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Islam Stand on Celebrating Birthday


What does Islam say about celebrating birthdays? Is it permissible to celebrate birthdays? My children sometimes insist on having a birthday party where we make a cake and light candles. We do not sing or do such things; we just blow out the candles and congratulate them. 

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
 
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner, thank you for your question and the confidence you place in our service and we pray to Allah to enable us to render this service purely for His Sake.
"By analogy, there is nothing wrong in celebrating birthdays, as long as the celebration does not include any forbidden practices.”

Islam teaches Muslim to have a unique character and to be distinguished. A Muslim is weaned on morality and avoiding blind imitation.
 Islam supports the celebration of a birthday if it is an expression of gratitude to Allah for His bounties, sustenance and blessings in man’s life, as long as that celebration does not include anything that may displease Allah, the Almighty. 
Focusing on the issue of celebrating birthdays, we would like to start by citing the following:

"In Islam, birthdays are not considered `eid (a festival) like `Eidul-Fitr or `Eidul-Adha, because `eids have conditions and guidelines such as not being allowed to fast during the days of Eid. Therefore, birthdays are simply occasions of a person's date of birth and are a matter of culture. If a person wants to commemorate his/her date of birth, then he/she may do so, especially if he/she takes the opportunity to reflect on the past and pledge to be better during the following year. However, to make the birthday an important occasion is not recommended or encouraged."
 (Excerpted, with slight modifications, from: www.islamicity.com)

Shedding more light on the issue, the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Tajuddin Hamid Al-Hilali, Mufti of Australia and New Zealand, states:
 
"A Muslim has a distinguished personality. He should not imitate others in evil things and leave the good ones.
 Talking to our children about their birthdays, we should remind them that on such days they should remember the blessings of Allah and praise Him for giving them life and guidance. It would be better if we ask them to offer something in charity as a form of showing gratitude.

Still there is nothing wrong if we try to make them feel happy on that day as long as we are using lawful things. It is better if we make it a day ahead or a day after. You said that your children insist on having such a celebration, and this is really dangerous. If the child insists on having his desires fulfilled at this early age, what is going to happen when he grows older? We need to be alarmed and never allow Western traditions that are based on individualism, to ruin our families. Thus, calling birthdays `eids is not accepted, for this has no basis in Islam. At the same time, there is nothing wrong if we use these occasions to inculcate Islamic principles in our children, like showing gratitude to Allah, praising Him and seizing the chance of this life in performing good deeds since the older we grow the nearer to the grave we come."

Speaking about the same issue Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, Deputy Chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, adds:
 
“Permissibility is the original ruling in this case, as there is no evidence of prohibition. The principle of not following the Jews and Christians is really required in matters of their false claims and beliefs in relation to religion. Such beliefs are no more than disbelief from an Islamic perspective.

Islam supports the celebration of birthdays if it is an expression of gratitude to Allah for His bounties, sustenance and blessings in man’s life, as long as that celebration does not include anything that may displease Allah, the Almighty. In this context the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked about fasting on Mondays, and he answered: “It is the day on which I was born.” Muslim scholars take this hadith and the hadith of fasting on the Day of `Ashura’ (10th of Mharram) as evidence on the permissibility of celebrating good occasions, which have special significance in our religion such as occasions like the birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

In this context, people must be aware that celebrating such occasions, e.g. the Prophet’s birthday, is no more than a matter of habit, and by no means a religious requirement. However, if it entails any forbidden practices, such a celebration becomes forbidden for that reason alone. Moreover, a celebration of this sort becomes recommended if it includes recommended acts of worship.

It is also right to say that such celebrations contain some aspects of innovation, however it is an innovation in matters of popular habits not in matters of religion. Actually innovation in habits is not prohibited. What is prohibited in this context is innovation in religion, as indicated in a well-known Prophetic hadith.

By analogy, there is nothing wrong in celebrating birthdays, as long as the celebration does not include any forbidden practices.”
World Fatwa Management and Research Institute
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia

Origin of Birthdays.
Celebrating birthdays is a pagan practice associated with astrology. The ancient pagans calculated the birth dates of kings, rulers and their successors & meticulously examined horoscopes and birthday omens because they believed that the fate of the rich and powerful might affect an entire society. Unfortunately even today we see many Muslims putting their trust in horoscopes instead of Allah.
 We know that there is no record of Prophets celebrating their birthdays. Even the Bible agrees with this view point. One of the verses from the Bible that speaks about birthday is not of any Prophet’s but is of Pharaoh.
“And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday that he made a feast [birthday party] unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: but he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them” (Genesis 40:20-22).
We observe that in ancient Egypt, the pharaohs ordered businesses to close on their birthdays and gave enormous feasts for hundreds of servants. In ancient Greece, wealthy males joined birthday clubs composed exclusively of men who shared their birth date. Once a month, the club celebrated with a feast. When a member died, he left money to help pay for future parties. In Persia, noblemen observed their birthdays by barbecuing an ox, a camel and a donkey and serving hundreds of small cakes to the celebrants. In ancient Rome, the emperor gave huge parties in honor of his own birthday, which included parades, circuses, and gladiatorial combat. The celebration of days was so important to the average Roman citizen that the Roman calendar designated a majority of days for some form of celebration—including many birthdays of gods and famous men.

Birthday Cake.


History of Birthday Cake can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who made round or moon shaped honey cakes or bread and took it to the temple of Artemis -the Goddess of Moon. Some scholars, however, believe that the tradition of Birthday cake started in Germany in Middle Ages. Sweetened bread dough was given the shape of baby Jesus in swaddling cloth and was used to commemorate his birthday. This special birthday cake later reemerged in Germany as a Kinderfest or the birthday celebrations of a young child. Germans also baked another special kind of a cake called Geburtstagorten as it was baked in layers. This was sweeter that the coarse and bread like cake that were usually made at that time.
Some scholars opine that cake in the ancient world has association with the annual cycles. Round shapes of cakes were preferred as these represented the cyclical nature of life. Most specifically, the sun and moon.

Tradition of Putting Candles on Birthday Cake

Tradition of placing candles on Birthday cake is attributed to early Greeks, who used to place lit candles on cakes to make them glow like the moon. Greeks used to take the cake to the temple of Artemis-the Goddess of Moon. Some scholars say that candles were placed on the cake because people believe that the smoke of the candle carried their wishes and prayers to Gods who lived in the skies. Others believe that the custom originated in Germany where people used to place a large candle in the centre of the cake to symbolize ‘the light of life’.

In present times too, people place candles on Birthday cakes and a silent wish is made before blowing out the candle. It is believed that blowing out all candles in one breath means the wish will come true and the person will enjoy good luck in the coming year. Some also smear out the name of the person before slicing of the cake to bring good luck.

(translation of the last two paragraphs)...
Tradisi meletakkan lilin pada kek harijadi dikaitkan dengan bangsa Yunani (Greeks) kuno, yang kebiasaan mereka meletakkankan lilin yang menyala pada kek supaya kek nampak bersinar seperti bulan. Orang Yunani membawa kek-kek mereka ke kuil Artemis-Dewi Bulan. Ahli-ahli sejarah mengatakan bahawa lilin diletakkan pada kek kerana orang Yunani percayabahawa asap dari lilin itu akan membawa keinginan serta doa mereka kepada tuhan yang tinggal di langit. Kepercayaan lain bahawa adat ini berasal di Jerman di mana mereka meletakkan sebatang lilin besar di tengah kek untuk melambangkan 'cahaya kehidupan'.

Pada zaman zaman sekarang juga, orang menempatkant lilin pada kek harijadi dan meniatkan keinginan dalam hati (silent wish) dibuat sebelum meniup lilin. Hal ini diyakini mereka bahawa meniup semua lilin dalam satu nafas bererti keinginan mereka akan terlaksana dan orang tersebut akan menikmati nasib yang baik di tahun mendatang. Sesetengahya  juga mencalitkan nama pada kek sebelum memotong kek itu untuk membawa nasib baik.

Diriwayatkan dari Ibnu Umar bahwa Rasulullah saw bersabda,”Barangsiapa yang meniru suatu kaum maka dia adalah sebahagian dari mereka.” (HR. Abu Daud yang dishahihkan oleh Ibnu Hibban)

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