Valentine is not ‘haram’, says ex-Saudi religious police boss

Sheikh Ahmed Qasim Al-Ghamdi caused a furor in 2014 when he appeared on a television talk show with his wife, who was not wearing the full-face veil. (Courtesy MBC)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Valentine is not ‘haram’, says ex-Saudi religious police boss

DUBAI: Celebrating Valentine’s Day is no different from Mother’s Day and is therefore not un-Islamic, the former president for the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Makkah, told Arab News.
Sheikh Ahmed Qasim Al-Ghamdi said Feb. 14 was enjoyed all around the world and was not exclusively for non-Muslims and was a social event that Muslims could also mark.
“Celebrating Valentine’s Day does not contradict Islamic teachings as it is a worldly, social matter just like celebrating the National Day and Mother’s Day,” he said.
“All these are common social matters shared by humanity and are not religious issues that require the existence of religious proof to permit it,” he said.
“There are many worldly things that we deal with morally that may be of interest to non-Muslim communities and became more common among Muslim communities because of their popularity,” he said, citing the Prophet as an example. “The Prophet dealt with many worldly things that came from non-Muslims.”
“Even greeting peaceful non-Muslims in their special religious holidays is permitted without participating in a forbidden act that contradicts Islam,” he said, downplaying perception that it was an imitation of non-Muslims when Muslims also celebrate the day of love.
The history of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery like that of its patron saint, Saint Valentine.
One theory suggests Saint Valentine was a priest who served during the 3rd Century in Rome, who was executed for defying a decree from Emperor Claudius II that outlawed any remaining single men from marrying as they were better soldiers than those who had already wed.
According to the story, Valentine was sentenced to death after continued to he was found to be performing secret marriages for love-struck couples.
By the Middle Ages, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France, for his symbolism of love.
But the celebration of Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 has many theories attached to it. Pope Gelasius declared the day as Valentine’s Day because it is claimed he wanted to ‘Christianize’ the Pagan fertility festival Lupercalia, which was commemorated the next day.
It was also in the Middle Ages, that people from France and England believed Feb. 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February should be a day for romance.
Aside from the usual exchange of chocolates, flowers and romantic gifts an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making it the second largest card-sending holiday next to Christmas, where 2.6 billion cards are mailed.
To stress that Valentine’s Day was a universal celebration – and not anchored on a particular faith or religion – Al-Ghamdi spoke in support of fatwas that declared it permissible for Muslims to spend Feb. 14 with their loved ones.
Ahmed Mamdouh, the fatwa secretary of Dar Al-Ifta Al-Misriya (Egyptian Religious Edict House), on February issued a religious edict which stated: “There is no harm to allocate one day to show love to one another.”
Tunisian Grand Mufti Othman Battikh meanwhile rebuffed assertions that Valentine’s Day was a Christian tradition: “Anything that brings people closer together is good and desirable.”
Love is a natural human feeling, Al-Ghamdi said, and Valentine’s Day offered an opportunity to celebrate “a positive aspect of the human being.”
The Saudi cleric created uproar in 2014 when he said on a talk show hosted by renowned media personality Badria Al-Bishr that, contrary to what Muslims believed, women were not obliged to wear the niqab and were permitted use make-up and other beauty products.
The controversy was further fanned when Al-Ghamdi allowed his wife to be seen on national television without wearing the full-face veil, drawing reactions from religious conservatives.


Saudi Arabia to launch app for Umrah pilgrims

Updated 21 September 2020

Saudi Arabia to launch app for Umrah pilgrims

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is launching an online application that allows citizens, residents, and visitors to apply for Umrah pilgrimage.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said the move is part of digitalization efforts undertaken by the Kingdom. 
The ministry also released details on how it plans to gradually allow pilgrims to apply and reserve a specific time and date for Umrah in a bid to avoid overcrowding. 
The national project aims to save time and reduce costs and burdens on government agencies.
The online process will provide information to complete government procedures, in addition to raising security levels and preserving government documents.
The step comes within measures taken by the ministry to keep pace with the digital transformation under the Kingdom's Vision 2030 reform program.
It said a total of 54 government agencies are set to benefit from the system.