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Valentine's day: History and the Islamic perspective

  • What is it and where did it come from?

    Consider Valentine's Day, a day that after dying out a well-deserved death in most of Europe (but surviving in Britain and the 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 honour 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 the 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.

    As usual, Christianity tried, without success, to stop the evil celebration of Lupercalia. It first replaced the lottery of the names of women with a lottery of the names of the saints. The idea was that during the following year the young men would emulate the life of the saint whose name they had drawn. (The idea that you can preserve the appearance of a popular evil and yet somehow turn it to serve the purpose of virtue, has survived. Look at all those people who are still trying, helplessly, to use the formats of popular television entertainments to promote good. They might learn something from this bit of history. It failed miserably) Christianity ended up doing in Rome, and elsewhere, as the Romans did. The only success it had was in changing the name from Lupercalia to St. Valentine's Day. It was done in CE 496 by Pope Gelasius, in honour of some Saint Valentine. There are as many as 50 different Valentines in Christian legends. Two of them are famous although their lives and characters are also shrouded in mystery. According to one legend, and the one more in line with the true nature of this celebration, St. Valentine was a "lovers'" saint, who had himself fallen in love with his jailer's daughter.

    Due to serious troubles that accompanied such lottery, the French government banned the practice in 1776. In Italy, Austria, Hungry, and Germany also the ritual vanished over the years. Earlier, it had been banned in England during the 17th century when the Puritans were strong. However, in 1660 Charles II revived it. From there it also reached the New World, where enterprising Yankees spotted a good means of making money. Esther A. Howland, who produced one of the first commercial American Valentine's Day cards called--- what else--- valentines, in the 1840s, sold $5,000 worth--when $5,000 was a lot of money--the first year. The valentine industry has been booming ever since.

    The history of Valentine's Day serves as a powerful lesson for Muslims. St. Valentine became a Saint trying to resist free sex. Even though there was an attempt to Christianize it, today St. Valentine's day is gone back to its roots. No one also knows that the Church even tried to ban the St. Valentine's Day. Instead, most people think of romance, cupid and his arrow, which are vestiges of pagan Rome.

    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.

    Christian influence

    When Christianity came onto the scene in Rome, it wanted to replace this feast with something more in line with its ethics and morality. Some Christians decided to use February 14 for this purpose. This was when the Roman Emperor Claudius II executed the Italian Bishop Valentine 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 became 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 traditions connected to Valentine's Day originated 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 literature make indirect references to the practice. Those who chose each other as husband and wife on Valentine's Day called each other their Valentines.

    Regarding Valentine's greeting "Your Valentine" which today you find on some Valentine's Day cards, the above-mentioned Roman priest Valentine 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.

    Islamic perspective

    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: 1.  In recent times, the celebration of the Valentine Day has spread, particularly among female students. It is a Christian celebration, and it is (manifested) with entirely 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 appeals 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 gives them protection and guidance. Ameen.

    Question: 2. 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 Islamic 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? 

    Response/Answers:

    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 a 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 copying of them and having love or devotion 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'an 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 Allah and no One who can Grant Firmness except Him.

    Culled By Abbas Mohammed Tatah,

    No 11/12 Juward New layout (GRA Toro)

    Toro Local Government, Bauchi State.

    +2348032299462

    abbastatah@gmail.com

    Culled from: AL-Islaah Publications by:

    Mr. Abbas M. Tatah

    abbastatah@gmail.com

    Prepared by AL-Islaah Publications ( www.everymuslim.net ) from sources:

    1. Al- Balagh

    2. Fatwa-on-line

    3. The Catholic Encyclopedia

    4. Catholic Online Saints.

    5. Lovestories , the History Channel, and Wilstar  and the video Holiday Myths.

    6. Soundvision

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