It is human nature to love. But what is true love? What does it imply? Is it just about boy-meets-girl and their fairytale happily-ever-after that the media, novels, movies, magazines, commercials, and billboards of today project? Is ‘that’ love or is love something far deeper, and more meaningful, noble, and pure?
Love – A Forbidden Word?
Views on love in the Muslim community range from the extremely liberal (‘love is good and everything prior to marriage is okay’) to the strictly conservative (‘love is a big no-no’). At times, it is even perceived to be a forbidden topic. The blame lies with us that such an innate emotion as love is so misunderstood by us. We need to learn how beautifully Islam has taught us all about love.
The Love We Know
The dictionary explains the word ‘love’ as follows: a strong positive regard or affection; a feeling of intense affection, without restrictions. However, our notions about love today are largely based on what is shown by the media: two individuals falling madly in love with each other. The world is perfect as long as they are together. They will never fight or have any differences. In the movie world, it is the society that is against them, and the couple will go to any length (really, ‘any’ length) to be with each other.
Fairytales, with which our minds are fed from a very tender age, cause even more harm. Prince Charming comes and takes the poor, oppressed protagonist far, far away. The way the female protagonists are always portrayed as flawlessly beautiful leads us to believe that love is all about appearance and outward appeal. We need to get real.
Love seems to be the only issue that matters these days. There is an over-emphasis on the portrayal of love as something associated with singing romantic songs, and depicting scenes of how true love conquers all. Is this kind of love “ultimately fulfilling” and the only thing to strive for?
Many of us know that real love does not work this way. Yet tantalizing images affect our hopes for romance, which may cause disappointment in the long run. Our thinking is shaped by what we are exposed to. As a result, our life begins to echo the stories we see on the screen.
Divine Perspective of Love
“Love is neither disapproved of by religion, nor prohibited by the law. For every heart is in Allah’s (swt) hands.” (Ibn Hazm)
“And among His signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.” (Ar-Rum 30:21)
Over time, the word ‘love’ has gained a negative connotation. People relate it to many things that it should not be associated with. Hence, they feel shy or embarrassed when the topic comes up. The reality, however, is that the word ‘love’ is often used in the Quran and the Sunnah to describe love for our parents, for our brothers and sisters in Islam, and of course, for our spouses. Thus, love is not something to be ashamed of.
Regarding his wife Khadijah (rta), the Prophet (sa) once said: “Verily, I was filled with love for her.” (Muslim)
The love our Prophet (sa) had for his wives in general, and Khadijah (rtaf) and Aisha (rtaf) in particular, illustrates how love makes relationships beautiful. There is a lot to learn from the life of the Prophet (sa)!
Is Loving Someone a Sin?
Love brings stability and security when dealt with correctly. At the same time, we can never have full control over love, and it cannot remain hidden either. This poses the dilemma of how to address being in love.
Having the feeling of love in the heart is not a sin. Sinning occurs when a person decides to act upon that love in a Haram way, such as talking continually to the person he or she loves, dating, and engaging in fornication. Even staring at the other person can be Haram!
Love Someone? Get Married!
Marriage is the only happily-ever-after for two people in this Dunya and the next. The Prophet (sa) said: “There is nothing better for two who love one another than marriage.” (Ibn Majah)
What can be better for us than what the Prophet of Allah (sa) has liked for us? If you like someone, send the proposal for Nikah. Islam is modern enough to endorse a father asking a suitable man’s hand for his daughter. Umar (rtam) asked first Abu Bakr (rtam) and later Usman (rtam) to marry his daughter, Hafsa (rtaf). Islam even permits an older lady to send a proposal for a younger, pious man as in the case of Khadijah (rtaf) and Muhammad (sa). Don’t wait for your career to settle or for your degree to be in your pocket. There will always be a new achievement to attain. Why not do all that with a righteous spouse by your side?
“A man follows the religion of his friend, so each of you should consider whom he befriends.” (Abu Dawood)
Can there be a better example of how our friends influence us than this Hadeeth? Mutaqqi (Allah-fearing) friends can make our Jannah, while the damage an evil friend can inflict needs no elaboration. Our friends shape our thinking. So choose your friends wisely!
We are a part of what we see. Psychological studies go at length to prove how explicitly our environment determines our behaviour. For example, a person, who is not used to the open mixing of opposite genders, will be taken aback at the way girls and guys often hang out together at educational institutions. Repeated exposure to such situations will make that person accustomed to it. Sadly, the movies we watch, the books we read, and the places we frequent are making us more and more accustomed to lewdness.
It All Starts with a Thought
Hence, what we have to control foremost is what we think about. Not paying attention to what crosses your mind is asking for trouble because every action begins with a wandering thought. The thought results in action if we do not stop it there and then. Repeated action becomes a habit, and a habit may become an addiction. Thus, we may end up facing many trials which could have been avoided with some self control.
To keep the matters of the heart in check, the following are essential:
- If you like someone, marry him or her. Don’t just let it hang there.
- If you cannot marry, fast.
- Cover the Awrah, as ordained by the Shariah.
- Do Dhikr, as it drives away all evil thoughts.
- Avoid free mixing of opposite genders and seclusion (Khalwah) with non-Mahrams.
- Guard your senses.
- Look for good companions.
May Allah (swt) guide us to the right path and make us among the Muttaqeen. Ameen.
A brief transcription of a workshop conducted by Sister Binte Mobin, organized by Youth Talk, Karachi. Transcribed by Maham Irfan.