Birthday Question from a sincere Non-Muslim

Published: 2005-02-23
We have a colleague at the office who will shortly be 60 years old.  We want
to celebrate this by buying him a birthday cake.  Is this acceptable to a
Suni Muslim or would we be better buying something else, as we don't wish to
cause offence.

Any advice you can give will be gratefully received.
Views: 4,186,515
Updated: 2005-02-23
Thank you for writing to the Foodguide Institute. We were very delighted by your concern for a Muslim and taking the time to clarify this issue.  Such a concern is certainly conducive of an understanding and cohesive society. 
We will endeavour to answer your query in the light of the Teachings of Islam.
According to the predominant view of the Muslim Scholars contemporary or otherwise, birthdays are not celebrated.  The reason being, birthdays are indicative of one's life decreasing by one year pushing one  closer to one's death.  Muslims certainly do not hold a morbid fascination in death per se, but rather a reminder that the year which has passed will never come back and person will have to give account for this year and indeed every second of one's life in front of God.  So that passing away of each second and minute should make the devout Muslim remember and make preparation for the Hereafter rather than celebrating its decrease.  A praiseworthy distinction of a devout Muslim is that they remember that this life is short and to "make provisions" of the abode where one must abide for eternity.    
That said, a person may think of one's birthdays as one more year which God had bestowed on them and so may demonstrate his gratefulness to God for this favour and blessing of time.  This is also the view of a famous Muslim Scholar Shaykh Mufti Abdur-Raheem concerning Birthdays viz:   "If one thanks Allah and shows gratitude for being blessed with one more year of his life, thus expresses happiness and joy, then there is nothing wrong with that. (See: al-Fatawa al-Rahimiyya (urdu), 6/320). "
In conclusion, we would advise that the celebrating itself is not necessary though if your colleagues feel very firmly about it then you may buy an appropriate gift if you so wish.  However we would say that a Birthday cake would be inappropriate for a Muslim. 
Perhaps he would be appreciative if you had troubled themselves slightly to find out when our celebrations were like:  Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha and sent a card or gift on those days instead.  
We hope that this answers your query and thank you for affording us such an opportunity.  We wish you all the best.  If you have any more queries please do relay them.
Kind regards,
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