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On Valentine’s Day and licence for illicit ‘love’

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Secretary General of International Muslim Women Union (IMWU), Dr. Afaf Hussein shaking hands with Coordinator, Social Advocacy Project Hajia Sherifah Yusuf-Ajibade (left). With them are Head, Al-Mu`minaat Professional Wing Dr Monsurah Kadri (second left) and Amirah, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) Lagos State Area Unit, Hajia Hafsah Badru, at the IMWU Conference in Khartoum, Sudan.

Secretary General of International Muslim Women Union (IMWU), Dr. Afaf Hussein shaking hands with Coordinator, Social Advocacy Project Hajia Sherifah Yusuf-Ajibade (left). With them are Head, Al-Mu`minaat Professional Wing Dr Monsurah Kadri (second left) and Amirah, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) Lagos State Area Unit, Hajia Hafsah Badru, at the IMWU Conference in Khartoum, Sudan.

Brethren, the event took place a couple of days ago. I had placed a call to one of my colleagues here on campus. While waiting patiently for the call to connect, I heard a voice welcoming me to the season of ‘love’. I thought it was an error. I cut the call in order to re-dial again but alas! the error was not that of the network but mine. I did not know the world had moved on to another level in its pursuit of the transient, the ephemeral. Brethren, each time we wake up these days, we become unwilling partakers in two types of events: events that we found upon our arrival to the world; events that have caught up with us while still in the world. This is a world in which instead of saying ‘shut up’, youths of today now say ‘log off’. It is a world, in which the ribald, the preposterous and the arcane is ironically the nodus of beauty and perfection.

My brother, when I tried to connect with my colleague on the phone once again, I heard a voice which sounded like that of the female among the genies and the message it sought to pass across to me were meant to remind me of the fact that the Valentine’s day was in the corner; that we are now in the season of ‘love’. Brethren, February 14 has been dedicated to mark the day lovers usually find the beloved; a day humanity is expected to show love and more love.

In other words, the Valentine’s day is usually celebrated by the youth and the youth at heart. On our campuses all around the country, it is a day young boys and girls usually look forward to. In our cities, it is a day the new shopping malls are regaled with complimentary cards full of inscriptions and graffiti of love. On this day, recreation and movie centre’s usually witness, an increased patronage of young lovers. Last year on campus here, we found empty packs of condoms on the corridor of our offices early in the morning of the 15th of February. The Valentine’s day is indeed a day of ‘love and affection’.

Dear sister, immediately the voice on the phone network invited me to partake of its offers to mark the Valentine’s day, I realized I needed to remind myself of what exactly the day is all about; I thought I needed to know Valentine.

St. Valentine’s Day is said to have started as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14. A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire.

Further, it has equally been canvassed that Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. Curiously enough, there are stories which say that some Christians in Eastern Europe do not celebrate Valentine’s day on the 14th of February but on the 6th of July. During the 18th century in England, celebrating the Valentine’s day became an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). It is arguable to say that recent trends in the world seem to have its origin in this era.

Given the above information, I guess the question that demands contemplation is this: of what importance is the Valentine’s Day for the spiritual development of an ordinary Muslim? To what extent is it permissible for a Muslim to engage in festivals and celebrations of icons with roots outside the religion of Islam? Is it good for a Muslim to join every social stream in the society just because it is the event that is presently ‘trendy’?

Scholars of Islam are in agreement that celebrating any other festival aside from the ‘Id al-Kabir and ‘Id al-Fitr is one of the gravest sins that a Muslim can commit. Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) had warned against this trend when he said: “Whoever imitates a people becomes one of them.” In fact, an uncritical imitation of the appearances and practices of others usually leads to the development of love and affection between the imitator and the one who is imitated. Remember the simple Quranic principle: “ To you your religion and to me mine.” (Q109: 6)

Thus, dear brother, when you engage in an activity to mark the Valentine’s day, you would be deemed not only to be involved in bid’ah, a heinous innovation, but also in a perversion of the deen. It means you are not contented with ‘Id al-Kabir and ‘Id al-Fitr; that you desire something more than what your Creator has given to you. Your involvement in Valentine’s day means you are in agreement with the sexual licentiousness and moral perversions that usually take place each time February 14 falls due. By celebrating the Valentine’s day you are saying that that which makes Islam unique actually exemplifies its inferiority in relation to other religions. You are saying Islam suffers platitude, that it lacks element of love. How I wish you remember that no other religion exemplifies the importance of love like Islam; if you love your Creator, so says the Almighty, you would love my Prophet, (s.a.w). The love that Islam calls people to is that which makes peaceful relations and care for the needy pillars of our faith.

Listen to him, one more time; read what Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) says again: “You will follow the (wrong) ways of those before you so completely and literally that if they enter the hole of a lizard, you too will enter it.” Thus dear Sister, it is probably the above tradition of the Prophet that Ibn Qayyim had in mind when he says: “Congratulating those who engage in activities that run contrary to Islamic tenets is haraam (unlawful) by consensus…”. Thus saying, for example, ‘happy Valentine’s day’ would be an infraction of the Islamic law. Uttering such a statement would be like congratulating someone for drinking wine or murdering someone or for having illicit sexual relations. Ibn Qayyim says further that ‘whoever congratulates a person for his act of disobedience exposes himself to the wrath and anger of the Almighty’.

Brother, how would you feel if your son spends the money you give to him to buy books on valentine cards for his girlfriend? Do you not know that when you engage in activities, which run contrary to the will of your Creator, you become like that prodigal son hinted at above? Brother, to engage in illicit sex is to put your phallus in a blazing fire; to engage in sexual perversion in the name of Valentine’s Day is to turn your femininity and virginity to a citadel of hell and infernal trepidation.

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