Celebrating Valentine’s Day

As a new Muslim, Valentine’s day can be a bit of a challenging holiday to deal with. As February begins, we start to see our surrounding environments filled with giant teddy bears, heart shaped chocolates and red roses. Our online environments are also bursting with videos, gift ideas and discounts for Valentine’s day. All of this can be overwhelming to take in, and difficult to avoid.

Every new-Muslim reading this will have a different relationship status. Some may be single, some may still be in relationships that began before reverting, some may be engaged, and some may be married. No matter where you find yourself, the key thing to bear in mind is that you are making choices that will nurture your Iman and bring you closer to Allah (subhanahu wa-ta’ala). When holidays like this come round, it’s important that we stop a moment to reflect on what they truly symbolise and represent to us as Muslims.

‘So, who’s your Valentine?’

At school, work and on the TV, conversations bounce between light-hearted statements and flirtatious jokes about Valentine’s day. Growing up in this environment, we become immune to the varied themes of conversations and events that take place around us that are essentially of an un-Islamic nature. It’s just a joke though, it’s not really a big deal…right?

The history and commercialism surrounding Valentine’s day both promote ‘love’, which can stoke feelings of desire and lust in the unmarried, which can lead to immoral behaviour. In the Quran, Allah (subhanahu wa-ta’ala) says,

‘Say, “My Lord has only forbidden immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed […]’ (7:33).

In Islam, all forms of immoral speech and actions are prohibited. Following this principle protects our morals, honour and chastity. To compromise this principle would be a dishonour and disservice only to ourselves.

More worryingly, the holiday has origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February. The festival, which celebrated the coming of spring, included fertility rites and pairing off women with men by lottery. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day. Evidently, Valentine’s Day has very strong pagan origins and traditions.

As Muslims who have submitted to God (Allah), and guide our lives through the Quran and Sunnah (the way of the Prophet, peace be upon him), what does Islam say about this?

One relevant historic incident that helps to guide us in this regard is when the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) came to the city of Madinah. At the time they commemorated two festivals from their pagan traditions so the prophet (PBUH) enquired about these days. He (peace be upon him) then said:

“Allah has replaced them for you with something better than them. The day of al-Adha and the day of al-Fitr.”

This hadeeth explains to us that non-Islamic festivals have been replaced for Muslims by the two Eid celebrations (al-Adha and al-Fitr). The hadeeth also helps to clarify our stance towards all other commercial and religious festivities such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s day and Halloween etc.

Ultimately this holiday can result in harmful and forbidden (haram) things such as wasting time, singing, music, extravagance, unveiling and free-mixing. The lustful tone behind this holiday encourages immorality that cannot be excused by the simple claim that this is a form of entertainment or fun. The sincere Muslim will always seek to stay away from sin and the means that lead to it.

So even though at times it can become tempting to take part just for the fun of it, as Muslims we must remember to always protect ourselves. When our environments both inwardly and outwardly begin to feel pressured, we can turn to prayer, as Allah (subhanahu wa-ta’ala – glorified and exalted be He) says:

‘Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do. (29:45)