Peace, one and all…
Last night I watched a very interesting programme on Noor TV entitled ‘Hadith Qudsi’, in which numerous scholars discuss sacred traditions in some detail. Last night’s episode focused on the following hadith (source):
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
If Allah has loved a servant [of His] He calls Gabriel (on whom be peace) and says: I love So-and-so, therefore love him. He (the Prophet pbuh) said: So Gabriel loves him. Then he (Gabriel) calls out in heaven, saying: Allah loves So-and-so, therefore love him. And the inhabitants of heaven love him. He (the Prophet pbuh) said: Then acceptance is established for him on earth. And if Allah has abhorred a servant [of His], He calls Gabriel and says: I abhor So-and-so, therefore abhor him. So Gabriel abhors him. Then Gabriel calls out to the inhabitants of heaven: Allah abhors So-and-so, therefore abhor him. He (the Prophet pbuh) said: So they abhor him, and abhorrence is established for him on earth’
(Related by Muslim, al-Bukhari, Malik, and al-Tirmidhi).
One of the scholars (whose names I’ve forgotten) defined love as ‘accepting others as they are’. I suppose, therefore, he meant a kind of unconditional love, in which the loved one is accepted in spite of all their flaws and weaknesses. In other words, this definition seems to refer to accepting the loved one as an individual.
This idea struck me as a profound definition of love, and one worth pursuing further. Love as a ready acceptance of the Beloved is an important revelation. In my own life, therefore, I must strive to accept all that God is and does. Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that I think it is possible to encompass aught of God’s own knowledge. Rather, it is I that must accept Allah as Hu is, and not as I wish Hu to be. Love then, in this definition, is an acceptance of what is, of reality (and from an Islamic perspective, God – al-Haqq – is the Ultimate Reality). If I am to love God truthfully, I must put aside each and every fantasy, each and every illusion, each and every unhelpful deed.
As much as love is about the beauty of the other, it is also about our own response to the beloved. That is, it is about relationship. Love is relational and transformative. By entering into a relationship with love, openly and without guile, we can become transformed.
The other commentator pointed out that it is important to understand such traditions in their proper context – as part of a wider whole. He argued that love is a response. That is, God loves a person because they struggle to do good. Consequently, as the hadith above suiggests, God abhors the bad deeds of a person. Or, our deeds cause us to grow in certain ways, either positively or negatively. Moreover, God has intimate and complete knowledge of our true human potentials. That inner spark that motivates us was created by God and as such, Hu is aware of its unique character, path and destiny. God knows what we are truly capable of and so, through love, we can strive to open ourselves out into that potential.
Perhaps this is why some spiritual teachers require only that their potential students truly love something, as the following story makes clear:
‘Let us recall here the story of a teacher who received a would-be student. Questioning him, the teacher found that the student-to-be had never fallen in love, and that there was nothing that he loved. He said to the student, ‘I am sorry, but there’s nothing I can do for you’. Head bowed and sad, the student, a picture of dejection, was just about to shut the door behind him when the teacher tried again and called out, Wait! Is there really nothing in the world for which you feel, no matter how small, a spark of love or special attachment?’ The man at the door said, ‘Yes, I have a donkey of which I am extremely fond. I might even say I love him very much’. ‘Come back,’ said the teacher, ‘at least there is something to start with’ (Bulent Rauf, Addresses, page 4).
May Allah help us all to open out into loving relationships, into healing relationships. May we all be transformed through God’s tender mercy.
Wa akhiru da’wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.