Today is my birthday but I am not celebrating, I don’t celebrate birthdays and ever since I was born, my birthday has never been celebrated. I do not know why I was singled out for this treatment by my parents as my other siblings’ birthdays were celebrated and they had their framed birthday pictures grazing our living room as a proof, but I had none. All of them had their pictures taken standing alone with a birthday cake in front of them holding on a cake-knife in a pose. But in my own childhood picture I was just standing alone by myself, no cake! And where there was a cake, I was standing next to someone else whose birthday it was, definitely not mine and that picture does not belong to us either.
Not that I am bitter about it, it’s just that when I think about it, it feels like my parents did not celebrate my birthday knowing that I may not thank them for it as an adult or it’s just something that Allah (swt) wills to happen naturally as I will grow up knowing that it is not recommended in our deen and so I would be glad that my parents never celebrated my birthday as a child. The most plausible explanation to this is that I did not grow up with my parents, I was sent away to my grandma as a baby, and hence it wasn’t something that could have been easily done when I was miles away from them. The birthday picture I was in could have been taken because I was around when that birthday took place. (We don’t hang pictures any more since it’s haram.)
As I grow up into my teens, I knew of people celebrating birthdays but I never attended one, a vivid memory I have of a birthday celebration I could have attended was that of a child, not really sure how old but I refused to go because I couldn’t see myself sing-songing birthday with children. I was about 13 then and I was duly punished by my guardian for refusing to go. Another time, it was my birthday, for some reasons my mum bought sweets to give my classmates on my birthday, I saw no sense in this and I found it embarrassing too, so I ate all the sweets by myself !
I have no problem with birthdays generally but my natural inclination has never favoured being a party to birthday celebrations for myself or others. I believe there is nothing wrong in those people who wish to celebrate/mark their birthdays as long as it does not involve haram or copying the ways of the non-Muslim. Birthdays, could be a day of Ibadah and nearness to Allah, reflecting on ones life and achievements, what has gone right or wrong, how to set right the wrongs and improve on the rights. Most importantly, the older we get the nearer we are moving to our graves, what are we doing in preparation for that day, 6 feet under with nothing but our deeds. Everything we work and slave for in this life will be left behind, family and friends will not enter the grave with us, we will be alone in there. Is it worth it spending my life on what I am currently doing, will it come to my avail in the grave? At least, am I doing something that will help me in that lonely place? These are just some of the things a clever person with the fear of Allah (swt) might want to reflect upon on their birthday, if they have the urge to celebrate.
Since I don’t celebrate birthdays, what do I do on my birthdays? In the past I used to fast and pray on breaking my fast. But in recent years, I always forget my birthday, even if I remember a week before, on the actual day; I forget it and I ended up not doing anything about it. For me, it’s just another day like every other day, it’s nothing special and I don’t sweat over forgetting it because I don’t celebrate it and there are many other days in which I can fast and get a lot of reward for doing so and making dua is a daily occurrence.
I follow the opinion that celebrating birthday is not recommended and most of the people I regarded as friends follow the same opinion but recently I have observed certain Muslims celebrating birthdays, what I noticed from those people who choose to celebrate birthdays are that they actually put more effort in celebrating their birthdays or that of their children than they do the two Eids, which are the only two celebrations sanctioned in our deen. A scenario in case is, some families do an elaborate birthday celebration, cooking grand meals, cakes, decorations and all, inviting people over to celebrate with them, and they will repeat this event over again in a few weeks, since birthdays are close. This has to be so because each child must have their special day but when it comes to the Eids, it’s like a funeral, Subhanallah! I find this laughable.
There is a very good friend of mine, I witnessed the birth of her children and ma sha Allah, I love them as if they are mine but when it’s their birthday, she never tells me because she knows I don’t celebrate birthdays and she has to celebrate their birthdays because they attend birthday celebrations of other children. I don’t know why we have to follow them even into the hole of a Lizard?! I believe the children can be made to understand and they will not ask for it because it is not from our deen, we have our own celebrations and we make it grand and elaborate twice a year so the children look forward to this instead of some birthday. Alhamdulillah, recently my friend told me they are now practicing the deen properly and I hope it includes fixing this one too.
All in all, birthdays should be a day of nearness to Allah and reflection on our life and what we have put forward for the hereafter. For those who want to celebrate, the older we become the nearer we are to that dark lonely place, 6 feet under called “the grave”. What have you prepared for it is the question, if you were to kick the bucket tomorrow, do you think you will make it..?