Love of God
In these bleak and inauspicious days, when our hearts are overwhelmed with enmity, when our spirits are sickened, when hatred and antagonism are out of control, it is crystal clear that we need love and mercy as we need water or air. We seem to have forgotten love; what is more, compassion is a word rarely used. We have no mercy for each other, nor love for people.
Our feeling of pity has diminished, our hearts are adamant and our horizon is pitch-black from hostility; it is for this reason that we see everything and everybody as being bleak. Throughout the world there are many tyrants that detest tolerance. The number of those who curse dialogue is not that small at all. What most of us do is to seek ways to fight, to blacken one another’s name with various lies and we express ourselves with our fangs, our claws, our words that reek of blood.
There is a terrifying disunion among individuals as well as among the people. We begin our sentences with the words “We,” “You,” and “Others.” Never does our hatred disintegrate and disperse. We conclude our nauseating rows, indicating that we will continue, still bearing feelings that will arise in future tension. We are distant from one another, and this distance or disunion is reflected in our every act. Like a burst rosary, we scatter here and there. We cause each other incomparably more suffering than unbelievers do.
As a matter of fact, we have forsaken God, and thus, He has disbanded us. Because we could not believe in and love Him to the degree required, He withdrew the feeling of love from our hearts. What we are now doing, deep in the abyss of our bosoms where we are condemned to suffer yearning for Him, is to utter the egotistic nonsense of “I,” “you,” and to label each other as “reactionary,” “infidel fanatic,” and to constantly produce scenarios to dethrone one another. It is as though we have been cursed, as if we have indeed been deprived of loving and being loved, and we are craving mercy, compassion, and bliss. We did not love Him, so He took love away. No matter how long we wait, He will make us love one another if only we turn to Him and love Him. However, we are distant from the source of love. The roads we are on do not lead to Him, not at all. On the contrary, they are leading us away from Him. Our spirits, which used to receive streams of love, receive nothing now. Our hearts are like dry deserts; there are caves in our inner worlds, resembling the dens of wild animals. The love of God is the only remedy for all these negative things.
The love of God is the essence of everything and is the purest and cleanest source of all love. Compassion and love flow to our hearts from Him. Any kind of human relation will develop in accordance with our relation to Him. Love of God is our faith, our belief, and our spirits in the physical body. He made us live when we did. If we are to live today it is only through him. The essence of all existence is His love, and the end is an expansion of that divine love in the form of Paradise. Everything He created depends on love and He has bound His relationship with humankind to the holy pleasure of being loved.
The sphere of the manifestation of love is the soul. To whatever direction we may orient it, it always turns to God. The sufferings due to disorientation and getting lost in multiplicity, rather than in the Unity of God, are ours.1 If we relate our love for everything to God, and thus, if we are able to take love in its real meaning, we will then be aloof from the various things that disperses love and we will avoid associating partners with God. Thus, we will remain like those who advance on the true path with our love and our relationship to all of existence.
Idolaters have considered idols as something to worship only because they were worshiped by their ancestors. God, on the other hand, is Beloved and worshiped because He is God. His Lordship and Greatness require us to be His servant. We always endeavor to worship Him, to express our love for Him, to thank Him for our attainments, and to voice our affection for Him, our relation with Him, and our connection to Him.
In worldly love, aspects like beauty, perfection, form, harmony in appearance, greatness, reputation, power, position, status, prosperity, family and lineage, etc. have all been regarded as reasons for love. Occasionally, there have been people who fall into the error of associating partners with God; this is due to their excessive love and affection for these phenomena, which may explain why idolatry exists. Such people are usually fond of facial or physical beauty, or manners, they applaud perfection, prostrating themselves before magnificence and greatness, sacrificing their humanity and liberty for the sake of wealth and power, and flattering in their greed for position and status. In this way, by distributing their love and affection to many an impotent creature, not only do they waste their emotions, which are meant primarily to be used in relation to the True Opulent and Mighty One, they also experience death after death due to unreciprocated love, or to the indifference and unfaithfulness of their beloved ones.
As for believers, on the other hand, they love God in the very first place, and they feel affection to others through their love for Him. For the sake of the manifestation and blessings of the Just One, they keep in touch with every person and everything, declaring their love and appreciating these things on His behalf.
Indeed, without taking God into consideration, any love for this or that object is futile, unpromising, indecisive, and fruitless. Above all else, a believer must love Him, and have a liking for all others only because they are colorful manifestations and reflections of His Divine Names and Attributes. Also, people must applaud these things with great admiration, and each time a person sees such a thing they must think, “This too, is by You,” and experience a period of unification with the Lover. For this, however, we need pure and virtuous people that can read the verses of God in the faces of people. Verily, for those who can decipher, every creature is a shining mirror and a eulogy written in great verse; above all else is the human face, reflecting the secret of Mercy.
The All-Just made you a mirror of His Self,
A mirror of His Unique Self. (Hakani)2
How significant the above couplet is; not only does it remind us of our position, it also stresses reality. If a human being is a mysterious mirror of the concealed Beauty, which is, without a doubt, the case, then a person must turn to Him with the eyes of his or her heart, lying in wait to witness the manifestations, and expecting breezes that will take him or her to residences of deeper love. Also, in order to please Him, and thus, to become one favored by Him, a person must make use of each and every means available on the road leading to His intimacy. Like a key in the lock of the Hidden Treasure, his or her heart must keep turning all the time. As such, if love is Solomon and the heart is the throne of Solomon, it goes without saying that the sultan will ascend the throne, sooner or later.
Once Solomon ascends the throne, or in other words, when love meets the heart, people always think of Him, speak to Him in the inner world and taste His blessings, openly and explicitly, in the water they drink, in the food they taste and in the air they breathe. Moreover, they feel the warmth of His intimacy in all actions. The relationship of the tides of closeness and love deepens and their hearts begin to burn as if on fire. At times, they are destroyed by the fire of love, yet, never do any of them complain and thus, never do any of them tire others with their sighs. In contrast, such people consider these to be a gift bestowed by Him. They burn like a furnace without smoke or flames. Like chastity, they preserve their joy and love for God, never revealing any secrets to more tactless people.
This road is open to everybody. Nonetheless, it is essential that the traveler be sincere and determined. If believers find out that all of beauty, perfection, greatness, excellence, magnificence belong to God, then they turn to God with all the willingness, love, and affection that have been brought about by these means and they love God with a love that is fit for His Sublime Being. This love, if not passion, is for Him and it is the source of human love and desire in a unified manner. After all, in a heart that is confined to uniformity and that relies on Islamic principles, one can never observe any deviation, let alone any disorder of love. Believers love God because He is God, and their love for God is not connected to any earthly or unearthly considerations. They filter and test the gushing springs of love and the waterfalls of their desire for God with the Holy Qur’an and the principles of the most exalted spirit.3 Such people also use these as a barrier in the path that they follow with human fallibility. Even at times when they are completely consumed with the fire of love, they act righteously and justly. Never does presumption interfere in their love for God. Instead, regarding Him as the Real Owner and Protector of everything, Who is known with His Divine Names and Attributes, they love God wholeheartedly with a clean, sacred and reverent love.
Believers love God more than anything, prior to and in the aftermath of everything as the Real Beloved, the Real Desired, and the Real Worshiped. They desire God and through every possible action they cry out that they are the servants of God. For the sake of this devotion, they love in the first place Prophet Muhammad, the Pride of Humanity, who was the loyal attendant, the true interpreter of God’s Essence, Names and Attributes, the end of the succession of prophets and the essence of Messengership, peace and blessings be upon him. Following him, they love all the other prophets and people of sainthood who were the true vicegerents, the purest mirrors, and devout servants of Almighty God, who were in charge of representing divine purposes and supervising the building, design, and order of the world. Next they love youth, for it is conferred by God as an advance credit upon humankind so that they can better understand and evaluate this finite world. After that, they love this world, for it is an arable field of the other realms and also a manifestation of His Beautiful Names. Then they love their parents, for, being heroes of affection and mercy, they undertake the responsibility of looking after their children. Finally they love children, for they sincerely protect their parents and have an intimate closeness to them, as well. All these can be regarded as signs of cordial affection toward God and of love for the sake of God.
Unbelievers love people as if they were loving God, while believers love them because of God; these two are totally different. This sort of God-oriented love, which is experienced through faith and prayers, is unique to ideal believers. While the corporeal love based on waywardness and the evil-commanding self are the manifestations of sin and disobedience hidden in the nature of man, love of God and utterances of the lovers of God are like a sacred potion angels wish to drink. If this love grows to such an extent that the lovers forsake everything—material or spiritual— for the sake of the Beloved, leaving nothing for themselves, then there is merely the consideration of the Beloved in the heart. The heart girds itself with this consideration, beating accordingly, whereas eyes verbalize this love with tears. The heart reproaches the eye for releasing a secret, and the bosom for cooling down. Crying and bleeding inside, he tries not to let others discover his agony, and says:
You claim to be in love, then grieve not over the calamity of love,
Do not let others into your suffering from love. (Anonymous)
Actually, love is a sultan, the heart is the throne, and the groans of hope and longing uttered on the prayer rugs in the remotest corners are the voice of that sultan.
Never should one let others into these groans of the remotest places, which indeed are the launching pads to reach God, and thereby help those ignorant ones make fun of them. If this spectacular love is for the Omniscient One, then it should be kept in the most private sphere, not letting it fly away from its nest.
Telling of their trivial love, these conventional lovers wander here and there, proclaiming their love to all, acting like mad men, making their love obvious to all. Lovers of God, on the other hand, are sincere and quiet. Leaning their heads on God’s threshold, they express themselves merely to Him. From time to time they faint, but they never reveal their secrets. They are at His service with their hands and feet, their eyes and ears, their tongues and lips and they wander in the places of His Sublime Attributes. Immersed in His Light of Being they melt and disappear as a mortal in His love. As they feel and sense God, they burn and exclaim, “More!” Much do they feel at the peaks of their hearts and still they cry, “More!” They are never satisfied with love though they love and are loved. “More!” they keep repeating. And as they continue asking for more, the Glorious Beloved uncovers veils for them, presenting to their wisdom things never seen before, and also whispering to their spirits many a secret. After a certain point what they feel, what they love, what they think of becomes Him. In everything they see they find graceful manifestations of His Beauty. Leaving their strength entirely, at a certain time they connect their will power to His, melt in His demands, and evaluate this high rank with how much they love and are loved, and again with how much they know and are known. With obedience to Him and faithfulness, they express their love. They lock the door of their hearts with bolt after bolt in such a secure manner that no stranger can ever enter that pure house. With all their beings they are witnesses of God, and their praise and appreciation of God is far beyond their comprehension.
Their belief, on the other hand, in God’s response to such loyalty is adamant. Their place in God’s Presence is in direct proportion with His in their hearts, which is why they endeavor to stand upright before Him.
Never do they act like a creditor when they love Him deeply; on the contrary, they are as embarrassed as a debtor. As Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiya4 put it, “I swear on Your Holy Being that I have not worshiped You demanding Your Paradise. Rather, I loved You and connected my slavery to my love.” As such, they walk with gushing love toward His Realm, keeping His blessings and kindness in mind. With their hearts, they constantly endeavor to stay close to Him, and with their reason and intellect, they observe phenomena in the mirrors of the Divine Names. They hear voices of love in everything, are mesmerized by the fragrance of each and every flower, and consider every scene that is beautiful as a reflection of His Beauty. For Him, all they hear, feel, or think of is nothing other than love, as a result of which they watch the whole existence as an exhibition of love and, again, listen to it as a harmony of love.
Once love has put up its sumptuous tents in the valleys of the heart, all opposite events seem to be the same, such as peace-unrest, blessing-calamity, hot-sweet, comfort-discomfort, grief-pleasure, all giving the same sound and looking the same way. Indeed, for loving hearts, suffering is no different than pleasure. To them, suffering is the very cure, so they drink pain and agony as they drink from the rivers of Heaven. No matter how merciless the time and events get, they stay still with a profound feeling of loyalty. With their eyes fixed on the door to be opened, they lie in wait to welcome some manifestations and kindness in different dimensions. They crown His love by respecting and also obeying Him. Their hearts beat with submission and they shake due to the fear of disobeying the Beloved. So as not to fall, ironically, they take shelter again in the Unique Source of reliance and aid. This kind of quest for an agreement with and consent of God makes them in time very dearly sought by everybody both on Earth and in the heavens. The only thing in their consideration is nothing but God. For them, expecting something in return is a kind of deception, yet they regard it as discourteous not to accept the blessings they have not asked for. They give these blessings high esteem but, cautiously, each of them moans; “I take refuge in You from their temptations.”
An ardent longing is the highest rank for a lover, and to get lost in the lover’s desires and wishes is the most unreachable attainment. Love is founded upon elementary principles, such as repentance, alertness, and patience, whereas once introduced, self-possession, familiarity, love, longing, and other principles are required in order to merit this position. The first lesson on the path of love is purification, to be deprived of personal desires, to relate all your thoughts and communication to Him, to be busy with things that hint of Him, to wait expectantly in case He manifests, and also to stay determinedly where you are for a lifetime in case He turns to you one day. In this path, love is to be madly in love; ardor is the gushing passion, enthusiasm and desire; when ardor becomes the true nature of humans then this is yearning; consent is meeting every act of the Lover with pleasure; self-possession is being cautious against becoming intoxicated with the blessings of hearing or feeling His Presence, or being under His direct guidance.
The more people develop in themselves one of the above features, the more changes there are that can be witnessed in their behavior. Sometimes they seek quiet bays where they can confide in Him. Sometimes under the influence of a variety of considerations, they talk to Him and state their grievance concerning separation. They are filled with joy expecting union and relax with tears of bliss. At times, they do not see what is going on around them, for they experience unity in multiplicity, and sometimes they get lost in the awe of peace and cannot even hear their own voices.
Love grows and develops in the bosom of wisdom. Wisdom is nourished by knowledge of the divine. Those who are not wise cannot love at all. And those whose perception is weak cannot reach wisdom, either. Occasionally, God himself implants love in hearts and activates the inner mechanism, an extra blessing which most people long for. Nevertheless, relying on some marvelous wonders and waiting impotently is one thing; an active waiting in endless contractions is totally different. The faithful servants at the Gate of the All-Just One put their expectations on action, take up a dynamic stance and, therefore, they generate with that seemingly still position enough energy to suffice the entire universe, materializing awesome activities.
These people are loyal lovers incarnating certain characteristics. They meet every act of the Beloved with pleasure and display faithfulness all the time, as if repeating Nesimi5;
A desperate lover, I won’t, O the Beloved, abandon You,
I won’t do so even if You rend my heart with a dagger.
Despite the fact that they always seriously long for His Company, never ever do they whine. They remove all expectations that are not of Him from their minds, and think only of His Presence. Their conversations become those of the Beloved, and thus, their voices gain an angelic profundity.
For them, love is everything. They can survive without bodies; but without souls, they cannot. They believe that there is no room in their hearts for others, only for the love of the Beloved. As such, even if they are the poorest and weakest of the world, they hold a status envied by kings as well. They are big in their smallness, mighty in their impotence, wealthy enough in their neediness to command the entire universe. Though they look like a puny candle, they are like an energy source rich enough to light up suns. Even if everyone were to run toward the loyal lovers, it is still clear to where and to Whom the lovers are running. With the wealth of their essential characters they transcend the entire universe. But when they turn toward Him, they become a spark, even less—they become nothing by forgetting all that pertains to their existence.
A life without Him counts little for them. A life without Him is not a life at all. Leading a life without loving is a wasted life, and the delights and pleasures not related to Him are nothing but a placebo. They ceaselessly talk about love and longing and regard those who are not familiar with these as being somehow different.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
1 The author touches upon “disorientation and getting lost in multiplicity” in association with failing to surrender to the Will of one single God, but instead, submitting to multiple worldly gods, like excessive wealth, abuse of power, indulging in illegitimate pleasures, etc. Idolatry is another manifestation of worshiping multiple gods.
2 Hakani Mehmed Bey (d. 1606): A divan poet whose Hilya (a literary genre which describes the physical features of the Prophet) was first of its kind.
3 Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
4 Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiya (c. 703-805): A female saint of exceptional piety.
5 Nesimi (d. 1404). A famous Sufi poet from Baghdad, Nesimi is considered to be one of the first masters of divan literature. He has two divans (book of poems) in Turkish and Persian.