JEDDAH: Celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries has no base in Islam, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Alsheikh has said.
The mufti made the comments while answering a question from Al-Madinah newspaper after prominent Qassim-based scholar Salman Al-Oadah issued a fatwa saying that celebrating such occasions was not against the rules of Shariah.
“Such a call is against righteousness. A Muslim should thank Almighty Allah if his children are healthy and if his married life is stable as the years pass by. He should say: Alhamdu Lillah for His generosity and kindness,” said Al-Alsheikh, who is also the chairman of the Council of Senior Scholars and the head of the Presidency for Scientific Research and Religious Edicts (Dar Al-Ifta).
Speaking on satellite television last week, Al-Oadah, who is the general supervisor of the Islamtoday.com website, created controversy after ruling that there is nothing un-Islamic in celebrating wedding anniversaries and birthdays.
“It is normal for a son or daughter to celebrate birthdays. They can invite their friends for a meal on this occasion. I see nothing wrong in this,” he said.
Al-Alsheikh, who is the highest religious authority in the Kingdom, said Muslims only have two official celebrations — Eid Al-Fitr, which is celebrated at the end of Ramadan, and Eid Al-Adha, which is celebrated on Dhul Hijjah 10. He added that Muslims also have a weekly Eid, which is Friday.
The mufti said that the celebration of other occasions such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries and mother’s day were un-Islamic.
Several prominent Muslim scholars have supported the mufti, adding that celebrating such occasions is in imitation of people of the Jewish and Christian faiths.
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manie, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said Al-Oadah had made “a slip of the tongue” and urged him to retract what he had said. “Although he is a very learned scholar, Sheikh Al-Oadah has made a mistake here,” he said.
Al-Manie said Muslims have their own identity, which distinguishes them from the followers of other religions. “When we celebrate birthdays and wedding anniversaries, we are imitating other religions — something that our Prophet (peace be upon him) warned us against,” he added.
Al-Manie stressed that celebrations should be undertaken within a religious context. “Otherwise we will be falling in the trap of imitating others, something that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) warned us against,” he said.
Saud Al-Finaisan, the former dean of the Shariah College at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University, said celebrating wedding anniversaries and birthdays was not permissible in Islam, as they are considered to be in imitation of non-Muslim practices.
Saleh bin Muqbil Al-Osaimi, member of the Saudi Fiqh Society, said the reason behind the prohibition of such occasions is not that these occasions are irreligious, but that they are the distinct customs of the followers of other faiths. “We are prevented by Islam to liken ourselves to the nonbelievers,” he said.
He, however, did not denounce graduation celebrations where graduates may come together and celebrate, but said making this a yearly habit is strictly non-Islamic. “Singling out a certain day for celebration of such occasions every year is totally against Islam,” he said.