Love is something pondered, sought after, and written about from time immemorial. It affects every person's view of the world and the affairs of his daily life.
The ancient Greeks had three words for different kinds of love:
philia - brotherly love (as seen in the name of the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia); this love is the loyalty and love between friends, or to one's community, etc.
eros - passionate attraction or love with desire and longing, although it can be platonic and does not have to be physical in nature.
agape - a general affection; may be associated with love of God, but also one's "love" of a hobby or food, as well as relationships between people.
In Arabic, there are similar words of love: hubb, which seems comparable to to agape, 'ishq, akin to eros, and wudd, most like philia.
One of Allah's names is al-Wadud, He who loves - related to wudd. It is written that God gives a general encompassing love to all His creation, demonstrated through many gifts of mercy, guidance, and providing. He also reserves a special, deeper love for those who turn to Him: He loves those who love Him (Qur'an 5:54), the doers of justice (5:42, 8:60, 9:49), and those who do good to others (5:13, 5:93, 3:134, 3:148, 2:195) in an ever-deepening return. I wrote in a previous post a few months back about the walayah love relationship between God and mankind.
Today I'm thinking about love between people, or between creatures.
"At last comes love which ousts all else:
Love undoes all sense of 'two';
Love makes all One,
Until no 'mine'
- Mahmud Shabistari
This is a sufi mystic interpretation of love - between a person and God, or between two people. The goal of the wayfarers is to lose themselves in God, to become metaphysically united with their Creator, so that there is no distinction between the person's desires and wants and the will of God.
In the love between people, the personhood of each individual remains distinct, for it is a partnership between relative equals, unlike the absolutely unequal relationship between God and man. God has no need from us. But we all have need of a manifestation of God's blessing through love of one another.
If two people love each other, then they make a decision and a commitment to serve one another, to pursue the happiness and pleasure of each other, to accept one another in reality and not just the ideal, to help one another, and to give and receive kindness between one another - all for the sake of the other, for the sake of the love itself, and most importantly for the sake and love of God - but not for the sake of wanting something in return, as if it is a price to be paid or a bargain to be made, for love is free for the giving and receiving.
Love is infinite - it doesn't run out when it is given. In fact, giving love makes love grow even more abundant. So why should we hold it back? Why should we withhold our affection from someone else, aside from the requirements of societal norms, gender relation boundaries, and ethics? Often, we fear rejection. But what is really lost in sharing one's love even if it is not returned? We can love selfishly or selflessly. The selfless love does not push itself on its intended but delights in an opportunity for genuine expression.
A movie I saw the other day (Dan in Real Life) had an interesting quote about love. A character said that love is not a feeling, it is an ability.
It is an ability we all have received from our Maker, but we have to choose to allow it space in our hearts. I do not know what determines the ultimate chemistry between two people, but I think aside from that chemistry, loving someone is a choice to allow the expression and reciprocation of affection and kindness. When I feel love for someone, I relish and enjoy and care for the entire being of that person. At no other time is living fully in the present so easy as in a moment of loving. Love is timeless.
There are many of you that I love and care about and I treasure your friendship. And this post is for all of you, and for someone special in mind as well. Praise be to God for love! :)