Question: What does love mean? What is the love of Allah?
Hadrat Imâm-i Ghazâlî states:
Love is the heart’s inclination toward what it derives pleasure from. If this inclination is intense, it is termed ‘ashq (ecstatic love).
The meaning of love in Islamic context is as follows:
Love is to subordinate yourself to the Beloved One [Allahu ta’âlâ] without expecting anything in return, to obey Him, to regard His every deed as beautiful and to deem every sorrow and trouble sent by Him to be sweeter than any favor, and to consider His friends as friends and His enemies as enemies. In brief, love is to live in order to earn His good pleasure.
Love necessitates that you love the friends of your darling and be at odds with the enemies of the darling. This love and this enmity are not within the power of faithful lovers; they cannot help themselves. This happens by itself without striving, without taking pains. The friend’s friends seem beautiful, and His enemies seem ugly and evil. Also, the love that occurs within those who are seized by the pretty appearance of the world requires this same process. Unless the person who says that (s)he loves keeps away from the enemies of the darling, (s)he is not regarded as a man or a woman of his or her word.
You cannot love both of two opposites
Love entails loving everything that belongs to the beloved. It makes all things related to the beloved, whether closely or remotely, precious to the lover. For this reason, it was said, “The dog in front of the door of the beloved is dearer to the lover’s heart than any other dogs, and it has a special place.”
Sheikh-ul-Islam Hadrat ‘Abdullah-i Ansârî says: “One day, a man offended the person I loved much. Since that moment, my heart has been feeling unfriendly toward him.”
The following saying of the great is famous: “If you are not offended by the one who offends your beloved, a dog is better than you.”
Hubb-i fillah and bughd-i fillah, two principles of love, are declared in the Qur’ân and hadîth. It causes you to be away from Allah if you love the enemies of Allahu ta’âlâ. Unless there is enmity, there will be no love. That is, unless you are away from His enemies, you cannot be the friend of the beloved. (Fourth Volume, 29th Letter)
Hadrat Imâm-i Rabbânî declared:
For adapting yourself to Muhammad “alaihis-salâm” completely and flawlessly, you need to love him completely and flawlessly. The symptom of complete and perfect love is to bear hostility against his enemies and to dislike those who dislike him. Love cannot include sloth.
Lovers, being crazy about their darlings, cannot do anything against them. They cannot come to a mutual agreement with those who act against them. The love for two opposites cannot settle in the same heart together. To love one of two opposites entails enmity toward the other. (First Volume, 165th Letter)
Further, Hadrat ‘Abdullah-i Dahlawî states:
Those who love Allahu ta’âlâ are bewildered with a love which they do not know, which they do not understand. They cannot get to sleep, nor can they stop their tears. In everything they do they tremble with the fear of Allah. They struggle to do the deeds that will make them attain the love of Allah. They are patient, forgiving. In every incompatibility and trouble they found the fault in themselves. They think of Allah in every breath they take. They do not live in unawareness. They do not quarrel with anybody. They are afraid of hurting a heart. They deem hearts to be houses of Allahu ta’âlâ. (85th Letter)
It is declared in a hadîth-i sharîf:
(O my Rabb! Grant me Your love, the love of those whom You love, the love of those deeds that will make me earn Your love. And make Your love in my sight more precious than [the] cold water [desired by a person with a raging thirst].) [Imâm-i Ghazâlî]
If you love Allah, know that it means that He loves you, too. One of the great declared:
“My thought was that I loved Allah, but in fact, He loved me.”
The reasons for feeling love
Love does not form in a heart without knowing and understanding [the thing to be loved]. Only those that are known can be loved. Love is not the property of lifeless beings, but the property of those who are living and have understanding. All things people understand and derive pleasure and comfort from are lovely, while all those that they abhor and cause them pain are unlovely. That all pleasure-giving things are lovely for the one who derives pleasure from them means the heart’s inclination toward them.
Each sense organ revels in, tends toward, and likes only what it appreciates. For example, the pleasure of the eye is what it sees and enjoys. The pleasure of the ear is the beautiful sounds it hears. The pleasure of the nose is lovely scents. The pleasure of the tongue is the taste of what it eats and drinks. The pleasure of the sense of touch is softness and those that are luscious. So such things, which are perceived through sense organs, are liked because they delight the senses.
Furthermore, there is a love that cannot be understood through any of the five senses. It is known through the sixth sense. In the pleasure taken through the five senses, animals are like humans.
The eye of the heart of a human is stronger than the physical eyes. The beauty that has been understood by the mind is greater than the beauty seen by eyes.
There are three reasons for feeling love:
1. All beings love themselves. Loving oneself means wanting one’s existence to continue and disliking ceasing to exist. Therefore, people like living and dislike death. People also love the excellence in everything they possess, as they love the maintenance of their existence. They love themselves first and the well-being of their organs second. Then they love the well-being of their property, their children, their relatives, and their friends. They love the foregoing because they bring about the continuation of and perfection in their bodies. For instance, a man loves his children even if they do not benefit him at all, for they will cause his posterity to come into the world.
2. Humans love favors. Indeed, they are the slaves of favors. Their hearts love whoever does them a favor and detest whoever treats them badly. They inevitably have a liking for whoever does goodness to them.
Health is loved. Doctors, too, are loved for the maintenance of health. We love them because we love ourselves. Likewise, we love both knowledge and teachers. We love teachers because they are means for our acquiring knowledge.
Money is loved as it is an instrument for satisfying various needs and eating and drinking. The food itself is loved in order to be eaten. Food is loved in itself while money is loved for being an instrument. To love people who do favors is not to love themselves but to love their favors. When there is no favor, there is no love. If the number of favors decreases, the amount of love decreases, too.
3. The third kind of love is to love someone not by reason of his or her favors but to love his or her own person, which is unceasing, true love. This is to love what is beautiful. Those who appreciate beauty love what is beautiful. The source of loving beauty is beauty itself because to recognize beauty is a pleasure by itself. To appreciate beauty is a pleasure, too. The reason why rivers, vegetation, and the beauty in nature are loved is not that they are eaten or drunk. It is simply because they are beautiful. This love is without the intervention of free will. If it is known that Allahu ta’âlâ, too, is beautiful, it is impossible not to love Him then. He is the most Beautiful of the beautiful.
Love and superior taste
Tastes are dependent upon the mindsets of the individuals. Everybody cannot derive the same pleasure from everything because people find pleasure in what suits their nature. For example, people of wrath enjoy taking revenge and being victorious. Similarly, the taste of each organ is different.
The heart understands those facts that the five senses cannot understand. For instance, it understands that the cosmos was created, that is, it came into being afterwards, and that it needs a Creator who created it. Such facts cannot be known through the five senses.
The mind is a power that differentiates humans from animals. The essence of objects is learnt through the mind. The mind, in turn, delights in ma’rifa (knowledge pertaining to Allahu ta’âlâ) and ‘ilm(knowledge). Even if a certain type of knowledge is base, useless, or even harmful, the mind gets pleasure from teaching it to others. For example, a person who knows a form of gambling wants to teach it to another person. This shows that all kinds of knowledge are enjoyable.
The value of the pleasure one gets from knowledge is in accordance with the honor of knowledge. The delight one takes in knowledge becomes more valuable according to the value of what is known. For example, it is enjoyable to know the most personal secrets of people and to divulge them. However, it is more enjoyable to know the secrets of a governor and to disclose them. What is more, it is much more enjoyable to know the secrets of the greatest sovereign of the world and to reveal them. As it is seen, the honor of knowledge is dependent upon the honor of the known.
There is no ‘ilm (knowledge) which is more exalted, more honorable, more glorious, and greater than the ‘ilm of Allahu ta’âlâ, who has created the universe from nothing, adorned it, and keeps it in existence. Then the most desired knowledge is this one. The pleasure derived from this knowledge is far more than the pleasure derived from lust, rage, and through the other senses. Knowing Allah, seeing His Jamâl, and understanding the mysteries in His commandments are the greatest of pleasures. There exist such pleasurable things that it is not even possible to imagine them. As a matter of fact, Allahu ta’âlâ declared: “For pious people, I have prepared things that no eyes have ever seen, no ears have ever heard, and no person can ever imagine.”
The dear slaves of Allahu ta’âlâ (the awliyâ’) do not place value on capturing leading management positions because they are awake to the fact that those positions bristle with trouble and that they will go out of one’s possession when death comes. Therefore, they are always busy with otherworldly affairs as the blessings of the next world are endless and trouble free. Death is not an obstacle to these blessings because those who know Allahu ta’âlâ do not cease to exist; death only changes their states. The soul gets out of the cage of the body. The body dies, but the soul does not. Death does not mean ceasing to exist.
The inward pleasure derived from being a leader is superior to the outward pleasures of the five senses. Animals and the senile do not understand the inward pleasures. Knowing the mysteries in Allahu ta’âlâ’s deeds are considerably higher than all pleasures, such as being a leader.
Spiritual pleasures are beyond description. A person who does not experience them cannot understand them. A child, for example, initially gets pleasure from games and toys. Later on, he gets pleasure from dressing up. When he reaches puberty, he wants to marry. Then he develops a passionate desire to become a leader. A child laughs at those who brush toys aside and who are in pursuit of ranking positions in society. But the seekers of ranking positions, on the other hand, laugh at the awliyâ’, who engage in ma’rifatullah (knowing Allah). A human is the enemy of what (s)he does not know.
The blessings of the next world are measured by the strength of love. The stronger the love you feel, the more pleasure you get. Love exists in every Believer. There are two reasons for being able to love much:
1. Unless the air in a glass is expelled, water cannot be put into it. When water is poured into the glass, then nothing else can be put into it before emptying out the glass. Likewise, the heart is like a glass. In order to fill the heart with the love of Allah, it is necessary to clear out everything from the heart. Ikhlâs means crowding out all things besides the love of Allah from the heart and purging it of everything except this love. The îmân of those who purge their hearts of all kinds of love other than the love of Allah becomes stronger.
2. After purging the heart of all kinds of love other than the love of Allah, you must place the love of Allah in your heart perfectly. It is like sowing a seed on a ploughed and weeded field. A tree of love grows from this seed. But righteous deeds (a’mâl) are necessary for this. And in order to perform righteous deeds, knowledge (‘ilm) is necessary. This means to say that ‘ilm, a’mâl, and ikhlâs are necessary so that you can attain the love you want.
Differing from one another in love
Just as all Muslims have the essence of îmân, so they all have the essence of love. Although all Believers have belief in the six fundamentals of îmân, the îmân of some is very lustrous while the îmân of some others is very dull. Since people differ from one another in knowing Allah, they differ from one another in love, too. Let us explain this with an example:
All Believers love Hadrat Imâm-i Ghazâlî, for all of them know that he was a great Islamic scholar. However, the scholars who are familiar with his knowledge love him more than the common people do. A scholar appreciates a scholar. When you read a work by a scholar, you feel love for him, but when you read a more beautiful work by this scholar, this love of yours increases. Moreover, when you study his work thoroughly and have a good grasp of pieces of subtle knowledge contained in his work, your admiration and love increases further.
All things in the universe are the creations of Allahu ta’âlâ. The common people love Him as He created everything. But scholars and people of insight love Him more than the common people do, because they are well aware of the subtleties and astonishing points in His work and art. If a doctor, for example, sees the wonders and the subtleties that arouse astonishment in a human body, his or her love intensifies all the more. This love becomes stronger in accordance with the knowledge he or she has about the subtleties in His creation. Therefore, the love felt by scholars and ‘ârifs is much more. A person who knows Him much loves Him much, too.
As for those who do not love Allahu ta’âlâ Himself but love Him because of His blessings, their love changes when His blessings change. The love they feel when they enjoy the luxuries of a life of comfort and abundance and the love they feel when they are in dire straits and trouble are different. But the love of those who love Allah Himself and who love Him solely because He is the Owner and Rabb of everything does not fluctuate when there is a decrease or an increase in His favors. Richness or poverty, or illness or good health does not affect their love. Muslims will attain blessings in the next world as per their love for Allah.
Once, Hadrat Ibrâhîm bin Adham prayed, “O my Rabb! Bring the heart of this slave, who loves You, to a state of peace.” Upon this, he was declared in his dream as follows, “O Ibrâhîm! How do you ask for peace before attaining to Me? Can anyone ever be at peace before meeting his beloved?”
Hadrat Mûsa asked Allahu ta’âlâ, “O my Rabb! How can we distinguish the people You like from the people You dislike?”Allahu ta’âlâ stated, “The slave I like has two signs: He remembers Me and avoids sins. I, in turn, remember him in the presence of angels and protect him from sinning. The slave I dislike has two signs, too: He forgets and never remembers Me. He indulges in sins and disobedience. The heart of the person I dislike is arrogant; his tongue says immoral things; he directs his eyes on evil; his hands are miser. I get angry with such a person and torment him.”
Allah loves the one who loves Him
Again, Allahu ta’âlâ declared:
“I am the Beloved of a person who loves Me. I hold the person who truly loves Me superior to everyone else. He who looks for Me will find Me, but he who looks for anyone else cannot find Me. There are such slaves of Mine that I love them, and they love Me as well. They want to meet Me, and I want to meet them. They remember Me, and I remember them. I love those who follow them. I dislike those who deviate from their path. When night falls and everybody is together with their beloved ones, they do not go to sleep. Instead, they pray to Me, perform namâzes, express their gratitude for My blessings, and shed tears. They endure all difficulties out of their love for Me. I bestow great favors upon them.”
‘Umar bin ‘Abdulaziz had a servant. In the daytime he used to serve. At night he used to withdraw into solitude, make supplications, and express his requests to Allahu ta’âlâ by shedding tears. Hadrat ‘Umar bin ‘Abdulaziz wondered what his servant was saying and listened to him. The servant was imploring, “O my Rabb! Forgive me for the sake of Your love for me. Show mercy upon me.” He was astonished at the servant’s prayers and asked him, “O servant! How dare you say such words?” The servant answered, “If Allahu ta’âlâ did not love me, would He keep me awake and make me busy with Himself while you were sleeping? He declares in the Qur’ân al-karîm, ‘Allah loves them, and they love Allah.’ He states His love first and the love of the loved second. You have to be loved in order to love.”
The strength of love
Some people say, “As Allah prohibited some things and made various things harâm, is it possible to love Him?” To say so is very wrong because a mother’s warning, for example, her child who is reaching out his hand to fire and her slapping his hand do not prevent the child from loving his mother.
Wise people know that there are ultimate divine causes, which are very useful for themselves, in Allahu ta’âlâ’s prohibitions. They deem it a great benefit to abstain from what is prohibited. For instance, they say “If drinking alcohol had not been prohibited, I could be an alcohol addict now” and deem this prohibition a blessing. In this respect, just as there are useful reasons in Allahu ta’âlâ’s commandments, so there are useful reasons in His prohibitions.
Because obeying the commandments and avoiding the prohibitions are blessings, nothing can preclude us from loving our Rabb, the Sender of these blessings.
When we are benefitting from the blessings Allahu ta’âlâ has bestowed upon us, we must put up with some difficulties.
In order to smell a rose, it is necessary to endure the difficulty of going near to it. “An easy blessing, a thornless rose, and a beloved not beset by obstacles do not exist,” as the saying goes. A blessing obtained with ease is not valuable. We would spend it like a spendthrift and would not think about rendering thanks for it. The lover who asks Allahu ta’âlâ for a rose should bear its thorns.
Hadrat Muhammad Ma’sûm states:
“The bliss of the Beloved One’s knowing that the lovers look for Him suffices for the poor lovers. The lovers’ knowing that The Beloved sees their suffering the burden of separation satisfies them because Allahu ta’âlâ certainly sees them.”
Hadrat Zalîha, who fell in love with Allah after her love for Yûsuf “alaihis-salâm,” used to give a necklace to whoever says, “Today I saw Yûsuf.” She sacrificed her wealth, property, beauty, moreover, 70 camels’ loads of jewelry and necklaces in the way of her love. However, when she married to Hadrat Yûsuf, she did not come up to him. When Hadrat Yûsuf asked the reason for this, she said, “The love of Allah suffices for me.” Only a nightingale appreciates a rose.
People asked Majnûn, who became insane out of his excessive love for Laylâ, what his name was. He said, “Laylâ.” They asked, “Did Laylâ not die?” He answered, “No, she did not die. She is in my heart. I am Laylâ.” They said, “Look toward Laylâ’s house.” He responded by crying, “It suffices for me to look at the star that faces toward Laylâ’s house.”
When the rose was made mention of,
The nightingale wailed with sorrow.
The superiors said, “The purpose of love is to suffer trouble and grief. Meeting never runs through the mind.” They defined love as such.
True love manifests itself through the following three traits:
1. The lover prefers the words of the beloved to the words of everyone else.
2. The lover holds being with the beloved superior to being with others.
3. The lover considers the beloved’s contentment with him or her to be more valuable than others’ contentment with him or her.