I heard a clip of Yasir Qadhi saying that celebrating birthdays is not doing tashabbuh with kuffar because even though at one point it was a pagan practice but no longer is and no one sees it as one, hence its no longer tshabbuh of the kuffar. One of his arguments was that if you want to classify that as tashabbuh then why dont you classify the usage of days of the week as tashabbuh too, we know for a fact they’re from a pagan origin.
I have no doubt that birthdays should not be celeberated and my question is not if they should be or not, but can you please clarify why there’s nothing wrong using the days of the week and why don’t we apply the same principle as tashabbuh in this case. One can argue that they were also at one point in time to venerate their gods.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
Your question is based on the premise of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s reverse analogy of the names of the days on celebrating birthdays. He asserts that if celebrating birthdays is emulating disbelievers, hence prohibited, so too should be the use of the days of the week be prohibited as it has its origin in Pagan practice. Since we do not prohibit the use of the names of the days, celebrating birthdays should also not be prohibited.
We agree with Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s reverse conclusion on the reverse analogy that the use of the names of the days is not prohibited. However, that is not due to it being emulating disbelievers due to its origin. The prohibition of emulating disbelievers in any practice is if that practice is in vogue by non-Muslims and has a distinct relation with their religion and practices.[i] The names of the days of the week are not regarded as a distinct feature of non-muslims and no one understands them as such. Accordingly, the names of the days of the week is not emulating the disbelievers.
Celebrating birthdays is a distinct feature of the life of disbelievers. Most of them attach unwarranted importance to it. They often go beyond bounds in order to make this day special. Generally, many will consider a birthday to be incomplete without the presence of lavishly decorated cakes, candles representing one’s age, singing of songs, blowing out candles making wishes etc.
Islamically, we are not averse to acknowledging our days of birth. However, celebrating as explained above is indeed emulating the ways of the disbelievers.
Furthermore, as Muslims, our focus is on the Akhirah (hereafter). When one completes another year of his life, it is a moment to ponder and reflect on the past. It is a time to repent and make a determination to increase in worship in order to get closer to Allah in the future. On the contrary, birthday celebrations today go against a Muslims overall outlook on life and death and contradicts the way of Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam and the pious predecessors who are the standard that we aim to emulate.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Hammad Ibn Ismail Jogiat
Student Darul Iftaa
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.
[i] The Principles and Code of Law in Hanafi Fiqh – Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi Pg.145
The Principles and Code of Law in Hanafi Fiqh – Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi Pg.149