God’s love in the Quran – By AGA Barrie

God’s love in the Quran

My wife related an interesting incident she couldn’t help observing whilst travelling in the subway. An apparently Muslim lady wearinga hijab was standing  next to her seat holding on to the vertical steel support with one hand and reading sotto voce from a little book she held in the other.It did not take long for my wife to realize that she was in fact reciting from the Quran and found it a bit strange how one could really focus the  mind on a spiritual ritual in a fairly crowded subway. Soon after she noticed a taller lady standing next to the muslim lady glancing at herand the book in her hand for a few minutes before leaning over the reciter and asking in an inquisitional tone , “ Does that book say anywhere that God loves us?”

The response of the reciter had been a mumbled and a slightly confused one to the effect that she had been told to do this by her parents and she was just following their advice. The important point here though is not the response of the reciter but the underlying misconception,self-righteous and ignorant view of the person asking the question. This incident is deeply symptomatic of the misconceptions that a large part of the Christian community, especially the evangelical and right wing groups have about the Quran and Muslims in general, i.e. , the Muslims follow a book that is devoid of God’s love and only expresses His anger and wrath. These misconceptions are also the precursors of Islamaphobic behaviour and sadly highlights a divisive and disruptive chasm in Christian-Musliminter faith understanding.Unfortunately both Christians and Muslims get bogged down in a mundane and superficial exercise of trying to count the number of times the word ‘love’ appears in the gospels or the Quran rather than understand the importance of qualitative essence over quantitative substance. There‘s more to love than what meets the eye!

It is also unfortunate that Muslims in general are unable to respond adequately to such polemical questions and assertions about the Quran and to articulate the true spirit and import of God’s word in the final revelation to mankind. Although in all fairness it would take more than the average commute time in a subway to properly explain the concept of divine love in the Quran, a polite yet affirmative response to the effect that-“God’s love in the Quran manifests through the descriptions of His Compassion and Mercy, His bounties and favours upon us which we cannot deny and the affirmation that God is closer to us than our jugular vein and one of His attributes in the Quran is Al Wadood or the All Loving.” – might give an inkling to the magnanimity of God’s expression of love to humankind in the Quran. Quran 85:14 states “ And He is the forgiving, the most loving”  which articulates the most intense of God’s attributes of forgiving and loving in a continuous sense that does not cease unlike earthly expressions of love that can feel highs and lows. Here God mentions His attributes of forgiving and loving in the same verse to emphasize the fact that He forgives and thus is our saviour because of His infinite love for us- a beautiful way to express the related concepts of love and salvation.

 God’s expression of love in the Quran is made evident through His attributes of Mercy and Compassion just as our expression of love for God is expressed through our obedience to His will.Every chapter in the Quran save one starts with the words, ‘ In the name of God the most Compassionate the most Merciful’, the arabic words used  are Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem which carries the root word “Rahm” which is derived from the word for the mother’s womb in arabic, symbolizing the love and closeness of a womb to the unborn child it carries.Thesewords were revealed by God himself to show the closeness of His love and care. Ar Rahman or the Compassionate has both a responsive and unconditional dimension of love like a mother’s womb that only know to nurture the foetus within it unconditionally and is thus essential and universal whereas Ar- Raheem or the Merciful is more attributive and particular. Hence His Compassion extends to all beings created in an unconditional manner whether one is a believer, sinner or unbeliever and is of an all encompassing nature towards all of His creation whilst Ar-Raheem is His loving mercy that is directed at a more specific level and requires a responsive element and God expresses this aspect in the Quran as:

“God loves those who are patient”

“God loves those who give”

“God loves those who turn to Him in repentance”

“God loves those who show humility”

“God loves those who feed the poor and care for the orphans”

There are many more in this category where God uses the Arabic word ‘ahubb’ to describe the love in the above illustration. He also declares His anger towards those who oppress , are arrogant, those who boast in vain, the tyrants and those who are ungrateful to name a few.The word ‘ahubb’ used here to denote love demands and inevitably does call for a sacrifice on the part of the one loved otherwise it would be an empty form devoid of expression as love has to be transformed into action or feeling to express its essence. Christians are quick to use the examples of ‘love’ expressed in these statements as love that is conditionalto us conforming to good conduct and hence is not true love and that God of Islam does not love the sinners and the prodigal.Really?God provides the answer in no uncertain terms in the following verse to those who doubt God’s unconditional and perpetual love and mercy in the Quran:

“O My servants who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, Who forgiveth all sins. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful”-.(Quran 39:53)

Here God makes it clear that He extends His forgiveness to the sinner and the prodigal and uses the arabic word Ar Raheem which captures His specific attribute in the highest form of His love which is the Merciful. There is neither a condition nor limitation here as His unconditional promise to all sinners extends for all time.

 An analysis of every chapter and verse in the Quran will show that His mercy ,compassion and forgiveness far outweigh His wrath and anger as every verse that declares His anger and punishment is followed by the words “ but if you return to back to Him from your errant ways,  He is the most forgiving, the most merciful.“Anger is an expression and not an attribute of God, whereas  love, clemency, mercy, forgiveness and compassion are His names or attributes through which He translates His love to action and a tangible experience, for love without being transformed into action can be sterile and devoid of its true essence.

Fundamental to understanding God’s expression of love in the Quran is to first comprehend and realize the true essence and nature of God and His attributes.  He is the One, the self-subsisting, the eternal and like unto Him there is none.The ninety nine attributes or names of God that appears throughout the Quran is a direct and living testament to not only the glory, greatness and majesty of God but to His overwhelming love and compassion to His creation which are embodied in attributes like, the Sustainer, the Giver, the Provider, the Guide, the Loving, the Pardoner, the all Embracing, the Just, the Beneficent, the Kind, the Just and so on. The very fact that He created heaven and His kingdom in the hereafter with its unfathomable beauty and wonders which no human mind can imagine or eye has seen is evident of His love for mankind and by that same token He also created Hell as an extension of His whip of mercy through which He drives and coerces us towards paradise and eternal life.

Another aspect of God’s love in the Quran is defined by a Muslim’s love for God’s last Prophet who came as a mercy unto the world and for all of mankind and to complete God’s message and favour upon us. To love the Prophet is to embrace God’s grace on us and to honour His name. When the followers of the earlier prophets and revelations mentioned to the Prophet that they truly loved their God. God revealed the verse:

“Say (O Mohammed) “If you do love God, follow me, God will love you, and forgive your sins, as God is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful”. Surah Imrân (3:31)

Here we clearly see God’s direct declaration of His love for us in the Quran which not only is a divine expression of His love but a command from their Lord to follow the Prophet if they truly loved their God. The message here cannot be more simpler and clear in that God promises His love and His forgiveness to all those who follow the Prophet. How simpler can it get! God loves us and hence will forgive our sins as He is the All Forgiving,the All Merciful and His Justice transcends our mortal limits.Here God makes the principle of salvation very clear as the marker for salvation is forgiveness and to be made pure and all what He requires is for mankind to follow the Prophet and in turn He promises both love and salvation.

True love requires a sense of balance and just like a parents love for their off spring is defined by both reward and punishment to mould them in to responsible and accountable people, God’s love on a grander cosmic scale proclaims and promises the reward of eternal bliss and of a painful punishment and mankind has the free will to choose his or her ultimate fate. It is through God’s unbounded love and compassion for us that he forgives every sinner who turns to Him and reassures us repeatedly in the Quran that He forgives over and over as long as we sincerely repent and ask His forgiveness. The journey through life as depicted in the Quran is not a caravan of despair but one which promises His kingdom for all those who submit to Him and turn unto Him in repentance.

A further demonstration of the love of God towards us is expressed through the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed(PBUH), wherein God inspires the prophet to say and act in a particular manner. The Quran unlike the present day Gospels is the verbal revelation of God to mankind which is preserved and protected by God in the form of the scripture whereas the hadith or the saying of the prophet are recorded separately by his disciples and companions and the first three generations who came after the prophet. Over 7,000 different verifiable sayings and actions of the Prophet are recorded in books of hadith and in the most authentic and reliable versions of them referred to as the Hadith Qudsi where God speaks in the first person through the Prophet, God declares,

 “My servant draws near to Me with nothing more loved by Me than the acts of worship that I have enjoined upon him. My servant continues to try to draw near to Me with more devotion, until I love him. When I love him, I will be his hearing with which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, his feet on which he walks. When he asks Me for something, I will respond and when he takes refuge in Me, I will grant it to him. I do not hesitate in doing anything I intend to do as much as I hesitate in seizing the soul of My faithful servant; he hates death and I hate hurting him. But death is a must for him”.”

“I am as My servant expects Me to be. I am with him if he remembers Me. If he remembers Me to himself, I would remember him to Myself. And if he remembers Me in a gathering, I would remember him in a gathering, which is even better. And if My servant draws near to Me by a hand’s span, I would draw near to him by an arm’s length and if he draws near to Me by an arm’s length, I would draw near to him by a fathom’s length. And if My servant comes to me walking, I would go to him speeding.” 

In the final analysis, God’s love manifests in multiple levels in the Quran and He calls himself the “Al Wadood” or the “all loving” and He loved to reveal Himself and thus He created us in His image so that we may know of His love and experience the greatest emotion one can experience as one draws closer to God and seeks to achieve the ultimate state of faith in ‘Ihsan’ in which one worships and draws closer to God as if he sees Him andis so effused with love that the lover becomes the beloved  in a divine vision of beauty and immanence.

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