When a Muslim wishes to look at celebrated occasions in the Unites States, it is obligatory to analyze it according to the complete and unadulterated revelation; Islam is the complete way of life detailing every answer to any situation such as our topic at hand. In this analysis, I will attempt to summarize the history of Valentine’s Day: who was it named after, the reason, and how it was practiced. Then, I will discuss how it is practiced. Finally, I will discuss the ruling of Muslims participating in such an occasion.
Brief History of Valentine’s Day
February was considered in European civilizations as the month of romance; however, the story and patron of Valentine’s Day is unknown. What is accepted is that it is based on Roman and Christian traditions.
As for the name “Valentine”, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. The first is named after a man named Valentine who performed secret marriages for young lovers defying a royal decree outlawing single men from marrying by the then Emperor Claudius II because he opined that single men made better soldiers. Due to breaking this law, Valentine was apprehended and eventually killed.
The second so-called Valentine is based on a man helping Christians escape Roman prisons wherein they were beaten and tortured.
Another so-called Valentine is based on an imprisoned man who fell in love with a girl and sent her a greeting indicated his adoration for her.
It has also been suggested that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast in the middle of February to celebrate the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15, a Christian celebration.
What is Lupercalia?
Celebrated on February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity, but was outlawed because it was deemed “un-Christian.” However, at the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day in the Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance. Popularity of Valentine greetings began in the Middle Ages and written Valentine’s began to appear after 1400.
From what has been presented, we conclude the following:
- The name “Valentine” is based on some sympathetic hero and romantic figure, but the real origin is unknown or disputed.
- The practice of Valentine’s Day was based on pagan practices whose objective was fertility and not necessarily love.
- Valentine’s Day was initially banned in Christian society. Some time later, it was incorporated into Christian society as an acceptable practice.
The current practice of Valentine’s Day in the United States
Valentine’s Day is practiced on February 14 wherein Americans exchange cards or give gifts to another as an indication of one’s fondness and, in many cases, attraction towards another. In the case of gifts, it can range from giving candy, flowers, jewelry, and even lingerie. Red, pink, and white clothing is worn symbolizing the day. Furthermore, Valentine’s Day is an inclusive occasion consisting of married couples as well unmarried couples: heterosexual, homosexual, and transsexual. It also includes children wherein exchanges of sweets more take place amongst them as an indication of why one child likes or appreciates another.
Muslim scholars of various countries consider the practice of Valentine’s Day to be impermissible in Islam. Common reasons include it being a day of `Eid or an imitation of nonbelievers. In my opinion, I consider Valentine’s Day to also be impermissible. However, I do not agree with those that say it is like making it a day of `Eid. “Eid” is affiliated with a form of worship; and it is not known that Americans make this day a day of worship.
Islam does not encourage pagan practices. Allah states in an-Nahl, verse 90, “God commands justice, doing good, and generosity towards relatives and He forbids what is shameful, blameworthy, and oppressive…” Participating in Valentine’s Day consists of accepting a pagan practice. Specifically, the origins of Valentine’s Day, according to some people, are based on doing acts which encourage fertility. This practice is polytheism, and polytheism or encouragement of it in any way is oppression and blameworthy. Thus, the Eternal Lawgiver (Allah)explicitly prohibits this. The objective of such a prohibition is to our benefit from two aspects:
1. Actualizing a beneficial aspect: The Eternal Lawgiver commands us to actualize submission to Him by declaring our monotheistic belief; and this declaration is done by statements and actions. If performed, then a Muslim practices Allah’s objective of our creation – worshipping Him alone.
2. Prohibiting a corrupt aspect: Participation in such an occasion implies that paganism is acceptable.
Blocking pretenses is my other reason why I consider this participation to be forbidden. Gift giving is encouraged in Islam. However, the reason and manner it is performed in the states is what makes this impermissible. Most people give gifts on this day as a token of their affection or admiration of another. The problem is that in most cases it may lead to attraction of the opposite (and in some cases same) sex. This gives our enemy (Shaytan) the chance to work on the desires of others possibly causing corruption. Thus, the Eternal Lawgiver blocks this from occurring by declaring this participation impermissible. Allah states in al-Baqarah verse 168-169, “….and do not follow Satan’s footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy. He always commands you to do what is evil and indecent….”
In conclusion, I encourage my brothers and sisters to consider Allah’s statement surrounding this issue. He says in al-Baqarah verse 170, “But when it is said to them, Follow the message that God has sent down,’ they answer, ‘We follow the ways of our father.’ What! Even though their fathers understood nothing and were not guided?”
Allah knows best.