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Books and Documents ( 6 May 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Relationship Between Religion and Love

By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam 

06 May 2020 

The Wings of Love

Author: Mushtaque B Barq

Publisher: Kitab Mahal, Publishers and Distributors, Kashmir, India

Year of Publication: 2019

Pages: 251     Price: Rs 1199 

Love is the essence of religion. Every faith intends that its followers develop the traits of love. Love is not supposed to remain confined within narrow confines of one’s religion, region, or community. Love is to be selfless, transcending any narrow boundaries that can limit its reach. The relationship between Religion and Love is the least discussed theme. In the jargon of legal jurisprudence, sectarianism, prejudice and hate, love is rendered oblivious from the mainstream. Sufis among others discuss, engage and articulate the narrative of Love among Muslims. 

The versatile writer, Sufi scholar and translator Mushtaque B Barq in his book The Wings of Love, deliberates the theme of love in Islam, particularly in the context of Sufi mystics. In his Foreword to the book, an important contemporary scholar of Kashmir, Nazir Ahmad Qadri, very well observes “The same principles of eternal goodness and eternal truth have been propagated by the Divine souls of the world called Auliya Allah (The friends of Allah).” (P-10-11). Qadri adds, “In English no book on mysticism has been written by a Kashmiri so far. In our frivolous opinion, Mr Barq’s book The Wings of Love is the first English book on mysticism ever produced in Kashmir.” (P-15) The book is a pioneering attempt by a scholar to discuss Sufis and the element of love in their discourses. 

The book is divided into small, short chapters each discussing a different topic with brevity. The terms, theories, concepts and metaphors that Sufis use to describe and reach to a conclusion are invoked by Barq to make the reader understand issues of importance. Meditation, Muraqaba, candle, flame, moth are invoked regularly to understand love, its stages and perils. Candle sometimes is replaced by the fire of lover, moth by the eyes of lover and blistering fire exemplifies something that wipes out the distinction of a lover. Different usage of terms by Sufis is used to depict the similar emotions. It is pertinent to mention that when Sufis talk about Love it is related to the transcendental reality of Allah, as mortals cannot be a focus for such divine love. Empathy, fellow feeling, overcoming the vices are the by-products of such love. The faith that develops as a result contains love as an essential element. 

Barq does not remain confined to old and traditional themes of Sufism, but we find a variety of new topics that he discusses in relation to Love and Sufism. Regarding educationists and teachers, he explores a new dimension, “To be a teacher is to read your own book before suggesting authors to your students, allow them to read your own book before suggesting authors to your students, allow them to read their own text, show them how to open their own book of life that is what education demands of you as a teacher.” (P-61). Appreciation, gratitude and not taming hatred for others are what Love creates in one’s soul. Fana in Sufi terminology aims at transformation of self or liberation from the conventional self that is full of instinctual vices and satanic traps. Barq many times relates his own experience while discussing various aspects of love. 

Barq offers self-help aiming at discovering ourselves, “I have a strong faith in self help. If we manage to use our sources in the dark room of imagination and realization, we have a chance to eternalize our own art.” (P-120). It is the desire to help others without personal gains, which lies at the heart of Sufism. 

Barq does not remain aloof from day to day concerns, as his views on politics can be read between these lines, “Under this status, one has to follow the shades and shadows of the political saints with made-up scripts and solutions. They fail and fail miserably when challenged by collective consciousness and public demands. They expose their disease of forced bondage aimed to enjoy the luxury of power and possession. And to save their skin, their desires are coated with U-Turns and modifications.” (P-136) 

Most of the humans are selfish and given an opportunity they will stoop low to compromise for anything, as Barq articulates about the sad state of affairs, “Our cries are what we are, a replica of our persona. We raise the voice when we are suppressed, but we lower the pitch when we are getting a benefit. Our cries too have learned the trade of life; they have become like us, hypocrite and opportunist.” (P-140) He further laments about the saga of disasters, vices and criminal acts that men have inculcated in his poem titled Pity the Man (P-147-149). Given this hedonistic opportunism, violence is the order of the day with peace trying to find its repositories! 

Other themes like terrorism, targeting a particular religion (read Islam) by media and how to overcome this stereotype is touched too. Wine as a metaphor in Love is discussed. Giving up attachments is essential for anyone who intends to attain various statures in spirituality. When it comes to attachments, most of us are concerned about the material aspects of it but Barq has added to it a new dimension, “One of the most difficult attachments to let go off might be your attachment to your viewpoint, belief and judgments.” (P-191) 

Similarly his views about Fana and Baqa are unique too, “If a person thinks Fana and Baqa are wujudi and removing man’s Ta’ayyun I Wujudi, says that man will unite with the real being who is free from Ta’ayyun and from likeness and that man himself will cease to exist and then will exist eternally with Allah, he becomes a Zindiq. Fana means to forget everything other than Allahu Ta’alanot to set one’s heart on others and to purify one’s heart of all one’s wishes. And Baqa means man adapting himself to Allah’s will and adapting his wishes to Allah’s wishes. 

Mansur Hallaj was executed for asserting his identity with God.” (P-205). 

About the spirit of mystical Sufism, Barq feels that its narrative is to be translated in the language of feelings, “He walked over the bridge and found his books being re-ordered by men whose faces were issuing radiance of love, he found all his books being translated into the language of feelings. He found his last manuscript had left on the table in the balcony unedited, untouched and unread.” (P-227) 

The style of his writing is mesmerizing and even when speaking about life and death, his style remains one of lyrical prose, “The calendar on the desk before my very eyes turned into a sheet of paper, virgin and unadorned, popping up just one date, yes only one date encircling my first cry, and behind that date, there was another date I failed to read. Perhaps the date of my death. My future, my end.” (P-232). 

The manner in which Barq writes about the mundane affairs of life and connects them to reality is indeed unique, beautiful and passionate. How he connects baker shop, winters, absence of electricity and relates it to themes of love and Sufism speaks about the intellectual agility and power to summarize things. As is put very succinctly by Rafi Ahmad Masoodi in his Afterword, “This most beloved word in Islam, Love is rarely discussed in the real perspective by the stakeholders. It is rarely mentioned on the pulpits and granted admission within walls where Islamic discussions dominate.” Barq through this important work has filled this void. He needs to be appreciated and lauded for his prolific writings particularly related to Mysticism.  

An occasional columnist for, M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir 



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