Sana Zahid and Umm Isam uncover the truth behind the chocolate-heart-flavoured Valentine’s Day.

Love is in the air, so are red hearts of all shapes, sizes, and flavors on billboards and magazine covers! We are not short of better things to think about, it’s just that it’s Valentine’s Day! What we are lately witnessing is pretty astonishing. So, let’s unearth some facts about it all.

There actually are many traditions about how it all began. The story dates back to the Roman rule — an erotic festival, named after Saint Valentine, who was killed for defying the emperor and allowing young couples to marry secretly. The legend has it that Saint Valentine disobeyed the Emperor Claudius of Rome, who had barred all marriages and engagements within the city, because he thought that love-struck men were not joining his legions. In jail, the bishop is said to have fallen in love with the jailor’s daughter. He wrote to her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine,’ which since then has become a tradition. However, Saint Valentine was caught and sentenced to death on the 14th of February, 270 AD.

It so happened that the significant day coincided with a festival organized in memory of Juno Februata, the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. The festival was known as Lupercalia. The Romans used to place the names of young women, who would become their dates for the remaining festival, in a box, and men would draw them at random. However, when Christians came to Rome, they sought to superimpose Christian festivals on different holidays at the time. So, in 496 AD, Pope Gelasius officially replaced this pagan festival with Saint Valentine’s Day on the 14th of February.

Pakistan has discovered this phenomenon just recently through the fast paced globalization of foreign products and cultures, which coincides with the media relaxation. Today, on one hand glamorization of this festival offers marketers an opportunity to make money, as love-struck shoppers paint the town red. On the other hand, Muslim communities experience a blatant cultural invasion carrying a loud slogan of vulgar and open dating. This day has come to mean dressing up in red and distributing valentine cards, candy, and chocolate hearts. Through these, apparently innocent acts, a culture of free sex and male-female relations is promoted. Even schools hold such parties for their students. Consequently, young children are fed the idea that it is okay to love anyone and express it openly.

Pseudo intellectuals claim that it is merely an adoption of a joyful custom practiced in a different community — so why do fanatics blow it all out of proportion? However, they seem to have confused themselves. As Muslims, we can have a food fusion, whereby we appreciate the culinary flavours of other countries, as long as they are cooked with permissible ingredients. But how can we have a cultural fusion that promotes immorality? How can they justify one night stands, partner swapping, blind dating, romantic liaisons, etc., and all the filth that follows it. It all tantomounts to illegitimate relations. In Islam, the only permissible relationship between a man and a woman in love is Nikah. Allah has placed a beauty in this special bond that attracts every man and woman. People weave their dreams around it and step into the unknown together. Abdullah bin Abbas (rta) states that the Prophet (sa) said: “We have not witnessed anything better than Nikah for two people in love” (Ibn Majah). Indeed, Nikah means a special beginning for two people. Why opt for immoral options full of hypocrisy and lies?

The societies that celebrate such customs as Valentine’s Day have the need for it, because the institution of marriage has collapsed there and a new tradition of partnership has evolved. This tradition of partnership is free of responsibility, time constraints, and commitments. It can easily be defined as an animalistic instinct meant to satisfy the base desires and lusts as in incase of cats and dogs, who continue to have different partners life long.

Modesty, or the concept of Haya, rules supreme in Islam. Even a married couple has been given a set of behaviour rules in public. Their romantic life in private is their personal matter, however, nobody is allowed to create an embarrassing position for those around them, let alone behave flirtatiously.

Last year, while flipping through satellite channels, my friend came across a Valentine show, where the host introduced the show saying: “Today is the Valentine’s Day – the day of love and the day of lies, because normally people would be telling lies today.” Strange, since this was a program intended to promote the day.

However, I can’t help to ask, what kind of love is this that is restricted to one day in a year? Have we ever thought of loving the One, Who created us, the One, Who gave us a heart that can feel love? Or are we wasting away a beautiful emotion just for a momentary gratification? We know our Lord loves us more than 70 mothers. Just imagine having the Lord of all the worlds being our friend.

“… Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah (swt), certainly, Allah (swt) loves those who put their trust (in Him). If Allah (swt) helps you, none can overcome you; and if He forsakes you, who is there after Him that can help you? And in Allah (alone) let believers put their trust.” (Al- Imran 3:159-160)

Surely, love directs all matters concerning our lives. Subsequently, this strong feeling, for which we are ready to go to any extent, should be spent properly. Love is precious, so don’t let opportunists to take advantage of your tender heart. Express it the Halal way – get married and stay married! Every day of your life can be worth celebrating.