What do people love?
It is probably impossible to find a human being who does not love. Most people love their families, spouses and friends. Others love status and money. You can tell a person’s love for something or someone by what they do and how they act.
And we love all of these things despite their temporary nature, despite the fact that they disappoint us sometimes. It is almost an intrinsic part of a human being. And we all love for similar reasons—we love people for the perceived good qualities that we see in a person or the way they treat us. We love things because of the way those things make us feel.
Why should we love Allah (swt)?
How can we not? If we put together all the reasons why we love other people or things, and then apply it to Allah (swt), we should see that truly it is Him that deserves our love. And because human beings are naturally inclined to love, it is only the love of Allah (swt) that can satisfy this need. Ibn Taymiyyah radi allah `anhu (may God be pleased with him) said:
“The heart will not find complete happiness except by loving Allah and by striving towards what is dear to Him.”
Amongst the things to aspire to when striving for tranquility of the heart, loving Allah (swt) above all else is the greatest. When we direct our love and our emotions towards Allah (swt), everything else follows. Our actions follow because they reflect what is in our heart. It is liberating because our love is directed at the source of all our blessings, not merely the means. We see everything as coming from Allah (swt), and because we love Him and think well of Him, we know that everything is for a purpose.
The first thing the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said to the people of Madina was
“O people! Love Allah with all of your hearts for what He has given you from blessings…”
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them.” [14:34]
Try to count everything good in your life, and everything that seemed bad but turned out to be good. All that is from Allah (swt). The fact that you are Muslim. The fact that, as the Prophet ﷺ told us, everything that happens in the life of a Muslim is good, and this is only for the believers. If you are given blessings, then it is an opportunity to be thankful, and if you are tested, it is for you to be patient. And what is amazing is that we have been guaranteed things for patience in the face of calamity, and we know that nothing will go to waste insha` Allah (God willing).
If we find that we don’t love Allah (swt), it is because we don’t know Him. All the pleasures of the world are not an ounce of what the pleasure of what Allah (swt) has prepared in jannah (paradise), and the greatest pleasure is to see Him and be with Him.
Are we true in our love for Allah (swt)?
Many of us would say without hesitation that we love Allah (swt). But there are different levels of love. Some of us may love our parents more than our siblings. We love all of them, but our love for our parents is over and above the love for our siblings. Yet the love that will give us true tranquility in our hearts is the love that prefers Allah (swt) over all else. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an:
“Say, [O Muhammad], “If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad [struggle] in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.” [9:24]
Allah in this verse is not telling us we should not love. On the contrary, Allah (swt) tells us in another verse that He has made between spouses “love and mercy”. We are encouraged to love each other. The Prophet ﷺ told us, “When one of you has love for his brother, he should inform him that he loves him,” [Bukhari]. But we should not love them more than Allah (swt), because love tends to mean preference. We do things for our loved ones because we know that they will like it or appreciate it. And when we prefer others over Allah (swt), or make them equal to Allah (swt), that is when we find difficulty because we are putting our hope in something finite and fallible. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah […]” [2:165].
This doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes. We will, because the children of Adam constantly make mistakes. And sometimes we will choose things over Allah (swt). The key is to seek forgiveness. The key is to realize and work on improving. It is that act that is so beloved to Allah (swt).
There are some ways for us to know if we truly love Allah (swt). We are told in the Qur’an:
“Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an 3:31]
We know that the Prophet ﷺ is the best example and he is the beloved of Allah (swt). How far do we follow the Prophet ﷺ? And we shouldn’t only think of the outward things, such as the way he dressed or growing a beard. Rather we should look at who the Prophet ﷺ was, what was the essence of his character and how he treated people. Once the love for Allah (swt) and His Messenger grows, we will want to follow everything.
Another way to test ourselves is to look at all of the different types of people that Allah (swt) loves in the Qur’an—for example, Allah (swt) says that He loves the patient. Then we should ask ourselves—Do we strive to be that person to receive the love of Allah (swt)?
Sweetness of Faith
Moreover, if we find that Islam is difficult, know that loving Allah (swt) is the key to tasting the sweetness of faith. The Prophet ﷺ told us,
“There are three things which if a person finds them, he has found the sweetness of faith: when Allah and His Messenger are dearer to him than all else; when he loves a person for no other reason than for the sake of Allah; and when he hates to return to kufr after Allah has saved him from it as he would hate to be thrown into fire,” [Bukhari].
How can I make my heart love Allah (swt)?
- Read the Qur’an with reflection;
- Perform more nawaafil (voluntary acts of worship):
“Nothing endears My servant to Me than doing of what I have made obligatory upon him to do. And My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with the supererogatory [nawaafil] so that I shall love him.” [Bukhari]
- Always remember Allah (swt): The righteous used to say that if you awake and sleep remembering Allah (swt), then you awake and sleep without a sin. Not that we will not make mistakes, but sins are erased by constant dhikr; (remembrance of Allah, swt) and good deeds, insha’Allah.
- Choose what Allah (swt) prefers over what you prefer.