I would like to know if celebrating birthdays (your own or your child?s birthday) is bid`ah [an invention in religion] or wrong in Islam? Are there any references that you can point me to?
Celebrating birthdays is a matter about which the Shari`ah is silent which means that there is nothing in the Quran,Sunnah or Hadith about it. A Bid`ah,on the other hand is a new act [which also implies a modification, in any way, of an existing act], which is introduced in religion or is, in some way given a religious significance without the authority and the substantiation of the Qur’an or the Sunnah. For example, if we say that celebrating a birthday is a religious and spiritual deed and shall be rewarded in the hereafter, it shall then become an introduction of a new issue in religion and shall thus become a bid`ah. Thus, celebrating birthdays would be termed as “bid`ah” only when their celebration is considered a religious event. In view of this explanation, one can easily say that celebrating such birthdays or (death) anniversaries, which are given a religion significance, would definitely fall under the category of Bid`ah.
We are aware of the fact that, generally, celebrating birthdays is not given any religious significance, and therefore they cannot fall under the category of bid`ah. Celebrating birthdays is actually a western tradition and it is up to the individual to decide about it. The Shari`ah has nothing to say about it. However, as is the case of all kinds of celebrations and social gatherings, these gatherings should also not be pompous in nature and should also not entail any disregard to any other directive of the Shari`ah.
May Allah guide us all towards the right path and may we always be mindful of Allah’s guidance both in Joy and grief.