by Umair Tariq
Association of Valentine’s Day with amorous love is a very recent phenomenon. For me this day is commemoration of my resolve to standup to the draconian laws, obscurity and forceful imposition of one’s ideas over others.
It was 3rd Century CE and almost 300 years after a great man rose in the Roman Provinces of Judea and Samaria and changed the destiny of the suppressed local population. His teachings were based upon the Love that Creator has for everyone regardless of their kith and kin. He promised due rewards for suppressed populace and gave them hope of a better Kingdom where Love will reign. He was persecuted and mocked. His friends were arrested and he was implicated in false charges but he continued his struggle until his and everyone’s Creator took him unto Himself.
After his departure from the moral world, his followers were forced to be converted back to their ancestral religions. His followers were persecuted. He was the one who respected the women who were being forced into prostitution by the cruel hunger. He stood up for them, he accepted their luncheon invitations, ate with them and accepted gifts from them in broad daylight. When rebuked for his leniency for the ‘harlots’, he famously said, “Let the one who has never committed a sin take lead and throw the first stone”.
After him the life was very hard. Soldiers and spies everywhere were reporting all activities of the friends of that man. His friends were arrested by the city guards, punished brutally on false grounds and then thrown to hungry lions. Some were being crucified at Public Squares and their corpses thrown in the city to be only eaten by stray dogs. The practice of horrendous crimes against the followers and friends of this man continued for centuries. Do we know who this man was? This man was Jesus of Nazareth!
It was the time of Claudius II, who established himself as Regent of Rome. It was a crucial time. The movement of Jesus was gaining momentum. Those peasants who were oppressed by Roman senate and elites were rising. What was making their spirits so high that they were rising up to an imperial power and rather to chant “Hail the King!”, they are shouting, “Down with Romans! Down with the killers!”. In every city there was chaos. In every city revolution was echoing. Yes, Roman Empire was getting weaker day by day! The revolt that was somewhat spiritual in nature and taught the poor and oppressed about the love of Divine that loves His every creation like a father! The problem was that when poor and oppressed realized that there is a King of kings who loves them like a father, they stood up to the mortal regents and started seeing them as mortal beings like one of them!
If it was only in Judea or Samara, then it could have been curtailed by a large scale massacre and that’s what predecessors of Claudius II did before him but the problem was that in Roman Empire, poverty was everywhere and Taxes were high so every peasant, man of burden and poor beggar was being attracted to this movement. The moment of Love was seeping into Roman Empire and was threatening the very fabric of the society. But Claudius was cunning. He thought that rather to kill the rebels in cold blood, it is better to attack them ideologically too.
To implement his nefarious designs, he decreed that anyone who will support or help friends and followers of Jesus will be considered as one of them and will be killed. He forced the women who followed Jesus into prostitution and also protected their rapists. He encouraged the prostitution and protected the handlers of prostitutes.
This was not enough, to challenge the moral values envisaged by Jesus, Claudius conceived a cunning plan along with his cronies and encouraged deviated moral behaviors amongst the followers of Jesus. He passed a decree that anyone who would preside over the marriages of the Followers of Jesus will be burnt alive at public square.
There was a certain man in Rome who was pious and preached his kith and kin life of piousness. When the persecution of this minority community reached its height and Claudius II issued a decree to all provinces under his reign and where he claimed suzerainty that no one can officially wed those who call themselves Christians. Without official marriage, that required 2 male witnesses and a Minister presiding over the ceremony, the couple was seen as adulterer by the Roman Empire and society generally. This man whose name was Valentine stood up and started marrying the couples secretly. He would also arrange for witnesses and will sign the Marriage Contract as it was the custom.
This practice enabled the suppressed people to at least cling to the moral values envisaged by Jesus. This practice, however, didn’t remain secret for long. Valentine was identified by Roman Vigilis that was defacto Police & local intelligence agency of the Roman Empire. He was imprisoned immediately but not killed as there was a huge public support behind him. He was produced in the court of a Roman Judge. Judge asked him to reconvert to Roman Paganism and bow down to the idol of Jupiter that was favored by Judge and was his patron god. Valentine whose name in Latin is Valentinus presb. M’ Romae refused. He was then given to Vigilis and was beaten with bows and clubs and against produced in front of Judge who asked him to convert and denounce the faith that Valentinus called truth. He refused again. This time judge became furious and announced his verdict to behead Valentinus at Falaminian Gate that was most busy part of the city at that time.
It was year 494 AD. Valentinus was killed but he didn’t renounce his faith and his act of marrying the couples with grace. It is not known if the date was 14th of February or not. His patronage by the Roman Catholic Church and other Dominions of Christendom is as late as 1493 where he appeared as Christian Saint. However, he was pretty secular in nature before that. There are some legends associated with the story of Valentine too. For example one legend says that the judge asked him to heal his blind daughter who was born blind and Valentine did that and the girl immediately accepted Valentine’s faith. Other legends assert that before dying Valentine wrote a letter to this girl and signed it with “Your Valentine” and thus the day became associated with love.
Association of Valentine’s Day with amorous love is a very recent phenomenon. For me this day is commemoration of my resolve to standup to the draconian laws, obscurity and forceful imposition of one’s ideas over others. It might not have any amorous significance for me but it really has a stronger revolutionary impact on me. Well, here I am seeing thousands of posts on Facebook calling upon Muslims not to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Fatwas of illiterate and obscurantist Mullahs promising Hell for the people who celebrate Valentine’s Day. For them I have just one answer that Quran also celebrates Christian martyrs. For example Quran famously mentioned the story of the martyrdom of St. Stephen who is widely celebrated as First Christian martyr, in Surah Yasin that is also called Heart of Quran. The story of martyrdom of St. Stephen is also mentioned in Acts of Apostles in Bible. However, it is useless to argue over it as for me is my faith and for you is yours!