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TheConceptofDivineLoveAccordingto

alGhazali
Manyconsiderlovetobethemostsublimeandhighesthumanstate.
Loveplaysanimportantroleinsociety,whichisprecededonlybythe
instincttolive.MostSufiwritersdescribedivineloveinparticularas
oneoftheimportantstationsorasthemostimportantstationonthe
mysticalpath.Despitetheimportantrolethatloveplaysinthepractice
andunderstandingofSufism,however,researchintothistopicremains
unsatisfactory,andindeedmuchmorestudyneedstobecarriedoutto
dojusticetothisimportantsubject.Thepresentstudyaimsat
examiningtheconceptofdivinelovethroughthethoughtofAbuHaa

midalGhazali(d.505/1111).LookingattheKitabalMahabbahof
hisIhyaulumaldinKitab,TheRevivalofReligiousSciences.and
hisKimiyaiSaadat,TheAlchemyofHappiness,Aslinuhum
(chapter9),RukniChaharum(thefourthprinciple),Iarguethathis
notionofloveisveryreligiousinnature;theultimategoalinhis
perceptionofdivineloveiscenteredonworshipingGod.Accordingto
alGhazali,fearofGodandHisworshiparethetwoqualificationsthat
arerequiredformantodemonstratehis/hertruelovetowardsHimand
toattaindivinelove.
IntheintroductiontotheKitabalMahabbahofhisIhya,alGhazali
explains:
LoveforGodistheultimateaimamongthestationsandthehighest
summitamongthedegrees,forthereisnostationbeyondthe
perception(idrak)ofloveexcept
thatitisafruitamongitsfruitsandconsequenceofitseffects. 1
AlGhazalisfoundationofloveisdrawnfromQuranicversesand
certainhadith.CitingtheQuran,forexampleGodlovesthosewho
foughtforHissake(4:61),andGodlovesthosewhorepentandthose
whocleansethemselves(2:222),hedefinesthecauseofGodslove
formanasarewardforthelattersfaith.2Ontheotherhand,alGhazali

viewsmansloveforGodasthehigheststatehecanachieve.Itisthe
ultimateachievementofmaninlife.
AtthesametimehedividesmansloveforGodintofivetypes.He
beginshisdiscussionwithcitationsoftheQuranandhadithaspieces
ofevidence.AlGhazalistatesthattheMuslimcommunityagrees
unanimouslythatloveforGodandHismessengerisanobligation
(fard).3Otherwise,howcanGodobligepeopletocarryoutwhatdoes
notexist?Moreover,howcanoneinterpretlovetomeanobedience,
whenobediencefollowslove?TheQuranatteststotheexistenceof
love:...GodwillassuredlybringapeopleHeloves,andwholove
Him...4Anotherverseteachesnotonlytheexistenceoflove,butalso
itsdifferentranks:...ButthosethatbelieveloveGodmore
ardently...5AbuHamiddoesnotdevelopadiscussionbeyondhis
statementthatthesetwoversesproveboththeexistenceoflovefor
Godanditsvariousdegrees.Healsocitestraditionsaccordingtowhich
thisloveisaprerequisiteforbeliefinGod,anobligationimposedby
the
1

alGhazali,AbuHaa
mid.Ihyaulumaldin.ed.HusseinKhadivJam,Tehran:Bunyadi
FarhanghiIranPress,1358/1980.Vol.4,p.257
2

Ibid,286.

alGhazali,A.KimiaiSaadat.ed.AhmadAram,Tehran:KitabkhanehvaChapkhaneh
iMarkazi,1319/1954.p.829.
3

4
5

Arberry,ArthurJ.QuranInterpreted.London:OxfordUniversityPress,1964.5:54

alGhazali,A.Ihyaulumaldin,Vol.2,p.165.

Prophet,acauseofmeetingGodintheafterlife,andacauseof
happiness.6ItseemsthatalGhazalismainreferencesarereligious
text,andthathefollowedtheprophetstraditionandtheQuranin
defininghisideaoflove.Ashesawit,Muslimsneedtofollowthe
traditionandfulfilltheirreligiousobligationsinordertobequalifiedto
loveGod.
Nevertheless,alGhazalidoesnotappeartoattachmuchsignificanceto

thesetraditionsandstatements;forhim,theyareonlyakindofformal
introduction,aplainthingasheexpressesit.Moreover,theydonot
evenserveaspointsofdepartureforfurtherdiscussion.Thisisbecause
forhimtherealmeaningofloveishidden,andthecoreofhis
presentationistofindit.
AlGhazaliarguesthatthereisnomeaningtoloveexceptthe
inclinationtowardsthatinwhichweperceivethereisdelight.Hethen
listsfivekindsoflovewhichhebelievescompriseallmodesofhuman
love:(1)theloveofmanforhimself,hisperfection(kamal)andhis
subsistence;(2)hisloveforwhoeverdoesgoodtohimbecauseithelps
himsubsistandbecomplete;(3)hisloveforwhoeverdoesgoodoutof
appreciationforthegoodhedoes;(4)hisloveforallthatisbeautifulin
itsessence;and(5)hisloveforonewithwhomhehasahiddeninner
relationship.7ButforalGhazali,theonlyonewhoistrulyworthyof
anyformofloveisGod:WhoeverloveswhatisotherthanGod,and
notbecauseofitsrelationshiptoHim,thisisduetohisignoranceand
hislackofknowledgeofGod.8Hethusarguesthataccordingtothe
peopleofinsight,thereisinrealitynobelovedexceptGodormore
worthyoflovebutHim.9Soeachofthefivetypesofloveisinfact
loveforGodandisonlycompleteinsofarasitis
alGhazaliA.KimiaiSaadat,p.831.7Ibid.pp.832833.8alGhazaliA.Ihyaulumal
din,Vol.4,p.263.9Ibid.
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realizedassuch.Drawingonreligioustexts,alGhazaliarguesthatman
hastoloveGod,thatheisobligedaccordingtotheIslamiclawtoobey
Him,andthathisworshipisthereforedefinedasDivinelove.Foral
GhazaliitisveryimportantthatonerealizesloveofGodinallfiveof
thesemodesbecausetruesalvationliesinloveforGod.

Indiscussingthefivephasesoflove,alGhazalimostlyusesthewords
hubbandmahabbah,whichcanbereachedbytwomeans:
Thefirstisbycuttingoneselfofffromtheattachmentsoftheworldand
expellingtheloveofwhatisotherthanGodfromtheheart.Forthe
heartislikeacontainer,itcannotholdvinegarforexampleaslongas
thewaterisnotexpelledfromit:Goddidnotmakeformantwohearts
inhisbreast.(33:4)TheperfectionofloveisinlovingGodwithall
onesheart.10
AlGhazalideclaresthatamongthesignsofGodsfriendshipandlove
isonesfriendshipwithHiswords(theQuran),hisbelovedmessenger
(theProphetMuhammad)orfriendshipwithwhatbelongstoHim.He
thentellsusthatthewaytoloveGodisthroughfear.Whoeverloves
Godthroughtimidityandfear,hebecomestheclosesttoHimand
receivesGodsattentionandfriendship.11Herehearguesthatfearand
lovearenotseparatequalities.Hepointstwocauseswhichstrengthen
theloveforGod:a)theremovalfromtheheartofwhatconnectsman
tothisworldandtothethingsotherthanGodwhichmanloves.Each
objectofloveotherthanGoddecreasesmansloveforGod.The
stationswhichwehavementioned,namely,repentance(tawbah),
forbearance(sabr),abstinence(zuhd),
10

Ibid,274.11Ibid,314.

fear(khawf),andhope(raja)arepreambletotheacquisitionofoneof
thebasicelementsoflovewhichistheevacuationfromtheheartof
anythingexceptGod.12
AlGhazalidistinguishestheloveoftheservantfortheCreatorfrom
thatoftheloveoftheCreatorfortheservant.Theloveoftheservantis
forthatfromwhichitderivesgreaterperfection,Andthisis
impossibleforGod,foreveryperfection,beauty,wonder,and
magnificenceispossibleinthetruthoftheDivinity.13TheloveofGod
formanthusrepresentsGodsinclinationtowardsHimself.Inoneof
themostimportantpassagesofIhya,heindicatesthatallloveis
ultimatelyGodsloveforhimself:

NoonehasaviewofHiminsofarasheisotherthanHim;rather,ones
viewisofHisessenceandHisactsonly,andthereisnothingin
existencebutHisessenceandHisacts.Thereforeastheversesaid:He
lovesthemandtheyloveHim(5:54)meansHetrulylovesthem,for
thereisnothinginlovebutHimself,meaningthatHeistheeternityand
thereisnothingbuthisexistence.14
AlGhazaliassertsthatallloveisessentiallyforGodandfromHim.
EventhefivestagesofmansloveforGodarefivewaysinwhichGod
lovesHimselfthroughtheloveofHisservantforHim.Sincethe
existenceofeverythingexceptGodderivesfromtheexistenceofGod,
whichmeansthatthereisnothingbutHisessenceandacts,thenGod
doesnotcontemplateanythingexceptHisessenceandacts.
Consequently,HelovesonlyHimselfinwhichallcreationis
naturallyincluded.
12

Ibid,315.13Ibid,286.14Ibid.

Godsloveformanis,alGhazalistates,thecauseofmanslovefor
Him.IfGoddidnotgivemanHisgraciousassistance,manwouldnot
loveHim.Hence,thesignsofmansloveforGodalsoderivefrom
signsofGodsloveforman,andthatisverylikelybecauseGodslove
formanbringsaboutmansloveforGod.15
Inconclusion,itseemsthatalGhazalistheoryofloveisdivinely
based,foritisdirectedtowardGod;itisalsoIslamic,fortheideashe
presentsarederivedfromtheQuran,mysticalsayingsandProphetic
traditions.HedefinesloveasworshipingGod.Tosupporthis
arguments,hecitesIslamicsourcesandatthesametimeimpliesthat
onlyMuslimsarecapableoflovingGod,andthatthefollowersofother
religionsarenotqualifiedtoloveortobeloved.This
15

Ibid,329.

standsinclearcontrastwiththegeneralSufinotion,whichleavesthe
doorofloveopentoallhumanbeingsregardlessofrace,gender,color
orreligion.

FearofGodis,moreover,centraltoalGhazalistheoryofdivinelove.
UnlikemostSufiteachings,whichdescribetheloverasreckless,free
andcourageous,asonewhogambleswithhislife,neitherdiscouraged
byanyobstaclesnorintimidatedbyanydangeronthepath,al
Ghazalistheoryofloveiswovenaroundfear.Accordingtohim,the
perfectloverlivesinastateoffearofGod;forhim,loveforGodisan
obligation,andhecitesQuranicversesandtraditionsaccordingto
whichthisloveisaprerequisiteforaMuslimsbeliefinGod.
ElizaTasbihi,LecturerPh.D.Candidate,DepartmentofReligionatConcordia
University

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