Shaykh Ebrahim Discourse delivered 7/7/18.
Audio is available at the bottom of the page.
It occurs to me tonight to explore an issue, on which I very rarely speak about: Love.
In the past when I’ve spoken about this, I’ve made the point that there are two ways of seeing the word (love). Fundamentally, you can see the word as a noun or you can see the word as a verb. I’ve been of the view that to see the word as a noun is a dangerous thing because it’s one of those nominalisations, which has all sorts of things put onto it. When you see love as a noun you’re viewing it as a thing that exists as a phenomenon in the world, like trees, dogs, people, vehicles and the like.
If you see love as a verb, however, you don’t see love as something that is, but something that you do. Initially I was of the view that this was the only constructive way to view the word. Love as a verb. Love as something that you do.
It occurs to me, though, that when you do love, when you exercise love, you’re introduced to an experience. And it’s an experience very tangible and very real and it’s an experience I wouldn’t find a better word for than to call it love.
To do love means that you act in the interest of the other. To do love unconditionally means that in any situation that you meet the other, you accept that you’re there to serve the other and that you do what is in the best interest of the other or the other’s situation, to the best of your ability. You may not always succeed. In fact, you very often don’t succeed. But love is the exercise of acting consistently with your intent to act in the best interest of the other.
When you do that consistently, the degree to which you do it unconditionally is the degree to which you serve the other with the intent to give to give away. You’re not serving the other to gain reciprocation or payback but because that’s what the person requires in the situation and you give it to them unconditionally.
It is true that we recognise the world as we are. So, when a person only gives conditionally, when they give because they’re making some sort of investment, it means that when they perceive other people giving to them, they will assume that the other person is giving to them conditionally also. So, every time I give you something, I’m hoping you’ll feel obligated to me and I can come to you later and ask for something back. Then every time I see you giving something to me, I’m going to assume that’s what you’re doing to me. My own conditional motive creates the condition, where I read conditional motive in other people.
When I act unconditionally, I open myself to the possibility of recognising unconditional service, or giving, in my interest. And when I open myself to that possibility, I start to recognise just how much unconditional blessing I’m granted to by others. And not just by other people, but by the whole of life. There are so many things which the world gives me that I cannot, and will never be able to, pay for. The fact that my body works, the fact that my eyes see, the fact that my ears hear, the fact that my body is able to digest food, the fact that a myriad of catastrophes get withheld from me. All of these things together – none of these things I earn.
So, me acting unconditionally with others, creates the condition where I realise, I experience, just how unconditional life is with me. And the degree to which I realise that, I start to experience a very strange phenomenon. The experience is that I realise that I’m part of a flow of things which comes from outside of me, through me, to other than me and back to me. There’s a oneness, there’s a continuity – that experience of oneness is love.
It stands to reason that one of the ways you understand anything is that you understand it by antonyms. So, what would be the antonym of love? To hate. ‘I hate you, I see separation between you and me. I see distance, I want to pull away from you.’ Disconnection. Whereas love must be the opposite. It’s experiencing connection.
This connection isn’t metaphorical. It’s not an arbitrary connection – we’re Muslim, we’re South African, whatever. It means that I actually experience me in you. When I see you, at some level I don’t see other than me, I see me. I experience me.
It is this experience of finding myself in other than me, discovering myself in other than me, realising myself in other than me, which is the only true basis for compassion (com-passion – feeling-with). It means that when you feel, I feel. Em-pathy – feeling with. When you feel, I feel. So, this phenomenon of love is truly a remarkable thing and it is true to say that it is probably the first cause of all causes.
Allah created us because He loved to be known. When you truly know something, there’s a connection. You find yourself in that thing and that thing finds itself in you.
And so Allah creates us in this state of separation so that we can strive and we can serve, and in serving, we discover the true reality that separation is illusionary because what is there is not separation, distance, isolation and alienation. What is actually there is connectedness. What is actually there is love.
So it’s not unreasonable to say that the first cause is love. And that the purpose is love. The whole human story is a story of love. The whole story of the cosmos is a story of love. And all things that are associated with the idea of love: the kindness, the gentleness, the humility, the high regard, the forbearance – all of these are attributes of that phenomenon.
This is why we’re on this path. Yes, we’re here to serve, but that service has a destination. And that destination is an experience and that experience is an ecstatic experience, it’s an experience that, ‘truly I am not separate, truly I am allied with, I am connected to, I am one with everything that isn’t me’ in as an intimate way as my finger is connected to and one with my hand. That is the truth.