The Idea of Romantic Love
Some people set up equals to God, loving them as they should love God. But those who believe have greater love for God. If only you could see those who do wrong at the time when they see the punishment, and that truly all strength belongs to God, and that God is severe in punishment.
Before we talk about the romantic idea of love, it will be useful to remind ourselves of the believer's true understanding of love. A person of conscience and faith knows that God is the being to whom his faith is bound, and whom he must approach with his heart full of love. After all, God created him out of nothing and gave him his body, his mind, his conscience, his faith and everything that he possesses. God has met his every need and continues to do so. He has created all the blessings of this world for him. What is more, when the believer submits in obedience, God makes him happy with the promise of His abiding pleasure, and the endless blessing of His love. All these things are given freely from His grace and compassion. Therefore, in the true sense, it is God who is worthy above all others to be loved. God warns His believers of this in the Qu'ran, saying "make your Lord your goal!" (Qur'an, 94:8)
The love that people feel for one another should have its source in God. The person who loves God feels compassion toward those who obey Him. This is real love, felt for the qualities of God manifested in these people.
Another justification for the feeling of love is the interest and attraction we feel for the noble qualities in the beloved. When this interest and attraction are countered with a similar response from the other person, the relationship turns into a strong bond of love. However, what is important here is to find the original source of these superior qualities, and to focus one's interest, attraction and love toward that being. And that being is God who is the source of all beauty and every excellent quality, and the superior qualities ascribed to His creatures are only a very dim reflection of the eternal qualities that belong to Him. God's servants may temporarily manifest or reflect these qualities.
Therefore, it can be said that love is felt only for God. The love felt for the objects in which His attributes are reflected must be nurtured only in His name, and with Him in one's heart and mind. It is one of the surest signs that a person is idolising God's creatures, when he regards a person or a thing as having an existence or potency apart from God, and loves that person or thing as he should love God.
There are many kinds of idolatry perpetrated in society that arise from the nurturing of a false and illegitimate love. Idolising one's father, son, wife, family or ancestors aside from God are all examples of errant and illegitimate forms of love.
In the following verse, Abraham explains how pagans, out of mutual love and regard between each other, abandoned God and adopted idols for worship:
He said, "You have adopted idols apart from God as tokens of mutual affection in this world. But then on the Day of Rising you will reject one another and curse one another. The Fire will be your shelter. You will have no helpers." (Qur'an, 29:25)
The Qu'ran is thus telling us how these bonds of love ultimately turn to hate and betrayal on the Day of Judgement. The reason being, that when people establish a bond of inordinate love or adoration between themselves they make idols of each other, which leads only to torment. For those who acknowledge God as the only god, there is no possibility of putting another person or another thing on the same level as God, or of loving that thing or person more than Him. Idolators do the opposite, as discussed in the following verse:
Some people set up equals to God, loving them as they should love God. But those who believe have greater love for God. If only you could see those who do wrong at the time when they see the punishment, and that truly all strength belongs to God, and that God is severe in punishment. (Qur'an, 2:165)
In the above quoted verse, how much people with faith are to love God is explained to us. So much so, that it is impossible to say that someone has faith if he adores someone or something else more strongly than he loves God. If someone claims the opposite, it is clear either that he is not being sincere, or that he does not understand God and His religion as well as he should. Indeed, the end part of this verse makes it clear that those who worship others aside from God have a wrong and incomplete perception of Him.
Because such people cannot value God the way He should be valued (Qur'an, 39:64-65), they direct their feelings of love, either to themselves, or to other people: to their fathers, sons, brothers and sisters, wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends, people they look up to as examples or people they are attracted to. The list can be very long. Some people may even direct their feelings of love toward inanimate objects, or even toward abstract concepts. Things such as money, property, a house, a car or false ideals such as position, rank and power, may be idolised. In short, adoration which is not guided by faith, is part of the sin of idolatry or ascribing divinity to other than God. Because this love is not wisely directed toward God, it is a romantic love. In the Qu'ran, God says that this kind of love will bring no advantage, and that real benefit is to be found in His sight:
To mankind the love of worldly appetites is painted in glowing colours: women and children, and heaped-up mounds of gold and silver, and horses with fine markings, and livestock and fertile farmland. All that is merely the enjoyment of the life of the world. The best homecoming is in the presence of God. (Qur'an, 3:14)
We must love all these things as creatures of God, and realise that He has merely bestowed each of them to us as a blessing. Human love is a particularly wonderful feeling that God has created. In the Qu'ran, it says that God created human beings in "the best of forms." Therefore, it is necessary for a believer to nurture an inner love for those who are worthy of it; those who are obedient to God and who have a good character. The true love that a believer feels cannot be compared with the kind of love common in societies that are without religion; it is a sublime, deep inner feeling.
In the following pages, we will look at those people who cannot experience this sublime feeling, which is a blessing given by God, and focus our attention on the relationships between men and women, where love has tended to give rise to the most frequently encountered kind of "idolatry."
Idolatrous Love Between Men and Women
In the relationship between a man and a woman, the establishment of a mutual bond, outside of that approved by God, is one of the most critical factors leading to "idolatry." It may take the form of marriage, or "living together," which has gained an increasingly widespread acceptance.
In this romantic understanding of love, the "lovers" show to each other all the duties that should be directed toward God, and they show to each other those feelings that should be reserved for God, as if they had an existence apart from Him. These individuals, instead of keeping God in mind, think only of each other. When they first open their eyes in the morning, instead of thanking their Creator for the new day, they think of each other, seeking to please only each other, not to please God. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for each other, but not for God.
In short, each turns the other into god. Likewise, when we consider various examples of this warped understanding of love, as has become so widespread in the world, we will find that romantic men and women will openly declare to each other, "I worship you," "Wherever I go, I think about you," and other such expressions. However, wherever one looks, and wherever one goes, the only Being who deserves to be adored is God, the Lord of the Universe.
As we have been examining, romantic love appears to be an innocent kind of love, though it is a type of "idolatry," reprehensible in the sight of God. However, Satan blinds people to the truth, and so, in this case, he has again warped the truth to make it seem pleasant, and to make people follow the way he shows them:
By God, We sent Messengers to communities before your time, but Satan made their actions seem good to them. Therefore today he is their protector. They will have a painful punishment. (Qur'an, 16:63)
… Satan made their actions seem good to them and so debarred them from the Way, even though they had been granted insight. (Qur'an, 29:38)
The Qu'ran calls special attention to the errant passion felt for a woman in this kind of romantic love. The recipient of this love can be any woman: a wife, girlfriend, even a distant "platonic" love. If this kind of love prevents a person from remembering God as he ought, or makes him prefer his beloved in his heart rather than God, it leads that person into idolatry. Of course, this is a threat posed not only for men, but also for women.
People who live absorbed in this romantic man-woman relationship, are often unaware of the dangers into which they have put themselves. Because of the fact that they have followed their cues since childhood from a misguided society, without knowing that the Qu'ran is their only guide to the right path, they are completely unaware that the way they have been living is a wrong in the sight of God. Because they live their lives without cognisance of God, they become trapped in a mire of ignorance, though, as we said before, they believe they are on the right way. However, because they have no faith in God, their wisdom and understanding have become blind.
Being caught in this mindless love, men and women, who have made idols of each other, are sometimes led into acts of self-destruction. For example, two young people in love with each other may be deluded to the point of taking pleasure in the idea of committing suicide. When the circumstances do not permit two young people to be together, they may jump off a bridge, hand in hand, in order to "immortalise" their love, or so that "their souls may be together for eternity," or for some such other irrational motive. However, in committing such an act, they are not aware that they are actually throwing themselves directly into the jaws of hell. In committing such a forbidden act, without seeing the error in it, they believe that they will be reunited not with God but with each other after their death. This they will realise when they see the Angel of Death, at their final moment, but it will be too late. We can read in the newspapers of the deeply-saddened letters left behind by people who have committed suicide because of unrequited love. These are clear examples of how romanticism can completely shut up a person's mind and conscience.
However, when the blindfold is removed, and a person sees that the promise of eternal torment is real, he will finally try to save himself by offering as ransom that partner to whom he had blindly devoted himself, and turned into a god under the influence of romanticism. What these people will ultimately do is described in a verse of the Qur'an as follows:
Even though they can see each other. An evildoer will wish he could ransom himself from the punishment of that Day, by means of his sons, or his wife or his brother or his family who sheltered him or everyone else on earth, if that only meant that he could save himself. (Qur'an, 70:11-14)
The same situation is described in another verse:
The Day a man will flee from his brother and his mother and his father, and his wife and his children: on that Day every man among them will have concerns enough of his own. (Qur'an, 80:34-37)
The kind of romantic love that leads to idolatry has become acceptable in society as completely "innocent," as "mere romance" and as "true feelings;" it is even praised and encouraged. Usually, it is at a young age that people fall under the influence of romanticism, which prevents the development of their minds and conscience, keeping them ignorant of religion, faith and the purpose of creation. They have forgotten God, and know nothing about loving or fearing Him. Idolatry then becomes the common practise of this misguided generation.
Television and films often impose romantic and emotional subjects on viewers. They contend that sentimentality is merely a natural tendency in human beings. Romance is one of the most consistent and marketable themes in music, poetry and literature. Satan knows very well that sentimentality is a sickness that prevents people from thinking properly, of recognising reality, of being mindful of God, and of contemplating the purpose of creation and the afterlife, and that it lures people away from practising their religion, and leads them ultimately into idolatry. Therefore, he seeks to mislead society at every turn by means of an intense and constant bombardment of sentimental themes.
Consequently, those who think that idolatry simply refers to the worship of false-gods, or statues made of stone or wood, should be careful not to regard themselves as immune from this matter, or to be among those who will say on the last day, "By God, our Lord, We were not idolators." (Qur'an, 6:23)
... It is as if their faces were covered by dark patches of the night.
The Love of a Believer
In short, directing one's feelings of adoration to anyone other than God, or to any one of His creatures, is a critical cause leading to "idolatry." As for believers, as we said earlier, they adore only God, though they recognise in their fellow-believers, and in creation, the manifestation of His qualities. They love only for the sake of God. They do not love something independently of Him. The Prophet Mohammed also drew attention to this point and said, "Whoever amongst your followers die without having worshipped others besides Allah, will enter Paradise."15 This is both the proof as well as the necessary condition of faith.
A believer's love is pure and clear as light, and creates a lightness in the heart, because the true object of love is God. For this reason, a believer does not grieve over the death of someone he loves, for his qualities were a reflection of God's, or feel disappointed when he has lost one of his favourite possessions. He knows that the owner of all the material and spiritual good in the object of love, as well as that beauty found in it, was a reflection of God. God is immortal, indestructible, timeless and eternal, and, most importantly, He is closer to a believer than his jugular vein. Therefore, there is no need for concern, because God, in order to test him, has merely temporarily removed that in which He was reflected. If he persists in his faith and right understanding, whatever he wishes for in this world or the next will be given to him in abundance as the beautiful manifestations of God.
Therefore, there is no situation that would cause grief to a believer, or cause his distress, because he has grasped this secret and attained pure faith. God explains the spiritual state of the believer in these words:
Those who say, "Our Lord is God," and then go straight will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Qur'an, 46:13)