_Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi
This is the tragedy of our time that our youths are bent on accepting every glitter of the modern era as fashion and symbol of progress. There are many things that, at first sight, seem odd, strange and indecent, but with the gust of advertisements, media coverage and competitions of commercial institutions it is made in to a popular fact. In recent years, a new phenomenon has spread among the youths - males and females alike – to celebrate Valentine’s Day, a holiday dedicated to lovers. This celebration was rarely known by any Indian youth some decades ago, though it might have been celebrated in western world.
St Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 14th February by sending greeting cards or gifts to express love to one’s beloved. The cards are generally designed with hearts to symbolize love. Now, the craze of celebrating St Valentine’s Day is increasing year by year in Asian countries, especially developing nations like India. As the Valentine’s Day approaches nearer florists pile up love cards, gifts and bounties of flowers, the general stores sell Valentine chocolates, cakes and other gifts. The barbers cut hearts into men's head hair, restaurants promote Valentine's Day dinners. Newspapers publish romantic and flirting messages. The satellite channels are not lagging behind even an inch; they present special features and organize love-letter competitions. Internet dating services enjoy a rise in surfing and telecommunication companies record high surge in outgoing and incoming calls.
This phenomenon is spreading many unholy things and in our society as well the mind of younger generation. Of course, love is a natural feeling and valuable asset of human life, but not the love that spoils their life and involves many other wrong aspects.
Baseless Historical Background
There is a lot of debate and disagreement among scholars about the origin of Valentine’s Day. However, this is certain that this is celebrated in the memory of some Valentine. Also, this is another historical fact that there have been more than one Valentines who were martyred in early centuries of Christianity.
But, as far as the matter of its origin is concerned it goes back to ancient Rome before the Romans embraced Christianity. In ancient Rome, there was celebrated a holiday on February 14th in the honour of Juno Fructifier, Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. The other day on February 15, they celebrated the feast of Lupercalis which was originally a festival of shepherds, and was primarily for the purpose to secure fertility for the fields, the flocks, and the shepherds themselves. There were many myths associated with this festival and many dirty rituals were performed.
When Christianity spread in Rome, the celebration of the pagan festivals persisted among them. The Christian Romans continued to celebrate these festivals, until came Pope Gelasius I who abolished Lupercalis and declared in 496 that the feast of St. Valentine would be on February 14. Thus, the ancient Roman Lupercalis festival was replaced by a new Valentine’s Day.
Who was this Valentine; there is no specific information about him. There was more than one person in Rome with similar name who existed during the early years of the church, two or three of whom were martyred. It was said that there were two of them, or that there was only one, who died in Rome as the result of the persecution of the Gothic leader Claudius.
But, why was he killed, this question also remains deprived of a clear-cut answer. It is also said that Saint Valentine advocated love and peace, therefore he was martyred. It is also said that the Roman emperor Claudius II sentenced St Valentine to be executed because of his opposition of government order that prohibited soldiers to marry. It is also perceived that Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter. The emperor offered him to pardon and make him one of his closest confidantes if he forsook Christianity, which Valentine refused and preferred martyrdom. He was executed on 14 February 270 CE, on the eve of February 15, the festival of Lupercalis.
Thus, the pagan Roman festival of Lupercalis was transformed into Valentine’s Day and was called the Feast of Lovers, and Saint Valentine was considered to be the patron saint of lovers.
Irrelevance of Valentine’s Day
However, whatever the reality may be, but one thing seems clear that none of the narrations appears to have much to do with love or romance that we see is observed on Valentine’s Day. If the Christians celebrate this day in the memory of their martyr, then it is something that looks sound, but what the Muslims and other people of faith have to do with this? Not only it is nonsense for Muslims and others, but also for Christians as well, because today’s Valentine’s Day has no relation to the sacrifice for truth that was offered by St Valentine, as they claim.
And, if it is historically true that Valentine was killed in punishment of having love affairs with a girl, then the entire story takes a U turn and instead of being ‘a cause of pride’ becomes ‘a matter of shame’. Being a saint he commits such kind of act. And, more shameful is the act of those who celebrate this day in his remembrance.
The Valentine’s Day celebration is entirely based on groundless historical myths. How surprising it is that if an unmeaning and baseless ritual is celebrated by other people of faith it is taunted as ‘mythology’ and ‘orthodoxy’, but if it is practiced by the western world it becomes a symbol of progress and intellectualism!
In the society we live, every thing is based on commercial foundations. Why only education, even the human parts and human dignity is a saleable commodity. The culture of celebrating ‘Days’ is actually the invention of the Capitalism, which primarily aims at devouring the common man’s wealth and amassing it up. The commercial companies give push to ‘Celebrations’ and ‘Days’ in order to boost their products. They do not miss even a single opportunity to take out money from the pockets of people. Schemes are announced, concessions are declared and the public is seduced to achieve it in order to be in pace with the world and to be called progressive, whether they are not able to afford it.
The Muslims’ history is full of such personalities who bravely sacrificed their lives in order to guard their mission and religion. But, Islam is a natural and simple religion, it did not like to burden the people with the loads of continual festivals and celebrations as it slows down their march to spirituality and affect the common man financially.
We Indians, especially Muslims, instead of imitating the West should be proud of our own culture and social order where the foundation of love, affection and relationship is far deeper and stronger than in the West. Why to fall in inferiority complex, be proud of your own invaluable asset that is quite perfect and matchless!
Published in Milli Gazette (Delhi) and Eastern Crescent (Mumbai).