Love in the Holy Qur'an (6): God 's Love for Humanity

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(continued)

PART ONE: DIVINE LOVE


CHAPTER 7: GOD’S LOVE  FOR HUMANITY

 

God’s favour (‘fadl’) is an aspect of His mercy, and Divine mercy it- self—as we saw earlier—is inseparable from Divine love. Hence we must mention here God’s completely gratuitous favour upon humanity in general as an aspect of God’s love. After creating human beings from dust, God breathed His spirit into him:

 

So when I have proportioned him, and breathed in him My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him! (Sad, 38:72)

 

Who beautified everything that He created. And He began the creation of man from clay, / then He made his progeny from an extract of a base fluid, / then He proportioned him, and breathed into him of His spirit. And He made for you hearing, and sight and hearts. Little thanks do you give. (Al- Sajdah, 32:7-9)

 

And when your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed I am going to create a mortal out of dry clay [drawn] from malleable mud. / So, when I have proportioned him and breathed of My spirit in him, fall down in prostration before him!’ / And so the angels prostrated, all of them together, / except Iblis, he refused to be among those prostrating. / He [said]: ‘O Iblis what is wrong with you that you are not among those pros- trating?’ / Said he, ‘I was not about to prostrate myself before a mortal whom You have created out of a dry clay [drawn] from malleable mud’. / Said He, ‘Then be gone from hence; for you are indeed accursed. (Al-Hijr, 15:28-34)

 

And God created human beings in the best of forms (‘surah’):

 

God it is Who made for you the earth as a [stable] abode and the heaven as a canopy. And He formed you and perfected your forms, and provided you with [all] the wholesome things. That then is God, your Lord, so blessed be God, the Lord of the Worlds. (Ghafir, 40:64)

 

He created the heavens and the earth with the truth, and He shaped you and made your forms excellent; and to Him is the journey’s end. (Al-Taghabun, 64:3)

 

O man! What has deceived you with regard to your generous Lord? / Who created you, then made you upright, then pro- portioned you, / assembling you in whatever form He wishes? (Al-Infitar, 82:6-8)

 

And God created human beings in the best of statures (‘taqwim’):

 

By the fig and the olive, / and [by] the Mount Sinai, / and [by] this secure land, / Verily We created man in the best of statures. / Then, We reduced him to the lowest of the low, / except those who believe and perform righteous deeds, for they shall have an unfailing  reward. / So what makes you deny thereafter  the Judgement?  / Is not God the fairest of all judges? (Al-Tin, 95:1-8)

 

And He created human beings in the primordial state of purity (‘fitra hanifa’):

 

Nay, but those who do evil follow their own desires without any knowledge. So who will guide him whom God has led astray? And they have no helpers. / So set your purpose for religion, as a hanif — a nature (fitra) given by God, upon which He originated humankind. There is no changing God’s creation. That is the upright religion, but most people do not know (Al-Rum, 30:29-30)

 

 So by God’s spirit; by the best of forms; by the best of statures; and by the primordial state of purity, God has favoured or preferred (faddala) hu- manity in general above many other creatures.33 God says:

 

And verily We have honoured  the Children of Adam, and carried  them over land and sea, and provided them with good things; and We have preferred (faddalnahum)  them above many of those whom We created with a marked prefer- ment. (Al-Isra’, 17:70)

 

Indeed, by these favours, God has ennobled human beings above even the angels, and made them His vicegerent on earth:

 

And We created you, then shaped you, then said to the an- gels: ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam!’ So they fell pros- trate, all save Iblis [Lucifer], he was not of those who make prostration. (Al-A’raf, 7:11)

 

He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth; then He turned to heaven and levelled them seven heavens and He has knowledge of all things. / And when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am appointing on earth a vicegerent’, they said, ‘What, will You appoint therein one who will do cor- ruption therein and shed blood, while we glorify You with praise and sanctify You?’; He said, ‘Assuredly, I know what you know not’. / And He taught Adam the names, all of them; then He presented them to the angels and said, ‘Now tell Me the names of these if you speak truly’. / They said, 


‘Glory be to You! We know not except what You have taught us. Surely You are the Knower, Wise’. / He said, ‘Adam, tell them their names’; And when he had told them their names He said, ‘Did I not tell you that I know the Unseen in the heavens and the earth?, And I know what you reveal and what you were hiding. / And when We said to the angels, 
‘Prostrate  yourselves to Adam; so they prostrated  them- selves, except Iblis, he refused and disdained; and so he be- came   one   of  the   disbelievers  [kafirin].   (Al-Baqarah, 2:29-34) [34]

 

 Through all these Divine favours, human beings were given a trust greater than could have been borne by the heavens, the earth and the moun- tains:

 

Indeed We offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to bear it and were ap- prehensive of it; but man undertook it. Truly he is a wrong- doer, ignorant. (Al-Ahzab, 33:72)

 

Finally, we must mention that in addition to all the gratuitous favours which God has granted every human being in general, He has also granted gratuitous graces (ni’ma; pl. ni’am) to every single human being individu- ally. God says:

 

And if you were to count God’s grace you could never reckon it. Indeed God is Forgiving, Merciful (Al-Nahl, 16:18)

 

Whatever grace you have, it is from God. Then when mis- fortune befalls you, to Him you cry for help. (Al-Nahl, 16:53)

 

Do you not see that God has disposed for you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth, and He has show- ered His graces upon you, [both] outwardly and inwardly? Yet among people there are those who dispute concerning God without any knowledge or guidance or an illuminating scripture. (Luqman, 31:20)

 

Each We supply [to] these and [to] those from your Lord’s bounty. And your Lord’s bounty is not confined. (Al-Isra’, 17:20)

 

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As we have seen, God has greatly favoured human beings in general and individually—more than He has favoured other creatures. Divine favour comes from Divine Mercy, and Divine Mercy is inseparable from Divine Love. Thus God’s great favour to human beings is also a result of His love for them in general or as such.


In addition to all that, moreover, God says that He loves people more if they follow the Messenger of God !:

 

Say: ‘If you love God, follow me, and God will love you more [yuhbibkum], and forgive you your sins; God is Forgiving, Merciful.’ (Aal ‘Imran, 3:31)

 

Moreover, God mentions that a people may come in the future whom God loves and who love God, and who are characterised by the following attributes:

 

O you who believe, whoever of you apostatises from his re- ligion, God will assuredly bring a people whom He loves and who love Him: humble towards believers, stern towards dis- believers, struggling in the way of God, and fearing not the reproach of any reproacher. That is God’s favour; He gives it to whom He will; and God is Embracing, Knowing. (Al- Ma’idah, 5:54)

 

God also specifically mentions eight general kinds of people whom He says (in the present tense) that He ‘loves’. They are as follows:

 

1. ‘Those who rely’ (on God) (‘al-mutawakkilin’ or ‘al-mutawakkilun’ depending on the word’s grammatical case):

 

It was by the mercy of God that you were lenient with them; had you been harsh and fierce of heart, they would have dis- persed from about you. So pardon them, and ask forgiveness for them, and consult them in the matter. And when you are resolved, rely on God; for God loves those who rely. (Aal

‘Imran, 3:159)

 

2. ‘Those who cleanse themselves’ (‘al-mutatahhirin’) or ‘purify them- selves’ (‘al-muttahhirin):

 

They will ask you about the monthly period. Say: ‘It is an ailment; so part with women in the monthly period, and do not approach them until they are pure; when they have cleansed themselves, then come to them, as God has com- manded you’. Truly, God loves those who repent, and He loves those who cleanse themselves. (Al-Baqarah, 2:222)

 

Never stand there. A mosque which was founded upon piety from the first day is worthier for you to stand therein; in it are men who love to purify themselves; and God loves those who purify themselves. (Al-Tawbah, 9:109)

 

3. ‘Those who repent’ (‘al-tawwabin’):

 

They will ask you about the monthly period. Say: ‘It is an ailment; so part with women in the monthly period, and do not approach them until they are pure; when they have cleansed themselves, then come to them, as God has com- manded you’. Truly, God loves those who repent, and He loves those who cleanse themselves. (Al-Baqarah, 2:222)

 

4. ‘The just’ (‘al-muqsitin’):

 

Listeners to calumny and consumers of unlawful gain. If they come to you, then judge between them or turn away from them. If you turn away from them, they cannot harm you at all; and if you judge, then judge justly between them; God loves the just. (Al-Ma’idah, 5:42)

 

And if two parties of believers fall to fighting, make peace between them. And if one of them aggresses against  the other, fight the one which aggresses until it returns to God’s ordinance. Then, if it returns, reconcile them, and act justly. Surely God loves the just. (Al-Hujurat, 49:9)

 

God does not forbid you in regard to those who did not wage war against you on account of religion and did not expel you from your homes, that you should treat them kindly and deal with them justly. Surely God loves the just. (Al-Mumtahanah, 60:8)

 

5. ‘Those who fight for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure’ (‘al-ladhina yuqatiluna fi sabilihi saffan kanuhum bunyanun marsus’)35:

 

Indeed God loves those who fight for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure. (Al-Saff, 61:4)

 

6. ‘The patient’ (‘al-sabirin’):

 

How many a prophet has been killed and with him thou- sands manifold [fought], but they fainted not in the face of what afflicted them in God’s way; they neither weakened, nor did they humble themselves. And God loves the patient. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:146)

 

7. ‘The God-fearing’ (‘al-muttaqin’):

 

Nay, but whoever fulfils his covenant, and has fear, for truly God loves the God-fearing. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:76)


 

Excepting those of the idolaters with whom you have made a pact, and who have not diminished [their commitment to] you in anyway, nor supported anyone against you; [as for these] fulfil your pact with them until the term. Truly God loves the God-fearing. (Al-Tawbah, 9:4)

 

How can the idolaters have a pact with God and His Mes- senger, except for those with whom you made a pact at the Sacred Mosque? So long as they are true to you, be true to them. Truly God loves the God-fearing (Al-Tawbah, 9:7)

 

8. ‘The virtuous’ (‘al-muhsinin’):

 

And spend in the way of God; and do not cast yourselves by your own hands into destruction; but be virtuous; God loves the virtuous. (Al-Baqarah, 2:195)

 

Who expend in prosperity and adversity, and restrain their rage, and pardon their fellow-men; and God loves those who are virtuous. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:134)

 

And God gave them the reward of this world, and the fairest reward of the Hereafter,  and God loves the virtuous. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:148)

 

So because of their breaking their covenant, We cursed them and made their hearts hard;  they distort words from their contexts; and they have forgotten a portion of what they were reminded of; and you will never cease to discover some treachery on their part, except for a few of them. Yet pardon them, and forgive; surely God loves the virtuous. (Al-Ma’i- dah, 5:13)

 

Those who believe and perform righteous deeds are not at fault in what they may have consumed, so long as they fear, and believed and performed righteous deeds, and then were God-fearing and believed, and then were God-fearing and virtuous; God loves the virtuous. (Al-Ma’idah, 5:93)

 

What do all these eight types of people have in common? The answer is that they are all characterised by certain good and virtuous characteristics of the soul. Reliance; purity; repentance; justice; fighting in God’s cause; patience; fear of God and virtue are all good and virtuous characteristics of the soul. They are thus all aspects of ‘beauty of soul’ or of human beings’ ‘inner beauty’.36 This confirms our definition (in Chapter 3: The Definition of Love) of God’s love as the ‘love of beauty’, as per the Hadith wherein it is stated:

 

‘God is beautiful,  and He loves beauty.’37

 

However, ‘virtue’ (‘ihsan’) is more than one single good characteristic in the soul; it encompasses the entire soul and all its traits. This is evident from the ‘Hadith of Gabriel’ $, which says:

 

‘Virtue (al-ihsan) means to worship God as though you see Him; for [even] if you see Him not, He assuredly  sees you.’38

 

Sincere worship—‘as though we see God’—requires the whole soul because people cannot be fully aware of God and worship Him as if they saw Him, without giving Him all that they are with all their hearts, with all their souls, with all their minds and with all their strengths. God’s Oneness and Absoluteness requires people’s unanimity and totality. This is reflected in the root meaning of the word ‘ihsan’ (‘virtue’): ‘ihsan’ comes from ‘husn’¸ which means ‘beauty’, or ‘the opposite of ugliness.’[39] Virtue, then, is the beauty of the soul, or human beings’ inner beauty, in its entirety. This conforms perfectly to the description of God’s love as from the Hadith, namely that God’s love is ‘love for beauty.’ Thus in all of the aforemen- tioned verses (about those whom God loves), it is as though God were say- ing that He particularly loves those who adorn themselves with virtue or beauty of soul, in varying degrees; and God knows best.


Certainly, this is what we understand from God’s words:

 

Say: ‘If you love God, follow me, and God will love you more [yuhbibkum], and forgive you your sins; God is Forgiving, Merciful.’ (Aal ‘Imran, 3:31) [40]

 

God ‘loves more’ (‘yuhbibkum’)—that is, God loves them greatly and loves them more than others [41]—those who follow the way of the Messenger of God !; and those who follow the way of the Messenger of God ! are necessarily the righteous and the virtuous, because the Messenger of God ! had a ‘magnificent nature’:


 

And assuredly you possess a magnificent nature. (Al-Qalam, 68:4)

 

God’s words ‘Say: If you love God, follow me, and God will love you more’ imply that God does not necessarily promise His greatest love to anyone but His Messenger !. As for everyone else, He promises to love them more if they follow the Sunnah, without necessarily promising them ultimate success therein. God knows best, but there may be herein a great mystery to the effect that the person who loves God and is loved by Him in the most perfect way is the Messenger of God !. This is also suggested by the fact that in the Holy Qur’an there is no other specific, individual mention of anyone who ‘loves God and God loves him’ in the present tense as such, and on the only occasion when this phrase is used, it is used in the future tense. This occurs in the following Qur’anic verse, which we have already cited:

 

O you who believe, whoever of you apostatises from his re- ligion, God will assuredly bring a people whom He loves and who love Him: humble towards believers, stern towards dis- believers, struggling in the way of God, and fearing not the reproach of any reproacher. That is God’s favour; He gives it to whom He will; and God is Embracing, Knowing. (Al- Ma’idah, 5:54)

 

Howbeit, we will discuss God’s love for His Messenger ! in the fol- lowing chapter, God willing, and will content ourselves here with this mere allusion to the subject.

 

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Among the types of virtuous people mentioned above it appears that there are differences of degree and rank, for God mentions that He loves ‘the virtuous’ (‘al-muhsinun’) five times in the Holy Qur’an; ‘the God-fear- ing’ (‘al-muttaqun’) and ‘the just’ (‘al-muqsitun’) three times each, and all the other categories of people once only.


On the other hand, God only specifically says that He is ‘with’ (ma’) ‘the virtuous’ (‘al-muhsinun’), ‘the God-fearing’ (‘al-muttaqun’), and ‘the patient’ (‘al-sabirun’)—and does not specifically say this about the other five categories mentioned.[42]  The meaning of ‘God’s Companionship’ (lit- erally: ‘God’s being with someone’, ‘ma’iyyat Allah’) is a delicate issue over which Muslim scholars have differed; but Muslim scholars have gen- erally distinguished between two kinds of ‘Divine Companionship’ in the Holy Qur’an43:

 

1. ‘General Divine Companionship’. This refers to God’s being with all things:

 

And We shall narrate  to them with knowledge; for verily We were not absent. (Al-A’raf, 7:7)

 

And with every group of people:

 

Have you not seen that God knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth? No secret conversation of three takes place but He is their fourth [companion], nor of five but He is their sixth, nor of fewer than that or more but He is with them wherever they may be. Then He will inform them of what they did, on the Day of Resurrection. Assuredly God has knowledge of all things. (Al-Mujadilah, 58:7)

 

And even with the sinners:

 

They hide themselves from people, but they do not hide themselves from God; for He is with them while they plot at night with discourse displeasing to Him. God is ever Encom- passing what they do. (Al-Nisa’, 4:108)

 

2. ‘Special Divine Companionship.’ This refers to God’s being with the messengers, the prophets, and the believers in particular:

 

If you have sought a judgement, the judgement has now come to you; and if you desist, it will better for you. But if you return, We shall return, and your host will not avail you in any way, however numerous it be; and verily God is with the believers. (Al-Anfal, 8:19)

 

God had made a covenant with the Children of Israel, and We raised up from among them twelve leaders. And God said: ‘I am with you. Surely if you establish the prayer, and pay the alms, and believe in My messengers and succour


 

them, and lend to God a goodly loan, I will absolve you of your evil deeds, and I will admit you to gardens underneath which rivers flow. So whoever of you disbelieves after that, surely he has strayed from the right way’. (Al-Ma’idah, 5:12)

 

It is He Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then presided upon the Throne. He knows what enters the earth, and what issues from it, and what comes down from the heaven. And He is with you wherever you may be; and God is Seer of what you do. (Al-Hadid, 57:4)

 

So do not falter, and [do not] call for peace when you have the upper hand; and God is with you, and He will not stint you in [the reward for] your works. (Muhammad, 47:35)

 

If you do not help him, [know that] God has already helped him, when the disbelievers drove him forth — the second of two; when the two were in the cave — when he said to his companion, ‘Do not despair; verily God is with us’. Then God sent down His spirit of peace (sakinatahu)  upon him and supported him with legions you did not see; and He made the word of those who disbelieved the nethermost, and the Word of God was the uppermost. And God is Mighty, Wise. (Al-Tawbah, 9:40)

 

And with Moses $ and Aaron $:

 

Said He, ‘Certainly not! Go both of you with Our signs. We will indeed be with you, hearing. (Al-Shu’ara’, 26:15)

 

He said, ‘Do not fear, for I shall be with the two of you, hear- ing and seeing.’ (Ta Ha, 20:46)