What is the essence of love? Are there any other forms of love existing besides physical love? Can love be eternal?
To begin with, Love is an abstract noun which means for some it is a word unattached to anything real or sensible, that is all; for others, it is a means by which our being – our self and its world – are irrevocably affected once we are ‘touched by love’; some have sought to analyze it, others have preferred to leave it in the realm of the ineffable. Yet it is undeniable that love plays an enormous and unavoidable role in our several cultures; it is discussed in song, film, and novels – humorously or seriously; it is a constant theme of maturing life and a vibrant theme for youth.
LOVE AND LITERATURE: EXISTENCE OF DISTINCT OPINIONS
Different authors have differently pictured the essence of love that ranges from love of human to love of oneness, few of them are-
- “Love is not to be found in someone else but in ourselves; we simply awaken it. But in order to do that, we need the other person.” ― Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes.
- “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King Jr. (A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches).
- “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” —Mother Teresa
- “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.” — Sarah Dessen , The Truth About Forever.
- “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within”.-James A. Baldwin
- “Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could”. -Barbara de Angelis
- “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage”. -Lao Tzu
LOVE AND PHILOSOPHY
Philosophically, the nature of love has, since the time of the Ancient Greeks, been a mainstay in philosophy, producing theories that range from the materialistic conception of love as purely a physical phenomenon – an animalistic or genetic urge that dictates our behavior – to theories of love as an intensely spiritual affair that in its highest permits us to touch divinity.
Historically, in the Western tradition, Plato’s Symposium presents the initiating text, for it provides an enormously influential and attractive notion that love is characterized by a series of elevations, in which base lust is superseded by a more intellectual conception of love which also is surpassed by what may be construed by a theological vision of love that transcends sensual attraction and mutuality. Since then there have been detractors and supporters of Platonic love as well as a host of alternative theories – including that of Plato’s student, Aristotle and his more secular theory of true love reflecting what he described as ‘two bodies and one soul.’
The philosophy of love is the field of social philosophy and ethics that attempts to explain the nature of love. The nature of love includes Agape (highest form of love; humanity), Philia (friendship) and Eros (sexual love). But there exists a word that is irreplaceable, of an idiosyncratic meaning extensively used by Persian poets, Sufis called Ishq.
ISHQ: AN UNFLINCHING QUEST.
What is Ishq? Do all seek Love? What is the nature of Ishq? Which love triumphs?
Etymologically, Ishq is an Arabic word used in Arabic as well as many other languages that means “love”. The word is derived from ‘ashiqah’, a vine. In Sufism it is a concept which refers to “divine love” or “a creature’s love for its creator”; i.e. man’s love for God.
“Let hearts be the centre of love and faith. And acquaint the Muslims with Your Presence Great.” – Iqbal, Gabriel’s wing.
In Iqbal’s view, love (Ishq) is completely elevated from matter and does not have the slightest traces of passionate (Materialistic) desire. It is all faith (Imān) longing (Shawq) and pious sentiments.
Khalil Gibran stated in The Prophet- “Love (Ishq) gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; for love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, ‘God is in my heart,’ but rather, ‘I am in the heart of God.’ And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.”
Rumi stated in The Masnavi “Love (Ishq) is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries. A lover may hanker after this love or that love, But at last he is drawn to the KING of love.”- Rumi, The Masnavi
Ibn Arabi Quds (REH) said that the word Ishq has been represented by the word Muhabbah (love) in the Holy Quran.
These extracts from work of different authors perfectly explain the meaning of love, which solely means to love Divine not for the heavens but for the Divine essence itself.
They submit themselves and love Creatures for the sake of Creator.
Allah Almighty said: “My servant draws near to Me with nothing more loved by Me than the acts of worship that I have enjoined upon him. My servant continues to try to draw near to Me with more devotion, until I love him. When I love him, I will be his hearing with which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, his feet on which he walks.”- Sahih Al Bukhari.
Many Orthodox criticize the word “Ishq” and the Sufi conception of Love as they claim it to be an innovation and said that its not necessary that if one loves God, He loves Him back e.g. the case of Nuri who said that “I love God and God loves me”, who was criticized by Ibn Al Jawzi as he said its self deception. But it is clearly mentioned in the Hadith
“God said; I am to my servant as he thinks of Me.” – Sahih Al Bukhari
It is through this Hadith which makes clear that Beloved can be perceived in any form, as a friend, a lover, a father etc. Ishq is the love, help, service, even sacrifice in the sense of surrendering one’s legitimate inalienable rights. It is the domination of the world; control and modification at pleasure of the laws of nature and through it the attainment of Beloved (God).
To love and to be loved is a part of human nature, we all want someone to love us, understand us, support us in the same way how we love, understand and support them. Our true identity is revealed through love. This poem explains well-
“It is the Human desire for Love. Every person in this Earth yearns to love, to be loved, to know love.Our true identity, our reason for being is to be found in this desire.” ― Gerald G. May, Living in Love
But does this happen in reality? Why is it said that “expectations hurt a lot, and are always meant to be broken?” The only reason to it is that we connect ourselves to others for sake of our means. “”And yet there are some people, who replace Allah with rivals, loving them as Allah is loved.
But the believers love Allah more intensely” (2:165) It is love that signifies the strong attraction that draws all creatures back to reunion with their Creator as He is the Real Agent. It is then love of God arises in heart and no doubt God also feels love for that person. Worldly loves is temporal and has no end in itself.
“If a thing perceived by outward senses is beloved,
Then all who retain their senses must still love it,
And since love increases constancy,
How can constancy fail while form abides?”-Rumi, The Masnavi
Whereas Ishq (Divine love), is non spatial and non temporal in existence.
Love the wellspring of life; Love, on which death has no claim.– Iqbal
Love is God’s very nature, for, according to the Hadith, “God is beautiful and He loves beauty.” If Love appears in many different forms, it is precisely because, not being conditioned by any form in particular, It can assume all forms.
Love appears in numerous forms because in Itself, It is formless. To posit two loves different in essence would amount to introducing a duality into the very nature of existence. The reality is one reality, for there is no other reality. Love is to strongly hold the rope of Beloved (God). Love contains trust, patience and compassion.
Ishq (love) is first for The Lover (God), occupying the heart and conscience in such a way that it overwhelms concealed everything else. The lover says, “I never saw a thing but I saw Allah before it, after it, and along with it” And only in God, can love find true perfection.
For love is enduring, patient and kind. It judges all things with the heart, not the mind. And love can transform the most common place into beauty and splendor and sweetness and grace. For love is unselfish, giving more than it takes, being unconditional and unhampered by environment. Love never forsakes, it’s faithful and trusting, truthful. It is guileless and honest and never deceiving. Love is God’s Divine Gift. The lover has an unending desire to meet his Beloved and so does his Beloved (God) wants to.
Allah Almighty said: “If My servant loves to meet Me, I love to meet him, and if he hates to meet Me, I hate to meet him.” -Sahih Al Bukhari.
The lover unconditionally loves his Beloved’s creatures even if they hurt them, scorn them, humiliate them, and judge them.
“The true Sufi is such that even when he is unjustly accused, attacked, and condemned from all sides, he patiently endures, uttering not a single bad word about any of his critics. A Sufi never apportions blame. How can there be opponents or rivals or even “others” when there is no “self” in the first place? How can there be anyone to blame when there is only One?” -Shams if Tabriz, 40 rules of Love.
It is not being of a lover if he only loves his Beloved but not His Creatures. Love is to embrace and love each and every thing of Beloved.
“It’s easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human beings with all their imperfections and defects. Remember, one can only know what one is capable is of loving. There is no wisdom without love. Unless we learn to love God’s creation, we can neither truly love nor truly know God” – Shams of Tabriz, 40 rules of love.
Allama Iqbal has written in his famous poem “Masjid-e-Qurtuba” related to Ishq that
“Actions of the believer are enhanced through Ishq,
Ishq is true life and can never die.”
Intention and belief are strengthened by Ishq to such an extent that the lover no longer fears anything, nor does any grief worry him. The believer is from Ishq, Ishq is from the believer. Ishq makes the impossible possible.
The lover (Ashiq) feels ecstatic in the remembrance of his Beloved but gains high consciousness. His deeds reflect his love and genuineness.
“To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise on your lips.”– Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
The lover is successful in both the worlds due to his love for the Beloved and maintains equilibrium between worldly matters and spiritual life. He knows his aim of life as well as his duties and rights. E.g. A lover can be student who dedicates his time for studies as well as for supplication. The time spent in studies can also be worship as he in heart aims to understand and praise the creations of His Beloved.
“Lover is the who hath the two worlds on the palm of his hands,
Lover is he who build his own world,
Is not in harmony with a world that knows a border.”– Iqbal, Bal-i-Gibril
Ishq is such a stage which can achieved after exploring the inner dark mysterious world of self or in the search of the Ultimate Truth. When explored, the whole world is seen through the eye, not of this visionary sense but of the heart whose light lights the heart through the Light of God. They know that the Divine is present in their hearts, not in churches, mosques, and temples.
“How long will you suffer from the blows
of a nonexistent hand?
So come, return to the root of the root
of your own soul”- Rumi, Love is a stranger.
HUMAN LOVE AND DIVINE LOVE
It is a misconception that true soul mate in this world is a completion of love but No, it is a part of love that helps us to self actualize and connect to the Divine power. Islam even guides us to select those are spouses who are religious and pious, because they help in strengthening relation with Beloved (God).
“Your soul mate is there for you, they are not a love, but part of the love you have for yourself and your life. Your soul mate is the mirrored aspects of you that will bring out your best”– Shams of Tabriz, 40 rules of love.
There is a dividing line between love for God and love for Human.
“To end one’s ego in front of a person is known as human love, and to end one’s ego in front of all is known Divine love”– Ashfaq Ahmad, Zavia
Jami, a Persian writer has beautifully distinguished divine love from worldly love as he compared divine lover as love-drunk and material lover as wine-drunk showing the supremacy and triumph of love drunk.
“We are drunk, boisterous, debauched and shrewd; through Love we have entered the battleground of destruction. If we are killed a hundred times with love’s arrow, that will bring eternal life – so what is our fear?” -Jami, Lawami
The poet is conveying in his poem that both the wine-drunk and the Love-drunk are brave and reckless, void of the quality of fear and cowardice. In places of danger they are bold, and in times of peril they have had enough of life. But the bravery of the wine- drunk is because his foresighted reason has been overwhelmed, while the courage of the love-drunk is based on the domination of mystical unveiling and certitude. The first results in perdition (punishment) in this world and the next, the second in eternal life.
“Do not criticize me, sir, when I drink and strive to be a lover and slave of wine.
As long as I am sober I am sitting with others. When I am unconscious I am in the arms of my Beloved”. – Jami, Lawami
There is the custom of rendering unconscious and intoxicated and releasing from the tie of existence and self-centeredness. But the intoxication of Love is perfect awareness and consciousness of the Beloved, while the intoxication of wine is complete ignorance and forgetfulness of all that is necessary. The latter shows the way of the descending degrees of remoteness and punishment to those who are far from God, and the former increases elevation in the ascending degrees of proximity and union for those who are near to Him.
To sum up, Ishq is unconditional love for God solely for His essence. It is this love that lives eternally. The lover loves everything related to His Beloved (God) which includes His creatures, attributes, commands (shariah) etc. Ishq can be obtained through identifying the inner self or in search of the hidden mysteries of world, which when unveiled lighten the soul. He knows that it is the True Beloved who causes all outward earthly beauty to exist. Love is a force that provides not only a solution for all human difficulties but also for all human wickedness. It is a current for the separate elements of the universe. The whole world would be a sepulcher without the life giving touch of love. The lover is of best character that moves day by day closer to the Beloved. These triumph in both the worlds as he maintains equilibrium in both worldly matters and spiritual life.