Category Archives: Relationship

A Reflection on Divine Love – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Although it is true that at Matchbox we are concerned with finding you your earthly love, we understand that you are already loved. In this article, originally posted in the Sandala website, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf reflects on what it means to truly love and to truly be Loved.


Many Muslims believe that the idea, “God loves everyone,” is simply wrong and incongruous with Islamic teachings. Verses abound in the Qur’an decrying those God does not love: liars, hypocrites, oppressors, the arrogant, boastful braggarts, and those who love praise for that which they have not done, among others. Reading these verses, it is easy to begin to resent such people and to believe that God does not love everyone. However, if we look closely at these people, we see elements of ourselves in them.

What is true of any man is true of all men; the only difference is in the degree to which it is true. Prophets and sanctified saints are the only exceptions to this universal truth. Jesus, peace be upon him, states, as recorded in al-Muwatta’ of Imam Malik (d. 179/795):

Do not, like lords, look upon the faults of others. Rather, like servants, look after your own faults. In truth, humanity is comprised of only two types of people: the afflicted and the sound. So show mercy to the afflicted, and praise God for well-being.

It is never the sinner that one should hate, but only the sin; for the essence of all humanity is a soul created in submission to its Creator. Whether that soul acknowledges this on a conscious level or not is a matter of grace, and this understanding enables us to look at others with compassion. All people, everywhere and throughout time, suffer great tribulation at various points in their lives. At this very moment, hearts are breaking and lives are being shattered, women abused, children violated, and people dying while their loved ones are crying. Also at this very moment, other hearts are rejoicing, babies are being born, mothers are nurturing, smiles are given freely, charity is being distributed, and lovers are uniting. The airport is one of the great metaphors of our time: sad, happy, and indifferent faces are all to be seen there, as people part with loved ones, greet their beloveds, or simply wait to pick up or let off people they barely know. Sad, happy, and indifferent are the states that sum up our collective body of souls. In the next life, however, there is only bliss or wretchedness, joy or sorrow—no indifference.

According to a beautiful hadith, the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, said that on the Last Day, when the last two souls are brought forth before God, they are both condemned to hell. As the angels escort them to their final fiery abode, one of them wistfully looks back. Thereupon, God commands the angels to bring him back and asks the man why he turned back. The man replies, “I was expecting something else from you.” God responds, commanding the angels, “Take him to My Garden.”

It is our expectation of God that determines where we are. This points up the need for thinking well not only of God but also of God’s creation, despite the fact that we are all messy, imperfect works in progress, struggling along in this journey.

We either surrender to God or to the substitutes for God, which are invariably hollow. But true love, which is the love of God, is the single most powerful force in the world. It is a love that “alters not when it alteration finds.” It grows and never diminishes. If someone claims to have lost it, it can only be said that such a person did not have it to begin with. “It is the star to every wandering bark.” And in loving God, one must paradoxically love all of God’s creation, merely for the incontrovertible fact that everything is God’s creation. God does love everything in that He brought everything into existence from an act of divine love, and those who love God purely, and with the penetrating inner eye of reality, can only be a mercy while in the world. This does not mean that we love the evil that emanates from moral agents. In fact, it is an act of faith to loathe what is loathsome to God. So when God says He does not love oppressors, it is their oppression that we must loath. In denying the humanity that is inherent in the oppressor, we miss the point and disallow the possibility that the door of God’s mercy and love is open to everyone. If we truly believe that we love for everyone what we love for ourselves, then we should want everyone, no matter their state of being or their station in life, to enter that door of God’s mercy and love, through repentance and contrition. Allowing for this possibility enables us to be a mercy, as the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, was.

What follows is a profound explication of this truth by emir ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri (d. 1300/1883), perhaps the last exemplar of Islam on all the levels of prophetic character—as a teacher, warrior, statesman, father, and fully awakened master of the path of the prophets:

“They love God, and God loves them” (Qur’an, 5:54). You should know that the love the real has for creation is of various kinds. One type is the divine love for them before they came into existence; and another is the divine love after they were created. These two types are further categorized into two other types: one is the divine love of the elect, and the other is the divine love of the elite of the elect. As for the first [the divine love before creation], it permeates all of existence, despite the varieties of types, kinds, and characters. It is understood in the famous dictum known well to the folk of spirit,1 “I was a hidden treasure who loved to be known, so I created this creation to introduce Myself, and through it, they came to know Me.” This love is the love that brought the world into existence: “I created humankind and sprites only to adore Me” (51:56). In other words, “to know Me.” This is the very love we have mentioned; it is God’s inclination to manifest His divine names and attributes, and this is an inclination of the essential divine nature, which is not colored with a name or an attribute, because the names do not manifest at this level of consideration.2 Then, this inclination of divine love for self- expression extended itself through all of the divine names and sought to manifest through the epiphanies of the divine traces as they had been previously hidden in the divine essence, consumed in the divine unity. But once God created them, they knew God as God desired to be known, given that the divine will is unassailable. Every type of creature knew God based upon the level of understanding and preparedness that God had bestowed upon it. As for the angels, each one is a type unto itself, and each has a station and rank, just as all the rest of creation has types and ranks. None can either relinquish or surpass its rank, and their acceptance is predicated upon the degree of knowledge of God that they have. For without a doubt, they increased in their knowledge when Adam, peace be upon him, taught them the names, as the Exalted has taught us in the Qur’an. As for inanimate objects, beasts, and animals other than humans, they have a natural disposition that entails a divine knowledge that neither increases nor decreases. Each of them also has a station, and it cannot exceed its boundaries of knowledge. As for the human being, he or she has a primordial knowledge that [although lost upon entering the world] can undergo a renovatio.3 Its renovation is based upon the condition of his or her outward state; I mean by this the state of the soul and intellect.4 For in reality, all of knowledge is concentrated in the individual’s reality; it simply manifests from one time to another, based upon the divine will, because the human reality is contained in each person. And each human being, in that he or she is a human being, is open to the possibility of the rank of “perfected human.” However, they will vary in the way their human perfection manifests itself in them.

As for the first type of divine love, which is that of the elect, this is reserved for only certain ones among God’s servants. Examples of this are found in the Qur’an: “Surely God loves those who repent” (2:222). Also included among those God loves are those who purify themselves, the patient, the grateful, those who place their trust in God, those “who fight in ranks for the sake of God” (61:4), not to mention all the other beloveds God mentions in the Qur’an who have embodied certain qualities and characteristics that necessitate this special love from the Real, Exalted God. Nonetheless, it is a type of love that veils and [yet] allows for a transcendent understanding of God. Moreover, it is a love that is unobtainable for certain types of people, as mentioned in the verses, “God loves not oppressors,” (3:57), and “God loves not those who cover truth with lies” (3:32). Despite that, they are still enveloped in the first type of divine love [that is, divine love before they came into existence].

As for the second type of special divine love, it is for the elect of the elite; it is indicated in the sacred hadith,5 “My servant continues to draw near unto Me through voluntary acts of devotion until I love him. And when I love him, I become the hearing with which he hears, the sight with which he sees, the hand with which he strikes, and the foot with which he walks. Were he to ask something of Me, I would assuredly grant it; were he to seek refuge in Me, I would grant it.”6 In other words, the identity of the Real is revealed to him as the secret of his own outward and inward faculties. This type of divine love occurs with an epiphany upon the beloved, the fruit of which
is manifest in this world due to the divine witnessing and vision that occurs in the imaginal7 realm; or it occurs with other things also, as an effusion of experiential knowledge through myriad gifts. As for the previous special type of love, it is still a veiled love, given that its possessor is still trapped in the illusion of otherness and duality. Hence, its fruits only manifest in the next world. For this reason, ‘Ata’ Allah (d.709/1309) says in his Aphorisms (al-Hikam), “The devoted servants and detached ones leave this world while their hearts are still filled with otherness.”8

This last love is attained only by those who possess the direct knowledge of God described in the sacred hadith above. Furthermore, it is only attained by one who has in his or her heart that universal love for all of creation that is understood in the verse, “My Mercy encompasses all things” (7:156). It is the mercy that the Messenger of God, God bless and grant him peace, spoke of when he said, “you will not truly believe until you show mercy to one another.”

To this, a companion responded, “But Messenger of God, all of us show mercy to others.”

The Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, explained, “I am not speaking of the mercy one of you shows to his friend but of universal mercy—mercy to all of humanity.”

Regarding the famous hadith, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself,” Imam al-Nawawi (d. 676/1277) states in his commentary that this love includes all of humanity. He further elucidates that it is a love that goes against our very nature; it is angelic in nature, and it is only obtained by negating the ego.

This struggle with the ego—with our own vengeful soul—is one of the most difficult challenges we face. But in succeeding in this struggle, we are not only able to forgive: we are also able to strike, when the only appropriate response is a strike—but with the hand of God, not with the hand of our own ego because it is an undeniable reality of the world that miscreants exist, that there are human demons whose evil must be thwarted. This is the essence of jihad: to take up the sword in order to remove the sword from the hands of those who wish to do evil in the world. However, the mujahid must be purified from his own ego so he can act as an agent of the divine in the world. This was the reality of the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, on the battlefield, about whom God said, “And when you threw, you did not throw, but rather God threw” (8:17). It is only such people who are worthy of being the caliphs of God upon the earth. They are the ones God will empower to rule. And for those who do not possess these qualities but still have the love of God, God’s greatest gift is to leave them powerless. God’s privation is itself a gift, for He withholds not from want but from wisdom.
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1 The word used in Arabic is qawm, which literally means “folk.” However, in the technical vocabulary of tasawwuf (Sufism), it refers to the Sufis themselves. This is based upon the famous hadith in which the angels tell God of a group of people remembering Him, and they mention one who was not a participant but was only sitting in their company. To this God replies, “hum al-qawm la yashqa bihim jalisuhum,” meaning, “they are a folk (qawm) who even the one sitting with them is saved,” simply due to his being in their company. While the word “folk” is now considered archaic, it is still in use, and given that it means both “men” and “people” and originally meant “an army,” it seems most appropriate given that qawm in classical Arabic refers specifically to men-folk.

2 In classical Muslim theology an attribute (sifah) or a substantive name of God is neither the essence of God nor other than the essence. This means that any attribute or name cannot contain a summation of God that only God’s essence contains.

3 Renovatio is a Latin theological term that seems to convey perfectly the Arabic tajaddad, “renewal”. In classical Christian theology, the corrupted imago dei is restored to its original integrity. This conveys well the meaning intended here, and God knows best.

4 “Intellect” here refers to the medieval understanding of intellect, which differed from reason. Intellect was the function of one’s intelligence that distinguished between the real and the apparent—hence the Latin, inte lectus, to distinguish between or to judge between [the real and the false].

5 A sacred hadith (hadith qudsi) neither holds the rank of a hadith, which is a statement from the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, nor of the Qur’an. It holds a third rank, which is a divine statement; i.e., it is considered revelation, but unlike the Qur’an, it is uttered in the words of the Prophet Muhammad, God bless and grant him peace; we could say it is the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, paraphrasing his Lord.

6 This hadith is recorded by Imam al-Bukhari and is considered absolutely true.

7 The emir uses the expression ‘ala takhyil, which is related to imagination but is not to be confused with the modern usage of this word; hence, imaginal.

8 Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri, al-Mawaqif, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2004), 196-197, mawqif #105.

Article Source: sandala

5 changes that can improve your marriage

5 Changes That Can Improve Your Marriage

It’s true that with time, every relationship comes to a point where things become more of a habit and the spark begins to die down. However, here is the silver lining. Not everything that’s lost is lost forever. Reigniting the initial spark in your marriage is not unachievable. With little hard work and a walk down a few extra miles, you can bring the charm back into your marital relationship and coax the spark back into a burning flame.

It does not require a gigantic intervention to bring the colors back into your marital life. All it takes is a shift in your daily routine and habits and watch your marriage come back to life. Following are the few little changes that can make a big impact on your marriage.

1. Redecorate Your Room and Turn it Into a Romantic Retreat

With kids in the house and a huge pile of household chores waiting to be done, your bedroom gets the least of your attention. Your bedroom is the only place where you and your spouse can retreat after a long tiring day. If you’ve got a child sleeping between you, sheets that haven’t been washed or changed for the longest time, or a pile of unfolded clothes laying around the bed, chances are that whatever little spark that you could have felt by the end of the day would go flying off the window with the first look on the huge mess lying in front of you.

Put some efforts into redecorating your room a little and cleaning up the everyday mess to avoid putting out any flicker of passion between you two. Paint your walls into a color that energizes and invokes cheerful vibes in you. Rearrange the furniture to bring about a pleasant change in your room. With a little tweak here and there, there is a great chance that the next time you enter your room with your spouse, the changed outlook of your room will instantly put the mood back into the bedroom.

2. Pay Close Attention to What You’re Giving, Not What You’re Getting

It’s understandable that when years have passed on a marriage, the focus shifts from what you’re giving to your partner to what you’re getting in return. Bring back the focus on what you’re contributing to the relationship and watch sparks fly right back into your marital life. Readjusting your focus on making life easier for your partner will avert your eyes from what’s making life more difficult, and your marriage will ultimately grow stronger and healthier.

3. Words of Encouragement and Endearment Cost Nothing At All

There is nothing more powerful than the words of endearment and pure encouragement. Sometimes your spouse does things that invoke critical comments out of you and you find it hard to suppress your disapproval for their actions. However, words of genuine praise and encouragement play a better role at brining improvement in your spouse’s life than criticism and disapproval.

4. Set a Daily Goal for Your Marriage

Setting a goal for your life is already very important. Imagine the amount of improvement you can bring in your marriage when you set a goal for your marriage. When you set small goals to improve your marital relationship and make a conscious decision every day to achieve them, the very gesture will send out a positive message towards your spouse, reflecting how invested you are in fostering your relationship with your spouse.

5. Pay More Attention than is Necessary

One of the things that can instantly put out a flame of passion before it even sparks up is lack of attention. If your partner’s voice is blending into the background and you appear tuned out, chances are that your spouse would sense your lack of interest and drift away from you. Lack of interest can give birth to communication gap and can ultimately become one of the reasons of your relationship’s demise. The next time you’re sitting with your spouse, put own your phone, set your laptop aside, shut the TV off, and stop what you are doing to pay attention to what they are saying.

How To Have A Successful Relationship

Relationships don’t foster themselves on their own. They don’t also happen by accident. It takes two to lay the groundwork and then establish the fortress of trust, commitment, and loyalty. Like everything else in life, the path to a successful and healthy relationship isn’t free of obstacles and hurdles. However, the key to learning how to have a successful relationship does not lie in finding the perfect partner for you and expecting a perfect relation with them; it’s rather a summation of different elements that make a relationship work and last forever.

Countless movies have been made, books have been written, and courses have been offered to show and teach people how to make their relationship a living success. And yet, people are faced with problems and complexities in fostering their relationships and the difficulties ultimately drive them away from each other. Apart from love, trust, and sincerity, here are a few tips to have a successful relationship with the person you love.

1. Be in a relationship when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely

One of the most important keys to a successful and long lasting relationship is to get into a relationship for the right reasons. Don’t ever be with someone because you’re pressured to do it. Get into a commitment when you know you are ready. Be with someone when you love being around them.

2. Communicate often

Success relationships are often established on the foundation of openness and communication. It’s easier to communicate things in good times. But things start to heat up, and the tension builds up, that’s when communication comes to the rescue. Instead of letting thing grow into an intense of storm of repressed feelings and unsaid words, communicate about the problems you’re facing with each other the sooner they come up. Don’t wait until the negativity rise up to spill all over your relationship. Nip the problem in the bud as soon the conflict manifests itself.

3. Disagreements are healthy

It’s normal in two people living together and spending considerable amount of time in each other’s company to find uncommon grounds relating to ordinary matter of life. No matter how big the disagreement is, don’t let it define your relationship on one hand, and don’t also give it the power to undermine the strength of your commitment with the other person.

A relationship advisor and therapist Kurt Smith shared her views on the matter by saying,

If partners don’t disagree now and then they’re either not being honest or aren’t human. Disagreeing isn’t a marriage problem ― it’s normal. It’s how couples work through their disagreements (or rather don’t) that can become bad for their marriage. Disagreements are opportunities to practice conflict resolution and build communication skills. Take a look at your disagreements and see what bad habits each partner has when you disagree. Do you talk over each other? Get angry? Yell? Swear? Name call? Disengage? Each partner should make a list of their bad tendencies and use future disagreements to practice responding differently and building better communication skills.

– Kurt Smith

4. Pay attention to good details

There’s nothing else that increases the warmth in a relationship and strengthens your partners believe in you than the undivided attention you pay to everything they do or say. Love and affection without attention is useless. It’s what you remember about your partner’s likes and dislikes, wants and needs, preferences and disapproval’s that together lay the ground for the love and affection to grow into a strong, fulling nurtured tree of love and belonging.

5. Be okay with the uncommon interests

Often the most successful relationships are those that involve two completely opposite people fusing the stark dissimilarities between them into a highly functioning and workable companionship. But it doesn’t mean that one should go out and look for someone that’s opposite to them in every way. It only signifies that sharing common interests is a like a cherry at the top. Having uncommon interests should not come between the happiness of the couple. It’s okay if your partner loves something that you have no likeness for. The success of a relationship does not hinge upon the similarities between two people; it instead is determined at the amount of efforts being put into working out the common interests.

6. Ignore the wrong thing they do, and pay attention to the right things

While it’s true that it’s difficult to look past the wrongs that your partner does to you, but positive reinforcements is as important in a relationship, as it is in the other matters of life. Try not to look for the things they do wrong. Think of all the right things they do to help you overlook the problems and the wrongs in the relationship.