Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Birthday Reflections

Yesterday was not only the memorial of the 9/11 tragedy which took place 11 years ago but it was my birthday. I turned the big 2-5. While reaching the quarter century mark in life may be seen as a grand milestone for some, I beg to differ.  Sure you get birthday shout-outs from friends, acquaintances, co-workers and well-wishers--and while the kind words are much appreciated-- honestly, what's there to celebrate? You're one year closer to dying, congratulations! 

It's just another day if you ask me. Now back when I was younger, totally different story. In my childhood years, I thought of my birthday as my own personal christmas and would go into crying fits when all I receive is home-cooked biryani from my mom. In retrospect, I should've appreciated and been grateful for my mother's loving gesture of cooking my favorite Pakistani dish. Instead, I slammed doors, and repeatedly shouted "This is the worst birthday ever!" because I didn't get some extravagant toy or video game system I had been drooling over. Fast forward to today, if that's all I received for my birthday, I'd be fully content.

A funny tidbit I'd like to ruminate on though is what I've been offered on my birthday and turned down. The customary birthday treats for an American man by friends or colleagues is typically a beer and a trip to a strip club, at least that's how it's viewed in my workplace apparently. My guy coworker friends would've offered me these very things but didn't after I enlightened them on my beliefs. I did take pleasure in a chuckle or two from their playful jokes about it on the day of my birthday: "So no strip club at lunch time? The offer's still on the table, man!" "Haha, no thanks. No booby bars for me", I replied. Unfortunately, after you rule out those two things, a man has no idea what to give another man in this culture, so they give nothing.

Now I'm not deliberately trying to be morbid or cynical nor am I butt-hurt that my birthday didn't resemble something out of MTV's "My Super Sweet 16" TV show. The way I see it is: why celebrate something you had no control over? You didn't have any say in when you were going to pop out of your mother's vag. It's not some phenomenal accomplishment of yours. If anyone should be given a cake and a present on your birthday it should be mommy dearest for all that pain and pushing she did in labor trying to get you out of her!

I'm not going to get into the argument of whether celebrating birthdays is Islamically correct or forbidden or what have you. I'm not a scholar on the matter but I do believe it's permissible. Celebrating your birthday with some friends, or your spouse or kids, close family isn't some deplorable act but I feel making it a grand anticipated, lets-go-nuts jubilee is questionable. Sure go have a little fun and eat some cake but also use your birthday as a reminder that while your age is counting up, your life is counting down. It has been since you popped out the womb. Usually a birthday is an excuse to just free your mind and let loose and thinking about something like your mortality is a downer. 

Rather than getting yourself all depressed from thinking this way, harness this reality and channel it in a productive manner. Evaluate your life and prioritize on what's really important if you haven't already. Ponder the purpose of why you are living and reinforce those God-ordained duties back into your life. I feel that is the best way to benefit from your birthday.


  1. Assalaamualaykum! I just turned 25 as well and I could totally relate to this post. Like you, I believe birthdays are alright to celebrate as long as it's done in moderation and doesn't take us away from remembering Allah swt and our parents =)

    1. Walaikum Asalaam Sis. Thanks for the kind words and insight. I'm glad this post was of benefit to you. Oh and hope you had a Happy Birthday too! =)