This summer, we are engaging a 3-part series regarding misunderstandings of other belief systems, whatever "other" may be for any given person. We are excited to give you Part I here!
Love is a beautiful concept in Islam, thought at times misunderstood for those unfamiliar with the tradition. We are honored that in the blog below, Ahmadiyya Muslim dialoguer Qamar Zafar shines a light on what it means to love God.
Here I will elucidate upon the concept of loving your God
according to the Islamic and Quranic perspective.
We read in the Bible:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. -Mark 12:30, Deuteronomy 6:5
The sacrifice, steadfastness and submission to God’s will demonstrated by Jesus Christ – peace be upon him is quite remarkable. In a similar manner, Quran describes what love of God means and accordingly Holy Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him left us an example to emulate.
Before getting into this discussion, I want to acknowledge that the English word ‘Love’ is quite limited in its expression of the emotion it tries to evoke. Unlike some other languages, it carries neither the depth nor the breadth love can take.
Let’s now turn to expressions of love in relation to God from the Quran.
Never shall you attain to righteousness unless you spend out of that which you love; and whatever you spend, Allah surely knows it well.
Chap 3, verse 93
And 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…
Chap 2, verse 166
So Allah gave them the reward of this world, as also an excellent reward of the next; and Allah loves those who do good.’
Chap 3, verse 149
‘And seek forgiveness of your Lord; then turn to Him wholeheartedly. Verily, my Lord is Merciful, Most Loving.’
Chap 11, verse 91
O ye who believe! whoso among you turns back from his religion, then let it be known that in his stead Allah will soon bring a people whom He will love and who will love Him, and who will be kind and humble towards believers, hard and firm against disbelievers. They will strive in the cause of Allah and will not fear the reproach of a faultfinder. That is Allah’s grace; He bestows it upon whomsoever He pleases; and Allah is Bountiful, All- Knowing.
Chap 5, verse 55
Having referenced the Islamic scripture on love, let’s go over how this teaching was practiced by Islam’s Holy founder. In short, every aspect of the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s – peace be upon him – life appears to have been governed and colored by his love for and devotion to God.
Once on a cold winter's night, he asked his wife’s permission to spend the night in worship. Upon being granted permission, he spent the greater part of the night in devotion; supplicating before his Lord so that the place of his prostration became wet with his tears. His prayers were so full of pathos that when praying he sounded like a boiling pot.
On one such occasion his wife Aisha – God be pleased with her – said to him: "God has honored you with His love and nearness. Why then do you subject yourself to so much discomfort and inconvenience?" He replied: "If God has by His Grace and Mercy conferred His love and nearness upon me, is it not my duty in return to be always rendering thanks to Him? Gratitude should increase in proportion to the favors received"
His love for and devotion to God found expression in many ways. For instance, whenever after a dry season the first rain-drops began to descend, he would put out his tongue to catch a rain-drop and would exclaim: "Here is the latest favor from my Lord."
It should be evident by now that building a relationship with and seeking nearness to God is central to Islamic belief and practice. So far, only examples of love of man for God have been mentioned. That only tells half of the story. God does return the favor. I will wrap it up by narrating how God treats man who is fully devoted to God.
It is related that the Holy Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – said: Allah says: Whoever is at enmity with one whom I befriend should beware of having to battle with Me. When a servant of Mine seeks to approach Me through that which I like best out of what I have made obligatory upon him and continues to advance towards Me by dint of voluntary effort beyond that prescribed then my love for him grows stronger. When I love him, I become his ears by which he hears, and his eyes with which he sees, and his hands with which he grasps, and his feet with which he walks. When he asks Me, I bestow upon him and when he seeks My protection I protect him.
In another narration: Holy Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – said: Allah says: When a servant of Mine advances towards Me a foot, I advance towards him a yard, and when he advances towards Me a yard, I advance toward him the length of his arms spread out. When he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.
The above should provide a taste of what it means to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and how the Divine reciprocates this love according to Islam and Quran.