We live in a world in a constant chase after love. Since a tender young age, we buy the idea that love is something to be sought and earned. We look for an ideal partner to “complete” us, rather than complement us. We are fed with romantic stories, songs, movies, and sexualized content in our day-to-day lives. Yet, despite our obsession with love, we are getting more depressed. Why is this? What is wrong with society today?
Years ago, I read a thought-provoking story about an anthropologist who visited the Hopi tribe. This culture sings a lot about rain. The anthropologist asked the chief why, who explained that rain is scarce in their land. He asked if this is the reason why we sing so much about love in the West.
I realized that society’s constant chatter about love is not proof of a loving society, but a symptom. As a hungry person notices every restaurant, so we, starved for love, notice everything related to romance. I wanted to get to the heart of this human problem, by asking myself why I and so many other feel lonely and unloved. Like many people, I also “chased” after love, and found myself caught up in a wheel of heartbreak and disappointment. I felt lonely even amongst people, and was someone needy, who lived off of other people’s love and constant reassurance.
When I embraced Islam, my heart began to undergo a silent process of healing. I experienced a phase of family difficulties and a depression, and hit rock-bottom. I sought solace in the Qur’an, and transformed my dependent personality traits into a dependence on God, as He and His perfect Word were all I had. And slowly, God turned my weakness into my strength, and I began to discover the meaning of love.
The Qur’an contains the answers to every human problem, including the one I was facing. All too often, however, God’s pithy words are overlooked due to their sheer simplicity. Sometimes, the best advice is the simplest kind, no matter how much we complicate things. These such words of counsel that I overlooked time and time again, happened to be the answers I was looking for. They include patience, and gratitude… concepts underscored greatly in the Qur’an.
فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِي وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ
So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me. (Qur’an 2:152)
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, God is with the patient. (Qur’an 2:153)
For a while, I felt “annoyed” by all the verses about gratitude, patience, and reflection upon the simple things in life. They spoke the most to me, because I knew they were a light to my darkness. I had a phase of hurt pride and anger. Alhamdulellah, though, the Qur’an began to peel away the onion layers of my ego… to prepare me for my miracle.
With my pride lowered, I decided to take God’s advice. I accepted His challenge to enumerate His blessings upon me, and to reflect upon the sky, the earth, and nature. The Qur’an invited me to really stretch, by including gratitude for what I perceived as “the bad.” While writing my meticulous list, I couldn’t finish. I couldn’t even finish listing my morning blessings, which already filled a page. I couldn’t go beyond, without prostrating to God in total humiliation. My miracle occurred during this voluntary sujoud, during which I gained profound insights.
The problem with our society is not that we are less giving of love, but that we are less receptive to it.
All the blessings that you and I enjoy are each a called a “sign” in the Qur’an. A sign of what? I don’t presume to know the answer, but I can tell you my observation: they are each a sign of love. I began to see the world in terms of this love, and felt as though I got a pair of “spiritual” lenses. Everything we have is a message of love from God. We all have millions of “unread” messages from Him, multiplied by our number of days of life. Have you checked your spiritual inbox today?
I know, I sometimes forget, too. And yet, God loves us all the same. He keeps waking us up every morning. He keeps feeding us and giving water to drink. He keeps loving us. Whether we are believers or not, whether we are grateful or not, we are never untouched by the rays of God’s grace.
The next day, I undertook a somewhat different challenge in my new life of gratitude. I wanted to try being grateful for just people. I practiced by thinking to myself, “Alhamdulellah!” each time I saw another human being, with a comfortable sense of leisure. I know that in God’s perfectly crafted plan, no person we see in our daily lives is there by accident. My results were that I felt a sort of bond, even love, for people I saw for the first time, simply by acknowledging their presence and thanking God. (Do people not feel lonely because they don’t acknowledge one another, but instead hide behind their smartphones?) At the end of the day, I no longer felt lonely, but an equal and a part of something large. As human beings, we are all Connected.
We don’t need to look for love; it has been with us all this time.
May God bless you, heal your heart, and open it to a wonderful and happy life full of love, ameen.