Islam: Religion Of Love

Sh. bin Bayyah

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

All praise is due to Allah Alone, and peace and blessings be upon our Master, Prophet Muhammad, and upon his family and Companions.

Love is one of the noblest human principles and traits that cultivate the spirit of interaction, solidarity, and cooperation and add affection to human relationships and dealings. All heavenly and manmade religions cherish love in its top-down (God-creation), bottom-up (creation-God), and horizontal (interpersonal) dimensions. Most notably, love is a central value in the teachings, literature, and practices of Christianity, as clearly stated in the Qur’an: {And We have placed in the hearts of those who followed him (i.e., Jesus) compassion and mercy}.

In Qur’anic terminology, compassion and mercy are synonymous with love.

That is why some Orientalists, such as Margaret Smith, alleged that the doctrine of Divine Love (which emerged at the turn of the first century A.H. with Sufi mystics like Al-Hasan Al-Basri, As-Suraymiyyah, Al-Fudayl, Rabi`ah Al-`Adawiyyah, and others) was largely inspired by Christianity. We believe that Islam is the origin of true love in all its dimensions (top-down, bottom-up, and horizontal) and forms, quite independent of any other faith, except inasmuch as both come from the same source, as established by historians. Many Qur’anic texts and Prophetic hadiths undeniably prove the fact that love, in the broadest sense, is an intrinsic ideal of Islam.

Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali said, “Love of Allah is the highest spiritual attainment. Whatever follows it is an outcome of it (such as passion, communion, fulfillment, etc.), and whatever precedes it is a step towards it”. Allah says, {Say (O Muhammad), “If you really love Allah, then follow me, and Allah will love you”}. He also says, {A people whom He will love and who will love Him}. And He says, {But those who have believed love Allah more (than anything else)}. All such verses show the merit of love and tell that it has degrees.

In several hadiths, the Prophet established love as a prerequisite to religiosity. Allah says, {And among people are some who would take (i.e., associate) besides Allah rivals (to Him) whom they love as much as they love Allah. But those who have believed love Allah most}. Ibn Jazi Al-Kalbi wrote, “There are two types of love: imitation love and hearty love. To me, the latter is indicated in the second Verse, while the former is indicated in the first Verse”.

Heartfelt love is the greatest of loves. It brings forth ultimate satisfaction and happiness. A Companion once told the Prophet, “I have not prepared for it (i.e., the Hereafter) much Prayer or fasting, but I love Allah and His Messenger”. The Prophet said, “One will (in the Hereafter) be in the company of those he loves”. Anas commented, “I have never seen Muslims delight at something, except for conversion to Islam, more than they did at hearing this”.

Abu Ruzayn Al-`Uqayli asked, “O Messenger of Allah! What is faith?” The Prophet replied, “It is to love Allah and His Messenger more than everything else”. The Prophet also said, “None of you shall truly believe unless when Allah and His Messenger are more loved to him than everything else”. And he said, “No servant of Allah shall truly believe unless when I become more beloved to him than his family, property, and all people”. Another narration adds, “… and his own self”.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) strongly urged for love. He said, “Love Allah for the graces He bestows upon you, and love me for Allah’s love for me”. An authentic hadith tells us that, while receiving the Shar`i penalty for being drunken, an alcoholic was cursed by a Companion. The Prophet blamed the curser, saying, “He (i.e., the penalized man) loves Allah and His Messenger”. Noticeably, though addicted to a sinful practice, the man still had something positive to commend: love. The deeper that love grows, the more deserved forgiveness becomes. A poet said, Indeed, my love for Umamah is not oneThat can be changed by tale-bearing or passage of time

If this is true with romantic love, it will for sure be more applicable to love of Allah, the Sovereign, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, Who has granted us His Graces, originated us with His Wisdom, provided for us with His Generosity, and run our affairs with His Kindness. It pleases Him when a servant repents and returns to His Obedience, as pointed out in an authentic hadith. Allah says, {Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who are self-purifying}.

Horizontal Love

Mutual love among people is a basic notion in Islam, based on human fraternity. The Prophet said, “None of you shall truly believe unless when he loves for his brother what he loves for himself”. That hadith associates fraternity with love: “Brother” here means a fellow human, as interpreted by several hadith commentators, such as Ibn Rajab (Hanbali), An-Nawawi (Shafi`i), and Ash-Shabrakhiti (Malik). Also, there is “charity” — unlimited loving-kindness toward all others. The Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed, “Oh Allah! I ask you for (the ability to do) good deeds… and love for the poor”. In a Hadith Qudsi, Allah says, “And My servant will keep drawing closer to me by offering supererogatory acts of worship until I love him”.

Love goes beyond living beings to include even nonliving things, nature, as well as good words and deeds. The Prophet described Mount Uhud saying, “This is a mount that loves us and is loved by us”. He further said, “Allah is Beautiful, and He loves beauty”. Allah loves to make things easy for people. The Prophet said, “Verily, Allah loves that His Exceptional Permissions be implemented”. Allah says, {And He (i.e., Allah) loves good-doers}.

As early as his second speech after arrival at Medina, the Prophet focused on love, as documented by Ibn Ishaq. He said, “Love what Allah loves. Love Allah from the bottom of your hearts. Do not become weary of reciting Allah’s Words and extolments… Love one another with the spirit inspired by Allah among you. Verily, it angers Allah when His Covenant is broken. And peace be with you”.

Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali said, “Let you know that the happiest of people in the Hereafter are those who love Allah most, because they will win the pleasure of meeting Him. The most blissful moment ever for a lover is when he meets his beloved after many years of longing, knowing that they will be together forever, without disturbance, restriction, or fear of separation. The pleasure depends on the degree of love: The stronger love is, the greater joy will be felt. Love of Allah is acquired in life and is found in every believer, because it comes from knowledge of Allah. However, when love grows so overwhelming that it turns into some sort of infatuation or extravagant passion, this elevated status is not found in most people”.

Love is a human value. Everyone likes to be loved; hardly can there be someone who finds it ok to be hated by others. Someone can clash with others because they do not love him. He is reacting the wrong way; if love is shown by both sides, there will remain no hostility. Love involves feelings and behavior; it should be manifested in word and deed. The Prophet said, “When one of you loves his brother, let him inform him of this”. Why is love a value? Because it is seen as good by everyone, even those who do not have it. This is the criterion for value.

Philosophers used various terms to refer to inner pleasure, such as “love of fate”, a term used by Nietzsche to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good. Moreover, it is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life.

Another example is “intellectual love of God”, a concept put forward by Spinoza to describe the highest good with which we attain “our salvation and blessedness and freedom”. It originates from God’s eternal and infinite essence. It is, then, simply one particular mode of God’s attribute. Intellectual love is also one part of God’s love for himself. This does not mean that intellectual love is eternal, but it signifies that essence of the human mind can be explained in the light of God’s eternity.

Now, how to solve the issue of misrepresenting Islam and Muslims? And how to restore Islam’s true image of love and purity?

If our religion kindles the flames of love for all humanity, how come we let its image be distorted due to some ignorant followers and lying enemies? Paradoxically, Islam is depicted as a religion of hatred, while the Prophet of Islam said, “Do not hate one another, do not turn your backs to one another, do not raise prices (in business bargains) for one another, and be brothers, O servants of Allah”. How to embody such tridimensional love in our behavior, discourse, and relations? And how to represent it in a friendly and likable manner despite false allegations from opponents?

We should address a horde of misconceptions that form an ideological barrier to mainstreaming Islam and Muslims worldwide, such as relations with non-Muslims, which must be based on mutual acceptance, respect, and peacefulness.

Another issue to deal with is the concept of Islamic jihad, which is taken by many either excessively or slackly. What does jihad mean lexically and technically? And what justification it has in the Qur’an? In Arabic usage, jihad is the “exertion of the utmost effort to achieve something that is probably desirable”.

Religiously, jihad has three types, as identified by Ar-Raghib in Al-Mufradat (The Items): (1) jihad against a plain enemy, (2) jihad against Satan, and (3) jihad against one’s own self. The last two types are implied in several hadiths. For example, Imam Ahmad in his Musnad and Abu Dawud in his Sunan reported Fudalah Ibn `Ubayd as narrating that the Prophet said, “A true mujahid is the one who strives against his own self in obedience to Allah, the Almighty”.

In a weak hadith reported by Al-Bayhaqi, Jabir narrated that, upon return from his last conquest Tabuk, the Prophet said, “We have returned from the minor jihad to the major jihad”. He interpreted it as meaning to resist one’s whims.

In fact, taking care of one’s parents is a sort of jihad. The Prophet said, “Then let your taking care of them be your jihad”.

Ibn Taymiyyah defined jihad saying, “It encompasses all sorts of worship, inward or outward, including love of Allah, devotion to Him, reliance on Him, submission of one’s soul and property to Him, patience, asceticism, and continuing remembrance of Him. It takes all possible forms — physical, spiritual, mental, verbal, etc.”

Wala’ & Bara’

The issue of Wala’ (loyalty to whatever belongs to Islam) and Bara’ (renunciation of whatever contradicts with Islam) is widely used in the literature of Takfir (i.e., accusation of blasphemy or unbelief) movements, which generalized it to encompass economic, commercial, political, military, and security relations with countries that cherish peace, provide technology, and promote development.

In fact, the concept of Wala’ and Bara’ has to do with partisanship in the domain of creed or faith — that is, it depends whether one is believer or unbeliever. However, interaction with non-Muslims within the context of everyday dealings, good relations, and peaceful coexistence is not objectionable. The notion and fatwas of Takfir are unduly exaggerated. They contradict with the Islamic culture of peace, whose basics are found in many Islamic texts. For example, Allah says, {Allah does not forbid you from those who have not fought you due to religion}. He also says, {And say to people good words}.

The Prophet said, “Keep dutiful to your (non-Muslim) mother”. He also said, “And say greetings to those you know and those you do not know”. And he said, “And treat people with kindness”. Other examples include the hadith on Hilf Al-Fudul (i.e., Alliance of the Virtuous), the Charter of Medina, the permission for Christians to perform their prayers at the mosque, and many other traditions, which range from authentic to good to weak. Broadly, they imply specification of the generalization, permitting dealings with non-Muslims as may be necessary for people’s benefit and, at the same time, warding off harm and evil by regulating the applicable contexts and outcomes. In fact, improving the image of Muslims is a basic Shar`i objective, as indicated by the questions of building the Kaaba on the same bases founded by Abraham and abstention from killing the hypocrites.

The subject at hand is open for further study and contemplation, and the above is just a brief discussion on the culture of consolidated values, which can make the world a better place where love prevails and war comes to an end.

Courtesy: Bin Bayyah Website

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