Assalamualaikum Shaikh I have a few questions I hope you can help me with. First of all is it disliked to listen to nasheeds when you do not understand the meaning of them? Like if the nasheed is in arabic but you know that it is praising Allah and honoring the Messenger (pbuh)? Secondly I understand when you say that we can acknowledge birthdays as long as we do not go overboard but I have heard that the celebration of birthdays may have pagan origins is it still okay to celebrate them and give greetings and such?Thank you so much for your help and may Allah reward you greatly.
In regard to your question on nasheeds, I cannot do any better than citing one of my earlier answers on a similar question:
"I don't believe that music in itself is considered haram (prohibited); it is just like all other forms of entertainment; the haram of it is haram, and the halal (permissible) of it is halal. How can Islam prohibit all forms of music when it is based on balance, and harmony and has a sound nature?
Islam forbids music that contains themes or messages that are profane, immoral, and degrading to the human spirit. So any music that falls into this category shall be considered haram. On the other hand, any music that uplifts the human spirit, and contains noble and ethically sound themes is considered permissible.
Having said this, we must also point out the following:
If a person is addicted to music in such a way that he is distracted by it from fulfilling his important religious duties or other obligations, it shall be considered haram for him to listen to it.
So we cannot say that qawali itself is considered haram, for it contains noble themes of praising Allah and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). However, I must also point out that sometimes they border on excessive veneration in praising the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him); so we must be careful of such tendencies, but this should not prevent us from benefiting from those parts of qawali that are sound and uplifting.
Now coming to the final point, whether we are allowed to listen to Western music, let me state: We are allowed to listen to any type of music that fulfills the following criteria:
1. Its message is noble and ethically sound in Islam;
2. It is not addictive or distracting from one's important duties or obligations;
3. It is not over-done; in other words, one must never indulge in it except as an occasional outlet, for a believer has other important things in life that he/she must focus on, so do not use it except as an occasional outlet or diversion. As reported in tradition, 'You should have occasional outlets!"
As for birthdays, it cannot be declared as haraam, if it is simply practiced as a custom. According to the rules of jurisprudence, unlike acts of worship, people are free to innovate customs, as long as they do not violate any of the fundamental principles of shari'ah. Thus, we see all sorts of customs practiced in Muslim countries, which are not condemned by scholars. For even in Saudi Arabia, which is highly puritanical in its doctrines, they continue to celebrate the birth of their nation; it is also common for Muslims in many countries to celebrate the silver or golden jubilees of their institutions or movements. However, it is important to point out that any such celebrations should be free of any un-Islamic practices and wastage.