There’s a scene in The Big Bang Theory where the somewhat well-adjusted characters are discussing what their Valentine’s Day plans are.
Then the overly logical, self-declared genius among geniuses, Sheldon, says that if they really wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day they would take their significant other to a public execution.
Sheldon explains that St. Valentine was executed on the day we now, strangely enough, set aside for celebrating romantic love.
At this suggestion, the other characters share a knowing glance at Sheldon’s logic that flies in the face of social norms and expectations. I usually can’t identify with detached and sarcasm deficient characters like Sheldon’s.
But on this occasion, I am right there with Sheldon. Despite my culture’s almost gravitational pull to celebrate holidays like Valentine’s Day, it doesn’t sit well with my logical side.
The meaning of the holiday has been lost in translation, twisted into something unrecognizable, and wrapped up in a ribbon of materialism. I do not say this to denigrate the Christian holidays or the Christians who celebrate them. Not even a little bit.
In fact, I think many sincere Christians would agree with my distaste for what these holidays have become.
The Roots of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day as we know it in modern times is touted as a celebration of romantic love, something the movie industry has told us is the end all be all of existence so they can sell tickets to the latest romcom.
Jewelers, confectionaries, and flower mongers leverage the (fallacious) social construct that romance is directly tied to materialism because it the boosts to their bottom line on this holiday.
But it didn’t start out that way. Its roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15.
Then, it became a feast day in Christianity for some (there were three) Saint Valentine, who was said to have been martyred on Feb. 14 (all three of them).
From there, the holiday takes an interesting leap from murder to romance. It was the 14th century (C.E) poet, Chaucer, who linked the Roman festival of fertility to the Christian feast of martyrdom in a poem.
And voila, we have today a holiday that makes no sense.
As a Muslim, I am not interested in celebrating Valentine’s Day. I will not be expecting flowers or jewelry, and chocolate is an everyday must. I will not be making restaurant reservations or expecting my husband to be romantic just for the day.
While I am not interested in the modern Valentine paradigm, I am interested in taking a lesson from the occasion, a lesson to remind myself that every day of the year I must remember the verses of the Quran and traditions from the Sunnah that teach us to love. There are many:
Love for Allah the Owner and Creator of Love:
And He is Al-Ghafoor (Oft-Forgiving), Al-Wadood (the Most Loving; full of love). (Quran 85:14)
Love for the Prophet (PBUH):
The Prophet is preferable for the believers even to their own selves […]. (Quran 33:6)
Love for Parents:
And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor. (Quran 17:23)
Love for Spouses:
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you love, affection, and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect. (Quran 30:21)
Love for Fellow Muslims:
The Prophet (PBUH) commanded us to respond to the salutation of the imam, to love each other, and to salute each other. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
Love for Fellow Human Beings:
Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin, said:
“If people are not your brothers in faith then they are your brothers in humanity.”
And Allah tells us in the Quran:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). (Quran 49:13)
One thing is for sure, one day in February is not enough to spread the many different kinds of love that the Quran and Sunnah teach.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)