VI) The Different Kinds of Love


155. I have been asked to focus on what there is to say about love, and the different kinds of love. All the different kinds of love belong to the same family. Love is characterized by longing for the loved one, horror of separation, hope of having one’s love reciprocated. It has been suggested that the sentiment varies according to its object. But the object varies only according to the lover’s desires, according to whether they are on the increase, the decrease, or are vanishing altogether. Thus, love felt for God Almighty is perfect love; that which unites beings in the quest for the same ideal, the love of a father, a son, parents, a friend, a sovereign, a wife, a benefactor, a person in whom one has placed one’s hopes, a lover, all is generally the same, all is love, but there are different species as I have just listed, differing by the amount of love inspired by what the loved one is able to give of itself. Thus love can take different forms: we have seen men die broken-hearted because of their sons exactly as a lover might have his heart broken by his loved one. We have heard of a man who burnt with such fear of God, with such love, that he died of it. We know that a man can be as jealous of them as a lover is of his mistress.

156. The least that the lover can desire of the loved one is to win her esteem, her attention, to approach her - not daring to expect more. This is how far those aspire who love each other in God Almighty.

157. The next stage is when desire grows as time is spent together, in conversation, and interest is shown by one to another. This is the level of the love of a man towards his prince, his friend or his own brother.

158. But the height of what a lover may wish from the loved one is to take her in his arms when he desires her. That is why we see a man who is passionately fond of his wife trying different positions in making love, and different places, so as to feel that he possesses her more completely. It is in this category that we should put caresses and kisses. Some of these desires may arise in a father towards his child and may drive him to [express them] in kisses and caresses.

159. Everything that we have just mentioned is uniquely the function of [extreme] desire. When for some reason, the desire for some object is suppressed, the soul is driven towards a different object of desire.

160. Thus we find that the man who believes in the possibility of seeing God Almighty longs for it, has a great yearning for it and will never be satisfied with anything less since it is that which he desires. On the other hand, a man who does not believe in it does not aspire to this ecstasy and does not wish for it, having no desire for it. He is content to bow to divine will and to go to the mosque. He has no other ambition.

161. We have observed that a man who is legally able to marry his close relatives is not satisfied with favours which would satisfy someone who is not permitted to marry them. His love does not stop at the same point as the love of a man who is forbidden by law to love them. Those, such as Magians and Jews, who are permitted to marry their own daughters and nieces, do not curb their love at the same point as a Muslim does. On the contrary, they feel the same love to their daughters or to their nieces as a Muslim does to a woman he will sleep with. One never sees a Muslim desiring his close relatives in this way, even if they are more beautiful than the sun itself, even if he is the most debauched and the most amorous of men. And if, very exceptionally, it should happen, it would be only among the impious, who do not feel the constraint of the religion, and who allow themselves every lustful thought, and who find every gate of desire open to them. It cannot be guaranteed that a Muslim might not love his cousin so excessively that his love became a passion and overstepped the affection which he bore towards his daughter and niece, even if the cousin was not so beautiful as they. In fact he might desire favours from his cousin which he would never expect from his daughter or his niece. On the other hand, a Christian will treat his cousin with equal respect, for he is not permitted to desire her. But [unlike a Muslim] he does not have to restrain himself with anyone who shared a wet nurse with him, since he may desire her without offending the laws of his religion.

162. We now see the truth of what we said earlier: love in all its manifestations forms one single generic family, but its species vary according to the different objects of its desire.

163. Having said this, human nature is the same every where but different customs and religious beliefs have created apparent differences.

164. We do not say that desire has an influence only on love. We would say that is the cause of all kinds of cares, even those which concern one’s fortune and social position. Thus it may be observed that a man who sees the death of his neighbour, or of his maternal uncle, his friend, his cousin, his great-uncle, his nephew, his maternal grandfather or his grandson, having no claim on their property, does not fret because it has escaped him, however large and considerable their fortunes might be, because he had no expectation of them. But as soon as a distant member of his father's family dies, or one of his remotest clients, he begins to covet their belongings. And with the coveting comes crowding in anxiety, regret, anger and great sorrow if some tiny part of their fortune escapes him.

165. It is the same with one’s position in society: a man who belongs to the lowest social class does not fret if he is not consulted when someone else is given charge of the affairs of the land. He does not fret if someone else is promoted or demoted. But as soon as he begins to feel an ambition to better himself, it provokes so much worry, anxiety and anger that it could make him lose his soul, his world and his position in the hereafter [lose his soul here and in the hereafter]. Thus covetousness is the cause of all humiliation and every kind of anxiety. It is a wicked and despicable kind of behaviour.

166. The opposite of covetousness is disinterest. This is a virtuous quality which combines courage, generosity, justice and intelligence. A disinterested man is truly intelligent because he understands the vanity of covetousness and prefers disinterest. His courage gives birth to a greatness of spirit which makes him disinterested. His natural generosity stops him fretting about property which is lost to him. His equitable nature makes him love reserve and moderation in his desires. Thus disinterest is composed of these four qualities, just a covetousness, its opposite, is composed of the four opposite faults, that is, cowardice, greed, injustice and ignorance.

Greed is a kind of covetousness which would like to possess everything; it is insatiable and ever increasing in its demands. If there were no such thing as covetousness, nobody would ever humiliate himself to anybody else. Abû Bakr ibn Abû ibn al-Fayyâd has told me that ‘Uthmân bin Muhâmis [died 356 AH; 966 CE] inscribed upon the door of his house in Ecija [in Seville] “‘Uthmân covets nothing”.

Other species of this kind

167. A man made unhappy by the presence of a person he detests is like a man made unhappy by the absence of the person he loves. There is nothing to choose between them.

168. When a lover wishes to forget, he is sure to be able to do so. This wish is always granted.

169. If you treat the person you live with with respect, he will treat you with respect.

170. The man who is unhappy in love is the one who is racked by a passion for one whom he can keep locked away and with whom he may be united without incurring the wrath of God or the criticism of his fellow-men. All is well when the two lovers agree in loving each other. For love to run its course freely, it is essential that the two do not feel bored, for that is a bad feeling which gives rise to hatred. Perfect love would be if destiny forgot the two lovers while they were enjoying each other. But where could that happen except in Paradise? Only there can love be sure of shelter, for that is the home of everlasting stability. Otherwise, in the world, such feelings are not protected from misfortunes, and we go through life without ever tasting pleasure to the full.

171. When jealousy dies, you may be sure that love has also died.

172. Jealousy is a virtuous feeling which is made of courage and justice; truly, a just man hates to infringe the sacred rights of others, and hates to see others infringe his own sacred rights. When courage is inborn in a person, it gives rise to a grandeur of spirit which abhors injustice.

173. A man whose fortunes I have followed during these times told me once that he himself had never known jealousy until he was racked by love. Only then did he feel jealous. This man was corrupt by nature, he was a bad character, but nevertheless he was perspicacious and generous.

174. There are five stages in the growth of love: first is to think someone pleasant, that is, someone thinks of someone else as being nice or is charmed by their character. This is part of making friends. Then there is admiration; that is the desire to be near the person that one admires. Then there is close friendship when you miss the other one terribly when they are absent. Then there is amorous affection when you are completely obsessed with the loved one. In the special vocabulary of love this is called ‘ishq, “the slavery of love”. Finally, there is passion, when one can no longer sleep, eat or think. This can make you ill to the point of delirium or even death. Beyond this, there is absolutely no place where love ends.

A note

175. We used to think that passion was found more often among lively and emotional women. But our experience has shown that this is not the case. Passion is found most often among calm women, as long as their calmness is not the placidity of stupidity.

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