Valentine’s Day and Islam
It’s that time of the year again where an annual ritual takes the world by frenzy, and sweeps along the Muslims with it. Now it’s the turn of Valentine’s Day.
It shouldn’t take too much to work out that Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with Islam, thereby it should also have nothing to do with Muslims. However, many a Muslim will be taking part in this festivity, which is steeped in illicit relationships, promotes such things and devalues the honour of men, women and families. You may think, that’s a very strong thing to say about something as harmless as remembering to be loving to your wife and making the day special for her. But if Muslims engage in festivities that are not Islamic in nature or origin, then this is a grave thing, as revealed 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 (peace be upon him) warned us of our following the ways of the Jews and Christians and those who came before us:
Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him), narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) 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]
The following is an excerpt from a book by Shaikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid, which explains the origins of Valentine’s Day.
THE STORY OF THE FESTIVAL OF LOVE (Valentine’s Day)
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. 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. 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.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SAINT VALENTINE AND THIS FESTIVAL
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, c. 296 CE. In 350 CE, a church was built in Rome on the site of the place where he died, to perpetuate his memory. 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.
The Christian clergy reacted against this tradition, which they considered to have a corrupting influence on the morals of young men and women. It was abolished in Italy, where it had been well-known, then it was revived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when in some western countries there appeared shops which sold small books called “Valentine’s books”, which contained love poems, from which the one who wanted to send a greeting to his sweetheart could choose. They also contained suggestions for writing love letters.
It was also 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.
In The Story of Civilisation, it says that the Church devised a calendar in which every day was designated as the feast day of one of the saints. In England, Saint Valentine’s Day was to come at the end of winter. When that day came, according to them, the birds mated enthusiastically in the forests, and the young men would put flowers on the windowsills of the homes of the girls whom they loved. (The Story of Civilization by Will Durant, 15/23). The Pope designated the day of the death of Saint Valentine, February 14, 270 CE, as a festival of love.
We should not fall into the same mistakes that the Jews and the Christians fell into:
“They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allaah)…” [Surah Al-Tawbah 9:31]
MUSLIMS, DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM VALENTINE’S DAY
From the above, we can see many religious reasons why taking part in Valentine’s Day is at odds with Islam. The Day itself has roots in paganism and we have been instructed to not follow the rituals and ways of the Jews and the Christians.
Remember, we are Muslims and we distinguish ourselves as being Muslims and following Islam. 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 (peace be upon him) 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.
Muslims are not Christians, pagans, jews, buddhists, hindus, sikhs, atheists or belonging to any other religion or way of life. Muslims are Muslims and follow Islam. By celebrating Valentine’s Day, you are actually following something else. And this undermines the strength of the Ummah. This is one of the reasons why the Ummah is weak – we do not adhere to Islam and only Islam. 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.
The following hadiths are examples of how Muslims should not imitate the actions of non-Muslims.
On the authority of Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Aas who said: “The Messenger of Allah saw me wearing two saffron garments and he said: ‘Indeed these are from the dress of the Kuffaar so do not wear them.’ [Collected by Muslim (1/144), An-Nisaaee (2/298), Al-Haakim (4/190), and Ahmad in his Musnad (2/172, 164, 193, 207, and 211)]
At-Tirmidhi narrated that Ibn Abbas (RA) reported that the Prophet Sallalahu Aliehi Wasallam said: “He is not one of us who imitates other than us. Do not imitate the Jews or the Christians.”
At-Tabarani and Abu Dawud narrated that Ibn Umar and Hudhayfah (RA) reported that the Prophet Sallalahu Aliehi Wasallam said: “Whoever imitates a people, he is one of them.”
Al-Bayhaqi reported in his Sunan that Anas Bin Maalik (RA) said: “When the Prophet Sallalahu Aliehi Wasallam came to Medina, the people had two holidays from the days of Jahiliyyah.”
He said: “When I came to you, you had two days which you used to celebrate in Jahiliyyah. Allah has replaced them for you with better days, the days of slaughter (Adhaa) and the day of fitr.”
Finally, we need to look at the context in which Valentine’s Day has taken hold in the modern world. Although it is focused around expressing love, Valentine’s Day sets no boundaries. There are many boys and girls, men and women, who start off illicit relationships, outside of marriage, through Valentine’s Day. People send Valentine’s cards to each other, hinting to them at ‘secret loves and crushes’, encouraging the other party to look into this further, teasing their curiousity, which ends up indirectly (or even directly) promoting fornication and adultery (zina).
Living in places like the UK, where Valentine’s Day is a major thing across the country. It is not easy for the Muslim youth to stay firm on Islam – the influences that they are feeling, the peer pressure that they face, needs to be challenged. This can only be done by upright Muslims, standing up and showing themselves to be Muslims, following Islam and showing a better way of living than taking part in rituals like Valentine’s Day.
Muslims do express love but they do this in a halaal way, amongst husband and wife, in halaal 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.
Muslims need to start standing up for Islam and stop acting like non-Muslims. We are not pagans, taking part in rituals that have no significance with Allah.
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, you 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.
Explain to non-Muslims about Islamic values and how we celebrate on Eid. They are not aliens and will understand.
Muslims… you need to act like Muslims and BE Muslims, following Islam and showing everyone the beauty of Islam.