Valentine Day Does not suit our Culture

A new day in the name of Valentine Day (Bhalobasha Dibosh) is being observed in Bangladesh for the last few years. Some papers are encouraging its observance. A group of businessmen and hotel-owners are encouraging it for business gain and profit. What is the history and basis of this Valentine Day. I reproduce below in this regard from the writing of a major Scholar Dr. Khalid Baig.

“Most Muslims who indulge in many alien cultural practices, these days, do not know what they are doing. They are just blind followers of their equally blind cultural leaders.

Little do they realize that what they regard as innocent fun may in fact be rooted in paganism. That the symbols they embrace may be symbols of unbelief. That the ideas they borrow may be products of superstition. And that all these may be a negation of what Islam stands for.

Consider Valentine’s Day, a day that after dying out a well deserved death in most of Europe – but surviving in Britain and the United States – has suddenly started to emerge across a swath of Muslim countries. Who was Valentine? Why is this day observed?

Legends abound, as they do in all such cases, but this much is clear Valentine’s Day began as a pagan ritual started by Romans in the 4th century BCE to honour Lupercus, the ‘god of fertility and flocks’. Its main attraction was a lottery held to distribute young women to young men for ‘entertainment and pleasure’ – until the next year’s lottery.

Among other equally despicable practices associated with this day was the lashing of young women by two young men, clad only in a bit f goatskin and wielding goatskin thongs, who had been smeared with the blood of sacrificial goats and dogs. A lash of the ‘sacred’ thongs by these ‘holy men’ was believed to make the women better able to bear children.

As usual, Christianity tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the evil celebration of Lupercalia. It first replaced the lottery o the names of women with a lottery of the names of saints. The idea was that during the following year the young men would emulate the life of the saint whose name they had drawn. Christianity ended up dong in Rome, and elsewhere, as the Romans did.

The idea that you can preserve the appearance of a popular evil and yet somehow turn it to serve the purpose of virtue has survived……

The only success it had was in changing the name of Lupercalia to St. Valentine’s Day. Pope Gellasius did it in the year 496, in honour of one Saint Valentine. However, there are as many as 50 different Valentines in Christian legends. Two of them are more famous, although their lives and characters are also shrouded in mystery.

According to one legend, which is more in line with the true nature of this celebration, St. Valentine was a ‘lover’s saint’ who had himself fallen in love with his jailer’s daughter.

Due to serious troubles that accompanied such lottery, French government banned the Valentine ritual in 1776. It also vanished over the years in Italy, Austria, Hungry and Germany. Earlier, during the 17th century when the Puritans were strong it had been banned in England, but King Charles II revived it in 1660.

From England the Valentine ritual arrived in the New World, where enterprising Yankees spotted a good means of making money. Esther A Howland who produced, in the 1840s, one of the first commercial American Valentine Day cards called - what else - valentines sold $ 5,000 worth in the first year. (Then $ 5,000 was a lot of money). The valentine industry has been booming ever since.

It is the same story with Halloween, which has otherwise normal human beings dressing, like ghosts and goblins in a re-enactment of an ancient pagan ritual of demon worship.

The pagan name for that event was Samhain (pronounced sow-en). Just as in case of Valentine’s Day. Christianity changed its name, but not the pagan moorings. ……

Even the apparently innocuous celebration might have pagan foundations. According to one account, in pagan curlers, people feared evil spirits, especially on their birthdays. It was a common belief that evil spirits were more dangerous to a person when he or she experienced a change in their daily life, such as turning a year older. So family and friends surrounded the person with laughter and joy on their birthdays to protect them from evil.

How can anyone in his right mind think that Islam would be indifferent to practices steeped in anti-Islamic ideas and beliefs? ….

It is a great tragedy that under the constant barrage of commercial and cultural propaganda from the forces of Jahiliya and the relentless media machine, Muslims have began to embrace the Valentines, the Halloween ghosts, and even Santa Glaus.”-

(Impact International, London,March 2001)

This is the history of Valentine Day. Such a programme based on paganism and superstition should not be observed in a country like Bangladesh where Muslims constitute ninety percent of the population. Islam has taught us genuine love of all which does not depend on observance of a day of such type. In our country it has become a medium for free mixing of some young people and for adultery. This is no part of culture of the Muslims or the Bangladeshis. Any part of western culture which increases obscenity and indecency should not be allowed in our country. I draw the attention of scholars, journalists, teachers, Imams and social workers to take steps to stop its observance in our country.