stages of love
(page 2 of 3)
The stage of exclusive attachment
to the Beloved also has five phases.
1. The first phase of exclusive
attachment to the Beloved is called mu’aanadat
(enmity). What happens that when the lover
moves in company, she or he feels ill at
ease with strangers and is afraid of being
laughed at. People become her or his enemies
and are prone to ridicule this lover. To
explain this the author of Resaala-e-‘eshqia
(The Epistle of Love) has quoted the following
verse of Qur’an 22:52
We have not sent a messenger
or prophet before you
but when he recited the devil would intrude
into his recitation
Yet Allah annuls what the devil has cast.
Then Allah establishes his revelations.
Allah is All-knowing, Wise.
This shows that the forces of
evil prepare their front against the lover,
worry him (her) and try to scandalize him
(her). They do not take notice of those
who are not progressing along the spiritual
path, but this is of course not the case
in regard to the lover. It cannot be avoided
that there is calumny or malicious misrepresentation
in love. A Sufi has said:
Az paride nehaayate rang o az
tapide nehaayate del
‘Aasheq bichaareh har jaa hast rosva mishavad
The extremely pale face and
heavy beating of his heart
Expose the poor lover to ridicule on all
2. The second phase of exclusive
attachment to the Beloved is called sedq
(truth, veracity, sincerity). It has been
Affectionate love is truth and
And the one who is true and sincere,
Is the friend of Allah.
Qur’an 39:33 has hinted at it
in the following verse:
And he who brings the truth
And he who confirms it –
Those are the ones who are god-wary.
Some of the Sufis have placed
the position of that friend of Allah who
is really truthful and sincere, directly
below the one of the prophets.
Sa’di has said:
Raasti mujeb-e rezaa’i khodaa
Kas nadidam keh gom shod az rah-e raast.
Truthfulness is an attribute
that pleases God.
I have never seen one get lost who trod
on the right path.
3. The third phase of exclusive
attachment to the Beloved is eshtehaar (publicity;
divulging; proclamation). It is the publicity
of the state of the lover. At this point
the lover steps out of her or his egotism
and does not care whether (s)he is held
in respect or disgrace. The Beloved gives
publicity to the lover’s condition and spreads
it far and wide. Some lover prayed to God:
‘Keep me in concealment’. In reply he was
told: ‘O, Man! God never conceals anything’.
But at this point there are
many difficulties to tide over.
Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti preferred
to remain concealed to the public eye. He
stayed at lonely places and when people
got to know about his inner attainments
he moved on to a place where no one knew
him. One day, however, he received the order
to go to Ajmer in India and to settle there.
From that time on he was well known. It
is said that after his death he was found
with these words written on his forehead:
He was a Beloved of Allah
He died in the love of Allah.
This may be a legend, but it
is given as an example of the stage of publicity.
4. The fourth phase of exclusive
attachment to the Beloved is shakwa or complaint,
i.e. bewailing the distraction caused and
the anguish suffered. This is why the prophet
Jacob has said: ‘I only complain of my distraction
and anguish to God’.
The prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)
exclaimed: ‘Praise be to You alone and before
You alone I complain of my anguish’.
How can a lover complain of
his Beloved? However he or she can express
his or her humility, distraction and helplessness
before the Beloved alone and not before
When the prophet Job in his
distress complained to Allah: ‘Affliction
has touched me, but You are the most Merciful
of the merciful’. Allah said this about
him: ‘We have indeed found him steadfast,
a blessed servant. He did ever return (to
The complaint of the lover amounts
to this: ‘Is there anyone save You before
whom I may complain of my woe and anguish’.
Har kasi dar jahaan kasi daarad
Man toraa daaram o toraa o toraa
Chu hich baab az-in dar tariq raftan nist
Kojaa ravim o az dar kodaam dar daarim.
Az dast-e to ham pish-e to feryaad konam
Chun joz-e to namibinam feryaad rasi raa.
Everyone has someone in this
world to look after him,
I have none but You, You and You.
As there is no other door to enter on the
path I am following,
How can I leave this door? Which other door
is open to me?
From You I complain to You alone!
For – beside You – I see no one to whom
I may appeal.
The fifth phase of exclusive
attachment to the Beloved is – according
to the Chishti Sufis – hozn (grief, sadness.
affliction, sorrow). You may know that to
the qualities of the heart belong:
c. passionate love
d. the urge for self-assertion or negativism
e. contentment and displeasure
f. cheerfulness and grief
g. eloquence of speech and the capacity
to express its will effectively
It has been said:
Verily Allah regards as a friend
The heart that is agonised for Him.
I am found in those hearts,
Which are broken for My sake.
The prayer of the lover is nothing
Joz ‘eshq-e to ‘aishhaa faraamusham
Hozn-e to be-jaaiye jaan dar aaghosham baad
Would that I forget all pleasures
instead of the love of You,
Would that instead of my life I may embrace
the pain of You.
The seventh phase according
to the Chishtiyya Sufis has been styled
mahabbat (love, affection; friendship, esteem,
benevolence). This is a sublime phase and
it has been mentioned in Qur’an 5:54 thus:
Allah will certainly produce
Whom He will love
And they will love Him.
Love is a gift. You cannot start
to love somebody. In the above Qur’anic
sign the love of Allah precedes human love,
the Beloved is in fact the first lover…
Mahabbat has also five phases.
1. The first phase is that of
hosn-e akhlaaq or good morals and good conduct,
in private and in public, in prosperity
and in adversity. At this phase the acts
and deeds of the lover are praiseworthy
and earn for him public esteem. His or her
eyes behold none except the Friend and the
heart of the lover does not think of anyone
save the Beloved.
The lover is aloof, yet in society,
considering that men are fellow-creatures,
he or she is polite to them. But inwardly
the lover is aloof and is distant from his/her
fellow-beings and remains attached to the
Beloved only. The modus operandi of the
lover is that the lover now combines in
him/herself both singularity and plurality.
Some Sufi has made the Beloved
Gar ba hame’iye chu bi mani
Var bi hame’ie chu ba mani baa hame’iye
If you are with all, but since
you are not with Me, you are with nobody.
If you are not with anybody, but since you
are with Me, you are with all.
2. The second phase is that
of malaama wa izhaar-e sokr wa haira or
the courting of blame in a state of intoxication
and bewilderment. At this level the lover
is intoxicated and loses the consciousness
of his/her own self by drinking deep of
the cup of love. The lover is neither afraid
of disgrace nor does he fear ignominy; distraught
he charges forth and like one drunk finds
the way to the kharaabaat or ‘tavern’:
‘Eshq-e to maraa kharaabaati
Var na man bichaareh ba-saamaan budam
Your love turned me into a haunter
Else I would have been tranquil in mind.
Many stories are known about
shaykh Hasan of Basra – a Sufi who has been
mentioned in the beginning of the Chishtiyya
line of succession – and in most of them
someone else comes out as ‘better’ than
him, while Hasan Basri’s ‘faults’ clearly
have been depicted. It is, however, important
to know that these reports often come from
a single source: Hasan Basri himself!
Now innumerable favours are
showered on the lover and (s)he has to pass
through many tribulations also. Sometimes
the prophet of Islam is told:
If you had not been,
I would not have manifested My Lordship.
And sometimes - like in Qur’an
17:86 – he is informed:
If We so wish,
We certainly can blot out
That which We have revealed to you;
Then you would find no advocate
To assist you against Us.
Sometimes Moses, the interlocutor
of Allah, is told (see Qur’an 20:41):
I have chosen you for Myself.
And sometimes he is warned (see
You will not see Me.
Allah says in Qur’an 2:30 with
regard to Adam:
I will create a vicegerent on
And sometimes – as in Qur’an
20:121) – it is said about him:
Adam thus disobeyed his Lord
And so went astray.
In this way Allah sometimes
raises the rank of the lover and sometimes
puts him/her to an ordeal. But if the lover
is perfect, (s)he never takes his eyes off
the Beloved and in all his/her ways desires
nothing but what the Beloved desires and
Agar moraad-e to ay dust na
Moraad-e khish az-in bish man nakhaaham
If it is Your wish, o Friend,
that I give up my own wish,
Your wish is then best and I’ll no longer
have any wish of my own.
3. The third phase is that of
moshaahadat-e ghaib (contemplation of the
mystery, witnessing the unseen). On reaching
this phase the lover becomes someone of
‘insight’ and the Beloved reveals to him/her
some of His ways and attributes, infuses
into his/her heart the effulgence of His
love and draws his/her mind to the very
source of knowledge.
But this stage is beset with
innumerable pitfalls; many heads roll here
in the dust and not a few lives are lost.
I’ve met a Chishti shaykh who recited some
appropriate verses of Hafez about the ‘victims’
of this phase. Tears were running down his
cheeks… But if the Beloved continues to
favour the lover and the latter closes his/her
eyes to all but the Beloved as has been
said in Qur’an 53:17 of the prophet of Islam
Sight never swerved,
Nor did it go wrong.
then it is the assumption with
Allah of the position of qaaba qawsain as
Qur’an 53:9 puts it:
Coming thus within two bows’
length or closer.
It is in such a situation that
you are allowed the privilege of beholding
His countenance. Qur’an 25:45 expresses
Have you not turned your vision
to your Lord?
This is the highest favour that
you may receive from the Beloved:
Chu az jomleye jahaan boridi
man toraa aam
When you have severed your connections
With all, then I am yours.
This has been hinted at in the
following verse of Qur’an 18:16 also:
When you withdrew from them
And what they worship apart from Allah,
Take refuge in the Cave.
Here kahf or cave means the
cave of union (kahf al-wesaal). This point
comes at the end of the journey to Allah.
The fourth phase is that of
aarzu-e molaaqaat or the wish to meet the
Beloved. Someone who is not in love with
the Beloved cannot stand the tribulations
at this stage. The difficulties experienced
will be overwhelming and the meaning of
these difficulties will then be unclear
to you. Hafez has written:
Nai dawlat-e donya besetam miarzad
Nai lazzat-e hastiyash-e alam miarzad
Na haft hezar saleh shadiye jahan
In mehnat-e haft ruz-e gham miarzad
During tyranny the treasures
of the world have no value;
During grief the delights of existence have
The seven thousand years of joy of the world
Compared to the sorrow of seven days of
adversity have no value.
With the lover having reached
the fourth phase of aarzu-e molaaqaat as
referred to above by the Chishtiyya Sufis,
the case is completely different. Even if
this lover is bathed a hundred times in
his own blood and even if the lover is hanged
a hundred times on the gallows of tribulations,
the longing for union with the Beloved and
the desire of meeting Him face to face grows
stronger in the lover’s heart. The thought
of acceptance and rejection does not cross
his/her mind. If (s)he received like Moses
a hundred lashes of lan taraani or ‘by no
means you can see Me (direct)’ (see Qur’an
7:143) on his/her back, even then (s)he
will go on reiterating the cry (see Qur’an
Show Yourself to me,
So that I may look upon You.
As a lover has said:
Agar be tir zanandam o gar be
Be hich zarb o siyaasat ze to nadaaram dast
Even if I’m hit by arrows or
killed by a sword
None of these blows or punishments will
deter me from seeking You.
The fifth phase has been styled estinaas
(desire for intimacy) according to the Chishti
The sign of attachment with
Is detachment from all else.
The lover’s cry is:
Ai baadshaah-e hosn khodaaraa
Yakrah su’aal kon keh gadaaraa che haajatast
O, beautiful King, for God’s sake, I am
Ask, at least once, what this beggar needs!
The eight stage is ‘eshq (love),
which is another name of excessive and intense
affection. At this stage one looses one’s
reason and senses:
Ketaab-e hosn-e to ruzi qadaa
mikhaanad dar gusham
Shodam az ‘eshq-e begaana na ‘aqlam maanad
One day fate related in my ear
the tale of Your beauty,
An unknown love seized me and reason and
understanding left me.
Love is the conflagration which
burns the hay-stick of existence to ashes
and uproots the tree of life. Shebli has
Love is the fire, which once
kindled in the heart,
Consumes everything other than the Beloved.
A Sufi has said:
‘Eshq aamad o kard khaane khaali
Bar daashte tigh-e laa obaali
Haasel-e ‘eshq in sokhan bish nist
Sukhtam o sukhtam o sukhtam
Love entered and turned my house
It carried the sword of ‘I-don’t-care’
The outcome of love amounts to nothing but
I am burnt, I am burnt, I am burnt!
Faith does not reach perfection
without love. Qur’an 2: 165 emphatically
The believers are overflowing
in their love for Allah.
But love is something spontaneous
and not acquired. In Qur’an 2:247 it is
Allah grants His power to whom
In the words of al-Hujwiri,
near whose grave Mo’inoddin Chishti sat
in meditation: ‘Love is a divine gift, not
a thing that can be acquired by human effort
without divine grace … If the whole universe
wished to attract love, it could not. If
it made the utmost effort to repel it, it
also could not’.
Ghaaleb has expressed this fact
Love, O Ghaaleb is not controllable
This is a fire
Which neither can be kindled
Nor extinguished at will.
The Chishti shaykh Mohammad
Gisu Daraaz says:
‘Eshq wahabiye serf ast o bakhsheshi
Love is an unmixed gift and
a special boon.
The following is one of his
Love-making is not our own choice,
God crowns the head He likes.
All Sufis unanimously agree
that love is a gift of God.