Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Islam and the Goal of Love

From William Chittick on Tabsir:

Love, in short, aims at communion, union, unity. Tawhid is the assertion of oneness and unity, but it is only an assertion, not the reality. Love is the energy that drives the quest for integration. The assertion of unity and the transforming energy must work together to overcome disjunction and disarray, to achieve togetherness and harmony, to actualize oneness and union. Tawhid provides the orientation, love the force. Without tawhid, love is dispersed and scattered; without love, tawhid is empty talk.

That the word “love” expresses the goal of tawhid is a common theme in the literature. Many explain it in terms of “the sentence that expresses unity” (kalimat al-tawhid). That is, the four Arabic words “(There is) no god but God,” the foundation of the Islamic creed.

Achieving the goal depends on overcoming the illusions set up by false realities, aberrant loves and misleading desires. In the language of Sufism, the false realities are called “others,” meaning everything that distracts the heart from the Absolutely Real. Rumi explains that love actualizes tawhid in these terms:

Love is that flame which, when it blazes up,
burns away everything except the Everlasting Beloved.

It drives home the sword of “no god” in order to slay other than God.
Look closely–after “no god” what remains?

There remains “but God,” the rest has gone.
Bravo, O great, idol-burning love!

(Mathnawi, Book 5, verses 588-90)

Read the whole thing.

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