Community Domestic Affairs FAQs & Fatwas Hot Topics

Can We Celebrate Independence Day?

Answered by Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah |

The Question:

Is it allowable to celebrate a holiday that commemorates the independence of my country?

The Answer:

A holiday [that commemorates] the independence of a country is not a [religious] holiday. The holidays which are forbidden [for Muslims] to observe are those with religious overtones, such as Christmas and Easter1, not the festive gatherings people observe due to certain events. Therefore, people are allowed to celebrate wedding anniversaries, birthdays or any occasion as such celebrations are not related to religious holidays. It is imperative that we work to remove the confusion surrounding this misunderstanding and the doubts that have affected many people [regarding this issue]. [Because of this misunderstanding] people find hardship and difficulty in their religion. Especially when a religious minded person holds [such non religious celebrations] to be from the major sins or rejected acts when, in fact, they are not.

Understanding an Important legal maxim: The origin of things is permissibility unless there is a text to the contrary

The origin of things is permissibility so there is no problem with you attending such an event. The school of Ahmed [Hanabliah] allowed the celebration of al-’Atirah which was a sacrifice, during the month of Rajab, observed by the people who lived prior to the advent of the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him]. Although the school of Imam Malik [Malikis] considered it disliked, since it was a practice from those days, the school of Ahmed allowed this practice since there was no text [from the Qur’an, Sunna or Consensus] that explicitly forbade it. Thus, this practice remained upon its original ruling, permissibility [here the sheikh is showing us how the scholars utilized the legal maxim mentioned above]. So, if people gather together to sacrifice there is no objection for them to congregate, celebrate, enjoy themselves and commemorate the independence of their country. Therefore, there is no hardship in celebrating such occurrences.

With regards to the statement [of the Prophet may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] that “Allah [The Exalted] has given you better than those (feasts): Eid al-Adha (Sacrificing) and the ‘Eid al-Fitr”, then “those feasts” were those with strict religious over tones: one a Christian holiday and the other a pagan one. In addition, the Prophet [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] mentioned that the Islamic holidays were two: ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha. But it is not understood from this that he [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] forbade people from gathering and celebrating [other non-religious occasions]. Even if a person considered [such gatherings] disliked there is no need for him to bother others by making things difficult that were not prohibited by the Qur’an, the Sunna, the consensus [of the scholars] and where no agreement was reached within the schools of Islamic law.

This is because ease in matters [such as these where there is no prohibition and the origin is that of permissibility] is a must, and those statements that create hardship and burden [related to such matters], that are not based on explicit texts [that prohibit them], are weak. Thus, there is nothing that prohibits us from facilitating such matters for the people and giving them some breathing room because ease and facilitation are from the foundations of Islam: Allah says, “And He did not make any hardship for you in religion.” [Surah al-Hajj 78] and “Allah wants to lighten your burdens.” [Surah al-Nisa V. 28] and “Verily, with hardship there is ease. Verily with hardship there is ease.” [Surah al-Sharh V. 5-6]. The Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said, “Facilitate [things] and do not make things difficult. Give glad tidings, and do not cause others to flee.” In closing, we reiterate that the foundation of Islam is ease and the independent interpretation of the legal sources [ijtihad of scholars] is respected but is not [equal to] texts from the Shari’ah [Qur’an and Sunna].”

  1. According to the Maliki school it is disliked to offer congratulations to other faiths during their religious holidays. Thus, it is a permissible act. See Sharh al-Saghir of Sidi Ahmed al-Dardir and Fiqh al-Malikiyyah wa Adilatuhu by Habib Tahir.

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  • Asalamu Alakum

    This is excellent, Sidi Suhaib Masha’Allah please keep carry on trnslating on articles like this. If the important issues facing Muslims in the west are presented formally by moderate Ulamah-then Insha’Allah we can hope in the West.

    May I suggest you perhaps produce formal leaflets or even produce regular journals (such as one similar to Zaytuna) presenting balanced fatwas of important issues…

    Honestly with some of the articles read–the minimum my colleagues have adapted at least, is respect for their fellow Muslim.

    I hope Allah blesses you even more and helps you in your studies


  • Assalamu alaykum

    Wonderful piece!

    I have a follow-up question: what about the celebration of ‘religious’ holidays that are observed in a non-religious way? For example, what about sharing Christmas with non-Muslim family where the festival has no religious content (consisting of swapping presents and eating a halal turkey, but no religious ritual whatsoever)?

    Thanks and salams.

  • assalamu alaikum Imam Suhaib,

    I hope all is well with you.

    This is an amazing fatwa, and Im always in awe how shaykh Bin Bayyah reaches conclusions in such a precise and logical manner. jzak Allahu khair for the translation.

  • JAK Imam Suhaib. It is a fatwa that would be hard for many to swollow in the West but is necessary and timely as it gives festivals and celebrations some sort of context and puts things in perspective for us.

  • As-salaamu ‘alaikum

    One thing I would like to know is why the Shaykh does not deem birthdays to be steeped in religion. Since the celebration of birthdays is of pagan origin and the ancient Egyptians used to celebrate the “birth” of their “gods”, I also thought that this is where the zodiac signs originated from. If this is the case and paganism being a religion then “birthdays” surely have a religious connotation attached to them, right?! In addition, is there any record of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), his family or his companions every celebrating their birthdays or each others birthdays?

    And Allaah knows best!

  • Assalamu Alaikum :

    How about celebrating birthdays and their alikes to be prohibited from a ” Imitating the non- Muslims” prospective, not from ” religious holiday” prospective?
    We never heared that Muslims of early generations celebrated their birthdays; rather it's a western custome that Muslims acquired from non-Muslims.
    So, is it lawful or not ( again from ” Imitating the non- Muslims” point of view) ? JAK

  • As-Salamu alaikum br. Mohamad Hafez,

    According to Al-Allaamah Salman al-Oudah, If you are living in a Muslim country it would be makrooh to imitate/import the general customs
    and dress of non-Muslims that are not familiar to the Muslim country. The hadith of imitation is generally held as the article presents as in
    imitating religious aspects of non-Muslim culture, dress, and practices.

    On the other hand, if you are a citizen in a non-Muslim country, to take part in local customs that don't SPECIFICALLY contradict our DECISCIVE
    texts is blameless and under the category of Mubaah (permissible). From a Da'wa perspective it would be better as you would show that Islam and
    being Muslim is not foreign but compatible with their country thus easier to become Muslim.

    Culture which is acceptable from non-Muslims are customs that do not intend worshipping or a representation of religion.

    Happy Independence Day to all American Brothers and Sisters!
    The reason you here so many scholars disagree with this is that they are living or reading opinions in a context where Islam is the ruling authority
    and it must preserve its dignity as the dominant ideology and people . Now that doesn't mean you are compromising at all. It just means that according to place and
    circumstances the wisdom of Shari'ah is to deal with things in a proper realistic manner. We must leave this utopian idealistic dominant
    representation of ourselves as it plays into the facist claim of our detractors. Lets keep religion as relgion and culture as culture. Allah has said
    “And whoever was given wisdom then they have been given an abundant source of goodness”

    And Allah knows best.

  • It is important that we follow and rely on the texts of our sources being the Quran and Sunnah and not try to reinterpret them to meet our desires. There is a reason why the sahaba did not participate in any annual celebration because of the hadith which was actually stated.

    We have somehow entered an age when we are accepting people giving fatawa which go against texts from the Quran and Sunnah and we are so eager to follow them. We need to keep in mind the akhera and stay away from anti-Islamic practices.

  • sub7anALLAH maybe sheikh abdulah bayyah is forgetting something important called immitaing the KUFFAR.

  • Mohammad and Abu Abdullah,

    It seems as though you are walking on the thin ice of religious arrogance. What I mean is that your understanding of Islam according to
    the scholars INTERPRETATIONS you feel comfortable with are right and that the great scholar Sh. Abdullah bin Bayyah is wrong all cause you
    don't agree with his ijtihad. You see the Sahabah also disagreed in Ijtihad, but they would have never have used the language you have used against
    each other, especially since we agree that the shaikh is more knowlegable than you. This is a man who has lived a life (maybe two lives for you) of
    seeking knowledge and is well respected by His peers (of which you are light years below). Read this (if you can) and humble yourself-

  • Br. Mohamed,

    Birthday's are something new, but so are graduations and even parties for completeing Qur'an memorization. Yes i do understand that a birthday happens every year, but here is the gauge;

    1- Are you worshipping Allah by having a birthday celebration

    2- Is that already a part of your country's culture.

    If the answer to #1 is yes then it is haram. If the answer to #2 is no then it is Makrooh. If the answer to 1 is no and two yes then it is up to you (Mubah).

    Personally, I am American and my kids are too so we have a get together with a cake, candles, and presents, but NO wish or Du'a at the blowing out of the candle. That's how I do it. You can do whatever you like.

    And Allah knows best. Not necessarily me, my shaikhs or yours

  • If you feel that Islam is generally (even non-religious issues) against the culture fo non-Muslim countries, then I suggest you make Hijrah to a place where
    you and your family can be comfortable as Muslims. If you remain in the west thinking you are making Da'wa then you are in dire need of a
    reality check and some wisdom

  • Ustadh Abu Majeed, I have a question for you:

    What about celebrating birthdays in a place like Pakistan? Maybe a couple decades ago–when this practice was not common in Pakistan–it would be imitating the kufaar…with only the elite wannabe Pakistanis trying to imitate the West. But nowadays this is no more the case, since the Western practice of birthdays has become widespread in Pakistan, such that it is not only the wannabes who practice it. So does the initial ruling of makrouh-ness change now that it has become widespread and is no longer imitating the kufaar, even though initially it only became widespread in Pakistan BECAUSE of people imitating the west.

    Sorry if this is a confusing question. Jazakh-Allah khair.

  • MashaAllah, bro. You always have interesing and relevant questions and posts on all the forums you post. Keep it up!

  • as-Salamu alaikum J,

    I would say culture is something that is seen as outside of religion, so it really shouldn't be such a big deal. The issue at hand is the percieved weakness of following even the the non-religious cultural practices of non-Muslims. I would say to be true to the understanding of many of our scholars to the hadith which heavily frowns upon imitating non-Muslims that we should look at the general perception of practicing Muslims and their scholars. If celebrating birthday's is still considered as foreign then it should be avoided. If the Muslims come to accept this as their own then it would not be a problem. There will always be those who make this into a big deal and say 200 years after it became a common practice amongst Muslims that this is Kufr and it came from the Kuffar. This rigidity is what is plauging this Ummah in many ways. The fact is, as Islamists we have many other issues of major priority which actually have to do with protecting our Aqeedah and the future of our identity as Muslims in the west as well as in our own lands. When we become a dominant group in the world again then we can realistically entertain the possibility of seeing things in the way many of our scholars wrote them since that was the reality in which they wrote them. I ask all those who disagree, “Is our Ummah in a position to claim such domination or are we as the Muslims were in Makkah where we need to focus on the foundations of Aqeedah”

  • Shouldn't we stay away from immitating the kuffar?

    At-Tirmidhi narrated that Ibn Abbas رضي الله عنه reported that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم said: “He is not one of us who imitates other than us. Do not imitate the Jews or the Christians.”

  • Jazakh-Allah khair, Ustadh Abu Majeed.

    Very nice answer. I appreciate it.

    Do you have a personal website or blog? I'd like to follow your writings, insha-Allah.

    Fi Aman Allah,

    EDIT: Bro Qas, thank you for your kind words, although I think I do not deserve them at all!

  • There is only ONE way to get to the bottom of any fiqh question, and that is “ask the people of knowledge if you do not know”. In reality, this birthday question, and indeed all fiqh issues, can only be solved if each of us refers it back to our own authority (which is either 1 of the four schools, or a person of knowledge any individual trusts and therefore follows (and it's following whether you call it that or not, you know “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet)).
    Dr. Bin Bayyah, as a Maliki, should be giving us his school's opinion and then that opinion applies to the Malikis.
    There is a footnote at the bottom of the article that says that according to the Malikis congratulating non-Muslims on their holidays is makruh therefore mubah??? Is there some logical contradiction here?
    Anyway, even if it is only makruh, persisting in a makruh affects one's piety. So yeah, you're not doing haram, but you're not exactly elevating your status before Allah either through these celebrations.
    Why not celebrate your birthday the way the scholars recommend the Prophet's birthday is celebrated: in worship of Allah. Fast that day the way the Prophet fasted on his birthday. But why does it have to be a party with a cake, candles and a birthday song?

  • I think he should make hijrah, too because hijra is the right thing to do. Sorry didn't mean to rhyme there. But bro, it sounds to me like you're saying, “if you don't like it here, you can go back home”. I hope that's not what you meant.

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