On Love: In the Muslim Tradition

On Love: In the Muslim Tradition

Rusmir Mahmutćehajić
Translated by Celia Hawkesworth
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 188
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  • Book Info
    On Love: In the Muslim Tradition
    Book Description:

    This rare and important contribution to the field of Islamic studies, philosophy, and comparative religion achieves a twofold objective. First, it draws from a broad and authoritative well of sources, especially in the domain of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism. The scholarship is impeccable. Second, it is an in-depth meditation on the relationship between love and knowledge, multiplicity and unity, the example of the Prophet Muhammed viewed as Universal Man, spiritual union, heart and intellect, and other related themes--conveyed in fresh, contemporary language.The book is as much a work of Sufism as it is a book about Sufism. Many of these themes have a universal appeal for students of mysticism; consequently, there are distinct resonances with other traditions, especially within certain schools of Christian mysticism dominated by the language of love.In our day, when the divisions between many Muslims and many Christians have broadened into chasms of suspicion and fear, books such as this one are especially important for the help they can offer in bridging these rifts. The capacity of scholars to understand these two religions, which stem from the same Abrahamic source, is of the utmost significance, and the best approach to better understanding may be through the mystical traditions, which tend to reflect more tolerance and to recognize a potential for seeing unity in a multiplicity of perspectives. This work conveys the beauty at the heart of the Islamic tradition in a language devoid of technical terminology.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4822-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    David B. Burrell

    The author of this inspiring reflection, president of the International Forum “Bosnia” and former vice president of the government of Bosnia and Herzogovina, is an intellectual whose entire life has been engaged in matters of life and death and so has been impelled to reflect on what makes our liveshuman. In doing so he displays a keen philosophical wit, with a sensitivity honed by his people’s suffering as well as his own. Moreover, he realizes that reflections on something so poignantly human must reflect a perspective larger than the human to illuminate it. Issues that could be classified as...

  4. Paths
    (pp. 1-4)

    A phenomenon is always in a place and time. But it has come from somewhere and goes from there to somewhere. Man as the central phenomenon of existence as a whole can know something of where he has come from and where he is going. In that knowledge there is little certainty, although that is his most significant desire. And that is why the answers to the questions “From where?” “To where?” and “When?” are crucial for the individual, the community, and humanity. They are at the heart of every tradition. Answers to them always also show the way from...

  5. First Door The Impossibility of Definition
    • Indefinability
      (pp. 7-10)

      There is no thought that does not tend toward the question of love. Although this is the case from the beginning to the end of existence, it is worth testifying that love remains indefinable by thought. The fullness of love is the same as emptiness of thought. To love is the same as to be mad. This is the case because comparison, measurement, and calculation—the essential attributes of reason—lose both their importance and their meaning in love.

      In all the descriptions and accounts of love, there is no definition that would make its essence known to reason. Whatever...

    • Uprightness
      (pp. 11-14)

      Truth for a person means his existence through what he is. The human self is thus identified with its essence. But, thought is incapable of surpassing ontological objectification and fundamental duality. This is because thought is divergent in its essence. In relation to Reality, it is like the color white: it is not visible without light and cannot itself illuminate anything. In it one may clearly distinguish the divergence of existence into being and knowing. If this duality is to be overcome, being must become knowing, but knowing must also become being.

      If existence itself is observed in its dual...

    • Male and Female
      (pp. 15-17)

      It is possible to speak about love only through its effects or the traces that are accessible to remembrance and reason. The traces are simply the reflection of one in the other, while the essence eludes those traces that are revealed as incomprehension and madness. And the weighing up the speaker undertakes demands that those remains be differentiated and sifted: what is not madness is retained, while the rest is retracted and rejected.

      All discourse about love is simply the interpretation of its traces and their transference to the other side of the current of love, where it exists as...

    • Thought
      (pp. 18-22)

      Thought remains forever caught in the tension between the elements of duality. It knows only duality and functions only within it. But, duality is nothing other than the proclamation and confirmation of oneness. Thought deals with what is comparable and similar. But oneness is neither comparable nor similar. In addition, it is present in everything that is duality, and that means in the totality of existence. Consequently, to think means to compare. And that is possible only in a world of multiplicity, where phenomena are forms in movement.

      The comparable has its space and time. But, more than that, the...

    • Loving and Longing
      (pp. 23-26)

      In what has been said so far, there appears a mysterious linguistic knot: the topic here is thinking about love, which imposes a strange overlapping of semantic fields in the center of which are the verbs “to want,” “to love,” and “to long.”¹⁴ When the words “to love someone” are spoken, that means that between the self as lover and the other as beloved there exists a connection, which is “loving.” That connection for which the verbal noun “loving” is appropriate is called decisively “love.” If the verbal base of the noun “longing” is analyzed, it is clear that it...

    • Extremes
      (pp. 27-30)

      A person is situated between these extremes, given that he is in relation with fullness on the basis of faith, which is not possible without free will. And free will opens up for him the space between nothingness and fullness. The fact that he is within those borders, but that he can cross them and surpass them, does not mean anything other than that his heart is elementarily adaptable to every change in existence, and that as such it can rise above them through its connection with fullness, which is beyond every limitation and all change.

      But the changeableness of...

  6. Second Door Will
    • Trust
      (pp. 33-36)

      A person appears to himself by means of what his will offers him. And it can turn him both toward the body and toward the spirit, toward the earth and toward heaven. But this illusion of the sufficiency of his will, as separate from the Will in which lies all potential, distances him from the trust that his madness reveals as love, and his calculation as madness.

      We offered Our trust to the heavens, to the earth,

      and to the mountains, but they refused the burden

      and were afraid to receive it. Man undertook to bear it,

      but he has...

    • Mercy and Wrath
      (pp. 37-40)

      And will is just that possibility of resistance to evil—whether through attacking it, or fleeing from it—and of doing good—through giving or denial. If phenomena in the self and the horizons are “with truth,” the presence of evil in mankind and the world is divergence along the above-mentioned axis from fullness to nothingness as impossibility. All phenomena “with truth” deny the primary nature of evil, although a person cannot either avoid it or surpass it until he is in his entirety returned to nonduality. Thus, since evil is not primary, neither is it predictable. Not one of...

    • Corruption
      (pp. 41-44)

      Given the apparent luxury of the myriad phenomena in the outer world and man’s inner confusion after the fall, ascent toward the most beautiful uprightness, in which mankind is made, means turning away from everything that is evil and unclear. In such a turning away, stimulated by the original nature of the self with its memory of oneness, lies orientation of the non-Self toward the Self. And it is not only orientation. After knowing in the place and moment, the self sets off toward the Real. The self is recognized as a guest in the world of limitation and moves...

    • Certainty
      (pp. 45-47)

      Opposed to impurity, corruption, suffering, and death are Purity, Sanctity, Happiness, and Immortality. That separation from the world that has been deprived of its “true reality” becomes a foretaste of death. Since “now” and “death” are the only certainties in human existence, withdrawal from everything that is between them for the sake of connection with them means the victory of life over dying. That is concentration on the Moment, Peace, and fear. Two other certainties correspond to “now” and “death”—God and the Day of Reckoning. Thus, these four names, in which lies certainty, proclaim oneness in existence, and hence...

    • The Heart
      (pp. 48-51)

      The will must both deny and affirm: if it must deny objects toward which the self strives, in view of their deceptiveness, which is revealed in changeability, it must also affirm them, in view of its freedom of choice. Denial comes from freedom. Through it the self establishes itself in its divergence: an inclination to evil, reprimand, or the constant remembrance of several possibilities and, finally, the attainment of peace in which human and Divine will are reconciled through the same satisfaction in the actualization of the truth that there is no will other than the Will.

      Free turning toward...

    • The Intellect
      (pp. 52-56)

      The nature of the Intellect is not to identify itself passively and blindly with the phenomena it recognizes. Its aim is the reduction of phenomena to their essence, “to know ultimately That which knows; by the same stroke, the sage—precisely because his subjectivity is determined by the Intellect—will tend ‘to be That which is’ and ‘to enjoy That which enjoys.’’’¹⁷ The trinity of existence, Consciousness, and Blessedness is revealed in divergence although it is just one Self. That Self speaks in the self:

      In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,

      Praise be to God, Lord of...

  7. Third Door Love
    • Divergence
      (pp. 59-61)

      The will is expressed as endeavor and action in the opposite direction from the one in which the self is drawn and confined by the lower levels of the soul. Such a will is good. Its orientation toward good confirms evil as opposition. It is not possible to understand that good will without its opposite. The freedom of the will includes also the possibility of its agreeing to the opposite of such orientation. Since the human self is divided between fullness and nothingness, its realization involves turning to and enduring on the Righteous path. Contrasted to that is the opposite...

    • “The True Faith”
      (pp. 62-64)

      It is possible to understand that injunction to stand firm in one’s devotion to “the true faith” also as directing man toward his deepest human nature: a person is nothing other than a debt to the Creator and complete, original purity. The debt is accepted in trust and its repayment is inevitable. A man’s good will affirms his original nature, which is debt and purity. Through instruction that will is directed toward the Face or Beauty and discloses its inner being as love. “Therefore religion is the same as love, and love is the same as religion,” says Imam Bakir.⁹...

    • Relaxation
      (pp. 65-66)

      The will leads up the steep slope to the Height, so the self is in a state of tension.¹⁵ The sense or awareness that through denial and letting go the range of the consciousness or vision becomes broader and that for the most exalted position the will is insufficient—all this stimulates the self toward relaxation, to abandoning itself to the gentleness that reaches down from the higher horizons behind phenomena through which the thought floats freely. In that state of contemplation the separate signs in the horizons and the selves are recognized.¹⁶

      Rays shine through the veils on the...

    • Poverty
      (pp. 67-69)

      Opposed to the certainty that everything may be received from God, and that, consequently, it is necessary to turn and abandon oneself to Him, is the denial of everything else, since human openness cannot be satisfied by anyone or anything other than God. The required turning toward God and away from everything that He is not means flight from everything and a search for refuge in God. The will is a necessary, but not also a sufficient condition for that turning. Attainment is always also gain: the door at which one knocks is opened by none other than God;²² what...

    • Greatness
      (pp. 70-72)

      Existence as the totality of phenomena in time and space bears witness to the first and last things, and to inwardness and outwardness. Every phenomenon has that duality of beginning and end. But since the full beginning and end are the same thing, the placing of a phenomenon in the duality of the beginning and end affirms oneness. Thus, the world bears witness also to the greatness of the totality of existence. But the fact that the world is a perfect balance of the beginning and the end means that it bears witness also to the qualities of the beauty...

    • Beauty
      (pp. 73-76)

      Nothing in the worlds is comparable to God. But, nothing in them has reality apart from Him. Thus, similarity is opposed to incomparability, since He is praised by every word in the worlds.³⁴ Incomparability and similarity are simultaneous, and they correspond to the “is/is not” of all existence.

      Every phenomenon in existence has visibility and invisibility. In the visible, it diverges toward the horizons, in which it is revealed. In its invisible side it is closer to the higher and indivisible level, on which all phenomena are closer to the Hidden Treasure, which they reveal through their existence. That duality...

  8. Fourth Door Toward Peace
    • “He Is the All-Loving”
      (pp. 79-81)

      The revelation of perfect Peace means separation: the Revealed remains what He is—“I am”—and what makes Him manifest takes nothing from Him, nor does it add anything.¹ Everything that manifests Him remains in the original love of Him Who reveals Himself, and has its reality in its return, which is not postponed: both the present moment and death are its constant presences, its inseparability from Eternity and life. That Source is the same as the Confluence. And that is the potential perfection of every phenomenon. The aspiration toward it, or return, disclosing, and realization, is love. It is...

    • Debt and Love
      (pp. 82-85)

      The relationship of man and God, in which they love one another, is the way of human existence in which his totality is included. Repentance and purification are maintained through the will or enduring remembrance of God. This is how the original connection between phenomena and their names is maintained: man knows them in his response to God’s commandments. But reaching that is always also dependence on the Independent. Loss is the constant potential that confirms the accepted offer of belief that man will repay his debt for what he has received. The Confider speaks of the preservation of that...

    • Intoxication
      (pp. 86-88)

      Love for oneness is transformed, through the truculence and closedness of the heart, into different relations among details. Then the self, in its withholding and insensitivity, is placed in the center. It takes itself as the measure, and denies all other states, which demonstrate potential transformation in connection with oneness: “They desire nothing but your ruin. Their hatred is evident from what they utter with their mouths, but greater is the hatred which their breasts conceal.”²³

      Such closedness toward Eternity and life is shown in the states of the self that God does not love—aggressors,²⁴ corruption and those who...

    • Balance
      (pp. 89-91)

      Creation as such is submissive to God. With man as God’s viceregent it is a whole. Without man the submission of the worlds is complete and without freedom. With him it also has freedom: man can maintain his most beautiful uprightness in complete submission and out of free will. Thus he becomes a bridge between the worlds and God, a viceregent in the totality of existence for the sake of Divine revelation.

      In Divine oneness all the names of phenomena exist as undivided potential. They are divided and scattered through the worlds. And here they are submissive to God: “Do...

    • Openness
      (pp. 92-94)

      Why was man created? That is the key question and no single answer to it is sufficient. But the tradition of the Hidden Treasure points to it: “I was the Hidden Treasure,” says the Creator, “so I loved to be known. Hence I created the creatures.” And man too was created. The reason for that creation is, according to the divine pronouncement, the Creator’s wish to be known.

      Through the totality of creation God made real His names, which were all undivided in hiddenness. Through the creation every name acquired a phenomenon. Thus, the sign or phenomenon reveals that name...

    • The Most Beautiful Example
      (pp. 95-98)

      To follow the Prophet means to love God. As fullness and being, God manifests Himself in His relationship toward emptiness and nonbeing. Thus, His love toward manifestation draws out into existence the duality that embraces the countless multiplicity of phenomena through which the fullness of God’s Treasure is revealed. Everything that is in existence is imbued with that fullness and praises it. But, in order that this should be comprehensible, fullness takes emptiness as its wife or emptiness gives itself to fullness in marriage. Every moment is the child of that relationship. Everything in it springs from that duality and...

  9. Fifth Door Following
    • Praise
      (pp. 101-103)

      Praise is the relationship between the Praiser and the Praised. And there is nothing in the horizons and the selves without it. The totality of creation is its widespread revelation. Man gathers it together and it is his uncreated core, so that there is no praise other than Praise. His greatest potential is to be a Praiser in such a way that both he and the horizons are revealed as Praise: “Then say: ‘Praise be to God! He will show you His signs, and you will recognize them.’’’¹ Through this recognition of Praise in the signs a man transforms his...

    • With the Praiser
      (pp. 104-106)

      The will turns away from phenomena in which Praise is not revealed, or it endeavors to discover it in them as veiled treasure. Praise found or revealed is the proclamation of Peace, and also the power of attraction. Thus the self opens up to the revelation of Praise where it is despised in forgetting God—in the poor and foreign, the weak and the dead. Steadfast following of the emissaries, who are always complete Praisers, is also a condition for opening up to God’s love:

      Say: “If you love God, follow me.

      God will love you, and forgive you your...

    • Hatred and Fear
      (pp. 107-110)

      “Those who hate God” are none other than individuals who have taken the signs in the horizons and selves, denied what they are and given them names and meaning beyond their Origin and Purpose. They have adopted phenomena from the horizons and selves as causes and consequences, and they attribute creative properties to them. Thus nonbeing and evil have become a beginning out of which the measurable world is drawn and presented as the only possible one. The feeling that phenomena, projects, and structures are independent is transformed into closedness of both the horizons and the selves. That is choosing...

    • Unity
      (pp. 111-113)

      The expectation of mercy, hope in Mercy, and leading toward Mercy through the statement “in the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful” transforms the heart from roughness to full tenderness, when it becomes like that of a bird.³⁵ And the devil, which means unreality and nothingness, threatens a man with poverty,³⁶ while the transformation of the self into independence and sufficiency leads him from the position of keeper of the created world into competition with the Creator. By accepting poverty, along with fear of God, the human self opens toward the Wealthy One and passes through the degrees of...

    • The Love of a Woman
      (pp. 114-117)

      By seeing beauty in the figure of woman, man discloses himself. That is his relaxation or sobriety before the possibility of disclosing himself in the outer world. What is disclosed is revealed as separateness from himself. In it he sees a sign about God. Out of sobriety before this revelation he passes into drunkenness: he loves God, but what is revealed to him flees and vanishes. Wherever the drunken man turns, there he finds a trace of the Beloved. But that trace does not endure even for one moment, nor does it accept the lover’s reaching for him in any...

    • Undressing and Union
      (pp. 118-122)

      What is lowered down must also be raised up. Descent includes also ascent. So it is also with separation and unification. At the beginning of separation its participants are closest. Their forms do not entirely cover up the oneness of their essence. By moving away from that essence, the form becomes more closed and more opaque. While the child grows in its mother’s womb, for all that it is acquiring specificity, it remains part of her. The unity of the child and the mother in the womb bears witness to the Mercy of oneness: the unborn child is subordinate to...

  10. Sixth Door Knowledge
    • The Station of No-Station
      (pp. 125-128)

      The deeper and more wide-ranging one’s reflections about love are, the clearer it becomes that it is not definable. The directedness that is felt and sought in love is revealed in the very impossibility of defining it through nondirectedness. Although the will is the starting point of every reflection about love, it leads only to the borders, so that it should be testified there that they, those limits of the definable, con-firm the nonexisting as fullness.

      The will sets out from the illusion that forms the human standpoint and endeavors to transform it into something higher and different. But that...

    • The Speech of Skins
      (pp. 129-132)

      Whenever anyone praised the Imam ‘Ali, he would respond that he knew himself better than others did, but that God knew him better than any.³ As this statement says, a man can hide from another man, and even from himself, but he cannot hide from God. Since the eyes, ears, and skin are the borders across which relationships are established between the self and the nonself, they are also obstacles for the other in his knowledge of the inner self. Thus hearing, sight, and touch bear witness to what can be hidden from another. And only those who can speak...

    • The self and the Self
      (pp. 133-136)

      The well-known holy saying, in which God speaks through the Praiser, gathers together the relationship of knowledge and love: “I was the Hidden Treasure, so I loved to be known. Hence I created the creatures.” The words “I was the Hidden Treasure” mean that the fullness of knowledge is in nonexistence or noncreatedness. It is there and thus eternally and forever. God’s “I am” is the eternal fullness of knowledge. In that eternal and unchangeable fullness of knowledge, in which nothing is divided, lies love of knowledge. Therefore, the hiddenness of the treasure is God’s love of knowledge. That love...

    • Knowledge and Being
      (pp. 137-140)

      In both cases there exists, although in different ways, the danger of overlooking, neglecting, and denying the possibility of illusion or the power of evil, which is present in the self and outside it—in the world.

      In the uncreated intelligence, being and knowledge are one and the same. But, in creation they are separated. Man is the full sign of this: his body indicates being, and his head knowing. They are the outer expression of the separation, or rather divergence, that confirms in-wardness or the invisible core. That divergence bears witness to inner oneness, or the heart, which is...

    • Prostration
      (pp. 141-144)

      As a whole being, man is ordered from the heart through the brain to the totality of the body. That trinity corresponds to Intellect-consciousness-body or Self-Light-World. The intellect/heart remain hidden, but are, nevertheless, expressed in the duality brain/consciousness and body/world. The presence of the Intellect in the dualities of existence makes possible at every moment, as certainty, the resolution of duality and unification through love and/or knowledge, which is return to the Self or manifestation in It. But, although love appears to be the direct or unifying connection with the Self, it is not possible without knowledge in its active...

    • Remembrance
      (pp. 145-150)

      Man is in the world and opposite it. Accepting submission, which is the way of existence of that opposite world, means the confirmation of the human nature of the created one. And that nature demands a Creator. One seeks the other. The Creator manifests Himself in the created one who is, thus, the revelation of His Words. Without the created one the Word is hidden, unrevealed, and undivided. It is only an unarticulated name.

      Man’s submission or serenity becomes the “transcription” of that hiddenness into revelation, just as the world is. And man can express it, thus disclosing himself, the...

  11. The Self at Peace
    (pp. 151-154)

    In the preceding reflections, six doors were knocked on for the sake of finding an answer to the question of love.¹ Whenever the path toward one of them led to the right, whether it was open or remained closed, the “here and now” of the traveling self lay between that orientation and what remained to the left. It was the same when the direction toward that door or what lay behind it led straight: the “here and now” of the self remained between that and what was left behind. But two paths and two doors remained impossible—the one leading...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 155-166)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-170)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 171-172)