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Till Death Do Us Part: On Valentine’s Day

By Hafsa Ahmed

ON 14th Feb, I sometimes receive Valentine’s day messages or mails from people wishing me love and good cheer. I take it as an opportunity to inform them of my ‘extremist’ views that have no room for birthdays, New Year or Valentine’s Day.
Sometimes I do it apprehensively as I don’t want to hurt the feelings of loved ones. Sometimes I do it hesitatingly knowing I was among the ones who found no harm in it a while back. It makes me reassess my feelings:why is it that I don’t want to celebrate it any more, why do I feel that it is wrong and what’s the big deal about it anyways?

I grew up in a house which thought Birthdays and the like were wrong, but I was a typical teenager and believed in everything my friends did. At that time, I could not understand what was the big deal about people getting together to clap and watch someone cut their cake and open their gifts.

I too grew up reading magical fairy tales that always had a handsome prince falling in love with a princess and carrying her off into the sunset to live happily ever after. I watched Snow white and Cinderella that all focused on ‘falling in love’ and ‘having a good life.’
And I too grew up believing this is what life is all about. This is why we are here –to find the perfect soul mate and live happily ever after. I was addicted to reading novels that told me an exciting, romantic life was the essence of our existence, that spoke of gorgeous women enticing dashing men before they zoomed away in their private yacht to an exotic island.

The songs I heard would tell me love was waiting for me, I would find it or die of heartbreak in the process – how beautiful it all seemed. It would take me some time to come back into the real world that seemed mundane in comparison. Then too, I would keep thinking about some scene stuck in my mind from a book or a movie, ‘the way he looked into her eyes’, ‘the way she swirled in a breath taking dress as she danced’. I wanted to be like that – to be beautiful and happy and madly in love. Every movie, every song, every cartoon and book led me to believe that ‘love is all around me’ and ‘to live without love is not to have lived at all.’

Valentine’s Day would see all our friends discussing clandestine stories, gifts or cards or flowers from a secret admirer, declarations of long hidden love. Those who had no one would hope and wait for the next year. We all felt the compulsion to fall in love at least once – or face the prospect of having experienced nothing exciting in life. Most of us succumbed to this compulsion.

Well all this was until one day I woke up. I came out of the fake world around me and realized that reality was much more vivid and lasting than its celluloid version. The culture of romanticism that had captured our hearts and brains was a ploy to keep us away from reality. Ironically, that too happened through a book. But it wasn’t like any book I had read before. It spoke in a way that made shivers run down my spine, made me cry as if my heart would break, as if the words were coming not from a book but from deep within my soul. It was the Book of Allah, my Creator and more powerful than all the fantasies I had been fettered with. I broke free at last.

Today I don’t dislike Valentine’s day (or Basant or other such ‘days’) not just because it is an unIslamic innovated celebration – and a lewd one at that – But because it is part of the culture of lust that has betrayed us all. That created in our impressionable, young minds a false image, that drugged us with the sweetest drug of romanticism, and made us forget the real reason why we are here in this world.

Just like in the movies, a space hero would be assigned the mission to save the world and would go to a planet on a mission to destroy the enemies and retrieve a precious life-saving potion. But the enemies have a deadly weapon, they project an illusion on a screen. They show him a beautiful place with the woman of his dreams and he goes into a stupor completely forgetting his mission. The planet is full of temptations and illusions that are projected according to his most coveted desires. He loses all track of time, even the fact that the world will be blown up any second and all that matters to him now will not exist anymore. Lost in an imaginary, transient world, he forgets his purpose and hence loses everything.

That’s exactly what our greatest enemy has done. He has duped our minds into thinking that the images we see on TV are real, the glamorous lifestyles of superstars are achievable, the Valentine’s Day hot spots on our PCs are desirable, the romance in tear-jerker movies is the greatest and that we must have a huge amount of fun in this world because that is what will make us happy. While the clock ticks, Shaytan takes away our life before we can do anything productive with it. He has made us forget why we are here in this world and what is our mission like the space hero. And what could be worse than that because that means we have already lost the battle, we have laid down our arms and chose to watch ‘the reality show’ while reality passed us by.

That is why we are told of a future scenario in the Quran:
‘(The hypocrites) will call the believers: “Were we not with you?” The believers will reply: “Yes! But you led yourself into temptations, you looked forward for our destruction; you doubted (in Faith); and you were deceived by false desires, till the Command of Allah came to pass. And the chief deceiver (Satan) deceived you in respect of Allah.’ (Al-Hadid: 14)

I thank Allah that He gave me a husband who taught me the true meaning of love and caring for the sake of Allah. This kind of love transcends all boundaries of space and time and is truly everlasting as it continues even after death into the next life, inshaAllah. Yet most of what’s on TV tells me caring, sacrificing men are boring and  playboys are what we really want – so I got rid of the TV set.

We did not live happily ever after, because we are still in this world of test and deception and our battle with Shaytan and our own selves continues. Sometimes we win but at times we lose the battle. Yet at the end of the day, I am glad I have my husband fighting by my side.

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