don't think cake has anything to do with slaughtered animals, but better to ask a knowledgeable person.

and check this question too: The meaning of the Quranic Verse: "Forbidden to you (for food) are: ..., and that on which has been invoked the name of other than Allah,..." (Al-Baqarah, or the heifer, V173)

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A birthday is a secular celebration and a social occasion. That is the 'dedication' of the birthday cake is not the same as invoking the name of Allah before a meal. It is not said in the same spirit.

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Your extraction about cake being haram is only an assumption. For anything to be haram there should be a clear order from Allah or Prophet(PBUH).

E.g.: if I spare food for my son, Ali, then I will say that this is Ali's food, so I am attaching name with food. But if I eat Ali's food then is it haram for me?

  • Welcome to Islam. Please elaborate your answer. But if I eat Ali's food then is it haram for me? needs to be answered with a more elaborate reason. – Bleeding Fingers Dec 29 '13 at 20:24

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