Is this love that I’m feeling?
Is this love that I’m feeling?
By: Yasmin Mogahed
“Love is a serious mental disease.” At least that’s how Plato put it. And while anyone who’s ever been ‘in love’ might see some truth to this statement, there is a critical mistake made here. Love is not a mental disease. Desire is.
If being ‘in love’ means our lives are in pieces and we are completely broken, miserable, utterly consumed, hardly able to function, and willing to sacrifice everything, chances are it’s not love. Despite what we are taught in popular culture, true love is not supposed to make us like drug addicts.
And so, contrary to what we’ve grown up watching in movies, that type of all-consuming obsession is not love. It goes by a different name. It is hawa—the word used in the Quran to refer to one’s lower, vain desires and lusts. Allah describes the people who blindly follow these desires as those who are most astray: “But if they answer you not, then know that they only follow their own lusts (hawa). And who is more astray than the one who follows his own lusts, without guidance from Allah?” (28: 50)
By choosing to submit to our hawa over the guidance of Allah, we are choosing to worship those desires. When our love for what we crave is stronger than our love for Allah, we have taken that which we crave as a lord. Allah says: “Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah, as equal (with Allah): They love them as they should love Allah. But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for Allah.” (2:165)
If our ‘love’ for something makes us willing to give up our family, our dignity, our self-respect, our bodies, our sanity, our peace of mind, our deen, and even our Lord who created us from nothing, know that we are not ‘in love’. We are slaves.
Of such a person Allah says: “Do you see such a one as takes his own vain desires (hawa) as his lord? Allah has, knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart, and put a cover on his sight. (45: 23)
Imagine the severity. To have one’s sight, hearing and heart all sealed. Hawa is not pleasure. It is a prison. It is a slavery of the mind, body and soul. It is an addiction and a worship. Beautiful examples of this reality can be found throughout literature. In Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Pip exemplifies this point. In describing his obsession with Estella, he says: “I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”
Dickens’ Miss Havisham describes this further: “I’ll tell you…what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter – as I did!”
What Miss Havisham describes here is in fact real. But it is not real love. It is hawa. Real love, as Allah intended it, is not a sickness or an addiction. It is affection and mercy. Allah says in His book: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (30: 21)
Real love brings about calm—not inner torment. True love allows you to be at peace with yourself and with God. That is why Allah says: “that you may dwell in tranquility.” Hawa is the opposite. Hawa will make you miserable. And just like a drug, you will crave it always, but never be satisfied. You will chase it to your own detriment, but never reach it. And though you submit your whole self to it, it will never bring you happiness.
So while ultimate happiness is everyone’s goal, it is often difficult to see past the illusions and discern love from hawa. One fail-safe way, is to ask yourself this question: Does getting closer to this person that I ‘love’ bring me closer to—or farther from—Allah? In a sense, has this person replaced Allah in my heart?
True or pure love should never contradict or compete with one’s love for Allah. It should strengthen it. That is why true love is only possible within the boundaries of what Allah has made permissible. Outside of that, it is nothing more than hawa, to which we either submit or reject. We are either slaves to Allah, or slaves to our hawa. It cannot be both.
Only by struggling against false pleasure, can we attain true pleasure. They are by definition mutually exclusive. For that reason, the struggle against our desires is a prerequisite for the attainment of paradise. Allah says: “But as for him who feared standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from impure evil desires and lusts. Verily, Paradise will be his abode.” (79: 40-41)