“Behold, the first House (of Prayer) established for mankind is the one at Bakkah: it is full of blessing and a centre of guidance for the whole world.“ (Quran, 3:96)
“O Aisha, Allah is gentle and He loves gentleness. He rewards for gentleness what is not granted for harshness and He does not reward anything else like it” (Muslim).
With His Infinite Love, Allah (SWT) created us to live eternally and happily in Paradise and this short life is only for the divine test. To explain this, the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Allah (SWT) says: ‘I have prepared for My righteous slaves that which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and it has never crossed the mind of man. All of that is reserved, besides which all that you have known is as nothing.’ Then he recited: “No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do” (Quran; 32:17) (Al Bukhari).
The love and mercy Allah (SWT) demonstrates for human beings can be easily understood by reading the Quran. Indeed, all chapters except one begin with: “In the name of Allah, Al-Rahman (The Most Gracious), Al-Raheem (The Most Merciful)”. Moreover, His Beautiful Names, which include The Acceptor of Repentance; The Compassionate; The Loving One; The Forbearing One; The Most Gracious; The Most Merciful; The Source of Goodness; and The Most Generous and The Bestower, indicate that He (SWT) is characterised by mercy, goodness, and generosity.
Now, as human beings are naturally inclined to love, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I inform you of something which, if you do, you will love one another? give greetings (peace) amongst yourselves” (Sahih Muslim).
“And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them.” (Quran; 14:34)
We should give thanks and love Allah (SWT) because He is our Creator. Many Quranic verses and hadiths emphasise this love for Allah (SWT), for example, the following prayer of the Prophet (PBUH) highlights the importance of love in Islam: “O my Lord! Grant me Your love, the love of those whom You love, and the love of those deeds that will make me earn Your love. And make Your love in my sight dearer than the cold water desired by a person with a raging thirst” (Al Tirmidhi).
Love overrides other values and is shown as foundational in faith. A man once asked the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “When will the Hour (of the Day of Judgment) be established?” The Prophet replied: “What have you prepared for it?” The man said: “I haven’t prepared for it very much (by way) of prayers or fasting or charitable giving, but I love God and His Apostle.” The Prophet (PBUH) then said: “You will be with those you love” (Al Bukhari, Muslim, Al Tirmidhi).
“And out of His Mercy He made for you the night and the day that you may rest therein and [by day] seek from His Bounty and [that] perhaps you will be grateful.” (Quran; 28:73)
Ultimately, He not only guides us through life with the Quran and the Prophet (PBUH) but also provides everything to all living creatures. His provision is endless including all material things, like money, food, water, air, shelter, and protection. As well as meeting our physiological needs, He (SWT) also provides for our psychological needs. For example, He gives us love through the love of our parents. Moreover, we also enjoy beautiful flowers, cute animals, delicious food, tasty drinks, vegetables, and fruits of different flavors, shapes, and colors. And the only thing He asks in return is thanks for these blessings by showing love to Him and all His creatures.
“Say [O Prophet], ‘If you do love Allah, follow me; Allah shall love you.’” (Quran; 3:31)
A distinguishing feature of believers is that Allah (SWT) Loves them and they love Him. As Allah (SWT) says: “O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion – Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers…” (Quran; 5:54)
Therefore, believers are those who love Allah (SWT) above all else. This is highlighted in this Quranic verse: “Yet there are people who make others as God’s equals, loving them as only God should be loved. But those who have faith love God more than all else…” (Quran; 2:165). From this, we understand that loving, caring for, supporting, and nurturing people, animals, and vegetation because they are all creations of Allah (SWT) is one of the strongest bonds of faith, and is one of the most important tenets on which Muslim society is based.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) explains further that: “Love for the sake of Allah is one of the greatest acts of worship and one of the best of righteous deeds” (Al Bukhari, Muslim).
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Allah Almighty said: My love is a right upon those who love each other for my sake. My love is a right upon those who visit each other for my sake. My love is a right upon those who sit together for my sake. My love is a right upon those who maintain relations for my sake” (Musnad Aḥmad).
Support and love for those around us is identified as one of the main principles of Islam. For example, the love for our wives (husbands) for the sake of Allah (SWT) is indicated in the following Quranic verse: “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.” (Quran; 30:21)
Moreover, children are priceless treasures from Allah (SWT). Children are therefore made to be loved, cherished, and provided with the opportunity to grow up in a healthy, happy environment. In this topic, whenever the Prophet (PBUH) saw Fatimah (his daughter) he would welcome her, and rising from his seat would kiss her, and then taking her by the hand would seat her in his own seat (Al Bukhari).
Being kind and considerate towards neighbors and coworkers is also mentioned in the Quran: “Worship God and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the needy, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet) and those whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful.” (Quran; 4:36)
“And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good.” (Quran; 2:195)
Beyond offering love and support we are encouraged to support those around us in practical ways. Charity clearly demonstrates that we have surpassed our selfishness for the sake of Allah (SWT) and have followed Al-Fitrah for the benefit of others.
The proof of love for the sake of Allah (SWT) is not only limited to helping those in need by giving them money or food to survive, but encompasses acts of charity such as offering assistance and time to relatives as well as those who are unwell to comfort them and perhaps add some joy to their life, or enhance it in some way. For example, one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions said: “Since the day I accepted Islam, the Messenger of Allah (SWT) would never meet me without a smiling face” (Al Bukhari).
“Remember the blessing that Allah bestowed upon you: you were once enemies then He brought your hearts together, so that through His blessing you became brothers.” (Quran; 3:103)
The love between believers is mentioned in the hadith: “By Him in whose hand stands my life! You shall never enter paradise unless you believe; and you will not believe unless you love one another. Shall I tell you wherewith you would love one another? Extend your greetings freely among yourselves” (Al Tirmidhi).
The Prophet (PBUH) expands on this: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, and fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever” (Muslim). Moreover, the Prophet (PBUH) speaks of the higher rewards: “Take each other by the hand: all grudges shall go off from you. Give presents to each other, as this will increase love among you, and will take away the deepest hatred” (Muslim).
“Behold! Verily for the friends of God, there is no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Quran; 10:62)
The eternal rewards of choosing to love those around us during our lives in the name of Allah (SWT) are well explained. For example, Allah (SWT) will ask on the Day of Judgment: “Where are those who loved each other for the sake of My glory? Today, on a day when there is no shade but Mine, I shall shade them with My shade” (Muslim).
Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) added: “There are people from the servants of Allah (SWT) who are neither prophets nor martyrs, (but) the prophets and martyrs will envy them on the Day of Resurrection. They are those who love one another for the spirit of Allah (SWT). I swear by God, their faces will glow and they will be (sitting) in (pulpits of) light. They will have no fear (on the day) when the people will have fear, and they will not grieve when the people will grieve” (Al Albani).
“And We have sent you forth [O Muhammad] not but as a mercy for mankind and jinn.” (Quran; 21:107)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent as a divine gift of mercy for the whole of mankind until the Day of Judgment. For this mission of love and compassion, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “All creatures of Allah are His family, therefore, amongst His creations, Allah (SWT) likes the person who treats His creatures in a good manner and takes care of their necessities” (Al Bukhari.). He (PBUH) also said about the love for brothers and sisters in faith and in humanity: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself” (Al Bukhari, Muslim).
“There is no creature on the earth or bird that flies with its wings but that they are communities like you.” (Quran; 6:38)
The traditions of Prophet Muhammad remind us that humankind was put on this earth to be the custodian of God’s creation. Treating animals with kindness and mercy is just one of the responsibilities embedded in that custodianship. To illustrate this further, the Prophet (PBUH) told this story:
“A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, there he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, ‘This dog is suffering from thirst as I did.’ So, he went down the well again and filled his shoe with water and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for that deed and forgave him”. His followers said: “O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate (living being)” (Al Bukhari).
“Now, behold! Your Lord said to the angels: I am placing upon the earth a human successor to steward it.” (Quran; 2:30)
In Islam, mankind’s relationship and responsibility to the earth is seen as that of a custodian. A Muslim must not be extravagant in consumption, whether of food, cloth, or natural resources. As cited in the Quran: “Eat and drink of that which Allah has provided and do not act corruptly, making mischief on the earth.” (Quran; 2:60)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also encourages the growing of plants: “If a Muslim plants a tree or grow grains and a bird, a person or an animal eats from it will be counted as a charity for him” (Al Bukhari, Muslim).
In conclusion, the ultimate consideration is love for Allah (SWT), and those who don’t experience this perhaps don’t know Him. As a consequence, they would not be able to taste the sweetness of faith. Moreover, it is the loving of others and helping them (muʿāmalāt) for the sake of Allah (SWT) which is more important than worship (Ibadah), which is after all not obligatory.
On a last note, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “If Allah loves a person, He calls Gabriel saying: ‘Allah loves so and so; O Gabriel, love him.’ Gabriel would love him, and then Gabriel would make an announcement among the residents of the Heaven, ‘Allah loves so-and-so, therefore, you should love him also.’ So, all the residents of the Heavens would love him and then he is granted the pleasure of the people of the earth” (Al Bukhari, Muslim).
O Allah! Grant us Your love, the love of those who love You, and the love of every deed that leads us to Your love. Ameen.