‘I love you for the sake of Allah,’ my classmate at the markaz said to me, smiling warmly. It was the first time I had heard this and having no knowledge of what the expression implied I gave her a meek smile, not knowing how to reply while feeling awkward about it. It sounded unrealistic because how can someone who hardly knows you, ‘love’ you?
As a person brought up in a society where religion occupies only a little niche in your life that is separated from your ‘actual’ life, I couldn’t understand this new concept of loving someone for the sake of Allah. Anyway, soon I adapted to the terminology but was still unable to relate to the feeling deep down in myself.
Once, I even asked my Quran teacher about what it meant and she explained, “Loving for the sake of Allah means that you don’t expect any reward from the person you love but from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’alaa) alone and their negativity doesn’t affect you because you have no expectations from them. You continue to love them regardless of their attitude towards you”.
I understood the theory behind this expression but I still couldn’t personally grasp the feeling. I often asked myself how you can love someone without expecting them to love you in return and how can you not show or feel the reaction at someone’s misconduct. SubhanAllah, as always, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’alaa) sent a sign, a reminder in the form of a hadith:
The Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Among Allah’s servants are people who are neither Prophets nor martyrs, but whom the Prophets and martyrs will deem fortunate because of their high status with Allah.” They asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Inform us of who they are.” He said: “They are people who loved each other for Allah’s sake, without being related to one another or being tied to one another by the exchange of wealth. By Allah, their faces will be luminous and they will be upon light. They will feel no fear when the people will be feeling fear and they will feel no grief when the people will be grieving.” (Sunan Abî Dâwûd (3527)
The hadith left me wondering about “…. whom the Prophets and martyrs will deem fortunate because of their high status with Allah.” Why such a big reward?
I comprehended that the reward for this feeling was abundant because it’s not easy to acquire. It requires rising above one’s own self, curbing one’s desires and giving preference to others. It involves self-control, placing one’s self in other people’s shoes, understanding them, wanting for them what one would want for one’s own self and forgive them if they have wronged you. In short, wishing well for them in all circumstances.
It means feeling happy for someone, without the contaminating feelings of jealousy and other negative elements regarding one’s brother or sister. It also includes trying to feel and share their pain, worrying for their wellbeing without expecting any form of acknowledgement, not even a smile and hoping to be rewarded only by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’alaa).
Okay understood. But the process involved going through pain and why would anyone want to deliberately experience that? My brain was bombarding me with questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. One thing I was sure about was that there had to be something vital attached, for it to have such an enormous reward. I now know that certain things cannot be taught but only felt. One can understand the logic behind a concept but it can only truly be grasped after having experienced it.
Although I haven’t attained that high level of imaan, in the process of recognizing the Greatness of my Creator and by being around a group of practising sisters, I realized what loving for the sake of Allah actually feels like and why there is such an immense jazaa (reward) for it.
Allah (subhanahu wa ta’alaa) due to His Infinite Mercy has attached great rewards to such deeds that are seemingly difficult to acquire, to encourage us to pursue them. And when we do take the initiative He helps us throughout the struggle while strengthening our belief with conviction.
In my quest, I realized that loving for the sake of Allah unburdens your soul. It untangles the chaos in your life created by your expectations from different relationships. It is a reliance that gives you a sense of being taken care of by The Sustainer Himself. He elevates you from being needy to being a caregiver. He pulls you up from the dungeons of self-pity, as you realize the criteria of true significance.
You learn to rise above your ego and take control of the part of your nafs that previously wanted constant acknowledgement from people because your focus is not to please them anymore. Your focus then is to please only Allah. And this love makes everything fall perfectly into place. You are able to detach yourself from the surrounding shadows only to zoom out and appreciate the khair bestowed upon you.
He helps you look at the bigger picture as you strive to achieve the higher goal of acquiring eternal bliss. The more I realized it the more I fell in love with Allah all over again.
His promise of amplified rewards in the hereafter is an incentive for us to be liberated and contented in dunia under all circumstances so that we may be able to make the most of our lives and be eligible for eternal blessings. His Love is beyond comprehension and the deeper we attempt to understand it the more we realize how little we can grasp. “Then which of the favours of your Lord do you doubt?” (Surah Najm: 55)
This article was first published on the website, Muslim Matters.