Love and romance in Islam
By: Jamiatul Ulama
Source: Jamiatul Ulama
The IBA Iqra Society invited Sheikh Kamaluddin Ahmed’s wife ‘Alimah Sobia Ahmed’ on the 22nd of November, 2010 to deliver a lecture on the topic Romance in Islam. The following is an edited version of the notes prepared by Maliha Abidi during the lecture. It also includes some points from a lecture delivered by Alimah Sobia Qasim (a student of the speaker) at a summer program in Karachi called Footsteps.
The word “Muhabbat” comes from the Arabic word “Hubb”, which literally means seed; a seed that every human being has. That is, it is important for us to realize that love (or rather, feeling (verb)) is a function of the heart, just like seeing is the function of the eye.
It is natural to pursue true love.
The problem with this issue or pursuit arises due to the difference between our definition of true love and what it actually is. What we believe to be true love is actually false love gift wrapped as true love by the media and the pop culture for off late, more than any other time, it has turned into an idea that sells. Falling prey to the cultural manifestations of love (Heer-Ranjha, Romeo- Juliet, Laila-Majonoo), and out of sheer ignorance of the deen, we often get frustrated to why Allah does not want us to express one of the strongest emotions he has blessed human beings with.
Such a beloved emotion it is that in the Holy Quran, Allah SWT mentions who He himself loves.
– Allah loves the Muhsineen [Those who do good (to others)]
– the Tawwabeen [Those who turn to rightfulness and recourse much to Him and His Guidance],
– the Mutahhareen [Those who keep their bodies free from filth, minds distant from dirty thoughts and conduct clean from unseemly acts],
– the Muttaqeen [Those who guard themselves against evil],
– the Sabireen [Those who have capacity to endure hardship],
– the Mutawakkileen [Those who put their trust in Allah and His Laws],
– the Muqsiteen [Those who act equitably and justly]
– and those who fight in His way against tyranny, injustice, wrongdoings, aggression and transgression.
On the contrary, humans love women, sons, gold and silver, wealth and the dunya. Those who believe are intense in their love for Allah. So intense is their love that they give up all things that displease Him and continuously crave for His approval of them for that is what one desires from his beloved.
Such an honoured emotion it is that the Holy Prophet SAWS has said, “A person will be with whom he loves.” (Bukhari, Muslim) The most common understanding for this hadith is that when a man loves those who are good and pious he will be raised with them on the day of resurrection, and if he loves those who are evil and corrupt he will be raised with these people on the day of resurrection.
LOVE IN ISLAM:
Love in Islam constitutes the following:
1. Love for Allah swt
2. Love for the Prophet Muhammad saw
3. Love for others for the sake of Allah.”
Where true love is one whose basis is spirituality, Ishq-e-Majaazi – false love is based on materialism. Materialism does not necessarily mean wealth and hoarding. What materialism in a relationship means is attraction on the basis of physical attraction (usually the case for men) or emotional attraction or attachment (usually the case for women “I feel good after talking to him”).
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TRUE LOVE AND FALSE LOVE
- Basis – False Love (based on selfish motives and materialistic drives) is egocentric. That which comes with looks goes with looks, easy come, easy go. True Love on the other hand is based on spiritual and ethical basis – that is, you like/love the other person because of his/her relationship with Allah SWT and because he is trustworthy, noble, and loves humanity, etc. Thus, it is important to know what the basis of your love is.
- False Love lacks commitment and fulfillment of promises. Often in false love, the trend or tendencies are that either side stalls any commitment based on difficult family circumstances, a need to graduate first, or the need to get a job first, or the need for elder siblings to get married first, etc. True Love on the other hand is based on the need to fulfill commitments and promises, and most importantly, the tendency to fulfill the other’s rights. That is exactly why the Nikah is more of a commitment and promise to Allah than to the other person.
- False Love is the kind which is heavily influenced by the western or Indian, or nowadays even our own, media and pop culture, where anyone in true love is supposedto have fallen in love at first sight of the other person. True Love on the other hand is something which is developed over time. Its when you live with the other person, and are willing and intrinsically motivated to overlook the other person’s khamiyan (shortcomings), and the cracks of the relationship. When you are more accepting of the fact that relationships are not meant to be “pop-culture perfect”. We just wish that love was that easy. True love is more permanent and eternal.
- False Love is where the person in love is supposed to be a deewana, “madly” in love, and in the process forgetting who they are, and that they have other and equally important things in life to take care about. Such love is based on and comprises of excessive attachment. A US research study done to study relationships attempted to find out whether love at first sight existed or not – and interestingly, they found that 9 out of 10 times, there is no such thing as love at first sight. That is, chances are very few that anyone who claims to have fallen in love at first sight, has had a successful relationship with the person they fell in love with at first sight.Often a person in love is indeed in love, but not with the other person, but with the concept of love which s/he has idealized in his/her mind. It’s like a drug – and just like with any drug, there is a high, where you fail to make sense of, or even look at and accept the bigger picture and the reality, and then after the peak there is a downturn and a low. True love on the other hand is one which leads to a healthy, stable and balanced love/relationship, where the lovers do not forget that they have responsibilities towards their lives outside of this romance – that is, their grades have a right on them, their jobs have a right on them, and more importantly, their families and friends have a right on them. That they have a responsibility towards each of these other subsets of their lives. In true love, people have a balanced life, where they do not excessively need to be with their partner. True love is based on and leads to maturity of the relationship. It is in a Hadith that “your love will make you blind and deaf” – interesting, no? That today people have the words “Love is blind” on the tips of their tongues while it was already confirmed by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) centuries ago. What it simply means is when you refuse to listen to your friends even when they tell you he’s a loser.
- False Love leads to anxiety, problems and disappointments. Simply stating, in False Love, your foundation for the relationship and the expectations from this relationship are all unrealistic. You expect the other person to be up at 2am if you call them. You expect expensive gifts on special occasions. You come up with fancy special occasions. All of this burdens the two individuals as well as the relationship. Thus leading to anxiety, problems, tensions, and disappointments if these expectations are not met. True Love on the other hand is where Allah’s raza is involved, and thus Allah showers His blessings and mercy on the jaaiz relationship. The same things (special occasions, expectations, expensive gifts) become easy to do, facilitated by Allah’s mercy. That is why, the purpose of the Nikah-marriage is to bring peace (sukoon) into the relationship, to find peace with this other person. According to the Holy Quran itself, the purpose of marriage-nikah is so that we may find sukoon with our wives (or husbands for that matter when it comes to understanding the greater meaning behind this). However, the Quran specifies that the woman is the source of this peace. For all feminists out there, the woman being a source of this peace is not in the derogatory sense, but in more of an empowering sense. And there is really a simple explanation to this: women being emotional beings, have the capacity to understand other peoples’ needs, and take everyone along, thus. For example, if your dad is upset or not at peace, most times, no one in the family even realizes what is wrong and he gets over it and no one ever finds out. However, if your mom is upset… you can complete the picture yourself – everyone finds out and everyone knows. Therefore, the Quran says that the woman in the relationship has the power to maintain, sustain and develop the peace of the relationship. However, in no way does the Quran mean to say that the wife is not entitled to sukoon from her husband. Here, another Hadith’s crux: The Prophet (pbuh) told the Sahabas that when they look at their wives and smile out of peaceful pleasure, Allah grants them sawab, and that when they feed a luqma/niwala/bite of food to their wives with their own hands, Allah is pleased and grants them sawab. The Sahabas were quite surprised as to how come Allah is granting sawab for something that they (the men/human beings) feel the need to do as per their natural human desire. The Prophet explained that since they are in a legitimate relationship, their natural desires are halal for them, with their legitimate wives.
- False Love leads to haram – in small steps. That is, most (men and) women enter co-education and college not with the intention of developing relationships and all. However, they get attracted to the opposite gender due to interaction, and due to a lack of clarity about what the basis of an Islamic relationship should be, they start interacting. And then they start interacting more; through text messaging, emailing, chatting, meeting on campus more often (outside of zaroori kaam), hanging out a bit more, going out, etc. True Love on the other hand actually leads to halal – that is, true love helps the two people who are attracted to each other realize that they need to be better Muslims, reinforcing their purpose of life. Also, when married through nikah, true love is the one which brings peace to the relationship by bringing these two people closer to Allah. True love is in fact regarded as Nafli Ibaadat, after nikah, of course. Crux of Hadith: When you look at your wife and smile, and when your wife looks at you and smiles, Allah looks at both of you and smiles.
- False love brings death to the spiritual heart, while True Love strengthens the spirituality in your heart. No person has two hearts with one to give to Allah and one to give to another person. So if it is towards ghair-Allah, then it can’t be towards Allah. On the other hand, True Love brings life to spiritual heart. The mahboob-e-haqiqi is Allah.
- False Love ruins both worldly and spiritual lives, by distracting and keeping you from your studies, work, and namaz etc. and is thus regarded as destructive love. False Love makes you keep and try to fulfill unrealistic expectations, it ruins your priority list, and thus keeps you away from namaz, roza, jaaiz, and Allah’s raza n short. True Love on the other hand, secures both your worldly and spiritual lives. The Aalima gave the example of this couple in LUMS, where the girl was a top grade student before she started hanging out with this guy. She became so negligent that her grades and academic performance dropped to the worst in her academic history, However, their parents had their nikah done, and now the girl hung out even more with him, but her performance rose up again. Why? Because now that she was doing the same things through the right channel and for the right reasons, Allah’s blessings were with her too. She had peace in the jaaiz relationship and thus had His blessings and support.
- Lastly, False Love brings disgrace and is looked down upon in the society. True love brings respect and honor.
Hence romance does exist in Islam but after marriage. It is perfectly okay to feel attracted to someone, in Islam. Until you can commit before Allah to that person, there are certain restrictions. After this commitment (nikah) however, it is more of your responsibility and your spouse’s right, that s/he enjoy romantic gestures from your end. Without a halaal relationship, if one looks at a na mehram with a lustful gaze, Allah SWT denies that person of His rooiat[Gazing at Allah swt] on the day of judgement. (He cannot see Allah SWT on that day).
The points discussed above differentiating between True Love and False Love are not meant to guide the reader with respect to halalifying their haram actions currently! You cannot justify your material attraction to someone by now making it look like a spiritual one. Do the right thing for the right reasons, and Allah will inshAllah grant you what/who you want.
To elaborate, it becomes more important to keep the romance alive once the relationship or attraction or niyyat is officialized through nikah, because without this effort, the marriage will go stale. There will be no emotional fulfillment in your life after marriage without romance. And before nikah, romance will lead to haram only.
Crux of a related Hadith or an event from the Holy Prophet (pbuh)’s life:
Holy Prophet examplified playfulness in marriage.
When he was married to Hazrat Ayesha (pbuh), he once raced her and she won. This was an example of the fact that it is okay and in fact your responsibility and right to have fun with your spouse and arouse romance. On some later day, the Holy Couple happened to again cross that path and they raced again and this time the Holy Prophet won, and he cheekily said to his wife “Tit for Tat”.
Allah says: “They are clothing/covering (libaas) for you and you for them….”
The husband and wife are like clothes to each other for three basic reasons –
1. Clothes cover the wearer
2. Clothes compliment the wearer and enhance their beauty
3. Clothes are almost as close to the wearer as the skin itself
In other words, your spouse is someone who hides your weaknesses, covers for you on your weak fronts, while enhancing and highlighting your good points. Also, the spouse is someone who is close to you, when it comes to a spiritual and emotional connection.
Another event from the Holy Prophet’s life:
To him (peace be upon him), Hazrat Khadija was the one person in whom he found utter peace. She was the first person he found solace in when he received prophethood. Even after her death, Hazrat Ayesha (pbuh) used to be sort of jealous of the place Hazrat Khadija (pbuh) enjoyed in the Holy Prophet’s life. In Islam, there is an example for everything that is natural to human beings, as per the need of their natural desires. Human beings need a companion, who they can connect with on a spiritual and emotional (and even physical, yes) level. However, the proper way is the focus of Islam – the proper way to find and commit to this right person is the ways described above.
The lecture or workshop was not aimed at young girls alone entering college so they may be “saved” from evil. It is aimed at them so they are better informed and can make better decisions. It is equally or perhaps more important for people in the middle of their marriages, when their kids have gotten married or have begun getting busy with their lives, and the time is perfect for them to focus on their marriage with renewed passion and interest. They are equally entitled to bring the romance back in their life now that they have extra time at hand.
When it comes to decision making, man and woman are supposed to look to logic first, and only then rely on their gut feeling, generally speaking.
When looking for spouse:
- Look at your list.
- Look at what Islam teaches.
- Think with your head.
- Then with your heart.
- Plan a course of action conducive to Islamic teachings.
Speaking with reference to Istikhaara.
The Aalima discussed that people need to realize that Istikhaara is not the first step. It is rather a step which is there to facilitate you to make your decision,based on guidance from Allah taala, in the form of primarily a conviction in your heart [It maybe through a dream, but thats not necessary at all]. The point was emphasized that Istikhaara is done when logically and rationally thinking leads you nowhere and leaves you confused. This is because human beings by nature have a thinking process whereby they do a cost benefit analysis, at whatever level, and only when they are met with confusion still do they turn to their heart for guidance. Without doing the thinking job yourself first, you cannot do istikhara.
Yearn for Ishq-e-Haqiqi.
La marghubi illallah
la matlubi illallah
la mahbubi illallah
la ilaha illallah
I have raghbat (attraction towards) of none except Allah, talab for (desire of) none except Allah, muhabbat (love) for none except Allah, there is no one worthy to be worshiped but Allah.
It’s a very beautiful dua. Initially you develop ragbat for someone. Attraction. Then desire, talab for him/her. Next you fall for that person. And when you have his/her muhabbah in your heart… you start thinking about that person and remembering him in times you should remember your Lord. i.e. nauzubillah, he/she becomes your khuda (god). Hence the dua makes perfect sense.
Another one, Surah Qasas, verse 24. “O my Lord, I am in need of whatever good you grant me.”