By Brandon Estes
I begin with the name of The Most Merciful, Most Loving, Allah, Creator of all that exists
I must, must, must address this topic that I have encountered all too often lately. I see it online and addressed to me personally. It is when our sweet intention-ed non-Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity come to us with speeches trying to teach us of the overused, infamous, notorious, four-letter word – ‘LOVE’.
This reflection is not talking about the phrases of I love you, or “you are so beloved to me,” but when people spread the notion that is Islam is based solely on fear, without love. When they talk about the other ways of life in which there is just so much love; they say that all religions are the same because they preach love – except Islam.
This is a double untruth – but we will get to that shortly.
I hear this premise a lot, especially from agnostic ‘spiritualists’ who worship their own desires and don’t really follow any religion: “GOD is LOVE.” God is God, and He is loving, but He is so much more, hence the phrase God is greater – Allahu Akbar. Therefore, I want to take a dive into this extremely abused, profoundly commercialized, and so little understood word.
What is Love?
“What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more” Just having a little fun – but seriously, what is love? Merriam-Webster defines love as a (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties
• maternal love for a child
(2) : attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers
• After all these years, they are still very much in love.
(3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests
• love for his old schoolmates
b: an assurance of affection
• give her my love
2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion
• love of the sea
3a: the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration
• baseball was his first love
b (1): a beloved person: DARLING —often used as a term of endearment
(2) British —used as an informal term of address
4a: unselfish loyal and benevolent (see BENEVOLENT 1a) concern for the good of another: such as
(1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind
(2) : brotherly concern for others
b: a person’s adoration of God
What we notice from these few descriptions of love is a common thread of adoration, attachment, and so on. I also can clearly see a pattern of longing. So, that is where I am going to go with this. I am sure all of you have felt love in your life, even the stone-hearted of you that are so hard you could make a stone weep. Therefore, you all know the mental and bodily feelings that you feel when love is present. You are probably picturing your mother, or your wife, your children, the love you always wanted but could never have, and hopefully the most deserving of your love, God – The Creator. Each one of these brings different manifestations of love within oneself. They even produce different physical reactions within a person’s body. Unfortunately, even for people who claim to be all about ‘love,’ the last one in the list is the least one loved by the majority of mankind. Let’s not get this twisted – people can have relatively good feelings about an idea of who they think God is, and they can even devote their life to their ideas of who they ‘want’ God to be, but this does not mean that they love God. In fact, they may be very far away from love. Love is the dearest of human experiences as most would argue. It has brought so much good to the world, and it has also caused people to commit heinous crimes due to their overly inflated infatuation with a lover, but what is the truth of it? What is the essence of love and what can it do for us?
The Greatest Human Being to ever walk the face of the earth, The Final Messenger, Muhammad, ﷺ, gave a very clear picture of what love is between Allaah (God, Most Merciful) and His faithful slaves. There was a situation where a woman who was in camp with the soldiers and the Messenger, Allah’s blessings be upon him, had gone around screaming and acting as many mothers would looking for her young baby whom she had lost in the confusion of the situation. After some searching and lots of tears and heartache she finally found him, and upon seeing him, she burst into joy with a pure love that ONLY a mother knows for her children. As she was breastfeeding the young baby, the blessed Prophet Muhammad, ﷺ, said, “Do you think this woman could throw her child in the fire?” We said, “No, not if she is able to stop it.” The Prophet said, “Allah is more merciful to His servants than a mother is to her child.”
In Islam, the Religion given by God since the beginning of time, Love is defined by very clear guidelines, and a very good synonym would be mercy. Ar-Rahman, this is the name we call Allah by at least 34 times a day. In our tradition, it means the most abundantly merciful. It is a mercy to such an extent that it is grace and mercy wrapped up in a bundle of love. This is who our God is, this is who the Only God is, because there is no god except The One True Creator, who created everything. Who created everything only for our benefit. We didn’t deserve it. He doesn’t need us. Nevertheless, our creation was a gift, and an opportunity. It was a love that didn’t even need to be. It was unrequited, and HE did it so we could get to know Him, so we could get to LOVE him.
Which brings me to my next point. To love, we must have knowledge – even a little bit. People fear that which they do not know, and that which they do not understand. However, this is not the fear that we believers have for God. Our fear is out of knowledge, just as our love is out of knowledge. We have to have a balance of both for both to be strong. It is like our legs – we can’t run with only 1, but the two are stronger together, and not when there is a deficiency in one. So we fear the punishment of God, and even more, we fear a future of being separated from God’s presence. Conversely, we hope and love for His presence, and love to meet Him knowing that only He can forgive us. We hold both feelings at the same time, and this engenders a new type of feeling – unequivocal respect and admiration. Allaah is more deserving than anything we can ever give to Him, but He has taught us ways of being so that we at least do our part, and he comes to the rest of the way with His mercy. This also goes for that which he commands us to stay away from. I would like to show us something that our beloved Prophet, ﷺ, told us about that:
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah who said: The Messenger of Allahﷺ said, “Verily Allah (Glorified may he be) has said: ‘Whosoever shows enmity to a wali (friend) of Mine, then I have declared war against him. And My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties I have obligated upon him. And My servant continues to draw near to me with optional acts of worship until I Love him. When I Love him, I become his hearing with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him; and were he to seek refuge with Me, I would surely grant him refuge.’ ”
First, this is my favorite hadith out of every hadith that exists. Allah Protects those and Guards against people who try to harm those who love Him. Thank you Allah for creating me, I love you.
Second, we see the scope and depth of love that Allah has for those who do as He asks. And it is simple. Kind of like turning on a light – if you want to see in a dark room, just flip the switch, but don’t complain that you can’t see if you refuse to lift your arm. Moreover, just like with people, the more you love a person, the more you are going to give them the things they love and avoid doing to them the things they don’t like. Obviously considering that we take into account that we do what God loves in case what people want go against what God loves. This love isn’t just for lovers but goes for parents and friends. We love them and so we remember them and do things that make them feel special. So if you keeps talking about a person badly, or heck – if they keep ignoring someone who keeps trying to communicate with them – or worse yet, they pretend they hear them, but they disregard that which they said and wanted from them and then they say afterward, “I love them so much.” – this isn’t love. Love takes action, and it takes doing that which might be uncomfortable so that you might gain the affection of the one you are seeking – this is more true with God.
However, we know we all, 100% of us fall short in doing what our Lord, The Most High, commands and wants from us. None of us can ever achieve perfection in following Him, but the key is to always turn our hearts back to Him after we deviate. Repentance is, in my humble opinion, the pinnacle of love, for it places our heart in its most comfortable and loving position – humility, and it places God in the highest position. Our Prophet, peace be upon him, who was forgiven for everything, still asked for forgiveness 70 times a sitting in a gathering, and in other narrations up to 100 times a day – and he was the most beloved to God.
Islam: A Religion of Love
Furthermore, I want to share some excerpts from a writer for the Huffington Post who sheds light on the nature of love, and love in Islam. The whole point being to give people a clear view of the path to finding out what the truth really is, because each person has to seek it out for his or herself – don’t expect a highly paid, pretty face on YouTube to give it to you straight.
The article is written by By William C. Chittick, Ph.D. Titled: Islam: A Religion of Love; in it he says:
“Part of Islam’s intellectual heritage is a vast literature exploring and elucidating the nature of love, that most precious of human experiences. Now that I have been offered this forum and told to write about anything I feel like, well, I feel like talking about love. My two previous posts and the responses to them have highlighted the fact that most people have already made up their minds as to the nature of “true Islam.” So let me turn to something that most people, Muslim or not, typically leave out of their understanding of Islam, not least because of their obsession with the world of politics and catastrophes.
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya was a famous theologian from Baghdad who died in 1350. Part of his fame lies in the fact that he was the leading disciple of one of the most cantankerous theologians of Islamic history, Ibn Taymiyya, a favorite of Sunni ideologues. Surprisingly for those who think that people of this ilk were narrow-minded bigots, Ibn Qayyim dedicated a large part of his prolific output to love, compassion, forgiveness and other such mild-mannered themes.
In one of his many books, written late in life — Ighathat al-lahfan, “Aid for the Sorrowful” — Ibn Qayyim says that the root of Islam is “love for God, intimacy with Him, and yearning to encounter Him.” He also says, “The revealed books of God, from the first to the last, revolve around the commandment to love.”
Remember that Muslim scholars traditionally spoke of “124,000 prophets,” beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad. What Ibn Qayyim is trying to say is that every true religion — that is, all the religions established by the 124,000 prophets — are founded on love. It makes no difference who these prophets were or where they lived. When Muslims settled down in China, for example, they soon recognized that Confucius had been a prophet.
Claiming that “love” is the heart of Islam or of religion generally is not unusual in the Islamic context. Another example is provided by the major Sunni scholar Rashid al-Din Maybudi, who completed the longest pre-modern Persian commentary on the Quran in 1126. In explaining why the Quran calls itself “a book from God” (verse 2:89), he says that the book deserves to be titled “the eternal love” and that its content is “the story of love and lovers.” …
No one is surprised to hear that Rumi saw the Quran as a book of love, but most seem to think that Rumi was out of kilter with the Islamic mainstream. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is no accident that his six-volume epic poem in celebration of love, the Mathnawi, has often been called “the Quran in the Persian language.” …
Muslim scholars who talk about love as the heart of Islam and of religion generally take the position that God’s Love and Compassion motivated Him to create human beings so that they could love Him in return. The goal of creation is to bring lovers into existence, and the goal of lovers — that is, you, me and everyone else — is to escape false loves and return to what we really love. This, for them, is the key message of the Quran, “the story of love and lovers.””
This leaves me with the last point of which I hope you all take home. The most loving and the most fulfilling act that a person could ever do in his or her live is to return their heart back to The One who created us. And that is to devote our love and our affection to Him, and as He has commanded us to Him alone, without partner or equal. This is La ilaaha illa Allaah.
True love is worshiping Him, not a man, not a stone, not our vanity, not the sun, or anything else that was created, but to only worship and have eternal love for the Uncreated, Most Merciful, Perfect, Majestic, God, whose name is Allah. The same One that Jesus loved and worshiped, the same One that Mary loved and worshiped, the same one that Moses loved and worshiped, the same one that Isaac loved and worshiped, the same one that Abraham loved and worshiped, the same one that Noah loved and worshiped, the same one that Adam, loved and worshiped, and the same one that Muhammad loved and worshiped, peace be upon them all. Be like the messengers and love God as they did, and surely you will find the road home in peace and in love.
And for those that I haven’t made this clear enough to – I have never felt so much love, been so loving, had my soul completely raptured out of love than now in Islam. I have never been more at peace with myself and with God. I have never found so much love even though the calamities I see facing the world than now. And when I speak out against what I believe to be evil, it is not out of hate, but out of love, so you too can find the love that Allaah has prepared for those who are faithful to Him.
Spread the love.
Brandon Estes is a Slave of Allaah, Father, Aggie, Texan, American, Truth Seeker, Student of Knowledge