By Yasmin Mogahed
And so there are some who spend their whole lives seeking. Sometimes giving, sometimes taking. Sometimes chasing. But often, just waiting. They believe that love is a place that you get to: a destination at the end of a long road. And they can’t wait for that road to end at their destination. They are those hearts moved by the movement of hearts. Those hopeless romantics, the sucker for a love story, or any sincere expression of true devotion. For them, the search is almost a lifelong obsession of sorts. But, this tragic ‘quest’ can have its costs—and its’ gifts.
The path of expectations and the ‘falling in love with love’ is a painful one, but it can bring its own lessons. Lessons about the nature of love, this world, people, and one’s own heart, can pave this often painful path. Most of all, this path can bring its own lessons about the Creator of love.
Those who take this route will often reach the knowledge that the human love they seek was not the destination. Some form of that human love can be a gift. It can be a means. But the moment you make it the End, you will fall. And you will live your whole life with the wrong focus. You will become willing to sacrifice the Goal for the sake of the means. You will give your life to reaching a ‘destination’ of worldly perfection that does not exist.
And the one who runs after a mirage never gets there; but keeps running. And so too will you keep running, and be willing to lose sleep, cry, bleed, and sacrifice precious parts of yourself—at times, even your own dignity. But you’ll never reach what you’re looking for in this life, because what you seek isn’t a worldly destination. The type of perfection you seek cannot be found in the material world. It can only be found in God.
That image of human love that you seek is an illusion in the desert of life. So if that is what you seek, you’ll keep chasing. But no matter how close you get to a mirage, you never touch it. You don’t own an image. You can’t hold a creation of your own mind.
Yet, you will give your whole life, still, to reaching this ‘place’. You do this because, in the fairy tale, that’s where the story ends. It ends at the finding, the joining, the wedding. It is found at the oneness of two souls. And everyone around you will make you think that your path ends there: at the place where you meet your soul mate, your other half—at the point in the path where you get married. Then and only then, they tell you, will you ever finally be complete. This, of course, is a lie because completion cannot be found in anything other than God.
But the lesson you’ve been taught since the time you were little—from every story, every song, every movie, every ad, every well-meaning auntie—is that you aren’t complete otherwise. And if—God forbid—you are one of the ‘outcasts’ who haven’t gotten married or have been divorced, you are considered deficient or incomplete in some way.
The lesson you’re taught is that the story ends at the wedding, and then that’s when Jennah (paradise) begins. That’s when you’ll be saved and completed and everything that was once broken will be fixed. The only problem is, that’s not where the story ends. That’s where it begins. That’s where the building starts: the building of a life, the building of your character, the building of sabr, patience, perseverance, and sacrifice. The building of selflessness. The building of love.
And the building of your path back to Him.
But if the person you marry becomes your ultimate focus in life, your struggle has just begun. Now your spouse will become your greatest test. Until you remove that person from the place in your heart that only God should be, it will keep hurting. Ironically, your spouse will become the tool for this painful extraction process, until you learn that there are places in the human heart made only by—and for—God.
Among the other lessons you may learn along this path—after a long road of loss, gain, failure, success, and so many mistakes—is that there are at least 2 types of love. There will be some people you love because of what you get from them: what they give you, the way they make you feel. This is perhaps the majority of love—which is also what makes much of love so unstable. A person’s capacity to give is inconstant and changing. Your response to what you are given is also inconstant and changing. So if you’re chasing a feeling, you’ll always be chasing. No feeling is ever constant. If love is dependent on this, it too becomes inconstant and changing. And just like everything in this world, the more you chase it, the more it will run away from you.
But, once in a while, people enter your life that you love—not for what they give you—but for what they are. The beauty you see in them is a reflection of the Creator, so you love them. Now suddenly it isn’t about what you’re getting, but rather what you can give. This is unselfish love. This second type of love is the most rare. And if it is based in, and not competing with, the love of God, it will also bring about the most joy. To love in any other way is to need, to be dependent, to have expectations—all the ingredients for misery and disappointment.
So for all those, who have spent their life seeking, know that purity of anything is found at the Source. If it is love that you seek, seek it through God. Every other stream, not based on His love, poisons the one who drinks from it. And the drinker will continue to drink, until the poison all but kills him. He will continue to die more and more inside until he stops and finds the pure Source of water.
Once you begin to see everything beautiful as only a reflection of God’s beauty, you will learn to love in the right way: for His sake. Everything and everyone you love with be for, through, and because of Him. The foundation of such love is God. So what you hold onto will no longer be just an unstable feeling, a fleeting emotion. And what you chase will no longer be just a temporary high. What you hold, what you chase, what you love, will be God: the *only* thing stable and constant. Thereafter, everything else will be through Him. Everything you give or take or love or don’t love will be by Him. Not by your nafs. It will be for Him. Not for your nafs.
This means you will love what He loves and not love what He does not love. And when you do love, you will give to the creation—not for what you can get in return from them. You will love and you will give, but you will be sufficed from Him. And the one who is sufficed by God is the richest and most generous of all lovers. Your love will be by Him, for Him, and because of Him. That is the liberation of the self from servitude to any created thing. And that is freedom. That is happiness.
That is love.