Is it Valentine’s day that is being prohibited or… love?

  • Various Muslim ‘authorities’ round the world have issued declarations that it is prohibited to celebrate Valentine’s Day, including some in our own beloved United Kingdom. The Saudis predictably have gone the whole hog and sent the Vice Police round all the shops to make sure nothing red-coloured is sold for the whole week. They’ve even issued a fatwa against it. (surely this opens the way for a bit of cheeky subversiveness with another colour… how about the Saudi green… ?) Indonesia, Hyderabad and Kashmir amongst others seemed unhappy about the celebration too. The Kuwaitis are not pleased either, but they have captured one of the reasons that the day of luurve has got under their skin – a number of Kuwaiti MPs described Valentine’s Day as a Western tradition that is not compatible with Kuwaiti values.

    Whilst the neo-con-we-have-Islam-it’s-medaeival-brigade may be reading the above and shouting “see! see! we told you!”, it seems that there are two things at play here.

    The Kuwaiti statement captures the first of these – what is the need to pick up celebrations from round the world, particularly the post-colonial-west, particularly when even the countries of origin recognise the shallow commercial nature of that celebration? Whilst in the UK we may smile at the day, most people actually make a concerted effort NOT to make a big deal about it.

    If these countries want to reject the day on the count that it is consumerist, shallow, reductive of love to a one-off day, lacking in merit or just simply tacky, or reminding them of imperialist days gone by, then who are we to tut-tut? The western reportage seems to be taking the line that the rejection of this day is an affront to civiliation. But what business is it of ours whether other countries like or dislike our idiosyncratic cultural celebrations?

    The second thread that seems to be running through some of the ‘Islamic’ edicts, I find much more perplexing, and that is the idea that Valentine’s Day is ‘unIslamic’ and perhaps even ‘haram’ to celebrate it.

    IslamOnline’s Q and A says that the day is bid’ah, an innovation, and since it emanates from pagan sources, we should not participate. There are warnings that celebrating the day can lead to various kinds of immodest behaviour (!). Surely the correct and much more sensible approach is to advise people on the boundaries of modesty (dress and behaviour), rather than focusing on one specific event?

    What I find perplexing is that the day now is simply an excuse to remember love. My husband surprised me with a rose at work (despite the fact that he calls it a hallmark holiday), I left him a surprise chocolate heart. I sent my female friends declarations of my love and friendship. Everyone felt a bit happier, no? What could be wrong with that?

    As part of the information I received about why I shouldn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, I found these quotes: “Love is a psychological sickness”, and “If a man is in love with a woman… his heart remains enslaved to her, and she can control him as she wishes… In that case, she will control him like a harsh and oppressive master controls his abject slave”

    I worry about this – that love is considered a negative and corrosive thing by the ‘authorities’. It seems to be a ‘top-down’ thing. Popular discourse – including in Saudi – uses as much more common-sense approach as this cartoon from Saudi Arabia shows.

    Now, I’m no scholar, but this negativity is not my understanding of love in Islam. It just doesn’t seem to make sense at all with the basic foundations of Islam. A good example of love being rooted at the very birth of Islam is illuminated in the story of Muhammed and his wife Khadija, described as a true love story, a relationship built on mutual respect, trust and truth through adversity. The Qur’an also talks about how a married couple are blessed with love, as part of their marriage. Love, is a blessing for human beings, a wonderful thing to give and be given.

    What could be better than love? Islam is, after all, the state of loving the Creator and loving Creation…

13 Comments

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Peter Palladas

    February 15, 2008

    “If a man is in love with a woman… his heart remains enslaved to her, and she can control him as she wishes…”

    Ain’t that the truth! 😉

    If there is an Islamic ‘problem’ with St. Valentine’s Day, then I suspect it is in the saint bit as much as in the erotic love element.

    Although now completely divorced in principle and in practice from the original Christian legend – and it was never more than that – the whole notion of having this day dedicated to human love is based on the tale of Valentinus.

    That the name of at least two, if not three, early Christian martyrs one of whom may, or may not, have written a farewell note to a female friend that may, or again may not, have ended “Yours ever, Valentinus”.

    Personally I blame Chaucer, who seems the first to have tied this fellow – loosely – to the fecundal feast of Lupercalia that pagans did indeed celebrate on 15th February. (Close – as Groucho Marx would say – but no cigar.)

    So yes Valentine’s Day is essentially now as much pagan as it is Christian, and on those double grounds I can see why Islam ain’t too impressed, seeing celebration of the feast as something to be discouraged.

    On the whole though – and setting aside the true matter that a man in love is a man not free to live his life or watch the footie when he wants – the love of man and woman deserves the highest acclaim.

    But the abiding question must be only this – who was it sent me that anonymous card yesterday?!

  • Matt M

    February 16, 2008

    If these countries want to reject the day on the count that it is consumerist, shallow, reductive of love to a one-off day, lacking in merit or just simply tacky, or reminding them of imperialist days gone by, then who are we to tut-tut?

    If the PEOPLE of these countries choose not to observe the day then there’s no problem at all. If the GOVERNMENTS want to ban the day then it’s profoundly illiberal and should be condemned by those who support the idea of individual liberty.

  • Coolred38

    February 19, 2008

    What ever happened to “no compulsion in religion”…it would seem there is no compulsion as long as your practicing Islam they “we” want you to.

    Sad state of affairs when declarations of love are outlawed…

  • Cameron

    February 23, 2008

    In the early years of Muslim history, the religion swept accross the world, and look how far it spread, to Morrocco and into Europe, down into Africa, right across to Indonessia and to China. It must have offered something really wonderful to persuade so many people to give up what they had to take up Islam. So, it seems a rather sad state of affairs when countries feel a need to ban Valentine’s day. Perhaps they need to look at the issue more seriously – if they need to ‘enforce’ Islam, then have they gone wrong somewhere with the way they interpret or apply it in their country, after all, if they still offered the same wonderfullness that clearly existed in the early years of Islam, then it wouldn’t need to be enforced, their people would adhere to it enthusiastically, and it may also have achieved rapid mass conversion in the UK and America.

    Looking at this from a purely cultural perspective, I can appreciate that countries do not want to lose their culture and I also would not want to lose the diversity of cultures that we have in this world, and it is sad that many aspects of culture in many countries are being lost – for example, the dropping of traditional costumes in favour of western suits, jeans and T-shirts.

    I have never taken Valentine’s day too seriously, and I have never really thought of it as either pagan or Christian, I just like to spend some quality time with a loved one.

  • Cameron

    February 23, 2008

    In the early years of Muslim history, the religion swept accross the world, and look how far it spread, to Morrocco and into Europe, down into Africa, right across to Indonessia and to China. It must have offered something really wonderful to persuade so many people to give up what they had to take up Islam. So, it seems a rather sad state of affairs when countries feel a need to ban Valentine’s day. Perhaps they need to look at the issue more seriously – if they need to ‘enforce’ Islam, then have they gone wrong somewhere with the way they interpret or apply it in their country, after all, if they still offered the same wonderfullness that clearly existed in the early years of Islam, then it wouldn’t need to be enforced, their people would adhere to it enthusiastically, and it may also have achieved rapid mass conversion in the UK and America.

    Looking at this from a purely cultural perspective, I can appreciate that countries do not want to lose their culture and I also would not want to lose the diversity of cultures that we have in this world, and it is sad that many aspects of culture in many countries are being lost – for example, the dropping of traditional costumes in favour of western suits, jeans and T-shirts.

    I have never taken Valentine’s day too seriously, and I have never really thought of it as either pagan or Christian, I just like to spend some quality time with a loved one.

  • Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

    February 23, 2008

    Cameron, I think you’ve put this rather eloquently – if something is right and true, then people will naturally be drawn to it – that is the nature of truth, it is inherently beautiful. I share your sadness that the wonderfulness of some Islamic ideas no longer can shine through. I believe that it has much to offer if we can simply re-connect with its spirit of compassion and justice.

    Your writing reminds me of a story I learnt as a child. The kaba was important in arabian culture even before the advent of Islam (being built by Abraham). Just before the birth of the Prophet Muhammed, a ruler called Abraha decided it posed a political threat to him and decided to destroy it. When he approached Mecca, he had to meet with Abdul Mutallib, the grandfather of the Prophet who was not yet born. He was the guardian of the Kaba – which was not only a religious but also a trading centre. In discussions over what violence might transpire Abdul Mutallib requested that Abraha would not destroy or loot Abdul Mutallib’s camels. Abraha was rather surprised by this request by Abdul Mutallib and asked why he wasn’t bothered about the Kaba being protected. Abdul Mutallib simply said, the camels are in my care, i must see to their protection, the Kaba belongs to God, he’ll look after it.

  • Loverofpeace

    March 1, 2008

    Islam is a beautiful religion, indeed, but for a Muslim to celebrate this day is, in fact, haraam; it is bid’ah. The prophet muhammad (p.b.u.h) told the muslimeen that there are only 2 celebrations, and they are eid al-fitr and eid al-adha. There is nothing wrong with love, but it is wrong to celebrate this day. I think it is extreme for the government to make sure nothing red or pink is sold for the week because in Islam there should be no compulsion of religion. But it is wrong for people to do extra special things to prove their love on a specific day because that is celebrating a day that the prophet (p.b.u.h) never told us to celebrate. It is the same with birthdays, haloween, and April Fool’s; they are haraam to celebrate.

    Another thing is why should people show their love on Valentine’s day, shouldn’t love be shown everydy, so why do people only show their love(or show more of their love) on valentine’s? Also, people should look at the history of Valentine’s day. How did Valentine’s day come to be celebrated? Even though people are like we are just celebrating it because it is the popular thing to do, they do not know that they are actually celebrating the day that a priest was martyred for not giving up Christianity. Should Muslims really be celebrating this day. Even though people are not celebrating Valentine’s for what actually happened to the person Valentine, but the holiday was formed because of the priest. Even though it may seem innocent to celebrate the “day of love”, but in Islam it is very wrong.

    Basically, Muslims shouldn’t celebrate this day because love should be shown everyday regardless of whether it is Valentine’s Day or not (keep in mind god knows our intentions), The prophet never said to celebrate any other days except the 2 Eids, and celebrating Valntine’s Day is like celebrating Saint Valentine and commemorating his death.

    Hope this helped 😉

  • Loverofpeace

    March 1, 2008

    Islam is a beautiful religion, indeed, but for a Muslim to celebrate this day is, in fact, haraam; it is bid’ah. The prophet muhammad (p.b.u.h) told the muslimeen that there are only 2 celebrations, and they are eid al-fitr and eid al-adha. There is nothing wrong with love, but it is wrong to celebrate this day. I think it is extreme for the government to make sure nothing red or pink is sold for the week because in Islam there should be no compulsion of religion. But it is wrong for people to do extra special things to prove their love on a specific day because that is celebrating a day that the prophet (p.b.u.h) never told us to celebrate. It is the same with birthdays, haloween, and April Fool’s; they are haraam to celebrate.

    Another thing is why should people show their love on Valentine’s day, shouldn’t love be shown everydy, so why do people only show their love(or show more of their love) on valentine’s? Also, people should look at the history of Valentine’s day. How did Valentine’s day come to be celebrated? Even though people are like we are just celebrating it because it is the popular thing to do, they do not know that they are actually celebrating the day that a priest was martyred for not giving up Christianity. Should Muslims really be celebrating this day. Even though people are not celebrating Valentine’s for what actually happened to the person Valentine, but the holiday was formed because of the priest. Even though it may seem innocent to celebrate the “day of love”, but in Islam it is very wrong.

    Basically, Muslims shouldn’t celebrate this day because love should be shown everyday regardless of whether it is Valentine’s Day or not (keep in mind god knows our intentions), The prophet never said to celebrate any other days except the 2 Eids, and celebrating Valntine’s Day is like celebrating Saint Valentine and commemorating his death.

    Hope this helped 😉

  • Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

    March 2, 2008

    loverofpeace, there is a major flaw in your argument. You state that according to the hadith there are ONLY two ‘eids’ to be celebrated. This is incorrect. For example, Friday is considered Eid, a day to be celebrated. Further, the Prophet has said that any day where the believer has improved over a previous day is also an Eid.
    By your statement you have overruled the Prophet on such matters.

    However, my point is not to do battle with hadiths, that is not fruitful in this case because I have no doubt that you will counter with some further hadith. Please do not do do so as we will spiral indefinitely. (I’m sure you will counter, so I’m expecting that).

    It seems to me that the Prophet has not forbidden allocating a day or time to specifically honour a particular concept. Let’s consider mother’s day. Every day should be mother’s day, just as every day should be a day for love, as you rightly suggest above. But as human beings there is nothing wrong with setting out a specific time to honour mother’s or honour love, so we can remind ourselves of its importance in our lives which are becoming far too busy. I cannot see how honouring such ideas or concepts can be haram. As the Qur’an says, let us not make haram for ourselves that which Allah has made halal.

    On a personal note, I think the charm that valentine’s day once had has been lost. I think a colleague of mine summed it up best. He was travelling for business and had pre-arranged for a bouquet of roses to be delivered to his wife. The note read “Here is a bunch of overpriced flowers. Sorry I can’t be there to take you for an overpriced meal.” It made her laugh.

  • ZaKARiYa

    March 13, 2008

    the only reason for why i dont agree with valentines day is because it limits loving someone to one day of the year. why cant every day be a ‘valentines day’, where you can show how you feel about a loved one through respcting her and by being the ideal muslim husband? yeah ok the day does bring some happiness but it can lead 2 problems in the future.e.g the origins of idolatry. for those of you who do not know it came about through the so called innocent veneration of these 5 heroes which lead 2 them being worshipped. instead of promoting that valentines is ok i think it would be better to promote loving your loved ones regularly. its in accordance (i think) with islam and also people will be happy.

  • Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

    March 14, 2008

    well, how can i do anything but agree with expressing your love everyday???!!
    Hurrah for love!

  • Dulce

    November 14, 2008

    Hi,

    I’m a representative from a dating site and would be glad to advertise in http://www.spirit21.co.uk/2008/02/is-it-valentines-day-that-is-being.html. Kindly email me back if you’re interested so we could discuss pricing and other details. Thank you for your time.

    Dulce

  • Saloua

    April 24, 2009

    Just a brief comment becuase i posted about this on your most recent posts.

    I disagree whole heartedly with valentiens day, goes against sunnah and therefore nto islamic practice and not in best interest for muslims to practice.

    But i am all up for celebrating love.
    why not celebrate it on your anniversry if you really must.
    I know i would. That week i got married (inshallah) i would do everything i did in that week again.
    So the first time we took a walk in the park togther, first resturant we went to etc etc. Then it would be a day to rekindle the excitment and rush of feeligns we had when we first got maarried. anyway that is something i would do