Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge
He who would know the secret of both worlds,
Will find the secret of them both, is Love.
The belief that love is the cornerstone of the universe is a thing embedded deep in the human essence. Love, we are told, is our polestar as essential to our spirits as air and water is to our bodies. English Romantic poet William Blake went so far as to say that “…we are put on earth a little space/ that we may learn to bear the beams of love” while two centuries before him Shakespeare declared love “the star to every wand’ring bark”.
In the Islamic tradition, the earth and all its dwellers are said to be in a state of perpetual yearning for the Beloved. The ocean waves are restless and the nightingale’s song is sorrowful because of the separation from their true Beloved. Likewise, the heart of man carries a deep-seated yearning for its Maker and Creator.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would often recite a beautiful prayer seeking Divine Love. “O Allah, I ask You for Your love and the love of those who love You and such conduct as should lead me to Your love. O Allah, make Your love dearer to me than my soul and my family and my wealth and dearer than cool water.” To have in one’s heart for the Divine Beloved a love greater than that for all else we hold dear.
One of the attributes of the Divine is that He is Al-Wadud, the Loving. And as such the love that dwells in our hearts is only really a response to the loving nature of our Creator. As God Himself describes in the Holy Qu’ran, He is the Source and Origin of all true love. In chapter 19, verse 97, He promises “Those who believe and do good deeds — the Gracious God will create love in their hearts.” demonstrating that love is both a mercy and a reward from the Divine. Likewise, regarding the sacred bond between husband and wife, we read in the Holy Qur’an that “…He has put love and tenderness between you…” (30:22).
And as the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) elucidates, even human love is not a thing separate from our love of Allah, rather in every inclination of the heart, there is a trace for our instinctual longing for our Creator. In The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, he writes of our elemental “attraction” towards the Divine.
Every exhibition of affection by a person in fact proceeds from that very attraction, and the restlessness of a lover which a person experiences is in truth a reflection of that very love, as if he takes up diverse things and examines them in search for something that he has lost and whose name he has forgotten. A person’s love of property, or children, or wife, or his soul being drawn towards the song of a sweet voiced singer, are in fact all in search of the lost Beloved[i]
Where does this attraction stem from? As the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) detailed elsewhere “Perfect praise is offered for two kinds of excellences, fullness of beauty (husn) and fullness of beneficence (ihsan). If anyone possesses both these excellences, one’s heart becomes enamoured of him”[ii] God’s characteristic of being the Loving encapsulates both fullness of beauty and fullness of beneficence for what could be purer and more beautiful than possessing an infinite capacity to love and what could be more benevolent than to bestow it upon all of creation?
However, as the Holy Qur’an states “…there are some among men who take for themselves objects of worship other than Allah, loving them as they should love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in their love for Allah…” (2:166). Many of us worship at the altar of false beloveds. However, this verse deems such love to be misplaced and encourages true belief in order to strengthen the bonds of Divine Love. For, each time we lose our way, it is in turning back to our Origin that we can again find peace, turning once again to the Creator with infinite stores of mercy and love. So, we are told “…seek forgiveness of your Lord; then turn to Him wholeheartedly. Verily, my Lord is Merciful, Most Loving.” (11:91). And it is this merciful love which is the greatest blessing of all.
Become a lover; if you don’t, one day the affairs of the world
Will come to an end, and you’ll never have had even
One glimpse of the purpose of the workings of space and time.
[i] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Essence of Islam, Volume I, p. 137
[ii] Ibid., p. 92
[iii] Lloyd Ridgeon (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Sufism, p. 180