Why is it that whenever I hear that question, I think of that long-ago song that goes, “What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me…no more!” I always seem to hear this song everytime I walk into a supermarket. How strange, this idea that love is almost invariably coupled with pain. Anyhow.
A group of friends and I were discussing this age-old question, and this is what I had to say (wanted to keep it for posterity so that I look back on it in a few years and see what changed in my head 🙂 ).
Love is: inexplicable. Its that thing that makes you put your needs and wants second. Its the best of times and the worst of times. It makes you realize the power of Allah, and how you really don’t even know your own destiny. It makes you appreciate all that you have, and give thanks for the sorrows you are not burdened with. But my words are not as succint as the words of Fatema Mernissi. In her book, Scheherazade Goes West: Different Cultures, Different Harems, she had a great description of love. She uses the Arabic word ‘isq and says that Jahiz, a ninth century Arab writer described it thusly:
…‘isq includes and nurtures many kinds of affects…it links together the feeling of love (hub), erotic passion (hawa), affinity (mushakala), and the inclination to keep the companionship going (ilf).”
So love is made up of various elements: passion, connection, and commitment. Any of these elements missing from a relationship would indicate that true love is not at play. Not bad for a dude of the 9th century, huh? Ah,mashallah, our people were never as backward as modern-day armchair quarterbacks would like us to believe!
And the purest form of love, for those of us fortunate enough, is from our parents–evidenced in their countless sacrifices and endless worrying for our well-being. No other man or woman could replace that love. 🙂