Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

Love (muhabat محبت) and Matters Therewith

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Chapter XIX (b)

Love (muhabat محبت) and Matters Therewith


Allah hath said:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللّهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ

“O ye who believe! If any from among you turn back from his Faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love as they love Him –“ (Q 5:54),

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ أَندَاداً يُحِبُّونَهُمْ كَحُبِّ اللّهِ

“Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah, as equal (with Allah): they love them as they should love Allah.” (Q 2:165).

And the Prophet (peace be upon him) related that Gabriel (may blessings of Allah be on him) revealed him the command of Allah that:

من اهان لي وليًا فقد بارزني بالمحاربة, 

وماتردوت في شيء كترددي في قبض نفس المومن يكره الموت واكره مساءته ولا بدله منه, وما تقرب الي عبدي بشيء احب الي من اداء ما افترضت عليه, 

ولا يزال عبدي يقترب الي بالنوافل حتي احبه, فاذا احببته كنت له سمعًا وبصرًا ويدًا ومويدًا

“Whoever despises any of my friends has declared war against Me. I do not hesitate in anything as I hesitate to seize the soul of My faithful servants who dislikes death and whom I dislike to hurt, although he has no other way out; and no means whereby My servants seeks My favor is more pleasing to Me than the performance of the obligations which I have laid upon him; and My servant continuously seek My favor by works of supererogation until I love him, and when I love him I am his hearing and his sight and his hands and his helper.”

And the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

من احب لقاء الله احب الله لقاءه

“Allah loves to meet those who love to meet Him,”

and he also said:

اذا احب الله عبداً قال لجبرءيل يا جبرءيل اني احب فلا نا فاحبه,  فيحبه جبرءيل,

 ثم يقول جبرءيل لاهل السماء ان الله قداحب فلا نا فاحبوه فيحبه اهل السماء,

 ثم يضع له  القبول    في الارض فيحبه اهل الارض, و في البغض مثل ذلك

“When Allah loves a man He says to Gabriel, I love such and such, so do love him; then Gabriel loves him and says to the dwellers in Heaven, `Allah loves such and such,` and they love him too; then he is famed on earth, so that he is loved by the inhabitants of the earth; and as it happens with regard to love, so does it happen with regard to hate.”

The love of man with Allah and Allah’s love for man is lawful and established. Both Quran and Sunnah (Traditions of Prophet, peace be upon him) are witness to it and Ummah has unanimity. It is the attribute of Allah that He loves His friends and His lovers love Him.

Etymologically muhabat محبت (love) is derived from hibbah, حبه which are seeds that are found placed in desert. The name hubb حب was given to such desert seeds (hibb حِب), because its life is hidden in it. So, love is the source of life just as seeds are the origin of plants. When the seeds are scattered in the desert, they become hidden in the earth, and rain falls upon them. The heat of the sun effect it, summer and winter pass over it but the seeds do not take any heed of them and grow up only when their season fall in and bear flowers and give fruit. Similarly, when love takes its dwelling in the heart, it does not get corrupted by the presence or absence, by pleasure or pain, and by separation or union.

Others have the opinion that hubb حب is derived from hubbi حبي, “meaning a pool full of stagnant water which having no outsource of receiving fresh water”, as when love is collected in the heart of the seeker and fills it, then there is no room for any thought except of the beloved. As when Allah graced Abraham with His friendship, he became empty of everything save the remembrance of Allah and universe became veil for him and he got sick of these veils because of His love and in that state he said (verse of Quran),

فَإِنَّهُمْ عَدُوٌّ لِّي إِلَّا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ

“for they are enemies to me; not so the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds;” (Q 26:77).

As regards to this Shibli says,

سميت المحبة محبة لا نها تمحومن القلب ماسوي المحبوب

love is called love because it obliterates everything from the heart except the beloved.”

Hubb حب also means the four conjoined pieces of wood on which a water pot is placed. So in this sense it would mean, as the wooden stand bears the weight of the pot similarly a lover bears whatever his beloved gives out to him i.e. honor or disgrace, pain or pleasure, fair or foul treatment and it has no bar on him. The role of the lover is the same as of wooden stand to bear the load, as it was created only for this reason.

According to others hubb حب is derived from habb حَب, the plural of habbah حَبه and habbah is the core of the heart, and means of its existence. In this case Hubb حب is called by the name of its dwelling place, a principle of which there are numerous examples in Arabic.

Others derive it from habab حباب “bubbles of water and the effervescence thereof in a heavy rainfall.” The love is named as hubb حب because it speaks of lover’s longing for beloved search and vision. The lover has a special kind of emotion and palpitation in his heart which keeps him agitated for his beloved.  As the bodies are fond of spirits, similarly the hearts of the lovers are fond of the vision of their beloved and as the body subsist through the spirit, so the heart subsists through love, and love remains active and fresh through vision and union with the beloved.

اذا ما تمني الناس روحا و راحة     تمنيت ان القاك يا عزخاليا

“When people desire comfort and tranquility,

O my beloved! I wish, I meet you in seclusion.”

Others, again, declare that hubb حب is a name applied to pure love. The Arabs call the pure white of the human eye حبة الانسان, just as they call the pure black (core) of the heart حبة القلب. Since the heart is the seat of love and eye means of sight, hence the heart and the eye are rivals in love, as the poet says:

القلب يحسد عيني لذة النظر     والعين تحسد قلبي لذة الفكر

“My heart envies mine eye the pleasure of seeing,

And mine eye envies my heart the pleasure of meditating.”

You must know that the term muhabat محبت (love) is used by theologians in many different manners. The restlessness of heart, the desire for the object of love, inclination, and passion are referred as love. But all these refer only to created beings and their mutual affection towards one another. These have no relation with the Eternal and cannot be applied to Allah, who is exalted far above anything of this sort. The term muhabat محبت (love) is also refers to beneficence, i.e. the man after attaining the perfection of saintship, is conferred high degree by Allah and He distinguishes him by diverse kinds of His miraculous graces.  

It also means excellent praise which Allah bestows on a man for a good action. Some scholastic say that Allah’s love, which He has made known to us, belongs to those traditional attributes, like His face and His hand and His settling Himself firmly on His throne, of which the existence from the standpoint of reason would appear to be impossible if they had not been proclaimed as Divine attributes in the Quran and the Sunnah. Therefore we affirm them and believe in them, but suspend our own judgment concerning them. These Sufi Sheikhs however, deny that the term “love” as described above, can be applied to Allah. I will now explain to you the true nature of this matter.

Allah’s love of man is His good will towards him and His having mercy on him. Love is one of the names of His will, like satisfaction, anger, compassion, etc, and these names can only be used for the will of the Truth. His will is an Eternal attribute whereby He wills His actions. In exhibition and comparability some attribute have superiority over others. In short, love of Allah towards man consists in:

-          extending much favors to him in this world,

-          giving him recompense in the  next world,

-          making him secure from punishment,

-          keeping him safe from sin,

-          bestowing on him states and exalted stations,

-          causing him to turn his thoughts away from all that is other than Him, and

-          cherish him with His eternal and peculiar Grace and Bounty, so that man turns to Him by renouncing all other.

When Allah peculiarly distinguishes anyone in this way, that particularity of His will is called “love”. This is the doctrine of Harith Muhasibi, Junaid and a large number of the Sufi Sheikhs. The theologians belonging to different sects and the Sunni scholastics also hold the same opinion. As regards their assertion that Divine love is “praise given to a man for a good action”, Allah’s praise is His word and which is uncreated, for created cannot join uncreated. And as regards their assertion that Divine love means beneficence, His beneficence consists in His actions. Hence, all these views are substantially in close relation to each other.

Man’s love towards Allah is a quality which manifest itself in the heart of the pious believer in the form of veneration and magnification, so that he seeks to satisfy his Beloved and becomes impatient in his desire for vision of Him, and desire of His proximity makes him restless, so he does not find comfort with anyone except Him, and grows familiar with the remembrance (dikr) of Him, and renounces the remembrance of everything besides. Repose becomes forbidden to him and rest flees from him. He is cut off from all habits and associations and renounces sensual passion and longing of love overwhelm him, so that he submits himself before the command of Allah and knows Him by His attributes of perfection. It is impossible that man’s love of Allah should be similar in kind to the love of His creatures. The love of mankind demands attainment of the beloved and to have full knowledge of him. This is a corporeal love, whereas the lovers of Allah while in His proximity are annihilated to themselves, how they can be desirous of such state.

The seeker stands to himself in friendship, but who annihilates himself in love stands by his beloved, and the actual wayfarer of this path are those who have annihilated themselves and are completely overpowered by the love of the Truth, because a phenomenal being has no means of approaching the Eternal save through the omnipotence of the Eternal. He who knows what the real love is feels no more difficulties, and all his doubts depart.

Love has two aspects:

-          The love of like towards like, which is a natural inclination and satisfaction of the nafs (lower soul). It desires to have physical feel and sensual intercourse with the beloved.

-          The love of one who is not homogeneous. This is to get satisfaction from some of the attributes of his beloved, e.g. hearing without speech or seeing without eye.

The people who are captivated by love are of two kinds:

-          those who regard the favor and beneficence of Allah towards them, and are led by that regard to love the Benefactor:

-          those who are so enraptured by love that they reckon all favors as a veil (between themselves and Allah) and by regarding the Benefactor are led to (consciousness of) His favors. They are on a higher degree of state than the former.

In short, love is a term which is common in all the nations and religions and is found in every dictionary. No sensible person can hide its meanings. Among the Sufi Sheikhs Sumnun al-Muhibb holds a peculiar doctrine concerning love.

He asserts that love is the basis and foundation of the Path to Truth, and status of states and maqamat (stations) is of stages. Every stage of the seeker can decline save love; for love is not destructible in any circumstances so long as the seeker remains in following the path of love. All the other Sheikhs agree with him in this matter, but since the term love is a common word, apparently to keep the doctrine of Divine love remain hidden, they have changed its name, though its real essence remained. Hence, instead of calling it purity of love they gave it the name of safut صفوت (purity) and to lover of the Truth they called Sufi. Some others used the word faqr فقر (poverty) to denote the renunciation of the lover’s personal will in his affirmation of the Beloved’s will, and they called the lover faqir فقير  (poor) because the lowest degree of love is conformity of the beloved and it is anti to disagreement. I have explained the theory of purity and poverty in the beginning of this book. A noble Sheikh has said:

“Love is clearer to devotees than the interpretation of Shariat. The love for repentant is easier than cry of pain and distress and for the young riders is more important than ride. For Hindus the slavery of love is better than the prison of Mahmud Ghaznavi. The tales of the lovers and the beloved are more popular among the Romans than Cross. The love stories depicting happiness and sorrow are part of the literature of all the Arabian tribes.”

The gist of this preamble is that there is no human being who has not been gifted with the essence of love and his heart is devoid of the pleasure and comfort of love. The heart of everybody is either intoxicated in love or he is drunk with its overwhelmness, for the construction of heart is based on anxiety and agitation. The oceans of friendship pledges are no more than mirage before love. The heart void of love is like a wilderness void of food and drink. Love can not be enforced or relinquished by efforts. The nafs (lower soul) does not get aware of the subtleties of love which manifest on heart.

Umru b. Uthman Makki says in his book on love that Allah created the dilha (soul) seven thousand years before the bodies and kept them in the station of proximity, and that he created the spirits seven thousand years before the dilha  (souls) and kept them in the degree of intimacy and that he created the hearts seven thousands years before the spirits and kept them in the degree of union, and revealed the luster of His Beauty to the heart three hundred and sixty times every day and bestowed on it three hundred and sixty looks of Grace, and He caused the spirits to hear the word of love and manifested three hundred and sixty exquisite favors of intimacy to the soul. So that when they surveyed the phenomenal universe and saw nothing more precious than themselves, they got filled with vanity and pride, therefore Allah subjected them to probation. He imprisoned the heart in the spirit and the spirit in the soul and the soul in the body and then He mingled reason with them. He revealed His commands through prophets, and then each of them began to seek its original station. When Allah commanded them to pray, the body betook itself to prayer, the soul attained to love, the spirit arrived at proximity to Allah, and the heart found rest in union with Him.

These all are explanations of love and not love, because love is an ecstasy, and it does not stand to speech. If the whole world wishes to attract love, they cannot and similarly they cannot repel it with effort. It is not possible even if the whole world wish together that the seeker of the love is filled with love or who has the wealth of love is made empty of it. The love is Allah’s gift and how the mankind can perceive the true nature of this Divine Grace when they are committed to amusement, sport and fun.

There are many sayings of Sheikhs about ishq عشق (extreme love). Some hold that excessive love of man towards Allah is possible but it is not lawful that Allah should have excessive love of someone. They say that ishq (extreme love) is the attribute of that who is debarred from his beloved, and man can be debarred from Allah, but Allah cannot be debarred from man, therefore man may love Allah excessively, but the term is not applicable to Allah. Some others take the view that Allah cannot be the object of man’s excessive love, for it involves crossing of limits but Allah is not limited.

The modern assert that excessive love, both in this world and the next, is not possible, although excessive love is possible for the desire to seek the perception of the Godhead, as the essence of Allah is not attainable. They say that love is possible with one of the essence of Allah but not excessive love. They also refer that excessive love is not possible without vision, whereas love can be embedded by mere hearing. Since excessive love depends on sight, therefore, Allah cannot be the object of excessive love, as no one has seen Him. Everyone has only listened about Him and they have made their on claims. The essence of Allah is not attainable or perceptible that man should be able to feel excessive love towards Him. Allah, through His attributes and actions, is a Gracious Benefactor to His friends because of which man’s love is permissible with His attributes. Since Jacob was absorbed in the love for Yusaf, from whom he was separated, his eyes became bright and clear as soon as he smelt Yousaf’s shirt. Similarly, Zulaikha was ready to die on account of her excessive love for Yusaf; her eyes were not opened until she was united with him. Some of the Sufis have said that since there is no opposite of Allah, similarly excessive love also has no opposite; therefore, excessive love may be lawful with Allah.

There are still many subtle signs and hints concerning love but for the fear of prolonging the matter I finish the discussion here. I will now mention a few of the innumerable indications which Sufi Sheikhs have given as to the true nature of love.

Master Abu al-Qasim Qushayri says:

المحبة محو المحب بصفاته و اثبات المحبوب بذاته

“Love is the effacement of the lover’s attributes and the establishment of the Beloved’s essence.”

The Beloved is subsistent and the lover is annihilated. The jealousy of love requires that the lover should make the subsistence of the Beloved absolute by negating himself, so that he attains complete friendship (saintship). The lover cannot negate his own attributes except by affirming the essence of the Beloved and this is also not possible that lover can stand by his attributes, for in that case he would be independent of Beloved’s Beauty. But when he knows that his life is the Beauty of his Beloved, he necessarily tries to annihilate his own attributes, for he is veiled from his Beloved in their presence and thus in love for his Friends he becomes an enemy to himself. When Mansur Hallaj was mounted on the scaffold his last words were,

حسب الوجد افراد الوجد له

the destination of the seeker is to know Allah as One.”

It is incumbent on lover to annihilate himself for the sake of love and that the dominion of his nafs (lower soul) after being used in search of friend should be vanished.

Abu Yazid says:

المحبة استقلال الكثيرمن نفسك و استكثارالقليل من حبيبك

“Love consists in regarding your much as little and your Beloved’s little as much.”

The same condition is of man with Allah, so whatever worldly benefits have been gifted to mankind, Allah calls them little,

قُلْ مَتَاعُ الدَّنْيَا قَلِيلٌ

short is the enjoyment of this world.” (Q 4:77),

but with this He calls their praise of Him much,

وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيراً وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ

for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise,” (Q 33:35),

in order that all His creatures may know that He is the real Beloved. This attribute is not lawful for mankind as whatever Allah bestows on them is not less.

Sahl b. Abdullah al-Tustari says:

المحبة معانقة الطاعات و مباينته المخالفات

“Love consists in embracing acts of obedience and in avoiding acts of disobedience,”

If love is true then it is easier to follow the command of the beloved. This is a refutation of those heretics who declare that a man may attain to such a degree of love that obedience is no longer required of him, a doctrine which is sheer heresy. It is impossible that any person, while he is fully in his senses, should be relieved of his religious obligations. The whole Ummah is unanimous on that the Shariat (religious law) will never be abrogated, and if such person may be relieved from his religious obligations then these can be abrogated for everyone. This is a shear deviation and impiety. The case of persons overcome with rapture and those who are mentally unsound is different. However, it is possible that Allah in His love should grace a man to such a degree that it costs him no trouble to perform his religious duties, because the feelings of pain in execution of a command depend on the degree of love. If love is strong, the pain of devotion would be lesser. This is evident from the practices of Muhammad (peace be upon him), so when Allah swore by his name لعمرك, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) committed himself entirely to devotion both by day and night, so that his blessed feet became swollen. On that Allah said,

مَا أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ لِتَشْقَى

We have not sent down the Quran to thee to be (An occasion) for thy distress.” (Q 20:1).

And it is also possible that one should be relieved of the consciousness of performing the Divine commands, as the Prophet said,

انه ليغان علي قلبي حتي كنت استغفر الله في كل يوم سبعين مرة

verily, a veil is drawn over my heart, and I ask forgiveness of Allah seventy times daily,”

Prophet (peace be upon him) never regarded his self and actions, for he was far above from the thoughts of devotion. He always kept his eyes on the Majesty of Allah’s command and would call his actions unworthy to be presented before Allah.

Sumnun Muhibb says:

ذهب المحبون لله بشرف الدنيا والاخرة

“The lovers of Allah are blessed with the glory of this and the next world, for the prophet (peace be upon him) said,

المرء مع من احب

“a man is with the object of his love.”

The lovers of Allah are with Him in both the worlds and those who are with Him have no fear of any loss. The glory of this world is Allah’s being with them, and the glory of the next world is their being with Allah.

Yahya b. Maud al-Razi says:

حقيقة المحبة مالا ينقص بالجفاء ولا يزيد بالبر

“Real love is neither diminished by unkindness nor increased by kindness and bounty,” because both these are the causes of love, and the cause of a thing is reduced to nothing when the thing itself actually exists. A lover delights in the affliction that his beloved makes him suffer, and he regards kindness and unkindness with the same indifferences.

When Shibli was supposed to be insane, and was admitted in the hospital, some persons came to visit him. He asked them who were they. They said that they were his friends. Hearing their answer he started pelting them with stones. All of them ran away. Then he said, “Had you been my friends, you would not have fled from my affliction.”


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