Spiritual Purification With the Divine

Learning How To Love The Right Way

http://www.flickr.com/photos/oter/5299825175/By Omar Ead

“And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. And if only they who have wronged would consider [that] when they see the punishment, [they will be certain] that all power belongs to Allah and that Allah is severe in punishment.” (Qur’an 2:165)

He was sure he finally found her.  “She must be the one,” he thought.  After learning more about her for several months, he decided to fly to the city to meet her. He had tried so many times before, but he finally felt like this was it. Because this time, he was doing it the “right way.” It would be a big event with thousands of people. He would meet her in public. She’d be with friends. No risk of being alone.  For the first time, he was able to ask a lady, “Will you marry me?”  The only problem was, as soon as he said those words, he learnt that she was in a relationship. What does he do now?

Stop. Absorb. Reflect.

Ask yourself this question: at what point does love become immoral?  Is it even possible that love can be immoral?  Were we not taught that love is always a beautiful thing?  From what I recall, love is always pure, love is always good, love is always right.  What he experienced for her could have been love, but given the circumstances, it was only destructive.

This story is important to understand in the context of submitting to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).  Why?  The importance of submitting to God can be no better understood than through the example of love. To know God requires that one loves God. And to love God requires the condition of complete submission.  The lover never wishes to disappoint the beloved. It would be impossible, then, that one knows God and disobeys Him intentionally.  To believe in God is different from submitting to God. Belief encompasses a sense of acknowledgment while submission encompasses love and veneration for something’s existence.  We must strive to love God and to love through God.  We must seek to love only where love is pure.  Because love outside The Source (God) becomes a force of hawa (desire), a means of destruction, degradation, communal strife, jealousy, deception, immorality, and hate. Without The Source, love becomes chaotic.  What happens when love is not attached to The Source? Love turns to lust.  Love turns to desire.  Love turns to hate. It is as one of the great English poets once said:

“The expense of spirit in a waste of shame/ Is lust in action; and till action, lust/ Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,/ Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust/… All this the world well knows; yet none knows well./  To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.” (Shakespeare)

The danger of love is when one is commanded by the nafs (the self, the ego), it can be very difficult to tell the difference between love and lust, love and hate, love and pleasure. Because love is so powerful, it can become an object of worship itself.  So many times we like to limit the concept of worship to actual physical alters, but the more dangerous and more real concept of worship is more abstract, more powerful, more universal. To better understand this, let’s look at some concepts that are synonymous to worship:

adore, idolize, venerate, revere, admire, appreciate, be in awe of, cherish, esteem, exalt

Every one of those concepts relates to the idea of love.  How different is love from worship? There is a fine line.  This is why it is so critical to love through God.  Love can easily turn into a form of worship, and once you worship more than one thing, it can only lead to the impairment of the heart. Allah (swt) says in the Quran:

“Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides God, they both would have been ruined. So exalted is Allah, Lord of the Throne, above what they describe.” (Qur’an 21:22)

Love, when not established through Him (swt), becomes an object of worship itself. And when you have competing objects of worship in you heart, it can only lead to much harm.  Love outside of The Source, becomes corrupt. This is why Allah (swt) discusses several forms of love in the Qur’an.  When the wife of the Vizier tried to seduce Prophet Yusuf `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him), Allah (swt) tells us through the people of the city that it was through love that the wife of the Pharaoh was “impassioned” to seduce him. It was through love that she was tempted to commit an immoral act:

“And women in the city said, “The wife of al-‘Azeez is seeking to seduce her slave boy; he has impassioned her with love (hubb). Indeed, we see her [to be] in clear error.”” (Qur’an 12:30)

So what is the difference between the concept of hubb (from the root H-b-b) in the former verse and the word mawaddah (from the root w-d-d) in the following verse?

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Qur’an 30:21)

Let’s take a look at the definition for hubb:

{lovely/pleasing/charming, take pleasure in a thing, be fatigued or tired, form a thing into something else, fill or satiate a thing (with water or drink), become clotted/form a clot}

Now let’s look at the definition for mawaddah:

{to love, be fond of, will, long}

Is the difference not clear enough? The hubb form of love is in the physical world, and therefore anyone can experience it even outside of God. But those who do experience it outside of God will suffer, they will break, they will find themselves lonely. This is why it’s important to seek all love, including hubb, through God. The other form of love (mawaddah) is a love that comes only through the blessing of Allah (swt).  By the way, the form of love classified as mawaddah in the latter verse is placed side-by-side with rahma (mercy).  So that means that mawaddah and mercy complement each other.  Mercy encompasses sacrifice, tolerance, compassion, and generosity. Mawaddah is a form of love that is bestowed upon the human heart through Him and only through Him (swt). Hubb is more of a phenomenon of the physical world, and can therefore be experienced by anyonel. However, hubb outside the Source causes fatigue and lust.

So how do we protect ourselves from the dangerous forms of love and seek mawaddah?  A dear friend once told me, “Only let God in your heart, and keep everything else in your hand.”  The `ulema (scholars) say the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) had the world in his hand but only had Allah (swt) in his heart. This is what we must train ourselves to do. Anything that we allow into our hearts should only be through God and by God (e.g. mawaddah).  Of course, many will claim doing so is too difficult or requires too much work. This is not entirely true; everything worthwhile takes effort.

This can be better understood through an analogy.  When you prepare for guests to enter your home, what do you do? You anticipate their arrival. You convince yourself that they will show up to your home at some point, by God’s will. So you prepare for their arrival by cleaning the house. You put everything in its place.  You take out the trash.  You clean the dishes.  Why is it that we don’t hesitate when it comes to cleaning the home?  When someone is preparing to come over we don’t say, “It’s going to take too long to clean the home,” or “It’s too complicated, I’ll just leave the house the way it is.”  No.  What we tell ourselves is “There is a lot of house cleaning to do, but I will start by cleaning a room, then cleaning an entire floor, and I will end by cleaning the entire house.”  This is precisely the type of internal conversation we need to have with ourselves when it comes to the metaphysical.  When we want to prepare our hearts for the mawaddah of Allah (swt), and for the guests He invites into our hearts through His mawaddah, we need to take it one step at a time. Allah (swt) says in the Quran:

“[Adhere to it], turning in repentance to Him, and fear Him and establish prayer and do not be of those who associate others with Allah.”  (Qur’an 30:31)

So when we want to cleanse our hearts of hubb (that exists outside the Source) and other worldly idols and prepare it for His mawaddah, we are instructed to do a few things:

  1. Repent
  2. Have taqwa (God consciousness)
  3. Establish obligatory prayers/ worship/ dhikr (remembrance of God)
  4. Dissociate from all idols of the heart

Starting with repentance is important because it opens our hearts to Allah (swt)’s mercy and rahma.  By first seeking God’s forgiveness, you prepare yourself for true submission. Tawbah (repentance) is one of the greatest ways of submitting one’s heart to Allah (swt). It is perhaps the quickest way to “fall in love” with Him. It is a means that acts a channel to drive one closer to God (taqwa). Imam ibn al- Jawziyyah once said:

“The state of repentance, tawbah, is at the beginning, the middle and the end of all states of submission to the will of Allah (swt). The servant who seeks the pleasure of Allah (swt) never abandons tawbah. He remains in the state of tawbah until his death. Whatever his state of belief, the servant makes tawbah his constant companion.”

Once our hearts are open to His mercy, we are prepared for the next step: to worship Him the right way.  Through worship we build a deep love by turning to Him five times a day and confessing our love seventeen times a day when we say, “Only through you we seek help and assistance,” (Qur’an 1). Along with establishing prayers, one should be in constant dhikr of Allah (swt). What happens when you love someone? You can’t stop thinking about them. What keeps that love alive? What keeps that love intense and fertile? The thoughts you have for that person.  The love for Allah (swt) works the same way. Once you love Allah (swt), you continue to grow your love for Him and you intensify your love for Him through dhikr.  There are many ways to remember God.  Some ways we already know of are by praising Him using phrases like subhan Allah (glory be to God) or ma sha’ Allah (what God wills).  We can also invoke His beautiful names like al-Waddud, which means the Affectionate and the Most Loving.

Keep in mind that the above steps will help us ward off allowing any idols to enter our heart. They will prepare our hearts for the love of God, and will defend it from all intruders. In the end though, we must also acknowledge that sometimes (but very rarely) the love we have for someone regardless of whether it is hubb or mawaddah never leaves the soul.  It will be a trial for some people as long as they are alive. It will be a source of pain, unease, wonderment, and broken-heartedness. But is this really a bad thing? It has been reported on several occasions that Allah (swt) said,  “I am with those whose hearts are broken (munkasirah) for My sake,”  (Hadith Qudsi). So for as long as you may be broken, even if it is a lifetime, remember “with hardship will be ease.” With hardship, you will find your source of relief.

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  • Great article. I once heard that the merchants’ worship is rooted in hope, the slaves’ worship is rooted in fear, but the freemen worship is rooted in Love.

  • Alhumdollilah, may you be rewarded for this soothing article. My father was diagnosed with a tumor on the right side of his brain and the possibility of bronchogenic carcinoma in his lungs. As a human being, emotions get the best of you at times. However, your article summed all of our emotions with two words, al-Waddud. It is Allah that we must always turn to and He alone will bring the best out of everything. Alhumdollilah a beautiful article!

    • Amaan, Asaalamu Alakum brother,

      I am really happy to hear that this article benefited you in some way…may Allah swt grant your father shifaa, and may He SWT bless you and your family with all that is good in this life and the hereafter… Ameen!

  • Amaan, Asaalamu Alakum brother,

    I am really happy to hear that this article benefited you in some way…may Allah swt grant your father shifaa, and may He SWT bless you and your family with all that is good in this life and the hereafter… Ameen!

  • As salamu Alaikum,

    Wonderful article and a timely reminder for me about the need to love Allah foremost, and to love others through Allah and for His sake.

    A question on hubb and mawaddah – are they mutually exclusive, or is it possible to feel a bit of both for a person at the same time?

    Jazak Allahu Khayran!

    • Waalakum Asslam,

      It depends on how you build the foundations. The key is making sure your hubb is manifested through Allah and not your hawa (desires). If you or I seek to build hubb for the creation through our desires, it will only cause pain and in more serious cases, could lead to shirk (audhubillah). The idea is to make sure your hubb for the creation is manifested through your love of Allah swt. So yes, you can definitely feel hubb and mawadah for someone else at the same time, but both types of love must be through Allah swt.

      wallahu alam


  • In appreciation of the above article I say thank you & ask the following.Many of us would like our love to be of the purer type.That comes from our hearts I think.For example here in England I may be helping a single mother with brickwork or paint stripping or transport or lifting a heavy item.One does this, Inshallah, for the sake of God and His mercy,al-Waddud, but somewhere along the line as the work progresses it is as if out of compassion even desire for the beloved can set in and markedly so, make itself manifest in winter,for example,in a wish to lie together and not suffer from the season.s cold.After all does not the effort of concientious work need replenishing by other means than sound sleep.In respect of this what does it truly mean in the Qu’ran that we should be raiment to each other?And where does a workman not deserve a wife?Does one always have to examine one’s theology so to speak.Would not physical love ever be blessed by All’ah(swt)?yours sincerely Brian Cokayne. Stockport, England

    • It may be by your doing things for the sole reason of pleasing Allah that Allah will indeed bless you with a spouse that you can have physical love that is blessed. If you look at the Quran the story of Moses when he leaves Egypt and then finds a place where the people are watering their flocks by the well and he sees the two ladies waiting and then he goes and he helps those two ladies water their sheep and then afterwards one of the women came back shyly and then asked if he would help their father who was old, and he ( the old man) decided to offer one of his daughters as a wife to Moses.
      So you see this story shows that Moses did a good deed seeking Allahs pleasure but he also prayed for ” any good that Allah can give ” and Allah rewarded him with what Allah knew he needed …a wife and companion.
      Just my point of view, Allah knows best, any mistakes are mine alone.


  • What happens when you love someone? You can’t stop thinking of her. What you you to keep your love alive? What make that love fertile and intense? The thought of you towards her. The same way work in seeking Allah’love….

  • sometimes what you have with your spouse is already mawaddah, and still Allah asks you to sacrifice this for His mawaddah. and you are right, because it is mawaddah and not hubb, it will last long after your choice.

    giving up physical passion hurts a great deal in the moment, but passes as the time has passed, like re-setting a broken bone. giving up mawaddah for mawaddah is like consenting to the surgeon to remove your arm to save your life. in your mind, the echo of that arm is always real. it’s one of those things that cannot possibly be known unless it has happened to you.

  • Love for Allah (swt) is one that only the heart that embodies it; is in a state of eternal bliss…an inner peace….which grows stronger only by dhikr prayer repentance and Quran. And to love everyone round you including family members only for His sake. However the worldly life and it’s passing delights can waver your love for Allah (swt) except those who are true in His submission and eagerly awaits the meeting with Allah the Almighty in the next world….for Allah (swt) My Lord My Sustainer the peace that will enter my heart the day inshallah we are granted Jannah and see our Lord will be the most longed encounter … The Only Love and My Beloved….a meeting that indeed Our Creator has promised. As Muslim shouldn’t we all long for it ?

  • […] Learning how to Love the Right Way by Omar Ead (Guest Author) Advice rooted in understanding how love outside The Source (God) becomes a force of hawa (desire), a means of destruction, degradation, communal strife, jealousy, deception, immorality, and hate. […]

  • That is precisely wat I ardently desire for. Love fr Allah to become priority. Can u feel Allah presence. I need that, to b sure he is around n listening to me.

    • It is mentioned in the Qur’an that Allah is closer to us then our jugular vein. He’s constantly listening you. His doors is always open, that’s why it’s so beautifully stated in the article that when you love someone they are constantly on your mind and tongue. Thus, if you can truly understand why it is that God doesn’t like ghafflat (heedlessness) because when you love someone you constantly think of them. However, the scariest thing for anyone in any relationship or after a relationship is the thought that does the person even remember me? Because as the lover you’re always going to remember them, but what hurts the most is when the other person moves on and forgets about you. So God’s constantly thinking of us that’s why we are able to breathe and perform all our actions, and that’s why when we aren’t thinking about Him we’re doing Him and ourselves unjustice, but He loves it when we turn back to him (tawba) as mentioned in the article. It’s beautiful that you’ve made the intention, now just wait for Allah’s love to envelop you InshAllah.

  • In the Christian bible ‘caritas’ used to be translated as ‘charity’,now it is translated as ‘love’. After attending a poetry group in Levenshulme in Manchester England I am wondering where the seed of love germinates. In our own hearts& minds or is it purely a GIFT of Allah?.You see we were asked to write down an abstract thought.So I wrote down my question. Then we were asked to think of a concrete object I thought of a hatchet because I’d found one, partially buried whilst working in a garden..and now I think of something I read by the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti He said ” Ah you say you love your wives, your beastly offices, why you don’t even know the meaning of the word!” And if we look at the world I think he had a point.I do think where love is concerned our actions should be more the determinant of its quality. May I leave any other contributors to answer the abstract question as to where love germinates. Asalaam Aleykum Brian Cokayne/ Stockport, England.

  • Ma shaa ALLAH! Very beautiful text about ‘mawaddah’. I ask ALLAH swt to make us people of mawaddah. And just as He (swt) gathered us here for this wonderful message, may ALLAH swt gather us with all our beloved ones in Jannatul Firdaws. May ALLAH swt help our brothers and siters in pain and many forms of trials and tribulations… AMEEN!!!

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