Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sufism: What’s Love Got To Do With It? - Mahmoud Mostafa

What’s Love Got To Do With It?
April 26, 2016 by Mahmoud Mostafa

Sufism: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
As Tina Turner once famously asked, “What’s love got to do with it?” For very different reasons the same question could be asked about Islam today. In these times of violence, stereotyping, extremism, criminal behavior enacted in the name of religion, and the mass media’s dumbed-down public discourse, what response is this question likely to evoke? A laughable oxymoron? A suspicious ruse? A hopeful possibility? What’s love got to do with Islam?
Everything. Love is the beginning and end of Islam. To understand this we must go deep into the heart of our tradition, to its essential roots, to the original revelation, to the living example of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and to the men and women of countless generations who embodied the wisdom of his teachings and manifested this love in their being. It is these people of love, who later became known as the Sufis, who faithfully carried and transmitted the precious guidance of the Prophet from one generation of Muslims to the next down to our present times.
Unconditional love is intrinsic to the Qur’anic message and it is at the core of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and it is faithfully embodied in his character. The Qur’an begins with unconditional love, with Rahmah, usually translated as compassion. This is a word that holds a broad field of meanings such as love, compassion, tenderness, empathy, caring, protecting, and forgiving. This word, whose root meaning is “womb,” is almost synonymous in its use by Muslims with Allah, as Rahman. It expresses the essence of divinity in Islam and defines the organic relationship of the divine with creation in general, and with the human being in particular. It is the relationship of the womb to the embryo. God’s love flows to all creation unconditionally, it protects, nourishes, develops, and brings to life in the same way the womb does with the embryo; it is universally unconditional just as rain falls on the earth whether it is fertile or barren ground. The Divine Voice proclaims through the Qur’anic revelation to the heart of the Prophet, “…and My Rahmah encompasses everything! (Qur’an 7:156).” Creation is held in infinite, abundant, and ever-present love. We are in an ocean of love with no beginning or end. This love is woven in the fabric of creation. It is the cause of all things. It is what makes life possible. This Rahmah is existence itself.
This unconditional love fully manifests in the being of the Prophet whose mission is defined in the Qur’an as, “We have sent you only to be Rahmah to all the worlds! (Qur’an 21:107)” in this way Prophet Muhammad embodies human completion: to be the manifestation of Rahmah. This quality is clearly evident in the preserved traditions about the Prophet. We know it in his relationship with children, with women, with the poor and weak, with men and with his enemies. We know it in the way he guided people towards ease and simplicity in their faith. We know it in how readily he forgave those who harmed him, in how he rejoiced in companionship, in how he wept for the passing of loved ones, in how he urged people to let their love flow to one another. We know it in what he taught us about God and His relationship with us. In one beautiful tradition he tells us that God says, “My love belongs by right to those who love one another in Me, to those who sit together in Me, to those who visit one another in Me, to those who give generously to one another in Me. (narrated by Malik)”
The Prophet’s companions, men and women, learned from him how to awaken to this love within. He showed them how to manifest the quality of Rahmah within themselves and how to live this quality in their relationships. When asked very early on about their religion, the companions of the Prophet spoke about how they learned to love from their relationship with the Prophet and how this transformed them.
The Qur’an teaches about the innate nature of being human, the Fitrah, which is the intrinsic knowing at the core of our being of this relationship of unconditional love with God. All human beings know this relationship in the depth of their conscience. This knowing is imprinted on our hearts before we came into this world and affirmed in pre-eternity with our saying “Yes!” to the Divine declaration of, “Am I not your Rabb? (Qur’an 7:172)” This word, Rabb, commonly translated as “Lord,” is the word most commonly used to refer to God when we are in a state of intimacy, when we call out to the divine from the depths of our heart. This word holds such meanings as to sustain, to nourish, to develop, to educate, to bring to completion by degrees, to continue to be with and to love, to be intimate, and to be the master or owner. It is to our Rabb that almost all supplications are made in the Qur’an and it holds the meaning of the closest and most intimate relationship between the human being and its divine Creator.
The human being’s journey is to return to the conscious knowing of this relationship. The human being originates from love, exists in love, and returns to love. “We are for God and to Him is our return! (Qur’an 2:156)” The faithful proclaim in the Qur’an.
This love is unlike our modern, entertainment-industry notion of love. It isn’t born of desire; it is born of wisdom. It is a love that transforms, that burns, that exposes our falsehoods and humbles us with its irresistible beauty, breaking down our defenses, routing our machinations and pretenses, taking us from our little, self-centered and wounded self to our true Self through a process of deep inner openings that heal the heart with forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, and amazement. It is a love that causes us to die to many of the things we mistakenly held to be true and valuable, and guides us to a dimension of knowing that is beyond any measure, to what “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no heart has imagined. (narrated by Bukhari and also found, in slightly different form, in the New Testament).” This love turns us into fools and heretics in the eyes of the majority as it infuses us with wisdom, trust and strength beyond anything we could ever have acquired by worldly means and turns our being and our knowing to another world, to a world beyond our familiar forms of learning, culture, or religion. This world, which has been called the other world, the hereafter, the unseen, etc., is a dimension of our being that contains our meaning as humans. Once we taste that world, the meaning of our lives, our relationships, our priorities, our orientation to life and living is transformed. When we experience that world, we realize the meaning of “Say: my prayers, my devotions, my living, and my dying are for the Sustainer of the Worlds! (Qur’an Q6:162)” as is proclaimed in the Qur’an.
When this love is awakened in the human heart we are emancipated. Our burdens are laid down, and our inner beauty is revealed. Beauty is the ultimate expression of this love. This love makes beauty, what is known in the Islamic tradition as Ihsan. This beauty may manifest in creative expression such as music, art, and literature. It may manifest in devoted service to humanity. It may manifest in our way of being in everyday life. When this love awakens we live our lives from a center of truthfulness, gratitude, trust, courage, generosity, humility and service. We are in harmony with Being and are at peace with what is. This is Islam.
We will explore in future articles how this love has been manifested and expressed by some of the most remarkable human beings that ever lived and who are living among us today, and how their lives and examples are important guideposts for anyone who sets foot upon the path of seeking truth and spiritual transformation.



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