On Faith and Possessive Love
A beautiful piece titled “The Sunnah of Love” seems to be a fitting follow-up to my last post. It’s not about faith and love and strange times. Just faith and love, period. Maybe that’s the rock we need to lean on in times like these, when matters of love are so uncertain.
What especially struck me about the article was what the manner in which its subject is introduced. It opens with an account of Ali (RA) who arrived home to see his wife, the Prophet’s daughter Fatima (RA) brushing her teeth with a miswak. He is seized with jealousy for the miswak, for this inanimate object that is the point of such focus for this wife.
It’s the first time I came across such an example of possessive love since Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, in which there is a passage that aptly describes Dominique Francon’s fierce, proudly selfish desire to keep Howard Roark and what he represents pure, intact, and all unto herself:
She was not free any longer. Each step through the streets hurt her now. She was tied to him–and he was tied to every part of the city . . . She hated the thought of him on the sidewalks people had used. She hated the thought of a clerk handing to him a package of cigarettes across a counter. She hated the elbows touching his elbows in a subway train.
We revere a person we are in love with or idealize as people revere saints, thinking about the things they touched, thinking about the mark they leave on the world and how the world so carelessly impinges upon them. The rituals, the objects, of sainthood that seem so arbitrary are born out of this love for what is holy. We can’t all be saints. We might even be skeptical of sainthood. But it’s humbling to be in a state of that possessive love, to be yearning not just for someone rare and precious, but someone who embodies some higher ideal we are reaching towards. We do it in a way that resembles the way we reach for the divine. Or perhaps we reach the divine through these temporal yearnings.
May Allah not let us needlessly long for someone who is not there, like Dominique longs for Howard. May Allah bless us with beautiful moments like Ali and Fatima in which we fiercely, possessively love what is already ours by virtue of His bounty.