This thing called love is one that penetrates deeply for everyone. This emotion, action, concept, need or want is seen throughout all cultures. This thing called love is so special that it is needed and wanted by every single person. I will not limit this conversation about love nor seek to define love. However, it is important to ask ourselves, “What is love?”. Why do so many of us frequent this topic in our conversations, social-circles, music, literature, and etc? What does it mean to yearn for love? Is love about being with another person? Is it about having someone there to listen to you? Is it about having respect for another individual? Is it about being with someone intimately? What is it? In thinking about all of the ways in which we display love or go about in loving, what defines love? One of the many things that I hear, see and read about is this notion that love is only possible in the marital-bond. Love must not be before. Love must be within marriage and if one experiences love before marriage than it’s sinful. I’ve always wondered why people would say that. How does love become boxed up in one category? Why is love such a narrow thing for so many people? Maybe we should analyze this thing called love and figure out if it is truly sinful to love outside of marriage. In Islam, love comes in various forms that isn’t restricted within the marital-bond and these various forms of love is required of all Muslims.
In the Islamic-tradition, love can come about in various ways. It isn’t restricted to just marriage. Furthermore, it isn’t something that one would have to wait for in the marital-bond. The prophet Muhamamd(peace be upon him) said: “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, you will not enter Paradise unless you believe, and you will not believe unless you love each other.Should I direct you to something that if you constantly did it, you would love each other? Spread the greetings of peace among you.” [Muslim]. In this context, what does it mean to love someone for the sake of Allah? It simply means to love them for the good that Allah sees in them. This person could be charitable, kind, generous, and etc. These are good qualities that are praised in Islam because Allah loves them. So, we could indeed love another Muslim man or Muslim woman for the good that they do. Furthermore, this love isn’t necessarily in a marital-bond. So, what kind of love are we talking about in the marital-bond? What makes the marital-bond different? Is this a differenty type of love?
In Islam, marriage is a bond in which two individuals come together and become lawful for one another. They are lawful for one another physically and lawful for one another in the context of being alone together as a man and woman. It is from this bond that families are created and companions grow together in their knowledge, their understanding of the religion and their love for each other. In showing the context of this specific love, I would like to pinpoint one of the verses that are commonly read for one’s nikkah (contract). It specifically states the type of love that is different from the first type of love that I spoke about in regards to having a brotherly/sisterly love. In order to understand this verse of the Qur’an, I have chosen to give the Arabic transliteration and the English translation.
Wamin ayatihi an khalaqa lakum min anfusikum azwajan litaskunoo ilayha wajaAAala baynakum mawaddatan warahmatan inna fee thalika laayatin liqawmin yatafakkaroona
And among His Signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are Signs for those who reflect. (Surah 30 Ayat 21)
This love is specifically mutual, it’s one of giving and receiving and it’s one in which Allah places between the spouses. Allah is telling those that are seeking to be in the marital-bond that he will place between the spouses a rahma, a mercy and mawaddata, a mutual love. This mawaddata is a proper love. A love that is affectionate. Furthermore, this love is specific to the ties held within the marital-bond and can only be sought after in the marital-bond.
Another form of love in Islam is to love Allah and the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) more than anyone or anything else.
It is narrated by Anas bin Malik : The Prophet said, “Whoever possesses the following three qualities will have the sweetness (delight) of faith:
1. The one to whom Allah and His Apostle becomes dearer than anything else.
2. Who loves a person and he loves him only for Allah’s sake.
3. Who hates to revert to Atheism (disbelief) as he hates to be thrown into the fire.” (Sahih Bukhari)
In this form of love, there is obedience and required knowledge in order to truly love Allah and the prophet Muhammad. Allah is the creator of the heavens and the Earth and everything in between. The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the example in which Muslims follow and is guided by in living their lives. And in order for someone to truly grasp faith, one must love Allah and his prophet before themselves and others. This love calls for an individual to set aside their own desires while striving to do what is acceptable to Allah and his prophet.
Also, Islam calls for one to have love for parents. It is in this love that a child honors their parent(s), respects them and consoles them in their later stages of life especially.
“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor reprimand them but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them Your mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.” [Surah: Bani Isra’il (17); Ayah 23 , 24]
Allah tells everyone that apart of faith is loving and being dutiful to one’s parents. Why? Well, we were all babes, young and in need of someone to help us when we were helpless. We needed someone to be patient with us and to be there for us. We simply can’t say that our parents didn’t play a role in our lives. Yes, for some of us we didn’t have parents there so we give this due love to whatever individual gave it to us. And in this, we are humble and we lower our wings to that person or those persons. We thank them for being there and for helping us.
In addition, Islam doesn’t restrict love to just individuals or the creator, but Islam commands individuals to love animals. Not only love animals, but to honor them. Many people do not take this seriously because they somehow believe that animals are separate from other living things and entities. However, this is not the case in Islam. Islam has strongly prohibited torture, hatred, abuse and mistreatment of all living things, including animals. It is from the Islamic-tradition that we learn that animals should be resepected, loved and treated kindly.
It was narrated by Abu Hurayrah the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told his companions of the virtue of saving the life of a dog by giving it water and quenching its thirst. One story referred to a man who was blessed by Allaah for giving water to a thirsty dog, the other was a prostitute who filled her shoe with water and gave it to a dog, who had its tongue lolling out from thirst. For this deed she was granted the ultimate reward, the eternal Paradise under which rivers flow, to live therein forever. [Muslim]
As individuals, we should be mindful that love comes in so many forms and one form of love is by remembering our four-legged friends. We should remember those friends that may crawl on their tummies, swim in swamps, climb trees, or just like to lay lazily on the lawn. This is a love that is truly humbling because it makes us recognize that life isn’t restricted to just humans, but to all things in which there is life.
So, after reading all of this…what is love? I haven’t quite defined love. I have shown various forms of love and what to love, but necessarily what is love? Why does Islam preach about loving: parents, animals, spouses, friend, and others? Why does love bring us so close to others? Why does love make us draw near to that which is good…in most instances? What is good? Well, in Islam good is defined by Allah and the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). So, what exactly is love? I’m not sure if I have the answer to that question. This thing called love is one that I do not believe can be defined because of its abstraction. It is in this thing called love that people grow to learn about themselves and others. Love comes in so many forms and is given/received in so many ways, yet many of us are constantly trying to box up a sure definition of love. In love, we can all agree that we somehow feel grounded, complete and nearer to others. Maybe this discussion on love isn’t fulfilling anything that are seeking on the topic of love. However, how does one start a conversation about something that is very much abstract? How can we even start to define love?