Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Promised Messiah & Imam Mahdi
The Promised Messiah (as) wrote over 80 books in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Excerpts of his collected works have been translated into English and organised by topic. The Review of Religions is pleased to present these excerpts as part of a monthly feature. Here, the Promised Messiah (as) describes the reality of love.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. III, 36-42. This is the fifth part of a multi-part series.
The Reality of Love
The fourth objection is that Islamic teaching never enjoins love for the followers of other religions; it only enjoins love for Muslims.
In reply, let it be clear that all this is the unfortunate outcome of the New Testament which is neither complete nor perfect, and because of which Christians digressed from the truth and reality. If one reflects deeply on what love is, when it should be exercised, and what hatred is and when it should be exercised, then not only does one comprehend true philosophy of the Holy Qur’an, but the soul also achieves the perfect light of true understanding.
Remember, love is not pretence or affectation. It is one of the human faculties. The essence of love is to have sincerity for something and to be drawn irresistibly towards it. Just as the real characteristics of an object are only truly perceived when it reaches perfection, the same is the case with love, in that its qualities are openly revealed when it is extreme and reaches perfection. Referring to this, Allah the Almighty says:
أُشۡرِبُواْ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ ٱلۡعِجۡلَ 
That is: ‘They loved the calf as if their hearts were permeated with it.’
In point of fact, when a person falls in love with someone and his love is total, it becomes his food and his drink, as it were. Indeed he takes on the complexion of the character and lifestyle of the beloved. The greater the love, the more a person is involuntarily drawn towards the qualities of the loved one, so much so, that he becomes his very reflection. That is why, consistent with his capacity, a person who loves God acquires, metaphorically speaking, God’s light. Similarly, those who love Satan acquire the darkness which belongs to Satan. This being the reality of love, how can a true scripture, which is from God, ever permit that you should love Satan as you love God, or love the successors of Satan the way you ought to love the successors of the Gracious One.
The pity of it is that we had hitherto held the New Testament to be false only because it deifies a humble mortal. But now we can also prove that various other teachings of the Gospels are also impure. How can a teaching be pure which requires one to love Satan as he ought to love God? It would be an exercise in futility to contend that these sayings were a slip of the tongue on the part of Jesus because he was ignorant of the philosophy of the Divine. If this was so, why did he claim to be the reformer of his people? Was he a child? Did he not even know that true love demands that the lover should sincerely love the habits, morals and religious practices of the beloved, and should endeavour heart and soul to be lost in them, so that he may attain through the beloved the life that belongs to him. The true lover loses himself in the beloved. He becomes the manifestation of the beloved and reflects in himself the image of the beloved to the extent that it becomes part and parcel of his person. After acquiring his complexion and by standing with him, he demonstrates to the people that for a fact he is totally lost in love for his beloved.
Mahabbah [love] is an Arabic word which literally means ‘to be filled’. The well-known Arabic idiom تَحَبَّتِ الْحِمَارُ is used when an Arab wants to say that a donkey’s belly is full of water. When he wants to say that the camel drank water to its full capacity, he says: شَرِبَتِ الْإِبِلُ حَتَّى تَحَبَّبَتْ. Hubb, meaning grain, is also derived from the same root, meaning that it is full of the qualities of the grain. Similarly, ihbab also means to sleep, for he who is filled with something else loses himself as if he had gone to sleep and he had been deprived of all consciousness of his own self. If this is the reality of love, the Gospel, which teaches to love Satan and his followers, in other words it teaches that you too should partake of their wickedness. What a teaching! How can such a teaching be attributed to God Almighty. On the contrary, it seeks to convert man into Satan. May God save all from this teaching of the Gospel.
If it is asked that since it is forbidden to love Satan and his ilk, what kind of treatment should be meted out to them? The answer is that the Holy Word of God Almighty enjoins that they should be treated with great kindness and compassion, just as a kind-hearted person is kind to the lepers, the blind, the crippled and the lame, etc. However, the difference between compassion and love is that a lover admires all the words and deeds of his beloved and desires that he too should become like his beloved; but a compassionate person looks at the recipient of his compassion with concern and is afraid lest the sufferer should perish in his pitiable state. The sign of a truly compassionate person is that he is not always gentle to his object of pity. Rather, he deals with him in accordance with the demands of time and occasion. At times he is gentle and at times he is harsh. Sometimes he offers him drink and sometimes, like a wise doctor, considers the amputation of his hand or foot to save his life. Sometimes he operates upon his limb, and sometimes he applies balm. If you happen to visit a big hospital, which is frequented by hundreds of patients of all kinds, and observe the daily tasks of an experienced doctor, you will then hopefully come to understand the meaning of compassion.
The Holy Qur’an teaches us to love the virtuous, the pious and righteous, and also to have compassion for the wicked and the disbelievers. Almighty Allah says:
عَزِيزٌ عَلَيۡهِ مَا عَنِتُّمۡ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيۡكُم 
That is: ‘O disbelievers, this Prophet is so compassionate that he cannot stand the sight of your suffering and is highly solicitous for your safety from these hardships.’
لَعَلَّكَ بَٰخِعٞ نَّفۡسَكَ أَلَّا يَكُونُواْ مُؤۡمِنِينَ 
That is: ‘Will you die worrying why they do not believe?’ This means that, your compassion has reached the limit where your anguish for them has brought you close to death.
تَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلۡمَرۡحَمَةِ 
That is: ‘The faithful are those who counsel patience and compassion to one another,’ i.e., they advise patience in adversity and compassion towards God’s creatures. Here too marhamah means compassion, for this is what the word marhamah implies in Arabic.
In short, the true meaning of the Qur’anic teaching is that love, which in reality means to reflect in one’s person the qualities of the beloved, is not permissible except for God Almighty and for the righteous ones. Indeed it is strictly forbidden for all others. For instance, the Holy Qur’an says:
وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ أَشَدُّ حُبّٗا لِّلَّهِۗ 
It also says:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تَتَّخِذُواْ ٱلۡيَهُودَ وَٱلنَّصَٰرَىٰٓ أَوۡلِيَآءَ 
At another place it says:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تَتَّخِذُواْ بِطَانَةٗ مِّن دُونِكُمۡ 
That is to say, do not love the Jews and Christians, nor those who are not righteous. Reading these verses, the uninformed Christians are misled. They think that Muslims are enjoined not to love Christians and other non-believers, but they do not realise that every word is used with reference to the context. What constitutes love can be entertained for evildoers and the disbelievers only when one partakes of their disbelief and impiety. Ignorant indeed would be the person who enjoined love for the enemies of his faith. We have pointed out several times that love means to look with pleasure on the words, actions, habits, morals, and faith of the beloved, to be pleased with them, and to accept his influence. But this is not possible on the part of a believer with regard to a disbeliever.
A believer will, however, have compassion for the disbeliever and will have full sympathy for him and will seek to help him in his physical and spiritual ailments. Allah the Almighty has repeatedly admonished that we should have sympathy for people regardless of their religion, should feed the hungry, procure freedom for slaves, pay off the debts of those burdened with them, and have true sympathy for the whole of mankind. He says:
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأۡمُرُ بِٱلۡعَدۡلِ وَٱلۡإِحۡسَٰنِ وَإِيتَآيِٕ ذِي ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ 
This means that: ‘God commands you to be just or, even more than just, to be benevolent like a mother to her child, or like a person who is kind to another because of the feelings of kinship.’
لَّا يَنۡهَىٰكُمُ ٱللَّهُ عَنِ ٱلَّذِينَ لَمۡ يُقَٰتِلُوكُمۡ فِي ٱلدِّينِ وَلَمۡ يُخۡرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَٰرِكُمۡ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمۡ وَتُقۡسِطُوٓاْ إِلَيۡهِمۡۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُقۡسِطِينَ 
That is: ‘The fact that Allah forbids you from loving the Christians and others should not be taken to mean that He forbids you from doing good or showing compassion and sympathy. No. Be compassionate, sympathetic and just to those who have not fought to kill you, nor have they driven you out of your homes, whether they are Jews or Christians, for Allah loves the people who do so.’
إِنَّمَا يَنۡهَىٰكُمُ ٱللَّهُ عَنِ ٱلَّذِينَ قَٰتَلُوكُمۡ فِي ٱلدِّينِ وَأَخۡرَجُوكُم مِّن دِيَٰرِكُمۡ وَظَٰهَرُواْ عَلَىٰٓ إِخۡرَاجِكُمۡ أَن تَوَلَّوۡهُمۡۚ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُمۡ فَأُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمُونَ 
That is: ‘Allah forbids you from being friendly and intimate with only those who have waged religious wars against you and have driven you out of your homes, and have aided others in driving you out of your homes. Friendship with them is forbidden, because they are bent upon destroying your faith.’
It is worth remembering that the reality of friendship is sympathy and well-wishing. A believer can, therefore, have friendship, sympathy and goodwill for Christians, Jews, and Hindus and can exercise benevolence towards them, but cannot love them. This is a fine distinction, which should always be kept in mind.
—Nur-ul-Qur’an part 2, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 9, pp. 429-436
- The Holy Qur’an, 2:94.
- The Holy Qur’an, 9:128.
- The Holy Qur’an, 26:4.
- The Holy Qur’an, 90:18.
- ‘And those who believe are stronger in their love for Allah.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 2:166.
- ‘O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for friends.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 5:52.
- ‘O ye who believe! take not others than your own people as intimate friends.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 3:119.
- The Holy Qur’an, 16:91.
- The Holy Qur’an, 60:9.
- The Holy Qur’an, 60:10.