I have found fragments of evidence that suggest my parents did celebrate our birthdays with small family gatherings and home made cakes.
However, as we grew older and my parents became more interested in Islam, the notion that birthdays were not a celebration from Islam were embedded into us and we were deprived of further celebratory gatherings and more importantly cake!
Not that we minded much, but at times it did pinch a little especially in my teen years when friends would talk about gifts received or birthday treat outings.
However, as I got older and became more interested in Islam I began to appreciate that birthdays were far from celebratory events. If anything, for me personally, they became and still are dates of regret, where I ponder and question myself, another year past, another 365 days gone, what have I achieved? How often did I please my Creator in those 8760 hours?
And the day passing usually becomes a reminder of my death date approaching nearer and my life getting shorter.
I know… so depressing, right? But so morbidly truthful.
People who do celebrate and go all out may argue that its quite the opposite, a day of reflection on how much has been achieved.
Nope. Not convinced at all.
However, since my children have become a little older and understand the concept of birthdays, I didnt want to deprive them completely.
We still do not celebrate but we always make a point of making a really BIG deal on the two Eid celebrations of Eid-Ul-Adha and Eid-Ul-Fitr.
Another idea I had about a year ago was the idea of marking their birthday dates with a fundraising project.
Seeing as none of us could get away with being reminded its our birthday via family, friends and society, I thought why deny it? Why pretend it doesn’t exist?
“Ok so yes your birthday is coming up…so lets do something special for someone else…”.
After all, as muslim, we should appreciate and be grateful for all Allah swt had blessed us with and given us, why not give something back? As we know, for muslims, charity is a huge part of our faith.
“Believe in Allaah and His Messenger (Muhammad), and spend of that whereof He has made you trustees. And such of you as believe and spend (in Allaah’s way), theirs will be a great reward”
I also think I was being a little selfish when I thought up this idea, I hope that inshaAllah my children will use these times of the year to do something (big or small) for charity as a habit which inshaAllah will become a sadaqah jariyah, a continued charity for us, their parents even after we have left this life.
Don’t get me wrong, I mean I wouldn’t stop my children from partaking in other peoples birthday gatherings (that would be just cruel) and I have nothing personal against anyone who does celebrate but I really believe that by explaining our beliefs to our children and then finding a more meaningful alternative will really enrich their lives inshaAllah. And that they will attain Allah swt’s pleasure and reward for themselves and inshaAllah for us their parents!
If you are interested in doing a charity project with your children (either as an alternative to birthdays or just because…) then here are some ideas to get you started inshaAllah:
1. Bake some goodies together and gift them to your neighbours (muslim and non-muslim). Not only is this a charity in terms of kindness but it will increase love and understanding within the community. Or have a mini bake sale and donate money to charity.
2. Get the children to ask family and friends to donate money for a local charity or food shelter, then take the children shopping and get them to donate that food. When children experience hands on the collection, buying and donating of food and groceries, they will appreciate the cost of things and also come to understand that poverty is not restricted to “other poorer countries”. SubhanAllah so many people are living below the poverty line in our own cities, we should do what we can to help them too.
3. Create a online charity fundraising page via one of the many online charity pages such as btmydonate, justgiving or crowdfunding. And get the children to collect funds or encourage people to donate directly online.
4. Go litter picking with the children and encourage family and friends to help too(wearing appropriate and protective clothing ofcourse). Not only is this a charitable act but its also great for the environment and also a great form of dawah too!
5. Discuss and agree an activity with your child/children that they would like to do, it could be educational such as memorise a dua, surah or prayer, or a challenge such as a 24 hour silence or even something fun such as dress up as something and do a mile walk. Then encourage family and friends to sponsor them and then donate.
6. Get your children to ask friends and family to donate money and buy toys and gifts, make home made get well cards or cards with comforting messages and get them to gift them to a local hospital, hospice or care home.
7. Make a “sadaqah/charity” box and encourage your children to save money the whole year round, and donate to a particular charity or buy needed items for someone in need and gift it to them.
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah said: ‘Spend, O son(people) of Adam, and I shall spend on you.’”
Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5073; Muslim, 993.
I hope these ideas help and if you look online you are bound to find many more! Just remember no effort is too small, you will be teaching your children the invaluable lesson of being generous and selfless, your bond with your children will strengthen by doing something as a family project and they will learn life lessons that will continue to benefit them, you and future generations inshaAllah.
May Allah swt enable us to love, nurture and teach our children in a way that is best for them and us and in a way that benefits us all in this life and the Hereafter.