By Asma Al-Mohattwari
“Could you please give me money? I want to buy a gift,” my younger sister asked me.
She wanted to buy a gift for her friend. When I asked her what the occasion was, she replied, “It’s for Valentine’s Day.”
I didn’t know how to respond – but before I knew it, laughter prevailed on me. Not only have our youth have been influenced by this Western custom, but also our children.
This past Thursday – or Valentine’s Day – most libraries and clothes and flower shops were coated in red. At the same time, many youths wore red clothes and bought flowers as gifts for people…well, close to their hearts.
The question which I kept asking myself was, “Do they know what Valentine’s Day is, who Valentine was, or where the day’s underlying concepts came from?”
What really surprised me was that they knew nothing about it; what really made me sad was when I asked one young person the question, “What does the word Valentine signify?”
His response? “It means love.”
How strange. Our youth celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day without knowing anything about the man it was named after. Dear readers, I will do you a favor and tell you the story. It will then be your choice whether to keep celebrating it or not.
Valentine was a priest who lived in the third century under Emperor Claudius II. During the Roman Empire’s wars, the Emperor discerned that his unmarried warriors fought harder than his married ones. With this in mind, he proceeded to prevent his men from marrying.
In stepped the priest Valentine, who secretly presided over marriage ceremonies.
After discovering this, Claudius II had Valentine imprisoned and sentenced to death. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Before his execution, he sent the young woman a card (“from your sincere Valentine). After some time, the anniversary of Valentine’s death became an annual holiday.
Muslims do not have this holiday as part of their traditions, and frankly don’t need it. Islam is a religion of love – not for one day, but for all days. Love requires no occasion, no date, and no specific time – it is not a red shirt or rose, nor is it something we need Valentine’s story to remind us of.