Love, Longing, Intimacy, and Contentment; Book XXXVI of The Revival of Religious Sciences by Imam Al-Ghazali (Amazon, Public Library)

Praised be God, Who has exalted the hearts of His saints above all concern, for the vanities and the glamor of this world, Who has purified their inmost beings from regard for anything but His presence, Who has singled out their hearts for devotion on the prayer rug of His grandeur and disclosed to them His names and His attributes so that they shone with the very fire of knowing Him, Who then revealed to them the splendors of His face until they burned in the fire of His love, and Who then concealed from them the essence of His majesty so that they wandered astray in the desert of His glory and His might! Then, whenever they trembled at a glimpse of His essential majesty, He darkened it with astonishment as dusts the surface of both reason and perception. At last, when they were about to give up with despair, they heard a summons from the pavilions of beauty: “Patience! O you who despair of gaining the truth because of your ignorance and your haste!” And so their hearts remained suspended between rejection and acceptance, between denial and attainment, at once drowned in the sea of knowing Him and scorched in the fire of loving Him.


Love of God is the utmost goal among the stages and the supreme summit of the steps. There is no stage beyond the grasp of love that is not one of its fruits and one of its consequences, such as longing (shawq), intimacy (uns), contentment (ridā), and the like; nor is there prior to love any stage that is not preparatory to it, such as repentance (tawba), patience (sabr), and renunciation (zuhd), and the like. Attainment of the other stages is rare and yet, they are possible and hearts are not wholly without hope of them; but even the believe in love of God the Exalted is so scarce that one scholar even denies that it is possible. He states that love “has no meaning apart from persistent obedience to God the Exalted and that genuine love is inconceivable except between the same genus and species.” When such as he deny love, they also deny intimacy and longing and the pleasure of secret colloquies (munājāt) and all the other concomitants and effects of love. For this reason it becomes necessary to lay the whole matter bare.