Reading the Quran as the Book of Love

Reading the Quran as the Book of Love

While I was thinking about the theme of Love in the Holy Quran and was searching for some valuable scholarly material on the subject, Love in the Holy Quran by H.R.H Prince Ghazi welcomed me into the garden of love, compassion and mercy. Prince Ghazi has done his PhD on the subject at Al-Azhar University and has published this doctoral thesis as a book with Kazi Publications, Chicago, USA. The book has a foreword by Syed Hussain Nasr, a prominent scholar of Islam and Islamic Philosophy. The argument throughout the book is that while reading the Quran a reader is at every juncture and signpost welcomed by Allah’s love, mercy and compassion; hence, the Quran is the Book of Love.
The book, Love in the Holy Quran, is divided into five parts excluding a detailed Prologue and Conclusion: Part 1 is titled “Divine Love”; Part 2 is titled “The Messenger of God’s Love”; Part 3 is titled “Human Love”; Part 4 is titled “Love” and Part 5 is titled “The Beloved: Beauty; The Meeting with God; Beautitude”.
The book, of course, asks questions like the following at the very outset: “But what is love? And why are human beings so concerned with love, or indeed, so governed by love? Where does love come from, and where does it go? What is its purpose, and how is this purpose achieved? How many young people have suffered, cried, or committed suicide, because of love? How many older people have wept or felt pain because of their fear of losing those they love? Yet how many people have the power to rationally control what and how much they love?” The book is in principle based on these research questions, and the author has tried his best to process the understanding of the same with the help of Quranic ayats.
While it is to a certain extent easy for us to understand and describe the human capacity of love for different things and its different aspects, it is quite difficult for us to know if the words like “pleased by” and “inclined” befit a description of God’s love for His creations, argues the author of the book in Chapter 3 titled “The Definition of Love”; in fact, the author quotes Allama Ghazali for understanding and defining God’s love for His creations. Allama Ghazali writes: In its ordinary use, ‘love’ means the soul’s inclination to something which suits it and pleases it. Such a thing can only be envisaged for an imperfect being, which inclines towards something it lacks and is made complete by attaining it, and delights in having attained it; and this is impossible for God…God’s love for man, then, is for Him to draw him nearer to Himself by warding off distractions and sins from him, and purifying his inner being from the turbidity of this worldly life, and drawing back the veil from his heart so that he may behold Him, as though he sees Him with his heart. As for man’s love for God, it is his inclination towards attaining the perfection which he utterly lacks and needs, for he will doubtless yearn for what he lacks, and delight in attaining any part of it. This kind of yearning and love is impossible for God”. (Ghazi, p.11-12)
While the text of the Quran offers hundreds of instances which could be cited as the proof of God’s love for mankind and all of His creations, it is to be borne in mind that His love is general as well as specific. The countless blessings that He has showered on man (fadl) by virtue of His Mercy may be referred to His love for His creations in general terms, but His love for the Patient, the God-fearing people, the virtuous and for the men of consciousness is of particular nature because these people are blessed with the beauty of soul. Ghazi writes that “whilst God loves everything He has created in general, He loves beauty of soul in particular”. (Ibid.,12)
Two ayats of the Quran that one may quote to understand how Allah talks about His beautification of all the things that He has created are: “Who beautified everything that He created? He began the creation of man from clay” (32:7) and “He said, ‘So who is your Lord, O Moses?’ Moses said, ‘Our Lord is He Who gave to everything its particular nature and then guided them” (20:49-50). Ghazi quotes these two ayats to foreground the idea that whatever God has created is beautiful in general, hence is a manifestation of God’s love. As Prophet Mohammad (SAW) is reported to have said that “God is Beautiful, and He loves beauty”, “All beauty comes from Him as a free gift, and therefore He is …the Giver of existence and countless favours to every created thing”. (13)
Of the many attributes of Allah mentioned in the Quran, if we just think about some of these: al-Latif (The Gentle), al-Raouf (the Kind), al-Karim (The Generous), al-Haleem (the Forbearing), al-Wakil (the Absolutely Reliable), al-Wali (the Friend), al-Barr (the Good), al-Ghafur (the Forgiving), al-Tawwab (The Granter and Accepter of Repentance) and al-Affu (The Pardoner), ar-Rahman (The Most Benificient), ar-Rahim (The Most Merciful), al-Wadud (The Loving) and a host of other names and attributes of Allah, it could be very easily understood by a serious reader of the Quran how Allah shows and expresses His love for His creations, particularly mankind, the main recipient of the message of the Quran. The author of the book has attempted a good discussion on this topic in Chapter 4 titled God and Love. Many ayats of the Quran reflect this aspect of God’s love, for example, “And ask forgiveness of your Lord, then repent to Him. Truly my Lord is Merciful, Loving” (11:90); at another place, He says, “He is the Forgiving, the Loving” (85:14) and many such ayats of the Quran; about His attribute of Mercy, He says, “…He has prescribed for Himself mercy” (6:20) and while equating His name ‘the Compassionate’ with His name Allah, He says, “Invoke Allah or invoke the Compassionate One; whichever you invoke, to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names” (17:110).
While commenting on Allah’s beautiful names and attributes, the author of the book writes: “…since Divine Love, like Divine Mercy, is a Divine Quality; and since God’s Loving is inseparable from His Mercy; and since Divine Mercy is of the very Divine Essence itself, then we can conclude that Divine Love, like Divine Mercy, is of the Divine Essence itself, as well as being a Divine Quality. This is seen in the ayat al-kursi which the messenger of God called the greatest ayat in the Quran…” (17)
What one can infer from all the ayats of the Quran that mention and invoke the names and attributes of Allah is that it is His Loves that reflects from all these names and attributes. It could be a wonderful research question for scholars to look for the essence behind all the Beautiful Names of Allah mentioned in the Quran; in other words, Love happens to be the kernel of the Quranic text and its message, whether we deliberate upon the ayats of glad tidings or the ayats that speak of Allah’s power and warnings to sinners and transgressors.
As the Quran says, “He has prescribed mercy for Himself” and according to a Hadith it is said that “My mercy outstrips My wrath”, it becomes quite clear to us that Allah is all love for His creations; however, those who go astray and impose forgetfulness upon themselves are to be punished by Him if they do not repent and clean their souls for Allah’s Love for the mankind desires that all the souls must return to Him with no impurity of sins on them on the Day of Judgement. The author quotes Imam Razi who interprets the above-cited ayat and hadith in these words: “There are many opinions about His words ‘My mercy embraces all things’. It is said that ‘My mercy embraces all things’ means that His mercy in the life of the lower world is granted universally to all, whilst in the hereafter it is granted only to the believers…”
The book attempts a close reading of the Quranic text. The data of ayats focusing on the theme of God’s love for mankind has been selected from across the Quranic discourse. Many questions regarding God’s love for humankind have been answered logically with focus on the essences of the Quran. Moving beyond the literal aspect of reading a text like the Quran, the researcher in Ghazi has attempted to reach at the essences and kernel meanings of the Quran.
After reading the book, one feels happy to see how Ghazi has presented the ayats of the Quran as a coherent whole. But for attempting a coherent reading of the selected data of ayats, it could have been very difficult for the author to prove his hypothesis that the Quran is essentially a Book of Love as it has been revealed by a Loving God who is Compassionate and Merciful.
What is even more beautiful about this book is that it is free from philosophical jargon and is a clear and honest attempt to focus on how the ayats of the Quran reflect Allah’s love for all of His creations in general and for humankind in particular. While the general aspect of His love and mercy is unconditional, the condition of the particular aspect of His love is draw human beings nearer to Him through trials and tests so that their return to Him may purify their souls, thereby making them worthy of what He has promised in the Hereafter; in other words, when the goal is of a very high level, tests and trials on the path towards the said goal are by default supposed to be of the same magnitude.
Questions like “If God loves His creations, why is it that He punishes man for sins and transgression?” have also been processed in a simple language without philosophising it; the beautiful thing about the book with regard to such questions is that the author has summoned all the ayats on various aspects of the subject for processing its understanding. Man errors and shall be erring because he has been blessed with free will and a consciousness; this is something which makes him different from angels; however, God promises him forgiveness, mercy and reward after reward if only man confesses his sins and returns to God with a clean and beautiful soul.
Since God has created everything beautiful in general and has bestowed man with primordial purity and beauty of soul, His love for mankind demands that man returns that beauty to Him through both speech and deeds, thereby returning to God with a beautiful soul which is worth the promised destination in the hereafter.
What fascinated me about the book is the subject matter. I hadn’t actually come across with a full-length academic book like this on the Quran. The subject of love with reference to Quran and Hadith has been discussed by Sufis in their writings; however, a theological treatise on the same is missing. Ghazi has, indeed, filled the gap and opened the doors for many more academic deliberations on the same. The book leads the reader into the “Garden of Love” which the Quran undoubtedly is and so is God Himself who has filled the Quranic text with love in every word. The book by Ghazi may, in short, be described as an attempt to develop the Theology of Love.

—ameenparray@gmail.com

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