Q: Many people view birthday celebrations as not a Bidah (innovation). I see it as an innovation due to the fact that Allah has not ordained it in the Quraan, nor has the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) ever advised us to celebrate it and make a festivity of the day. As there is no difference between "good" and "bad" bidah. I would like to know what your view is.
A: Birthdays will not be termed bid’ah, for bid’ah is an innovation in a religious matter. People who celebrate birthdays don’t do so for any religious reason, nor do they consider it an act of devotion. However, we will call this an un-Islamic custom because of its pagan origins (as this article proves). It, therefore, becomes unlawful.
As regards the two types of bid’ah, it should be noted that ulema have made a distinction between good and bad bid’ah based on the statement of Hazrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) who termed the 20-rakat taraweeh salaah as a “good” bid’ah. Generally every bid’ah is evil and the bid’ah that is referred to as ‘good’ is in reality not a bid’ah but an act that was introduced for the benefit of Deen. The definition of bid’ah as something not mentioned in Quran and Sunnah is not a complete definition of the term. There are numerous aspects of Deen that we do nowadays that are not found in Quran and Sunnah, such as the modern designs of mosques, erection of minarets, establishment of Islamic institutes with boarding facilities; using internet and email to propagate The Deen, printing Qurans and Islamic books through current methods, etc. These are all acts related to Deen, but are there for the benefit of Deen. So we need to make a distinction between things that are innovative but are needed to sustain our Deen, and those things that are unnecessary and evil bid’ah.
The proper definition of bid’ah is: The introduction of any such act or statement into Deen which is not found in Quran or Sunnah, nor in the lives of the Sahaaba, in spite of the need for it in those times. Ponder over this definition and you will notice everything falls into perspective And Allah knows best.
Mufti Siraj Desai