At this time of the year, a debate arises over the permissibility of celebrating Valentine’s Day. Many people claim that it is forbidden to celebrate Valentine ’s Day, citing three reasons for their opinion.
Firstly, they claim that is an innovation and that it has no basis in Islamic law. Secondly, they say that it is a celebration of romantic love and passion. Thirdly, it occupies the heart with matters that contradict proper Islamic guidance.
Before delving deeper into this issue, let’s take a look at the historical background of Valentine’s Day. Legends vary on the origins of the holiday, but the general story is that it was originally a pagan celebration. However, the most popular story revolves around a Roman priest, Valentine, who was martyred during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. For reasons over which there is a difference of opinion, the emperor banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. In defense of the divine union, Valentine defied the emperor and married couples in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered he was arrested and put to death on February 14. Legend has it that before his execution, Valentine left a farewell note to the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, signed “From your Valentine”. Gradually, February 14 became a day to celebrate love, exchange love messages, poems, and gifts.
Love in Islam
Islam is the religion of love, mercy, piety and maintaining relations. It promotes all kinds of love. One of the most important obligations upon Muslims is to become the ambassadors of Islam, showing its beauty through their manners, words, and actions.
Love between a man and a woman is the first thing that comes to mind when we speak of love. Rather than prohibiting this kind of love, Islam encourages it within the sanctity of marriage. The foundation of marriage — love, compassion, respect, forgiveness, and understanding — is found in the Quran,
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and he placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed, in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Quran 30:21)
Perhaps nowhere is this more epitomized than in the love between Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his first wife, Khadijah. She loved him for his noble manners, perfect character, trustworthiness, loyalty, humility, and gracious behavior towards everyone. He loved her for her beauty of character, virtue, understanding, nobility, and support and belief in him. He loved her deeply despite the age difference. She loved him unconditionally despite his poverty. So great was their love, that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) continued to love Khadijah until the end of his life. It was reported that 'Aishah once asked him if Khadijah had been the only woman worthy of his love. He replied, "She believed in me when none else did, she embraced Islam when people disbelieved me; and she helped and comforted me when there was none to lend me a helping hand.”
Love for Others
Islam encourages us to extend affection and love for each other at all times. By way of Anas ibn Malik, “A man was with the Prophet and a man passed by him, so he said, ‘You know, that one, I really love him.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Tell him so.’ He caught up with the man and said, ‘I really love you for the sake of God.’ He replied, ‘I, too, love you as much as you love me, for His sake.’”
Maintaining good ties with non-Muslims and treating them with piety and kindness is a matter that is both encouraged and rewarded in abundance. God does not forbid us from maintaining good ties with non-Muslims, exchanging gifts with them or treating them kindly. He says,
“God does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes - from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, God loves those who act justly.” (Quran 60:8)
“And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner].” (Quran 4:86)
“And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him." (Quran 29:4)
Is it Permissible to Celebrate This Holiday?
The question many Muslims ask is, “Is it permissible to celebrate Valentine’s Day?” The answer Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta gives is as follows:
Such kinds of celebrations have become social occasions. Therefore, there is no objection to participating in them provided a Muslim does not do anything that contradicts the Islamic teachings.
It is lawful in Islamic law to specify a day for renewing lawful love between spouses because there is nothing in Islamic law to prohibit this. However, this occasion must not be called "Eid" (feast) but “Day of Love" (Youm al-Hob).