Chocolates, flowers, hearts, cards, and romance: these are the ingredients that make up the annual celebration of Valentine’s Day every February 14.
On the surface, these are lovely things. But in reality, the occasion promotes the culture of free sex and male-female relations from a specific point of view.
Although Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a celebration in honor of St. Valentine, who was killed because of his opposition to free sex, its origins and its adoption by Christians as a holiday is really a dishonor to this saint’s memory. Islamic scholar Abdullah Hakim Quick explains the pagan origins of the day in the video Holiday Myths.
You can find plenty of ways to turn around some of the ideas advocated by Valentine’s Day. One of these is with practical resolutions. There are also ideas Muslim communities can use to make others, especially young people, question the beliefs and concepts associated with V-Day.
You can also make others think about Valentine’s Day by using one of the occasion’s own methods of propagation: cards. Like everything Western, Valentine’s Day is also showing up in many Muslim countries. Challenge this latest import by sending our version of valentine cards to loved ones and friends.
Finally, if you’re under the illusion that this is an adult celebration, think again. Kids in public schools are indoctrinated into certain cultural expectations about male-female behavior and peer acceptance -through Valentine’s Day.
Don’t let this February 14 pass without a greater awareness of the story behind those lovely chocolates, cards, and flowers. There’s more to it than meets the eye.
Valentine’s Day: Some history you should know
St. Valentine’s Day: Paganization of Christianity or Christianization of paganism?
Christians were aware of the Pagan roots of Valentine’s Day. The way the Christians adopted St. Valentine’s Day should be a lesson for Muslims. In fact, the failure to fully separate Valentine’s Day from its pagan roots explains why Islamic scholars and a number of Muslims avoid adopting traditions of non-Muslims, even though they could possibly be Islamicized.
The Arabic word Bida means adopting something new as a religious practice into Islam. Bida is a sin in Islam. Muslims should avoid things with un Islamic roots even though they may appear to be innocent.
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 even knows that the Church even tried to ban the St. Valentine’s day. Rather, 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 honor 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 encyclopedia, 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 literature 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.
-Sources of information include: The Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Online Saints, http://www.lovestories.com/cupid/history.htm, the History Channel, and wilstar.com and the video Holiday Myths.
12 Valentine’s Day Resolutions
Normally, people make resolutions at the beginning of a new year, hoping to change their lives by maintaining good habits over the course of 12 months.
But Valentine’s Day is an interesting occasion to think about some of our behavior, especially regarding our self-image, who we love, and our relationship with the opposite sex.
Here are some “resolutions”:
- Boycott the mirror
Forget vanity. Of course, comb your hair, wash your face, do what you’ve got to do. But avoid spending time with the mirror. You’ll notice, you may start paying more attention to how you feel and think.
- Reduce the number of mirrors in the house
This will make it easier to do the above. Also, see if this action leads to you and the family focusing more on behavior than if your hair is blow dried right, there’s a zit on your nose, or any of the other worries we usually have about our looks.
- Don’t compare yourself in looks and money to others
How often have we envied the beautiful? Or the rich? Too often perhaps. In our celebrity-saturated culture, beautiful, rich and famous people can become idols people seek to not only worship but emulate.
Instead, say Alhamdu lillah. Allah has given me eyes I can see with, a nose, lips, etc. I’m normal, I can function, and no, I am not ugly. Say Alhamdu lillah, I have a job, I have an education, I am not poor. Too often we compare unfairly. Let’s avoid that.
- Don’t watch T.V. or read magazines
What adds to our excessive love of physical beauty is the media: ads in magazines, commercials, soap operas, etc. featuring “perfect” human beauty.
Turn off the T.V. and ditch People’s Magazine. See how long you can do this and see what a difference it makes in your life.
Also, check out Sound Vision’s unTV guide
- Make a Top Ten List
Remind yourself of the blessings Allah has given you. This will not only make your realize how content you should be, but also, it can help you realize how much all of us really need to love Allah and be grateful to Him for all of His blessings.
Try coming up with a Top Ten list of things to be grateful for. Write it up, maybe stick it somewhere you can see it. Whenever you feel depressed, fearful, or insecure, read and remind yourself of how much you do have.
- Ask yourself, Who Do I Love?
If Valentine’s Day is about love, then who do you really love? And why do you love them? Are they the center of your life? If so, why? What have they done for you to deserve your love?
Make a Top Ten list, in order of importance, of people you love with one sentence beside it explaining why you do. Then think about additions, subtractions, or changes in the order.
- Consider loving Allah
Think about it: who gave you life, everything you have, every breath you take, your job, your education, your parents, your spouse, your kids, your siblings, your breakfast this morning, that great raise you got the other day? Allah, of course.
Think about the implications of loving Allah. How does that translate into action in your daily life? Ask yourself, do I even know Allah well enough? Maybe I need to read some more about Him?
- Then consider the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
Do I understand the role he plays in my life, with me, today, at this time, in this country, in this city as a Muslim? Do I know enough about him to love him? What does loving him mean? How does it affect me everyday?
- Self-evaluate your behavior and habits
Too often, we lament over how many pounds we’ve gained over the last year (or month or day) or how much hair we’ve lost in the last couple of years.
Shift this attention to behavior and ask yourself some questions about your behavior. Better yet, ask yourself whom you really love, and who or what you’re really worshiping.
For some self-evaluation help, check out Sound Vision’s short self-evaluation guide.
- Lower your gaze
Now that you’re focusing on content instead of looks with yourself, why not do the same with others?
Lower your gaze when you encounter the guys/girls on the street, at school, at work etc. This doesn’t mean looking at the ground. It includes avoiding staring at someone who looks good to us. Let’s not forget: looks don’t tell us the whole story about ourselves, and it’s the same with others.
- Never give another Valentine’s Day card
Read up on what Valentine’s Day is really about and vow never to write up and give another Valentine’s Day card again. Use your money for Eid cards to family and friends instead.
- Send a Just Say No to Valentine’s Day card to five Muslims you know in Muslim countries
The Western cultural onslaught has already begun hitting the Muslim world. Don’t be surprised to see Muslims sending each other Happy Valentine’s Day greetings in Muslim countries. Educate Muslim family members and friends about it. Send them a Just Say No To Valentine’s Day card.
Affection in Islamic culture
By Samana Siddiqui
What a loving culture America is, some of us may think. We see lots of kissing, hugging, gift-giving etc. especially between members of the opposite sex.
In contrast, look at Muslims and Muslim societies. How often do you see couples doing the same in public? Muslims look like real sourpusses in comparison.
But is Islam anti-affection? Does Islam condemn public displays of affection?
Think about it on February 14
With Valentine’s Day coming up on February 14, men and women around the world (this is no longer just a European or American custom), will be shelling out millions to buy heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, brightly decorated cards, flowers and various other Valentine’s Day paraphernalia for their loved ones.
They will also, as is customary, make public displays of romance and affection to their loved ones, like putting an advertisement in a newspaper’s Valentine’s Day section.
But the loved ones being referred to here are usually husbands/wives, boy/girlfriends. On occasion, some people give cards to friends and classmates, but the focus of the Valentine’s Day observance is on the opposite sex.
Showing affection and giving gifts are part of Islamic culture
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) once remarked to a man who had never kissed any of his ten children, “That shows) you have no mercy and tenderness at all. Those who do not show mercy to others will not have God’s mercy shown on them” (quoted from Islam the Natural Way by Abdul Wahid Hamid p. 75.
And when it comes to giving gifts, let’s not forget this: “Exchange presents with one another, for they remove ill feelings from the hearts,” said the Prophet in a Hadith in Tirmidhi.
What about Public Display of Affection between spouses?
Love is beautiful. It’s not a cheap thing on display. It is a private thing in most cultures of the world unless it is love towards children. But what about showing affection between spouses amongst Muslims? This is where many complain Muslims are way too conservative. Some newlywed Muslim couples, especially, meet with the disapproval of parents or in-laws by showing affection, even in front of family members. But other Muslims choose this way.
“No PDA,” one Muslim sister in America once warned her husband, who was then her fiance (PDA stands for Public Display of Affection).
Affection between spouses is something which is usually reserved for the privacy of the home.
The Prophet’s Sunnah with regards to his wives
The one most perfect in his faith is he whose conduct is best and the best amongst you is he who behaves best towards his spouse. (Saying of the Prophet). The Prophet would race and watch with his wife a public theater presentation but would not hug or kiss her in public.
Love does not equal physical affection always
As well, one thing that also has to be stressed is that not showing physical affection publicly does not indicate a lack of love for another person.
While kissing and hugging our parents, kids, siblings or spouses does indicate love, not doing so all of the time does not necessarily indicate otherwise.
People are different, and Islam is a religion of moderation. It accommodates the very affectionate and the non-affectionate. While it encourages affection amongst family members and friends, for instance, it gives us the guidelines to know what is appropriate and what is not.
And when it comes to the husband-wife affection, let’s not forget that Allah says:
“And among His Signs is this, that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect” (Quran 30:21).