How pure is love?

Just as evil is a prerequisite to sensing goodness in all its fullness, so too love cannot be experienced without some amount of pain. After all, it is only when you love someone that you feel the gnawing pain of separation. Children catching a flight to return to their boarding school, a lover who has to go abroad to study for a year, or even the death of a loved one. Those who do not experience love also do not understand pain.

How can love be defined? There is the tender love of mother and father for a new- born child, the love of a friend, or brotherly and sisterly love.

As for couples, Meryl Streep in “Falling in Love” defined this as “the first person you think of in the morning and the last person you think of at night.”

A journalist friend of mine recently came up with a succinct definition: “It is mutual respect and passion.” How true. One without the other is incomplete.

But how many of us can love unselfishly? Does the parent not expect respect from the child, or does the lover not expect to be doted upon by her partner?

Even when we love God, do we not expect some deal in return? Perhaps yes. But there was one sufi seer, Rabia al Basri who lived in Basra in Iraq in the second half of the 8th century AD, whose love was pure and selfless. Here is one of her prayers:

 “O Allah! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,

and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.

But if I worship You for Your Own sake,

grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”

 

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