“” Love in Islam “”
Every heart that is not aflame is no heart;
A frozen heart is nothing but a handful of clay.
O God! Give me a breast that sets ablaze,
And in that breast a heart and that heart consumed with fire.
In Islam, the concept of love is one of the most important concepts. This fact manifests itself in Islamic philosophy, theology, mysticism and ethics; indeed, in some aspects, it plays the crucial role. For example, in defining the Islamic point of view on the relation between God and Universe in general, and between God and Mankind in particular, love has the most significant and profound place. Love is so central in Islam that it is seep as “the firmest handhold of faith” and “faith (Iman) is nothing but love for the sake of God and hate for the sake of God”.
Ibn Abbas reported that Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The strongest faith is to be sincere for the sake of Allah, to hate for the sake of Allah (Tabarra), to love for the sake of Allah (Tawalla), and to discard for the sake of Allah.”
There is a tendency among some people to think that there should be no hate at all. These people assume that excellence and nobility of character and “being sociable” consist of having all men one’s friends. Certainly Islam recommends Muslims to love people and optimize compassionate and sincere relationship with them, even if they do not believe in Islam or in God. However, it is not feasible for a person who has principles in his life and has devoted his life to realize sacred values to be indifferent to evil and oppressive deeds of wrongdoers and make friendship with everybody. Such a person certainly will have some enemies, whether he likes it or not. There are always good people in the society and bad people. Good and bad are two opposite poles. Attraction towards the good is not possible without repulsion from the bad.
When two human beings attract each other and their hearts wish for them to be friends and companions with one another, we should look for a reason for that. The reason is nothing other than similarity and resemblance. Unless there is a similarity between these two persons, they cannot attract one another and move towards friendship with each other, as saying goes, Birds of same feather flock together.
Maulana Rumi in his Mathnavi mentions fine story that illustrate this fact.
The story relates to a wise man that saw a Raven who had formed affection for a Stork. They perched together and flew together! The wise man could not understand how two birds of two different species that had no similarity either in shape or in colour with each other could be friends. He went close and discovered that both of them had only one leg.
The same idea is emphasized by Imams of the Household (Ahlul Bayt) of Prophet Muhammad (saw). For example, Fudayl ibn Yasar, a disciple, asked Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) whether love and hatred derive from faith (Iman). Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) replied: “Is faith anything but love and hate?”
It is also narrated that Imam al-Baqir (as), stated that: Religion (Deen) is love and love is religion.
As these statements and traditions indicate, love plays an important and significant role. Hence it deserves our close attention in order that we may discover the real meaning of the concept of love in Islam.
First of all, some questions come to the mind. What is the kind of love that has been emphasized by Islam? Who is the object of this special kind of love? Why should the believers have this kind of love and what purpose does it serve?
Love in Islam can be broadly categorized into: Love for God, love for Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his Household (Ahlul Bayt), and love for the faithful.
The Noble Qur’an says: “The believers are stronger in their love for Allah.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 2:165)
According to Islamic teaching, the minimum expectation from believers is that God should have the first place in their heart, in the sense that no other love may override one’s love for God; God should be the highest and foremost object of love. The Noble Qur’an says:
Say: If your fathers and your sons and your brethren and your mates and your kinsfolk and property which you have acquired, and the slackness of trade which you fear and dwellings which you like, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His way, then wait till Allah brings about His command: and Allah does not guide the transgressing people. (Surah Al-Tawba, 9:24)
This verse clearly indicates that one’s love for God has to be superior to one’s love for everything else that one may come to love in one’s life. This superiority shows itself when the love for God and for His religion comes in conflict with one’s love for one’s personal belongings. In this case, a believer should be able to sacrifice his personal favourite things for the sake of God. For example, if God asks us to give our lives to protect innocent lives or our territorial integrity or the like, we should not let our love for this world or any other distraction i.e. family, wealth, power, etc. prevent us from striving in His way. And nothing should come into conflict with our love for God. The Noble Qur’an says:
Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body. (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:4)
Imam Ali (as) would always spend time with his children. Once he was sitting in his house with his young children. Sayyida Zainab (sa) then asked, “Dear, father, do you love me?” Imam Ali (as) said, “Yes, of course, my children are like a part of my heart”. On hearing this, she said, “You also love Allah (SWT). How can two loves be in one heart of a true believer, the love of Allah (SWT) and that of children?”
Imam Ali (as) smiled and replied, “Love Allah (SWT) and for the sake of His love, you love His creatures; children and fellow beings too. I love you for the sake of Allah (SWT).”
Hence love for God is the foundation of Islamic belief, the foundation on which man is to establish the principles of his faith (Iman). Hence with one heart one cannot choose two beloveds.
Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) said once, “The heart is the sanctuary of God, therefore do not settle therein anything but God.”
Hadith Qudsi says, “Neither [the vastness of] My earth, nor [that of] My heaven can contain Me. Indeed it is the heart of the man of faith which can contain Me.”
Urdu Couplet says: Kaba Kitna Khush Kismat Hai, Ke Yeh Allah (SWT) Ka Ghar Hai, Lekin Is Mein Allah Nahi Rehta, Momin Kaba Se Bhi Ziada Khush Kismat Hai, Jis Ke Dil Mein Allah (SWT) Rehta Hai.
The history of Islam is full of memories of those who embodied a sincere and overwhelming love for God and His religion. One of those who full-heatedly devoted himself to Islam was Bilal al-Habashi, a black slave. The pagans of Quraysh in Makkah subjected him to torture asking him to mention names of their idols express his belief in them and disbelieve in Islam. They tormented him under the burning Sun by laying him on scorching sand and putting heavy rocks on his chest. Abu Bakr, a rich companion (Sahabi) of Prophet Muhammad (saw), was passing by when he heard the cry of Bilal. He went close and advised him to hide his belief, but Bilal was not prepared to do so; since “love was ever rebellious becomes deadly.”
Another example love for Islam is Imam Hussayn ibn Ali (sa), who said: “Oh God, I have left the world in Your love. Am ready to make my children orphans in Your love. My heart could not divert towards anybody but You. Even if You cut my body into pieces in Your love.”
Love is the Sole Purpose of our Creation
There is a famous divine saying (Hadith Qudsi) which can probably be found in all books written about the goal of creation in Islam. According to this Hadith Qudsi, Allah (SWT) says: “I was a hidden treasure; I loved to be known. Hence I created the world so that I would be known.”
Allah (SWT) has created the world out of love. Thus, a question arises: why did Allah (SWT) love to be known? Certainly, Allah (SWT) has no desire for fame. The purpose behind His love to be known is understandable by considering the fact that Allah (SWT) who is the Wise, the Compassionate and the Merciful creates the universe and particularly human beings to give them the maximum grace and perfection that they have the capacity for receiving. Of course, the perfection of any kind of being is decided by the degree of its similarity or closeness to Allah (SWT), and the most important factors in this are love of Allah (SWT), and prior to that knowledge of Allah (SWT), since there can be no love without knowing the beloved.
It is narrated in another Hadith Qudsi that when God loves someone, He becomes his ears, his eyes, his tongue, and his hands: “When I love him, then I shall be his ears with which he listens, his eyes with which he sees, his tongue with which he speaks, and his hands with which he holds; if he calls Me, I shall answer him, and if he asks Me, I shall give him.”
Similarly the way man has physical needs in life which he strives and struggles to fulfill, the soul too has needs that must be satisfied. These spiritual needs and urges have been placed by the hands of the creator in the depths of the creation’s soul. Man has a natural inclination to find love and love in any form towards any object has no valid reality except when it is for the sake of Allah (SWT). All love directly or indirectly in some way, shape, or form is a man’s hope to be in reach of the ultimate perfection, which can be nobody but Allah (SWT) – the Almighty.
God’s love for the world in general and human beings in particular is unanimously believed and emphasized by all Muslims. Indeed, one of the God’s names is al-Wadud, He who loves. Some non Muslims allege that God in Islam is very strict and cruel God who demands to be obeyed fully. He is not loving and kind. Nothing can be farther from truth than this allegation. It is enough to know that, with the exception of one, each of the 114 chapters of the Noble Qur’an begins with the verse: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.”
In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) we are told that, “God is more loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child.”
A young man came before Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) with a carpet and said, “O prophet of Allah! I passed through a jungle and heard the voices of young birds; and I took and put them into my carpet; and their mother came fluttering around my head, and I uncovered the young, and the mother fell down upon them, then I wrapped them up in my carpet; and there are the young which I have.”
Then Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Put them down.” And when he did so, their mother joined them: and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Do you wonder at the affection of the mother towards her young? I swear by Him who hath sent me, verily God is more loving to His creatures than the mother to these young birds. Return them to the place from which you took them, and let their mother be with them.
Do You Want Allah (SWT) to Love You? Then develop the following qualities!
Allah loves Muhsineen (Good Doers) [2:195, 3:134, 3:148, 5:13, 5:93] Allah loves Tawwabeen (Those who turn to rightfulness) [2:222] Allah loves Mutahhareen (Those who keep their bodies free from filth) [2:222, 9:108] Allah loves Muttaqeen (Those who guard themselves against evil) [3:76, 9:4, 9:7] Allah loves Sabireen (Being Patient) [3:146] Allah loves Mutawakkileen (Those who put their trust in Allah) [3:159] Allah loves Muqsiteen (Those who act equitably and justly) [5:42, 49:9, 60:8]
It is noteworthy that although one of the things attributed to Allah (SWT) in Islam is the wrath (Ghadab), its application is much more limited compared to His mercifulness and love for His creatures. Indeed, His wrath is only for those who deliberately disbelieve or commit evil actions. Remember Allah (SWT) is also just. Hence evildoers and sinners must have their share of punishment and the virtuous, His bounties and favors.
Wrath or anger is also out of His love and mercy. If His love or mercy did not exist He would not care at all. It is like a father who becomes angry with his son when he does something wrong, because he has care and concern for his son and his entire family, because he wants his son to correct his behaviour and set a lesson for other children not to copy that wrong act.
A rational and intelligent love is the one that involves the good and interest of whole mankind and not a limited number of people. One can do many things to bring good to individuals or groups which bring evil to society or mankind as a whole. For example, if a Judge releases a guilty criminal he might have done something good to that person, but a great harm has been inflicted upon the society and the ideal of justice. One should not let his affections hide the truth. If our beloved child needs injection or operation we should not let our love and passions for him to prevent us from doing so. This is exactly how wrath (Ghadab) of Allah (SWT) acts out of care and concern
Why should one love Allah (SWT)?
According to Islam, one (1) reason for loving God, as said before lies in the fact that God is the most precious, absolute perfection and eternal beauty, that a man can ever conceive and therefore, man out of his nature that aspires to values, beauty and perfection loves God.
The second (2) reason for loving God, men by nature love whoever does good to them, and they appreciate such favour and benevolence, as Imam Ali (as), said: “Generosity and magnanimity enslave men.”
Now, as God is the source of all being, of all generosity and benevolence, man, by virtue of his nature, loves God. Prophet Muhammad (saw), said: “Love Allah (SWT) because He has done good to you and He has bestowed favours upon you.”
A believer who has started his spiritual journey towards God first comes to recognize God’s blessings upon him in providing him with lots of supports and helps that enabled him to act. Having continued his journey and been equipped with a mystical view of the world, he will realize that every good thing, indeed, comes from God himself. We read in the Noble Qur’an: “Whatever benefit comes to you (O man!), it is from God, and whatever misfortune befalls you, it is from yourself” (Surah An-Nisa, 4:79)
Aside from the fact that one who loves God is loved by Him (5:54), a real love for God prompts one to perform the best of deeds. Reason and nature dictate that if someone really loves God, he would act in a manner that is pleasing to God. In this regard, the Noble Qur’an says:
Say: “If you love Allah, then follow me, and Allah will love you and forgive you your sins,” and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Surah Al-E-Imran, 3:31)
This ayah indicates the interrelation between love, as an inner state, and emulating Prophet Muhammad (saw), which is an outward action. Moreover, it implies that no one may neglect his religious obligations under the pretext of love for God. Love for Prophet Muhammad (saw)