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Valentine’s Day: A Lookback and One Critical Question

Red Roses, big boxes of chocolates, cute teddy bears, and other tokens of apparent love – February is tainted by what they call love and romance courtesy of Valentine’s Day – the holiday of love. 

Love, romance, flowers, and everything nice have now become central to Valentine’s Day. But has it always been like this? 

More importantly, as Muslims, what stance should we take as the world turns red, streets get lined up with heart-shaped balloons, and everyone discusses love and Valentine’s Day? 

Let’s talk. 

The Dark History Behind Valentine’s Day

There are multiple legends that historians often link to the roots of Valentine’s Day. The two most popular of them, though, do include the famed Saint Valentine. 

But for now, let’s start with the oldest legend that may have sowed the seeds of the holiday we now know as Valentine’s Day. 

This story dates back to ancient pagan Rome, which celebrated the festival of Lupercalia. During the festival, Roman priests would sacrifice a goat and a dog, strip their remains, and slap the women of the city with them. This was said to make these women more fertile for the coming year. 

According to some opinions, the Catholic Church later named the Pagan Festival of Lupercalia after St. Valentine in an attempt to Christianize it for its people. 

Where did St. Valentine come from? From two separate stories – all of which involve the sad demise – or martyrdom – of a Saint named Valentine. 

According to the first story, Roman Emperor Claudius ll believed that single men made better soldiers. Married men had too much at stake, with their wives and probably kids waiting and hoping for them to come back home alive. Therefore, Claudies ll outlawed marriage, making it difficult for young men to get married. 

The unfateful decision failed to disseminate the love that burnt in the hearts of young men who continued to wish to get married to their lovers. 

Amidst all this, one “brave” priest, named – you guessed it – St. Valentines chose to go against the Emperor and continued to officiate the marriages of young couples. 

This, of course, enraged the Emperor. Claudius, therefore, decided to execute St. Valentine. From then on, the death anniversary of the Day of the burial of this “brave warrior of love” became Valentine’s Day – a day dedicated to love. 

According to another legend, St. Valentine’s either refused to worship Roman gods or helped Christians escape the harsh Roman prisons. He was jailed for his crimes and sent a letter to his lady love signed “From Your Valentine”, which, by the way, is still being cheekily used. 

Regardless of which story we choose to believe in, if any, the idea of love and sacrifice appears central to all the legends claimed to have formed the roots of Valentine’s Day.  

The Modern Valentine’s Day

These legends, however, have now pretty much faded into the background. 

Valentine’s Day has now become a commercial holiday helping capitalist organisations make billions of dollars annually. Amazon made $7 million in gift basket sales in the days before Valentine’s Day in 2021. 

For most average people, it has become a day they are obligated, almost forced, to go out of their way to show that they love their loved ones even if they don’t feel like it or can’t afford it. 

The holiday, which may have never had any morally upright roots, has now become even more tainted with filth, corruption, and various forms of transgressions.

Even if we don’t look at it through a religious or Islamic lens, Valentine’s Day may be adding an additional burden on people already worn out by the difficult economic situations. 

We, however, claim to be Muslims. And so, we gotta look at things with an Islamic lens. 

So, Can’t We Celebrate Love? 

Why do we need to dedicate just one Day in the entire year to celebrate love? Why do we need a holiday just so we can show our loved ones that we care? 

Islam is a religion that celebrates love as long as it is within the limits prescribed by Islamic law. Our religion not only allows but encourages us to show our love and affection towards our family and friends (the halal ones!). And, of course, there’s no form of love more honoured and rewarded than the one between spouses. 

So, you can and should celebrate that, but should it be tied to a single day? 

Love in Islam is pure. And we certainly do not need a holiday rooted in Pagan or Christian traditions to celebrate it. 

If you want to show your loved ones you care about them, why not do it every Day? You can choose to do little things that make your spouse or any other family member feel loved more often; why wait for Valentine’s Day? 

In essence, Valentine’s Day is truly unnecessary; the need for celebrating is now fueled by the capitalist organisations feeding off our FOMOs. If you want to give your loved one a red rose, do it any day of the year. If you don’t want to give someone a long-stemmed red rose because it’s crazy expensive? Don’t. Show them you love them some other day with some other thing. 

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