Path of Love

The Second Station of the Fourteenth Flash (Part 10)

NOTE: The quoted passages are from Ustadh Bediuzzaman’s book and the commentaries below them are my own.

It has been mentioned in a noble hadith that,

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ خَلَقَ ٱلۡإِنسَـانَ عَلَى صُورَةِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ (أو كما قال) [Indeed, Allah has created the human being in the image of the Merciful (or as he stated)[1]]

A faction of Sufis have interpreted this noble hadith in an unsual way, incompatible with the creeds of faith. In fact, a faction of them [who are] Ahl al-Ishq[2] (People of Love) have viewed the spiritual face of a human being as an image of the Merciful (Rahman). Since drunkenness is present in the majority of Sufis, and overwhelmingness and confusion [are found] in most of Ahl al-Ishq (People of Love); they may be excused from their understandings conflicting with reality. Yet those in their right senses cannot intellectually accept their meanings which run contrary to the foundations of creeds. If they do, they will be in error.

We begin by discussing Ahl al-Ishq (People of Love). There are numerous paths leading to God, one of them being the path of love (or ishq in Arabic). The word ishq means an intense feeling of love, in this case referring to the love of God. So how does one reach God by taking this path?

A classic example of this among Sufis is a story called “Leyla and Majnun”. A man falls in love with a girl named Leyla. Despite his efforts, he is unable to marry her. The idea of losing her as a potential wife upsets him to the degree which he almost loses his mind and is labeled majnun, meaning madman. He abandons his home and everything else in life. He entirely cuts his connection with this world, living a life of solitude and aimlessly wandering around. Over time, he begins to realize that, just like Leyla, everything in this life has an end to it and will abandon him one day, either by death or otherwise. The intense love which he directs to anything will only increase his pain as they leave him. He realizes that nothing, besides God, is permanent and thus worthy of loving. Furthermore, the beauty, perfection, and grace which had attracted him to Leyla; exist in its most perfect form in God. In fact, God is the very source of beauty, perfection, and grace. He thus begins to direct the intense love which he has for Leyla wholeheartedly towards His Eternal Creator. He becomes overwhelmed by the love and no longer feels the pain and agony of abandonment.

In this story, we see Majnun passing through several stages in the path of reaching God,

1) He directs his love towards Leyla

2) He realizes that the object of his love (Leyla) is transient, as she abandons him

3) He realizes that the true source of beauty, perfection, and grace is not her but God

4) He directs his love towards God and is overwhelmed by it

This is a basic outline of reaching God through the path of love. The initial object of love (in this case being Leyla) may of course change. Some people may intensely love a potential spouse, while others may love power, money, and so forth. The common denominator of all these objects is that they are transient and not eternal. They will abandon you one day or another and are not the true source of the triggers of love: beauty, perfection, and grace.

In this story, Majnun comes to realize the love of God after being abandoned by Leyla. There are various ways in which Ahl al-Ishq (People of Love) may go about this stage. Generally, they will try to distance themselves from the material world; some (as the well known sufi Abdul Qadir Al-Gaylani (QS)) going as far enough as to abandon everything to live in solitude in the desert. Since it is not possible to entirely abandon the world while one is still alive, they spend long periods of time in meditation about death.

Note that not all Sufis are Ahl al-Ishq, and vice versa, as discussed in an article by Alaadin Basar.[3]

Other paths to God include the path of poverty, impotence, reflection, and compassion (shefqah). The first three were discussed to some degree in previous posts; the last will be discussed later (insha’Allah).

Note that the path of love pertains more to emotions than rationality. At times, these people may be so overwhelmed by emotions that they might say or act in ways which go against Islam. They may be excused from these as a result of their emotional state. However, people in their right senses should not follow them in their mistakes, as in their interpretation of this hadith.

The Qur’an clearly states that God does not resemble any of his creation. How is it possible to interpret this hadith in a way which does not contradict the creeds of faith? The author explains this in the next passage, and we will leave it for next time.

[1] The phrase “or as he [i.e. the Prophet ] stated” is used whenever the narrator of a hadith is unsure of the exact wording of a hadith.

[2] There are many different paths taking us to God. Ahl al-Ishq are those that take the path of love as the path to our Lord. Love, here, refers to the love of God. These people may become so overwhelmed by their emotions of loving God that they may lose their rationality and thus be excused from their mistakes. –TN


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