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Origins of Birthday Celebrations



Do Muslims who celebrate birthdays ever ask the question:


What are the origins of some of the customs used to celebrate birthdays?


Answers from non-Islamic sources



The German periodical "Schwäbische Zeitung" (magazine supplement Zeit und Welt) of April 3/4, 1981 on page 4 stated:

"The various customs with which people today celebrate their birthdays have a long history. Their origins lie in the realm of magic and religion. The customs of offering congratulations, presenting gifts and celebrating - complete with lighted candles - in ancient times were meant to protect the birthday celebrant from the demons and to ensure his security for the coming year. . . . Down to the fourth century Christianity rejected the birthday celebration as a pagan custom."



The book The Lore of Birthdays (New York, 1952) by Ralph and Adelin Linton, on pages 8, 18-20 had this to say:

"The Greeks believed that everyone had a protective spirit or daemon who attended his birth and watched over him in life. This spirit had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born.





The custom of lighted candles on the cakes started with the Greeks. . . .Honey cakes round as the moon and lit with tapers were placed on the temple altars of [Artemis]. . . . Birthday candles, in folk belief, are endowed with special magic for granting wishes. . . . Lighted tapers and sacrificial fires have had a special mystic significance ever since man first set up altars to his gods. The birthday candles are thus an honor and tribute to the birthday child and bring good fortune"



Horst Fuhrmann, professor of medieval history at the University of Regensburg, made this comment about birthdays:

"The birthday celebration was in honor of one's guardian angel or god, whose altar was decorated with flowers and wreaths; sacrifices were offered to the god of festival, friends offered congratulations and brought gifts." Furthermore, he stated in the German newspaper "Süddeutschen Zeitung": "Great prominence was given the birthday parties held for the emperor, replete with parades, public banquets, circus plays, and the hunting of animals: spectacles disgusting to the [early] Christians."



Part of an article from a Christian site....

Modern birthday parties and celebrations by children take their form mainly from Germany, where the birthday child received gifts, chose a menu and received a candle-ringed butter or jam cake. The lighted candles for the cake may have originated from the birthday of the Greek moon goddess Artemis. Pagan worshippers honored her every month with moon-shaped honey cakes. Because the moon glows with light, the cakes were decorated with lighted candles.

Saying “happy birthday” to friends and loved ones was society’s superstitious way of protecting them from evil spirits. Birthday thumps, bumps, pinches, etc., were said to bring luck and send away evil spirits. Party snappers, horns and other noisemakers were also intended to scare off bad-luck spirits.

It should now be clear that birthdays are not only unbiblical, they are pagan!

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Many cultures have one or more coming of age birthdays:

  • Jewish boys become bar mitzvah on their 13th birthday. Jewish girls become bat mitzvah on their 12th birthday, or sometimes on their 13th birthday in Reform and Conservative Judaism. This marks the transition where they become obligated in commandments of which they were previously exempted and are counted as part of the community.
  • In Canada and the United States, families often mark a girl's 16th birthday with a "sweet sixteen" celebration.
  • In some Hispanic countries, as well as in Portuguese-speaking Brazil, the quinceañera (Spanish) or festa de quinze anos (Portuguese) celebration traditionally marks a girl's 15th birthday.
  • In India, Hindu male children of some castes like Brahmins have the 12th or 13th birthday replaced with a grand "thread ceremony." The child takes a blessed thread and wears it, symbolizing his coming of age. This is called the Upanayana. This ceremony is practiced amongst boys in the Hindu Brahmin culture.
  • In the Philippines, girls on their 18th birthday or boys on their 21st birthday celebrate a debut.
  • In some Asian countries that follow the Zodiac calendar, there is a tradition of celebrating the 60th birthday.
  • In Korea, many celebrate a traditional ceremony of Baek-il (Feast for the 100th day) and Doljanchi (child's first birthday).
  • In Japan there is a Coming of Age Day, for all of those who have turned 20 years of age.
  • In the United Kingdom cards from the Royal Family are sent to those celebrating their 100th and 105th birthday and every year thereafter.
  • In Ghana, on their birthday, children wake up to a special treat called "oto" which is a patty made from mashed sweet potato and eggs fried in palm oil. Later they have a birthday party where they usually eat stew and rice and a dish known as "kelewele", which is fried plantain chunks.
  • In Sudan the children who live in the cities celebrate their birthday, whereas in the country they don't.
  • In India, on a child's first birthday, his or her head is shaved while being held by a special fire. Removal of the hair cleanses the child of any evil in past lives, symbolizing a renewal of the soul.   wikipedia

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There is no basis for the celebrations of Birthdays in Islam



My second question is about celebrating birthdays and anniversiries . Is it ok if we celebrate birthdays and anniversiries but not with the intension of copying non muslims .If not is it of if we go to others birthday parties because our own close relatives can get angry  and specially if we are living together in one house.



To celebrate anniversaries and birthdays is not permitted in Shari’a. One should refrain from celebrating in a manner which resembles the disbelievers. Islam is a perfect way of life and it has taught us the occasions in which a person should express his happiness and the manner of celebration. You should also abstain from participating in other people’s birthdays and anniversaries. If the person is a relative, then try to explain to them with wisdom that you are not participating in the party not due to any ill feeling, but for the reason that Islam does not permit it. One should remember that Islam teaches us to keep good ties with our relatives. If your relatives have become upset as a result of you not participating in their anniversary or birthday, then try to reunite this relationship by showing good character and even offering gifts from time to time. If after making efforts to keep good ties they still remain upset with you and they themselves break ties, then you will not be at fault and will not be responsible.


And Allah knows best


Ml. Ehzaz Ajmeri,

Student Darul Iftaa


Checked and Approved by:

Mufti Ebrahim Desai

Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In’aamiyyah

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How can we show happiness upon the years of our lives decreasing?



This subject was being discussed in the house, and my older sister objects to having a birthday party, which I kind of agree with her, but her husband wishes to celebrate the childs first birthday. Please explain why birthdays or other non-religious rituals are harmful or against shariah. By non-religous I mean on thanksgiving day when the whole family is off of work and you can all get together… Jazak Allah Kair Salaam



It is not necessary that everything the West does is according to logic. The biggest proof that it is the invention of the west are the song words without which this function is not complete viz. ‘Happy birthday to you.’ No one says, ‘Happy birthday celebration’ or ‘Happy Blessed birthday’ or any other words of this kind. This disease of celebrating birthdays was never prevalent among Muslims before, but since Muslims started living alongside the non-Muslims, they have been influenced by them.


Birthdays are celebrated usually at the end of a year and not at the beginning of the year. For example, if one’s birth date is on the 1st of January, then the birthday will be celebrated on the 1st of January and not the 2nd of January. Now just ponder, what intelligence is there in celebrating and showing happiness when a year has decreased in one’s life. During a birthday celebration, candles are lit on a cake, amounting to the years of the one’s life. He extinguishes these candles by blowing them out and all present clap their hands. Hands are clapped at two occasions only, one at the time of joy for some achievement of his. Secondly, when someone acts foolishly, then to mock at him. Here a person is extinguishing the rays of the years of his life by blowing them out himself. Then this is no happiness, nor is it any achievement. So the clapping of hands is only for mocking at this person’s stupidity. Ponder that this is a custom and sign of non-believers. When it is someone’s birthday, one year of his life has decreased, and not increased.


This world is a field to work for the hereafter. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu æ#129;layhi Wasallam)’s Ummah has been sent in this world for a very great object. The example of this world is like a king who send a few people into his treasure room saying that shortly he will send them out, so at that time whatever they will be possessing will be their property. Inside the treasure room, on one side there are heaps of gold and silver, on another side are lying pearls and jewels, then at another place in the room, delicious food and soft beds are arranged. Now some people think that the king may send them out any minute. They quickly gather the gold, silver, pearls and gems. They feel they will go out from there and organise the food and beds for themselves afterwards. There is another group of people who think that they have just arrived. They feel, ‘Let us enjoy the food, then lay down to rest. After that we will take from the treasures. There is ample time.’ So they eat, sleep and pass their valuable time without taking from the treasures. Suddenly the king sends everyone out. Now those who had collected the valuables can enjoy their lives eating and sleeping while those that wasted their time and did not accumulate anything will begin to regret.


Every moment of this worldly life is very valuable. Here we have to earn for the long and everlasting life of the hereafter. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu æ#129;layhi Wasallam) has said that after entering into Jannat, the people of Jannat will not be sorry about anything of this world, except for that moment which was spent without the remembrance of Allah. It is apparent that when reward will be granted for remembrance of Allah in this world which is an abode of actions, then one must surely feel very regretful, that if they should have spent more time in the remembrance of Allah, they could be worthy of more rewards.


Hafiz Zain Siqti asked Hafiz Jurjani the reason for swallowing dry flour to which he replied that when he compared the time of swallowing dry flour and chewing roti then, in chewing so much time is spent in which say 70 times Subhanalla can be uttered. Therefore he left eating roti for the last 40 years.


How can it be permissible to waste time by celebrating birthdays and becoming happy that a big slice of one’s life is put behind. This world is a prison for the believer and a Jannat for the disbeliever. Allah has bought the life and wealth of the believers for Jannat. This life is a trust of Allah by us. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu æ#129;layhi Wasallam) said, ‘A person will not be able to move from his place, until he does not reply to five questions:


How did you spend your life?

How did you spend your youth?

Where did you earn your wealth from?

Where did you spend your wealth?

How much did you act upon your knowledge?


A person who is concerned of replying to these questions, how can he show happiness upon the years of his life decreasing? Besides all this, Islam does not permit waste. This is the reason that the poor of this Ummat will enter Jannat 500 years before the wealthy, because the wealthy will be delayed by giving an account of their wealth. By spending on birthday parties, there is no benefit to Islam nor to the poor.


It is stated in a Hadith the worst Walima feast is the one in which the poor and destitute are left out and the wealthy are only invited. Another object of the birthday parties is show. Islam encourages simplicity. By this attitude of show, the poor feel inferior and deprived and the rich have a superiority complex. Also, in these gatherings, music, singing, video filming and the taking of photographs and other un-Islamic and forbidden acts take place. May Allah Taãla guide us and protect us from all these evils.


By Moulana Abdul Hamid Ishaq

Principal – Madrasah Arabia Islamia, Azaadville

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Concept of Marriage Anniversary and Happy Birthday in Islam

Asslam u alaikum Mufti Sahab I want to calarify that. what is concept of Marriage Anniversary and Happy Birthday in Islam, we can celebrate these occassion, whehter sahriya can give any permissions to celebrates these occassions if yes then what is the limitation. please calarify me awaiting for your valuable suggestion Moahammed Imtiaz Ali



In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu `alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.


The celebration of wedding anniversaries and birthdays is the way of disbelievers.

Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Salam) stated one who imitates a nation is from them.[1]

Almighty Allah commands us in His Quran to obey His Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Salam).[2]


Attached is a detailed article prepared by Mawlana  Abdul Hannan Nizami, a fellow student of the Darul Iftaa.

And Allah knows best.
Mawlana Saeed Ahmed Golaub
Westmoreland, Jamaica, West Indies
Student Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved
Mufti Ebrahim Desai

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.


There are major differences between the thinking of muslims and the non-muslims. The life of a non-muslim is confined to the pleasures and the luxuries of this world. A non-muslim is not concerned regarding the hearafter. Enjoyment, celebration etc. are the absolute objectives of their lives. The true purpose of their life has been forfeited. There remains nothing for the non-muslims in the hearafter.


Contrary to that, while we as muslims mark happy occasions, that is not the end of it. Our greatest concern is the hearafter. True happiness and pleasure can only be achieved in the hearafter.


When one completes a year of his life, that is a great bounty of Allah. It is a moment of happiness. For that, one should thank Allah and ask Allah for a long life span and barakah (blessings) in his life. This is how we should celebrate our birthdays. The happiness during ones birthday should not be expressed like the customary birthday celebrations in which there is only entertainment and merry. The prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam has mentioned in a Hadith:


مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ) سنن أبي داود (4/ 44)

“Whosoever emulates a nation is amongst them.” (Sunan Abi Dawud 4/44)



Let us examine the origin of birthdays:


Development of Calendars

Early people had no way of keeping track and marking time except by the moon, sun or by some important event. Little attention was paid to the anniversary of a person's birth. Everyone realized, of course, that people grew older as time passed; but they didn't mark any special milestone for it. Only when ancient people began taking notice of the moon's cycles, did they pay attention to the changing seasons and the pattern that repeated itself over and over and so they began to mark and note time changes. That's the beginning of birthday in history. Eventually, the first calendars were formulated in order to mark time changes and other special days. From this tracking system, came the ability to celebrate birthdays and other significant anniversaries the same day each year.


Birthday History

History of Birthday observance can be traced back before the rise of Christianity. Birthday celebrations began as a form of protection. In pagan culture, it was believed that evil spirits visited people on their birthdays. To protect the person from the evil effects, friends and family members used to surround him and make merry. Giving gifts brought even more good cheer to ward off the evil spirits. A lot of noise used to be created in such parties to scare away the evil spirits. In those times, there was no tradition of bringing gifts and the guests who attended the birthday parties would bring good wishes for the birthday person. However, if a guest did bring gifts, it was considered to be a good sign. Later, flowers became quite popular as a Birthday gift.

Popular Birthday Celebrations in History
  • Best known birthday in the history is that of Jesus Christ. For nearly 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Christians have been honoring the day as Christmas.
  • About 4,000 years ago King Pharaoh used to celebrate his birthday by giving a feast to his court followers.

  • King Herod is said to have celebrated his birthday by treating lords, high captains and special friends with a special supper party in Galiliee.


Common people and especially children never celebrated their birth when the idea came about. This trend has been explained by a theory that noble ones were the only people wealthy enough to throw such celebrations, and quite possibly were the only ones thought to be important enough to have been written about or remembered. Some historians believe that these early birthday bashes resulted in the custom of wearing birthday "crowns" as time went on.


History of Popular Birthday Traditions and Symbols

Many of the popular Birthday traditions and symbols that we see today, originated hundreds of years ago. Some believe that the tradition of “Birthday Cake” was started by early Greeks who used to take a round or a moon shaped cake to the temple of Artemis (the Goddess of Moon). Others believe that the custom of Birthday cake initiated in Germany where people used to make bread in the shape of baby Jesus’s swaddling cloth.


The popular custom of lighting candles on cakes is said to have originated from the Greeks since they used to light candles on the cake taken to Artemis to make it glow like a moon. Some believe that the custom originated from a religious belief that the gods lived in the sky and the lighted candles helped in sending signals or prayers to the god. Germans are said to have placed a big candle in the center of the cake to symbolize ‘the light of life’. Even today people make silent wishes as they blow out candles. It is believed that blowing out all candles in one breath brings good luck.


More in birthday history: The song "Happy Birthday to You" was composed by two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill, in 1893, but nobody really paid much attention to it until the original words "Good Morning to You" were changed to "Happy Birthday to You", words that are sung in virtually every home across the world at least once a the year.[ii]


As muslims, we should endeavor to follow the lunar calendar as two tenets of Islam are based on the lunar calendar. Ramadan falls on the 9th month of the lunar calendar. Haj is performed in Zil-Hijjah which is the 12th month of the lunar calendar. Eid-ul-Fitr falls in Shawaal, the beginning of the 10th month of the lunar calendar. The calculation of Zakāt in 1 year will be calculated according to the lunar calendar and not the solar 1 year. The determination of a person’s age is according to the lunar calendar. When a child reaches the age of 15 years, according to the lunar calendar, he will be considered bāligh (mature) and obliged to adhere to the laws of Shari’āh. This is approximately 6 months earlier than the solar calendar since the lunar calendar is about 10-11 days shorter than the solar calendar.


And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best


Mawlana Abdul Hannan Nizami,

Student Darul Iftaa



Checked and Approved by,

Mufti Ebrahim Desai.


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عن ابن عمر قال قال رسول الله -صلى الله عليه وسلم من تشبه بقوم فهو منهم 

سنن أبي داود 2/55


Rasoolullah sallallaahu 'alayhi wasallam said,


"The one who emulates a people will be counted from amongst them" (in the court of Allah Ta’aala)

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Celebrating birthdays on an alternate day


 Q. Is there any difference in celebrating a Birthday on any other day besides the actual day of a birthday in Islam? A part of my father’s side of the family do not fully practice Islam but my father is a fully practicing Muslim. My father’s side of the family celebrated a Birthday on the actual day of the Birthday but my father did not attend due to intermingling, cutting of a cake, blowing of candles etc. A few days later, my father’s side of the family arranged another birthday celebration (with all of the above) for those who did not attend on the actual day of the birthday celebration. My father’s side of the family is saying that it is okay to celebrate a Birthday on any other day besides the actual day of the Birthday. What is the Sharia ruling in this case?
(Question published as received)
A. There is no difference between celebrating a birthday on the actual day or on a different day.
The issue of celebrating a birthday is not solely based on the fact of celebrating on the actual day, rather it is based on emulating the ways and actions of the disbelievers. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam said, “He who imitates a group of people is one of them.” (Abu Dawood)
In the enquired situation, it is evident that the event arranged on an alternate day emulated the actions of the disbelievers which were contrary to Islam. Therefore, it will not be permissible to celebrate or be part of such an event irrespective if it is celebrated on the actual birthday or an alternate day.
And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best
Mufti Ismaeel Bassa
Mufti Ebrahim Desai
(Islamic rulings on this Q&A newsletter are answered in accordance to the Hanafi Fiqh) 

Fatwa Department

Jamiatul Ulama (KZN) 

Council of Muslim Theologians

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