ETERNAL LOVE AND MUHAMMEDAN LIGHT IN THE MATHNAWI

The Mathnawi: “O heart! True happiness is reaching the Prophet Muhammad (May God bless him and grant him peace)). The radiance of the universe is from the light of his blessed beauty.” (v.6; 1861)

In pre-eternity (azal) there existed only the Lord Almighty; He wanted to be known by man and jinn (marifatullah) through their elevation of themselves in worship; He thus created this universe. The first to be formed in this creation was the light (nûr) of Muhammad. On this matter the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

“I was a messenger when Adam was between soul and body.”(Tirmidhî, Manâqib, 1). Although the actual essence of our Prophet (pbuh) -the “Nûr of Muhammad”- was the first creation, his was the last delegation as a mercy to all humanity within a body known by the title of Prophet. The calendar of Prophethood started with the first creation, the “Nûr of Muhammad” and was completed with the last stage, which was the “physical existence of Muhammad”.

The “Nûr of Muhammad” is the essence and initiator of the Truth of Muhammad. Before the “Nûr of Muhammad”, which is like a precious jewel protected in an elegant case without being revealed to the entire creation, everything else was created for his sake. The primary reason for creation is the Lord Almighty’s Own existence, while the secondary reason is the need to envelope and ornament the “Nûr of Muhammad” with the rest of creation. Indeed, in another hadîth the Prophet says:

“When the Prophet Adam realized his fault that caused him to be expelled from heaven he said, “O Lord! I ask for your forgiveness for the sake of Muhammad (pbuh).” The Lord Almighty asked him, “O Adam! How do you know about Muhammad although I have not yet created him?” Adam replied, “O Lord! When you created me and breathed into me from Your soul I raised my head and saw the words lâ ilâha illallâh Muhammadun Rasûlallâh on the pillars of the highest heaven. I understood that you would only join that which is the most beautiful of creation to your own name.” After this Allah Almighty said “You have spoken the truth O Adam! To Me, he is the most delightful of all creation. Pray to Me for his sake. (And since you have) I forgive you. If, perchance, Muhammad  (pbuh) did not exist, I would not have created you.” (Hâkim, Mustadrak, II: 672; Bayhaqî, Dalâ’il, V: 488-489)

The manifestation of love within a human being is the first sign of the presence of a heart. The perfection of this state is to feel love towards the most deserving, namely Allah Almighty and His beloved Prophet.

The Mathnawi: “Know, o son, that everything in the universe is like a jug filled to the brim with wisdom and beauty. But this beauty and knowledge is a drop from the Tigris, which belongs to Allah, the appearance of whom is necessitated by His existence, and it is not possible for Him not to appear. He was a hidden treasure, which, because of its fullness surged up and made the earth, which He made brighter than the sky, (like) a sultan robed in satin. (v.1: 2860-2863)

Allah Almighty is not confined by time or location. He is present in a state that is without time or space and only He knows His own truth. The Lord Almighty’s existence is absolute but the existence of the rest of creation is contingent.

Therefore, the Lord Almighty, who exists in eternity and who does not need another creator for His existence, wished to be known intellectually by both humans and the jinn and wished to be glorified with the worship that would be the outcome of the conscience that is necessitated by this knowledge, and thus he created this universe, known as “the universe of multitude”.

This truth is made known through the Hadith Qudsî[1] that starts “I was a secret treasure…” (Ismâ‘îl Haqqî Bursawî, Kanz-i Makhfî). This hadîth is a basic code of law for the lives of all humanity helping them to understand the reason for the creation of the universe we live in so that we can turn towards achieving that wisdom.

The Mathnawi: “Know that the one whose heart is without Divine love or passion is wretched. The dog of the Companions of the Cave searched for the souls of love, and thus found them and reached a spiritual stage and those servants attained the heavens.”(v.2: 1425; 1428)

The People of the Cave (Ashâb al-Kahf) were a small group of young people who are mentioned in the Qur’ân as faithful believers in the Oneness of God. These young people strove to live according to their belief and did not hesitate to declare their faith, trying to avoid the blasphemy, corruption and oppression that were practiced by the society in which they lived. They had to leave the city and take refuge in a cave since their lives were in danger. On their way to the cave, a dog, Kitmir, joined them and became their watchdog. King Dakyânus and his soldiers followed these young people and when they came to the mouth of the cave, instead of killing the young people, the soldiers sealed up the entrance and left them to die. Three hundred years passed and as a mercy from their Lord these young people slept throughout this time until they awoke.

Contemplating on the Qur’ânic verses about these people (Kahf, 18: 9-22) Rûmî indicates the state of Kitmir and says that being together with those who are true believers and people of love can elevate even a dog to a state of “those who are from heaven”. He urges us to think of the blessings a human may receive if he were to be in the place of Kitmir, reminding us of the blessings, beyond our imagination, that were showered on a dog for being together with these people. He encourages us to be on this path, pointing to the abundance of joining the pious and the faithful. This also is a Qur’ânic teaching as the Lord Almighty says: “…be with those who are true (in word and deed)”(Tawba, 9: 119)

The beloved Prophet has informed us that there are no animals in heaven except Kitmir and a few other animals who gained admittance there due to some distinguished qualities.

The Mathnawi: “By love dregs become clear; by love a dead heart is made living and the king is made a slave” (v.2: 1530-1531)

Rûmî uses the phrase “By love dregs become clear” to show the prosperous results of love and affection in a human’s life.

Truly, when there is love, pain is transformed into mercy and hardship becomes ease. When one embarks on a road with love, they will find ability, merit and perception when faced with hardships. Even in one’s personal and daily life, if they love what they are doing, the hardships that are faced either disappear or lessen and to become insignificant in proportion with this love. The Companions traveled to far places like Constantinople, Samarkand and China to convey the message of Islam because of their commitment to it and their love for Lord Almighty and His Prophet. These travels were difficult, harsh and dangerous but they did not tire. Their love for their faith and the traces of light of the Prophethood they carried within their hearts turned the suffering of these long and difficult journeys into pleasure. Due to his worldly and metaphorical love, dig through a mountain was easy for Farhâd[2] and he overcame this difficult task with pleasure.

Love is as strong as the merit of the being it is directed towards. For this reason, the most exalted and bountiful love is the love of Allah; this is the love and passion felt by the servant towards their Lord. There is no other being that can be worthy of such a great love except Him. He is the creator of love. In a verse where the love of the believers for Allah is described it is said:

“…But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for Allah…” (Baqarah, 2: 165)

Humans pay the highest price for their love. It was easy for Farhâd to dig through the mountains for Shirîn and it was also easy for Majnûn[3] to live in the desert for the sake of Laylâ. If one thinks that figurative love drives people to such great selflessness that they abandon their lives for their love, it seems insignificant for one to sacrifice a thousand lives for Divine love. The lovers wish to sacrifice from their identities and even their own life in proportion to the love they feel. For this reason the Companions of the Prophet lived a life in which they sacrificed their lives and goods for Allah Almighty and His Prophet with a sense of gratitude. Their response to the smallest wish of the Prophet would often be “My mother and father be sacrificed for you and my life and my goods, O Messenger of Allah!”

The soldiers of Fâtih Sultân Mehmet were struggling to be one of those mentioned in the following hadîth, “Certainly, Constantinople will be conquered. What a blessed commander and what a blessed army!” (Ahmad, IV, 335; Hâkim, IV, 468:8300) They would be heard saying “today it is our turn to become martyrs” with an exuberant belief and enthusiasm as they were climbing the ramparts of Byzantium with hot oil and fire being poured down onto them.

As we ponder the sacrifices mentioned above that are made for human love, we should consider how reaching the peak of this inclination of love could affect a believer, a lover of Truth, if it is aimed at Allah Almighty and His Messenger.

In spirituality, the affections that flourish from Divine springs are like the flowers of the gardens of heaven; the breeze brings us thousands of scents. Even if at times the leaves fall off or the flowers wilt, the plant will still find nourishment, happiness and blessings with the light of spring.

But those affections that cannot find the place they deserve are sad wastes of this mortal life. The affections that are in the claws of worthless and lowly interests are like flowers on the pavement, which are bound to be trampled and ruined. What a shame if a diamond falls into the street. What a catastrophe to be afflicted with an incompetent heart.

The Mathnawi: “It is not possible to reach Divine love and affection without burning the body” (v.1: 22)

As we have mentioned in the explanation of the verse, when the servant turns towards his Creator with deep affection and turns this affection into real love then the mortal being and all the possibilities relating to that person will fall out of sight and lose their importance. “Me” and “you” will disappear. Selfishness will leave and the mortal being will be revived with the “You” pointing to Allah.

To restate this fact, unless we save our heart from the world, its blessings and the love of these, the lightning of Divine love will never shine on our world and Divine blessings will not be unveiled. Love of Allah cannot be realized until the heart has been cleansed from the love of the world.

Mawlânâ says:

“Do not be like the raindrop that is frightened of the wind and the dirt. Both of these will destroy the raindrop; the wind will dry it out and the dirt will absorb it. But if that raindrop could leap to the sea it will be saved from the heat of the sun and the wind and dirt. The visible being of that raindrop will vanish into the sea but its self and its truth will always remain as a particle of that sea.

When a mortal being surrenders to an eternal being it becomes eternal and immortal. O you who are like a raindrop compared to this universe. Before you regret it come to your senses and give your being to Allah in order to reach true happiness. Give it so that in return for your life, which is like a raindrop, you will reach the sea and become the endless sea itself. Pull yourself together and sacrifice your life to this excellence; go into the palms of the sea and be saved from perishing in the labyrinths of the nafs!”

The Mathnawi: “Matters of love, affection and friendship are bound to loyalty and they always search for those who are loyal. They never approach a disloyal heart.”(v.5: 1165)

Loyalty in a human being is a result of stability. Nothing can be reached with affections that flare up or fade like the maybug. The one who is stable in their soul is a human who, once they have learnt about the pleasures of Divine love, will not return but continue on this way until they forgo their mortal self. The hearts of those without such stability cannot bear Divine love for long. This means that these people are unable to comprehend the blessings they have. However, if the comprehension is absolute, then the pleasure that is tasted will be a continuing attribute of that person until the time of their death.

Love and affection cannot harbor in a heart where there is no stability, and as a result, no loyalty. Consequently, if it does not find this attribute, the love of Allah -due to its intensity- will not transcend into that heart. Loyalty and self-sacrifice are the most important measures that indicate the level of the heart. Avoiding self-sacrifice and deprivation of loyalty are a betrayal of love and friendship.

The Mathnawi: “The river will stop being a river when it reaches the sea; it will become a part of the sea.” (v.4: 2619)

“A piece of bread we eat disappears into our body and becomes a part of our body. (The existence of a person who is in love will disappear within the lover in proportion to the strength of the love that is felt).” (v.1: 3166)

“If there had not been love, how could there have been existence? How would bread give itself to you and become a part of your body and become you?

“The bread gave itself to you and became you. Why? From love and want! Otherwise, would it have given way to become life in your body?”

“Love even gives life to lifeless bread, adds its mortal life to you and makes it immortal!”(v.5: 2012-2014)

Affection makes the lover and the loved one become alike, otherwise, one of them will disappear within the other.

As the affection increases, it starts to absorb everything about the being that it has turned towards and penetrates into the world of his/her beloved. For example, when a person has a very strong love for another, he feels various levels of affection for the city where his beloved was born or the people of that city or people who resemble the loved one or those who carry the same name. This is also called the “conscious depth” of love. Muhammad Iqbal, the famous Pakistani thinker, loved Mawlânâ Jalâluddîn Rûmî to such an extent that when his plane entered the Turkish air zone he involuntarily stood up and shouted “Now we have entered the homeland of Mawlânâ”.

The reason why Medina holds a throne in people’s hearts as Madinat l-Nabî is the fact that it sheltered the last Prophet. When the Prophet (pbuh) or his city of Medina are mentioned a sweet breeze is felt in the hearts. Again, the reason why ‘Uhud is so cherished and distinguished amongst thousands of other mountains is the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) himself had a special attachment towards it.

When such love expands and subsumes all the creation within it, it is called “absolute love”. The only being that all other beings can attach themselves to is the Lord Almighty, because everything has come into existence with a glimmer of His attribute of Creator. This means that true love is only possible by steering the affection towards Allah Almighty to the extent that all existence will be surrounded by it because of their connection to Him. Gazing through His sight will begin at this point. The snake will cease to be terrifying. When looked at from this point of view absolute love is an action that belongs only to Allah.

We ascribe some other attributes of Allah to other beings, particularly to human beings. For example, we call someone ‘âlim (knowledgeable) or ‘âdil (just), but we do not mean that those humans are all knowing like Allah. If we did so this would be shirk.[4] When using these adjectives for those other than Allah we must not forget the Divine attribute that describes Allah as Mukhalif li’l-hawâdith, meaning, he is absolutely dissimilar to anything that has been created. By using the title ‘âlim or ‘âdil we express that a person has received a share from these Divine attributes according to their human potential and capacity. Love is also exactly like this and for this reason, in reality, the only “love” and the only “lover” is Allah Himself.

A mortal human being can be called a “lover” to the degree of their share that is a manifestation of mercy and benefaction in a universe Allah has surrounded with mercy, compassion and love. Those who reach this degree are in a state called fanâ fillâh, they are the ones who annihilate themselves in Allah, purify themselves from all claims and reach the peak and joy of transience. The moment the raindrop tastes the ocean it means that it has received its share and has reached it.

There is a lovely expression:

When you lose yourself

Only the Lord remains.”

The Mathnawi: Whether love is from the self or from the spirit, in the end it is a guide that leads us yonder.” (v.1: 111)

Choose the love of Allah who is everlasting so that He will give you the wine of true meaning and give you life” (v.1: 219)

Choose the love of He from Whose love all the Prophets gained power and glory, honor and felicity.” (v. 1: 220)

All forms of legitimate love are esteemed as they guide humans in reaching glory, as these forms of love attune the person to self-sacrifice and relief from the will of the nafs.

Spouses, offspring and property are steps that help reach high goals and are rehearsals that help attain Divine unity when they are loved for Allah within the boundaries that are assigned by Him. But making this love, granted by the Lord, into a toy and exaggerating it to a state of an idol is not acceptable. If one lets the sea water into the ship, that needs to be under it, this means the destruction and sinking of the ship.

For a believer, loving anything other than Allah with an affection that is as strong as “true love” is not acceptable. These transient affections are pardoned only when they are a station on the way to Divine love. If the servant of Allah loves another creature other than Allah with a great affection, and if this affection subsequently takes root in the heart, then this is shirk. In a verse of the Qur’ân we read:

Seest thou such a one as taketh for his god his own passion (or impulse)?”(Furqân, 25: 43, also Jâthiya, 45: 23)

Among these transient affections and strong attachments that are provided to prepare the grounds for Divine love and to increase the aptitude for loving Allah, affection towards goods and offspring is the most dangerous; in the Qur’ân we read: “And know ye that your possessions and your progeny are but a trial” (Anfâl, 8: 28). This danger of sedition becomes clear when the strength and the constancy of the affection felt for children and goods is contemplated; however, loving the creation is permissible within the lawful boundaries as a transitory station. It is condoned and allowed as a training ground for the heart: it helps us to prepare for Divine love.

The Mathnawi: “Oh, the life of lovers consists in death: thou will not win the (Beloved’s) heart except in losing your own.” (v.1: 1751)

As we have mentioned before, the lover is inclined to be lost in the beloved, and they cherish this. The Companions of the Prophet used all their means and were ready to sacrifice themselves. Whenever they could they would respond as follows: “I sacrifice my life and possessions for you, O Messenger of Allah!” The actualization of this state is the ultimate satisfaction of the yearning for the love of Allah. The moths that were able to receive a minute share of this condition were called pervane; they threw themselves in the fire to prove their love. Muhammad Iqbal writes about this in a poem:

“One night I heard a clothes moth talking to a pervane:

“I dwelled in the books of Avicenna. I saw the books of Al-Farabi. (I wandered through the endless dry lines and among the faded letters and ate them away. I roamed every street and road of al-Madinatu’l Fadila of Farabi, which means the city of the graceful but) I could not possibly understand the philosophy of this life. I became a sad traveler of dead end roads full of nightmares. I have no sun to shine on my days.”

The pervane displayed its charred wings to the clothes moth after hearing this and said:

“Look! I have burnt my wings for this love,” and continued, “What makes life more full of life are the struggles of love; love gives wings to life!”

What the pervane was trying to say to the clothes moth was,

“Save yourself from perishing on these benighted, steep roads of philosophy. Open your wings to unity by taking a share from the ocean of spirituality that are full of love, fascination and prosperity.”

Love begins with struggle. Reaching unity by transcending the ocean of life becomes true on the abundant and fertile grounds of love and fascination.

[1].    Revelations of Allah Almighty that were not a part of the Qur’ân but transmitted to us in the sayings of the prophet (pbuh).

[2].    FarhâdandShirînisastoryofPersianoriginwhichisfoundinthegreatepico-historicalpoemsofShahnameh; itwasbasedonatruestorywhichwasfurtherromanticizedbyPersianpoets. ThestorydepictstheloveofSassanianKhusrawParvizforaChristianprincess, Shirîn. KhusrawoShirinrecountsthestoryofKingKhusraw’scourtshipofPrincessShirin, andhowhevanquishedhisrival, Farhâd, bysendinghimintoexiletoMt. Behistunwiththeimpossibletaskofcarvingstairsoutofthecliffrocks.

[3].    Another similar love story where Majnun goes mad after he is separated from his beloved Laylâ

[4].    Assigning partners to Allah.