Quran and Marriage | Online Islamic Pre-Marital Prep Course

By Rabi’a Elizabeth Brown

Allah SWT has given us plenty of guidance and reflection ideas in the Quran with regard to the topic of love, both human and Divine. 

Words of love in the Quran

By far, the most frequently used Quranic Arabic root word that often is translated as “love” is ḥā bā bā (ح ب ب). This root occurs 95 times in total, and appears most often in verb form: “to love.” 

Allah SWT uses the verb forms of ḥā bā bā in a distinct pattern: there are the myriad ways humans love, from the basest to the nearly sublime. And then there is the way Allah SWT loves his human creatures, in particular those who turn to him as faithful Muslims. 

Another Arabic root word for “love” appears frequently in the Quran: it is wāw dāl dāl (و د د). This word generally appears when Allah SWT speaks of the nature of His love for humans, especially faithful Muslims: constant, supportive, and enlightening. 

The many faces of human love, and their fruits

The “love” that binds us to the dunya

When Allah SWT uses ḥā bā bā to describe what most humans love, He usually points to what they are led to by their lower souls (nafs) or the Shaitan.

But no! In fact, you love this fleeting world. (Quran 75:20)

Surely, Allah defends those who believe. Allah does not love any treacherous, ungrateful. (Quran 22:38)

And ye love wealth with inordinate love! (Quran 89:20)

Why does Allah SWT use the root ḥā bā bā to point out depraved actions based on diseased hearts, or obsession over matters of the dunya, or material world? We cannot know the mind of Allah SWT, but some reflection on where He uses the word suggests that in the Quran, ḥā bā bā connotes devotion, attention, and force behind both of those qualities. The Quran implies that we humans “love” that which consumes and drives us most

From devotion to obsession: love for other people and its inverse

The love of many humans for their family members, spouses, and friends is well accounted for in the Quran. And Allah SWT gives us ample guidance as to how to handle those relationships. For example, Allah SWT tells us what to do when we want to care for orphaned children:

Let your adopted children keep their family names. That is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, then they are [simply] your fellow believers and close associates. There is no blame on you for what you do by mistake, but [only] for what you do intentionally. And Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

The Prophet has a stronger affinity to the believers than they do themselves. And his wives are their mothers. As ordained by Allah, blood relatives are more entitled [to inheritance] than [other] believers and immigrants, unless you [want to] show kindness to your [close] associates [through bequest]. This is decreed in the Record. (Quran 33:5-6)

Allah SWT knows well that human love of the romantic kind is beautiful even in its imperfection. With characteristic compassion, he instructs us what to do should a spousal relationship no longer work:

And the divorced women deserve a benefit as recognized, being an obligation on the God-fearing. (Quran 2:241)

And He also contemplates that romantic love can sometimes bloom twice in the same little garden!

So if a husband divorces his wife [three times], then it is not lawful for him to remarry her until after she has married another man and then is divorced. Then it is permissible for them to reunite, as long as they feel they are able to maintain the limits of Allah. These are the limits set by Allah, which He makes clear for people of knowledge. (Quran 2:230)

Mutual love between people is a gift from Allah SWT. However, even one of the noblest kinds of love of a human for a particular person, that of a parent for a child, can limit our spiritual growth. And so sometimes Allah SWT will help us to grow by giving us a test directly linked to that very love. 

The intensity of the filial love the prophet Yacub (as) had for his son, the prophet Yusuf (as), becomes the fulcrum of a decades-long test of Yacub’s faith in Allah SWT due to Yusuf’s disappearance and enslavement far away. Here, Yacub tells the brothers of Yusuf, who had abandoned Yusuf to die long before this, of his devastation at the loss of his son and his horror at their iniquity:

[Yaqub] cried, “No! Your souls must have tempted you to do something [evil]. So [I am left with nothing but] beautiful patience! I trust Allah will return them all to me. Surely He [alone] is the All-Knowing, All-Wise.”

He turned away from them, lamenting, “Alas, poor Yusuf!” And his eyes turned white out of the grief he suppressed.

They said, “By Allah! You will not cease to remember Yusuf until you lose your health or [even] your life.”

He replied, “I complain of my anguish and sorrow only to Allah, and I know from Allah what you do not know.” (Quran 12:83-86)

The long trial finally ceases when Allah SWT wills it. Perhaps one of the most telling details of Yacub’s love for Yusuf is that, even after so long, he remembers the scent of his son:

When the caravan departed [from Egypt], their father said [to those around him], “You may think I am senile, but I certainly sense the smell of Yusuf.”

They replied, “By Allah! You are definitely still in your old delusion.”

But when the bearer of the good news arrived, he cast the shirt over Yacub’s face, so he regained his sight. Yacub then said [to his children], “Did I not tell you that I truly know from Allah what you do not know?” (Quran 12:94-96)

Finally it bears mentioning that the Quran contains a pointed account of an inverted form of love, more accurately called sexual obsession, in Surah Yusuf. Here Allah SWT tells of the ordeal of Yusuf during his period of enslavement at the hands of the wife of his owner. And here we find ḥā bā bā deployed to denote its potentially destructive force among humanity:

She said, “This is the one for whose love you criticized me! I did try to seduce him but he [firmly] refused. And if he does not do what I order him to, he will certainly be imprisoned and [fully] disgraced.” (Quran 12:32)

This is how the nafs can manifest itself in one of its basest forms, and yet Allah SWT uses the same root word for love here as He does to connote the highest love between humans.

When human love meets the Divine: Devotion to Allah SWT

Some people devote themselves to Allah SWT the way most people love their children. These devoted servants are cherished by Allah SWT.

This service can and should take the form of loving-kindness toward other creatures:

They ask you as to what they should spend. Say: “Whatever good you spend is for parents, kins, orphans, the needy and the wayfarer. And whatever good you do, Allah is all-aware of that.” (Quran 2:215)

Let the guardians be as concerned [for the orphans] as they would if they were to [die and] leave [their own] helpless children behind. So let them be mindful of Allah and speak equitably. (Quran 4:9)

But most importantly, service to Allah SWT must take the form of mandatory and supererogatory prayer and the observance of the other pillars of Islam, such as zakat:

By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, of a truth Allah knoweth it well. (Quran 3:92)

[They are] those who donate in prosperity and adversity, control their anger, and pardon others. And Allah loves the good-doers. (Quran 3:134)

And these people can expect the richest reward. 

Say (O Prophet): ‘If you do love Allah, follow me; Allah shall love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.” (Quran 3:31)

Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah, as equal (with Allah): They love them as they should love Allah. But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for Allah. If only the unrighteous could see, behold, they would see the penalty: that to Allah belongs all power, and Allah will strongly enforce the penalty. (Quran 2:165)

Say (O Prophet): ‘If you do love Allah, follow me; Allah shall love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.” (Quran 3:31)

The nature of the love of Allah (SWT)

Lean on Me: Allah the Most-Loving

If you follow the occurrences of the different forms of wāw dāl dāl in the Quran, you will eventually come across one of the 99 Names of Allah SWT: the Most Loving, Al-Wadud (الوَدُود).

And He is the Most-Forgiving, the Most-Loving (Quran 85:14)

So seek your Lord’s forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance. Surely my Lord is Most Merciful, All-Loving. (Quran 11:90)

It is notable that Allah SWT uses wāw dāl dāl in these particular surahs. Surah 85, al-Buruj, was revealed just after what was likely the worst incident of Quraysh persecution of the Muslims in Mecca: the burning alive of several Muslims in a pit. 

These Muslims had affirmatively chosen to continue with the profession and practice of their faith despite their knowledge that they would likely be murdered for it. But for the families of these people and the rest of the small Meccan Muslim community, to witness and hear about it must have been terrifying. Allah SWT saw all this and through his Prophet (pbuh) assured them, in essence: “Those who continue with their faith despite terrible persecution: I love you and I have your back.” And He did, and does today.

Similarly Surah 11, Hud, was revealed when the Quraysh were doing their best to destroy Islam and its followers. It is also one of the sternest of Quranic warnings to worship Allah SWT alone, avoid shirk (idolatry), and base your life’s actions on what the Quran prescribes. But among the many frightening warnings in this Surah is a potent reminder of Divine love.

What is the love of Allah SWT like?

We cannot speak of the way Allah SWT loves us as we might describe human love. ḥā bā bā as it connotes a drive or motive does not apply at all, because Allah SWT cannot be consumed by anything. He is Allah al-Waasi’ (ٱلْوَاسِعُ), the All-Encompassing, the Boundless, and Allah al-Qawiyy (ٱلْقَوِيُّ), the All-Powerful. He is Ever-Existing and the source of all phenomena in the universe. 

So then what does it mean when we say that Allah SWT loves His faithful servants? We can begin by reflecting on many of his 99 Names.

  • There are Names that reflect the nurturing side of love, such as al-Wahhaab (ٱلْوَهَّابُ), the Giver of Gifts, or ar-Razzaaq (ٱلْرَّزَّاقُ), the Provider. 
  • Some Names demonstrate loving compassion and gentleness: al-Lateef (ٱلْلَّطِيفُ), the most Gentle; ar-Rahmaan (ٱلْرَّحْمَـانُ ), the Most Merciful; ar-Raheem (ٱلْرَّحِيْمُ), the Bestower of Mercy. 
  • When His faithful need His protection, the Names ar-Raqeeb (ٱلْرَّقِيبُ) and al-Mujeeb (ٱلْمُجِيبُ) (the Watchful, the Responsive One) suggest that Allah SWT will be there the whole while. He is the ultimate for us to “lean on”.
  • And the constant, unwavering force of His love is immanent in the names as-Samee’ (ٱلْسَّمِيعُ ), the All-Hearing, al-Baseer (ٱلْبَصِيرُ ), the All-Seeing, and al-Khabeer (ٱلْخَبِيرُ ), the All-Aware.

As Muslims, we ask for the guidance and sustenance of Allah SWT at least five times a day, possibly more. We see our prayers answered in different ways throughout our lives: material provision, solutions to problems, abilities and talents given to us among them.

It is also possible to discern the Unseen Light of the love of Allah SWT in subtle, personal ways. Have you ever been thinking through a difficult problem and a solution suddenly occurs to you, especially when you leave off thinking about it for a while? Have you ever felt a subtle change come over you while you are in salat (prayer / connection), especially in sujood (prostration)? Have you ever been in emotional turmoil and spotted or heard something that seemed especially meant for you – and, after you assumed that it was in fact sent by Allah SWT and acted on that belief, things turned out very well? You can count on all of those manifestations being real proof of the love Allah SWT has for you. 

To learn more…

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