Excerpted from" The Achievement of Love - The Spiritual Dimensions of Islam" by Muhammad Iqbal and published by Editions Islamique, Montreal, Quebec. Ch. 1 and Ch. 14 © 1987
To print this article with the Acrobat Reader in pdf click here

The Secrets of Love

"And I cast on thee, Love from Me"

I am beginning this sweet discussion about love at the feet of the holy Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa sallam), the pride of the Universe, the Friend of Allah, and his illustrious companions (radhialloho anhum). May Allah by His Benevolence and His beloved Prophet's recommendation grant this humble servant and the readers His and the Prophet's love and acceptance.

LOVE is an emotional state whose reality cannot be described in words. However, the ability to love is inherently present in all human beings. We have been gifted with this attribute since the creation of our souls in Heaven. This deeply rooted quality manifests in us from the instant we are born on earth.

I was born with my hands folded over my heart
O God, I have been in love since eternity

I was destined from eternity to be an admirer of beauty
Thus my nature has been passionate since childhood

In childhood I displayed a passionate temperament
Even at an early age I played the game of love.

Attraction is the initial stage of love. The higher stages of love result in tremendous energy, zeal, determination, going out of control, etc. All of us experience and are therefore capable of understanding the initial stage of love, namely attraction, but higher stages are experienced only by a few. However the nature of all human beings is endowed with an unlimited capacity to develop and refine their love

It is a common experience that our hearts are moved even by stories of love. Such arousal of emotions is a clear proof of the hidden treasures of love in all human beings.

A continuous fire is burning in my chest
Perhaps it is called love, O Sheifta
There are countless stages of love and countless forms of its manifestation. The fruit of love, however, depends upon the stage of love and the status of the beloved.

The Inferior Degree of Love

Most people associate love with a variety of worldly objects. In these cases due to the dissipation of its power, love does not surface with any significant force or impact. However, those who select a single attractive worldly object and focus all their emotions upon it, do achieve success. But their love and the beloved worldly object are of such an inferior quality that these lovers are not counted amongst true lovers.

A few select the most valuable worldly object, namely a human being, as their beloved. Their love surpasses that of those who choose other worldly objects. This superiority is clearly due to the excellence of the human being over everything else in this world, in their unrivalled beauty and the ability to reciprocate the emotions of the lover.

Love must first arise in the heart of the beloved.
As long as the candle does not burn, 
the moth will not be struck with longing
The love stories of Laila and Majnun, Shireen Farhad etc., are well known, but there are countless such lovers in this world.

Duke of Windsor's Sacrifice for Love:

The Duke of Windsor sacrificed the throne for the love of an ordinary woman. This story gained publicity because in these times of materialism, rejecting the throne is considered to be a great sacrifice. However, many people even sacrifice their lives for their love.

The Result of Loving Human Beings

We have seldom considered what these lovers gained by spending their precious love upon a created object, namely a man or a woman. No doubt their loves show hair-raising cases of sacrifice, determination, enormous will power, negation of ego, and eradication of major human shortcomings such as arrogance and pride, etc. But it needs to be asked however, what else did such lovers achieve. It is well known that they have invariably been ruined, thus becoming losers in this world and the hereafter. Such utter failure is the result of spending this most valuable gift from Allah, namely love, upon a perishable object. The beloved and the brilliant qualities which emerged in the lover, both having a finite life, the result was bound to be destruction.

Loving a mortal cannot be long-lived
Rather love the Living, the Eternal
A few of the many attributes of love are, incessant restlessness and never ending desires etc. For the fulfilment of these eternal desires, the beloved must also be never ending, looking at whom enhances the desire to continue looking, without ever quenching the thirst to look and admire. Clearly, such a beloved can be none other than Allah. Therefore it is extremely unfair to associate one's love with anyone whose existence and attributes are finite.

There are and have been many lovers who were blessed with the guidance to apply their love upon the Everlasting. Such lovers achieve eternal success and are known as "the pious." Those who make further progress and choose Allah as their beloved, gain entry into the group of "the near ones' (unto Allah). Following are stories of both these types of lovers:

Hazrat Malik Bin Dinar and the Beautiful Slave

Following is the story of Hazrat Malik b. Dinar (mercy be upon him), who invited a person engrossed in the love of this world towards eternal love.

Once Hazrat Malik b. Dinar was passing through the streets of Basra, where he happened to see a female servant walking with the kind of pomp and show generally displayed by the maidservants of kings. Upon witnessing the manner of her walking Hazrat Malik called her and said,: "O handmaid, would your master like to sell you?" She was really surprised to hear this and said, "What? Repeat it again." Hazrat Malik did accordingly, at which she said, "Would a beggar like you be able to purchase me if the master agreed to sell at all?" He replied in the affirmative, adding that he could purchase a better one than her. On hearing this she laughed and ordered the servants to take the beggar along with them (just as an amusement for the master). On reaching home she narrated the event to her master, who laughed boisterously and ordered Hazrat Malik to be brought before him. When Hazrat Malik was brought forward, the master was over-awed and asked, "What do you want?" In reply, he advised him to sell his handmaid to him. The master asked, "Can you pay her price?" Hazrat Malik replied, "For me her price is no more than two stones of dates." On hearing this the whole audience began to laugh. The master asked, "What prompted you to fix this price for her?" He replied that there were many shortcomings in her. Upon the master's request Hazrat Malik enumerated them thus:

If she does not apply perfume her body emits a foul smell. If she does not clean her teeth they begin to putrefy. If she does not comb her hair it becomes infested with lice. On becoming a bit older she would appear like an old woman not worthy to be loved. She menstruates. She makes water and relieves herself. In other words she emits all sorts of filth (spittle, mucus, saliva). She suffers from agonies and hardships. Being greedy, she shows her love to you merely for her self interests and material benefits. Today, if any loss is incurred by her due to you, the whole edifice of her love would crumble down in no time. She is based on falsehood. As soon as you breathe your last, she will sit by the side of another person and sing of her permanent and everlasting love for him, in the same way as she did for you. "In contrast," said Hazrat Malik, "I have a handmaid a thousand times better than your handmaid. Her price is very little. She is made of camphor's essence. She has been fashioned out of musk and saffron. She is covered by pearls and light. If her spittle is cast in salty water, it will become sweet. Should she speak to a dead man, he would be revived. If her wrist is shown to the sun, it will suffer darkness and eclipse. If she visits a place of darkness, it will be illuminated. If she happens to appear in the world with all her elegance, the whole world will become fragrant. She is brought up in the gardens of musk and saffron. She has played amongst the branches of ruby and coral. Her abode is a place of great blessings. She drinks water from Tasnim (a fountain in paradise). She never backs out of her word. Her love is everlasting." Hazrat Malik (mercy be upon him) then asked the master to let him know which handmaid is more beneficial to him. All said unanimously that the handmaid described by Hazrat Malik (mercy be upon him) was far more valuable. Then Hazrat Malik said, "Every one can afford to buy her at any time and in every age." Then Shaikh Hazrat Malik described the way to acquire her and the honour one gets in this world and the hereafter. He also described the other rewards which one gets (these will be stated later in this chapter). The master set the maidservant free, and both of them bade farewell to the worldly pleasures and dedicated themselves to Divine love.

Now the second group of true lovers, who are of the highest status, is described.

Hazrat Mumshad Denori & Paradise

At the time of the death of Hazrat Mumshad Denori (mercy be upon him), a pious man came and started praying for Allah to grant paradise to him. Upon hearing this prayer, Hazrat Denori laughed and said, "Paradise was shown to me through kashf (unveiling of the Unseen), with all its attractions for the last thirty years, but I did not desire to get it even once. My goal is the Master of that paradise."

My love for You is unique, O Dear One 
Thus I care not for the heavenly maidens
It has made me oblivious to both the worlds 
Knowing You is such a wonderful thing
Love is Essential for Faith

There is little benefit in reading these stories as a mere pastime and for deriving pleasure. This subject is being presented only to invite readers to develop their love toward Allah, who by His special Mercy has gifted us with the tendency to love Him by making us believers. In other words Allah intends that we should seek Him as our Goal of love.

"Those who believe are staunch in their love for Allah."
According to many narrations, love has been stipulated as something essential for faith.
"True belief is that when I and Allah become dearest to you.
In another Hadith:
"None of you can have (perfect) belief till I become dearer than your father, children and all mankind."
Another Hadith goes beyond this, requiring that the love for the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam)(1) should exceed the love one has for one's own life. The love of Allah being necessary for Iman, [faith] it implies that achieving such love must also be within the reach of all believers. Belief without love is defective. We should strive to remove this deficiency because weak Iman (faith) is unreliable and can perish.

The disobedience of Iblis (Satan) was on account of his being devoid of the love of Allah. Had he been in love, he could not have been arrogant towards his Creator and become a disbeliever.

The preliminary stages of love are the feelings of attraction and its highest stage is incessant yearning for the Beloved. There is no limit to this and it continues growing. The highest level of love was achieved only by our Holy Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam). He was gifted with the highest degree of love. Others get the love of Allah in lower degrees according to their fate. Stories of temporal love become insignificant to those who have observed the lovers of Allah (known as wali or wali-Allah). We should also strive to get our portion of true love, and thereby experience the sweetness of this world and the next. None should consider himself unworthy of Allah's love. Such despair, if entertained, is the deception by which the devil attempts to keep people away from Allah. It is the Mercy of Allah that He has branded despair as being disbelief.

"And who despair of the mercy of his Lord, but such as go astray."
Love is Accessible to All

Even those who were looked down upon due to their criminal past, later became respected shaikhs (spiritual guides).

Do not say we cannot be admitted to the Court of the King
For granting entry is not difficult for the Compassionate One
Hazrat Fuzail bin Ayaz was once a thief, but later in his life rose to an enviable rank amongst the friends of Allah. Similarly, Hazrat Malik bin Dinar whose story was narrated earlier, was a soldier particularly given to drinking. It is therefore evident that the gates of love are wide open for all desiring to enter.

Invitation to Love

As mentioned earlier, Allah has invited us to love Him, by requiring us to believe in Him. He also unfolded those of His Attributes which are a means for our love to grow toward Him, such as His Perfection, Beauty and Beneficence. The following explains how Allah implanted the seed of His love in us: On the day we were created in Heaven, Allah took a pledge from our souls by asking:

"Am I not your Lord'!"
Our souls bore witness, saying,
"Yes, verily we testify."
Clearly, one becomes a witness to a fact only upon observing something. The Words of Allah (Kalam) being His Nur (Light), our souls were covered with Nur at the time of that question. Also when light appears it exposes that which is around it. Therefore the Light of His Speech manifested to our souls the Perfection, Beauty and Splendour of His Lordship along with our total dependence on Him. At that time our spirits became intoxicated with love.

According to Rumi (rahmatullah alaih)(2):

The wine-server of pre-eternity poured a drop
On this dust and every particle became intoxicated.
After our souls were drenched in Allah's love by that overwhelming sight, we were taken away from our abode in the spiritual plane and lodged upon this earth to perform great feats of love. Here our souls were gifted with various means to develop the gift of love. We were also gifted with the organs like hearts, brains, eyes and other limbs to express love and to fulfil the requirements of such love through servitude and obedience.
My heart was hard hit by love right at the dawn of life
It is that same old pain which has become alive today.
Then Allah informed those fortunate souls, who had firmly clung to their pledge made in Heaven affirming that Allah is their Creator, about their hidden treasures of love.
"Those who believe are staunch in their love of Allah."
From amongst His entire creation Allah intended to choose mankind for His love. He therefore gave human beings the form that reflects some of the Divine qualities, and thus crowned mankind with a special honour:
and created it in the best of moulds:
with both His Hands, meaning by both His powerful Attributes namely, the Inward and the Outward, and He infused in it the spark of love.

According to a Hadith, if the nur (light of Iman) of even an ordinary believer were exposed, it would dominate the light of the Sun and the Moon. Allah rewards those who remain firm to their pledge, according to their degree of firmness. He thus bestows His pleasure and Paradise to the pious, and gives Himself as a reward to the wali (friend of Allah). Even a thousand paradises are unworthy of being glanced at compared to this reward.

As long as Iman (faith) is alive, the spark of love must of necessity be alive also (love being a necessary precondition for Iman [faith] as stated previously). Even in these times, the spark of love surfaces occasionally in ordinary believers and works wonders. Thousands willingly lay down their lives for the love of Allah and His Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam). Though their other deeds may fall short in fulfilling the requirements of love, due to the swaying of their nafs and the influence of the Devil, their zeal makes it evident that at least the emotions of love are still alive in them.

Believers and True Love

Those fortunate lovers who kindle this tiny spark by treading the path of acquiring true love, succeed in blowing it into flames. In other words by striving to develop this wealth by adopting the path of true love of Allah, they fan the spark of love into flames. The initial requirement of this path is to correct one's Iman by adopting true beliefs, and then fulfil the obligations of such belief, namely the duties of Islam. Finally these lovers try to achieve the essence and inner reality of Iman and Islamic practices. This level of awareness is dependant upon the reformation and purification of the heart. Thus concerning reformation of the heart, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam) has said.

"There is a piece of flesh in the body, if that is good the whole body is good, and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt, and that is the heart."
So it is only after the reformation of the heart that the deeds emanating from the body will have the required sincerity. Without the purification of the heart the same deeds and beliefs will be lifeless and have very little value. An authentic and simple way (according to the Sunnah) for the reformation of the heart and for the acquisition of the quality of Ihsan (or sincerity) is described in part two [from the book] and also in the book "Faedh-e-Shaikh." 

By the Grace of Allah, even in these deteriorating times, millions are following this path and have achieved success to varying degrees. This group is known as awlia (saints, friends of Allah). Allah has honoured them by saying:

"Lo, verily the friends of Allah are (those) on whom fear (cometh) not, nor do they grieve. Those who believe and keep their duty (to Allah), theirs are good tidings in the life of the world and the hereafter. There is no changing the Words of Allah." (Qur'an: Surah Yunus)
This does not mean that whoever got something from this Path, achieved the highest level. The success is in proportion to one's effort and fate. However, they continue to progress, as long as they remain on this blessed Path. (This discussion is not intended for those who are striving in some other path while using the name of this path, or for those who may even be following the ways of this Path but whose objectives and motives are different).

The attainments of those striving correctly in this Path of love are not identical. The wealth of love surfaces in different forms in different lovers, just as worldly wealth comes in different forms. For example, some are called rich due to their possession of land, others because of their factories and others due to their knowledge or technical expertise. Likewise, for some lovers the wealth of love comes in the form of ecstatic trance, others may experience fear, and a few upon experiencing the Presence of Allah, forget themselves which results in the "annihilation of self." Even though the fruits of love are numerous, their root is the same, namely the connection with Allah. This constant awareness of Allah's presence causes the lover to be submissive to Him with due respect; worship becomes a delightful experience and a natural hatred is felt towards sin, in all aspects of his life.

[For further information on this topic the reader is advised to read Muhammad Iqbal's book referred to above. About ¾ of this book is devoted to the subject of love, and about ¼ of this book is devoted to the subject of the coexistence of love and hate. What follows is a small excerpt from the latter part of the book. - Editor]

Islamic rules and regulations about expressing hate

According to a Hadith, "Seek the nearness of Allah through hate for sinners and meet them with sternness. And seek the Pleasure of Allah through being displeased with them." (Jamia Sagheer)

Although the status of its transmission is "weak," its subject matter is confirmed by other Ahadith. The interpreter of Jamia Sagheer says that the Hadith implies that hate should be directed towards the sin instead of the sinner. This is the actual meaning of this subject wherever it appears in Ahadith. The abhorrence of the sin should not diminish due to mutual relationships, but at the same time one should not lose sight of the other Islamic qualities of the sinner on account of his sins. This is the actual teaching which helps in keeping everything in its appropriate category and limits, and our duty is to do just this.

The above discussion concerned the bad deeds of Muslims. But the Shariah (Islamic law) has put so much emphasis on the "middle course" that it is forbidden to use abusive language for even the worst and most filthy object of disbelievers namely, the idols. Allah has said:

"Revile not those whom they invoke besides Allah, lest they may spitefully revile Allah without knowledge."
and also:
"And let not the hatred of a people, who (once) stopped your going to the Sacred Mosque, incite you to transgress."
Just imagine how intense was the opposition of the disbelievers. Despite this the Muslims were forbidden from exceeding the limits. There are many external mannerisms and principles for expressing hatred which are learned after working for a long time in instructing people about religion.

An important rule is to speak gently. Nothing can surpass the sin of claiming Divinity for oneself. Yet when Moses (alaihe-assalaam) was sent for the guidance of Pharaoh, he was ordered thus.

"And speak unto him a gentle word."
Another rule is to establish a mood of intimacy prior to saying anything. Similarly the time of admonishment is important, and that it should be a gradual process according to the capacity of the heart to listen and accept the advice.

All rules are contained in the principle that there should be an intense heartfelt hatred towards the sin. On the other hand one should have compassion, pity and deep concern for the reformation of the one involved in sin.

For example, should there be a foul-smelling ulcer (or some other highly disagreeable disease) on the body of someone's child, the mother does not hate the child. On the contrary, her compassion increases. However, the treatment is undertaken with full concern, while safeguarding from the harmful effects of the disease. Sometimes this may call for reassuring the child. At other times it requires scolding and firmness.

At times the accomplished Mashaikh (pl. of Shaikh, spiritual guide) depart from all the above rules and regulations. A very tender attitude resembling flattery is observed, and it appears as if they are compromising with evil. And on some occasions they are so severe that there is a danger that the one addressed will become rebellious. Thereby, his condition would worsen and the hope of his coming close in the future would be lost.

It is not proper for the general public to emulate the above attitude, because at times these Mashaikh behave in this manner by Divine consent through ilham (inspiration). And on other occasions, there is no harmful effect from their severity due to the powerful influence of their nisbat (connection with Allah) and sincerity. On the contrary their approach is successful.

However in some cases they are not in control of themselves due to their spiritual states, and thus they are not in a position to observe the rules and regulations. In this case one can neither emulate nor criticize them.

Don't compare yourself to the state of the Pure Ones
Although sheer (milk) and shair (lion) look the same in writing (3)
After the demise of a shaikh, Hazrat Shaikh-ul-hadith Maulana Zakariya instructed the khulafa(4)of the deceased, not to adopt the style of their shaikh until they reached his level.

A Necessary Explanation

1. Nowadays we do not have the reality of Islamic character. We are familiar only with the existing norms of good behaviour. Similarly we are devoid of the religious sense of honour and shame. If someone seems to possess this sense of honour, it is prompted by personal considerations, such as protecting one's self respect. On the contrary when faced by a religious issue, we behave quite shamelessly and we preach gentleness, toleration, forbearance and unconditional friendship. And we criticize and despise the true lovers of Allah who possess a truly upright character. Similarly, we criticize the friends of Allah due to our inability to distinguish between "hospitality" and "compromising with evil."

2. The friends of Allah possess all the good qualities such as humility, toleration, politeness etc. The Companions (radhiallaho anhum) had a much more intimate relationship with Allah, consequently they had these qualities at a more profound level. Then the prophets (alaihe-assalaam) excelled the companions (radhiallaho anhum) and finally our holy Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam), the "mercy of the worlds," surpassed all. About him, Allah has said:

"And lo! thou art of a tremendous nature."
The holy prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam) has himself declared, 
"I have been sent to perfect good qualities of character."(Mishkat)

"My Lord has instructed me directly and has done so in the best manner."

3. All cases of toleration in the lives of the prophets and awlia are limited to their personal affairs. Now let us examine their character concerning religious affairs. A few stories of the companions (radhiallaho anhum) and awlia were stated previously. Hazrat Maulana Shah Wasiullah (rehmatullah alaih) has made brief remarks about the following verses:
It is an example of the excellent character of Moses (alaihe-assalaam) that due to his honour for religion he became so angry with his brother (also a prophet) that he pulled his beard and hair
It is an excellent example of the character of Hazrat Khizr (alaihe-assalaam) that he stopped imparting his special knowledge, when he found the conditions of being in his company missing in Moses (alaihe-assalaam).
This is the teaching about good conduct for Muslims.
This contains instructions for the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam) regarding good conduct, and contains the teaching that the outward appearance of the disbelievers is unreliable, and all their houses of worship should not be mistaken as being places where Allah is worshiped.
In this verse, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam) who was naturally soft-hearted, extremely kind and compassionate, has been ordered to be a bit more severe. Whereas compassion and kindness are classified as good character, the above verse reveals that severity also belongs to good character.
The above verse honours the good mannered Muslims.
The above injunction has firmly forbidden friendship and affection towards disbelievers, and has disallowed us from adopting their ways and appearance.

1. Similarly according to a Hadith, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam) has instructed us to form a society and civilization distinct from that of the non-Muslims.

2. The holy Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam) stopped talking to three of his Companions for fifty days and ordered everyone to boycott them.

3. The blessed face of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wasallam) turned red with displeasure upon Hazrat Umar's (radhiallaho anho) reading and praising an earlier scripture (abrogated by the Holy Qur'an, the final revelation).

Just reflect that the above were a few examples of Divine and prophetic character and qualities. Pulling someone's hair and beard in anger, boycotting someone and becoming red with displeasure etc. Therefore it is sheer ignorance to label the actions of the friends of Allah as being bad manners. Such insults are detrimental to the life hereafter.

The above was a necessary digression. The aim is to outline the rules and regulations of expressing hatred.

It was discussed at length in the section on love that there are two aspects of the orders of Shariah. One is the apparent [outward] component and the other is its inner reality. Similarly, the rules of hatred (according to which the sin should be hated instead of the transgressor) that were described previously also have an inner reality (batin) which has two further aspects.

Firstly, one should not consider oneself better or superior to the sinner. Nor should one harbour hatred in one's heart towards the sinner. However, the practical method of expressing dismay and hatred towards evil and the attempts to eradicate it often calls for boycott or even physical punishment of the transgressor. One should carefully guard against feelings of pride and curb evil with wisdom, because eliminating one evil can give rise to ten other evils if this principle is neglected.

The second aspect of the inner reality of expressing hatred is that it should be purely for the sake of Allah, without any share of our nafs [ego/lower soul] in it. For example, it is not considered honourable to bow or ridicule oneself in front of human beings. However such humility if expressed in front of Allah is a source of great progress. Similarly, having hatred is considered bad and there are dire warnings in our religion for those who harbour hatred. However, if done purely for the sake of Allah, it is an important aspect of faith. Two stories on this subject will conclude this discussion.

A Hundred Containers of Wine

A pious man was travelling on a boat that was transporting a hundred containers of wine for a cruel king. The pious man smashed ninety-nine containers with his stick. When he reached the last one he left it alone. When they reached the destination, the king's employees turned him over to the king and related the entire incident. The king asked, "When you had dared to smash ninety-nine containers why did you spare the last one?" The man replied, "I smashed them on account of hatred for Allah's sake. Now you may do whatever you wish." The king reiterated, "Then why did you spare the last one?" The pious man replied, "After having broken ninety-nine containers my nafs became pleased at the thoughts of my bravery. Thus if I had done anything with this new spirit it would not have been purely for the sake of Allah. Therefore I did not break the remaining container." The sincerity of the pious man moved the king so much that instead of punishing him, he repented and resolved to never drink wine. He then smashed the last container himself.

The Effect of Sincerity

There is a famous story about Hazrat Ali (radhiallaho anho) (5) according to which he was fighting against a disbeliever and had the intention of killing him due to al bughdfi Allah (hatred for the sake of Allah). After Hazrat Ali (radhiallaho anho) subdued him and sat on his chest with the intention of killing him, the man spat on his face. Hazrat Ali (radhiallaho anho) at once let him go. The man was amazed and said, "You should have become even more angry due to my spitting at you and should have hastened in killing me. Why did you spare me?" Hazrat Ali (radhiallaho anho) replied, "Due to this action of yours my nafs became involved and my intention did not remain purely for the sake of Allah."

The light of sincerity had such a cleansing effect that it purged the impurities and kufr of the disbeliever's heart, and he recited the Kalima (profession of faith) at once.

O Allah! Grant us sincerity and make us die in sincerity.

1. sallallahu alaihe wasallam = may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him

2. rahmatullah alaih (pl. Alaihim) = mercy of Allah be upon him

3. In the Persian Script

4. Plural of khalifa, deputy nominated by the shaikh

5. radhiallaho anho ( pl. anhum) = may Allah be pleased with him/them