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Islam and Valentine’s Day

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What is Valentine’s Day?

 Valentine’s Day, also known as the Day of Love, falls on February 14th each year. Its name is derived from Saint Valentine, a Christian priest.

The “Dark” Tales Behind the Month of Love

Before delving into the story of Valentine or priest Valentine, it’s essential to explore some of the myths associated with February, traditionally considered the month of fertility as it heralds the onset of spring: Februa: An ancient celebration marking the arrival of spring involved rituals to purify the city from evil spirits. The month of February was named after this festival, which was part of the wider Lupercalia celebrations.

Lupercalia: This ancient Roman festival, celebrated from February 13th to the 15th, aimed to expel evil spirits, thereby allowing health and fertility to flourish within the city. Known as a purification festival, its origins lie in commemorating Lupa, the she-wolf who nursed the orphaned brothers Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome around 700 BC. Participants would sacrifice a dog and a goat, using their hides to whip women, believing this would increase fertility. During these festivities, Romans would indulge in drunkenness and nudity, with women lining up to be whipped by men, also in the belief that it would enhance their fertility. A matchmaking lottery would pair men and women for the duration of the celebrations, with the possibility of extending their companionship if mutual affection developed.

These customs highlight February’s role as a month filled with diverse and peculiar celebrations, all welcoming the spring season, a time of fertility and the banishment of evil spirits.

True love, in its purest form, transcends specific occasions and is a continuous commitment. Every day presents an opportunity to show genuine love and affection towards one’s legitimate loved ones, be it through kind words, compassionate deeds, or thoughtful gifts.

But what’s the story of Valentine?

Numerous legends narrate different accounts of priest Valentine, referring to either a single individual or several people bearing the name Valentine.

  1. Emperor Claudius II of Rome, in the 3rd century AD, believed that unmarried soldiers performed better in battle than their married counterparts, burdened by thoughts of their wives and children. Consequently, he outlawed marriage for soldiers. Valentine, a Christian priest at the time, defied this decree by secretly officiating soldiers’ marriages. When Claudius II learned of this, he ordered Valentine’s execution, beheading him and posthumously declaring him a martyr, Saint Valentine.
  2. Other tales suggest Valentine was executed for protecting Christians (in a predominantly pagan Rome) and aiding their escape from Roman prisons. Imprisoned himself, Valentine is said to have fallen in love with his jailer’s daughter, sending her a card expressing his love and signing it “Your Valentine” – a phrase still in use today.

After his death, the Catholic Church canonized him as a martyr, celebrating his death day.

In the 5th century, as Rome transitioned from paganism to Christianity and its emperors embraced the new faith, Emperor Gelasius I sought to Christianize the pagan Lupercalia festival by associating it with priest Valentine, thus stripping the celebrations of their pagan elements.

Who Revived This Day?

Two literary figures played pivotal roles:

  1. In the 14th century: The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, renowned for “The Canterbury Tales,” penned “The Parliament of Fowls” to celebrate the betrothal of England’s King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. The poem references Valentine’s Day as a time when birds choose their mates.
  2. In the 16th century: The poet and playwright William Shakespeare made significant contributions to Valentine’s Day lore through his works. In his comedic romance “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” he named a protagonist Valentine, albeit in a different storyline, famously noting “love is blind.” In “Hamlet,” the Danish prince’s play, Valentine’s Day is mentioned alongside the famous line “Will you be your valentine,” signifying an offer of love. Additionally, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” he alluded to Valentine’s Day as a time when birds lay their eggs, symbolizing fertility.

Why is Valentine’s Day Celebrated on February 14th?

It is believed that priests Valentine or Valentines were killed on this day.

How is Valentine’s Day Celebrated?

Valentine’s Day celebrants exchange cards and gifts to express their feelings. According to 2023 statistics, US consumers spent a total of $25.9 billion on Valentine’s Day celebrations, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). This was an 8.4% increase from the $23.9 billion spent in 2022. Mind you that is the US only!

Why Are Gifts Decorated in Red?

 And Why Are Red Roses and Red Cards Chosen?

 The color red symbolizes love and passion. Many gifts and cards are also pink, symbolizing friendship and affection, highlighting Valentine’s Day as an occasion to spread love among friends.

Why Does the Heart Symbolize Love?

And Why Does the Heart Symbol Differ From Its Real Shape?

The heart is universally recognized as a symbol of love and affection, a tradition that dates back centuries. The stylized heart symbol, distinct from the organ’s actual shape, has evolved to represent the emotional and spiritual heart, capturing the essence of love and romantic devotion.

The first depiction of the heart in its modern form appeared in the 13th century, illustrating a man kneeling on one knee, offering an upside-down heart to his beloved. Subsequent representations evolved from pinecone-like and seashell-like shapes to the familiar heart shape we recognize today, which was popularized in the 15th century, and notably used in playing cards.

Who is Cupid?

Cupid is the Roman god of love, often portrayed as a cherubic young boy with wings, carrying a bow and arrow. His Greek counterpart is Eros. According to mythology, anyone struck by Cupid’s arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire. Cupid is a central figure in love stories and myths, symbolizing the power of love and attraction.

In Roman and Greek mythology, Cupid is the god of desire, love, and affection, with his Latin name meaning “desire.” He is the son of Venus, the goddess after whom the planet Venus is named, and Mars, the god of war, whose namesake is the planet Mars, and the month of March.

Myths depict Cupid as a winged child carrying a bow and a set of arrows, one with a golden tip and the other with a lead tip. Being struck by the golden-tipped arrow incites love towards the person in front of the victim, while the lead-tipped arrow induces aversion.

Some stories portray him as blind or blindfolded, symbolizing the idea that love is blind. Cupid has become an emblem of love in Western culture, embodying the unpredictable and often indiscriminate nature of love and desire.

Sacred Days and Their Significance In Islam

In Islamic tradition, a distinction is made among days: Ramadan is the most revered of months, Friday the most esteemed of days, followed by the observance of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, the Day of Ghadir, and the Day of Arafah.

This raises an intriguing question: why are some days favored over others, given that, from a temporal standpoint, all days are equal?

Every day is a measure of time, and time, as philosophers suggest, is an imaginary line drawn by motion. In reality, there exists no such thing as time outside of movement and the moving. The essence of reality is the Earth and its motions; its rotations delineate the passage of time, drawing lines between night and day, hours, and minutes. These are imaginary lines formed in the human mind, etched into our consciousness by the Earth’s movements. Thus, time is not a tangible entity; it is merely an illusion crafted by the motion of the moving. All days share the same temporal dimension—Friday is time, Saturday is time, Ramadan and Rajab are times. So, what is the mystery behind the preference for certain times over others?

There are two reasons for this preference:

The first reason: lies in the occurrence of significant events or notable happenances within certain times, elevating some months and days in honor and respect for these events. The Islamic texts emphasize commemorating such times through worship, highlighting their importance. For instance, the month of Ramadan, during which the Quran was revealed, is esteemed above all other months as a mark of honor and respect for the Quran’s greatness. The Quran commands the observance of Ramadan with worship. Similarly, the Night of Decree (Laylat al-Qadr) is revered, better than a thousand months, due to its association with the Quran’s revelation, urging Muslims to enliven it with worship. The Day of Ghadir, as narrated in traditions, is considered the greatest feast for humanity. Why? Because it marks the significant event of the Imam’s appointment, where the community pledged loyalty to a leader embodying wise leadership qualities. This day is thus esteemed and recommended to be observed with fasting and worship.

The second reason: that favoring certain days over others serves as an educational method to nurture the human relationship with worship. What does “educational method” mean?

Consider human nature’s inclination towards diversity and novelty. Humans naturally seek change and detest monotony, becoming disinterested, bored, and lethargic if confined to a singular routine. This innate desire for renewal and variety implies that a person who travels daily or weekly might not find joy in travel, unlike someone who travels at varied and refreshed intervals. Similarly, engaging in pleasurable activities with one’s spouse at the same pace can lead to disinterest, whereas varying and diversifying these occasions can maintain pleasure and enjoyment. Recognizing this, Islamic law adopts an educational approach in dealing with humans and their worship, suggesting that just as relationships with travel, friends, or spouses thrive on varied timings, so does the relationship with worship. To maintain the vibrancy and continuity of one’s devotion, it is advised to diversify the occasions, periods, and circumstances of worship engagement.

Thus, Islamic law does not prescribe performing all recommended acts every day. Instead, it specifies certain acts for specific days and others for different months, favoring some times over others. This approach is not arbitrary but serves as an educational method to nurture the human desire for worship, ensuring its continuity and vibrancy. By diversifying the times and occasions for worship, Islam aims to maintain and rejuvenate the individual’s relationship with devotion.

From this perspective, Imam al-Baqir, as quoted by Imam al-Sadiq, emphasizes moderation in worship, stating, “When Allah loves a servant, He is pleased with even their minimal effort.” This advises against overwhelming oneself with worship to the point of it becoming monotonous, thereby losing its essence and value. Imam al-Sadiq further illustrates the heart’s fluctuating inclination towards devotion, advising to engage in both obligatory and voluntary acts when the heart is willing but to stick to the obligatory ones when it is not. This educational approach addresses the human tendency towards openness to worship and spiritual atmospheres, ensuring a balanced and meaningful relationship with the divine.

Novel Festivities

Newly established celebrations, or “novel festivities,” periodically emerge among people. In the past, only Christians celebrated Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus Christ, upon whom be peace and blessings, along with our Prophet and his family. Now, many Muslims also partake in Christmas celebrations, lighting candles and exchanging flowers, greetings, and well-wishes on this occasion. This practice has led some Muslim scholars to express rejection and condemnation, asserting that celebrating Christmas is not permissible. They argue that celebrations should be limited to Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and that participating in Christmas festivities is both prohibited and unacceptable. Scholars in Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia, and other countries have cited two main reasons for this prohibition:

The first reason is that celebrating Christmas is considered an imitation of Christianity, which is forbidden and prohibited. Since this celebration is seen as a mimicry of Christian traditions, it is deemed unacceptable.

The second reason is that engaging in such celebrations is not in accordance with the path of the believers. The Quran states: “And whoever opposes the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him and follows other than the way of the believers, we will give him what he has taken and drive him into Hell—an evil destination.” Therefore, celebrating Christmas is viewed as straying from the path of the believers, which is strictly forbidden.

Imitating Non-Believers

In recent decades, Muslims have faced the challenge of increasingly emulating non-believers in their appearance, thoughts, lifestyles, and perspectives, even to the extent of adopting their dialects and expressions, showing an overwhelmed and diminished stance towards them.

According to the authentic Islamic perspective, it is imperative for Muslims, individually and as a community, to preserve their way of life as instructed by Islam, maintaining it in all its details, free from the influences of non-Islamic societies, especially in aspects unique and specific to them. This is the path of our esteemed scholars and jurists, who have issued numerous fatwas that distinguish Muslims from others, elevating and dignifying the followers of the monotheistic faith.

In line with this approach, scholars, have dedicated a section in their inquiries titled “The Prohibition of Imitating Non-Believers” regarding their distinctive practices. If the Islamic community adhered to these guidelines and fatwas, it would counteract many aspects of Westernization under the guise of globalization.

Forbidden Aspects of Imitating Non-Believers

Forbidden aspects are those by which non-believers are known, distinguishing them from others. Muslims are prohibited from imitating their habits, celebrations, lifestyles, and attire. Allah says about them, “…and most of them are defiantly disobedient.” (3:110)

We see some celebrating their religious and other festivals, practices previously unknown in the Islamic community when it was dignified and pioneering. Under the guise of joy and festivals, they glorify love (as they perceive it), romance, music, alcohol, and dancing. Allah warns against this, expressing a desire from the People of the Book to turn Muslims back to disbelief after their faith. Allah Almighty says “Many of the People of the Scripture wish they could turn you back to disbelief after you have believed…” (2:109)

Imitating The Enemies of Allah

Undoubtedly, those who imitate the disbelievers elevate them, take them as role models, and magnify their values and beliefs. This is clearly visible in our society today… Without a doubt, they strengthen their falsehood and support their misguidance.

It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that he said: “Allah revealed to one of the Prophets, ‘Tell the believers: Do not wear the clothing of My enemies, do not eat their food, and do not follow their paths, lest you become My enemies just as they are My enemies.”

The great narrator, Sheikh Abbas al-Qummi, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

‘It is derived from many verses and hadiths that a Muslim must avoid affection towards the disbelievers, loving and inclining towards them, imitating them, and following their path.’

Allah, the Exalted, tells us about the father of the prophets, the exemplar of the believers, our master Abraham (AS), and those with him, where they said to their people:

“…Indeed, we are disassociated from you and whatever you worship other than Allah. We have denied you, and there has appeared between us and you, animosity and hatred forever…” (60:4)

So, can faith remain intact for those who are dazzled by the disbelievers and follow them… and do not care about the word of Allah:

“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. Some of them are allies of others. And whoever takes them as allies among you, then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.” (5:51)

The Danger of Imitation

Increases in This Era In the past, Muslims were warned against being influenced by the beliefs and practices of non-believers when traveling or living in their lands, as it posed a danger to our traditions derived from the prophets (peace be upon them). Today, however, the danger has escalated as their customs, appearances, and practices have infiltrated our schools, curricula, streets, and homes… through various media channels, often without our realization or awareness. The risk has become greater because the Muslim man can no longer ensure the safety of his family and children from this invasion that enters stealthily without permission… nor can he ensure his own safety. And glorified be Allah, the Exalted, who says: “…And you indulged in what others had indulged in. Such [are the deeds] of them rendered worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and such are the losers.” (9:69)

Maintaining Islamic Identity & Valentine’s Day

Maintaining identity and distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims is foundational to the religion and its core principles; it underpins the preservation of the Ummah and safeguards the religion for its people and adherents. The erosion or diminution of this foundation is a significant threat to the structure of faith; it means Muslims blending into others, not just superficially as some might think, but a deeper assimilation that encompasses doctrinal, cultural, and social aspects, leading inevitably to the collapse and loss of the Umma without a doubt. This concern prompts us to discuss what is known as Valentine’s Day or the day of love, a celebration that has transitioned from being observed by Christina, Holly, John, and Joseph to being celebrated by Sumya, Zahra, Noura, Ali, and Waleed in our lands, turning our markets red and our shops filled with gifts related to this imported and fabricated day as if it were one of the Muslim festivals.

Indeed, the manifestations of Valentine’s Day have spread in our countries: universities and schools adorned in red clothing, shoes, bags, flowers, gifts, and red ribbons, with some even etching hearts on their hands. Shops overflow with greeting cards dripping with love and affection, symbolized by Cupid—the Roman god of love, as they claim—along with dolls, balloons, and children’s toys, all in red, the symbol of this day, with the prices of red roses skyrocketing. Restaurants and hotels dress tables in red, often heart-shaped, with red flowers placed on them for lovers to exchange, and some of our countries even host Miss Valentine contests… we seek help from Allah.

The introduction of this celebration to our lands is not merely a European folk tradition or an innocent custom; it is a fire that has caught the edge of our garments, which, if unrecognized, will consume the entire fabric and corrupt people’s faith; the harm of Muslims celebrating the festivals of Christians is destructive in the long run, and the damage of this particular festival, Valentine’s Day, is especially ruinous as it corrupts both doctrine and fuels the flames of desire, both of which pose extreme danger.

Corruption Of Faith

Festivals are among the most significant laws of religions, their particularities, and distinguishing features. Almighty Allah says, “For every nation, We have appointed religious ceremonies which they must follow” (22:67). Conforming to the pagans and disbelievers in their festivals is to conform to some aspects of their religious laws and to affiliate with some branches of disbelief, potentially leading to acceptance and approval, which could lead one to disbelief.

This celebration also involves imitating disbelievers, from which believers are prohibited, as evidenced by the Quran, Sunnah, and consensus, such as in the verse, “And do not be like those who became divided and differed after the clear proofs had come to them” and verses prohibiting alliance with disbelievers and pagans in general, Jews, Christians, and others who altered their religion distorted their scriptures, invented what was not prescribed for them, and abandoned what Allah Almighty commanded… The Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) teachings are replete with prohibitions against imitating them, as in his saying, “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”.

This imitation exists even if some claim they do not intend to imitate, or they did it to fulfill a certain desire, or for any other reason; such actions do not remove the fundamental prohibition of the condemned imitation.

Participating with disbelievers in their events and resembling them in their occasions breeds a form of affection, love, and alliance towards them, contradicting the essence of faith, as in His verse, “You will not find a people who believe in Allah and the Last Day having affection for those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even if they were their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their kin. Those – He has written faith in their hearts and has supported them with a spirit from Him. And He will admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally. Allah is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him – those are the party of Allah. Unquestionably, the party of Allah – they are the successful” (58:22).

Moreover, this celebration confuses some ignorant in their religion and belief, brings joy to disbelievers by elevating their religion and way of life, and leads to the spread of innovations and prohibitions.

It should not be overlooked that Valentine was officially titled Saint, somewhat akin in Islam to a righteous Wali known for miracles and blessings, carrying implications and connotations of doctrinal significance.

Ignition of desire

The love promoted on this day is not the universal love among all people, believers, and non-believers, righteous and wicked, obedient and disobedient. While we are prohibited from loving those who disbelieve, commit polytheism, and innovate against the core teachings of the religion, the love intended here is of a romantic nature, aiming to bridge the hearts of men and women alike, including school students, teenagers, romantics, and those advocating for sexual freedom and deviation! This is evidenced by Valentine’s Day cards filled with passionate phrases, tormented hearts, lips poised for kissing, publications adorned with provocative images and drawings, collections of love letters, and poetry of flirtation. All of which call for debauchery and immoral acts under the guise of love.

Is Islam against love?

Then someone might argue: “You are forbidding love, while on this day, we merely express our feelings and emotions. What’s the harm in that?”

The response is twofold: Firstly, it is incorrect to conflate the superficial label of the day with the underlying intentions behind it; the love intended on this day is romantic passion, infatuation, and forming intimate relationships, known for promoting a day of unrestricted sexual freedom. These proponents do not advocate for the pure love between a man and his wife or a woman and her husband.

Secondly, the expression of love and affection, as endorsed by Islam and the teachings of the Quran, is not confined to a single day. True love, in its purest form, transcends specific occasions and is a continuous commitment. Every day presents an opportunity to show genuine love and affection towards one’s legitimate loved ones, be it through kind words, compassionate deeds, or thoughtful gifts. This ongoing demonstration of love is reflective of the comprehensive and balanced approach of Islam towards relationships, emphasizing the importance of daily expressions of care and respect within the bounds of legitimacy.

Moreover, Islam encourages the giving of gifts as a means to strengthen bonds of love and kinship, with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stating, “Give gifts, and you will love one another.” This guidance underscores that the cultivation of love and the strengthening of relationships should not be relegated to a single day defined by commercial or non-Islamic traditions but should be a continual process, deeply rooted in the everyday life of a Muslim.

Furthermore, confining the expression of love to Valentine’s Day overlooks the richness and depth of Islamic teachings on love, which encompass love for Allah, His Messenger, one’s family, and the broader community. Islam teaches that love is a comprehensive virtue that should be manifested in all aspects of life, including one’s actions, speech, and intentions, always adhering to the principles of modesty, respect, and righteousness.

In essence, while Islam does not prohibit the expression of legitimate affection and care, it places it within a framework that honors the dignity of human relationships, encouraging believers to live out these values consistently and wholesomely, rather than adopting practices that may not align with Islamic principles.

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