Birthdays

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Ask almost any person, “On what day were you born?” and you will receive a prompt reply. However, ask any person, “On what date are you going to pass away?” and you will be met with deafening silence, since nobody knows when death will come… perhaps even in the next few minutes???

The reality of the matter is that we are all travellers in this temporary abode of the dunya. With every passing day, we draw nearer and nearer to our destination – the Aakhirah. Hence, a true believer is one who is so mindful of his ever-approaching end that with every passing day, his concern for accountability before Allah Ta‘ala increases. He does not celebrate the years that he has lived, but anticipates the moment when he will meet Malakul Maut (the Angel of Death). In short, he lives to die.

This was the mindset and way of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) and the Taabi‘een (rahimahumullah). They neither celebrated birthdays nor saw the occasion of a birthday as any cause for merrymaking.

Conversely, the disbelievers dread the concept of death, as it will bring a permanent end to all their pleasures. They have nothing positive to hope for after death, and hence they not only seek to prolong and delay the inevitable – but seek to celebrate life and make the most of it. Hence, they celebrate birthdays in the effort to ignore the fact that they too will one day disintegrate in the grave.

As Muslims, we have been blessed with the best of religions – the Deen of Islam – and the best of ways – the blessed way of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). Hence, we should never ever abandon the blessed sunnah and begin emulating the ways and customs of the disbelievers. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has warned us mentioning, “The one who emulates a people will be counted from amongst them (in the sight of Allah Ta‘ala)”. (Sunan Abi Dawood #4031)

When celebrating birthdays is undoubtedly the custom of the disbelievers and is a concept that is completely alien to Islam, then a Muslim should not have anything to do with it and should avoid it at all costs.   

Over and above the celebration of birthdays being a custom of the disbelievers, there are certain common aspects in birthdays that are extremely dangerous to our imaan as they have connotations of disbelief attached to them.

One such aspect is that of blowing out the candles on the cake. Generally, the number of candles on the cake is equal to the age of the person. After the candles are lit, the person is told to make a wish and blow out the candles. According to some people, if all the candles are blown out in one breath, it is considered to be a sign of good luck. However, what many of us do not realize is that the tradition of lighting candles is either traced back to the Greeks, who would do so to honour the birth of the goddess Artemis, or is traced back to pagan times when people would light candles to repel evil spirits who sought to harm them on their birthday.

Let us ponder over the following: When making a wish and blowing out the candles, who is one asking to fulfil his wish? We all know that when a Muslim makes du‘aa, he turns to Allah Ta‘ala and raises his hands. On the conclusion of the du‘aa, he says ‘Aameen’ and passes his hands over his face. When this wish made at the time of blowing out the candles is evidently not a du‘aa to Allah Ta‘ala, then what is it? To whom is one supplicating?

These are all important aspects over which we should all ponder deeply. It should not be that in the pursuit of a few moments of pleasure, we sacrifice our Deeni values and engage in practices that endanger our imaan. We must remember, at all times, that complete salvation and success lie only in completely adhering to complete Deen. Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) mentioned, “We were the most disgraced of people. Allah Ta‘ala then gave us honour through Islam. If we ever seek honour in something besides that through which Allah Ta‘ala has honoured us (Islam), Allah Ta‘ala will disgrace us.” (Mustadrak Haakim #207)

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