Saturday 25th of June 2022
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A Glance at Love in the Transcendent Philosophy

A Glance at Love in the Transcendent Philosophy

Praise be to God, His prophets and His friends.
The author would like to open the discussion with some of Ibn ‘Arabi’s words on love: Love can never be defined in term of its essence, and all the definitions provided for it so far have been nothing more than a number of formal and verbal statements. Whosoever defines love has not known it; and whosoever has not sipped from the goblet of love has not perceived it; and whosoever claims that he has quenched his thirst with the goblet of love has not grasped it, for love is a wine which does not let anyone drink it to satiety.[1]
One of the beauties and wonders of the world of creation is the mysterious phenomenon of love, whose notion, like that of existence, is extremely evident, and whose reality is extremely hidden. One reason for its being unknown is that philosophers and psychologists have provided too many different and, sometimes, contradictory definitions for it. The face of love is hidden behind veils, and everyone narrates his own tale of love and presents his own reasons for proving his claims in this regard. Such different and possibly contradictory interpretations testify to the significance and magnitude of this reality. They also remind us of the people who were trying to know what an elephant was. As the story goes, the gigantic size of the elephant and the ignorance of those trying to describe it led to idle talk and nonsensical descriptions, and everybody provided a different definition for the animal from where he was standing and from his own point of view.
The likening of love to a lion, camel, whale or sea in works of prominent gnostics proves this claim: A bird foolishly invited a camel as a guest into its house,
When the camel walked into the house of the bird, the house was destroyed and its ceiling collapsed. [2]
Love is real, do not take it as a metaphor; This is a lion's tail; do not play with it.
Love is a black lion, thirsty and blood-drinker; It buys nothing other than the heart-blood of lovers. [3]
If you see the canines of the lion displayed, Do not think then that he is smiling.[4]
And sometimes it is even more active and fierce than a lion and sharper and of a more cutting edge than the sword: The heat of the roaring lion, the sharpness of the cutting sword, The masculinity of all males is blunt compared to love. [5]
Comparing love to a roaring black lion whose only prey is the blood of lovers’ heart reveals that the transaction of love is not an easy profession so that any spoiled individual accustomed to luxury and affluence can undertake it. Neither is it a danger-free route that any tradesperson or wise man can take in search of attaining his sublime goal. Rather, it is a battlefield in which javelins and swords shower from every side and, certainly, it is no place for cowardly dastards. So many Rustams have weltered in their own blood in the battlefield of love that there is no place for old hunchback women. [6]
Do you come with such a mind and heart to the meeting of the highwaymen?
What has a coward merchant to do with such an uproar?
Here there is sword-wound, javelin-wounds are everywhere, What has the gathering of slim-legged tall ladies to do here?
Today Rustams have rolled in their blood, What have the doubled-up old Zals to do here?
Lovers are the targets of arrows; they accept and love injury, What have the safety lovers to do with such a passion? [7]
The nature of love is unknown to everyone, and it is its very concealment and charming smile that might rob people of their hearts. Love stands like a suspended sea that cannot be located at any direction.
What a rare and beautiful suspended sea is the sea of love, O' lovers! It is not underneath, nor above nor in the middle. [8]
Such interpretations are the products of gnostics’ meticulous experiences; people who see the realities rather than know them. In this paper, the author intends to examine the mysterious phenomenon of love from the viewpoint of the prominent Islamic philosopher, Mulla Æadra. He is the meeting point of the two oceans of gnosis and philosophy and enjoys the power of mystical vision and intuition, as well as the ability of philosophical analysis. Of course, for a better clarification of the issue, in addition to his ideas, we will also resort to the views of some other philosophers, particularly Ibn Sina. Mulla Æadra talks about love and affection and their different types (the main points of emphasis in this paper), in the 7th volume of his invaluable book, al-Asfar, in 8 chapters.

Definition of love
The word ‘love’ (‘ishq) has been derived from the Arabic word ‘ashaqah’. It is the name of a plant which is also called ‘lublab’, and when it coils itself around trees, they dry up. This is the very feeling created by love; when it dwells in one’s heart, the owner is withered and turns pale.
Love is the enchantment of the lover by the beauty of the beloved; it means going beyond limits in friendship and can be found both in piety and debauchery. It is something that makes the senses blind to the faults of the beloved; an obsession that drags people to itself, misleads them and dominates their mind in a way that they see some faces so beautiful. It is also defined as a kind of mania which is developed as a result of witnessing a beautiful face. [9]
There are lots of disagreements concerning the nature of love. Ilahi Qumsha’i, the contemporary philosopher, quotes some of the miscellaneous views in this regard in his book, Åikmat-i ilahi (Divine Philosophy). He says Plato considers love as ‘a divine mania affecting sacred souls and the supreme spirits’. Aristotle defines love as ‘the blindness of the senses in perceiving the beloved’s faults.’
Ibn Sina in his book, Qanun (The Law), defines love as follows: "Love is an obsession similar to melancholy. Man falls in love by inducing his mind to admire certain images and qualities."
Some say that love is the attraction of God’s secrets, and some others maintain that love is a mental disease caused by frequent attention to the beloved’s beauty. Love is the divine fascination and inspiration provoking the sacred spirit to move towards the realm of beauty and virtue.
Love is the manifestation of attraction of beauty and attractive beauty. It is a remedy for all pains and an incurable pain at the same time. It is the supreme commander of all faculties of existence and the authority refuting the judgments of the intellect and intuition. Love is the sweet pain and the painful pleasure of man’s soul.
Love is the attraction of delicate and sensitive souls towards beauty and perfection. It is the fire of divine desire burning the desire of all other than God all together. [10]
Mulla Sadra views love as being identical with existence, and both identical with beauty and goodness, and believes that it is present at all levels of existence. [11] He maintains,
Some view love as a psychological disease due to its side effects on the lover. They include insomnia, emaciation, agitation, listlessness, sinking of eyes, paleness and fluctuations in pulse rate. There are also others who consider love as a divine mania due to their failure in finding a cure for it. Greek philosophers saw the remedy for it merely in prayer, invocation, almsgiving and devotion. [12]
In his footnotes on al-Asfar, ‘Allamah Ìabaìaba’i says, In its general sense, love refers to a specific attachment between male and female animals, that is, the love of sexual relationship. However, in its particular sense, it is synonymous with or similar to ‘affection’, meaning the particular attachment of an intelligent existent to another due to its being beautiful so that when he finds his beloved, he loses his desire for her, and when he loses her, he longs for her. [13]

Infusion of love in all existents
One of the important points in the works of Islamic philosophers and gnostics is the diffusion of love in all existents. All beings, including material and immaterial things, even the Almighty Truth, enjoy this blessing. The point at stake here is the difference between ‘desire’ and ‘love’, which are sometimes used synonymously. However, there is a great difference between the two, namely, love is more general than desire and contains it. Love is a companion to conscience, and desire is a companion to privation. Every existent protects its existence by means of its inherent love and seeks for what it has lost through his hidden desire. Accordingly, love can be attributed to all existents, even to the Almighty Truth, since it is an attribute of existence, while desire is not so.
In his glosses on al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah, Sabziwari, by referring to the holy åadith, "whoever seeks Me will find Me, and whoever finds Me will love Me", tries to prove that attributing love to God Almighty is permissible. On the same basis, Ibn Sina, too, in his Risalat al-‘ishq, maintains that attributing love to God is justified. [14]
The term ‘desire’ is employed when dealing with material existents possessing potency and disposition and suffering from different types of ontological loss and emptiness. Thus the desire for perfection and compensation for their loss blazes in them.
Love without desire is specific to intellectual separate beings which enjoy actuality in all aspects, as well as to other existents which are not void of deprivation and, at the same time, possess potency and disposition and, in line with their ontological grade, possess love and voluntary or natural love and desire. Such love and desire provoke different motions, both mental and physical, in existents. Physical motion is either qualitative or quantitative, or either descriptive or special, and each being in the world of nature has some of these motions. [15]
Therefore, the desire for transforming potentialities to actualities exists in all corporeal existents. An apple’s qualitative motion to change its unpleasant and acrid taste into a pleasant and sweet one originates from its desire to attain perfection and compensate for its defects. The motions of spheres, planets and stars also originate from the same desire.
Mulla Æadra concludes the infusion of love in all existents from the same premises and on the same basis. He argues, "Tendency and desire emerge when a thing loses its perfection; hence, love always flows in all beings, while desire is not so. It is specific to those whose losses can be imagined." [16]
The beginning of one of Åafiî’s beautiful sonnets also reflects the same view: Men and angels are dependent on the existence of love, Show your love and sincerity, so that you should prosper.
Do your best, O man, so that you should not be deprived of love, For nobody buys a slave who has no art or skill.
Ibn Sina insists on this issue in Risalat al-‘ishq, and Mulla Æadra has taken this theory from him. Ibn Sina explains the point there by referring to two premises: According to the first premise, all sages and philosophers unanimously believe that on the basis of the principle stating ‘every contingent being is a compound,’ every contingent being has two aspects: existence and quiddity.
According to the second premise, existence is the source of all goodness and perfection, and quiddity is the origin of all evil and imperfections. Thus every contingent being, due to its ontological aspect, always desires for perfection and goodness, and, because of its nature and essence, despises and flees away from evil and deficiency, which are the indispensable aspects of quiddity and matter. We call ‘love’ this very essential zeal and innate intellectual intuition causing the subsistence of their existence.
The divine wisdom necessitates this intrinsic love to be trusted as a gift in the essence of all beings of the contingent world so that they can reach from imperfection to perfection, avoid evil and turn to goodness.[17]
Ibn Sina divides love into two types: 1) natural love and 2) voluntary love. Natural love is one whose bearer will never rest in peace until it reaches its real destination. In this process, if there is an obstacle in its way, like a stone falling to the ground to rest in its natural place, it will try to remove it to reach and reside in its original place. The same is also true about vegetative powers, which are constantly desiring for food and absorbing it for the body, unless there is some obstacle standing in their way and stopping their functions and activities.
Voluntary love is one whose bearer sometimes turns his back to it, and it emerges when the lover feels a loss. For example, when beasts see a fierce animal, in order to protect themselves, they forget about eating their prey, which is their greatest desire. This is because they are aware that getting away from the scene leads to their survival and is more to their advantage than to eating the prey, which leads to their death.
Natural love exists in all existents due to their nature, while voluntary love is limited to animate beings. Concerning the generalization of love to existents, including simple substances, hyle, forms, accidents, plants and animals, Ibn Sina says, "Hyle, due to its greed for form, is always concomitant with it, and form is always concomitant with the object of love and accompanies its natural perfections and positions. The accidents of love are concomitant with their object, since their existence depends on it.
Love is also hidden in plants’ faculties of nutrition, growth and reproduction and stimulates them to absorb food and have the desire to grow and reproduce. The secret of animal faculties and souls’ functioning in different ways lies in their hidden love, which encourages and provokes them to participate in wrathful and passionate activities, in addition to activities similar to those of plants. [18]
Mulla Æadra believes that demonstrating the existence of love in objects without demonstrating life and intelligence is nothing more than playing with words. Thus one should, firstly, prove the universality of intelligence and life in objects and then attribute love to them. Accordingly, in the first journey of al-Asfar, under the issues of the intellect and the intelligible and the like and in the light of the theory of principiality of existence, he views knowledge as coextensive with existence. However, he considers matter and body as being the criteria for absence, and attributes knowledge and presence to their imaginal and rational forms which are their very actuality. Likewise, he demonstrates the existence of power at different degrees of strength and weakness in all existents. Since he views love as an ontological attribute and coextensive with existence, Mulla Æadra emphasizes that attributing love to material and corporeal things depends on demonstrating the existence of life and intelligence in them. He considers this as a significant point which only he, himself, and some of the people of unveiling and intuition among Sufis have discovered and of which Ibn Sina was unaware. Later he refers to two glorious verses in the Holy Qur’an, chapter al-Isra: 44 (The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therin praise Him, and there is not a thing but hymneth His praise; but ye understand not their praise. Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving.), and chapter al-Ra‘d: 15 (And unto Allah falleth prostrate whosoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, as do their shadows in the morning and the evening hours.), to prove the existence of life and intelligence in all existence, whether material or abstract, and thanks God by saying, "And praise be to God for our understanding this by both reason and faith, and this is specific to us in the light of God’s Mercy and His Best Guidance. [19]
‘Allamah Ìabaìaba’i comments on Mulla Æadra’s words as follows: Since all beauty, goodness and happiness returns to existence (as their opposites to non-existence), such a connection exists between each level of existence with the one above it and between the individual and himself. Therefore, we can pass the judgment that love exists and flows in all existents, whether endowed with intelligence and life or not, and ‘knowledge and intelligence’ are obviously out of the domain of the concept of ‘love’. Thus Mulla Æadra’s view is open to debate to some extent. [20]
The gist of Sadrian philosophy is that existence is principial and the only source of effect. Each level of existence includes all ontological effects, and attributes and effects, although graded, are not separate from existence. Love is among the effects of existence and exists at different degrees of strength and weakness at different levels of existence.

God as the real beloved of all existents
When talking about the universality and inclusiveness of love, naturally, reference is also made to the beloved and the object of love. Love, the lover, and the beloved are necessary for and concomitant with each other, and the love relation, primarily and essentially, dominates all these concepts. In a chapter devoted to this issue, Mulla Æadra says, although the beloveds could be different from each other, the true beloved is only one, since attaining perfection and absolute goodness and beauty is the goal of every and each existent, and this reality is inherent in all beings. [21]
In order to prove his claims, Mulla Æadra suggests some premises, which are briefly stated below:
1. Existence is the absolute good and is effective and pleasant, while non-existence is evil, distasteful and repellent.
2. Existence is a simple unique being and of different degrees of strength, weakness, perfection or deficiency.
3. The reality of existence accepts no deficiency, finitude or limitation.
4. Each caused being has a portion of the perfection emanated from the Necessary and suffers from some deficiency in proportion to its causedness.
5. The Necessary Being is the absolute existence and enjoys the highest level of beauty of love by essence.
6. All beings are in love with existence, seek for perfection and detest non-existence and deficiency.
Conclusion: All being loves the Pure Being, the Almighty God.[22]
Mulla Æadra’s words are in complete agreement with Ibn Sina’s argument in his Risalat al-‘ishq (Treatise on Love).[23] He says that God has left in all beings a kind of instinctive love to employ as a means to attaining their perfection which is the very goodness. All beings love the absolute good, which is manifest to all lovers; however, they are different in their acceptance of and connection to its manifestation. What is the absolute good, the cause of attaining goodness, and the real beloved of all beings is the very first cause, which is loved by all things. [24]
All caused things derive all their goodness and existence from their cause; therefore, the highest beloved is God, Who is loved either consciously or unconsciously by all existents.

Loves of the human world
Due to his multidimensional existence and complexity of structure, man has various concomitants that completely distinguish him from all other beings in nature. He is the epitome of existence, the microcosm, and, in a sense, the macrocosm. He is the gathering place of all wonders. The labyrinthine layers of his existence have created different shapes and needs in his spiritual, individual and social life. Therefore, it is worth to devote a separate chapter to his different types of love. Man has a nature, instincts and innate dispositions. He is a mineral, a plant, an animal and an angel, at the same time. Thus each of these dimensions necessitates a special kind of life and causes specific effects. His loves and affections are also of different kinds, and, naturally, there is a philosophy behind each of them. In what follows, we will briefly refer to man’s different types of love from Mulla Æadra’s viewpoint.

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