Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Sufis talk about two kinds of love. One they call muhabbah; it means the ordinary love, lukewarm, momentary, partial. One moment it is there, another moment it is gone. It has no depth, no intensity. You call it passion, but it is not passionate. It is not such a flame which can burn you. You don't become aflame with it; it remains something under your control. You don't become possessed by it, you don't lose yourself in it. You remain in control.Thats not the kind which transforms your being.

The other kind of love, the real love..the authentic love, Sufis call it ISHQ; 
Since a person has a body, mind and soul, an all-encompassing word is needed to cover these three dimensions. This is the Persian word ‘ishq’. The lexicographer Jawhari (d. 453/1061) defined ‘ishq, literally, as “being excessive in love (al-hubb). The word is derived from the root ‘a-sha-qa’ an ivy plant. This climber winds itself around other plants. Thus, the lover or ‘the Ashiq’ feels an overpowering intensity of his passion to entwine with the beloved or Mashouka, blinded by her shortcomings.This is love divine without any conditions. This word used by the Sufis, ‘ishq’ means love with total intensity. One is lost in it, one is possessed by it. One goes mad in it. It also includes man’s love for God. So it is pure love with no lust.
Ghazali noted a hadith in which the Prophet (pbuh) spoke of “intense love” (‘ishq): The Messenger of God (pbuh) stated, “Whoever feels intense love, is virtuous, keeps his love hidden, and then dies, he will indeed die as a martyr.”
This is immortalised by the romantic fable of Laila-Majnu. The lover, Majnu, was oblivious to the fact that his beloved Laila was dark skinned. He continued to yearn for her – even putting her higher than God. Majnu faced many hardships but never wavered in his ‘ishq’ for Laila.

One needs to be in such love that one is ready to risk all. That love is Ishq. We have all known muhabbah, the so-called ordinary love, which is just an emotion, a sentiment, superficial. One day you are in love, another day you are in hate. This is not ishq, ishq has depth. This is only circumference. This is just a mask; this is part of your personality. Ishq, passionate love for God, is not of the personality. It is of the essence. It comes from jour center; from the very ground of your being it arises and possesses you. It is not within your control; on the contrary, you are in its control. Yes, you are drunk and you are mad.This ISHQ is an alchemical transformation which annihilates your ego and makes you a seeker.Its essence is divine.

Mawlana Rumi (d. 672/1273), in his collection of ecstatic poetry, the Divan-i Shams-i Tabrizi, exclaims in praise,
This love is so fine, this love that we have is so fine, O God!
So exquisite, so good, and so beautiful, O God!
Zihi ‘ishq zihi ‘ishq, kah ma rast khudaya,
Chi naghz ast u chi khub ast chi zibast khudaya

Mention the word ‘ishq’ and you open the magic door to the Sufi mystics, their poetry, their music and their dance. Some of the most evocative poems that touch the hidden depths of the heart (indeed, the soul) have been composed for ‘ishq’.To become an Ashiq  is a quantum leap: it is a non-calculated step. It is only for the mad ones. But God is only for the mad ones. Those who calculate remain part of the marketplace. Calculation keeps you in the world.
Sufis have found ways and methods of how to create ishq. That is the whole sufi alchemy: how to create ishq in you, how to create such passion that you can ride on the wave of it and reach to the ultimate.
Sufism is a great experiment in human consciousness: how to transform human consciousness into ishq. It is alchemy.Non-being is the way to being, and love is the most adequate method to disappear.If you decide in favor of the ego you will have to remain loveless. Love and ego cannot go together.And if you fall in love ...the ego must dissappear.LOVE then is a station on the sufi path.

In a strikingly ecstatic passage in his Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiya-yi sa‘adat), al-Ghazali considers ‘ishq as that which arises in the fourth and final stage of practicing the remembrance of God (dhikr). This fourth stage occurs when

"the object of the remembrance dominates the heart (and that object is God-Haqq – not the remembrance)…. This is the result of one-pointed love (mahabbat-i mufrad), which is called “intense love” (‘ishq). The heart of the lover who is burning with love (‘ashiq-i garmraw) is always with the Beloved (ma’shuq). It might even occur that on account of the intense degree of preoccupation of the heart with the Beloved, the name of the Beloved may be forgotten. When one becomes so drowned and forgets one’s self and everything – except God (Haqq) –one reaches the beginning of the path of Tasawwuf. Sufis call this condition “passing away” (fana’) and “not existing” (nisti); meaning that as a result of the remembrance of God, everything has become non-existent; and such a person also has become non-existent, namely the one who has forgotten his or her self"
If love is not there the ego can be; if love is there the ego cannot be. And vice versa, if ego is dropped, love arrives from all the directions.A Sufi mystic says:
l thought of You so often
that I completely became You.
Little by little You drew near
and slowly but slowly I passed away.


  1. `In the effacement of my name and the outline of my form,
    I asked about me so I said: You.`

    - Mansur Al-Hallaj

  2. Your post is absolutely right about ISHQ!

  3. Marvelous and inspiring piece of writing.