When the word ‘love’ is mentioned, what comes to your mind? Maybe it’s the classic image of plush hearts and scattered rose petals. Maybe it’s the bright smile of your child. Or maybe it’s the memories of blessed times spent with your family. Whether it is love for your parents, surrounded by gratitude, or love for your spouse and children, encompassed by mercy, all have one common characteristic: they relate to the natural love that Allah has placed between His slaves.
Desiring to experience love is part of human nature. In the months leading up tmy wedding, I implored Allah frequentlyasking Him to bless my marriage and fill it with mercy and love. My soul longed for a relationship characterised by attachment, affection and ultimately, love. Yet as I contemplated, I realised that both Muslims and non-Muslims alike wish for such companionship. Both the one with iman and the one without iman can experience love. So how, in relation to this vast field, could I be distinguished as a believer?
My answer didn’t come through pre-maradvice from married sisters. Rather, it came from the All-Wise, All-Knowing: “. . . But those who believelove Allah more (than anything else) . . .” [2: 165] The ultimate love is a love that cannot be visualised, a love that isn’t tangible; the love a believer has for one’s Lord. A beautiful expression attributed to Ibn ul-Qayyim t embodies this:
“Truly in the heart there is a void that cannot be removed except with the company of Allah… And in it there is an emptiness that cannot be filled except with love for Him and by turning to Him and always remembering Him…”
The first part of my question had been answered. Rather than trying to make my relationship successful by setting my husband as the ultimate goal, I had to consider it as a means to loving my Creator. I could only achieve true contentment by loving the One who had created me and blessed me with a spouse. Yet what did this love entail, and how could I express it?
Shortly before I got married, I attended an Islamic retreat, wherein all the sisters were asked: “How can you express love?” Surrounded by married sisters I shied from contributing, knowing that one of the first topics to be contemplated would be marital love, and that I hadn’t experienced yet. Answers included the giving of gifts, smiling at each other and through body language, yet these were solely related to natural love. But there was one suggestion requiring deeper reflection: ‘sacrifice’. When a child loves his mother, he will be prepared to sacrifice for her, he will listen to her and obey her. Just as a child demonstrates his love by placing his mother’s wishes above his own, the believer, who truly loves the Almighty, expresses it in a similar way:
“Say (O Muhammad to mankind): ‘If you (really) love Allah, then follow me (i.e. Muhammad saw), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful’” [3: 3]
So if I wanted to adorn myself with the characteristics of a believer, and experience the ultimate love that my soul yearned for, I had to sacrifice my whims and desires by following the beloved Prophet(saw).
“He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad), has indeed obeyed Allah…” [4: 80]
One of the scholars of the past used an analogy of the two wings of a bird to describe the relationship between the Qur’an and Sunnah. If one is missing, the bird cannot fly. By following the Messenger saw, I would be following Allah , and this would lead to ultimate success. But does the love of Allah automatically lead to success? As Allah confirmed, the Makkans loved Allah, yet did their love benefit them?
“And of mankind are some who take (for worship) others besides Allah as rivals (to Allah). They love them as they love Allah. But those who believe, love Allah more (than anything else).” [2: 165]
Since they loved their idols as much as they loved Allah, their love constituted shirk. Their hearts were devoid of iman and riddled with polytheism, rendering their love fruitless. If I wanted my love of Allah to be beneficial I would have to attach my heart to Him more than anyone or anything else.
But how could I combine my natural love with the love of Allah ? How could the love I hoped for within my marriage increase my love for Allah, bringing me benefit both in this life and the next? I knew that the love of Allah manifests itself in many different forms. Therefore, could I not demonstrate it through marriage? Of course I could, since loving what Allah loves and befriending a believer for His sake was one such way to express my love for Him.
By reflecting upon the issue at hand, the response to my initial question became clearer. When it came to love, I could characterise myself as a believer in the following three ways:
Firstly, by ensuring that my love for my Lord superseded all other forms of love residing in my heart. Just as the definition of iman comprises of the actions of the limbs as well as belief in the heart and affirmation on the tongue, loving Allah requires actions to demonstrate it.
Secondly, if natural love is in accordance with the true love of Allah, then it is a means of showing this love for Him since both forms of love are intertwined.
Lastly, just as the child needs love from his mother, the soul yearns to be loved by its Creator in return. Truly loving the Almighty brings about the return of that love, as promised by Allah in the above ayah.
So, for the believer, all forms of love can be beneficial. Now it’s time to question yourself: how beneficial is your love?
Ummu Abdir-Rahmaan is a freelance writer based in the UK. Through her writing, she tries to remind herself and others of key issues, hoping to give inspiration and encouragement to fellow believers.
Source: Ummu Abdir-Rahmaan, , http://sisters-magazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1617%3Abenefcial-love