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On Love

In the Muslim Tradition

Rusmir Mahmutcehajic

Publication Year: 2007

This rare and important contribution to the field of Islamic studies, philosophy, and comparative religion achieves a twofold objective. First, it draws from a broad and authoritative well of sources, especially in the domain of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism. The scholarship is impeccable. Second, it is an in-depth meditation on the relationship between love and knowledge, multiplicity and unity, the example of the Prophet Muhammed viewed as Universal Man, spiritual union, heart and intellect, and other related themes--conveyed in fresh, contemporary language.The book is as much a work of Sufism as it is a book about Sufism. Many of these themes have a universal appeal for students of mysticism; consequently, there are distinct resonances with other traditions, especially within certain schools of Christian mysticism dominated by the language of love.In our day, when the divisions between many Muslims and many Christians have broadened into chasms of suspicion and fear, books such as this one are especially important for the help they can offer in bridging these rifts. The capacity of scholars to understand these two religions, which stem from the same Abrahamic source, is of the utmost significance, and the best approach to better understanding may be through the mystical traditions, which tend to reflect more tolerance and to recognize a potential for seeing unity in a multiplicity of perspectives. This work conveys the beauty at the heart of the Islamic tradition in a language devoid of technical terminology.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xiii-xv

The author of this inspiring reflection, president of the International Forum ‘‘Bosnia’’and former vice president of the government of Bosnia and Herzogovina, is an intellectual whose entire life has been engaged in matters of life and death and so has been impelled to reflect on what makes our lives human. In doing so he displays a keen philosophical ...

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pp. 1-6

A phenomenon is always in a place and time. But it has come from somewhere and goes from there to somewhere. Man as the central phenomenon of existence as a whole can know something of where he has come from and where he is going. In that knowledge there is little certainty, although that is his most significant desire. And that is ...

First Door: The Impossibility of Definition

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pp. 7-10

There is no thought that does not tend toward the question of love. Although this is the case from the beginning to the end of existence, it is worth testifying that love remains indefinable by thought. The fullness of love is the same as emptiness of thought. To love is the same as to be mad. This is the case because comparison, ...

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pp. 11-14

Truth for a person means his existence through what he is. The human self is thus identified with its essence. But, thought is incapable of surpassing ontological objectification and fundamental duality. This is because thought is divergent in its essence. In relation to Reality, it is like the color white: it is not visible without light and cannot itself ...

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Male and Female

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pp. 15-17

It is possible to speak about love only through its effects or the traces that are accessible to remembrance and reason. The traces are simply the reflection of one in the other, while the essence eludes those traces that are revealed as incomprehension and madness. And the weighing up the speaker undertakes demands that those remains be differentiated ...

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pp. 18-22

Thought remains forever caught in the tension between the elements of duality. It knows only duality and functions only within it. But, duality is nothing other than the proclamation and confirmation of oneness. Thought deals with what is comparable and similar. But oneness is neither comparable nor similar. In addition, it is present in ...

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Loving and Longing

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pp. 23-26

In what has been said so far, there appears a mysterious linguistic knot: the topic here is thinking about love, which imposes a strange overlapping of semantic fields in the center of which are the verbs ‘‘to want,’’ ‘‘to love,’’ and ‘‘to long.’’14 When the words ‘‘to love someone’’ are spoken, that means that between the self as lover and the other as beloved ...

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pp. 27-30

A person is situated between these extremes, given that he is in relation with fullness on the basis of faith, which is not possible without free will. And free will opens up for him the space between nothingness and fullness. The fact that he is within those borders, but that he can cross them and surpass them, does not mean anything other than ...

Second Door: Will

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pp. 33-36

A person appears to himself by means of what his will offers him. And it can turn him both toward the body and toward the spirit, toward the earth and toward heaven. But this illusion of the sufficiency of his will, as separate from the Will in which lies all potential, distances him from the trust that his madness reveals as love, and his calculation ...

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Mercy and Wrath

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pp. 37-40

And will is just that possibility of resistance to evil—whether through attacking it, or fleeing from it—and of doing good—through giving or denial. If phenomena in the self and the horizons are ‘‘with truth,’’ the presence of evil in mankind and the world is divergence along the above-mentioned axis from fullness to nothingness as impossibility. ...

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pp. 41-44

Given the apparent luxury of the myriad phenomena in the outer world and man’s inner confusion after the fall, ascent toward the most beautiful uprightness, in which mankind is made, means turning away from everything that is evil and unclear. In such a turning away, stimulated by the original nature of the self with its memory of oneness, ...

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pp. 45-47

Opposed to impurity, corruption, suffering, and death are Purity, Sanctity, Happiness, and Immortality. That separation from the world that has been deprived of its ‘‘true reality’’ becomes a foretaste of death. Since ‘‘now’’ and ‘‘death’’ are the only certainties in human existence, withdrawal from everything that is between them for the sake of ...

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The Heart

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pp. 48-51

The will must both deny and affirm: if it must deny objects toward which the self strives, in view of their deceptiveness, which is revealed in changeability, it must also affirm them, in view of its freedom of choice. Denial comes from freedom. Through it the self establishes itself in its divergence: an inclination to evil, reprimand, ...

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The Intellect

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pp. 52-56

The nature of the Intellect is not to identify itself passively and blindly with the phenomena it recognizes. Its aim is the reduction of phenomena to their essence, ‘‘to know ultimately That which knows; by the same stroke, the sage—precisely because his subjectivity is determined by the Intellect—will tend ‘to be That which is’ and ‘to enjoy ...

Third Door: Love

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pp. 59-61

The will is expressed as endeavor and action in the opposite direction from the one in which the self is drawn and confined by the lower levels of the soul. Such a will is good. Its orientation toward good confirms evil as opposition. It is not possible to understand that good will without its opposite. The freedom of the will includes also the ...

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‘‘The True Faith’’

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pp. 62-64

It is possible to understand that injunction to stand firm in one’s devotion to ‘‘the true faith’’ also as directing man toward his deepest human nature: a person is nothing other than a debt to the Creator and complete, original purity. The debt is accepted in trust and its repayment is inevitable. A man’s good will affirms his original nature, ...

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pp. 65-66

The will leads up the steep slope to the Height, so the self is in a state of tension.15 The sense or awareness that through denial and letting go the range of the consciousness or vision becomes broader and that for the most exalted position the will is insufficient—all this stimulates the self toward relaxation, to abandoning itself to the ...

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pp. 67-69

Opposed to the certainty that everything may be received from God, and that, consequently, it is necessary to turn and abandon oneself to Him, is the denial of everything else, since human openness cannot be satisfied by anyone or anything other than God. The required turning toward God and away from everything that He is not means flight ...

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pp. 70-72

Existence as the totality of phenomena in time and space bears witness to the first and last things, and to inwardness and outwardness. Every phenomenon has that duality of beginning and end. But since the full beginning and end are the same thing, the placing of a phenomenon in the duality of the beginning and end affirms oneness. ...

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pp. 73-76

Nothing in the worlds is comparable to God. But, nothing in them has reality apart from Him. Thus, similarity is opposed to incomparability, since He is praised by every word in the worlds.34 Incomparability and similarity are simultaneous, and they correspond to the ‘‘is/is not’’ of all existence. ...

Fourth Door: Toward Peace

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‘‘He Is the All-Loving’’

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pp. 79-81

The revelation of perfect Peace means separation: the Revealed remains what He is—‘‘I am’’—and what makes Him manifest takes nothing from Him, nor does it add anything.1 Everything that manifests Him remains in the original love of Him Who reveals Himself, and has its reality in its return, which is not postponed: both the present ...

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Debt and Love

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pp. 82-85

The relationship of man and God, in which they love one another, is the way of human existence in which his totality is included. Repentance and purification are maintained through the will or enduring remembrance of God. This is how the original connection between phenomena and their names is maintained: man knows them in his ...

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pp. 86-88

Love for oneness is transformed, through the truculence and closedness of the heart, into different relations among details. Then the self, in its withholding and insensitivity, is placed in the center. It takes itself as the measure, and denies all other states, which demonstrate potential transformation in connection with oneness: ‘‘They desire ...

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pp. 89-91

Creation as such is submissive to God. With man as God’s viceregent it is a whole. Without man the submission of the worlds is complete and without freedom. With him it also has freedom: man can maintain his most beautiful uprightness in complete submission and out of free will. Thus he becomes a bridge between the worlds and God, a ...

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pp. 92-94

Why was man created? That is the key question and no single answer to it is sufficient. But the tradition of the Hidden Treasure points to it: ‘‘I was the Hidden Treasure,’’ says the Creator, ‘‘so I loved to be known. Hence I created the creatures.’’ And man too was created. The reason for that creation is, according to the divine pronouncement, the ...

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The Most Beautiful Example

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pp. 95-98

To follow the Prophet means to love God. As fullness and being, God manifests Himself in His relationship toward emptiness and nonbeing. Thus, His love toward manifestation draws out into existence the duality that embraces the countless multiplicity of phenomena through which the fullness of God’s Treasure is revealed. Everything that is in ...

Fifth Door: Following

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pp. 101-103

Praise is the relationship between the Praiser and the Praised. And there is nothing in the horizons and the selves without it. The totality of creation is its widespread revelation. Man gathers it together and it is his uncreated core, so that there is no praise other than Praise. His greatest potential is to be a Praiser in such a way that both he and the ...

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With the Praiser

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pp. 104-106

The will turns away from phenomena in which Praise is not revealed, or it endeavors to discover it in them as veiled treasure. Praise found or revealed is the proclamation of Peace, and also the power of attraction. Thus the self opens up to the revelation of Praise where it is despised in forgetting God—in the poor and foreign, the weak and the ...

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Hatred and Fear

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pp. 107-110

‘‘Those who hate God’’ are none other than individuals who have taken the signs in the horizons and selves, denied what they are and given them names and meaning beyond their Origin and Purpose. They have adopted phenomena from the horizons and selves as causes and consequences, and they attribute creative properties ...

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pp. 111-113

The expectation of mercy, hope in Mercy, and leading toward Mercy through the statement ‘‘in the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful’’ transforms the heart from roughness to full tenderness, when it becomes like that of a bird.35 And the devil, which means unreality and nothingness, threatens a man with poverty,36 while the ...

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The Love of a Woman

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pp. 114-117

By seeing beauty in the figure of woman, man discloses himself. That is his relaxation or sobriety before the possibility of disclosing himself in the outer world. What is disclosed is revealed as separateness from himself. In it he sees a sign about God. Out of sobriety before this revelation he passes into drunkenness: he loves God, but what is ...

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Undressing and Union

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pp. 118-122

What is lowered down must also be raised up. Descent includes also ascent. So it is also with separation and unification. At the beginning of separation its participants are closest. Their forms do not entirely cover up the oneness of their essence. By moving away from that essence, the form becomes more closed and more opaque. While the ...

Sixth Door: Knowledge

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The Station of No-Station

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pp. 125-128

The deeper and more wide-ranging one’s reflections about love are, the clearer it becomes that it is not definable. The directedness that is felt and sought in love is revealed in the very impossibility of defining it through nondirectedness. Although the will is the starting point of every reflection about love, it leads only to the borders, so that it ...

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The Speech of Skins

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pp. 129-132

Whenever anyone praised the Imam ‘Ali, he would respond that he knew himself better than others did, but that God knew him better than any.3 As this statement says, a man can hide from another man, and even from himself, but he cannot hide from God. Since the eyes, ears, and skin are the borders across which relationships are ...

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The self and the Self

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pp. 133-136

The well-known holy saying, in which God speaks through the Praiser, gathers together the relationship of knowledge and love: ‘‘I was the Hidden Treasure, so I loved to be known. Hence I created the creatures.’’ The words ‘‘I was the Hidden Treasure’’ mean that the fullness of knowledge is in nonexistence or noncreatedness. It is there ...

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Knowledge and Being

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pp. 137-140

In both cases there exists, although in different ways, the danger of overlooking, neglecting, and denying the possibility of illusion or the power of evil, which is present in the self and outside it—in the world. In the uncreated intelligence, being and knowledge are one and the same. But, in creation they are separated. Man is the full sign of this: ...

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pp. 141-144

As a whole being, man is ordered from the heart through the brain to the totality of the body. That trinity corresponds to Intellect-consciousness- body or Self-Light-World. The intellect/heart remain hidden, but are, nevertheless, expressed in the duality brain/consciousness and body/world. The presence of the Intellect in the ...

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pp. 145-150

Man is in the world and opposite it. Accepting submission, which is the way of existence of that opposite world, means the confirmation of the human nature of the created one. And that nature demands a Creator. One seeks the other. The Creator manifests Himself in the created one who is, thus, the revelation of His Words. Without the ...

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The Self at Peace

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pp. 151-154

In the preceding reflections, six doors were knocked on for the sake of finding an answer to the question of love.1 Whenever the path toward one of them led to the right, whether it was open or remained closed, the ‘‘here and now’’ of the traveling self lay between that orientation and what remained to the left. It was the same when the ...


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pp. 155-166


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pp. 167-169

Other Volumes in Fordham's Abrahamic Dialogues Series

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E-ISBN-13: 9780823248223
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823227518
Print-ISBN-10: 0823227510

Page Count: 188
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Love -- Religious aspects -- Islam.
  • Muslims -- Conduct of life.
  • Islamic ethics.
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