Published in  
Matters of the Heart
February 10, 2024

Valentine's Day - Are you loving it?

It's that time of the year again where everything is red, has hearts on it, teddy bears falling from the shelves burying you under a fluffy mountain, graffiti being sprayed on your face, did I mention everything is red?

Celebrating Valentines Day is a door that leads to the crumbling of your inner self.You may think, that’s a very strong thing to say about something as harmless as remembering to be loving to your girl/guy (wife/husband/more than friends) and making the day special for them. There are forms of expressing love that are religiously acceptable, while there are others that are not religiously acceptable. But what needs to be kept in mind is that there is no religion which encourages its followers to love and care for one another more than Islam does. This applies at all times and in all circumstances, not just on one particular day. Indeed, Islam encourages us to express our emotions and love at all times.

How it all Started!

Let's have a look at what Valentines Day actually signifies and how it started as that is very important to know before we can think of tackling or maybe even taking some positives from it. The Festival of Love was one of the festivals of the pagan Romans, when paganism was the prevalent religion of the Romans more than seventeen centuries ago where later on there was a time where Christians were being burnt alive and placed in the city to be light bulbs, just saying, but lets get back to the story. In the pagan Roman concept, it was an expression of “spiritual love”. There were myths associated with this pagan festival of the Romans, which persisted with their Christian heirs.Ever heard of slaves learning from their master? Well we certainly seem to be following that spiralling road down too just as the Christians had started traversing some hundred years ago. Among the most famous of these myths was the Roman belief that Romulus, the founder of Rome, was suckled one day by a she-wolf, which gave him strength and wisdom.

The Romans used to celebrate this event in mid-February each year with a big festival. One of the rituals of this festival was the sacrifice of a dog and a goat. Two strong and muscular youths would daub the blood of the dog and goat onto their bodies, then they would wash the blood away with milk. After that there would be a great parade, with these two youths at its head, which would go about the streets. The two youths would have pieces of leather with which they would hit everyone who crossed their path. The Roman women would welcome these blows, because they believed that they could prevent or cure infertility. Women and men beating themselves, remind you of someone? Amazing how practices are passed down and adopted into different religions and amazingly all having a back story too. [Ansgar, 1976]

So how does it get the name Valentines? Saint Valentine is a name which is given to two of the ancient “martyrs” of the Christian Church. It was said that there were two of them, or that there was only one, who died in Rome as the result of the persecution of the Gothic leader Claudius. When the Romans embraced Christianity, they continued to celebrate the Feast of Love mentioned above, but they changed it from the pagan concept of “spiritual love” to another concept known as the “martyrs of love”, represented by Saint Valentine who had advocated love and peace, for which cause he was martyred, according to their claims. It was also called the Feast of Lovers, and Saint Valentine was considered to be the patron saint of LOVERS.

One of their false beliefs connected with this festival was that the names of girls who had reached marriageable age would be written on small rolls of paper and placed in a dish on a table. Then the young men who wanted to get married would be called, and each of them would pick a piece of paper. He would put himself at the service of the girl whose name he had drawn for one year, so that they could find out about one another. Then they would get married, or they would repeat the same process again on the day of the festival in the following year. For some reason this reminds me of “Muslim” Dating Sites, but this was quite an innovative way to get the youth married off unlike today where its a Jihad in itself. [Ansgar, 1976]

The Christian clergy itself reacted against this tradition, which they considered to have a corrupting influence on the morals of young men and women. So much for calling Muslims as “Spiritual Police”

Now there is another story which has a Bollywood like plot too. It was said concerning the origins of this holiday that when the Romans became Christian, after Christianity had become widespread, the Roman emperor Claudius II decreed in the third century CE that soldiers should not get married, because marriage would distract them from the wars they used to fight. This decree was opposed by Saint Valentine, who started to perform marriages for the soldiers in secret. When the emperor found out about that, he threw him in jail and sentenced him to execution. In prison, he (Saint Valentine) fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, but this was a secret because according to Christian laws, priests and monks were forbidden to marry or fall in love. But he is still regarded highly by the Christians because of his steadfastness in adhering to Christianity when the emperor offered to pardon him if he forsook Christianity and worshipped the Roman gods; then he would be one of his closest confidantes and he would make him his son-in-law. But Valentine refused this offer and preferred Christianity, so he was executed on 14 February 270 CE, on the eve of February 15, the festival of Lupercalis. So this day was named for this saint. [Dictionary of Christianity, A Litany of Saints]

But putting the story in perspective and seeing its origins it makes it all the more clear.

Why is it so dangerous?

Allah reveals in the Qur’an: “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers” [Surah Aal ‘Imraan, 3:85]

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم warned us of our following the ways of the Jews and Christians and those who came before us.

Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: “You will certainly follow the ways of those who came before you, span by span, cubit by cubit, until even if they were to enter a lizard’s hole, you would follow them.” We said, “O Messenger of Allaah, (do you mean) the Jews and Christians?” He said, “Who else?!” [Sahih Bukhari]

There is no need to follow the tradition of another religion or pagan ritual, especially if we have been Commanded by Allah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم not to. Allah Has Prescribed for us the festivities we should follow and there is no need to add to this by following something else. There is nothing wrong with saying that you are a Muslim and so do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. Non-Muslims respect this but it seems that Muslims do not want to feel like they are upsetting others.

Although it is focused around expressing love, Valentine’s Day sets no boundaries. There are many people, who start off illicit relationships, outside of marriage, through Valentine’s Day.This is not about Muslims being segregated from society but more the opposite. This is about Muslims standing up and being identified as Muslims – not as though they have some confused fusion of identities. Islam is clear and Muslims need to be also. By being identified as Muslims, what Muslims stand for, what Islam stands for, we will gain respect from other Muslims, gain understanding and respect from non-Muslims and start to create societies where Muslims can be seen to have their place. This is about societies welcoming Muslims and Islam – it isn’t about eating into Islamic identity, which is what those Muslims are doing who are taking part in Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter, Diwali, Hannukah and other non-Islamic festivals.  

Why can’t we fall in love?

Some people may wonder, and say: “You mean to deprive us of love, but in this day and age we express our feelings and emotions – what is so wrong with that? If you have any affection towards a person, you should ask yourself: why do you like that person? If you have good reasonable justification, then you need not tell that person of what you feel. However, you can make a serious plan to make him ask for your hand. If you want to know the meaning of fitna, a great part of it is what people nowadays call love or romance. Many scholars say that in Islam, it is not a sin if you feel a special affinity or inclination towards a certain individual since human beings have no control on such natural inclinations. We are, however, definitely responsible and accountable if we get carried away by such feelings and take specific actions or steps that might be deemed as haram (forbidden).Islam encourages us to marry persons for whom we have special feelings and affinity. Thus, Islam recommends that potential marriage partners see one another before proposing marriage. There’s another ploy of the the Shaitan here – Fall in love and get to know each other before getting married. But that’s what the spice and  excitement in marriage is. Everyday finding out something new about your spouse. Many people fall into this trap and then when their hearts are broken they are too scared to love again which is a big problem down the line.

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله said, “Allah has placed in the nature of a man an inclination towards a woman,  just like the inclination of a thirsty person towards water and that of a hungry person towards food, to the point that many people may be patient with food and drink, but not with women” [Ad-Daa' wad-Dawa']

Muslims do express love but they do this in a halal way, amongst husband and wife, in halal relationships and without crossing boundaries that have been put in place, with infinite wisdom, by Allah. We do not restrict this to a single day and are instructed to be kind and generous and considerate to our spouses at all times. The very basic foundation of that love is found in the Holy Qur’an in verse 21 of Surah Al-Rum

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”

Doesn’t it sound redundant that you want to make just one day of the year special for your special one? Rest of the 364 days you let her rot in the kitchen.In Islam, a husband loves his wife throughout the year, and he expresses that love towards her with gifts, in verse and in prose, in letters and in other ways, throughout the years – not just on one day of the year.The relationship between spouses is based on affection and mercy, not on ardent love, desire and passion. It is a relationship which is based on quiet love (affection) and mutual mercy, not illusions of love which fail to withstand reality or romantic fantasies which fail to create a successful marriage.

The Way Forward

But now the whole problem lies that despite knowing this the youth can and will fall into this as this is a way they can listen to their natural desires. Who doesn’t want to be loved, cared for, have that special someone to listen, talk and console? In a world of today where the female body is being objectified, nudity is prevalent, it has become so very easy to cover up your tracks so that no one knows anything and the very ease to access the world of dating and internet, what can you expect a hormone-crazy teenager to do, die fasting? THAT right there is a major problem. Marriage which is the solution to all such problems is being withheld from the youth on the basis of culture, tradition and what not bakwaas that has crept up into the Ummah. Instead of making it easy for them to safeguard themselves from such an illness the society is ready to stop the very medication it requires. They look at marriage as a burden rather than a relief and such a mentality is slowly taking root into the minds of the youth who look down on marriage as something boring and a thing to do once old.

From the times of Usama Ibn Zaid and Salahuddin al-Ayyubi who used to sweep left and right amongst the enemies taking the Ummah to glories unprecedented in their teens we have our youth today sweeping left and right on tinder and dating websites looking for a Valentine. It's not enough just knowing your Heroes, it's time you actually followed your Heroes!

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