VALENTINE’S DAY – History and Islamic Perspective
Consider Valentine’s Day, a day that after dying out a well deserved death in most of Europe (but surviving in Britain and United States) has suddenly started to emerge across a good swath of Muslim countries. Who was Valentine? Why is this day observed? Legends abound, as they do in all such cases, but this much is clear: Valentine’s Day began as a pagan ritual started by Romans in the 4th century BCE to honor the god Lupercus. The main attraction of this ritual was a lottery held to distribute young women to young men for “entertainment and pleasure”–until the next year’s lottery. Among other equally despicable practices associated with this day was the lashing of young women by two young men, clad only in a bit of goatskin and wielding goatskin thongs, who had been smeared with blood of sacrificial goats and dogs. A lash of the “sacred” thongs by these “holy men” was believed to make them better able to bear children.
Pagan origins of Valentine’s Day
The first information about this day is found in pre-Christian Rome, when pagans would celebrate the “Feast of the Wolf” on February 15, also known as the Feast of Lupercalius in honour of Februata Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage, and Pan, Roman god of nature.
On this day, young women would place their names in an urn, from which boys would randomly draw to discover their sexual companion for the day, the year, and sometimes the rest of their lives. These partners exchanged gifts as a sign of affection, and often married.
When Christianity came onto the scene in Rome, it wanted to replace this feast with something more in line with its ethics and morality. A number of Christians decided to use February 14 for this purpose. This was when the Italian Bishop Valentine was executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II for conducting secret marriages of military men in the year 270.
Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, so he outlawed marriage for young, single men, who made up his military. Valentine defied Claudius and performed marriages for young couples in secret. When his actions were revealed, Claudius put him to death. Another version of the story says that Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who helped Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
Valentine was arrested and sent to the prefect of Rome for this. He found that his attempts to make Valentine renounce his faith were useless, and so recommended he be beaten with clubs, and later beheaded. This took place on February 14, 270.
According to the Catholic encyclopaedia, there are at least three different Saint Valentines, all of whom are Christian martyrs of February 14. One of them is described as a priest from Rome (as mentioned above), another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and the third from Africa.
It was in the year 496 that Pope Gelasius officially changed the February 15 Lupercalia festival to the February 14 St. Valentine’s Day to give Christian meaning to a pagan festival. The holiday become popular in the United States in the 1800’s during the Civil War.
As well, Pope Gelasius ordered a slight change in the lottery for young women that would take place during the pagan festival. Instead of the names of young women, the box would have the names of saints. Men and women were allowed to draw from the box, and the purpose of this was to copy the ways of the saint they had selected for the rest of the year.Valentine’s Day Customs
A number of the customs connected to Valentine’s Day originate in the belief in England and France during the middle Ages, that on February 14, birds began to pair.
Fourteenth and 15th centuries’ French and English literatures make indirect references to the practice. Those who chose each other as husband and wife on Valentine’s Day apparently called each other their Valentines.
In terms of the Valentine’s greeting “Your Valentine” which today you find on a number of Valentine’s Day cards, the above-mentioned Roman priest Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself.
While he was in prison awaiting execution, he apparently fell in love with a young girl who would visit him. Before he died, he allegedly wrote her a letter, signed ‘From your Valentine,’ In terms of the virtually naked, arrow-shooting cupid character, which shoots people with its arrows to make them fall in love, this character is a vestige of Roman pagan times. Cupid was described as the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty. You usually find Cupid’s picture on Valentine cards and other paraphernalia .
We should avoid anything associated with pagan immoral practices – We do not need to honour or celebrate the death of a Christian “saint” – Islam does not encourage flirting or suggestions of romantic relationships before marriage – Love between families, friends and married people does not need to be celebrated on a day with such un-Islamic origins.
Question:In recent times, celebration of the Valentine Day has spread, particularly among female students. It is a Christian celebration, and it is (manifested) with fully red costumes, clothing and shoes, and exchange of red roses. What is the ruling on celebrating this holiday ?
Answer: Celebrating the Valentine Day is not permissible because:
Firstly, it is an innovated holiday that has no basis in the Sharee?ah.
Secondly, it calls to love and passion.
Thirdly, it calls to keeping one’s heart busy with nonsense matters which contradict the guidance of the righteous predecessors, may Allah be pleased with them.
So it is not permissible that anything from the signs of that holiday takes place on that day, whether it relates to eating, drinking, clothing, giving gifts, or other than that. It is incumbent upon the Muslim to be proud of his/her religion and that he/she does not blindly follow every crier. May Allah the Exalted protect Muslims from every trial, apparent and hidden, and that He give them protection and guidance. Ameen.
Some people celebrate Yawm al-Hubb (Valentine’s Day)on February 14 [the second month of the Christian Gregorian calendar] every year by exchanging red roses as gifts. They also dress up in red clothing, and congratulate one another (on this occasion). Some sweet shops produce special sweets – red in colour – and draw hearts upon them. Some shops advertise their goods which are specially related to this day. What is the Islaamic view [concerning the following]: Celebrating this day? Buying from these shops on this day? Selling – by shop-owners who are not celebrating – the things which are used as gifts, to those who are celebrating?
The clear evidence from the Qur.aan and Sunnah – and this is agreed upon by consensus (Ijmaa’) of the early generations of the Muslim Ummah – indicates that there are only two ‘Eeds in Islaam (days of celebration): ‘Eed al-Fitr (after the fast of Ramadhaan) and ‘Eed al-Adhaa (after the standing at ‘Arafah for pilgrimage).
Every other ‘Eed – whether it is to do with a person, group, incident or any other occasion – is an innovated ‘Eed. It is not permissible for the Muslim people to participate in it, approve of it, make any show of happiness on its occasion, or assist in it in any way – since this will be transgressing the bounds of Allaah: ” …and whoever transgresses the bounds of Allaah, he has wronged his own self,” [Soorah at-Talaaq, Aayah 1]
If we add to this fabricated ‘Eed the fact that it is one of the ‘Eeds of the disbelievers, it is sin upon sin. This is because it is Tashabbuh (imitation) of the disbelievers, and a type of Muwaalaat (loyalty) to them. And Allaah has prohibited the believers from imitation of them and having love or loyalty for them in His Mighty Book (Qur.aan). It is also confirmed from the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ?alayhe wa sallam) that he said: ” Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”
‘Eed al-Hubb (the celebration of Valentine’s Day) comes under the category of what has been mentioned here, since it is one of the pagan Christian holidays. Hence it is not permissible for any Muslim, who believes in Allaah and the Last Day, to participate in it, approve of it, or congratulate (anyone on that occasion). On the contrary, it is obligatory to abandon it and stay far away from it – in response to Allaah and His Messenger, and to distance oneself from the anger of Allaah and His punishment.
Additionally, it is forbidden for a Muslim to assist or help in this Valentine’s Day, or any other of the forbidden/illegal celebrations in any way whatsoever – whether by food or drink, selling or buying, production, gift-giving, correspondence, announcements, etc. All of these things are considered as co-operating in sin and transgression and disobedience of Allaah and His Messenger. Allaah, the Glorious and Most High, says:
“… and co-operate with one another in righteousness and piety, and do not co-operate in sin and transgression. And fear Allaah! Verily Allaah is severe in punishment,” [Soorah al-Maa.idah, Aayah 2]
Likewise, it is obligatory for every Muslim to adhere strictly to the Qur’aan and Sunnah in every situation – especially in times of temptations and corruption. It is incumbent that he/she understand, be aware and be cautioned from falling into the deviations of those whom Allaah is angry with and those who are astray and the immoral people who have no fear of punishment – nor hope of reward – from Allaah, and who give no attention at all to Islaam.
It is necessary for the Muslim to flee to Allaah, the Most High, seeking His Hidaayah (Guidance) and Thabaat (Firmness) upon the Path. Verily, there is no Guide except Allaah, and no One Who can Grant Firmness except Him.