By Shaykh Salman al-`Awdah
By no means is love a sickness in and of itself. Indeed, it is the only known cure for many of the problems and ailments that we as human beings suffer from. However, love can turn into an illness if it becomes obsessive, if it goes beyond its proper bounds, or if the object of love is not worthy. When such a situation develops, love indeed becomes a sickness requiring a remedy.
It is Allah’s order in the world that he sends down to it no affliction without sending down with it its cure. Love is no exception.
The treatment of this illness is as follows:
1. As with all diseases, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
This is why we must lower our gazes and resist taking a second glance at a member of the opposite sex who attracts us. Allah says: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their chastity. That will make for greater purity for them, and Allah is acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their chastity…” [Sûrah al-Nûr: 30-31]
We can see how Allah first issues the command to believing men, then repeats the command for believing women, thus emphasizing the importance of lowering our gazes. The fact that Allah addresses members of each sex individually shows just how important and relevant this matter is to people of both sexes. Indeed, these verses are one of the few occasions where Allah addresses men and women separately in the Qur’ân.
The look is the beginning that can lead to progressively greater ills. This is why Allah mentions it first, and then follows it up with the command for us to guard our chastity.
A poet long ago observed:
A glance, a smile, a friendly hello,
Some chatting, a date, then off they go!
If some of us find it difficult to carry out this command, they should write these verses down on a sheet of paper and hang them on their wall or place them on the dashboard – whatever it takes to remind them.
2. Thinking about the consequences is often a sobering dose of medicine.
The ability to think about the far-reaching consequences of our actions is one of the distinctive qualities that set humanity apart from other animals. This is why a person just does not go ahead and do everything that tickles his fancy. He first has to think about what is behind it and what will come of it.
For instance, he might pause to think, before embarking upon a certain course of action, that if he does so, he might succumb to AIDS. He might reflect upon how that dreaded disease has already claimed tens of millions of lives, how some of those who were careful – who chose only one sexual partner who even had an AIDS test – nevertheless came down with the disease.
How many people like that do we hear about, some of whom come out and admit that the disease befell them as a punishment from Allah, and hoping that it might at least expiate for their sin?
The same can be said for all the other sexually transmitted diseases. The worst thing of all is to think that an indiscreet man can infect his pious, faithful, and chaste wife with one of these vile diseases.
Another consequence to think about is pregnancy. A man who had repented for his sins once admitted to me that he had intentionally chosen to involve himself with a woman who was sterile. Regardless, Allah wanted her to fall pregnant and she did.
We should not be heedless of the consequences of our actions. Does anyone want to be responsible for someone coming into this world with no idea who his father is; someone who starts out life already disadvantaged?
Maybe one of us will pay the price for his misdeed in this world. Maybe he will get away with it here, going through life unrepentant and unscathed, only to be humiliated for it before the eyes of all on the Day of Judgment.
Some of the evil consequences of this behavior are psychological in nature. A man, once enamored of women, gets to the point that he can never be satisfied. He eternally craves variety and no degree of beauty is enough. Because of this, he may find himself eternally forbidden the lawful pleasure to be found within marriage. His senses and his sentiments have all been dulled.
Some young men travel abroad and spend their time in the company of prostitutes and other women of ill repute, but if one of them were ever to hear that his wife back home so much as looked at another man indiscreetly, he would divorce her on the spot.
One man lamented: “I would forsake all the women of the world for the sake of one woman whom I knew would get worried if I came home at night a little bit late.” This is the sentiment of any man who possesses wisdom.
3. The communion of lawful love is the best cure of all.
All of the stories of love that we find in our literature – whether it be that of Jamîl and Buthaynah, Kuthayyir and `Azzah, Qays and Laylâ, or for that matter their English equivalent Romeo and Juliet – deal with the anguish of unrequited love.
Allah has placed in what is lawful all that we need so we can dispense with what He has made unlawful. It provides the most fulfilling, satisfying, and deepest expression of love.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “We see for those who are in love nothing better than marriage.” [Sunan Ibn Mâjah (1847) and Mustadrak Hâkim (2724) with a good chain of transmission]
Lawful matrimony is what brings healing to the heart and removes its disquiet. If it is not written for a certain man and women to come together in matrimony, each of them should have faith that there are many others out there with whom Allah can enrich them with a meaningful and loving relationship.
4. Resignation and a willingness to forsake what is wrong.
No matter how painful it may be to part, it is sometimes necessary. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever maintains his chastity, does so with the grace of Allah. Whoever finds self-sufficiency does so with what Allah has enriched him. Whoever is patient draws his fortitude from Allah. And no one has been given a gift better or more bountiful than patience.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1469) and Sahîh Muslim (1053)]
Whoever gives something up for Allah’s sake should know that Allah will give him in its stead something far better.
5. Channeling one’s energies and abilities into what is nobler, more precious, and sublime – the love of Allah
We express this love by bringing benefit to His creatures, by our obedience to Him, by our prayers, our fasts, our remembrance of Him, our supplications, and our humility. We do so by keeping the company of righteous people and by aspiring to the noblest and most beneficial of goals.
We should channel our energies into what benefits us in our worldly lives and in our faith. Allah says: “Seek Allah’s help with patience and perseverance. It is indeed difficult except upon those who are humble.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 45]
He says: “Whoever puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is Allah for him.” [Sûrah al-Talâq: 3]
A heart that is full of concern for others will be a heart that is full of love – but not a slave to love. It is an empty heart that falls stricken for any visitor who graces its doorstep.
We should take full advantage of our lives and be as productive as possible. We need to develop our talents, our minds, and put our creativity into practice. Yes! Be enamored – but be enamored of truth and knowledge. Be fully in love – but be in love with righteousness.