by Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad(db)
Allah created certain attractive forces amongst His creation. When this attraction exists between two inanimate objects it is called magnetism, an example of which is gravity. When it exists between two living beings it is called affection, as illustrated by a well-known Arabic proverb:
A being is attracted toward its own.
As this affection intensifies and grows it becomes muhabbah (love). The root of the word muhabbah is hubba, which translates to seed. A seed takes root when planted in the ground and is nourished by sunshine and rain; then fragrant flowers and fruits come forth. In the same way, when the seed of muhabbah is planted in the human heart, it starts to flourish and slowly encompasses the entire being.
Psychologists agree that the word muhabbah applies to the heart’s inclination toward a desired object. Imam al-Ghazali i defined muhabbah as “a human being’s natural inclination towards such an object that gives joy.” Shaykh Mehmood Kashani i said that muhabbah is the inclination of the inner self for the appreciation of beauty. Along the same lines, Shaykh Syed Muhammad Zoki Shah i wrote in his book “Sar-e-Dilbaraan” that muhabbah is a magnetism that pulls one towards another.
This attraction turns to infatuation as desire increases in the heart and the heart becomes restless and uneasy. This restlessness grows until thoughts of the beloved consume the lover’s entire being. Separation from the object of one’s muhabbah becomes unbearable and the heart remains dissatisfied, constantly craving more. The lover’s thoughts become one with the beloved; the beloved’s happiness becomes the lover’s happiness; and the beloved’s wants become the lover’s wants. These are all results of muhabbah.
When explaining the words of the Prophet “Wal Hubba Assasi,” Shaykh Janab Qazi Muhammad Sulaiman Salman Mansurpuri i wrote in his book “Rahmah lil-Alameen,” that muhabbah is strength of heart; muhabbah is nourishment for the soul; muhabbah is coolness of the eyes. Muhabbah is everlasting life - the life of the heart, the success of life, and the extension of that success. Hence muhabbah is everything.
Muhabbah forms the foundation of a community as hearts are drawn to one another. Intentions of the heart and mind strengthen muhabbah and attraction grows so that the lover becomes absorbed in the beloved. A constant burning and want is ignited within the lover and the heart becomes content with handling any anxiety for the sake of his beloved.
As one begins to see the effects of muhabbah, hardship and struggle become easy to handle. The heart becomes preoccupied with thoughts of getting closer to the beloved and thoughts other than those of the beloved melt away. The famous philosopher Ibn Sina explained that muhabbah is entrenched in every aspect of creation - be it elements, minerals, plants or animals.
Many analysts hold the opinion that muhabbah cannot be completely explained because the explanation of muhabbah is muhabbah itself. Muhabbah is an emotion that can only be recognized by intense desire and enthusiasm, and not by the mind. However, the mashaikh have tried to render an explanation for the benefit of salikeen.
1) Shaykh Abu Bakr Shibli i was asked, “What is muhabbah?” He replied:
Love is a fire that ignites when it is truly realized within the senses, and captivates the entire being within itself.
2) Hadrat Bayazid Bustami i has said:
Muhabbah is to know that one’s abundant qualities are actually minute, whereas the beloved’s insignificant qualities are actually abundant. For example, Allah loves His creation, He showers them with countless blessings and mercies daily, yet Allah Himself stated in His Book that these blessings are few.
Say: Short is the enjoyment of this world (4:77)
On the other hand, the believers perform an insufficient amount of dhikr (remembrance of Allah) but Allah refers to this as abundant.
Men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise (33:35)
A poet expressed his passion thus:
However minute the reward it is still abundant
Whatever thanks I can give it is still minute.
3) Hadrat Junaid Baghdadi i said:
Muhabbah grows to the extent that the beloved’s characteristics transfer into the lover and the two become indistinguishable.
When a light bulb is lit, one can only the main light source can be seen from afar, and not the surrounding glass. In the same way, the lover loses and forgets himself in the beloved. In the translation of a hadith we are told that the Messenger of Allah said, “If there would be a Prophet after me, it would be Umar ()?.” It is evident from Islamic teachings and history that Hadrat Abu Bakr was in fact much closer to the Prophet. However, our scholars have written that Hadrat Abu Bakr lost himself in the Prophet to such a degree that the two became indistinguishable, and so if a Companion (Sahabi) were to attain the status of a prophet after the Messenger of Allah, it would have been Hadrat Umar.
Majnun’s love for Layla reached a peak and in this state someone said to him, “Layla is coming!” Majnun jumped up and said, “I myself am Layla!” This is the lover completely losing himself in his beloved.
Love and lover are erased and only the beloved remains.
4) Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani i said:
Muhabbah is a veil between lover and beloved, and the lover becomes successful in his muhabbah when he loses himself in the beloved (fana). When a lover starts on this road of muhabbah he must sacrifice both body and soul in order to achieve his goal. He must sacrifice both character and attributes for his beloved.
5) Hadrat Husain bin Mansur Hallaj i stated:
The reality of muhabbah is to abandon one’s qualities to become one with the beloved.
6) Imam Siri Shakti i said that true muhabbah does not exist between two people until they say, “I am yours and you are mine.” Allah? will become ours if we surrender our wills to Him, leaving everything, including our futures and hopes, to Him.
7) Hadrat Abu Abdullah Qarshi i said:
The reality of muhabbah is to surrender all of oneself to the beloved, leaving nothing for oneself.
8) Hadrat Abu ‘Ali Rudbari i said:
Muhabbah is to acquire submission and to leave one’s wants.
9) Hadrat Rohim i explained muhabbah as drawing closer to the beloved in every state and situation, whether the beloved is attentive to the lover or not.
10) Shaykh Abu Bakr Kasani i said:
Muhabbah is to leave everything for the sake of achieving the goal, which is the beloved.
11) Imam Khwaja Yahya Ma’az i said:
The reality of muhabbah is that it does not decrease with the non-responsiveness of the beloved. Likewise, it does not increase any more with the close attention of the beloved.
12) Shaykh Shibli i was imprisoned because people considered him insane. Once some people came to visit him and he asked “Who are you?” They replied, “Your friends.” At this he started throwing stones at them and so they ran. Shaykh Shibli i said to them;
If you were really my friends and well wishers you would not run from my punishment.
A true friend wants only good fortune and to run from good fortune is stupidity.
13) A pious elder is known to have said:
Only he whose cup of love is filled can see the Beloved.
Imam Wisal Shirazi i is quoted as saying, “My friend, do whatever you will with me, but I will not leave you.”
14) Hadrat Shibli i further commented that muhabbah means to love everything that the beloved likes, even if the lover himself dislikes it, and to dislike whatever the beloved dislikes, even if the lover himself likes it.
The lover loves only for the sake of the beloved and hates for the same. The lover should negate everything, even himself, and acknowledge only the beloved. Muhabbah is restlessness that does not end until the lover is connected with the beloved; it is a fire that does not cool until the lover realizes his objective.
15) According to this Faqir, muhabbah is an extreme anxiety that does not diminish even after the object of love is attained. Muhabbah is a fire that does not cool even after witnessing the beloved. A lover cried out “Fire!” and all the townspeople gathered around, but saw no fire. They asked where the fire was and this lover replied:
(It is) the Fire of Allah kindled (to a blaze), that which does mount to the heart (104: 6-7)
I drank and drank from the wine of love
Neither is the wine finished nor my thirst quenched.
 Layla and Majnun is a classical love story originally from Arab folklore. The myth has been influential to Middle Eastern poets, especially sufi writers in whose literature the name Layla suggests a reference to their concept of the Beloved.
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