February is marked as the month of love, with Valentine’s Day falling right in the middle of it. It’s also the month of confusion, as it’s the only month in the Gregorian calendar that has 28 days with a leap year every 4 years. Fittingly, both traits complement each other nicely.
The word “love” in English has a broad variety of meaning. It could mean anything from friendly, familial love, to passionate, sexual love. Which is also confusing. The Arabic language has about 60 different words for different kinds of love, but the most common one is hubb. The word hubb in Arabic is derived from the same root word as seed. The significance of that is that love must be planted in a fertile heart. Once it’s planted, it requires work and effort and patience to grow. Love must be tended to with the same gentleness that a gardener has for their plants. A gardener doesn’t give up on it, even though there’s a chance it won’t bloom. Similarly how we must be with love. Imagine if we put the same effort we gave to our houseplants to the people we love in our life.
Islam also speaks about love. In this article, we will focus on love from as mentioned in the Quran, focusing on a very famous verse about love and some of the lessons we can learn from it.
Limits of love
Love is, first of all, natural. Unfortunately, some hyper-conservative types get this notion that if someone feels attraction or love to someone of the opposite sex, that this is somehow haram or forbidden. Ibn al-Jawzi said, “If you have not loved passionately or known the meaning of desire, then get up and eat hay for you are nothing but a donkey… You and the hard rock are equal.”
However, love has its limits. The strongest form of love one can have is love for God. However, when someone crosses that threshold, and love a created thing with the same complete, supreme love that they love God, then love becomes blameworthy. It becomes a sickly type of love called ishq. Ishq is when you compromise your love of God for the love of creation. It’s when you cross God’s boundaries for your own desires—typically in the form of adultery.
This is important to note because our drive for love can sometimes lead to harm. We may not fall all the way into adultery, but that does not mean there are other ways that a maddening drive for love can harm us. Sometimes it is obvious, like depression; sometimes it is more subtle, as we try to seek love through materialism.
The cures for that are varied, and depend on the circumstance. But from a spiritual point of view, the closer one comes to God, the more they will be able to handle those ailments. And, in time, God may very well open the door for that person to find the person they’ve been wanting to love all their life.
Love and marriage in the Quran
The basis of marital life—and by extension, love— can be found in the Quran. It’s a verse that’s often recited at weddings, engagement parties, and mosque aunties looking for a spouse for their daughter or son.
“And one of His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves so that you may find comfort in them. And He has placed between you love and mercy. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect.” (30:21)
For starters this verse is placed in the midst of a series of verses all drawing attention to God’s creative power. Among God’s signs are death and life, the heavens and the earth, the day and night. And yet, amongst all these amazing and powerful signs of creation, God emphasizes the intimate relationship between spouses as one of His amazing signs. Even more so, many of these verses talk about opposites—death and life; heaven and earth; day and night. And yet, he says that He created our spouses “from among yourselves”. Amidst all of these opposites, our spouses are a singularity. A lesson from this is that when you look to your spouse, you see a singularity, not a difference. You see a single, cohesive unit, not two opposites. When they hurt, you hurt; when they’re happy, you’re happy.
Another lesson comes from our forefather, Adam. In the Islamic narrative, Adam was created and lived in Paradise. Imagine that: Paradise, the goal that every Muslim spends their whole life trying to reach. Adam had Paradise, and yet he was lonely. Paradise wasn’t enough; he needed someone to share it with. God created Hawa (known as Eve in Biblical sources) from Adam’s rib so that he wouldn’t be alone anymore.
As the saying goes, “Woman was made from the rib of man. She was not created from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be stepped upon. She was made from his side to be close to him, from beneath his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.”
Comfort, love and mercy
There are times when a marriage is tested. Perhaps it’s an argument. Perhaps you’ve been married for a long time and the flame has dwindled. Whatever it is, when you refer back to the verse mentioned above, you can find a solution.
“And one of His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves so that you may find comfort in them. And He has placed between you love and mercy. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect.”
Comfort, love and mercy. These are 3 ingredients that you can add to make a marriage healthy. Always remember these things. Comfort, love and mercy.
Love in the life of the Prophet (pbuh)
In addition to the Quran, there are many instances from the life of the Prophet (pbuh) that give us lessons about love. He fell in love, and saw his Companions fall in love, and gave us many lessons to draw from these events.
Next time, God willing, we will be focusing on love from the life of the Prophet (pbuh).