The secret in the love of Allah

One of the most prominent attributes of the hidden treasure mentioned in the saying “I was a secret treasure. I wanted to be known and so I created creation” is absolute grace. Allah Almighty did not desire this mysterious, infinite and imperceptible grace to be concealed, so He created creation.

A small drop of His infinite love was granted to this universe and to this earth. Thus, the earth gained superiority over other creations; Allah also created the human being, the most honorable creature, from the earth.

Allah, who created all creatures with love, made them a sign of His artistry and perfection. The existence of the human being as a divine masterpiece has become the perfect manifestation of love and kindness. For the purpose of this world’s creation was not solely to adorn it with green fields, valleys, vast deserts and mountains; it was the human being – the spring of love and the quintessence of creation. For that reason, the honor of a human being is in direct proportion his preserving this objective of his own creation.

Furthermore, since the reason for creation is love, the attribute of love is present as a natural inclination in all creatures. Even a scorpion’s conveyance of its offspring on its back is the result of this love.

This inclination of love is at its peak in a human being, the most honorable of creatures. Nevertheless, in this world filled with trials and tribulations, man will obtain the reward of his love to the extent of the worthiness of his beloved. This means that the human heart, created with the ability of infinite love, can only reach perfection if its possessor directs his tendency towards love of Allah. He cannot help himself by pursuing inferior and useless goals – ultimately life would end in disappointment. In other words, only as long as man devotes to Allah and those beloved to Him his natural tendency to love, can he acquire the blessing to ascend spiritually to the extent of his devotion.

Indeed, divine tests inflicted upon a human being depend upon how he directs his love. It is because of this rule that Allah granted human nature negative inclinations as well as positive ones. Allah has granted human beings a share of his three great attributes: 1) absolute existence, 2) absolute grace and 3) absolute good; but He has also impaired him with the opposites of these attributes: 1) absolute non-existence, 2) absolute ugliness and 3) absolute evil. In this context, the Qur’an says: “And He inspired it (the soul) [with conscience of] what is wrong for it and what is right for it.” (Shams, 91:8)

These are the two infinite, diametrically opposite poles to which human beings are attracted throughout their lives. It must be realized that the greatest misfortune of man is his inclination towards the negative pole. Those who are inclined to this pole are so blinded that they only admire themselves and their actions. This is a big weakness. Such heedlessness that prevents the human being from realising his or her full potential. It is also the most harmful spiritual illness and great arrogance for a human being who then becomes a foreigner to divine power.

The real meaning in the Sufi saying “Die before death comes to you!” is that one should avoid falling into the trap of acquiring the bad traits which stem from the negative pole and should, instead, escape from the whirlpool of nature. However, the method for such realization does not mean to kill the self (nafs) but to gain control over it. Rūmī explains this point as follows:

If the water remains underneath the ship, it becomes a point of support. However, if it fills the ship it will destroy it. One can exemplify the same fact with the fire moving the ship. The fire in the boiler moves the ship. But if this fire spreads into the deck then it will burn the ship.

A servant therefore becomes close to his Lord inasmuch as he stems the effects of negative traits. The only way to achieve this is to steer one’s love towards Allah to the extent of the capacity of one’s heart. Yet many dangers lurk in directly steering one’s love towards Allah. At one point the heart may burn as if electrified with high voltage. This may destroy a person. The manifestation of Allah to the Prophet Moses (upon him blessings and peace) is a good example of this.

Moses (upon him blessings and peace) encountered the Kalām or speech attribute of Allah on Mount Sinai. He lost his consciousness to great love because of the spiritual attractiveness of divine conversation beyond the perception of a human being – without letters or words. Then he fervently asked to see Allah. But Allah replied, “You cannot see me!” When he insisted, Allah told him to glance at the mountain: the mountain was shattered by a shaft of light sent from Allah. After this terrifying event, Moses (upon him blessings and peace) fainted and asked for Allah’s forgiveness.

As this incident shows, love requires gradation. Certain practices are needed in order to develop one’s ability to experience divine love. This requires gradual training through embracing the spirituality of Allah’s friends and moving away from the authority of self. The heart can only increase its inborn ability to love by this kind of training, and can thus be purified and freed from the grip of negative traits. Only then can it gain the spiritual capacity to become a reflector of divine love, like a polished mirror.

The love of mother, father, wife, husband and children, and material and spiritual opportunities and other worldly favors are all Allah’s kindness and favor to His servants. But all these kinds of love should be a means to reach Allah. They are only signposts in Allah’s path. Our hearts should not be slaves to them, for those who are in love with Absolute Beauty do not fall in love with fragments. Those who do will be deprived of the whole. In other words, those who fall in love with the world will be deprived of Allah’s love. Rūmī expresses this in the following couplet:

Those who fall in love with the world are like hunters who shoot at shadows;

how could a shadow come into their possession?

One of the foolish people tried to catch a bird’s shadow;

but even the bird on the branch was bewildered about this.

Every conscious person who thinks of his or her end can easily understand that it is the purpose of creation that one has to limit their indulgence in amusements and temporary affection by directing his or her love towards Allah. Absolute grace is the grace of Allah. All of the beauties we witness with admirationare nothing but a reflection of His beauty.

The love between Leylā and Majnūn is a magnificent example of this fact. If Majnūn’s heart had remained devoted to Leyla, she would have become his idol. However, Leylā only played a temporary role for Majnūn and she fell from his favor after elevating his heart to a level where its object became divine love. Although Majnūn had set off on his journey toward Leylā, he showed the power to steer his heart towards Allah, not settle upon Leylā.

Love is accepted only as long as its aim is true. Such kind of love does not become a mansion, absolute headquarter, and final destination for theheart if it ends up with delusion and disappointment! Only free from such may the heart continue its journey with the blessings acquired from these loves like a fertile soil. The danger here lies in turning towards those who are not fit to be loved. Worse yet is to remain stuck on them. If Majnūn had been smothered with his infatuation with Leylā without moving past her, his love would have been worthless. He would have disappeared with finite love just like so many other Majnūns.

Allah Almighty did not abandon the prophet Joseph (upon him blessings and peace) who bore in himself the light of Prophethood when he was thrown into a well by his brothers. A thirsty traveller lowered a bucket into the well supposing that there would be some water below. When Joseph (upon him blessings and peace) came out with the bucket, the perceptive traveller forgot his thirst. He was charmed and terrified with the beauty he beheld. The heedless traveller, on the other hand, did not see the spiritual aspect of this beauty. He remained focussed on the material substance, which he unwarily sold at a cheap price – just like the Majnūn who remained stuck on Leylā and could not eventually achieve divine union.

For the traveller who lowered the rope into the well in the hope of findingwater, it should have been a great opportunity to forget the water when he saw Joseph’s (upon him blessings and peace) beauty. He should have severed all his finite and relative dealings before the manifestation of divine love which shone like the sun’s bright rays through a lens. It was a great pity that the foolish traveller was duped by the lure of worldly advantages he calculated he would receive through Joseph (upon him blessings and peace). He thus wasted the golden opportunity that was presented to him.

What we are trying to explain here is the ideal course to realise the greatest love and most lasting affection. Passing through stages of love without getting stuck is beyond the capacity of most ordinary people. Those who reach perfection are those who incline towards this goal externally by the choice of their free will and internally by the drive of their destiny. These people can reach variously advanced stages through many paths, all of them guiding to Allah in proportion to the divine aid they are granted. The outcome is the return to Allah – fanā’ fī Allāh (annihilation in Allah) – like the river’s disappearance into the sea. The ultimate destination is baqā’ bi-Allāh (abiding with Allah).[1]

One should know that the limit of reason is finite. Anything beyond the limit of reason is madness. However, the capacity of the heart is infinite. The point of tranquillity is annihilation in Allah and eternity with Allah. Rūmī beautifully expresses how he was burned with divine love in a state of fanā’ fī Allāh and baqā’ bi-Allāh and how this fire within his soul would not be extinguished even by death:

Open my grave after my death and see how fumes will rise from my shroud! What makes death frightening is this bodily cage. When you break the shell of the body you will see that death will look like pearls!

One of the most important attributes of the friends of Allah is to be consumed by divine love. Rūmī searched for thereal lovers who were burned in love, hence those impassioned expressions. He states this desire as follows:

I need such a lover that from his inner flames great tumults should take place; and with the fire of his heart even fires should become ashes.

There are two kinds of love: real and metaphorical.

Love, addiction and devotion to any being in the universe “other than Allah” (mā siwā Allāh) are a metaphorical love, whereas love for Lord of the universe and inclination towards Him is real love.

Those who have polished their hearts with the real love for the Lord can see how beauty is reflected in themselves at all times and witness one of Allah’s unlimited signs of power. In other words, they discover within their nature the reality of ahsani taqwīm (the most excellent pattern). For them, there are no metaphorical colors and odors attracting us withtheir beauty but something exceedingly truer. For they have reached to the knowledge of Allah. They have given up externaladornments and reached to Reality. There, they beheld divine eternity.

The great curtain drawn between Allah and His servants is not a physical distance like earth and sky. This curtain is the feeling of a separate existence from the Creator. Because of this, Allah states “when I inspired into him a spirit from Me” and reminds human beings of the essence he had given from His presence. It was also said of Allah: “I am the secret of the human being, and the human being is the secret of Me.”

Hence, the divine treasures and secrets are dedicated to humankind. Allah, the Almighty, wishes to present His sublime existence in the sacred frame of the human being. “I am the secret of man” contains the glad tidings of a shared attribute. If this essence and glad tidingscanconvey a believer to the perfection of love and affection, then the heart begins to travel towards the secrets of thedivine world. Thus, the reality of all objects, the secrets called “human” and “universe” and the secrets of thedivine world may all appear. At that time the servant receives the manifestations of a sound heart.

When the servant has attained this maturity, the curtain of heedlessness between the servant and Allah is lifted little by little.The servant can understand the secret of “Die before you die.” The world and its finite love, its temporary and transient beauty scatter into the wind. The soul perceives the great pleasure of approaching its Creator.

One should know that the only spring of mercy and affection to carry one to the ocean of Allah’s love is the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). Love of Muhammad (upon him blessings and peace) means love of Allah Most High. Obedience to him means obedience to Allah, and to rebel against him means to rebel against Allah. Therefore, the honorable existence of the Prophet Muhammad constitutes a place of love and refuge for mankind. The knowers (‘ārifūn) know that the reason for the existence of the creation is the love of Muhammad. Hence the entire universe is dedicated to the light of Muhammad’s (upon him blessings and peace) existence.

It is for this reason that the love for the messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace) is protected from the dangers that lurk in the love for other beings (mā siwā). Accordingly, it is imperative to love the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) wholeheartedly. Fātima (may Allah be pleased with her) presents one of the best examples of this love in her description of her state of despair at the Prophet’s (upon him blessings and peace) funeral:

With the Prophet’s honoring of the next world, such a calamity has come over me that, had it come over darkness, its color would have been changed. (Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Wafa.)

The most beautiful and meaningful manifestation of love for the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) appears in obedience to him. The principle of “The lover should love everything loved by his beloved” means it is actually necessary to obey the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). This love constitutes the backbone of love for Allah. Any other love has been invalidated in the path of Quran and Sunnah. The only way to reach to divine love is through love of the Prophet Muhammad.

Love for the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) is the highest state that a human could ever reach in the path of the love for Allah. Allah has placed limits on all human abilities including their perception and intelligence. However, His divine essence surpasses all limits.

Love for Allah requires love for Muhammad’s light (NūrMuhammadī), for his honorable existence, for the friends of Allah, and then for every creature esteemed in the presence of Allah to the extent of their merit. A circle of love in inclination towards Allah is a spring of mercy and recovery for souls. Any love outside this circle weakens the logic prevalent in love. Accordingly, there are huge blessings in love for the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) and the people of Allah (Ahl Allāh). Remorse both in this world and the hereafter awaits those who hate them.

The hearts of the friends of Allah are like mother-of-pearl. They beget pearls larger than raindrops in April. They can turn immature hearts into big pearls with the help of Allah. All that is needed for a seeker is to perceive the raindrop hidden in this pearl! In the commentary of the Mathnawī it is stated:

Allah whispered a secret into the ear of a cloud, and tears of water poured down from its eyes like a bucket. He whispered a secret into the ear of a rose, and beautified it with colours and fragrance. He whispered a secret to a stone, and turned it into shimmering carnelian in the mine. With His graciousness He poured water from the cloud, beautified the rose and gave value to the stone.

He whispered a secret to the human body and elevated to eternity those who kept this secret. Receiving inspiration from the divine world, these bodies attained the secret of closeness to Allah – being rescued from body.

Throughout history, prophets and messengers, who received this secret, have been the bearers of light who reached perfection through their love.

May Allah grant us the great favor of His affection, the affection of his beloved Prophet and his saints! May Allah not take back our lives until we have performed enough good deeds to ensure our acquittal in the next world and before he enlightened our hearts with magnificent manifestations of His love!

May Allah fill our hearts with mercy!

 

Amin!

[1].     Fanā’ fī Allāh as a concept in tasawwuf means the permanent eradication in the heart of all qualities that are disliked by Allah (al-akhlāq al-dhamīmah). It requires complete elimination of desires emanating from the nafs. It is also called takhliyah, which means “emptying” the heart forever from what is not supposed to be there. The concept of Baqā’ bi Allāh as used in tasawwuf denotes permanently internalising in the heart the good qualities that are loved by Allah. It is the result of complete and continuous submission to the will of Allah. It is also called tahliyah, which means the “ornamentation” or “beautification” of the heart in an enduring manner with good qualities (al-akhlāq al-hamīdah) that are permanently rooted there.