Enduring relationships. Ones that cause pain, heartache, joy and elation. It would seem as though current Western culture, theory and indeed practice, lays a claim to full monopoly on knowing the ins and outs of such a topic. In particular , notions of love, unrequited, lost and enduring.
Everywhere we turn, we are faced with reminders of how crucial a topic romantic notions of love specifically are. It holds centre stage in the psychology of many as being the final core emotion which every human heart grapples with and its effects and outcomes on the human disposition is spoken of endlessly. You will notice I haven’t quoted a book, a song, a film or any other form of medium due to the mere fact that they are too many and overwhelming to mention and one can in fact fill in the examples dependent on your own experiences and exposure to such notions, as you see fit and every one of us will have a wealth of examples I’m sure.
So whilst I am not here to specifically divulge all current related examples, one thing I am sure many of us will agree upon is the bar that has been set with regards to the intensity of the emotion of love. A bar which has been set so very high, that almost every other type of emotion is sort of relegated to second or third place in the scheme of ‘important human emotions one should feel in a lifetime’. The old adage is ‘it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” or something of that nature. And therein tells you all you need to know about how crucial love in the romantic sense of the word, is. Even at the expense of utter misery and feelings of loss is the experience of love; worth everything? Apparently so.
So all other feelings of contentment, relief, apathy, boredom, hope, anger, helplessness, seem to fall by the way side where love is concerned. But what about other types of love? Not attributed to the romantic sort? Well, there is always the love for one’s family. Specifically ones children. this too has many a self-help book or magazine article written about it. it too conjures up warm feelings, feelings of happiness and joy at times. And it too is granted a status of human emotion which needs to be experienced to be believed. First time parents are therefore offered an array of advice and guidance on a plethora of issues related to their offspring in order that the display of love, can truly be fulfilled in the opportunities they give them in life.
This does however evoke other questions about the nature of love in the current cultures we live in. It has raised in my mind (even if no one else’s) certain conclusions that were never realised by me before. Simple truths are universal and timeless. Some of these humble conclusions are as follows;
Some types of love are unconditional. Here I would argue that the best example is the love for ones children. For no matter what kind of ruthless human being you are to the world; these same people can unconditionally love those they bore, and enjoy that feeling of loving someone else. The Godfather trilogy is a clichéd yet good example of men who killed as a profession, but the enduring message in that is of family, but more intriguingly watching these men with their children gives us an insight into what our children mean to us in terms of love. This feeling of vulnerability is unique in ways which cannot be imagined. And whilst this may get more complicated as our children grow and assert who they are and are not, the early stages of this experience, cannot be matched by any other experience in the world. Simple truth.
Another simple truth. Love can sometimes change your life forever. It can be the defining factor in how one proceeds in life and in fact the decisions we make. You may change the course of your life to be closer to the one that you love. Or sacrifice something to make happy the object of your affection. This may be changing jobs, a career, a country or even one love for another. It happens and people are ready to do it.
Love can also fade. This happens at times. Enduring doesn’t necessarily mean for a lifetime and so one must also accept that love can come and it can go.
Love can also last a lifetime, but its hues can change. Most relationships especially if they are ones which have stood the test of time such as a marriage, tend to quote this as a defining factor in the longevity of the union. You may hear the voices of the grey haired speak about how love has remained but it has changed over time replaced with something better and more fulfilling with the passing of years. And while we listen and look on, the secret hope is that we too can experience such a contentment in our lives with our loved ones.
There is however one experience of love, while fitting all the above truths, exists and is rarely discussed in the remit of enduring love. Something which while the modern advanced world looks on, is hard to place, and even harder to sum up. In fact, one might argue that with all the emphasis and focus on human love and relationships, it has little place in an ever-expanding human population and an ever smaller modernised planet. Human interaction is not what it was. While the ability to express ones love can now be done in a matter of seconds from one part of the globe to the other in a 140 characters, one type of love cannot conform to such modes. While the days of letters from the trenches which took months to attain, and a longing which seemed endless have also passed by, the continuing need for this love connection, is as old as the beginning of man.
The love I speak of is with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. It is of course a clear fact now that religion and the observers of most faiths have not diminished or decreased with the ages. It is a pondering of many wise men of science and philosophy about why the human need to feel connected to a Creator has not become extinct. Does society not offer human beings with much more? Have societies not evolved out of a need for religion and the need to feel validated by a ‘higher being’? Apparently not. But in and among all of this, the curiousness of increasing numbers of Muslims, is growing particularly rapidly. Whether that’s adherents within the Muslim lands becoming more religious, or the phenomena that is conversions of Non Muslims to Islam; it’s happening. And with that is the growth of Islamic literature, advice, lectures, seminars, stalls and activism. Muslims are feeling the swell of their communities drawing closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala with every passing year. And while secular society has managed to replace the love of God with the love of romance, money, fame or fortune; Muslims still hold onto a love of their Creator in a way not witnessed before in modern world history.
The love of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is in fact a phenomenon within itself. Yes, other religions will also make claim to such love of the Creator, they may not have growing numbers of adherents to offer examples of this. With Islam, this is not the case. The very young to the very old are showing that the relationship they have with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is in fact the most important, enduring and life saving and enhancing relationship in their lives. How do we know? Well if you look around the globe today at the crisis and catastrophe most Muslims societies find themselves in be that geographically or politically or even a mixture of both, those who are sticking to Islam continue to never ever lose sight of their love for the Creator, praising and thanking Allah endlessly, even in moments of great trial. Sometimes the trials they suffer are in fact due to their love of Islam and their Lord. If they are facing extreme weather such as a Tsunami which has destroyed their lives home or property, it doesn’t seem to diminish their trust and love for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala one iota. It seems only to enhance it. Reinforcing these feelings further. One such example that comes to mind is in fact in the aftermath of the Tsunami which hit parts of Aceh in Indonesia. Footage showed Muslims of that region in their first Jum’ah gathering sitting obediently in their carcass of a masjid, whilst the Imam spoke of realising that this was a sign from Allah subhana wa ta’ala and His greatness and praising and thanking Him for reinforcing their love and trust in Him through this great difficulty they found themselves in.
Islam focuses on not only a Just Creator, but also One who will test the believers because of His love for them. This is exemplified in the following hadith where the Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alayhi wasallam says:
“The greatest reward comes from the greatest trial. When Allah loves people, He tests them, and whoever accepts it gains the pleasure of Allah and whoever complains earns His wrath.”
Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2396; Ibn Maajah, 4031; classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaani.
The Muslim relationship with Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, is distinct in the sense that nothing can take the place of that love that is felt when one feels the spiritual connection to the Creator. Even the manner in which we are asked to praise Him is through His names and attributes of which 99 are used. These also place us in the position of making us understand exactly who our Lord is and what He is capable of. This also provides the opportunity for every believer to feel the magnificence and presence of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in many ways and draw close to Him in a way which surpasses any other feeling, further loving Him with a whole heart..
….and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (voluntary deeds) until I love him, so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks My Protection, I will protect him…” [Bukhari]
So if something were to define the love that the believer feels for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala; if there were a means to describe it, it would of course be defined by doing the actions that He asks of us, be they the binding, recommended actions or the abstention from the forbidden and disliked. But it can also be sensed by the fact that any good nasheed, one which has captured the hearts of Muslims around the globe which talk about this very love of Allah, ones which have gained a sizeable following among pockets of Muslims everywhere; in any other secular context would and could only be understood in the context of a love song. The lyrics and flow would be understood by many as enduring ballads. Take a minute to think about the lyrics of one of these nasheeds which explain the deep connection to Allah that Muslim feels about Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and know that depth of feeling can only be felt in romantic love songs in the secular context. Those same words of living and dying for a love, for the believer should only be saved by Allah. and this is despite the fact that Islam holds sacred the love of husband and wife. But at the very core of all other types of love, is the enduring place that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has in the heart and soul of every Muslim. Much like the Creator Himself, it is unmatched and unrivalled. And if one were to look back now at the simple universal truths which were previously outlined in this piece, one can then appreciate that every single one of these truths, every one of these timeless ruminations; is in fact the enduring elements of love which grip the hearts of every believer, when he makes that love connection to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
“Love of Allah is the power of the heart, the sustenance of the heart, the light of the heart”
Ibn Al Qayyim