The Story of the Festival of Love (Valentine’s Day)
The Festival of Love was one of the festivals of the pagan Romans, when paganism was the prevalent religion of the Romans more than seventeen centuries ago. In the pagan Roman concept, it was an expression of “spiritual love”. There were myths associated with this pagan festival of the Romans, which persisted with their Christian heirs. Among the most famous of these myths was the Roman belief that Romulus, the founder of Rome, was suckled one day by a she-wolf, which gave him strength and wisdom. The Romans used to celebrate this event in mid-February each year with a big festival. One of the rituals of this festival was the sacrifice of a dog and a goat. Two strong and muscular youths would daub the blood of the dog and goat onto their bodies, then they would wash the blood away with milk. After that there would be a great parade, with these two youths at its head, which would go about the streets. The two youths would have pieces of leather with which they would hit everyone who crossed their path. The Roman women would welcome these blows, because they believed that they could prevent or cure infertility.
The connection between Saint Valentine and this festival
Saint Valentine is a name which is given to two of the ancient “martyrs” of the Christian Church. It was said that there were two of them, or that there was only one, who died in Rome as the result of the persecution of the Gothic leader Claudius, c. 296 CE. In 350 CE, a church was built in Rome on the site of the place where he died, to perpetuate his memory. When the Romans embraced Christianity, they continued to celebrate the Feast of Love mentioned above, but they changed it from the pagan concept of “spiritual love” to another concept known as the “martyrs of love”, represented by Saint Valentine who had advocated love and peace, for which cause he was martyred, according to their claims. It was also called the Feast of Lovers, and Saint Valentine was considered to be the patron saint of lovers.
One of their false beliefs connected with this festival was that the names of girls who had reached marriageable age would be written on small rolls of paper and placed in a dish on a table. Then the young men who wanted to get married would be called, and each of them would pick a piece of paper. He would put himself at the service of the girl whose name he had drawn for one year, so that they could find out about one another. Then they would get married, or they would repeat the same process again on the day of the festival in the following year. The Christian clergy reacted against this tradition, which they considered to have a corrupting influence on the morals of young men and women. It was abolished in Italy, where it had been well-known, then it was revived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when in some western countries there appeared shops which sold small books called “Valentine’s books”, which contained love poems, from which the one who wanted to send a greeting to his sweetheart could choose. They also contained suggestions for writing love letters.
It was also said concerning the origins of this holiday that when the Romans became Christian, after Christianity had become widespread, the Roman emperor Claudius II decreed in the third century CE that soldiers should not get married, because marriage would distract them from the wars they used to fight. This decree was opposed by Saint Valentine, who started to perform marriages for the soldiers in secret. When the emperor found out about that, he threw him in jail and sentenced him to execution. In prison, he (Saint Valentine) fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, but this was a secret because according to Christian laws, priests and monks were forbidden to marry or fall in love. But he is still regarded highly by the Christians because of his steadfastness in adhering to Christianity when the emperor offered to pardon him if he forsook Christianity and worshipped the Roman gods; then he would be one of his closest confidantes and he would make him his son-in-law. But Valentine refused this offer and preferred Christianity, so he was executed on 14 February 270 CE, on the eve of February 15, the festival of Lupercalis. So this day was named for this saint. In The Story of Civilization, it says that the Church devised a calendar in which every day was designated as the feast day of one of the saints.
In England, Saint Valentine’s Day was to come at the end of winter. When that day came, according to them, the birds mated enthusiastically in the forests, and the young men would put flowers on the windowsills of the homes of the girls whom they loved. (The Story of Civilization by Will Durant, 15/23) The Pope designated the day of the death of Saint Valentine, February 14, 270 CE, as a festival of love. Who is the Pope? He is the “the archbishop, the supreme pontiff of the universal church, the successor of Saint Peter.” Look at this “archbishop” and how he prescribed for them the observance of this festival which was an innovation in their religion. This reminds us of what Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah)…”[al-Tawbah 9:31]
It was narrated that ‘Adiy ibn Haatim said: “I came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wearing a gold cross around my neck. He said, ‘O ‘Adiy, cast aside this idol.’ And I heard him reciting from Soorat Baraa’ah [al-Tawbah] (interpretation of the meaning): ‘They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah.’ He said: ‘They do not worship them, but when they permit them something they accept it as permitted, and when they forbid them something they accept it as forbidden.’” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and it is a hasan hadeeth).
Among the most important symbols of this holiday:
1 – Expressing joy and happiness on this occasion, as on their other major festivals.
2 – Exchanging red roses, which are an expression of love, the “spiritual love” of the pagans or the “love” of the Christians. Hence it is known to them as the Feast of Lovers.
3 – The sending of greetings cards. On some of these cards are pictures of “Cupid”, who appears as a child with two wings, carrying a bow and arrows. This was the god of love of the pagan Romans – exalted be Allah far above their fabrications and their association of others with Him.
4 – Exchange of words of love and desire in the greetings cards which they send to one another, in verse, prose and short phrases. Some of the cards contain comical pictures and funny words, and they often contain the phrase “be my Valentine”. This represents the Christian concept of this festival after it was taken from the pagan concept.
5 – In many western countries, parties are held during the day and in the evening, where there is mixing of men and women, and dancing. Many of them send gifts such as roses and boxes of chocolates to their wives, friends and those whom they love.
Anyone who looks at what is said above about the myths surrounding this pagan festival will clearly understand the following:
Firstly: That its origins lie in the pagan beliefs of the Romans, where it was an expression of the spiritual love of the idols which they used to worship instead of Allah. Whoever celebrates it is celebrating an occasion of shirk on which the idols are venerated. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Verily, whosoever sets up partners (in worship) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise to him, and the Fire will be his abode. And for the Zaalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers) there are no helpers” [al-Maa’idah 5:72]
Secondly: That the development of this festival among the Romans was connected to myths and legends which no sound mind can accept, let alone the mind of the Muslim who believes in Allah and His Messengers (peace be upon them). Can anyone of sound mind believe that a she-wolf suckled the founder of the city of Rome and gave him strength and wisdom. Moreover, these myths go against the belief (‘aqeedah) of the Muslim because the One Who bestows strength and wisdom is the Creator, may He be glorified and exalted, not the milk of a she- wolf! The same applies to the myth that their idols could protect them from evil or keep wolves away from their flocks.
Thirdly: Among the ugly rituals of the Romans on this day was the sacrifice of a dog and a goat, the daubing of their blood onto two youths then washing the blood off with milk, etc… This is something that would cause revulsion in anyone of a sound nature, and it is unacceptable to the sound mind.
Fourthly: The connection between Saint Valentine and this festival has been questioned by many sources, and it considered to be far from definite. It would have been better for the Christians to reject this pagan festival in which they imitated the pagans. So how about us Muslims, who are commanded to be different from the Christians and the pagans before them?
Fifthly: this festival was denounced by the Christian clergy in Italy, the bastion of Catholicism, because it was spreading bad attitudes and having an adverse effect on the minds of young men and women. So it is better for the Muslims to reject it, warn others against it and to fulfil their duty towards it of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil.
Someone may ask: why do we Muslims not celebrate this festival?
This question may be answered in several ways:
1. In Islam, the festivals are clearly defined and well established, and no additions or subtractions may be accepted. They are an essential part of our worship and there is no room for ijtihaad or personal opinion. They have been prescribed for us by Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Festivals are part of the laws, clear way and religious ceremonies of which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): ‘To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way [al-Maa’idah 5:48] ‘For every nation We have ordained religious ceremonies which they must follow’ [al-Hajj 22:67] like the qiblah (direction faced in prayer), prayer and fasting. So there is no difference between joining them in their festival and joining them in their other rituals. Agreeing with the whole festival is agreeing with kufr. Agreeing with some of their minor issues is the same as agreeing with them in some of the branches of kufr.
Festivals are the most distinctive things by which religions are told apart, so whoever celebrates their festivals is agreeing with the most distinctive rituals of kufr. Undoubtedly going along with them in their festivals may in some cases lead to kufr. Dabbling in these things, at the very least, is a sin. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) referred to the fact that every nation has its own festivals when he said: ‘Every nation has its own Eid and this is our Eid’ (al-Bukhaari , 952, Muslim, 1892).” (al-Iqtidaa’, 1/471-472)
Because Valentine’s Day goes back to Roman times, not Islamic times, this means that it is something which belongs exclusively to the Christians, not to Islam, and the Muslims have no share and no part in it. If every nation has its own festivals, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said – “Every nation has its Eid” (narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim) – then this means that every nation should be distinguished by its festivals. If the Christians have a festival and the Jews have a festival, which belongs exclusively to them, then no Muslim should join in with them, just as he does not share their religion or their direction of prayer.
2. Celebrating Valentine’s Day means resembling or imitating the pagan Romans, then the Christian People of the Book in their imitation of the Romans in something that was not a part of their religion. If it is not allowed to imitate the Christians in things that really are part of their religion – but not part of our religion – then how about things which they have innovated in their religion in imitation of idol-worshippers?!
Imitating the kuffaar in general –whether they are idol-worshippers or People of the Book – is haraam, whether that imitation is of their worship – which is the most serious form – or of their customs and behaviour. This is indicated by the Qur'an, Sunnah and ijmaa’ (scholarly consensus):
(i) From the Qur'an: Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the clear proofs had come to them. It is they for whom there is an awful torment” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:105]
(ii) From the Sunnah: the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” (narrated by Ahmad, 2/50; Abu Dawood, 4021) Shaykh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyah) said: “This hadeeth at the very least indicates that it is haraam to imitate them, although the apparent meaning implies that the one who imitates them is a kaafir, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And if any amongst you takes them (as Awliyaa’ [friends and helpers]), then surely, he is one of them’ [al-Maa’idah 5:51].” (al-Iqtidaa’, 2/722-725)
(iii) With regard to ijmaa’, Ibn Taymiyah narrated that there was agreement that it is haraam to imitate the kuffaar in their festivals at the time of the Sahaabah (may Allah be pleased with them), and Ibn al-Qayyim narrated that there was scholarly consensus on this point. (See al-Iqtidaa’, 1/454; Ahkaam Ahl al-Dhimmah, 2/722-725) Allah has forbidden imitation of the kuffaar; He has described it as hateful and has warned against the consequences of that, in many aayahs, on many occasions, and in various ways, especially imitation of the kuffaar. Sometimes He does that by forbidding following them or obeying them; sometimes by warning against them or being deceived by their plots, following their opinions, or being influenced by their actions, conduct or attitude. Sometimes He does that by mentioning some of their characteristics that will put the believers off from them and from imitating them. Most of the warnings in the Qur'an refer to the Jews and hypocrites (munaafiqeen), then the People of the Book in general and the mushrikeen. Allah tells us in the Qur'an that imitating and obeying the kuffaar may constitute riddah (apostasy). Allah also forbids following them, obeying them, or following their whims and desires and bad characteristics. Prohibition of imitating the kuffaar is one of the basic principles of sharee’ah.
Allah sent His Messenger with guidance and the true religion so that it might prevail over all other religions, and Allah has perfected His religion for mankind: “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” [al- Maa’idah 5:3 – interpretation of the meaning]. Allah has made Islam cover all (human) interests at all times and in all places and for all people. So there is no need to adopt the ways of the kuffaar or imitate them. Imitation causes defects in the Muslim personality, such as feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, weakness and defeatism, then it leads to shunning and keeping away from the path and laws of Allah. Experience has shown that admiration for the kuffaar and imitation of them causes people to love them, have complete faith in them and take them as friends and helpers, and to reject Islam and its people, its heroes, its legacy and values, and become ignorant of all of that.
3. The purpose of Valentine’s Day in these times is to spread love between all people, believers and disbelievers alike. Undoubtedly it is haraam to love the kaafirs. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “You (O Muhammad) will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, making friendship with those who oppose Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), even though they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their kindred (people)…” [al-Mujaadilah 58:22] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Allah tells us that there is no believer who takes a kaafir as a close friend. Whoever takes a kaafir as a close friend is not a believer. Outward imitation may be taken as a sign of love, so it is haraam.” (al-Iqtidaa’, 1/490).
4. The love referred to in this festival ever since the Christians revived it is romantic love outside the framework of marriage. The result of that is the spread of zinaa (fornication and adultery) and immorality. Hence the Christian clergy opposed it at some stage and abolished it, then it came back again. Most of the young people celebrate it because it lets them fulfil their desires, without thinking of the issues of imitation and resembling that are involved. Look at this tragedy, where they go so far as to commit major sins such as zinaa and the like, by imitating the Christians in something which is part of their worship and which may even be kufr.
Some people may wonder, and say, you mean to deprive us of love, but in this day and age we express our feelings and emotions – what is so wrong with that? We say:
Firstly: It is a mistake to confuse what they call the day with what the real intentions are behind it. The love referred to on this day is romantic love, taking mistresses and lovers, boyfriends and girlfriends. It is known to be a day of promiscuity and sex for them, with no restraints or restrictions… They are not talking of pure love between a man and his wife or a woman and her husband, or at least they do not distinguish between the legitimate love in the relationship between husband and wife, and the forbidden love of mistresses and lovers. This festival for them is a means for everyone to express love.
Secondly: -Expression of feelings and emotions is not a justification for the Muslim to allocate a day for celebration based on his own thoughts and ideas, and to call it a festival, or make it like a festival or Eid. So how about when it is one of the festivals of the kuffaar? In Islam, a husband loves his wife throughout the year, and he expresses that love towards her with gifts, in verse and in prose, in letters and in other ways, throughout the years – not just on one day of the year.
Thirdly: There is no religion which encourages its followers to love and care for one another more than Islam does. This applies at all times and in all circumstances, not just on one particular day. Indeed, Islam encourages us to express our emotions and love at all times, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “If a man loves his brother, let him tell him that he loves him.” (narrated by Abu Dawood, 5124; al-Tirmidhi, 2329; it is saheeh). And he said: “By the One in Whose hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you truly believe, and you will not truly believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of something that, if you do it, you will love one another? Spread (the greeting of) salaam amongst yourselves.” (Narrated by Muslim, 54)
Fourthly: Love in Islam is more general and more comprehensive; it is not restricted only to one kind of love, that between a man and a woman. There are many more kinds of love. There is the love of Allah, love of His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with them), love for good and righteous people, love and support for the religion, love of martyrdom for the sake of Allah. There are many kinds of love. It is a dangerous mistake to restrict this broad meaning to this one kind of love.
Fifthly: What these people think, that love before marriage is a good thing, is wrong, as has been proven in studies and by real-life experience. In a study conducted by the University of Cairo, on what they called “love marriage” and “traditional marriage”, the following was stated: In marriages which came after a love story, 88% of cases ended in failure, i.e., the success rate was not more than 12%. But in cases of what the study calls traditional marriage, 70% were successful. In other words, the success rate in marriages described as traditional was six times more than those described as “love marriages”. (Risaalah ila Mu’minah, p. 255).
The Fatwa of Shaykh ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Jibreen concerning celebrating this day
He was asked: the celebration of the so-called Feast of Love (Valentine’s Day) has become widespread among our boys and girls. This (Valentine) is the name of a saint who is venerated by the Christians, and this day is celebrated every year on February 14. They exchange gifts and red roses, and they wear red clothes. What is the ruling on celebrating this day, or exchanging gifts on this day? May Allah reward you with good.
He answered: Firstly, it is not permissible to celebrate such innovated festivals, because this is a newly-invented innovation (bid’ah) which has no basis in sharee’ah. So it is included in the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), who said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam) which is not part of it, will have it rejected” – i.e., it will be thrown back upon the one who innovated it.
Secondly, this involves imitating and resembling the kuffaar in venerating that which they venerate and respecting their festivals and holidays, and imitating them in some of their religious practices. In the hadeeth it says, “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”
Thirdly, the things that result from that, such as partying, idle play, singing, music, insolence, impertinence, unveiling, wanton display, mixing of men and women, and the appearance of women before non-mahrams, etc., are all things which are haraam, or are means which lead to immorality. So it should not be justified as an excuse for relaxation and entertainment, or claims that they will not overstep the mark, because that is not right. The one who cares about himself should keep away from sin and all that leads to it. On this basis, it is not permissible to sell these gifts and roses, if one knows that the purchaser will celebrate these holidays, give them as gifts or otherwise use them to honour these days, so that the vendor will not be sharing in the guilt of the one who does this innovated action. And Allah knows best.
The Fatwa of the Standing Committee
The Standing Committee was also asked a question about this holiday: Some people celebrate the fourteenth day of February of each Christian year as the Day of Love (Valentine’s Day), where they exchange gifts of red roses and wear red clothes, and congratulate one another. Some the bakeries make sweets that are red in colour, with hearts drawn on them, and some stores have advertisements for their products that are especially for this day. What is your opinion?
The Committee replied: It is haraam for the Muslim to help with this festival or any other haraam celebration in any way, be it food, drink, buying, selling, manufacturing, corresponding, advertising or in any other way, because all of that constitutes helping one another in sin, transgression and disobedience towards Allah and His Messenger, and Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “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 Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment” [al-Maa’idah 5:2]
So the Muslim must adhere to the Qur'an and Sunnah in all his affairs, especially at times of fitan (temptation and tribulation) and when corruption is widespread. He should be smart and be careful to avoid falling into the misguidance of those who have earned the anger of Allah and of those who went astray, and of the evildoers who hope not for reward from Allah and do not show any respect towards Islam. The Muslim should seek refuge with Allah and ask for His guidance and for help to adhere steadfastly to it, because none can guide except Allah and none can make us remain steadfast except Him. And Allah is the Source of strength. May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions, and grant them peace.