Al Hamdulilah! My daughter just turned 4 this week. I wanted to celebrate it with her and invite a few of her friends (muslim) over. I was told by one of the parent’s that no one would come because no other parents allow their children to celebrate birthdays. We are new to this masjid and I didn’t realize that this was a major faux pas. I do understand their position. If they tell their children that “muslims don’t celebrate birthdays” and then the kids come to my daughter’s birthday, they will wonder why she gets to celebrate and they don’t. So, I totally support their position. Consistency is vital.
However, I wonder, why don’t muslims celebrate birthdays? The only two answers I ever get are: It is not part of our religion and The Prophet (saws) didn’t do it. I agree that it is not part of the religion. It is a cultural thing. But the religion doesn’t forbid cultural practices as long as they don’t conflict with Islamic principles. Isn’t that why the Prophet (saws) told Ayesha that she should have encouraged that tribe to beat the duff at their walima, because it was part of their tribal/cultural practice?
As for the other argument, “the Prophet (saws) didn’t do it.” That may be true. I have never read a sunnah that describes whether he did or he did not. But I also have never read a sunnah where he forbade it. I thought if something is not forbidden by either Quran or Sunnah then it is allowed. (As long as it falls within the boundaries of Islam.)
I don’t view the celebration of a birthday as an idol/pagan act. I do not associate it in any way with Shirk. Instead I encourage my daughter to Thank Allah for all of her gifts and explain that every good thing that comes to her, comes by the Mercy of Allah. Just as she received gifts, I encouraged her to remember those children who aren’t as fortunate and she was to pick a toy out that she could donate to them. (She did so after generously offering to donate her brother’s toys 🙂 We have changed the chorus of the traditional birthday song so it now says “May Allah Bless you, May Allah Bless you, May Allah bless you-oo, May Allah Bless you.”
I think this is a good way, of teaching her about Allah’s generosity, mercy, blessings and the need to give sadaqa. Birthdays are the one day that is devoted to one particular child, to show them how they are loved and appreciated and special. We should do that everyday. But, truthfully, we don’t. And rarely are they the focus of that undivided special attention. It builds confidence, trust and self-esteem. And can be done in a way that incorporates Islam.
So I hope someone will respond and tell me why shouldn’t I continue this practice. Why can’t muslims celebrate birthdays? Hmmm, I still wonder…