“The intention wasn’t to slay the boy, but rather to slay him from his father’s heart.” (Tafsir Ibn Al-Qayyim)
No romance here.
This is a simple story of love between a man and his Creator, Allah.
In Ayah 125 of Surat An-Nisa, Allah highlights the depth of this relationship with Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him).
And who is better in religion than one who submits himself to Allāh while being a doer of good and follows the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth? And Allāh took Abraham as an intimate friend.
Unfortunately, for many of us a relationship of love isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Allah. It is common for people to mistakenly view their relationship with Allah as one of obedience alone.
As such, I personally believe that we need to emphasize the love of Allah a lot more; especially to the younger generations. Love is often what spurs our actions and motives.
It is no surprise that the entertainment industry has completely distorted and warped the concept of love in order to peddle their own toxic beliefs. Everything from gay marriage to interfaith compromises is masked today with an illusive label of “love.”
This article aims to restore true balance to the concept of love, bringing it back and putting it in its actual place where it belongs. It is based primarily on the writings of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, a scholar who extensively addressed the topic of “love” within many of his books.
You Are Who You Love
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“You will be with those whom you love.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
I used to feel like it was unfair that someone may go to hell for loving a sinful celebrity. However, the truth is, your love for someone is more than likely to lead you down the same path as them.
What many of us don’t seem to realize is that Muslims aren’t falling into apostasy because it makes more sense to them. Rather, it’s because of a love for the Western lifestyle and the adopting of their values. This is what leads many Muslims to abandon Islam, which places limits upon them and prevents them from living a liberal lifestyle based solely on the fulfillment of their desires.
To take a lesson from history, you can track the unjustified architectural “achievements” of Khedive Ismail, and you’ll quickly notice the very evident fascination with the West. When the colonizers left North Africa, they made sure to assign rulers who loved their morals—even if they disagreed with them politically.
As you may have inferred, I believe that Western development has had an immense effect on liberalizing Egyptian society, but is something that could possibly be expounded upon in another article.
Love for Allah vs Love for Everything Else
Let’s get back to the story of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him)
[He prayed:] My Lord! Grant me [a child who shall be] of the righteous. Thereafter, We gave him glad tidings of a most forbearing boy. (Qur’an, 37:100-101)
As you may know, Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was blessed with his son Prophet Isma’il (peace be upon him) at an old age, and thus his fatherly love and affection for Prophet Isma’il (peace be upon him) was to a great degree.
And Allah tested Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) with this great love that he had towards his son Prophet Isma’il (peace be upon him):
So when he had attained to [an age of] striving with him [in good works, Ibrahim] said: O my dear son! I have seen in a dream that I am to sacrifice you. So consider [this, and tell me] what you think? He said: O my dear father! Do what you are commanded [by Allah]. You shall find me, if Allah so wills, among those who are patient. (Qur’an, 37:102)
Did Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) refuse Allah’s command because of his immense love for his son? No. He prioritized Allah and willingly submitted to His command:
So at last, when they had willingly submitted themselves [to the will of Allah], and he had laid him down [for sacrifice, his son’s head turned away] upon his temple. We then called out to him: O Ibrahim! Truly, you have confirmed the [truth revealed in your] vision. [And] thus do We reward those who excel in [doing] good. Indeed, this was most surely a manifest test [for father and son]. But We [spared his son and] ransomed him with a sacrifice of a magnificent offering]. Moreover, We perpetuated for him [his good name] among the latter generations: Peace [forever] be upon Ibrahim! Thus do We reward those who excel in [doing] good. For, indeed, he was [one] of Our [true] believing servants [whom We saved]. Moreover, We gave him glad tidings of [the birth of another son,] Ishaq, [who would be] a prophet [and] one of the righteous. Thus did We bestow [abundant] blessings upon him and upon Ishaq. So of their descendants are those who excel in [doing] good—and those who clearly wrong their own souls. (Qur’an, 37:103-113)
So what lessons do we learn from this?
- Allah often tests us with the things that we love.
- Never allow your love for anything come between you and Allah.
- Never allow your love for anything lead you towards disobeying Allah.
- Never allow your love for anything supersede your love for Allah.
It is also interesting to note that Allah greatly appreciates the tremendous sacrifices of the family of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and as such, several Hajj rites can be traced back to specific deeds of theirs.
The Different Types of Love
The scholars divide love (hubb) into two categories:
- Hubb ‘aqli (rational love); and
- Hubb tabi’i (natural love).
What a person is mukallaf (legally responsible in shari’ah) for is rational love, which basically means giving priority to Allah over all else. So for example, even if someone is attached to his child, wife, etc., he does not allow them to lead him into disobedience. This is his rational love for Allah superseding all else.
A person should also strive to make their natural love for Allah and the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) supersede their love for everything else. Of course, there is also such a thing as unnecessary attachments to the dunya.
It would of course be incorrect to say that the rational love (hubb ‘aqli) of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) for Prophet Isma’il (peace be upon him) ever equalled or superseded his rational love of Allah. Nor would his natural love (hubb ‘aqli), which wouldn’t have been changed by the test. He still loved Prophet Isma’il (peace be upon him) the same both before and after the test, and there is no indication that it was of a different degree thereafter.
Tawhid of Love
And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allāh as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allāh. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allāh. And if only they who have wronged would consider [that] when they see the punishment, [they will be certain] that all power belongs to Allāh and that Allāh is severe in punishment. (Qur’an, 2:165)
Ibn Al-Qayyim states that worship equals love plus submission and humility.
It is possible that you may submit to your boss without loving them, or that you may love your children without submitting to their demands. In both cases, it’s not a relationship of worship.
However, there’s a simple way to determine whether or not you’ve allowed yourself to become submissive to your loved ones instead and are putting them before Allah. Just ask yourself if you put their desires, feelings, and requests above the commands of Allah.
Similarly, do you unflinchingly follow fashion trends, even if they don’t conform to the laws of Islam? Would you rather avoid hurting the feelings of your friends by joining their unlawful mixed-gender gatherings? Are you loyal to your political party, despite them not adhering to the Shari’ah?
And, perhaps more critically, can’t you abandon a Haram relationship for the sake of Allah?
In fact, depending on the degree, if someone’s rational love (hubb ‘aqli) for something supersedes their rational love for Allah then this could even be Shirk. Additionally, an all-consuming submissive love towards someone or something will inevitably lead to breaking the laws of Allah.
Love for Allah Is a Shield Against Immortality
And very truly, she had [firmly] set her desire on him. And he [too] would have set his desire on her had he not seen a [guiding] proof [from his Lord]. In this way did We turn evil and lewdness away from him. Indeed he was one of Our sincere, elect servants. (Qur’an, 12:24)
This Ayah mentions how Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was tested with an attempt at seducing him. Interestingly, Ibn Al-Qayyim explains how Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) could resist her advances—while being a single man—due to his his heart already being whole, full to the brim with love for Allah.
On the other hand, despite the woman Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was serving being married, she fell into this pitfall because her soul was empty.
In fact the cure that Ibn Al-Qayyim proposes, in his book Al-Jawab Al-Kafi, is the love of Allah. To provide some context here, Al-Jawab Al-Kafi is a entire book dedicated towards responding to a question about curing sins of affection. This is also the first book I’d recommend to anyone looking to become familiar with the works of Ibn Al-Qayyim.
Simply put, you wouldn’t sacrifice your greatest love for some mere fleeting pleasures, which is why it is necessary for us to fill our hearts with Allah’s love.
I believe it’s extremely critical to strongly emphasize that being single does not justify falling into Haram relationships. While I strongly advocate preparing teenagers for early marriage, it is entirely possible even for those who can’t, to live a pure and pious life, simply accepting it as part of their greater trial in this world.
If you think about it, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) married late considering the standard age of marriage during that time. One of the reasons Allah chose to send human prophets is to make their experiences relatable to us.
Furthermore, it wasn’t like Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was rewarded with a pious wife straight after this trial. Instead, the next trial followed immediately thereafter, and he was unjustly imprisoned.
Besides submitting completely to the teachings of Islam, a Muslim should also wholeheartedly accept the trials they are tested with in this life, with patience and forbearance, while continuously striving and supplicating to Allah for guidance and assistance.
However, before we are confronted with a trial of our own, we must all utilize the cure found in the story of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) and ensure our hearts are brimming with the love of Allah. It is also better to approach marriage with a heart that is already full with love for Allah, so that we are able to prioritize Allah and His commands over all else.
What About Halal Love?
Without a doubt, marriage is one of life’s greatest blessings. However, this is only when it kept secondary to our love for Allah.
O you who believe! Indeed, among your spouses and your children are those who are enemies to you. So beware of them. Yet if you pardon and excuse and forgive, then [let it be known that], indeed Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur’an, 64:14)
In this Ayah (verse) Allah reveals how even those we love through Halal means, such as marriage, can actually be our enemies. Thus they could deter us from doing righteous deeds, such as giving more charity or fighting for the sake of Allah. Even so, the Ayah directs us to pardon, excuse, and forgive because as Muslims we’re required to be good to our relatives and to treat them well.
The truth is, being part of the “moderate nation” (ummatan wasatan) is both a privilege and a responsibility. Striking a balance will remain the toughest challenge for sincere believers. Even in general worldly terms, it isn’t easy to know if you should prioritize your mother or spouse in different situations, not to mention polygynous marriages.
Yet you shall never be able to be [purely] equitable between wives—even if you are solicitous [about doing so]. But do not altogether incline against one, such that you leave her, as it were, hanging. Rather, if you set affairs right, and be God-fearing, then, indeed, ever is Allah All-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur’an, 4:129)
Although we may frequently tip the balance of love, it is vital we understand that Allah’s pleasure should be the foundation upon which all of our relationships are built. When tempted to make a decision based on emotions wherein the laws of Allah may be contravened, consider if your loved ones will support you on
a Day when neither wealth nor children will benefit [anyone] in any way. (Qur’an, 26:88)
How to Love Allah?
If we weren’t constantly being blinded by the screens of our smartphones, it would’ve been easy to love Allah by simply gazing upon His creation. But such are the times, and some people seem to be amazed only by NASA’s technology rather than the creation of Allah.
As such, here are some practical steps we can apply in order for us to feel Allah’s love. Try to implement as many as you can; and on a daily basis.
Learn Allah’s Names
Yet among humankind there are those who take [false gods] apart from Allah as [His] rivals. They love them with the love due only to Allah! But those who [truly] believe have a far greater love for Allah. If only those who do wrong [by associating others with Allah] could see [themselves] at the moment they shall behold the torment [of Hellfire, when they realize] that, indeed, all power belongs to Allah, entirely—and that, indeed, Allah is most severe in [administering] torment. (Qur’an, 2:165)
It is Allah’s right to be loved by His creation, and this is even without considering the countless blessings which He bestows upon us. It is He alone that deserves to be worshiped. He has the most beautiful, perfect names and attributes.
The fact is, the more you know Allah, the more you recognize how there is absolutely no comparison whatsoever between Him and His creation.
He is the [Sole] Originator of the heavens and the earth [with no precedent]. It is He [alone] who has made for you from among yourselves mates, [males and females]. And out [of all kinds] of cattle, He made [such] mates, [as well]. Thereby, He multiples you. There is nothing that is anything like Him. For He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (Qur’an, 42:11)
And comparable to Him, there is none. (Qur’an, 112:4)
Coming to such a realization will make it much easier for you to place Allah’s commands before everything else.
For this purpose, I think one of the best ways to learn about Allah’s names is through reading the Tafsir (exegesis) of the Qur’anic verses mentioning His names. This will result in gaining a deeper insight into the implications of Allah’s names from the expert scholars in the field.
I do believe however, that learning from any credible source will enhance your knowledge on Allah’s names. Take for example these engaging videos for children.
Count The Blessings He Has Bestowed Upon You
And remember when you were few and [utterly] helpless in the land. You were afraid that people would snatch you away. Then He sheltered you and aided you with His victory. Moreover, He provided you with wholesome things, so that you may give thanks. (Qur’an, 8:26)
Let’s get over this superficial way of thinking where Allah’s blessings are limited to wealth, reputation, and the like. Take a step back in time and think of the countless times that Allah saved you from slipping into deviance and degeneracy.
How many times have we heartily sought out Haram, but Allah blocked our means towards them? How many people around us have been deprived from this guidance?
Material provision and support during hardship is also of course from Allah’s blessings. Yet, every blessing has to be valued with regard to its impact on our faith, which is Allah’s greatest favor upon us. If we only we could all see it that way.
Marvel at; and Contemplate Upon Allah’s Creation
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the daylight are signs [of Allah’s creative power] for those who are endowed with [discretion and] understanding [and so heed admonition:] The ones who remember Allah [with reverence] while standing and while sitting and while lying on their sides; and who reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying:] Our Lord! You have not created [all] this in vain. Highly exalted are You [far above all]! So save us from the torment of the Fire [of Hell]. (Qur’an, 3:190-191)
Allah’s design of His creation is amazing. We should regularly take out time to admire its beauty and ponder upon its perfection. From the elegance of nature to the sophistication of the cosmos and complexity of the anatomy of humans and animals; everything is perfectly placed and indicates towards a designer, a Creator.
Such is the [Sole] Knower of the [realms of all the] unseen and the seen, the Overpowering [One], the Most-Merciful—the One who has made excellent everything He has created, and who originated the creation of humankind from clay. (Qur’an, 32:6-7)
If you’ve tried to design anything from scratch you’re probably aware of what it takes to balance both harmony and variation. Allah’s creation is immensely varying. Yet, no two people are entirely identical and the universe never combusts due to faulty design.
These are the ones who [truly] believe and whose hearts grow calm [with assurance] at the remembrance of Allah. Most assuredly, it is by the remembrance of Allah that hearts grow calm. (Qur’an, 13:28)
Nothing provides a better indication of the pleasure and serenity of Jannah than beautiful recitation of the Qur’an. The more time you spend with the Qur’an—reciting it with correct Tajwid, listening to its recitation, pondering upon and studying its meaning—the closer you become to Allah. You also perceive its superiority over every other text.
This is the Book [of Allah]. There is no doubt therein. It is guidance for the God-fearing. (Qur’an, 2:1)
We all find solace in listening to the words of those dearest to us. Let it be Allah’s words that we take comfort in. Let it be Allah’s words that we take to heart.
Also, through the remembrance of Allah’s names, you remind yourself of His support during moments of hardship. Even if you don’t know much of the Qur’an, you can keep calling upon Allah with His beautiful, perfect names.
Say [to the people, O Prophet]: Call upon Allah, or call upon the All-Merciful. By either [name] you may call [Him]. For [He is one, and] to Him [alone] belong the most excellent names. (Qur’an, 17:10)
Passing Down Love of Allah
I remember how shocked I first learned, as a teenager, that love could potentially be Shirk. It felt like something I really should’ve been taught before the ABCs. It is a pretty simple concept that even children would be able to grasp very easily.
Even better, it gives them a better understanding of generic terms such as “worship” and “Tawhid.” If you were to ask a seven-year-old child about worship, the most common answers would all be along the lines of prayer and fasting. Yet, worship is something much deeper in Islam, and many things which may be considered mundane everyday activities can actually be rewarding based on a person’s intention.
The implication of Tawhid is that Allah comes first in terms of love, fear, hope, submission, dependence, and more. Based on this knowledge, try giving a real-life scenario where belief in Tawhid is being represented in practice, ideally in relation to conflicts.
For instance, you can elaborate on how your children’s love for Allah should make them stop whatever they’re doing and immediately answer the call to prayer, even if they’re engaged in competitive play. Similarly, since they fear Allah the most, they shouldn’t be afraid to outwardly express their Islam in things like dress and praying in public, even if this means they are mocked about it.
Another method I found fruitful is making a list. Give them examples of who they should never love or fear more than Allah. Please stress upon them that your preferences as parents do not supersede the commands of Allah. However they also need to understand that, as their parents, your preferences are still very significant when they are not in conflict with the Shari’ah. This could be things like who they befriend and hang out with, who their teachers and role models are, and so on.
Finally, make it a habit within your home to be vocal about Allah’s love. Ask your children to state their reasons for loving Allah and showing gratitude to Him. This way you reassure other family members, helping them reinforce their faith and increasing their confidence to boldly identify as Muslims.
At the end of the day, your sincere words about Allah will not only be among your greatest contributions to those under your care but also to your own life in the Hereafter.
The Prophet ﷺ said:
“A man utters a word pleasing to Allah without considering it of any significance for which Allah exalts his ranks (in Jannah); another one speaks a word displeasing to Allah without considering it of any importance, and for this reason he will sink down into Hell.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)