To love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love
— Erich Fromm, “The Art of Loving”
Most of us love with conditions predicated upon gains we seek from the other. It’s one of the worst forms of selfishness because it masquerades as selflessness. Love is something that transcends being based on how the other behaves. The Beloved blessings & peace be upon him said, “None of you [truly] believes until they love for their brother/sister what they love for themselves.” Imam An’Nawawi said that the brotherhood mentioned in this Hadith refers to the brotherhood of humanity. It’s a brotherhood that encompasses Muslims and non-Muslims. But how can we Muslims love our non-Muslim brethren, when most of us find it difficult to give even one excuse for another Muslim (let alone the up to 70 excuses Prophet Muhammad blessings & peace be upon him said we should give to each other)? If our love for each other is truly genuine, why can’t it overcome our bad assumptions of each other. If it was true brotherly and sisterly love, why don’t we pray for the ones who wrong and oppress us instead of praying against them? Even during battle, when the disbelievers of Quraysh were actively killing his companions and were trying everything to kill the Messenger of God blessings & peace be upon him, he raised his hands up and said, “O Allah, please forgive and guide my people. For they don’t know what they’re doing”.
Looking around the world today, from active oppressive crackdowns on a people such as the case in Syria and Palestine, to passive oppression we all commit against the poor and destitute all over the world by not extending a helping hand, it all goes back to a case of love perverted. It’s the love of self over all others. It’s our desire to satiate our insatiable appetites at the cost of people around and away from us. Even when we do extend a helping hand, very few of us do it for the sake of that thing in the other that makes them a human being, not seeking anything in return for it. Many people feel a bit of a pinch when they do something and don’t receive at least an appreciative and warm “thank you” for it. Very few take up the Covenant between us and God seriously, and rightfully act as true representatives of God on this Earth who “give food to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, though they love it themselves, saying, ‘We feed you for the sake of God alone. We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you.'” [Quran, 76:8,9].
It’s easy to love those who we identify with and who treat us well. There’s really nothing very proactive about it. Rather, it’s a reactionary response that doesn’t require much effort. However, to love and extend goodwill towards those who have wronged you is a level only attained by those who are serious about their relationship with God, “Good and evil cannot be equal. Repel evil with what is better and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend, but only those who are steadfast in patience, only those who are blessed with great righteousness, will attain to such goodness.” [Quran, 41:34,35]
This type of behaviour is the ultimate representation of God by human beings. When we all stand before our Lord on the Day of Judgement, every single one of us will have to answer for our transgressions upon God’s limits while we were trotting upon this Earth. The numerous acts of evil and corruption that we explicitly and/or implicitly participated in, which have caused the suffering of human beings and other living creatures will be displayed before us and we will be able to say nothing at the point. The audacity we have while we’re here to question God about why if He’s so loving He would allow so much evil to perpetuate in the world will finally subside. “Corruption has flourished on land and sea as a result of people’s action and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back.” [Quran, 30:41] Despite all our transgressions, many of us will receive His Grace. Those of us most likely to practice such an act in this life with those who transgress upon us, are the most likely to receive such a treatment when we’re in need of it.
One of the lost Sunnahs that needs to be revived is to pray for the guidance of people most of us spend our time praying for their destruction. The power of this act of love is truly magnificent and can overcome the most tyrannical of tyrants. The most difficult time in Prophet Muhammad blessings & peace be upon him’s life was his trip to Ta’if, where he was literally chased away by children and had rocks thrown at him until he bled. His famous supplication was all to confirm with God that no matter what happens to him, as long as He’s pleased with him, then he doesn’t care. When Jibreel peace be upon him came down and told him he could summon an angel to collapse the two great mountains on each side of Ta’if onto it and obliterate it, the Beloved blessings and peace be upon him said, “no, for I hope they will bring forth a people who will believe in God”. This is exactly what happened.
The Message of Islam spread and penetrated the hearts of people because of monumental acts of love that overcame them. The Mongolian hordes who killed so many Muslims that the rivers became red coloured, accepted Islam and became some of the most prolific figures in the Islamic Tradition. It was an unprecedented act of a conquering force adopting the beliefs of the conquered and then contributing immensely to it. But today, countless Fridays sermons are concluded by prayers invoking God to destroy not just individuals, but a whole people. Muslims are constantly infused with hate towards the other and especially towards the oppressor.
We know that God said, “My mercy has overcome My wrath”. If we have a proper understanding of what that statement indicates, we would know that our prayers for what brings God’s Mercy will be answered more often than those asking for vengeance. So I find myself wondering, how many Muslims pray for the guidance of Zionist killing Palestinians? For the Syrian regime that’s committing atrocities against its own people? For the Americans killing innocent women and children in Afghanistan?
How many Muslims are praying not just for the oppressed, but also for the oppressor? Only those capable of doing that will be able to fulfill the tall order of love for the entire humanity.