Love Locks in Covent Garden, supporting the British Heart Foundation.

What Does Research Say About Islam’s Definition of Love?

A few weeks ago, I asked my friends on twitter what they would like to know about regarding relationships. My friend, Qais Essar, jokingly wrote that he wanted to know why no one loved him.
However, the weight of the question is pretty heavy if we think about it. We’re all human beings and I really believe that love is the essence of life in all of its different forms.

I talk to lots of young Muslim millennials, who are amazing people with beautiful souls. Often times, despite everything else being close to perfect in their lives, when it comes to love they just “don’t know what what went wrong” or why they “haven’t found love yet.”
Some believe 98 percent of their problems will be solved if they find love. To some respect, everyone deserves a chance to find love.
Everyone seems to want it, but not everyone understands what it is they want and in what form they want it.
For those who need guidance, here are a few tips. Let’s face some reality.

You don’t know what love is.

Love is one of the most complicated human emotions. It remains an undefined phenomenon — and yet, we’re a generation that loves the word “love.”
We love desserts, coffee, music and people. We love the weather, art, clothes and animals.

Defining love.

I asked a few people on twitter to define love and these are some of the responses I got:
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What love means for you.

Yes, love may be the source and goal. But what does it mean for us and how do we fit it in our lives and in the context of our relationships?
Helen Fisher, a leading researcher in the field of love and relationships, states that there are three theories on types of love: Lust, passion and commitment.

Romantic love is a fundamental human mating drive.

All three are independent of each other. Mark Manson further elaborates on these theories. In a 2004 article for the BBC, Fisher concluded from her research that “romantic love is a universal experience…deeply embedded in the human brain.”
She said that the basic traits of romantic love are heightened energy, elation, focused attention and the motivation to win a reward. Romantic love is a fundamental human mating drive.
Fisher says that “Craving love is similar to craving food. It’s an urge that motivates men and women to court and win a preferred mating partner.” According to her, the love drive is stronger than the sex drive, despite the fact that our society has become hyper-sexualized over the past few years.
“Few people kill themselves when they are denied sex, but many have committed suicide after being rejected by a beloved,” she said. Love is not just about physical attraction, it’s about emotional compatibility and vulnerability.

Love in the Quran.

The word love, or “houb” in Arabic, is mentioned at least 69 times in the Quran. There are at least five different types of love that are referenced in different passages of the holy book. From the love for God and God’s love for humans — to man’s love for materials. To Muslims, God’s words in the Quran are a way of life.
I wanted to see what parallels existed between Fisher’s theories on love and our holy book.
I found her theory on extreme love, or lust, exemplified in Chapter 12 of the Quran, through the story of Prophet Yusuf (AS) and his master’s wife, who was taken by the prophet’s beauty.
According to Fisher, this love is a form of extreme attraction that is often temporary. We see this in the verses where the women are enamored by the prophet’s physical beauty, so much so that they almost chop their hands off when they see him.
Fisher’s second type of love, passion, I found to be visible in chapter 30, verse 12 of Quran:

“And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your [hearts]: Verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”

This related to Fisher’s passionate or emotional love between two people; knowing each other and one another’s hearts. The type of love where you become familiar with one’s exterior and interior.
The third and final type of love, as described by Fisher, is commitment. This is a love where two people develop passionate love over a period of time, and then make the intentional decision to continue being together. This type of love may lead to marriage which, according to Islamic traditions, is completing half of one’s faith.
Now when someone else asks you about love and what it means, you’ll have a better idea based on research, religious context and from your own personal beliefs and values. I think as young Muslims, all three are needed to define it.

You don’t know who to love.

Our personalities are often influenced by the people we’re around — and most of us understand love as something we’ve seen between our families and friends. The problem with that love is, how does one take it and apply it to their own relationships?
Once we find someone to love, we don’t know how to love them. You waited for the person to arrive and, after all of that waiting, you don’t know what to do with them. You never planned for that part. How do you love them? Will they love you?
When people say they are looking for a partner who is simple and kind, that often means they don’t know what kind of love they’re looking for. To know what you want from love, write down five things that a loving relationship entails to you. Write down five traits you love about yourself. Ask friends and family to help you. Those five things are your tools to guide your love to another person.
Then, write down five things all your closest friends and family members have. Are these things you also want in a loving relationship?
For most of us, Bollywood and Hollywood have completely ruined our understanding of love. It’s not supposed to be a powerful emotion that transcends your soul in the span of two hours. It takes months and years to build, and forever longer to nurture.

Do you love yourself?

Another form of love that we don’t understand, and maybe the most important love of all, is love for the self. Some of us grew up with healthy forms of love, some were smothered in parental love and some are just learning love in its different forms.
Some of us think it’s only about giving — that’s what we often hear and so we give, give and give. Stop giving without taking. It’s okay to take. Love is a two-way street in almost all relationships, especially romantic ones.

Are you afraid of love?

Many people are afraid of love in our communities. If you tell someone you’re looking for love, nine out of 10 times you will be laughed at. The idea that true love exists or one can seek it is almost rare. 
Many people don’t even think about finding love from past experiences that were negative, uncertainty or because your time is better spent doing things that will give you immediate and material results.

What do you want from love?

We ask God to help and guide us. A lot of times we’re uncertain of our own needs and wants. Having a clear vision can help us reach our goal faster and things fall into place when we know exactly what we want.
Why do you want to find love? To get rid of loneliness? To check it off the list? To get married? To fulfill sexual desires? To solve bigger problems?
Keep in mind that no one is perfect — and love is not about looking for perfection. At the same time, don’t think that someone will just come “fix” you, or that you need to be “fixing” anyone.
Love is meant to help a person flourish. It’s should support movements, encourage creativity, make art, influence politics and make a greater, less materialistic impact on the world. It’s those two, or more, people that motivate each other and are the beginning of a greater community to bring change.

We need to understand love’s complexities and how we want that complexity to fit in our lives.
But love is also simple. You are loved. You are capable of love.
It may not be the kind of love you think you want right now, but the people around you, God and the universe have different types of love — and they’re all sending it your way. Do you feel it?

Image: Flickr