Ismailis celebrate birthday of Aga Khan as known as “Salgirah Mubarak” as a Ismaili religious ceremony with intention of getting hasanaat (thawab or reward). Ismailis celebrate Salgirah (سالگرہ) day by playing dandiya, raas, dancing with blaring music being played in the background, intermingling of sexes etc. are unislamic practices whose impermissibility needs no elaboration.
Ismailis adopt dressing that resemble with the dressing of the actors and actresses of Bollywood. Dresses worn by celebrities are custom made on a huge cost which is a huge waste of money. Ismaili women and girls spend hours getting their hair done and face made up, men try their utmost to look younger and young boys adopt the latest fashion whose ultimate goals are to attract opposite sexes during these festivities, leading to zina or adultery.
Dandiya Raas is a type of a dance wherein the dancers hold two sticks and energetically whirl and move their feet and arms in a complicated, choreographed manner to the tune of the music with various rhythms. Its impermissibility is obvious due to the involvement of music and the intermingling of sexes. Besides being affiliated with impermissible acts, the dance itself originates from the Hindu culture. Origins of Raas are traced back to the teachings of Hinduism, wherein they mention that their “Lord Krishna” used to perform Raas Lila. The sticks used in Dandiya Raas are said to represent the swords of Durga (one of the Hindu goddesses), and Dandiya Raas is performed by Hindus at Navaratri (Hindu festival) and in Durga’s honor. It is already known that adopting practices that symbolize other religions and hold religious values could take one out of the fold of Islam. Hence, the severity of the matter cannot be ignored.
Islam does not prohibit us from spending and consuming, but Islam forbids us from being extravagant. Allah Ta’ala mentions in the Holy Qur’an:
… وكلوا واشربوا ولا تسرفوا إنه لا يحب المسرفين
Eat and drink and do not be extravagant. Surely, He does not like the extravagant.
(Holy Qur’an, Chapter 7:31)
Therefore, one should adopt moderation in his eating, drinking, clothing, lifestyle.
The implementation of moderation and abstinence from extravagance has also been emphasized in other verses of the Holy Qur’an.
إن المبذرين كانوا إخوان الشياطين وكان الشيطان لربه كفورا
Surely, squanderers (the extravagant) are brothers of satans, and the Satan is very ungrateful to his Lord.
(Holy Qur’an, Chapter 17:27)
It is also mentioned in the Qur’an:
والذين إذا أنفقوا لم يسرفوا ولم يقتروا وكان بين ذلك قواما
(The true servants of Allah are) those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor miserly, and it (i.e. their spending) is moderate in between (the two extremes).
(Holy Qur’an, Chapter 25:67)
The evidence in the Qur’an and Sunnah indicates that Ismailis celebrating birthdays of a someone taking him as Imam and considering it as Islamic virtues practices is a kind of bid’ah or innovation in religion, which has no basis in the Islam. It is not permitted to accept invitations to birthday celebrations, because this involves supporting and encouraging bid’ah and a clear imitation of Jews and Christian. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Or have they partners with Allaah (false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not allowed…?”
(Holy Quran, Surah al-Shoora Chapter 42:21)
“Then We have put you (O Muhammad) on a plain way of (Our) commandment. So follow that, and follow not the desires of those who know not. Verily, they can avail you nothing against Allaah (if He wants to punish you). Verily, the zaalimoon (wrongdoers) are awliyaa’ (protectors, helpers, etc.) to one another, but Allaah is the Wali (Protector, Helper) of the muttaqoon (pious).”
(Holy Quran, Surah al-Jaathiyah Chapter 45:18-19)
“Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord, and follow not any awliyaa’ (protectors, helpers, etc.) besides Him. Little do you remember!”
(Holy Quran, Surah al-A’raaf Chapter 7:3)
According to saheeh reports, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever does something that is a not part of this matter of ours (i.e., Islam) will have it rejected” (reported by Muslim in his Saheeh); and “The best of speech is the Book of Allah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The most evil of things are those which have been newly invented (in religion), and every innovation is a going astray.” There are many other ahaadeeth that convey the same meaning.
Besides being bid’ah and having no basis in sharee’ah, these birthday celebrations also involve imitation of the Jews and Christians in their birthday celebrations. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, warning us against following their ways and traditions: “You would follow the ways of those who came before you step by step, to such an extent that if they were to enter a lizard’s hole, you would enter it too.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, (do you mean) the Jews and Christians?” He said, “Who else?” (Reported by al-Bukhaari and Muslim). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”
Celebration of Birthdays in Islam
The very first question for someone who believes in Allah and the Last Day… Did the Prophet (saws) celebrate the birthdays of the earlier Prophets,hazrat Ali r.a.,his children, his friends, his wives, or anybody else? He obviously did not. Thus if Ismailis believe in Allah and the Last Day and claim to follow the Prophet (pbuh), leave it alone.
But the general question will be, that what is the harm? It is just simple fun and celebration. We just gather family and friends in Jamatkhana and have a meal. Aren’t we even allowed to celebrate anything? We only celebrate as a occasion and exchange gifts. Are giving and receiving gifts haram? Why this and why that?
Also, let’s look at some facts:
1. Allah has blessed and one can afford in buying the branded and extravagant clothing and makeups but what happens here, is the one whose provisions are strained, borrows money or goes beyond his capacity to throw a grander party than he can afford, otherwise he will have an issue to deal with among his family and friends.
2. Why celebration, dancing and all showoff on this particular day? Everybody tries to go out dressed in their best capacity to shine in Jamatkhanas to attract non-mehram opposite sex. People who cannot afford, either hide away from the invitation, do not attend, or go beyond their means in showing off.
3. One might spend a few hundred dollars on this festivity of Salgirah Mubarak, which will not in any way bring you closer to Allah – rather, it is unislamic. This money could have been spent in a better ways for the pleasure of Allah.
4. Why do Ismailis celebrate birthdays anyway? And therein lies the real issue, because it has now become a custom or rasam in Ismailism, and everybody is doing it, and one feels obliged to do it. And what do Ismailis do? Bake a cake, put on candles for every year of the Aga Khan’s age, and blow the candle and make a wish. They dance like a juhala and behave totally against Islam. Now ask yourself, is any of these acts Islamic?
5. The only things which birthdays remind us of, is that we now have lost one more year from our time to death. In my personal opinion, we should actually be feeling sorry, as we now have one year less to worship Allah and win His pleasure. It’s a time to reassess ourselves and not to celebrate.
Look at the beauty of Islam. Every day is a great day and a blessing from Allah. Have a meal and invite your family and friends every day if you can afford it. Give as many presents as you like to your family and the people you love for the pleasure of Allah. Why do Ismailis have to make one person i.e. Aga Khan special on one day and focus all the attention on him when we can do this everyday and win the pleasure of Allah. Which is better? Celebrating one day or celebrating every day?
And if you want an occasion, Allah has blessed and recommended us to celebrate the two Eids!!! And the Prophet (saws) said that every Friday is an Eid day!! Celebrate these… and win the pleasure of Allah.
Therefore, if Ismailis want to follow Allah and His Messenger (pbuh), they should not celebrate what the Prophet (pbuh) did not celebrate. And if you want to follow the ignorant people who do not care about Allah and Last Day, follow their jaahiliya traditions and celebrate whatever they celebrate!!
We must realize that celebrating birthdays which include unislamic which include music, dancing, mingling of sexes, wasting money, practices leading to adultery is a big sin in Islam. The big sins are mentioned in the Quran and dictated without any ambiguity by the Prophet (pbuh). The question to be answered here is who are we following, Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) or the pagan traditions? If Ismailis can ask their heart this question sincerely, they will find the answer inside themselves. I know it is difficult to break away from pagan traditions, but once Ismailis but once Ismailis move away from these pagan traditions, they will thank Allah that they did so.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘I have come to break your chains and shackles of traditions and customs that you have put on yourselves because of jaahiliya.’
May Allah guide Ismailis to Sirat al-Mustaqeem.