And it is known with necessity that seeking nearness (to Allāh) can only be achieved when there is a desire and love for this, and the desire and love for seeking nearness (to Him) stems from love of Him.
“Say: If you truly love Allāh, then follow me, and Allāh will love you.”
[Ālī ʿImrān, 3:31]
This āyah is also known as āyat al-maḥabbah (the āyah about love). Some of the Salaf have said, “The people claimed that they loved Allāh, so Allāh the Most High revealed the āyah about maḥabbah (love), “Say: If you truly love Allāh, then follow me, and Allāh will love you.” So this āyah indicates the proofs and evidences for maḥabbah and its fruits and benefits. So from the proofs of maḥabbah and its clear signs is: to follow the Messenger (ﷺ); and from its fruits and its benefits is: that Allāh will love you. So whosoever does not seek to follow the Prophet (ﷺ), then such a person will not attain the love of Allāh.
“O you who believe! If any of you turns back from his religion (then wait) Allāh will create a people who will love Him and He will love them, who will be soft and gentle with the Believers and harsh with the disbelievers, who will fight in the path of Allāh, and will not be afraid of the blame from the blamers.”
Here, Allāh has mentioned four characteristics of those who love Him:
Firstly and secondly, they are gentle and soft towards the Believers. It is said that this means: to be merciful, compassionate and kind. ʿAṭāʾ (d.114H) – raḥimahullāh – said, “A Believer’s gentleness for another Believer is like that of a child towards his father, or a slave towards his beloved master; and against the disbeliever, it is like that of a lion towards its prey: “Strong against the disbelievers, and merciful towards each other.”
Thirdly, Jihād in the Path of Allāh with the soul, the hand, the tongue, and with wealth and property. This is the characteristic by which the true maḥabbah is ascertained.
Fourthly, they are not afraid of the blame and reproach of the blamers. This being the truest characteristic of maḥabbah.
If the one claiming maḥabbah, whilst loving his beloved, fears the blames and reproaches or others, then this is in reality, not considered to be true maḥabbah. Allāh the Most High says:
“Those whom they call upon, themselves desire the wasīlahh (means of approach) to their Lord to which of them should be nearest. They hope for His mercy and fear His punishment.”
Here, three levels which are linked to maḥabbah have been mentioned, [i] Love, which is desiring to seek nearness to Him; [ii] al-Tawassul (seeking the means of approach) to Him, through righteous and correct actions; [iii] Hope and fear, a proof of desiring the means of approach to Him through righteous and correct actions is that such actions are done hoping in His mercy and also fearing His punishment.
And it is known with necessity that seeking nearness (to Allāh) can only be achieved when there is a desire and love for this, and the desire and love for seeking nearness (to Him) stems from love of Him. Indeed, true love for Him necessitates desiring to draw near to Him. However, the Jahmiyyah and the Muʿattilah, none of this has any value. Since, in their (false) view, Allāh does not draw near to anyone, nor does anyone draw near to Him, nor does He love anyone. So they deny life for the hearts, bliss for the souls, coolness for the eyes and highlights the delights of this world and the Hereafter. And due to this denial, their hearts became hardened, and between them and Allāh there came barriers and obstacles from knowing Him and loving Him. They do not know Him, nor do they seek to love Him, nor do they mention Him, except by negating and denying His Names and Attributes. They criticize and condemn those who make mention of the perfect and majestic Names and the Attributes of Allāh, accusing them of that which is more befitting to be attributed to themselves! And sufficient is it for one possessing knowledge and possessing a heart with life, that they view the sayings of such people with harshness, contempt and hatred; knowing that such people have disassociated themselves from the love of Allāh the Most High and from knowing and understanding His Uniqueness and Oneness (with respect to His Names, Attributes and Actions).
Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu) relates that the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said, ‘Allāh – the Most High – has said, ‘Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, I shall be at war with him. My servant does not draw nearer to Me by anything more beloved to Me than the obligatory duties. And My servant continues to draw near to Me with the optional actions, so that I shall love him. So when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask something of Me, I would surely give it to him; and were he to ask me for shelter, I would surely grant it to him.” 2