September 27, 2009

Come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come even though you have broken your vow a thousand times. Come, come yet again, come. Maulana Jelalu’ddin Rumi.


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[1] have tried to render an explanation for the benefit of salikeen[2].

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[3] 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[4], 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.


[1] Mashaikh is the plural form of shaykh, a spiritual guide on the path of self purification (tasawwuf).

[2] A salik is a seeker on the path of tasawwuf.

[3] 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.

[4] Faqir literally means “a needy and dependant person.” Here the word is used by the author, Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad (db), to depict his own need and helplessness in front of the Creator.


The literal definition of the word ishq is the attachment of the heart to something. It is derived from the word ashkah, a plant that dries and yellows after staying green for a certain amount of time. Ishq Pichan is the Hindi name of a parasitic plant that kills everything it encircles, rendering its prey dull and yellow. In Urdu, this same type of plant is called akash bail. In exactly the same way, ishq pales and weakens the body when it enters the heart.

Some believe the word ishq is not derived from any other word but is a root word itself. It has not been used anywhere in the Holy Quran, a possible reason being that the word ishq was slightly unpalatable to the original and pure Arabic. In the book Qamoos, ishq has been defined as a part of madness. Shaykh Muhiuddin ibn Arabi Quds i said that the word ishq has been represented by the word muhabbah (love) in the Holy Quran. Allah said:

But those of faith are overflowing in their love for Allah. (2:165)

When this love becomes engraved in the heart, the lover sees nothing but the beloved. This muhabbah flows like blood through the lover, who now sees the beloved in everything around him.

By Allah, the sun does not rise nor set,
But that You are in my heart and in my thoughts.
I do not sit in the gathering of friends,
But that You are my conversation among the people.
I do not remember You in grief or joy,
But that Your love is woven into my breath.
I do not intend drinking water in thirst,
But Your image I envision in the glass.
If I had the strength to come
I would, dragging my face or walking on my hands.

This condition of the heart is called ishq. People have said ishq is intense love, but Shaykh Ibn Mansur i said the following in his book “Laisan ul-Arab”:

Ishq is the superlative form of muhabbah, extreme preoccupation with the beloved. This preoccupation can be both clean and unclean.

Shaykh Ahmed bin Yahya i was asked which of the two conditions of ishq and muhabbah is more praiseworthy, and he replied:

Muhabbah, because ishq can become excessive.

Hadrat Zoqi Shah Saheb i said that man is the greatest of Allah’s creation. Therefore, ishq has also been connected to man’s nature since it is the greatest form of muhabbah. There is no person who has not felt the emotion of ishq. The lover gains superior strength from the blessings of ishq, and he becomes lost in it.

One leap of ishq widened my horizons,
I used to think that the heavens and earth were limitless.

Ishq is the Sincerity of the Khalil,
Ishq is the patience of Husain
Ishq in the war of life is Badr and Hunain
– Allama Iqbal

Ishq has such power that it makes mere soil a part of history – for example, the mosque in Cordoba and Taj Mahal. Allama Iqbal has written in his famous poem “Masjid-e-Qurtuba”:

Actions of the believer are enhanced through ishq,
Ishq is true life and can never die.

Ishq is the breath of Jibril
Ishq is the heart of Mustafa
Ishq is the Messenger of Allah
Ishq is the Word of Allah
-Allama Iqbal

Intention and belief are strengthened by ishq to such an extent that the lover no longer fears anything, nor does any grief worry him.

The believer is from ishq; ishq is from the believer.
Ishq makes the impossible possible.

Shaykh Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlvi i wrote the following as his explanation of ishq in his book “Lam’aat”:

“A lover, a believer, believes that everything, all goodness, the believer’s entire being, is only for the remembrance of Allah, and he remains lost in the worship and remembrance of Allah. This remembrance leads to restlessness within the lover, restlessness in getting close to the beloved, which gets stronger with each passing day. This increases to a point that it pains the lover to even take the beloved’s name, and the lover feels as if his spirit will escape if he were to take the beloved’s name.

I tremble in the remembrance of my beloved.
Trembling which I feel in my bones.

Shaykh Abul Qasim Junaid Baghdadi i said:

Ishq is a beautiful desire and gift that Allah has made wajib on living creatures so that they can attain higher pleasures. This pleasure cannot be attained without love, an emotion that is present within the inner self. The possessors of this love are well aware of its tremendous worth. Every person is engulfed in the love of something through which he finds his path and reaches his destination. This is why such people enjoy a higher status than ordinary beings in this world. Hence, these lovers abandon whatever is tangible for the sake of something only heard of in stories (Tadhkirul Suluk).

Imam al-Ghazali i said that the lover should leap into the ocean of ishq., and he who is led ashore by the ocean’s currents will be successful. If he drowns in his quest to get across, however, Allah guarantees him the reward of his ishq. Imam al-Ghazali i further states, “O friend, ishq turns the heart to blood, turns the eye into a river, tears clothes to rags, turns life to soil, and money into waste.” Ishq is madness for Allah.

He who obeys Allah and His Messenger has already attained the highest achievement. (33: 71)

Shaykh Zun Nun Misri i was asked, “What is a true lover (ashiq-sadiq)?” The shaykh replied:

“If you encounter someone with a heavy heart and troubled appearance, oft-crying and seeking death, and despite this, he is courteous and maintains his limits, know that he is a true lover. He is doing all this despite his troubles.”

Many have said that ishq is a fire. However, Shaykh Makhdun Sharfuddin Ahmed i replied that if ishq were a fire, then a lover’s face would not be drowned in tears. Some said that ishq is water, to which Shaykh Sharfuddin i replied that hearts would not be burning if this were so. Still others said that ishq is a poison. If this is true, how is it that thousands of lovers are shouting and crying in desire and not dead?

It has also been said that ishq is hardship, but then, why is it that people are willing to give their lives to buy hardship? On the other hand, if ishq is luxury, then why do hearts burn because of it? In summation, everyone has tried to explain ishq in his or her own way, but no explanation has been able to come close.

To the author, ishq is a strong emotion that overwhelms the lover, and so, he yearns to unite with the beloved, losing himself in the process. If this is only the beginning of this journey, then what is its end? If anyone wants to search for ishq, let him search first for what aches the heart.

Wherever in the world we could find heartache,
We collected it and called it ishq.

– Iraqi

Sh. Zulfiqar Ahmad~ Ishq’Rasul.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: