What a loving culture America is, some of us may think. We see lots of kissing, hugging, gift-giving etc. especially between members of the opposite sex.
In contrast, look at Muslims and Muslim societies. How often do you see couples doing the same in public? Muslims look like real sourpusses in comparison.
But is Islam anti-affection? Does Islam condemn public displays of affection?
Think about it on February 14
With Valentine's Day coming up on February 14, men and women around the world (this is no longer just a European or American custom), will be shelling out millions to buy heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, brightly decorated cards, flowers and various other Valentine's Day paraphernalia for their loved ones.
They will also, as is customary, make public displays of romance and affection to their loved ones, like putting an advertisement in a newspaper's Valentine's Day section.
But the loved ones being referred to here are usually husbands/wives, boy/girlfriends. On occasion, some people give cards to friends and classmates, but the focus of the Valentine's Day observance is on the opposite sex.
Showing affection and giving gifts are part of Islamic culture
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) once remarked to a man who had never kissed any of his ten children, "That shows) you have no mercy and tenderness at all. Those who do not show mercy to others will not have God's mercy shown on them" (quoted from Islam the Natural Way by Abdul Wahid Hamid p. 75.
And when it comes to giving gifts, let's not forget this: "Exchange presents with one another, for they remove ill feelings from the hearts," said the Prophet in a Hadith in Tirmidhi.
What about Public Display of Affection between spouses?
Love is beautiful. It's not a cheap thing on display. It is a private thing in most cultures of the world unless it is love towards children. But what about showing affection between spouses amongst Muslims? This is where many complain Muslims are way too conservative. Some newlywed Muslim couples, especially, meet with the disapproval of parents or in-laws by showing affection, even in front of family members. But other Muslims choose this way.
"No PDA," one Muslim sister in America once warned her husband, who was then her fiance (PDA stands for Public Display of Affection).
Affection between spouses is something which is usually reserved for the privacy of the home.
The Prophet's Sunnah with regards to his wives
The one most perfect in his faith is he whose conduct is best and the best amongst you is he who behaves best towards his spouse. (Saying of the Prophet). The Prophet would race and watch with his wife a public theater presentation but would not hug or kiss her in public.
Love does not equal physical affection always
As well, one thing that also has to be stressed is that not showing physical affection publicly does not indicate a lack of love for another person.
While kissing and hugging our parents, kids, siblings or spouses does indicate love, not doing so all of the time does not necessarily indicate otherwise.
People are different, and Islam is a religion of moderation. It accommodates the very affectionate and the non-affectionate. While it encourages affection amongst family members and friends, for instance, it gives us the guidelines to know what is appropriate and what is not.
And when it comes to the husband-wife affection, let's not forget that Allah says:
"And among His Signs is this, that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect" (Quran 30:21).