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God has said: “O believers, whosoever ignores the commands of religion, Allah will certainly bring a community whom He will love and who will love Him.” (5:54) He has also said: “Some people worship idols and love them as they ought to love God. It is the believers who love Him best.” (2:165)

The Prophet (SAW) said: “I heard Jibrail saying that: God has said, he who opposes any friend of Mine declares war on Me. And I do not hesitate to take anybody’s life as I hesitate to take the life of My faithful servant who dislikes death and whom I dislike to hurt, but death is inevitable. And when a servant of Mine tries to seek My Nearness (Qurb) through supererogatory worship, I love him; and when I love him I get so close to him that I become his eyes and he sees by Me; I become his ears, and he hears by Me; I become his tongue and he speaks by Me; I become his hands and he works by Me; I become his feet and he walks by Me; and I give him whatever he desires.”

The Prophet (SAW) has also said: “Allah loves to meet those who love to meet Him and dislikes to meet those who dislike to meet Him.” He has also said: “When Allah loves a man, he says to Jibrail: ‘O Jibrail, I love such and such a man, you love him as well.’ So Jibrail starts to love him and tells all the angels to love him as God loves him. And then all the angels love him; and God blesses him so much that all the inhabitants of earth love him too. The opposite is the case with the hated ones.”

It must be remembered that the love of God for man, and the love of man for God, stands proven by the Qur’an and Hadith, and the consensus of the whole Ummah. Undoubtedly God is the possessor of such beautiful qualities that He really deserves to be loved and loves those who love Him.

The word muhabbat (love) is derived from the root ‘hibbah’ which means seed that bears fruit when it is concealed in the earth. Love has been likened to the seed because, (like everything else), it is the seed of God’s love in the heart of man, that develops and blossoms in man’s life, like the flowers and fruit that come out of a seed.

When the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was blessed with love and friendship (khullah) he detached himself from the rest of creation and devoted himself to God so much that the whole universe appeared to him as a veil and therefore he cried out: “Everything excepting God is my enemy.” Shibli has therefore said: “Love is called muhabbat because it obliterates everything from the heart except the Beloved.” Some people are of the opinion that the word muhabbat is derived from the root ‘hubb’ which means love and is one of the attributes of the heart and the cause of its subsistence.

Others think that it is derived from the word ‘hubab’ (bubbles) which comes into being by the force of rainfall, and since love is also a force of emotion in the heart it is called ‘hubb’ (love). As the body subsists by the soul, the heart subsists by love, and love subsists by Divine presence and union.

According to some, hubb is another name of pure love, as in Arab usage the pure white part of the human eye is called ‘habbatul insan’, just as the pure black spot in the heart is called ‘habbatul qalb’, the former being the place of vision and the latter of love. A poet says, “My heart is jealous of my eyes which enjoy the vision of the Beloved. And my eyes are jealous of my heart which enjoys His union.” Know that the word love is used by the ‘ulama (theologians) in three different senses.

In the first place love is a passion, a fire and an urge for the homogeneous beloved in the heart of the lover. But all these kinds of yearnings do not apply to God who is Eternal and not homogeneous. “He is exalted far above everything,” (31:9) says God in the Qur’an.

Secondly, love connotes Divine Grace and Benevolence, which He confers on His friends, special blessings and favours of love and intimacy to gain perfection, sainthood and the power of miraculous deeds.

Thirdly, it means the beautiful praise of the man of God in lieu of his good deeds. A section of scholastics assert that the word ‘love’ (of man for God) has no reality, and is used only symbolically just as God’s hand, face, and His sitting on the throne (‘arsh) are used symbolically and have no reality from the standpoint of both reason and revelation, and therefore we affirm them and believe in them, but reserve our judgement with regard to their validity.

What these people mean is that this word ‘love’ is inapplicable to God. I will now explain what it means. The love of God for man is the name of His kindness and mercy to him. It is just an attribute of God like His attributes of pleasure, anger, mercy, etc. all of which combine to be called His Will (iradah), out of which spring all His actions.

In short, the love of God for man is another name for His extreme kindness, mercy and favour to save him from punishment in the Hereafter, to exalt him to His nearness, to save him from dependence on others, to detach him from the rest of creation and attach him to Himself, and to bestow upon him special favours. Harith Muhasibi, Junaid and other Sufis shaikhs together with the scholars of jurisprudence of Ahli Sunnah wal Jama’ah hold the same opinion.

As regards their opinion that Divine Love is the name of God’s praise for man by virtue of his good deeds, God’s praise is His word (kalam), which is uncreated (ghair makhlooq). As such, how can it be possible for the created to have any connection with the uncreated. As for those who assert that God’s love is the name of His grace (ihsan), ihsan is also one of His actions.

All these views about love are substantively similar. Actually the love for God is the name of an urge in the heart of the true believer in the form of respect and esteem for God, and the desire to gain His nearness, vision and union, so much so that he gets restless for the Divine Beloved, is always absorbed in his remembrance, severs all connections with the world, clears his mind of all the desires other than God and gets totally attached to Him.

But man’s love for God is not of the same type as his love for human beings, because in the latter case the lover wants to win over and possess the object of his love, while in the former case, he wants to surrender himself to his Beloved and loses his existence in God to finally subsist by Him.

Therefore, in Sufism, the best lover is he who annihilates himself completely because the created cannot become one with the Creator without annihilating himself. There is, thus, no difficulty or misunderstanding for those who understand this viewpoint about love. Kinds of Love Love is of two kinds.

Firstly, man’s love for human beings which is really the desire for touching and embracing the beloved. Secondly, the love for the non-homogeneous Creator, in which the lover finds peace of mind, and tries to achieve His vision. Similarly, the lovers are of two kinds. Those who love God because of His bounties and gifts, and those who love the Beloved for Himself and regard His bounties and gifts as veils. According to the latter, God’s bounties should serve as a means to an end which is God Himself, and not an end in themselves.

In short, the existence of love for God is unanimously agreed upon by all sections of people and in all books of etymology and none of the intellectuals have denied it. Amongst the Sufi shaikhs, Samnun al-Muhib is particularly famous for his doctrine of love. According to him, love is the only means of gaining Divine nearness while the states (ahwal) and stations (maqamat) are just the stages of the journey. He is also of the opinion that while love for human beings is fraught with decline (ziwal) and dangers (khatrat), love for God is immune from such perils, and that the road of love is open for all to tread upon. And this is what all the Sufi shaikhs are unanimous upon.

Now, since the word love has been generally misused, and made applicable to all sorts of creatures, the divines have given it the name of safwat, and the lover therefore is called a Sufi. And when the lovers of God have completely surrendered their will to the Will of God, a section of shaikhs, gave love the name of faqr, and the lover was termed as faqir.

Safwat and faqr have already been explained in this book. In this connection, Samnun al-Muhib says, “According to the ascetics (zahidin), love is more manifest than holy war; according to the penitents, it is easier than weeping and crying; according to the Turks, it is more well known than the hunting bag; according to the Hindus, it is better to be a slave of love than a slave of Mahmud of Ghazna; according to the Romans, the legend of love is more well known than the legend of hanging and the gallows; and according to the Arabs, love is a full-fledged branch of learning and the stories of sorrows and happiness, and of success and failure are household words amongst all the tribes and clans of Arabia.”

It is clear from all the sayings mentioned above that there is not a single human being who has not tasted the fruit of love, or has not experienced its charms, or has not been intoxicated with it, or has not been annihilated by it. This is because love is ingrained in the very nature of man. It is food for the heart. The heart which has no love is a lump of flesh. Love is a force which cannot be subdued or suppressed by effort.

It has charms unknown anywhere in the world. Says Umar bin Uthman Makki in his book Kitab-ul-Muhabbat (Book of Love), “God created the hearts seven thousand years before creating the bodies, and kept them in a state of nearness. He created the souls seven thousand years before creating the hearts, and kept them in the station of intimacy (uns). He created the secrets (sirr) seven thousand years before creating the souls, and kept them in the station of unity (wasl).”

Then He revealed the lustre of His Beauty to the sirr three hundred and sixty times daily and looked towards it graciously for three hundred times daily. But when they surveyed the entire universe and saw nothing more precious than themselves, vanity and arrogance overtook them. God, therefore, subjected them to tests and trials by imprisoning the heart in the spirit, the spirit in the soul, and the soul in the body.

He then bestowed reason upon them and sent prophets to guide them. Thereafter, everyone was told to seek the Beloved. Consequently, the body was engaged in prayer, the soul in love, the spirit in nearness, and the heart found happiness in union with Him. But what love is, in reality, cannot be described by the word ‘love’, for love is a feeling and feelings cannot be expressed by words.

Love cannot be attained even if the whole world tries for it, nor can it be repelled even if the whole world tries for it. This is because love is a Divine Gift and cannot be achieved by effort. Man is finite but love is infinite, and the finite has no control over the infinite. God knows best.

-Shaykh ‘Ali al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Veiled (Kashful Mahjub)

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