Divine Love

the-view

(from Chapter 4: ‘God and Love’ in Love in the Holy Qur’an by Prince Ghazi of Jordan)

God speaks of the great reality of love many times in the Holy Qur’an. He mentions those whom He loves, such as, for example, those who rely on Him:

And when you are resolved, rely on God; for God loves those who rely [upon Him]. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:159)

However, God’s Love is not merely one of God’s acts or actions, but one of God’s very Own Divine Qualities or Names. This can be seen by the many Divine Names in the Holy Qur’an which denote God’s loving qualities (such as: ‘the Gentle’—‘Al-Latif’; ‘the Kind’—‘Al-Raouf’; ‘the Generous’—‘Al-Kareem’; ‘the Forbearing’—‘Al-Haleem’; ‘the Absolutely Reliable’—‘Al-Wakil’; ‘the Friend’—‘Al-Wali’; ‘the Good’—‘Al-Barr’; ‘the Forgiving’—‘Al-Ghafur’; ‘the Forgiver’—‘Al-Ghaffar’; ‘the Granter and Accepter of Repentance’—‘Al-Tawwab’, and ‘the Pardoner’—‘Al- ‘Afu’), and in particular by His Name ‘the Loving’ (‘Al-Wadud’), which occurs twice in the Holy Qur’an:

And ask forgiveness of your Lord, then repent to Him. Truly my Lord is Merciful, Loving. (Hud, 11:90)

And He is the Forgiving, the Loving. (Al-Buruj, 85:14)

Here we see the connection between love and mercy: the Divine Name ‘the Loving’ is mentioned alongside the Divine Names ‘the Merciful’ and ‘the Forgiving’ in the two Qur’anic verses (and never without them) indicating that God’s Love is inseparable from His Mercy. Thus Love comes with Mercy, and Mercy comes with Love.

Indeed, some of God’s other Divine Names that indicate the ‘gentle’ Divine Qualities—such as the Divine Name ‘the Kind’ (Al-Raouf), which occurs in the Holy Qur’an ten times, and other certain Names as previously mentioned—also imply both God’s Love and His Mercy together. We may even say that Mercy engenders Love; for the word rahmah (‘mercy’) is derived from rahim (‘womb’), and God says in a ‘Hadith Qudsi’ (that is, a Hadith where the Messenger of God is quoting God Himself as Speaker):

“I am God (Allah), I am the Compassionate One (Al-Rahman). I created the womb (‘rahim’) and named it after My Name. He who keeps its ties, I shall keep [my ties with] him; and he who cuts its ties, I shall cut him off [from Me].”

Indeed, if we reflect on the womb, we will realize that the womb produces mercy just as it produces children, because when a child is born from the womb he or she already naturally enjoys his or her mother’s love. This is a law of nature: mercy produces love, even though love has special qualities which mercy does not necessarily share.

The natural connection between love and mercy is not confined to the keeping of family ties alone, for God also alludes to the connection between affection—which is a form of love, as God willing we will see later—with mercy, in the following verse:

And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you might find peace by their side, and He ordained between you affection (mawaddah) and mercy. Surely in that there are signs for a people who reflect. (AlRum, 30:21)

God equates His Name ‘the Compassionate’ (‘Al-Rahman’) with His Divine Name ‘God’ (‘Allah’) in His words:

Say: ‘Invoke God or invoke the Compassionate One; whichever you invoke, to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names’… (Al-Isra’, 17:110)

Since the Divine Name ‘Allah’ refers to the Divine Essence, this means that Divine Mercy is of the very Divine Essence—the Godhead or the Self—Itself, without and before any relation to any created being. This is also proved by God’s words:

…He has prescribed for Himself [nafsihi—His Self] mercy… (Al-An’am, 6:20)

And His words:

…Your Lord has prescribed for Himself [nafsihi—His Self] mercy… (Al-An’am, 6:54)

Thus God has made mercy incumbent upon Himself or rather His Self—the Arabic word ‘nafsihi’ means both Himself (reflexively) and ‘His Self’ (thus referring to the Divine Essence or Self or Godhead)—which is to say that Divine Mercy is of the Divine Essence Itself. God’s Mercy is thus incumbent on God by His own very Being. Consequently, God is bound by Himself to be Merciful, and His Mercy embraces everything. This is affirmed by His words:

…My mercy embraces all things… (Al-A’raf, 7:156)

Moreover, this is what the angels affirm when they pray for forgiveness for the believers:

…Our Lord, You embrace all things in [Your] mercy and knowledge… (Ghafir, 40:7)

We must also mention that every one of the one hundred and fourteen chapters of the Holy Qur’an begins with the sacred formula ‘In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful’ (‘Bism Illah Al-Rahman AlRahim’) except the ninth (Surat Al-Tawbah)—albeit that Islamic scholars point out that the ‘missing’ basmallah of Surat Al-Tawbah reappears in Surat Al-Naml wherein God says:

…And lo! it is: In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. (Al-Naml, 27:30)

Thus the fact that practically every chapter in the Holy Qur’an begins with ‘In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful’, further indicates the connection between the Divine Name ‘God’ (‘Allah’) and mercy.

All of this allows us to say that since Divine Love, like Divine Mercy, is a Divine Quality; and since God’s Loving is inseparable from His Mercy; and since Divine Mercy is of the very Divine Essence Itself, then we can conclude that Divine Love, like Divine Mercy, is of the Divine Essence Itself, as well as being a Divine Quality.



Categories: Quran

24 replies

  1. Great article…I hope all who have enough of a heart and an open heart can read it.

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  2. But his mercy doesn’t extend to those who disbelieve (Q29:23), so in what sense is to be “All-Merciful” or to attribute oneself with “Divine Love” if it’s dependent on an exclusive stipulation?

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  3. Gods’ mercy does extend to those who disbelieve (in this life) – in fact it extends to the whole creation. However, those who persistently reject His signs and the Day of Judgment (and die unrepentant), it is they who will despair of God’s mercy. Jesus taught the same,

    ‘But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.’ Luke 12:5

    Yusuf Ali’s translation of 29:23:

    ‘Those who reject the Signs of Allah and the Meeting with Him (in the Hereafter),- it is they who shall despair of My Mercy: it is they who will (suffer) a most grievous Penalty.’

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    • Hey Paul. If you’re genuinely interested, then we can spend some time going into Islamic and Christian eschatology: who is entitled what in regard to salvation and what the consequences of salvation are. If anything, this is the subject that I’ve spent most time on, whether theologically or through Biblical criticism. There are huge differences between the Islamic hell and the Christian hell, which need to be understood before claiming that “Jesus taught the same” — the Judeo-Christian outlook on eschatology is a lot more nuanced and varied than that in Islam (also, from a Christian and theological take in regard to mercy and disobedience, cf. Romans 11:28-32 – although Ephesians 5 is also interesting, considering the contrasting nature of the terminology, however, there is a nuance that needs to be understood here as well).

      Regardless, bringing up what Christ might have taught — and mistakenly too — doesn’t answer the question.

      ————————————————————————————————–

      Islamic hell is quite different, though. I’m interested in the Qurʾān, not because of some spirituality but because I’ve always enjoyed studying beliefs. Allow me to be clear: I’ve never really felt inclined to believe in a God. To me, “Oneness” and “Godliness” is purely philosophical drivel. I’m only interested in their interactions, and what their stories reflect about them. I’ve read the Qurʾān from as many perspectives as I can, whether Bektashism, traditional Sunnism, Shiaism (I have a large collection of papers on this now, if you’re interested, however the majority of them are in Arabic — Al-Kafi in all 8 volumes, for instance), Sufism, etc,. I spend a minimum of 4 hours each day going over Qurʾānic literature. Now, Hamza Yusuf — alongside others — have claimed that there are different forms of disbelief, (A) those that actively reject Islam and have encountered the message undistorted, (B) those that actively reject Islam and have only encountered the message distorted, and (C) those that have not encountered the message.

      According to these supposed scholars, the people of (A) are who are sent to an eternity in hell, whereas (B) and (C) are given a separate test. Because of my interests, I have now unfortunately placed myself into (A), alongside the majority of non-Muslim Qurʾānic scholars and non-Muslims who were genuinely interested in understanding the Qurʾān.

      I said previously “But his mercy doesn’t extend to those who disbelieve (Q29:23), so in what sense is to be “All-Merciful” or to attribute oneself with “Divine Love” if it’s dependent on an exclusive stipulation?”, and the question remains.

      When people approach the Islamic “mercy”, they do so from a non-theological/non-Islamic perspective (this reminds me a lot of Sufi writings, although great literature on their own, end up becoming pretentious material where its supposed foundation, Islam, becomes questionable). But how can mercy be mercy when God is capable of doing this:

      • Q22:19 “But those who disbelieved will have cut out for them garments of fire. Poured upon their heads will be scalding water.
      • Q14:49-50 “And you will see the criminals that Day bound together in shackles, their garments of liquid pitch (melted copper) and their faces covered by the Fire.”
      • Q56:41-44 “And the companions of the left – what are the companions of the left? (They will be) in scorching fire and scalding water and a shade of black smoke, neither cool nor beneficial.”
      • Q74:26-29 “And what can make you know what is Hellfire? It lets nothing remain and leaves nothing (unburned), altering the skins”
      • Q88:6-7 “No food will there be for them except from a bitter, thorny plant which neither nourishes nor avails against hunger.”
      • Q47:15 “They will be given to drink boiling water, so that it cuts up their bowels (to pieces).”
      • Q73:12-13 “Surely, with us are fetters (to bind them) and a ranging Fire (to burn them), and a food that chokes and a penalty grievous.”
      • Q18:29 “And if they call for relief, they will be relieved with water like murky oil, which scalds (their) faces. Wretched is the drink, and evil is the resting place.”
      • Q4:56 “Indeed, those who disbelieve in Our verses – We will drive them into a Fire. Every time their skins are roasted through We will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment. Indeed, God is ever Exalted in Might and Wise.”
      • Q76:4 “for the rejecters We have prepared iron chains, yokes, and a blazing Fire.”

      From a Sunni perspective, there are attempts at painting this hell to be literal (cf. Sahih al-Bukhari 2954, Book 56, Hadith 166 “Previously I ordered you to burn so-and-so and so-and-so with fire, but as punishment with fire is done by none except Allah, if you capture them, kill them, (instead).”).

      The entire purpose of mercy is to show some form forgiveness, or to equate the consequence of someone’s action with something that may better them. But in what sense is deeming my deeds worthless (see Q2:217 (within the context of murtads), Q7:147 (the verse before it claims arrogance for the rejection of Islam, but that in itself is an arrogant view), Q18:105, Q47:9 & 28), and throwing me into the Qurʾān’s example of hell as a form of mercy? In reality, the judgement being cast on me is simply because I rejected words on paper, and to me they’re not particularly inspiring, so now I’m entitled for an eternity in hell where I will not receive any respite (Q35:36-37, Q2:161-167). Or I could just be one of those who were made for hell (Q7:179).

      I’m sincerely interested in what your take on it is. Last year, I spent months going over articles, journals, understanding modern scholarship’s approach to eschatology within Christianity and Islam, and the theological perspectives too. For me, this topic is critical in understanding who this God is.

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  4. …My mercy embraces all things… (Al-A’raf, 7:156)

    To be human is very special in creation. Humans are capable of rejecting God’s Love, rocks can’t.

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    • But this isn’t particularly true. Humans might be considered as initially special, this does not mean that they are unanimously considered as equal. For instance, the Qurʾān would claim that humans who reject Islam are considered as the worst of creatures, Q98:6 “Indeed, they who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists will be in the fire of Hell, abiding eternally therein. Those are the worst of creatures”.

      Secondly, refer to this “And this is what I’m focused on, the narrative, and not how people have defined God (or how he’s defined himself) but how this God genuinely interacts”. God assigning himself “merciful”, and that his mercy “embraces all things” is a false proposition since such mercy is dependent on particular stipulations, and even if it were, the consequences as dictated by the Qurʾān are most certainly not merciful (cf. Q4:56). I mean, even consider Q7:156, where the ending of the verse — which you left out — is as follows “[…] So I will decree it [especially] for those who fear Me and give zakah and those who believe in Our verses” — a stipulation.

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    • Context, context, context. God says nowhere that he is only merciful and loving. God’s mercy for mankind is in the unique context of human existence. If you reject God consciously, you have to deal with the consequences. God is merciful as he gives you clear guidance in the Quran.

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  5. ‘Allow me to be clear: I’ve never really felt inclined to believe in a God. To me, “Oneness” and “Godliness” is purely philosophical drivel. I’m only interested in their interactions, and what their stories reflect about them.’

    Then at the conclusion you say: ‘For me, this topic is critical in understanding who this God is.’

    If this subject is just of academic interest to you then I do not have the time (or inclination) to discuss this. Sorry. The Quran is a spiritual book about our Creator, a reminder of the our accountability to God, the Last Day and so on. It’s not an academic exercise as you treat it. That is not what the Quran is all about.

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  6. You’ve misunderstood me Paul, I do apologise for my lack of clarity.

    I find words such as ‘innocent’ and ‘mercy’ meaningless unless accompanied with the actual act. Otherwise, we’d have the same right to call the dictator Bashar al-Assad merciful. This is a consequence of emptying words from their original intention, and redefining them to make them appear as something they’re not. So, when I claimed that “Oneness” and “Godliness” as philosophical drivel, I meant that these words can be misconstrued as anything unless they are given a narrative to be defined by. And this is what I’m focused on, the narrative, and not how people have defined God (or how he’s defined himself) but how this God genuinely interacts.

    I don’t treat the Qurʾān as an exclusively academic book void from any spirituality it attempts to convey. I wouldn’t do it such injustice, which is why I approach it from a theological perspective as well. I like to accompany my study of scripture with both academic and theological readings.

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    • Let’s go back to basics before we get caught up in complex exegetical and academic questions.

      Do you believe in the Creator, the Eternal, Absolute, whom begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
      And there is none like unto Him?

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    • Not particularly. In other words, I don’t know. I don’t work from the premise that there is a creator, or that he’s “not” begotten, etc,. I’m trying to understand as to who this entity is, and if that he were to exist.

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    • And I find his actions more telling as to who he is as opposed to these meaningless titles and self-assigned attributes.

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    • How is the concept of God as Creator of all things ‘meaningless’? Please state your reasons.

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    • Besides the lack of evidential proof?

      Regardless, Paul, this is honestly a different discussion. If you don’t wish to answer/or discuss the original question, then that’s perfectly fine.

      Open up a separate thread/new article on titles, and what not, if you wish to address that. But we’re currently talking about hell and mercy in Islam.

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    • A reminder Zozo: this is my blog, i’ll discuss what i wish in it. Why don’t you start your own blog?

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  7. “Let’s go back to basics before we get caught up in complex exegetical and academic questions.
    Do you believe in the Creator, the Eternal, Absolute, whom begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him?”

    If you wish to go back to basics you may cut out the “unto”.

    In English “none like unto Him” is a pedantic equivalent to “none like Him”.

    This strikes me as a particularly pointless and dull thing to state about the Creator. Obviously, no-one is exactly like George Galloway except George Galloway himself. The statement “none like Him” does not distinguish God from George Galloway or, indeed, any individual being in the universe.

    In the sequence you gave, “Creator, Eternal, Absolute” is universal and common to all religions, but “begetteth not, nor is He begotten” is specific to Islam.

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  8. ‘This strikes me as a particularly pointless and dull thing to state about the Creator.’

    Which is ironic as these words are from the Creator himself in Yusuf Ali’s translation of surah 112.

    Say: He is God, the One and Only;

    God, the Eternal, Absolute;

    He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;

    And there is none like unto Him.

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  9. One of the most common confusions is to take the notions of Kufr/Imaan as epistemic positions. They are not. Kufr is not simply the dissent to the proposition “there one and only one God”. From the quranic perspective, Kufr is cruelty, injustice, not just mere ignorance, idiocy or imbecility. “Wal kafiruna humu zalimun”. Therefore, it’s punishment (in the hereafter, hence inconsequential to the epistemic unbeliever) is justice and mercy.

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    • Great point Mdseck,

      What do you mean “in the hereafter, hence inconsequential to the epistemic unbeliever?”

      I am assuming you mean that the unbeliever does not believe the punishment will occur.

      Also what do you mean the punishment is justice and mercy. I can understand that it is justice. But

      how is it mercy?

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    • Hello Omer,

      Thanks! Yes, I mean just that.

      On punishment as mercy, I think the punishment is not vengeance. It does not benefit God in the least. It is just the process by which the cosmos is restored to its original state of beauty. Even for those who will be judged favorably, there is this step where what remains in their hearts of rancor and resentment is removed. Only peace remains. That is reported in surah 7 and 15, and maybe elsewhere: wa naza’na ma fi sudurihim min ghillin.

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    • “Kufr is not simply the dissent to the proposition “there one and only one God”. From the quranic perspective, Kufr is cruelty, injustice, not just mere ignorance, idiocy or imbecility.”

      I am quite pleased by what you say, but I realize that many Muslims to whom I will repeat that will reply that it is nonsense and that they will demand proofs.
      So it would be wonderful if you could quote some authoritative Muslim sources about that.

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  10. Paul, this post on Divine Love is a beautiful post.

    Regarding “None like unto Him,” The Creator also tells each one of us in Surah 42, verse 11 that there is nothing like a likeness to Him.

    “Laysa ka mithlihi shayin.”

    Laysa is “not”

    ka means “like”

    Mithli also means “like”

    shayin means “thing”

    So not only is nothing like God, nothing is like even a hypothetical likeness to God.

    God is radically different from His creation.

    Jamal Badawi points out how the Qur’an points out such a deep metaphysical truth with addition of a single “ka.”

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    • “not only is nothing like God, nothing is like even a hypothetical likeness to God. (…) deep metaphysical truth”

      If so, how can the Qur’an speak metaphorically about Allah’s “hands”, “throne” etc ?
      Metaphor=likeness.
      Similary, how can Allah be given names ?
      A name establishes a likeness between all beings with the same name.
      Saying “Allah is All-Merciful” establishes a likeness between Allah and all other merciful beings.

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    • Gary McKenzie

      You said;
      If so, how can the Qur’an speak metaphorically about Allah’s “hands”, “throne” etc ?
      Metaphor=likeness.

      I say;
      If I say. “Mr. Gary, you are my right hand man”. Does that mean, you are in my right hand? If I say, all the secrets of the Freemasons is in my hand”. Does that means I have all the secrets of the Freemasons holding them and squeezed in my hand?

      God exists, so He is a “being” and has consciousness, but not a human being but a divine being. Any existence, whether seen or unseen has a recognising characteristics and therefore has name or names that is used to define or to refer to, and to recognize his existence.

      Metaphor: defined

      a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.
      ““I had fallen through a trapdoor of depression,” said Mark, who was fond of theatrical metaphors”

      synonyms: figure of speech, image , trope , analogy , comparison , symbol , word painting/picture
      “the profusion of metaphors in her everyday speech has gotten pretty tiresome”

      •a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract.
      “the amounts of money being lost by the company were enough to make it a metaphor for an industry that was teetering

      The Bible says Lets create man in our own image. Mr. Gary, your image is not yourself. If you stand in front of mirror and raise your hand, your image will be seen raising its hands also. But your image cannot raise its hands by itself and so what you can do your image cannot do, so your image is not like you but has some of your characteristics and features.

      So, even though we are not like God, but because God is also a “being” i.e. divine being and not a human being, you should expect to see us having some of His(divine being) characteristics like Mercy, Seeing, Knowing, Hearing, throne, King etc.

      Allah’s Seeing is not like human seeing because He sees everything while a human being is able to see only his immediate surroundings and cannot see behind a wall. So, yes, we share some of God characteristics and that does not mean we are like him(God). Example a car or lorry can travel from your house to your work and you can also travel from your house to your work and you and the car can both travel, does that mean a car is like you? Every body knows that you are not like your car and you can never be a car, but you can both travel and your travelling is unique and different but you can both travel anyway. You walk or run, but the car has a system of engine, wheels, steering, etc. to make it travel.

      So, Allah is the King of Kings and has His throne and it is not like the thrones you are seeing in the human Kings’ palaces but that is the Majestic throne of all.

      Thanks.

      Like

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