Love – one of the strongest emotions known to mankind- a power that can ruin or redeem a life- that can bring joy or painful heartbreak.
Today as the world celebrates this emotion on Valentine’s Day, we see hearts of all sizes and shapes all around, hearts of chocolate and satin. O Yes! It’s Valentines! The day of hearts, red roses, poetry, candies and above all – Love!
Where did Valentine’s Day come from?
There are many traditions about its origin, but the most authentic seems to be the one from Encyclopedia Britannica that says that this day has nothing to do with Saint Valentine, instead it is related to the Roman pagan festival of their god, Lupercalia.
It was celebrated on 15th February and in honour of the goddess Juno Februata, the names of girls were placed in an urn and the men would draw out the name of a girl at random who would then become their date for the remaining festival.
When Christianity came to Rome, they tried to Christianize this obscene yet popular festival by replacing the names of girls by those of saints. The men were then supposed to emulate the saint, whose name they drew, for the rest of the year. However this attempt proved unsuccessful and the use of girls’ names returned.
Many associated it with Cupid (the virtually naked god of love), who is the central character of Valentine’s Day paraphernalia, who shoots people with his arrows to make them fall in love. His mother is said to be Venus (goddess of love) and apparently the rose was her favourite flower.
Another tradition speaks of a Saint Valentine who was killed on 14th Feb. by Emperor Claudius for secretly arranging the marriages of his soldiers whom he had banned from marriage. The Bishop is said to have fallen in love with the jailer’s daughter during his imprisonment and wrote her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’, which became a tradition for people to come. In 496 Pope Gelasius officially replaced the pagan festival of 15th Feb with St Valentine’s Day on14th Feb.
Valentine’s Day Today
Whatever the origin of this day, today it seems to have returned to its pagan, vulgar roots with the child-god cupid and open dating being very much a part of it. It is celebrated in many parts of the world in different ways. For instance, in France, a girl befriends the first boy she sees in the morning and if this relationship lasts for a year, they end up getting engaged on the next Valentine’s Day. The Valentine lottery caused severe problems in France and was banned completely in 1776. Later Italy, Hungary, Austria and Germany also rid themselves of this obscene custom. England remained safe until it was under Puritan rule but then Charles II started it again and from there it entered America, where it was first commercialized by A E Howland, who made 5000 dollars from selling Valentine cards. In 1995 one billion valentine cards were delivered in the US and the postal Dept. made an extra profit of $ 30 million. Flowers began to be used in 1300.
Now people all over cash in on this opportunity to kindle the fire in young hearts and instill in their minds the necessity of having a ‘Special Someone’ to love. No wonder last year’s newspaper carried news of a woman who sued her husband for divorce for not giving her anything on Valentine’s. According to her it was absolutely necessary to express one’s love on this day and her husband did not give her anything which meant that he did not love her.
Apparently Valentine’s Day made her feel ‘unloved’ rather than ‘loved’.
What kind of love depends upon gifts for its survival? What kind of love is restricted to one day in the whole year? What kind of love breeds hatred, jealousy and a sense of deprivation in many?
Valentine’s Day also proves exceptionally painful for the not-so-popular kids in school who don’t get as many Valentine cards as their friends do.
In Pakistan, this day has come to mean getting dressed in red, valentine cards, hearts, and chocolates. Through these apparently innocent things the occasion promotes the culture of free sex and male-female relations. Also becoming common are public displays of emotions including advertising love messages in newspapers, going out on romantic dates and attending valentine balls and parties. Schools are not far behind in holding such parties for their students. As a result, even young children are fed new ideas of developing lusty feelings and expressing them boldly. Closet romantics are given a chance to emerge. They imitate their favourite movie love scenes in broad daylight. In all this ‘love’ fever Islam is given a backseat to sit and see how it’s teachings are being ridiculed in public.
The question that comes to mind is why should WE celebrate Valentine’s Day? Is it our national festival or a religious one? Festivals are part of a nation’s identity. They symbolize any religion or culture.
Ask Yourself !
On this day that the world celebrates love and we see hearts all around, ask yourself: “Have I ever thought of loving the One Who created me, the One Who gave me a heart that can feel love? Has this heart ever felt love for Him? How many times have I cried for His love?
Have I ever spent any time, effort or money to express my love to Him Who has given me all these things? Am I confident enough to declare my love for Him? Do I ever miss Him in solitude or amongst a crowd? Or am I wasting away a beautiful emotion that was meant for eternity-not just momentary gratification of our ego? Inspite of our ingratitude, The Merciful One continues to love us.
Our love is a measure of our faith. Is our love deep enough to recognize the One we cannot see but expressions of His love are scattered all around us? Or is it so shallow that it begins and ends only with humans who often abandon and hurt us in this world when we need them the most, whose love brings heartbreak and depression and who will be the first to leave us when we depart from this world?
Ask yourself, “ How much do I love Prophet Mohammad who had said:
“By Him in Whose Hands my life is, none of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father and his children and all mankind” (Bukhari).
Did you ever wonder how we can get Allah to love us too?
Ask yourself why do I love the people I do? Are the motives all worldly like their looks or money or is it something deeper like their piety or good deeds?
Ask yourself honestly, is Valentine’s Day anything but obeying our baser desires and following our lusts? Are we only like cattle following our passions and the trends without knowing why, without understanding?
As a Muslim, a boy-girl friendship is totally out of bounds. In Surah An-Nisa a woman’s qualities are described: “Chaste, not lustful nor ones taking secret friends”
Muslims have a beautiful institution of marriage where romance is not a summer fling nor is it based on superficial looks, but on a serene relationship of mutual affection, kindness and responsibility.
For a Muslim, TRUE LOVE happens only once and eternally and that is with the Lord, The One Who exists from eternity till forever. For Muslims, love for Him supersedes everything and everyone else.
Love for Allah is meaningful since it then teaches loving all His creatures (and not just a ‘Special Someone’).
Muslims already have a day for expressing love and that is ‘Id-al-Azha when Muslims sacrifice a life to show Allah that they can sacrifice anything for Him-even their own lives. They relive the Sunnah of Sayidina Ibrahim -Allah’s friend-who readily proceeded to sacrifice his most beloved possession, his teenaged son, for Allah. Love demands sacrifice. Do we have that kind of pure and intense love in our life? Who do we love the most-our own selves and desires or Our Rabb? If we love Allah, how can we celebrate a pagan custom when our Beloved Lord abhors paganism more than anything else? Then how deeply do we feel on ‘Id-al-Azha and how do we feel on Valentine’s?
A Muslim’s actions are not purposeless or meaningless. Even his love is meaningful and the expression of love is useful, since instead of spending thousands on flowers, on ‘Id-al-Azha meat is provided for the poor, jobs are created for many, animal skin is used for leather and so on.
A Muslim doesn’t do something just because the whole world is doing it. He doesn’t waste his life. Let us be Muslims in heart, body and soul.
Let us then find True Love
True love seeks sacrifice and I’ve given it all.
This, this is true love in it’s purest form.
I turn my face towards You now.
The Lord of my world and the Heavens above.
I am Yours and Yours, alone.
My prayer, my sacrifice are only for You.
My life and death are Yours to take.
A promise I make.
To lay my life for You.
An oath that I worship.
No-one but You.
(Inspired by dua of The Holy Prophet SAW to be read at Qurbani time)