Thursday 22 November 2012

Learning how to love the right way

“And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. And if only they who have wronged would consider [that] when they see the punishment, [they will be certain] that all power belongs to Allah and that Allah is severe in punishment.” (Qur’an 2:165)
He was sure he finally found her.  “She must be the one,” he thought.  After learning more about her for several months, he decided to fly to the city to meet her. He had tried so many times before, but he finally felt like this was it. Because this time, he was doing it the “right way.” It would be a big event with thousands of people. He would meet her in public. She’d be with friends. No risk of being alone.  For the first time, he was able to ask a lady, “Will you marry me?”  The only problem was, as soon as he said those words, he learnt that she was in a relationship. What does he do now?
Stop. Absorb. Reflect.
Ask yourself this question: at what point does love become immoral?  Is it even possible that love can be immoral?  Were we not taught that love is always a beautiful thing?  From what I recall, love is always pure, love is always good, love is always right.  What he experienced for her could have been love, but given the circumstances, it was only destructive.
This story is important to understand in the context of submitting to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).  Why?  The importance of submitting to God can be no better understood than through the example of love. To know God requires that one loves God. And to love God requires the condition of complete submission.  The lover never wishes to disappoint the beloved. It would be impossible, then, that one knows God and disobeys Him intentionally.  To believe in God is different from submitting to God. Belief encompasses a sense of acknowledgment while submission encompasses love and veneration for something’s existence.  We must strive to love God and to love through God.  We must seek to love only where love is pure.  Because love outside The Source (God) becomes a force of hawa (desire), a means of destruction, degradation, communal strife, jealousy, deception, immorality, and hate. Without The Source, love becomes chaotic.  What happens when love is not attached to The Source? Love turns to lust.  Love turns to desire.  Love turns to hate. It is as one of the great English poets once said:
“The expense of spirit in a waste of shame/ Is lust in action; and till action, lust/ Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,/ Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust/… All this the world well knows; yet none knows well./  To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.” (Shakespeare)
The danger of love is when one is commanded by the nafs (the self, the ego), it can be very difficult to tell the difference between love and lust, love and hate, love and pleasure. Because love is so powerful, it can become an object of worship itself.  So many times we like to limit the concept of worship to actual physical alters, but the more dangerous and more real concept of worship is more abstract, more powerful, more universal. To better understand this, let’s look at some concepts that are synonymous to worship:
adore, idolize, venerate, revere, admire, appreciate, be in awe of, cherish, esteem, exalt
Every one of those concepts relates to the idea of love.  How different is love from worship? There is a fine line.  This is why it is so critical to love through God.  Love can easily turn into a form of worship, and once you worship more than one thing, it can only lead to the impairment of the heart. Allah (swt) says in the Quran:
“Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides God, they both would have been ruined. So exalted is Allah, Lord of the Throne, above what they describe.” (Qur’an 21:22)
Love, when not established through Him (swt), becomes an object of worship itself. And when you have competing objects of worship in you heart, it can only lead to much harm.  Love outside of The Source, becomes corrupt. This is why Allah (swt) discusses several forms of love in the Qur’an.  When the wife of the Vizier tried to seduce Prophet Yusuf `alayhi as-salaam(peace be upon him), Allah (swt) tells us through the people of the city that it was through love that the wife of the Pharaoh was “impassioned” to seduce him. It was through love that she was tempted to commit an immoral act:
“And women in the city said, “The wife of al-’Azeez is seeking to seduce her slave boy; he has impassioned her with love (hubb). Indeed, we see her [to be] in clear error.”” (Qur’an 12:30)
So what is the difference between the concept of hubb (from the root H-b-b) in the former verse and the word mawaddah (from the root w-d-d) in the following verse?
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Qur’an 30:21)
Let’s take a look at the definition for hubb:
{lovely/pleasing/charming, take pleasure in a thing, be fatigued or tired, form a thing into something else, fill or satiate a thing (with water or drink), become clotted/form a clot}
Now let’s look at the definition for mawaddah:
{to love, be fond of, will, long}
Is the difference not clear enough? The hubb form of love is in the physical world, and therefore anyone can experience it even outside of God. But those who do experience it outside of God will suffer, they will break, they will find themselves lonely. This is why it’s important to seek all love, including hubb, through God. The other form of love (mawaddah) is a love that comes only through the blessing of Allah (swt).  By the way, the form of love classified as mawaddah in the latter verse is placed side-by-side with rahma (mercy).  So that means that mawaddah and mercy complement each other.  Mercy encompasses sacrifice, tolerance, compassion, and generosity. Mawaddah is a form of love that is bestowed upon the human heart through Him and only through Him (swt). Hubb is more of a phenomenon of the physical world, and can therefore be experienced by anyonel. However, hubb outside the Source causes fatigue and lust.
So how do we protect ourselves from the dangerous forms of love and seek mawaddah?  A dear friend once told me, “Only let God in your heart, and keep everything else in your hand.”  The `ulema (scholars) say the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) had the world in his hand but only had Allah (swt) in his heart. This is what we must train ourselves to do. Anything that we allow into our hearts should only be through God and by God (e.g. mawaddah).  Of course, many will claim doing so is too difficult or requires too much work. This is not entirely true; everything worthwhile takes effort.
This can be better understood through an analogy.  When you prepare for guests to enter your home, what do you do? You anticipate their arrival. You convince yourself that they will show up to your home at some point, by God’s will. So you prepare for their arrival by cleaning the house. You put everything in its place.  You take out the trash.  You clean the dishes.  Why is it that we don’t hesitate when it comes to cleaning the home?  When someone is preparing to come over we don’t say, “It’s going to take too long to clean the home,” or “It’s too complicated, I’ll just leave the house the way it is.”  No.  What we tell ourselves is “There is a lot of house cleaning to do, but I will start by cleaning a room, then cleaning an entire floor, and I will end by cleaning the entire house.”  This is precisely the type of internal conversation we need to have with ourselves when it comes to the metaphysical.  When we want to prepare our hearts for the mawaddah of Allah (swt), and for the guests He invites into our hearts through His mawaddah, we need to take it one step at a time. Allah (swt) says in the Quran:
“[Adhere to it], turning in repentance to Him, and fear Him and establish prayer and do not be of those who associate others with Allah.”  (Qur’an 30:31)
So when we want to cleanse our hearts of hubb (that exists outside the Source) and other worldly idols and prepare it for Hismawaddah, we are instructed to do a few things:
  1. Repent
  2. Have taqwa (God consciousness)
  3. Establish obligatory prayers/ worship/ dhikr (remembrance of God)
  4. Dissociate from all idols of the heart
Starting with repentance is important because it opens our hearts to Allah (swt)’s mercy and rahma.  By first seeking God’s forgiveness, you prepare yourself for true submission. Tawbah (repentance) is one of the greatest ways of submitting one’s heart to Allah (swt). It is perhaps the quickest way to “fall in love” with Him. It is a means that acts a channel to drive one closer to God (taqwa). Imam ibn al- Jawziyyah once said:
“The state of repentance, tawbah, is at the beginning, the middle and the end of all states of submission to the will of Allah (swt). The servant who seeks the pleasure of Allah (swt) never abandons tawbah. He remains in the state of tawbah until his death. Whatever his state of belief, the servant makes tawbah his constant companion.”
Once our hearts are open to His mercy, we are prepared for the next step: to worship Him the right way.  Through worship we build a deep love by turning to Him five times a day and confessing our love seventeen times a day when we say, “Only through you we seek help and assistance,” (Qur’an 1). Along with establishing prayers, one should be in constant dhikr of Allah (swt). What happens when you love someone? You can’t stop thinking about them. What keeps that love alive? What keeps that love intense and fertile? The thoughts you have for that person.  The love for Allah (swt) works the same way. Once you love Allah (swt), you continue to grow your love for Him and you intensify your love for Him through dhikr.  There are many ways to remember God.  Some ways we already know of are by praising Him using phrases like subhan Allah (glory be to God) or ma sha’ Allah (what God wills).  We can also invoke His beautiful names like al-Waddud, which means the Affectionate and the Most Loving.
Keep in mind that the above steps will help us ward off allowing any idols to enter our heart. They will prepare our hearts for the love of God, and will defend it from all intruders. In the end though, we must also acknowledge that sometimes (but very rarely) the love we have for someone regardless of whether it is hubb or mawaddah never leaves the soul.  It will be a trial for some people as long as they are alive. It will be a source of pain, unease, wonderment, and broken-heartedness. But is this really a bad thing? It has been reported on several occasions that Allah (swt) said,  “I am with those whose hearts are broken (munkasirah) for My sake,”  (Hadith Qudsi). So for as long as you may be broken, even if it is a lifetime, remember “with hardship will be ease.” With hardship, you will find your source of relief.

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