Is This Love I'm Feeling?

2738582688_0f2f1aea80_o “Love is a serious mental disease.” At least that’s how Plato put it. And while anyone who’s ever been ‘in love’ might see some truth to this statement, there is a critical mistake made here. Love is not a mental disease. Desire is.

If being ‘in love’ means our lives are in pieces and we are completely broken, miserable, utterly consumed, hardly able to function, and willing to sacrifice everything, chances are it’s not love. Despite what we are taught in popular culture, true love is not supposed to make us like drug addicts.

And so, contrary to what we’ve grown up watching in movies, that type of all-consuming obsession is not love. It goes by a different name. It is hawa—the word used in the Quran to refer to one’s lower, vain desires and lusts. Allah describes the people who blindly follow these desires as those who are most astray: “But if they answer you not, then know that they only follow their own lusts (hawa). And who is more astray than the one who follows his own lusts, without guidance from Allah?” (28: 50)

By choosing to submit to our hawa over the guidance of Allah, we are choosing to worship those desires. When our love for what we crave is stronger than our love for Allah, we have taken that which we crave as a lord. Allah says: “Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah, as equal (with Allah): They love them as they should love Allah. But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for Allah.” (2:165)

If our ‘love’ for something makes us willing to give up our family, our dignity, our self-respect, our bodies, our sanity, our peace of mind, our deen, and even our Lord who created us from nothing, know that we are not ‘in love’. We are slaves.

Of such a person Allah says: “Do you see such a one as takes his own vain desires (hawa) as his lord? Allah has, knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart, and put a cover on his sight. (45: 23)

Imagine the severity. To have one’s sight, hearing and heart all sealed. Hawa is not pleasure. It is a prison. It is a slavery of the mind, body and soul. It is an addiction and a worship. Beautiful examples of this reality can be found throughout literature. In Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Pip exemplifies this point. In describing his obsession with Estella, he says: “I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”

Dickens’ Miss Havisham describes this further: “I’ll tell you…what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter – as I did!”

What Miss Havisham describes here is in fact real. But it is not real love. It is hawa. Real love, as Allah intended it, is not a sickness or an addiction. It is affection and mercy. Allah says in His book: “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (30: 21)

Real love brings about calm—not inner torment. True love allows you to be at peace with yourself and with God. That is why Allah says: “that you may dwell in tranquility.” Hawa is the opposite. Hawa will make you miserable. And just like a drug, you will crave it always, but never be satisfied. You will chase it to your own detriment, but never reach it. And though you submit your whole self to it, it will never bring you happiness.

So while ultimate happiness is everyone’s goal, it is often difficult to see past the illusions and discern love from hawa. One fail-safe way, is to ask yourself this question: Does getting closer to this person that I ‘love’ bring me closer to—or farther from—Allah? In a sense, has this person replaced Allah in my heart?

True or pure love should never contradict or compete with one’s love for Allah. It should strengthen it. That is why true love is only possible within the boundaries of what Allah has made permissible. Outside of that, it is nothing more than hawa, to which we either submit or reject. We are either slaves to Allah, or slaves to our hawa. It cannot be both.

Only by struggling against false pleasure, can we attain true pleasure. They are by definition mutually exclusive. For that reason, the struggle against our desires is a prerequisite for the attainment of paradise. Allah says: “But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination, then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge.” (Qur’an, 79: 40-41)

Republished from InFocus News.

About the author

Yasmin Mogahed

Yasmin Mogahed

Yasmin Mogahed received her B.S. Degree in Psychology and her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her graduate work, she taught Islamic Studies and served as the Sisters’ Youth Director for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. She also worked as a writing instructor for Cardinal Stritch University, and a staff columnist for the Islam section of InFocus News. Currently she’s an independent media consultant and a writer for the Huffington Post, where she focuses most of her work on spiritual and personal development. Her written works, including a book chapter on the portrayal of Islam post-911, have appeared in print and online publications worldwide.


  • Maa shaa Allah… In the same vein you would be very interested to read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. In it, he defines love as “The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. His lengthy discussion of the difference between “love” and “falling in love” is outstanding.

  • useful for those who haven’t yet clarify what is love and what is hawa. do continue writing..many people will love it! jazakallahu khairan katheera.

  • @ Aysha: Yes , it is different . حواء is the name of Prophet Adam’s wife, with a hamza at the end and it starts with the letter 7a2. Hawa (desire) is actually pronounced exactly as it’s spelled, with no emphasis on any of the letters and it begins with the letter ha . Hope I didn’t confuse you.

  • Great article, thank you for posting it.

    I’d like to add that the truest and most fulfilling form of love is true love for Allah. Not only is it fulfilling, loving Allah is also important because love is the strongest emotional motivator behind a man or a woman’s action. Human beings are better driven and motivated to action by love than by hate or fear (the opposite). The desire to do something and then accomplishing the task is multiplied when the task is being done to please someone you love. You could argue that such an effect may be the same for actions driven by “hate” but the two (love & hate) clearly diverge, and love takes the advantage, when it comes to the sense of fulfilment one gets after he/she finishes the task and sees the happiness on the loved one’s face.

    Say someone loves someone else like a father, a sister or a spouse; the love translates into a goal to satisfy the loved one and to see that you do whatever it takes to make them happy. When it comes to loving Allah, who gave you everything from who you are, to your body, to the air and water keeping you alive, to the clothes you wear, to the house you sleep in, to the car you ride in (I ride a train), to the family you love, to the luxuries you enjoy to the to the! The list goes on I can’t begin to list all of Allah’s wonderful bestowments. So how do you even begin to show your appreciation for someone who gave you so much?! How can we, after receiving all that we are and call our own from Him, not love Allah?

    Let’s not forget, Allah gave you that amazing, calming and serene feeling we call LOVE!


  • wow Yasmine

    You make clear so many complex issues that affect and confuse us all…keep it up, I love your program Serenity x

  • I wonder, has this writer ever had a crush or been in love ? How did she deal with the heart attacks and feelings when ones infatuation is near.

  • Honestly, I also wondered this word Hawa meant. It is so important to understand the Arabic language at a deeper level. Previously I understood Hawa to be vain desires, as in lust, or unlawful intimacy of opposite gender but you broaden that understanding. Hawa is more your vain desires that has the ability to further you away from Allah (swt) or even worse completely take you out of your deen. Hawa in so many ways is related to the heart, and attaching yourself to something much more than he/she/it deserves. Hawa bring an uneasiness in the heart and never bring peace and calm. Interesting read. I had to read it twice.

  • I am /was/ i guess still am in love with this women who i see most day and hand on heart if i was to chose between her and the all mighty ( ALLAH) all the way and always .
    this articul helped me in some ways
    just one other thing a sheikh famous one cant remember his name has said this
    ” IF U ARE IN LOVE (not hawa lust)and tell no one of her and dont x the boundaries and die in that state u are a marter”

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