Another valentines day has come and passed with the usual amounts of fanfare, lots of chocolates, pink hearts, cuddly teddy bears and romantic proposals. But how really does valentines day affect Muslims? This year I saw pictures being spread through Whatsapp with cartoon Hijabi’s saying they’re Muslims so they don’t celebrate valentines day. That off course got me thinking. Personally I don’t really prescribe to mass marketed holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, Friends Day and the like, but I tend to consider them harmless and on days when I actually remember, I wish my friends happy Friends day and send them some hugs and well wishes. So getting those messages, made me wonder, why is it that some Muslims felt the need to send messages saying they don’t celebrate valentines day because they’re Muslim.
Was it because of the history of valentines day, which I barely understand myself? Something about a Saint Valentine who was tortured and murdered for allowing some people to get married? I’m not entirely sure what the history is… For me, when I think about Valentines day, I think about it’s message of spreading love, of rekindling romance and re-discovering passion. When I think of it in those terms I see nothing wrong with it. If anything the only problem I have with it, is that it’s resigned to just one day. As Muslims we’re supposed to spread love every single day.
The same reason that Mother’s Day seems silly to Muslims since, we’re supposed to love, honor, cherish, respect and adore our Mothers every single moment of every day for as long as they are alive, makes valentines day seem ill advised. If we focus all our attention on just being loving and kind for 1 day, what happens to the other 364 days of the year? Are we supposed to stop being loving, are we supposed to forget about being kind and compassionate until the day comes round again?
I think the best way to treat valentines day is like Ramadan, it comes around once a year to help you replenish your soul, increase your good acts with the goal of sustaining them throughout the rest of the year. So if Valentines Day is to make any sense at all, it needs to be a day of reflection on love in our lives and in ourselves with the hope of finding new ways to express love to those we care about and learning how to maintain that spirit for the rest of the year.
Islam teaches love in every thing we do and yet in this century Islam is almost always synonymous with words that are the exact opposite of love. I leave you with a favourite Hadith of mine about the blessed Prophet and how he showed love to everyone with every action he took.
The blessed Prophet was sitting with his companions when a Bedouin rushed into their gathering. The Bedouin had been saving up for some time in order to be able to afford to bring grapes as a gift to the blessed prophet. He proudly presented a plate of red grapes to the Prophet PBUH who accepted them with a smile and thanks. The blessed Prophet, SAW, ate the first grape and smiled, then he took another and another until he had finished all the grapes. When he was finished he thanked the Bedouin again for his gracious gift and the Bedouin left with a huge smile on his face, overjoyed at how the blessed Prophet had received his gift.
Once the Bedouin had left the companions of the Prophet PBUH asked him why he hadn’t shared the grapes with them, because whenever anyone brought a gift to the Prophet PBUH, he would take one for himself and then pass the rest to his companions.
He explained to them that when he tasted the first grape he found that it was incredibly sour and he knew that if he gave the rest of the grapes to the companions that their facial expressions would show how sour the grapes were and the Bedouin would be embarrassed that his grapes were sour. Rather than hurt the Bedouins feelings especially since he knew how much trouble he had gone to in order to be able to afford the gift, he decided to eat all the grapes himself, smiling as he did so.
It was such a simple act, but it was full of love and graciousness. And it’s little acts like these done every day that matter, not one day filled with chocolates, roses and bad poetry.