Love is what makes life pleasurable, peaceful and blissful. The dough of existence has been kneaded with the yeast of love. The capacity for love is one of the greatest favours that our Lord has bestowed upon His slaves. This is why we should direct our love to those hearts that have understood the reality of friendship. However, it is very unfortunate that most people waste their love, which is a divine favour, on fleeting and carnal desires. And what is the worth of a heart that has become so hardened that it fails to feel its need for Divine Love?
Jalaluddin Rumi gives the following example as a lesson for those who waste their capital of love on fleeting and relative creatures and who are deprived of the love of Allah:
‘Those who give their hearts to this world are just like hunters who hunt for shadows. And how can a person ever be able to own a shadow? A foolish hunter thought the shadow of a bird to be the bird itself and tried to catch it. Even the bird on the branch was surprised at this fool’.
Our ultimate aim is to be reunited with Allah. To forget this and become obsessed with fleeting beloveds such as property, wealth, position, riches or one’s family or children, is to ravage one’s heart. A poet has expressed this truth in the following way:
Remove from your lips all other than Allah, such that the truth can be manifest
The Sultan will not enter the Palace until it has been constructed perfectly
The victory of Majnun on his journey to Allah was that he did not remain obsessed with Laila, who had scattered his thoughts. In other words, he did not make her, his final stop in the stages of his love. He went from metaphorical love to real love, love of Allah. Of course this is an arduous path, in which many people failed. Laila can represent a variety of things – the opposite sex, property, position and status. These beloveds, which are called ‘metaphorical beloveds’, should be made bridges or stepping stones to true love.
Love for Allah (Muhabbetullah)
Man sees the result of his love to the degree that the one he loves is worthy of his love. This is why the human heart can only reach a perfected state of love if he directs the natural inclination to love found within him towards Almighty Allah. Because the only Being that is worthy of true love is Allah Most High, the source of all love. Because:
The One who created everything, who favours living beings with provision, who protects and watches over them is Allah, the Possessor of Perfection and Power.
He loves his slaves very much. He created Adam in heaven in the best form and with the greatest care. He also desires that his slaves enter into Paradise. The response for love can only be love.
He has made easy for the slave, the ways to reunion with Him and the path to His love.
He is the Sole Master of this world and the hereafter.
In the end man will enter into Allah Most High’s Presence and will find no other refuge, shelter and helper other than Him. What a beautiful Protector and what a beautiful Helper is Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
In addition to all of these divine favours, Allah has made us form amongst the community of the Prophet whom He loves the most, and has given us the most perfect book, the Holy Qur’an. This is why our debt to Almighty Allah is endless.
Consequently it is a requirement of our servanthood that we direct our love towards Allah Most High.
Undoubtedly love will manifest itself differently for each lover of Allah. Thus Rumi was able to become a source of meaning and wisdom, both of which flowed from his lips like rare pearls, from within the deep ocean of his speech and the love that burned his heart. Hallaj-i Mansur was favoured with divine reunion in eternity that rendered the lover mortal in the One loved. For years Bahauddin Nakshibend occupied himself with tending to wounded and injured animals, with keeping the streets clean and with meeting the needs of the sick from whom all others stayed away from. In this way he gave his all in the service of Allah, and ended up becoming a deep ocean of knowledge of Allah and a means of His power of disposal. Their methods were different, but the quality of their hearts was ever the same. To be full of passion and love for Allah…
Almighty Allah has sent all His saints to the whole of mankind. They have each been subject to different manifestations and they are rare flowers who have been endowed with the science of knowledge and love of Allah.
In short, a believer who loves Allah must be aware and conscious of the fact that in reality he possesses nothing. Love requires sacrifice and therefore cannot be married with possession. That is, the one who loves must be willing to forsake their all for the sake of their beloved. Love gives birth to the natural tendency of the heart to give out, both materially and spiritually. And this takes place according to the intensity of the love felt. This is why people pay the greatest price depending on how much they love. Depending on the intensity of one’s love, this can manifest itself in a form of sacrifice that goes so far as to abandon one’s life for one’s beloved.
Happy are those believers who hold love of Allah and His Messenger above all else and are not deceived by fake flowers in wild and weedy gardens.
Scenes of Virtue
Without a doubt, the peak personality in the matter of love of Allah is the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Seeking the love of Allah Most High in his prayers he would frequently repeat the following supplication of the Prophet Dâwud (upon whom be peace):
‘Allahumma inni as’aluka hubbika wa hubba man yuhibbuka wa’l ‘ameleellezi yubellighunni hubbaka. Allahumma’j’al hubbaka ahabba ilayya min nafsii wa ahliy wa minal maa’il baarid’
‘O Allah I ask you for your Love, for the love of those who love you and the deeds that will allow me to attain to your Love. O Allah! Make my love for You dearer to me than my own soul, my family, my property and cold water’(Tirmidhi, Deawat, 72/3490).
Another prayer by the Prophet is as follows:
‘O Allah! Bestow on me Your love and the love of the one whose love will be of any benefit in Your eyes. O Allah! Make the bounties that You have bestowed upon me and which I love strength for me to love You and to perform the deeds that You will be pleased with. O Allah! Make the things which I have asked You for but which You have not given me a means to turn to You in complete obedience and to occupy my mind with the things that You love’. (Tirmidhi, Deawat, 73/3491).
It is common knowledge that the lover never stops talking about their beloved and thinks about them constantly. Similarly, the Prophet would be in a state of remembrance of Allah in every state and would pray to his Lord at his every step, ever pondering and reflecting on His attributes, power and manifestations of greatness and the bounties that He has bestowed. Thus the prayers he said at different times and places, such as when he went somewhere, when he came back, when he sat down, when he rose, when he started a task, and when he finished it, had reached such a number that the Blessed Companions were almost incapable of memorising and were the reason they asked the Prophet for short and concise prayers.
How cautionary is the following narration which informs us of how one can attain to the love of our Lord and reach a state of His pleasure and of deep reverence:
One day the Blessed Companions asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):
‘We see two believers, one in a state of deep reverence (khushu) and the other deprived of this state. What is the reason for this difference?’
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) replied:
‘The believer who has tasted the pleasure of faith will have deep reverence. The other will not.’
‘In that case how does one obtain the pleasure of faith? How does one reach that state?’ they asked.
The Prophet replied:
‘It can be reached by remaining loyal in their love for Allah’
This time the Companions asked:
‘Well then, how is love of Allah obtained?’
The Prophet replied:
‘It is obtained through love for Allah’s Messenger. This is why you should seek the pleasure of Allah and His Messenger in love for Allah and His Messenger’(Senderusi, Kashf-i Ilahi,II,651; Halebi, Mawsuatu al-Ahadith, VI, 492/16010).
The Prophet passed his entire life in love for and devotion to Allah Most High. He awaited the time when he would be reunited with his Lord with the excitement that one would feel on his wedding night. His wife, Aisha narrates:
‘While Allah’s Messenger was living his final moments, his blessed head lay on my breast. I was praying “O Lord of mankind! Take away the sickness. You are the true doctor and the only healer”. On the other hand he Prophet, was saying:
“No! O Allah! Reunite me with The Greatest of Friends (Refîk-ı A’lâ). O Allah! Forgive me! Bestow Your Mercy upon me! Reunite me with the Greatest of Friends”. (Ahmad, VI,108, 231).
In another narration Aisha continues the story:
‘In his days of health the Prophet (pbuh) would often say:
“No prophet has ever departed this life without having seen his position in heaven. Then he is left with the choice to either stay in the world or to take his position”.
When he got sick and his death was near, he lay with his head on my lap and then he fainted. When he came to, he turned his eyes towards the ceiling and said:
“O Allah! The Greatest of Friends!”
Then I said:
“The Messenger of Allah does not prefer us!” I realised that this wish of the Prophet was a sign that what he used to tell us about when he was healthy was coming true’ (Bukhari, Magazi, 84; Ahmad, VI, 89).
The following conversation that took place between the Angel of Death and the Prophet at the point of his death shows even more clearly the degree to which he loved Allah.
When it was time for the Prophet to depart this life the Angel of Death asked for permission to enter. Gabriel was there also and he said to the Prophet:
‘O Ahmad! This is the Angel of Death. He is here and he asks your permission to enter. He has never asked permission of anyone else before you. And he will never ask permission of anyone ever again. Let him enter!’
The Angel of Death entered and stood beside the Prophet and said:
“O Messenger of Allah! O Ahmad! Allah Most High has sent me to you and ordered me to obey your every command. If you order me to take your life I will, but if you order otherwise I will leave your spirit to you”.
Allah’s Messenger asked:
“Will you really do that?”.
The Angel of Death replied:
“I have been commanded to obey your every word”.
At that point Gabriel (upon whom be peace) said:
“O Ahmad! Allah Most High longs for you”.
The Prophet then said:
“What is with Allah is better and more everlasting. O Angel of Death! Come and do what you have been commanded to do! Take my spirit”(Ibn Sa’d, II, 259; Haysami, IX, 34-35; Balazuri, Ansabu al ashraf, Egypt 1959, I, 565).
Many examples from the other prophets can be given to illustrate love of Allah. We mention some of them as follows:
Allah Most High had bestowed upon the prophet Ibrahîm an uncountable number of herds of sheep. Gabriel (upon whom be peace) once appeared in the form of a man and asked him:
‘Whose are these herds of sheep? Will you sell me one of these herds?’
Ibrahîm (upon whom be peace) replied:
‘These sheep belong to my Lord. At the moment they have been entrusted to me. If you mention Allah once, you can have a third; if you mention Allah three times you can take them all with you!’
Gabriel made mention of Allah three times as follows:
“Subbuhun Quddusun Rabbunaa wa Rabbu’l malaaikati wa al ruhi”
‘Our Lord, and the Lord of the Spirit and the noble Angels is free of all faults and pure and above all deficiencies”.
‘Take them all, they are yours’. Gabriel then said:
‘I am not a human being. I am an angel. I cannot take them’. Ibrahîm responded:
‘You are an angel and I am the Friend of Allah. It does not befit me that I should take back what I have given away’
Eventually Ibrahîm sold all of the herds. He bought property and turned them into an endowment for the poor and needy.
Ibrahîm was tried throughout his life with his life, his child and his property. At each of these times he showed great submission and love. He reached the peak of servant hood as the Khalil al -Allah (Friend of Allah).
A story of a Companion whose love for Allah manifested itself in listening to the words of Allah is as follows:
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) once dispatched this Companion as the commander of an expedition. That blessed Companion led the prayer for his friends but each time he would finish each recitation by reading the chapter Ikhlas. When they returned to Madina they told the Messenger of Allah of this situation. The Prophet said:
‘Ask him why he did this’. When his friends asked him the reason for this, the Companion said:
‘This chapter is about the attributes of the Most Merciful. That is why I love to read it’.
On learning of this the Prophet said:
‘Tell him that Allah Most High loves him too’(Bukhari, Tawheed, I).
Whilst Ammar ibn Yasir was walking along the shore of the Euphrates River in order to join an expedition he expressed his love for Allah as follows:
“O Allah! If I knew that throwing myself off that mountain would be a means for making You more pleased with me then I would not hesitate to do it. If I knew that throwing myself into a big fire would make You more pleased with me that I would do it immediately. O my Lord! If I knew that throwing myself into the sea and drowning would draw your pleasure more, then I would do it straight away. O Allah! I am fighting here merely to gain Your pleasure. I ask that You do not let me meet with harm. It is You only that I seek” (Ibn Sa’d, III, 258).
Abdullah ibn Umar was one of the rich and leading companions. He would never let his wealth accumulate and would distribute whatever came to him to the poor. He would put aside the possessions that he loved the most to be used in the path of Allah. He had begun to set free all of the slaves that he saw in a good state and especially those whom he learned had begun to pray. One of his friends warned him that some of the slaves that he had set free were coming to the mosque not for the sake of Allah but rather for the purpose of being set free. Abdullah gave the following beautiful reply which reflected the love of Allah that he carried within his heart:
‘We are willing to be deceived by those who choose to deceive us using Allah’ (Ibn Asir, Usdu’l Gabe, III, 343).
Fudayl ibn Iyadh was a gnostic and a virtuous man who frequently used to weep out of fear of Allah. He was also a trustworthy narrator of hadith. Fudayl once encountered Shi’vane Hatun who also lived at that time. Shi’vane Hatun was a lady in constant worship who had abandoned all worldly pleasures. She would weep often out of both love and fear of Allah. Fudayl said to her:
‘Pray for me’.
Shi’vane Hatun gave the following reply:
‘Fudayl! Is there no closeness between you and Allah that will make your prayers answered so that you are now asking me to pray for you?’
Hearing these words Fudayl lost his self-control and wept and sobbed. (Ibn Jawzi, Sifatu as Sahaba, IV, 56).
Before he was executed, Hallaj-i Mansur made a prayer that is a fine display of the degree and sincerity of the love he felt for Allah:
“O Allah! Your slaves have gathered together to kill me due to their closeness to You and their devotion to their religion. Please forgive them. Because had You bestowed upon them the mysteries that You have bestowed upon me, they would have a different opinion of me. Had You have hidden from me the things You have hidden from them, I would not have disclosed them so. O my Lord! Forgive them. Because they are the means for uniting me with You.”
It has been narrated from those who were witness to the spiritual state of Hallaj that when he was being hung on the gallows Satan came to him and asked him:
‘You said “Ana” (“I”) and I said “Ana” (“I”). How can it be that this word that we both uttered can be the means for mercy being rained down upon you and at the same time me being cursed?
Hallaj gave the following reply to Satan:
“By saying ‘I’ you saw yourself superior to Adam and put forth your arrogance. Whereas when I said “Ana al Haqq”, I lost myself in Allah. Pride which asserts its own self is an indication of Hell. Whereas to do away with yourself and become lost in Allah is an expression of one’s nothingness. This is why there is mercy for me and a curse and disgrace upon you”.
It has been narrated that Hallaj said to Ibrahim ibn Fatik who once visited him:
“O son! Some people think that I have fallen into unbelief and some believe me to be a saint. Those who declare me a heretic are more pleasing to me and are more pleasing in the eyes of Allah than those who say that I am a saint”.
When he was asked why he replied:
‘Those who believe me to be a saint do so out of their good opinion of me whereas those who are of the opinion that I am an unbeliever, believe so due to their devotion to their religion. The one who shows devotion to his religion is more pleasing to Allah than the one who merely has a good opinion.
Jalalluddin Rumi expressed beautifully that his burning with divine love, his annihilation in Allah (fana fillah), his eternity with Allah (baka billah) and the fire that burned within his soul would not be extinguished even by death.
“After my death open my grave and see the smoke that rises from my shroud out of the fire that is within me! What makes death frightening is this body which is like a cage. Once you open up the body with ‘love’ as you would an oyster, then will you see how death resembles a pearl…”
One of the most important characteristics of the friends of Allah is how they burn with divine love. Rumi would search for those true lovers who passed their lives in a state of divine love that he expressed in the above words. He expressed this wish of his as follows:
‘I am in search of such a lover that the flames within him should ignite the Day of Judgement and the heat from his heart should turn fire into ash…”
Once Maruf-i Karhi was asked by one of his friends:
‘O Maruf! What is it that drives you to worship so much?’
Maruf was silent. His friend persisted:
‘Is it remembering death?’ he asked
Maruf-i Karhi replied:
‘What is this thing you call death?’
‘Is it thinking about the grave and the intermediate realm?’
‘What is this thing you call the grave?”
His friend persisted still:
‘Is it fear of Hellfire or hope for Paradise?’ Then Maruf gave the following splendid reply:
‘What are all of these? Allah almighty who holds all of these things in His hands is such an exalted Lord that if you truly possessed deep love and ardour for Him, you would forget all of these things that you have just mentioned’ (Babanzade Ahmad Naim, “Islam Ahlakinin Esaslari, Istanbul,” 1963 p 66).
The following state of Majnun is striking in terms of reflecting the state of those who have attained to the love of Allah:
One day Majnun suddenly fell ill as a result of being separated from Laila. Those around him called for a physician to find a cure. When the physician arrived he said:
‘There is no other solution but to bleed him’. He tied Majnun’s arm in order to bleed him. He had just taken the lancet in his hand when Majnun cried out:
“Stop Doctor. Take your fee and leave. If I die from this disease then let me die. It is no loss. What does it matter if this worn out body perishes?”
In amazement the doctor asked Majnun:
‘You do not fear roaring lions in the desert and yet you fear having your blood taken?’
Majnun’s reply was as follows:
‘It is not the lancet that I fear…the whole world knows that my patience and forebearance are greater than that of a mountain of rock. I am a man who fears nothing and who does not possess even a bale of hay in this world. If my mortal body did not endure pain it would not rest. Wounds are cures for my love; for this I would run to be wounded…
However my body is filled with Laila; there is nothing other than Laila within me. This body of mine which is like a mother of pearl contains within it the characteristics of that pearl. And so, o doctor. While you are bleeding me I fear that your lancet may suddenly strike Laila and I am afraid that you might injure her…Because the special slaves of Allah know that there is no difference between Laila and me”.
Years later Laila appeared before Majnun but Majnun paid no attention to her. Laila said to him:
“Was it not for me that you lost yourself in the desert?” Majnun answered:
“The relative shadow called Laila melted and departed”.
Laila, who at one time had been the aim of Majnun’s entire life represented only a step in the journey towards divine love. Once Majnun had found his place in the realm of divine love, the truth of which he had been searching for, the role of Laila in his life came to an end.
Laila, who is mentioned in the stories of the Mathnawi, is a symbol of divine passion which is transformed into divine love and of a personality that becomes lost in Allah. In other words Laila is a sphere of divine love that makes the hearts go crazy and destroys physical will. This is why if incidences of love that begin with Laila find peace in Allah, then they will become precious.
Majnun had taken to the desert for the sake of Laila and out of his passion for her. One time he caressed and kissed the eyes of a dog whose fur had fallen out and from whose mouth dribbled saliva. Someone who saw this state of his could not bear it and said to him:
‘O crude Majnun! What is this madness of yours? Why are you hugging and kissing this animal?
‘You are nothing but appearance. You are a shape and a body from top to toe so how can you understand what I do? Enter within and look inside, that is, delve into the realm of my spirit and then look at it through my eyes. Do you know what virtue this dog has? There is a divine secret within this dog that you have not grasped. Allah has hidden within its heart the treasure of love and loyalty that it feels for its owner. And look, out of all the villages, it has gone and made Laila’s village its home and has become a guard of that village…!
Do not underestimate this dog, look at its zeal. It is the blessed-faced Qitmir of the realm of my heart. He is a partner to my happiness and my sorrow. I wouldn’t change one of its hairs for many lions. Pay attention to its heart, its soul, and its insight so that you may see its virtue. For me even the ground that the foot of this dog steps on is dear to me because it has chosen to make Laila’s village its home…”
A heart that burns with love for Allah will love all of His creatures due to this love. Everything that reminds him of Allah represents, according to the degree of its closeness to Him, a priceless jewel.
One of the friends of Allah relates the following event which shows the fruit of love felt for Allah:
“I was passing through a wide and desolate land when I came across a strange shepherd. I saw that he was performing the prayer in deep reverence and wolves were guarding his sheep. I was amazed. I waited in wonder for him to finish his prayer and then asked him:
“O shepherd! How can it be that wolves have befriended your sheep? How did the spirit of animosity and savagery within them leave and be replaced with peace and love?”
The righteous shepherd, his face radiating light as a result of his prostration to Allah, gave the following reply:
“O strange traveller! The mystery of the friendship between these wolves and lambs lies with the true owner of shepherds, herds and wolves. This state is a mystery of love”.
The lover sacrifices his all for his beloved. The following event related by Molla Jami (may his mystery be sanctified) is an example of this:
There was once a young man in the discussion circle of our Master, Mawlana Sadeddin Kashgari. This young man was foremost in terms of asceticism, seclusion and love for Allah. However, like me, he too had become obsessed with a mortal love. And so it was in a split second that he transferred the treasure of love that had accumulated in his heart to her.
He bought a very valuable gift made of gold and diamonds, placed it in the path that he knew that beauty would take, and hid there so that no one passing by would take it. His plan was that his lover would pass by there, see the gift and take it. But she would not know who it came from and how. When I learnt of this I said to him:
“What a strange thing it is that you do. You are leaving this thing that you have obtained with much trouble in her path. But even if she finds it, sees it and takes it, she is not going to know who it is from and why it was given to her. At least do something so that she will know it is from you”.
The young man, shaken with tears replied:
“What are you saying? Don’t you think I know the strangeness of the thing that I am doing? I do not expect anything in return for what I am doing. I do not want her to feel any obligation to me because of this gift”.
I trembled at his answer. If such a common love felt towards a mortal human being could display such depth, delicacy, and grace, then what elevated manifestations would be reflected by those who have attained to ‘love of His essence’.
In short the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
‘Allah is beautiful and loves beauty’ (Muslim, Iman, 147).
Accordingly Allah, who is the possessor of all of the beauty that we see around us is also the source of true love. Because He is Al-Wadood. This sacred Name of Allah means ‘the one who loves much’ and also ‘the one who is loved much’. This is why the duty of the believer is to be a gate of mercy that instils the hearts with divine love. Because if the believer does not place the love he feels for his Lord (muhabbetullah) above everything other than Allah, that he loves and feels bound to, then he cannot be said to have properly attained to the ‘Sirat al-Mustaqim’ (the Straight Path). Almighty Allah says in a verse from the Qur’an:
‘Some people set up equals to Allah, loving them as they should love Allah. But those who have faith have greater love for Allah’ (Al-Baqara, 2:165).
That this state is crucial for the believer is expressed as follows in another verse:
‘Say: ‘If your fathers or your sons or your brothers or your wives or your tribe, or any wealth you have acquired, or any business you fear may slump, or any house which pleases you, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and doing jihad in His Way, then wait until Allah brings about His command. Allah does not guide people who are deviators.’ (Al-Tawba, 9:24).
In order to arrive at this state of muhabbatullah (love of Allah) it is necessary to recognise Allah in one’s heart, that is, to be a subject to the manifestations of His Asma al-Husna or His Beautiful Names.
Remembering Allah (zikrullah) is a means for advancing in the direction of muhabbetullah. However this advance will be realised only to the degree of the quality of the zikr that is performed, that is, the degree to which it is felt in the heart.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said:
“A sign that one loves Allah is that one loves to remember Allah Most High” (zikrullah)’ (Suyuti, II, 52).
In order to progress in the direction of muhabbetullah, one needs to acquire a heart that is sufficient and worthy of bearing it. This can be achieved through practice with human loves. This is why, because it acts as preparation for the heart, mortal love is looked on with lenience so long as it takes place within lawful limits, and this is why it is called ‘metaphorical love’. Just as one loves one’s family…
Continuing on in this state and reaching the state of muhabbetullah means the realisation of the purpose of mankind’s creation and the gaining of Allah’s pleasure. Because the peak and ultimate aim of the divine proposals that are presented to man through Islam is to be a ‘wasil ilallah’, that is, a means to Allah. And the most important asset for this is love. Other deeds are a manifestation of this love.
A believer who attains to marifetullah and muhabbetullah will be distanced from the evil of his own soul and from the wiles of Satan, and will live desiring only the pleasure of Allah. The pages of the book of the universe will be opened to him and all of creation will befriend him. That is he will acquire the ability to look at creation through the ‘eyes’ of The Creator. He will watch with the eye of discernment, the divine wisdom and flow of secrets throughout the universe. After performing, with great reverence, the obligatory and compulsory minimum duty of servant hood required by Allah, he will then try to increase his supererogatory worship simply out of the great love and ardour that comes from the heart, and even though it is not compulsory. This he will do with perfect manners, reverence and zeal. Doing away with all carnal pleasures he will find the secret of true pleasure in faith.
. saw in Arabic is short for “sallallahu alayhi wa sallam” and means “peace and blessings be upon him”. It is pronounced whenever the name of the Prophet is mentioned (translator’s note).
. ra short for radiyallahu anhu (for males) and anha (for females). It means ‘may Allah be pleased with him or her’ and is used as a term of respect for the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (translator’s note).
. Ana al Haqq meaning “I am the Real or I am the Truth” were the words uttered by Hallaj. In the case of Satan, when Allah asked him ‘What am I and what are you?” he insolently replied: “ Ana ana wa anta anta” (I am I and You are You) (translator’s note).
. See Al Buruj, (verse 14.)
. Fakhruddin Ar-Razi, Mefatihu’l Gayb (at Tafsir al-Kabir), Beirut, 1990, XXXI, 112)