Love in the Quran is a topic that is discussed in many verses and includes different types of love. Some of these will be discussed in the article below.
List of topics covered in this article:
What Are the Main Arabic Terms for Love in the Quran?
There are two main Arabic words which have been used in the Quran for love. One of them is ḥubb (حبّ) and its derivatives and the other is mawaddah (مودّة).
Mawaddah is love that is expressed in actions. However, ḥubb and maḥabbah (محبة) refer to a state of the heart. 1
God’s Love in the Quran
God’s love has been mentioned many times in the Quran. We will discuss some of these instances below.
However, before we get in to the discussion of the particular types of people for whom God has a special love, we would like to point to an important discussion and that is God’s love for all creature, believers or unbelievers.
As mentioned in the article on surah Fatiha , God is both raḥmān (رحمن) and raḥīm (رحیم). Both these words refer to God’s mercy; however, raḥmān refers to God’s general mercy and blessings that He has bestowed on all people, whether they are believers or non-believers.
However, He also has a specific mercy for the believers, and likewise among the believers He loves some more due to their actions and piety. These latter characteristics in the believers are what we will discuss below.
God’s Love for the Pure and Penitent
…إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ ﴿222﴾
… for Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean. 2
This verse states that God loves the tawwāb (توّاب). This is the exaggerated and plural noun form of tāʾib (تائب) which means one who turns to God.
Although tawbah, which literally means repentance , (توبة) is usually used with istighfār (استقفار) which is to seek forgiveness and sometimes people use these two words interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. To seek forgiveness is to seek to purify oneself from sins previously performed. But tawbah is to turn back to God and one way is through good actions. 3
Ways of doing tawbah:
- Seeking forgiveness
- Performing all the commands of God and abstaining from what He has forbidden
- Belief in all the true and right beliefs. 4
The Pure (متطهر)
The word mutaṭahhir (متطهر) in the verse is derived from taṭahhur (تطهّر) means to accept and start to be pure or in other words, to seriously abstain from foulness and return to the original state which is purity.
The greatest purity in the eyes of God is the belief in tawhid, that is, that He is one and unique, and thereafter the rest of the beliefs are also purifying. After beliefs, moral virtuous principles are also purifying, that is, to purify one’s inner self from vices and finally, the practical rules that have been legislated to reform a person’s world and Hereafter are purifying, too.
Islam accepts and speaks of two types of purification: physical and spiritual. The term that is the opposite of taharah (طهارة) or purity is najasah (نجاسة) and this latter includes things like blood, urine, feces, and so forth which can be found in the books of Islamic laws.
Some ways of purifying oneself:
- Performance of wuḍu and ghusl
- Performing good actions
- Acquiring true knowledge
God loves all these ways of turning to Him and purifying oneself and also loves their repetition. 5
Love in the Quran: God’s Love for the Muḥsinin
الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿134﴾
Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness, and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good. 6
Muḥsinin (محسنین) are those who, in relation to other people, do good to others and in relation to God, persevere in the path of God. This latter meaning has been indicated in the verses of surah Ahqaf (سورة الاحقاف) and, in fact, this meaning is the root of doing good to others or iḥsan (إحسان); since if iḥsan to others is not for God, it has no value in His eyes.
Ihsan also does not mean simply doing good to others; rather, it means performing an action well.
In conclusion, the muḥsinin are those who perform actions in the best way and without flaws; both in terms of perseverance and firmness and also in terms of them being only for God’s sake. 7
Love in the Quran: God’s Love for the Pious
بَلَىٰ مَنْ أَوْفَىٰ بِعَهْدِهِ وَاتَّقَىٰ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَّقِينَ ﴿76﴾
Yes, whoever fulfills his commitments and is wary of Allah—Allah indeed loves the Godwary. 8
What does taqwa (تقوی), that is, Godwariness, mean?
According to a narration from Jaʿfar bin Muhammad al-Sadiq (peace be on him) where he was asked what it means, he said that taqwa means God sees you ready and present besides His commands and does not see you in what He has prohibited you from. 9
Levels of Taqwa
In another narration he explains the levels of Godwariness or taqwa:
- A Godwariness in which there is nothing but a feeling of God’s greatness and kindness, losing oneself in God’s path and not seeing oneself or one’s personal needs. This level is for the special among the special servants and the elite of the chosen servants of God
- A Godwariness in which one fears God and His position of Divinity and in this level one not only stays away from that which is prohibited but also matters that are questionable or dubious. This level is for the God’s special servants and chosen ones.
- A Godwariness in which the driving force is fear of hell and Divine punishment and in this case one only stays away from that which is prohibited but not from that which is dubious and neither from mubah (مباح) acts 10 and this is the piety and Godwariness of the general people and masses. 11
Love in the Quran: God’s Love for the Patient
وَكَأَيِّن مِّن نَّبِيٍّ قَاتَلَ مَعَهُ رِبِّيُّونَ كَثِيرٌ فَمَا وَهَنُوا لِمَا أَصَابَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ وَمَا ضَعُفُوا وَمَا اسْتَكَانُوا ۗ وَاللَّـهُ يُحِبُّ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿146﴾
How many a prophet there has been alongside whom a multitude of godly men fought. They did not falter for what befell them in the way of Allah, neither did they weaken, nor did they abase themselves; and Allah loves the steadfast. 12
Patience is one of the greatest properties and states of the soul which the Quran has praised and spoken of many times. It has been mentioned in the Quran about 70 times and has even stated the following in this regard: And be patient while encountering hardship and disaster; surely steadfastness is a matter of great resolution. 13 14
According to the verse of surah Āl-i ʿImrān, what is important is performing our responsibilities and remaining steadfast on the truth; whether or not we are successful. This is because the verse says that God loves the patient and does not say that He loves the victorious. 15
Three Types of Patience
In Islamic teachings, patience is of three types:
Love in the Quran: God Loves the Mutawakkilin
وَمَا اخْتَلَفْتُمْ فِيهِ مِن شَيْءٍ فَحُكْمُهُ إِلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّـهُ رَبِّي عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ أُنِيبُ ﴿10﴾
Whatever thing you may differ about, its judgement is with Allah. That is Allah, my Lord. In Him, I have put my trust, and to Him do I turn penitently. 17
Mutawakkilin (متوکّلین) are the ones who have tawakkul (توکُّل). Tawakkul literally means to declare weakness and put one’s trust in another. 18
In the Islamic context, it means not to trust any cause except God as a person considers Him to be the only and unparalleled cause who is invincible and the causality of every cause comes from Him. As a result, it is to entrust the management of one’s affairs to Him as one has cut off any hope in apparent causes. 19
Tawakkul is the result of belief in God’s Lordship. 20
Love in the Quran: God’s Love for the Muqsiṭin
…وَإِنْ حَكَمْتَ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِالْقِسْطِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ ﴿42﴾
… But if you judge, judge between them with justice. Indeed Allah loves the just. 21
Muqsiṭ (مقسط) is one who practices qisṭ (قسط) which refers to justice.
However, the difference between this and the other word that the Quran uses for justice, that is, ʾadl (عدل), is that qisṭ refers to clear and manifest justice. This is why a scale and measure of weight is referred to as qisṭ because it visualizes justice for you so that you can see it apparently. 22
Following the Prophet Entails God’s Love
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّـهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّـهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴿31﴾
Say, ‘If you love Allah, then follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins, and Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful.’ 23
According to this verse, if we love God and want Him to love us as well, we must follow and obey the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household).
A person who loves God has no goal but that, God loves him too. However, God does not consider all love to be real. Real love in His eyes is that which is sincere and alongside accepting His religion which is the religion based on monotheism and the way of Islam.
Islam is the religion that has been legislated for the Holy Prophet and he is the one who calls towards it.
If we want our worship to be sincere and to be based on true love, we must follow this religion – the base of which is love and which crystallizes sincerity and submission, is God’s straight path, and is the fastest way to reach Him.
If we do this, then God will also love us and this is the greatest and best news for the lover of God. 24
Love in the Quran: Love for God
Another one of the aspects of love that is discussed in the Quran is the love for God. A couple of instances of this will be covered below.
Love in the Quran: the Believers’ Ardent Love for God
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ أَندَادًا يُحِبُّونَهُمْ كَحُبِّ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلَّـهِ ۗ…
Among the people are those who set up compeers besides Allah, loving them as if loving Allah—but the faithful have a more ardent love for Allah… 25
The use of the word love in relation to God is in its real sense not a figurative use to mean obedience and this is evidenced by this verse and others. It also shows that love for God has varying degrees of intensity.
The disbelievers are admonished in this verse not simply because they have divided their love between the idols they worship and Allah, the creator and necessary being, but because of what this entails. They believe that the idols can bring benefit and repel harm and they seek help from them; this stops them from obeying God.
However, the believers are praised because their intense and ardent love for none but God entails that they solely obey and follow God. 26
Love in the Quran: Love for the Holy Prophet
The praise of the believers and admonishment of the disbelievers is related to love, the consequence of which is obedience to God. Therefore, if a person loves another due to their obedience to God and because he/she invites one to God’s obedience, then the admonishment of loving other than God does not apply to this case.
Consider the following verse:
Say, ‘If your fathers and your sons, your brethren, your spouses, and your kinsfolk, the possessions that you have acquired, the business you fear may suffer, and the dwellings you are fond of, are more beloved to you than Allah and His Apostle… 27
In this verse, love for the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household) is associated with love for God and indicates that even though love for God and love for the Prophet are separate, because love for the Prophet is due to love for God and the affect of this love is obedience to him which is that same as God’s obedience, it is not admonished. 28
A People Who God Loves and They Love Him
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللَّـهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ أَذِلَّةٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَعِزَّةٍ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ يُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ وَلَا يَخَافُونَ لَوْمَةَ لَائِمٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ فَضْلُ اللَّـهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿54﴾
O you who have faith! Should any of you desert his religion, Allah will soon bring a people whom He loves and who love Him, [who will be] humble towards the faithful, stern towards the faithless, waging jihad in the way of Allah, not fearing the blame of any blamer. That is Allah’s grace, which He grants to whomever He wishes, and Allah is all-bounteous, all-knowing. 29
This verse speaks of a people and nation whom Allah loves and they love Him; in contrast to those who are mentioned at the start of the verse who turn away from God and desert religion.
The qualities mentioned for these believers in this verse are the following:
- Leniency, humbleness, and kindness towards the believers
- They are hard on the disbelievers.
- They fight in God’s way.
- They do not allow the fear of the blame of others into their hearts. 30
The reason why these attributes are mentioned is not because those whom God loves are limited to only those who have these characteristics; rather, it is due to the connection to the discussion in verses before it.
The requisite of loving God is that one must put God before everything that is connected to themselves; including wealth, status, family, and so forth. Therefore, the people whose coming is promised in the verse do not love any of the enemies of God and only love God’s special servants due to their love for God. 31
Who is Referred to as the People Who Love God and They Love Him?
According to a narration from Muhammad bin Ali al-Baqir (peace be on him), these people are Ali bin Abi Talib (peace be on him) and his followers.
Also in narrations it has been reported that in the Battle of Khaybar (خيبر) when the commanders of the Muslim army were unsuccessful in conquering the enemies’ fortresses, the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household) said: By God! Tomorrow I will give the flag to someone who God and His Prophet love and he also loves God and the Prophet, and who will bring victory. He then gave the flag to Ali, peace be on him (the next day). 32
Love in the Quran: Iman is Beloved to the Believers
وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ فِيكُمْ رَسُولَ اللَّـهِ ۚ لَوْ يُطِيعُكُمْ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْرِ لَعَنِتُّمْ وَلَـٰكِنَّ اللَّـهَ حَبَّبَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَزَيَّنَهُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ وَكَرَّهَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكُفْرَ وَالْفُسُوقَ وَالْعِصْيَانَ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الرَّاشِدُونَ ﴿7﴾
Know that the Apostle of Allah is among you. Should he comply with you in many matters, you would surely suffer. But Allah has endeared faith to you and made it appealing in your hearts, and He has made hateful to you faithlessness, transgression and disobedience. It is such who are the right-minded— 33
That faith or Īmān (إیمان) is beloved to the hearts of the believers is a blessing from God. Making faith beloved means that He has made it attractive and adorned it such that it pulls the hearts towards itself and as a result, the hearts of the believers do not easily give it up or turn away from it to other things.
And God has also made corruption and sinning and their consequences to be hateful to the hearts of the believers. 34
Love in the Quran: Love for the Ahlul Bayt (أهل البیت)
ذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يُبَشِّرُ اللَّـهُ عِبَادَهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ ۗ قُل لَّا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ…
Such is the good news that Allah gives to His servants who have faith and do righteous deeds! Say, ‘I do not ask you any reward for it except the love of [my] relatives’… 35
The verse is stating the reward for the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household) and that is love for his close relatives. This love comes back to the matter of answering the call and invitation of the Holy Prophet to Islam.
The relatives that the Prophet is speaking of in this verse are the Ahlul Bayt (peace be on them) and there are many narrations that support this.
Another set of narrations from the Prophet that have also been unanimously reported are those that guide us to turn to the Ahlul Bayt in understanding the Quran, the principles and branches of the religious teachings, and their reality, such as the Hadith of Thaqalayn (حدیث الثقلین) and Hadith of the Ark (حدیث السفینة). This would leave no doubt regarding the fact that the obligation of love for the Ahlul Bayt and establishing that as the reward for prophethood is solely to make this love a means to refer people to the Ahlul Bayt and that they become those to whom people refer for knowledge.
Therefore, the love that has been explained as the reward for the prophethood of the Prophet is, in fact, nothing beyond prophethood and the call to religion and its endurance. As a result, the content of this verse is no way contradictory to other verses that deny reward for prophethood. 36
Who are the Ahlul Bayt?
The Ahlul Bait refers to Lady Fatimah, the daughter of the Holy Prophet and the 12 infallible Imams.
Love in the Quran: Love Between Spouses
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُون ﴿21﴾
And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect. 37
One of the instances of love in the Quran is the love between spouses.
The word used here for love is mawaddah (مودة) and as mentioned, it is love expressed in actions.
Zawj (زوج) refers to a male and a female that have become a pair and in this verse refers to a husband and wife. 38
As the verse indicates, this love between a husband and wife is a Divine gift that cannot be achieved through wealth, beauty, or status. The relationship between a husband and wife must be based on love and mercy, and these are the two factors for the endurance of peace in a married life. 39
Although in the verse (since it is talking of a husband and wife) mawaddah is used for the love God placed between them, it is better that we consider it general as well. 40
Summary of Love in the Quran
As we can observe in this article, love in the Quran is discussed from various aspects. One type of love in the Quran is God’s love for the believers and since God is eternal and perfect, His love is the only true and enduring love and knowing that He loves us brings us peace of heart and tranquility, as He is always there and will never leave us alone.
Another type of love is the love that believers have in their hearts for God which can also include loving those who guide towards Him and remind us of Him like the Ahlul Bayt
A third love is the love that their hearts hold for faith in God, and finally there is the love that spouses feel in their hearts for one another.
Although of course there are other types of loves as well such as the love that believers hold for each other such as the relationship of brotherhood mentioned in the Quran which is discussed in the Quran Quotes article.
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 16, p. 250.
- [2: 222]. Yusuf Ali translation.
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 10, p. 210.
- Ibid. Vol. 2, p. 318.
- Ibid. Vol. 2, pp. 315, 317 & 318.
- [2: 195]. Shakir translation.
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 4, pp. 28 & 29; Vol. 2, p. 94
- [3: 76]. Qarai translation
- Bihar al-Anwar, Translation of Volume 67 & 68. Masjid Wali al-Asr Publications. Vol. 1, p. 292
- Acts that are permissible but have no reward or punishment attached to them. Fiqh and Fuqaha, Part 1: Fiqh, Hukm taklifi & Hukm waḍ‘ī
- Bihar al-Anwar, Translation of Volume 67 & 68. Ibid. p. 300
- [3: 146]. Qarai translation
- [31: 17]. Safarzade translation
… وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا أَصَابَكَ ۖ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 1, p. 517
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Aal e Imran, verse 146
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 20, p. 612
- [42: 10]. Qarai translation
- Ibn Manzur. (1414 AH). Lisan al-Arab, 3rd ed. Beirut: Dar Sadir. Vol. 11, p. 736
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 18, p. 32
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Shura. Verse 10
- [5: 42]. Qarai translation
- Abu Hilal Askari, Muʾjam al-Furuq al-Lughawiyya. P. 428
- [3: 31]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 3, pp. 248 & 249
- [2: 165]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 1, pp. 612 & 613
- [9: 24]. Mostly Qarai translation
قُلْ إِن كَانَ آبَاؤُكُمْ وَأَبْنَاؤُكُمْ وَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَأَزْوَاجُكُمْ وَعَشِيرَتُكُمْ وَأَمْوَالٌ اقْتَرَفْتُمُوهَا وَتِجَارَةٌ تَخْشَوْنَ كَسَادَهَا وَمَسَاكِنُ تَرْضَوْنَهَا أَحَبَّ إِلَيْكُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ…
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 1, pp. 613-14
- [5: 54]. Qarai translation
- Tabarsi, F. (1998-9). Tafsir Jawamiʿ al-Jamiʿ, 2nd ed. Translated by a group of translators. Vol. 2, p. 89
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 5, pp. 624 & 630-31
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Maʾida. Verse 54
- [49: 7]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 18, p. 467
- [42: 23]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 18, pp. 60 & 66
- [30: 21]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 16, p. 249
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Rum. Verse 21
- Qarashi, A. A. (1998-9). Tafsir Ahsan al-Hadith. Beʿthat Publications. Vol. 8, p. 193
had you quoted the surah & surah no.s alongwith the quoted ayah, it wóuld have been easier to refer to and also answer the
nonbelievers, with proper ref.