Islam is a religion of love, peace, piety and mercy. One of the indispensable obligations binding upon a Muslim is to treat everybody, including non-Muslims with love and kindness through manners, words and actions. In fact, extending greeting (salaam) to your brother (Muslim) is one of the foundations of love. Almighty Allah says in the Holy Quran: “And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner] …” [Surah An-Nisaa 4:86]
However, in today’s society, a certain date – February 14 has gone wild for the fact it is one of the days people claim to celebrate love. In actuality, this is a day when many sacrifice decency on the temple of indecency all in the name of Valentine and celebration of romantic love and romance. It is therefore quite intriguing that Muslim participate in this so-called celebration of love and romance’s day. It may sound somehow in some eardrums, and in fact, this may even trigger some people to ask that ‘as Muslims, are we not meant to show love to our loved ones?’ Interestingly, this question itself has its answer sitting rightly before it.
Let’s take you down memory lane, that, which informs our decision.
What is Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day is a Christian celebration that comes up annually every fourteenth (14th) day of February. It is believed to be the day when people show their affection for another person or people by sending cards, flowers or chocolates with love messages. But majorly, it features the celebration of romance and romantic love among the people. On this day, many people choose to put on red, white or pink dresses, based on their credence that those colors represent love and purity.
Among various Christian denominations, especially the Catholic Church, February 14 is fixed for the feast of St Valentine. However, the Eastern Orthodox Church usually honors St Valentine, the Roman presbyter on July 6. In addition to that, this same Church celebrates the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna on July 30.
Who is St Valentine?
Historians made it clear that there are numerous accounts of narrations concerning the martyrdom of St Valentines that could be linked to February 14. The rationale behind this can actually be traced to the fact that in the ancient Rome, Valentine was a popular appellation and there are at least 50 stories of different saints by that name. However, only two out of those numerous stories got more recognition and were regarded to have been the earliest surviving accounts of the two February 14 Valentines.
The first account reveals the story of one St Valentine whom many believed to be a priest from Rome in the third century AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. The Emperor gave an order banning people from getting married because he thought married men were bad soldiers. Valentine felt this to be unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages for people in secret. Claudius later found out, then he imprisoned St Valentine and sentenced him to death. While in the prison, he healed his jailer’s blind daughter and fell in love with her. Before he was decapitated on February 14, he sent the girl a love letter signed “from your Valentine”.
The second account unveils another story of St Valentine of Terni who was a bishop of interamna. He was also killed on February 14.
Story Behind Valentine’s Day
There is nothing with no beginning and Valentine’s day is not exception. Although the origin of the festival is somehow fuliginous and mystic, some writers and historians still maintain that Valentine’s Day was derived from both ancient Christian and Roman tradition. They rightly traced back the celebration to a Roman festival called Lupercalis/Lupercalia. The Roman used to observe the Lupercalia festival in the middle of February, that is the fifteenth day of the month – officially the beginning of their springtime. As part of the celebration of the festival between February 13 to 15, the men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had slain. This particular rite was described to be connected to fertility. Furthermore, men and women were joined together by randomly choosing names from a jar and they would remain a couple for the duration of the festival or longer.
In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian celebration and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14. He declared the day to be celebrated in honor of St Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the third century.
However, there are arguments that Valentine’s day cannot be linked to Lupercalia. A writer, Jack B. Oruch notes that the first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love first came to limelight in a poem called “Parliament of Foules” (1382) written by an English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer where he wrote: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
It was a common belief in medieval France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the notion that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.
Consequently, it becomes the claim of many more writers that Chancer’s poem solidified the linking of Valentine’s day with love and romance.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. Gradually, by the middle of 18th century, the tradition has spread rapidly across many nations.
St Valentine/Valentine’s day From the Standpoint of Shari’a
Even from the history of Valentine’s day itself, one can easily fetch that the festivity has no connection with Islam. The celebration is of Roman and Christian origin, so it is indeed a feast of Kuffar which Muslims are not permitted to partake in either wholly or partly under Shari’a.
The religion of Islam is very clear and our roles as Muslims have been well entrenched both in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (Salallah Alayhi Wa salam).
Almighty Allah says in the Quran: “To each among you, we have prescribed a law and a clear way” [Surah Al-Maa’idah 5:48]
It is without a doubt in Islam that there are only two festivities; they are Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Abu Dawood narrated that Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: When the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came to Madeenah, they had two days when they would play. He said: “What are these two days?” They said: “We used to play on these days during the Jaahiliyyah.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah has given you instead of them two days that are better than them: the day of al-Adha and the day of al-Fitr.” This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
By implication, any other festivals that have to do with the celebration of hero, a person, a group, an event or anything else are innovations which Muslims must never involve themselves in at all. This is substantiated by Hadith reported on the authority of the mother of faithful, Aisha (may Allaah be pleased with her) who said: The Messenger of Allah (Salallah Alayhi Wa salam) said: He who innovates something in this matter of ours (i.e, Islam) that is not of it will have it rejected by Allah. (Bukhari & Muslim). In another narration in Muslim, it reads: He who does an act which we have not commanded will have it rejected (by Allah).
Based on the fact that Valentine’s day is a festival of kuffar, pious Muslims are totally forbidden from observing it, and in fact they should neither approve it nor help others to celebrate it, however bantam it may be, because doing such is tantamount to disobedience to Almighty Allah. In the Holy Quran, Almighty Allah says: “Help you one another in Al‑Birr and at‑Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allaah. Verily, Allaah is Severe in punishment.” [Surah Al-Maa’idah 5:2]
Also, in the prophetic tradition, it is reported that Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said that: The Messenger of Allah (Salallah Alayhi Wa salam) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” [Abu Dawood].
Love in Islam
As rightly noted from the onset, Islam is a religion of peace, mercy and love. In fact, the term Islam is coined from Salam which means “peace.” Where there is peace, there is love and vice versa.
Muslims are expected to treat everyone with love and mercy. There are plethora of authorities from the Quran and Sunnah of Messenger of Allah (Salallah Alayhi Wa salam) that enjoin Muslims to love others. Few of them have been dropped here;
Almighty Allah says;
وَأَحْسِنُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
Be good. Verily, Allah loves those who are good. [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:195]
Again, Allah says;
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ سَيَجْعَلُ لَهُمُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وُدًّا
Verily, for those who have believed and done righteous deeds, the Most Merciful will appoint for them affection. [Surah Maryam 19:96].
In the prophetic tradition, it was reported that the Prophet told his companions as narrated authentically in al-Targheeb (3/210): “You don’t truly believe until you have rahmah for others.” His companions responded, “We all have rahmah.” The Prophet ﷺ then told them, “Verily, you don’t reach this level of faith by just having rahmah for those who are close to you, but you must have rahmah for everyone.”
Anas ibn Malik reported that: The Messenger of Allah) peace and blessings be upon him) said: “None of you has faith until he loves for his brother or his neighbor what he loves for himself.” [Sahih Bukhari].
Abdullah ibn Amr reported that: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whoever would love to be delivered from the Hellfire and entered into Paradise, then let him die with faith in Allah and the Last Day and let him treat the people the way he would love to be treated.” [Muslim].
Also, Abu Huraira reported that: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Love for the people what you love for yourself and you will be a believer. Behave well with your neighbors and you will be a Muslim.” [Sunan Ibn Majah].
All the above injunctions genuinely substatiate the existence of love in Islam. To select a specific day for love sounds unreasonable, inasmuch as one can infer from the Shari’a rulings that love should be a quotidian conception for the sake of Allah. If a day is chosen out of a whole year as day of love, then what happens to other days? Should they be treated as days of hatred? This is why we need to be conscious of our actions as Muslims.
There are several ways to show love in Islam, some of which include; greetings and returning greetings, showing kindness to everybody, removal of harmful objects from the road, visiting the sick, calling people to right path (Islam), helping the destitutes among others.
Why Muslims Should Not Celebrate Valentine
Valentine’s day is an innovated festival which has no basis in Quran and Sunnah of Messenger of Allah (Salallah Alayhi Wa salam).
The celebration is of Roman and Christian origin — feast of Kuffar.
The celebration can easily open door for all sort of forbidden acts (Haram) such as Zina, men mixing with women, music etc.
Islamic calendar is Hijri calendar, not Gregorian calendar — thus February 14 is nowhere to be found in Islam.
As Muslims, it is indispensable for us to be fully aware that our ummah is different from others. Our actions are rightly guided. Thus, we should not embark on any action without knowing the stand of Islam towards it. That is why we need to incessantly seek knowledge. Islam call on us to learn all kind of beneficial knowledge. Remember the Hadith where the Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whoever treads a path in seeking knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Paradise” (Al-Tirmidhi).