Allah’s Love Can Only Be Earned

 



A common criticism towards Islam is the claim that there is lack of loving sentiments from God towards mankind, which is necessary to evoke the reciprocal love of mankind for God.  While Christianity revolves around the theme of “God is Love”, Islam (as the claim continues) revolves around the theme of “God is Greatest”. 

This claim deserves a thoughtful rather than an emotional response.  We cannot simply say that in Islam the love of Allah (swt) for his creatures is equal to or greater than that in Christianity or any other faith.  It is not a competition between faiths in how much love “your God” has for mankind.

The Qur’an speaks frequently of Allah’s Love but that love is not unconditional, even for Muslims.  Allah’s Mercy, Guidance and Sustenance are granted to every human being, but His Love is reserved for those who work for it. 

In Islam, Allah’s Love can only be earned!  No one should take it for granted, including Muslims who may like to think that they are especially encompassed in the Love of Allah (swt) just because of their commitment to the faith.

The Arabic translation for the word “love” is “hub”.  This word and its derivatives are mentioned 69 times in the Qur’an, usually in a context of qualities of people who enjoy the Love of Allah (swt).  For example, Allah loves the good doers “al-Muh’sineen” (2:195); the repentant (2:222); the God-conscious believers (3:76); the upholders of justice (5:42); the strugglers in His Path (61:4); those who put their trust in Him (3:159), those who purify themselves (9:108), those who exercise patience (3:146), etc. In short, Allah (swt) loves those who have pledged themselves to religious morality and virtue.

The Qur’an, on the other hand, does not use the word “hate” to express Allah’s displeasure with the opposite qualities or deeds.  Instead, it uses the negation of the word “love”.  So, Allah (swt) (in the Qur’an) does not love the aggressors (7:55), the tyrants (42:40), the corrupt ones (5:64), the guilty (4:107), the transgressors (2:190), the ungrateful (22:38), the arrogant ones (31,18), the extravagant (6:142), the unjust (42:20), the disturbers of peace (28:77), etc.  In short, Allah (swt) does not love those who have given themselves to immorality in one way or another, regardless of their declared faith.

Upon examining those and many other verses that include the Arabic word “hub”, one can conclude that Allah’s love is not universal as It is granted only to those who turn to Him and strive through their life to attain the moral ideals that are promoted in the Qur’an.  This concept is not well engrained in the culture of contemporary Muslims.  This is partly because of the predominant global trend of people to seek privileges with minimum effort, but mainly because of the confusion in using words associated with “love”. 

The words “mercy” (rahma), “compassion” (ra’fah), “affection” (wudd), all have shades of the meaning of “love”, and in fact they are sometimes rendered as “love” in some translations of the Qur’an. 

And since Allah (swt) bestows all these favors abundantly on everyone, people tend to think that He bestows His love on everyone as well.  But the Qur’an made it clear that while the Mercy, Guidance and protection of Allah (swt) embrace every one, He may not be pleased (i.e. does not love) those who persist on sinning.  The sinner enjoys the Mercy of Allah (swt), His Guidance, His compassion, but not His Love!

This meaning is presented in (7:156): “He (Allah) said: I afflict my punishment on whom I will, but my Mercy embraces all things.”

Allah (swt) extends His favors on all mankind and this is a clear sign that He is willing to love them but only if they are willing to bring themselves closer to Him, or in other words to engage themselves with Him (5:54).  And the Qur’an mentions that only a few people are willing to do so (17:89) “And We have fully explained things in this Qur’an using every kind of similitude, yet most mankind refuse the Message and choose the disbelief.”

The love of Allah (swt) for a sincere servant is the ultimate reward that anyone can ever have in this life or the hereafter.  But as we experience in life, love can only be rewarding when it becomes a mutual bond.  And Allah (swt) wants us to enter this bond of love with Him.  So, this should be our life-long mission as people of faith. 

But how can we to enter this bond? Through prayers, du’a, repentance and good deeds? Perhaps!

But in addition to that there is another way, probably a more important one.  It is by inculcating the attributes of Allah (swt) in us.  If we do that we will reach a higher plane (level) of love for him.

Allah (swt), for example, is The Just.  And He created us with potential to be fair and just.  If we struggle to be fair and just while knowing that the ultimate level of justice resides in Allah (swt) then we will feel a special bond with him.  He is the ultimate for what we are struggling to reach.

The same can be applied to any other attribute among the ninety nine attributes known as the Beautiful Names of Allah.  If we sincerely try to elevate our patience, humility, tolerance, courtesy, gratefulness, forgiveness, thankfulness....etc.

We shall be able to relate better with Allah (swt), the Source of all these virtues.

Try to be patient, but at the same time keep in mind that Allah (swt) is The Most Patient (Al-Sabour).   Try to be generous, but at the same time keep in mind keep in mind that Allah (swt) is The Most Generous (Al-Kareem).

If we display those qualities just to fulfill a religious duty and receive the promised reward, it may not lead to the development of the desired bond of love with Allah (swt).  But if we display these qualities with full awareness that Allah (swt) is the Source of all these virtues, then we may become motivated to display them in order to approach Allah (swt), to open ourselves to the boundless courtesy, generosity and patience that originate in Him, or in short to experience His perfect attributes. 

That is precisely the way we can engage ourselves with Allah (swt), experience His pervasive presence in our lives and enter a bond of love with Him.

Allah (swt) does not need our good qualities or our love for Him.  After all, these good qualities and the infinite love are indeed His.  Yet, He still wants to see us growing in those qualities and displaying love for Him through our deportment.  This will be the manifestation of our ties to Him.  And only then we can earn His Love!

 

By Mohammed Shokr



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