“Greater than Love”

In the Name of Allah Most-Compassionate, Most-Merciful

What indeed you might ask is greater than love, greater than the greatest thing in the universe? Why is it that we consider love to be so great in the first place? The answer to this question is not complicated. One only needs to refer to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to know that love was central to his life, his example, his words, and his teachings. He forgave people their faults and mistakes over and over. He even forgave those that sought to kill him. When A’isha (RA) was asked to describe the character of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), she said, “His character was that of the Quran”.

In other words the human being that most perfectly understood and applied the Quran, the guidance of Allah, was the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), which means that the core message of the Quran is love and compassion. And this view in no way negates the need for justice, for justice, fulfilling the conditions of justice, is also an act of love and mercy. A father may punish his child for the good of that child with a slight pain in this world in order to avoid a much greater pain in the hereafter. A surgeon may amputate the arm or leg of a patient who without such intervention would die. In neither case do we consider these acts, although causing pain, as being unjust. Hence we find in justice there is mercy, and in mercy there is justice.

A hadith that illustrates this point is found when the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was walking with his companions and upon seeing a mother nursing her child, turned to them and asked, “Do you ever think that this mother would ever throw her child into the fire?” Surprised at the question, they replied “Of course not oh Messenger of Allah she would never do such a thing”. To which the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) replied, “The mercy of Allah is greater than this mother, and He would throw his servants into the fire”. In other words our punishment in the fire, Na’ozobillah, is as much a form of justice as it is a mercy. It is justice in that the fire cleanses our unjustness for our time in this life, our injustice towards ourselves and others. But it is a mercy because eventually we are freed from it and into the cooling mercy of Allah. May Allah protects us all from the fire, and as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) prayed, “I seek refuge in You, from You”.

Thus what we have explicated so far is the idea of the centraility of love, mercy and compassion in the message of the Quran and also thus central to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

So, given what we have stated above, you may well be intrigued to know what is greater than love? Indeed to say something is greater than something else, does not necessarily imply a linear relationship between the properties of those things in question – in that one begins at the point the other ends. But rather we must think about the relationship between the two, the understanding of which will make it clear to us that one is indeed, and upon reflection, greater than the other. That other is Freedom.

It is Freedom that is greater than Love, because, and one is caused to think of this idea in terms of “The Freedom to Love”. Unless the love that we speak of, the highest love, comes with freedom, enables a person to love without restriction then that is not the love that the Quran and Sunnah refer to. And thus is not the love that we seek. But instead what we are seeking is the highest possible achievable, attainable love, a love upon which there are few if any restrictions. One is free to love exactly as one is commanded to. Conversely, if the love that is sought enslaves a person, restricts their mind and heart, prevents them from expressing their true love towards their beloved then this is not the love that we speak of, nor seek to attain.

The better part of love is freedom

Taking freedom to comprise the better part of love, if we take one perspective on this and something that Allah (SWT) mentions repeatedly in the Quran is not to take others for worship:

“Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the things they ascribe (to Him)!” (Surah Al Saffat 37:159)

Referring to this term, “He is free”, – that, for us to worship Allah who is free, apart and not associated materially with His creation, means that we too must be “free”. And when we say ‘we’, it is to the heart we refer. For Allah does not occupy the hearts of those that are occupied with other than Allah – stands to reason. Allah also says:

“I created the jinn and mankind only that they might worship Me.” (Surah Al Dhariyat 51:56)

Thus the entire purpose of our existence on earth is not to serve ourselves, but to worship Allah. However, ones worship of Allah and the purity of that worship is dictated by the extent to which ones heart is preoccupied with worldly matters, or free from worldly matters and able to worship Allah. In other words one canont truly be a slave of Allah if he has enslaved himself to other than Allah.

“And your Allah is One Allah: There is no god but He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.” (Surah Al Baqarah 2:163)

“Allah has not chosen a son, neither is there a god with Him, otherwise every god would have gone away with his own creation, and some of them would have raised themselves above others. Transcendent is Allah beyond what they describe.” (Surah Al Mu’minun 23:91)

Thus as Allah says, many gods are not the same as One God, for there would be disorder and chaos, each one chosing for himself something else. Thus the purity of ones worship is associated with the freedom of a heart preoccupied with things that occupy a central space in it, where instead Allah, as our Creator, Sustainer and Accounter on the final day, ought to reside. This is how love and freedom are associated, and thus servanthood, and slavehood to Allah is to be truly free from servitude to anyone or anything else, including ones own capricies and desires.

Thus freedom is not literally greater than love, but the freedom to love is greater than love bound only by this world. This freedom is one that enables true love to flourish, for our love for Allah  and His messenger can know no bounds, whereas our love for anyone will always be limited to this world. Thus no matter how great, the greatest of human loves we may hope to attain, if we seek that love only for the sake of this world then it will forever be bound by the limitations of this world, and will eventually end, whereas a love for our beloved through our love for Allah knows no bounds but indeed is boundless because it continues to exist long after we have died. Our love for our beloved through our love for Allah will keep increasing day by day, moment by moment, for each time we witness their pure love for Allah it only increases our love for them., and vice verse. Thus there is no better love to seek in others that a pure love for Allah, and if we seek that love in others we have the potential to fall in deep everlasting love with them, in a love whose bond is difficult to break.

“And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (Surah Al Rum 30:21)

Courtesy : The Wrappings of Gratitude

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