THE PRINCIPLE OF LOVE & DESIRE: Differing Regarding the Meaning of 'Ishq (Passion)

There are some from among the Sufis, philosophers, and others who apply the word "al-'ishq" as a right of Allah alone, as was reported from 'Abdul-Wähid bin Zayd(1) regarding what was related to him as being a saying from one of Allah's prophets:

عشقني وعشقته.

He loved me passionately and I loved Him passionately.

They say that al-'ishq is complete perfect love, and the most deserving of that is Allah because it is obligatory to love Him completely and He loves His slaves completely.


If it is said that ishq is the utmost limit of love, for example, then this meaning is applicable to the slave as well, because he loves his Lord to the utmost limit and Allah loves His slaves, such as Ibrahim and Muhammad, who are the utmost limit of love for His slaves, and they are khalil (close friends) of Allah, as is affirmed in the Sahih:

فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى قَدِ اتَّخَذَنِي خَلِيلاً كَمَا اتَّخَذَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ خَلِيلاً.

Indeed, Allah has taken me as His friend, as he took Ibrahim as His friend.(2)

Some of the people of knowledge actually denied this as an attri- bute of Allah, and it is true that the word has not been related from the Imams of the Salaf. This group rejects it for two reasons relating to the word, and two reasons relating to its meaning.

In terms of the word: This attribute was not related from any of the Salaf, and one of the principles of Allah's names and attributes is that they should be in accordance with the terminology of the shari'ah. Therefore, we do not attribute to Allah something for which there is no evidence.

Those who attribute this word to Allah use the saying of 'Abdul- Wahid bin Zayd and others as an evidence. The response to this evidence is that this narration he speaks of is from the Isra'iliyyat (evidences from the People of the Book), which cannot be relied upon in terms of our shari'ah because this speech can only be affirmed by our Prophet, and that is not related from him. We do not believe in what is narrated from the previous prophets unless we have some evidence to confirm its authenticity, and likewise we do not reject these evidences unless we have an evidence for that.
The Prophet said:

مَا حَدَّثَكُمْ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ فَلَا تُصَدِّقُوهُمْ وَلَا تُكَذِّبُوهُمْ وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ فَإِنْ كَانَ بَاطِلاً لَمْ تُصَدِّقُوهُ وَإِنْ كَانَ حَقًّا لَمْ تُكَذِّبُوهُ .
Whatever the People of the Book tell you, do not affirm it nor reject it; [rather] say: "We believe in Allah and His Messenger," because if they tell something that is a falsehood, then you may affirm the falsehood, and if they tell you a truth, then you may reject the truth.(3)

This proof demands that one hold back from applying the narra- tions from the shari'ah of the People of the Book.

The second argument is that this word in the Arabic language is mostly used in the context of love of sexual relations. It is rarely used to describe a person's love for his child, relative, hometown, wealth, religion, etc., nor is it used to describe a person's love for another for something other than their appearance, such as loving a person for their knowledge, religion, bravery, honor, generosity, etc. Instead, what is most common is to use the word 'ishq to describe a man's love for sex and the things which precede that. Hence, a person known for 'ishq enjoys looking at the object of his passions, listening to her talk, embracing her, kissing her, etc. In fact, many people known to be passionate ('ashiq) do not choose sex; rather, they love the things that come before that, like kissing and hugging, etc. How many people are distracted from the destination by the journey?

Using this word for Allah's love suggests the understanding or delusion of a corrupt meaning, which is that Allah loves and is loved in the same way that the human form is loved, with intimacy and desire, such as the way the hur al-'ayn in Heaven are loved.

This meaning is from among the worst examples of disbelief, and it reaches the level of disbelief of those who say that Allah is present in everything that exists. There are those who say that Allah is incar-nate in the creation in general and those who say that He joins or is incarnate within certain images, as some of the extreme Christians, Shi'ah, and hermits say. They describe Allah with the same sexual descriptions used for humans. Exalted is Allah above what the oppressors say about Him; He is the One, the Eternal, Who neither begets nor was He begotten, and there is none equal or comparable to Him.

Some of them love the beautiful form and claim that Allah manifests himself in it, and that He only likes to gaze upon His own beauty. We have spoken in depth about the disbelief and misguidance of this group. Whoever claims that Allah loves or is passionate and is referring to this meaning, then this is even worse disbelief than that of the Jews and Christians.

The argument from the perspective of the meaning of the word ishq is whether it means corrupt love and desire or corrupt under- standing and knowledge. It is said that al-'ishq is excessive love to the extent that it surpasses its objective, and therefore is blamewor- thy and corrupt, corrupting the heart and the body, as Allah, the Most High, said:

 فَیَطۡمَعَ الَّذِیۡ فِیۡ قَلۡبِهٖ مَرَضٌ

Lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire. [Surah al-Ahzab 33:32]

So whoever is excessive will become ill, such as the person who becomes excessively angry, or excessively seeks enjoyment, or is excessively sad. This excessiveness can be in terms of character or it can be for external things, such as family, wealth, food and drink, etc. This kind of love is not allowed to be attributed to Allah from two perspectives: because Allah does not love more than what is just and fair, and His believing slaves have no limit to their love for Allah for it to be considered excessive, wasteful, or surpassing the intent. In fact, it is obligatory that Allah and His Messenger be more beloved to a person than anything else. As is reported in the Sahih:

ثلاث مَنْ كُنَّ فِيهِ وَجَدَ حَلاوَةَ الإِيمَانِ أَنْ يَكُونَ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَحَبَّ إِلَيْهِ مِمَّا سِوَاهُمَا، وَأَنْ يُحِبُّ الْمَرْءَ لاَ يُحِبُّهُ إِلا لِلَّهِ، وَأَنْ يَكْرَهَ أَنْ يَعُودَ فِي الْكُفْرِ كَمَا يَكْرَهُ أَنْ يُقْذَفَ فِي النَّارِ.

Whoever possesses the following three qualities will know the sweetness of imam the one to whom Allah and His Messenger are dearer than anything else; the one who loves a person and he loves him only for Allah's sake; and the one who hates to revert to disbe- lief as he hates to be thrown into the Fire.(4)

And he also said:

يَجِدُ أَحَدٌ حَلاوَةَ الإِيمَانِ ... حَتَّى يَكُونَ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيْهِ مِمَّا سوَاهُما .

None will experience the sweetness of iman...till Allah and His Apostle become dearer to him than anything else.(5)

And he also said:

يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى أَكُونَ أَحَبَّ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ وَلَدِهِ وَوَالِدِهِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ.

None of you is a believer till I am dearer to him than his child, his father, and the whole of mankind.

And in the Sahih, it is reported that 'Umar said:

يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ لأَنتَ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ إِلا مِنْ نَفْسِي ، فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم لا وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ حَتَّى أَكُونَ أَحَبَّ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ نَفْسِكَ. فَقَالَ لَهُ عُمَرُ فَإِنَّهُ الآنَ وَاللهِ لأنتَ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِنْ نَفْسِي، فَقَالَ النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم الآنَ يَا عُمَرُ.

"O Messenger of Allah! You are dearer to me than everything except my own self." The Prophet said, "No, by Him in Whose Hand is my soul, not till I am dearer to you than your own self." Then 'Umar said to him, "Now, by Allah, you are dearer to me than my own self." The Prophet said, "Now, O 'Umar (you are a believ- er)."(6)

And Allah, the Most High, said:

 قُلۡ اِنۡ کَانَ اٰبَآؤُکُمۡ وَ اَبۡنَآؤُکُمۡ وَ اِخۡوَانُکُمۡ وَ اَزۡوَاجُکُمۡ وَ عَشِیۡرَتُکُمۡ وَ اَمۡوَالُۨ اقۡتَرَفۡتُمُوۡهَا وَ تِجَارَۃٌ تَخۡشَوۡنَ کَسَادَهَا وَ مَسٰکِنُ تَرۡضَوۡنَهَاۤ اَحَبَّ اِلَیۡکُمۡ مِّنَ اللّٰهِ وَ رَسُوۡلِهٖ وَ جِهَادٍ فِیۡ سَبِیۡلِهٖ فَتَرَبَّصُوۡا حَتّٰی یَاۡتِیَ اللّٰهُ بِاَمۡرِهٖ ؕ وَ اللّٰهُ لَا یَهۡدِی الۡقَوۡمَ الۡفٰسِقِیۡنَ ﴿۲۴

Say: "If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striv ing hard and fighting in His cause, then wait until Allah brings about His decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are al-fasiqün (the rebellious, disobedient to Allah)." [Surah at-Tawbah 9:24]

It is also said that al-'ishq is corrupt understanding and knowledge, because the ashiq (passionate person) imagines the mashuq (object of the person's passions) to be different from their reality, so they are afflicted by the sickness of al-'ishq, and if they were to see the person correctly, their love would not reach the level of ishq, even if they were to love them and have a relationship with them.

This is why psychologists say that al-'ishq is a type of obsessive disorder that resembles depression, so they classify it as a mental illness that causes delusions, like manic depression.

If this is the case, then it is not permissible to attribute this to Allah from two aspects: Allah is knowledgeable of all things; He hears all and sees all; He is divine and free from any deficiency. And those who love Him, who worship and believe in Him and know Him by way of His beautiful names, attributes, and signs, and by way of the knowledge that He places in their hearts, their love for Him could never be considered corrupt or delusional.

However, it could be said that many who have love for Allah could possess some misguided beliefs, since love elicits emotions and that does not necessarily lead to clear thinking. Especially those of high intelligence who suffer from mental illness-they love and worship Allah, but they are susceptible to the same affliction of someone afflicted by al-'ishq, so they have a deep love for Him, but it is accompanied by a corrupt belief system.

Many of Ahlul-Muhibbah (i.e., Şüfis) are afflicted by a form of intoxication and self-annihilation (al-fana')(8) that is stronger than intoxication from any kind of alcohol, as He, the Most High, said about the people of Lüt:

 لَعَمۡرُکَ اِنَّهُمۡ لَفِیۡ سَکۡرَتِهِمۡ یَعۡمَهُوۡنَ ﴿۷۲

Verily, by your life (O Muhammad ), in their wild intoxication, they were wandering blindly. [Surah al-Hijr 15:72]

Hence, love can be more intoxicating than alcohol. It is clear that when a person is in the state of intoxication and fana', his under- standing and discernment are compromised, and his logic and learning are confused, and this occurs simply from corrupt beliefs and delusions, which is a type of "Ishq".

Those people (the Süfis) are praiseworthy for their love of Allah, righteous deeds, and iman, but as for their vile corrupt beliefs and actions that Allah and His Messenger never legislated, then for this they should never be praised. However, if they were overcome by it without any negligence or hostility, then they are pardoned, but if it was due to their negligence in doing what they were commanded, and due to their exceeding Allah's limits, then they are culpable for that, like many of those whose love is stirred when they hear the whistling, hand-clapping(9) and love poems. This results in beliefs and desires that contain truths and falsehoods; sometimes the truth dominates and sometimes the falsehood dominates.

Two misguided groups appeared due to their doubts regarding love of Allah: The first was the people of reasoning and rhetoric who attribute themselves to logic and wisdom; they denied Allah's love and rejected its reality. The second group was the people of worship, mysticism, and zuhd (abstinence). They injected false beliefs and desires into it. The former group resembles those who were arrogant and the latter group resembles those who were mushrikun. Therefore, the first group were resemblers of the Jews, while the second group were resemblers of the Christians, and Alläh commanded us to say:

اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ * صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ )

Guide us to the Straight Way. The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians). [Surah al-Fatihah 1:6-7)

(1) Abdul-Wahid bin Zayd al-Basri was a Süfi preacher who used to accompany al-Hasan al-Basri and others. Al-Bukhari said that his abidith are not accepted. He died in 177 AH (Al-Ibar, 1/270).
(2) Reported by Muslim.
(3) Reported by Abú Dawid (3/1433).
(4) Reported by al-Bukhari (21). 
(5) Reported by al-Bukhari (6041).
(6) Reported by al-Bukhari (6632).
(9) Ibn Taymiyyah is comparing the worship of the Sufis to the worship of the mushrikin in the time of the Prophet, about whom Allah said: "Their prayer at the House (ie., the Ka'bah) was nothing but whistling and clapping of hands. "[Surah al-Anfal 9:35]

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