24/12/2013 A.D. 21/02/1435 H.
An interview with: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Translated by: Manal Samhat
Q: Love is an emotional psychological phenomenon that is a prelude to or the result of various inter-human relations, especially when it comes to the relation between man and woman. In your opinion, what is love? What are its kinds? And how could be reflected via behavior?
A: Love is an act of attraction between humans, through which one shares a state of spiritual and emotional integration with the other that sometimes might reach the level of fusion, where the essential source of relief or deprivation becomes restricted to whether the other is present or not.
Love is represented by various forms. One of these forms is spiritual love that is based on the valuable traits of the beloved, so we would love the hero, the generous, the devoted, and the knowledgeable…etc. This kind of love is a feeling that fills the mind first and then reaches the heart, moving in the line of respect and openness to the other.
Another form is the sensual love that is instinctively aroused by the beauty features of the other, just as a man loves a woman or vice versa, for this kind of love could be based on a subconscious instinct that would lightly trigger this feeling that the couple would not sense until they reach a high level of intimacy and spiritual connection between one another. Therefore, without knowing the relation would take a sexual turn, rendering it hard to have an innocent friendship relation between the man and the woman, for friendship would eventually turn into a physical relation after it had been a rational or spiritual one. Moreover, in certain cases of psychological disturbance, the instinctive love might be driven away from its natural course to be projected on someone of the same sex, where a woman might fall in love with another woman, just as the case of lesbians, and a man would in love with another man, just as the case of gay men; a reality that was prevalent in the past and is still present nowadays.
Another form is the spiritual love which is embodied in the love of parents for their children and man's love for his friends and relatives…etc. This kind of love is based on the instinct, for man would be attracted to whoever he feels there is a bond with, for example: the bond of parenthood, friendship, and blood relation. It is natural that this kind of love would be expressed in caring for the other, as well as embracing and defending him, and offering him all what he likes and desires…etc.
Q: Plato says that love consists of two units that come together, shake hands, and encourage one another with each preserving its independence. Do you approve of such a definition for love?
A: It is right to say that love consists of two units, considering that when love is mutual, it would be formed from the feelings of the man towards the woman, and the feelings of the woman towards the man; the feelings that each would have experienced before would meet and intermingle at a later time, forming the one unit called love. However, this unit does not lead to the loss of independence of each of them, for any party may at any time reconsider his feelings towards the other and these feelings might even come to an end upon certain changes or factors. Moreover, this independence might not be preserved at all times, especially in love cases where the lover falls into the beloved to an extent that he might lose himself and entity in the other as a result of the dominance of his emotions and affection.
Q: What is the importance of love in the marital life with respect to the relation between the couple themselves, and between them and their children?
A: Love is one of the most important basis on which humans build their relations; being an affectionate attraction to the other who is existentially independent, and being a need to connect to the other; the human being who is the most important element of the external world.
As we have previously mentioned, there are many kinds of love that extend to reach paternal love, maternal love… Moreover, the nature of elements that stimulate the feelings of love in people are also quite a few, for some might be stimulated by the beauty of the other, others might be stimulated by his morals, and so on. Love, whatever its stimulants were, drives the lover to attach himself to the beloved, be he a friend, a relative, or an employer.
Therefore, love between man and woman is an important factor for solidifying and cementing the marital relation, provided that it is not an illusion caused by the innate instinct, for if this was the case, love would become cold as the instinct that gets satisfied upon the sexual contact with the partner becomes cold; thus, turning marital life into a routine. However, if the couple experience love as a mutual spiritual affection, this feeling would help in breaking the barriers between each other; thus, they would entirely open up to each other in their marital relation, as in the wonderful exemplar mentioned in the Holy Quran on the relation between man and woman: "They are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them," (02:187), meaning that each of them would surround the other the way the apparel surrounds the body from all its sides; thus, completely fulfilling his needs, desires, and feelings.
It is natural that the mutual love between a couple nourishes and develops their life, and encourages them to offer mutual sacrifices for the sake of relieving one another and developing their relation. Moreover, the marital relation established on love could be positively reflected on the relation between the parents and their children, for in this case, the parents' emotions would naturally overwhelm the children and participate in creating an ambience of accord and emotional harmony between family members; which would be reflected on the way each individual carries out his responsibility within the family. The following verse signifies this ambience of harmony and accord: "And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect," (30:21), where Allah laid emphasis on cordiality which He referred to by love and the realistic way with which each views the other which He referred to by mercy so that they would understand the circumstances, expectations, and feelings of each other; things the love that each holds for the other creates and nourishes. The impact of love on marital life is one, be it found by the husband or the wife, and the fact that the marital relation is in need for love does not discriminate between man and woman for as much as a man needs emotional embrace, the woman as well is in need for it, so as to confront life's hardships and responsibilities.
Q: How could a couple deepen their love feelings after marriage?
A: When we talk about love being a human feeling that joins between a man and a woman, rather than an instinctive feeling that attracts a female to a male and vice versa, then everything related to this feeling becomes subjected to the rules that govern love as a human feeling in general. Therefore, the factors that make a man's love to a woman or a woman's love to a man grow stronger are the same factors that deepen the human's love to any other human being. As a result, the act of highlighting each of the couple's positive and lovable traits and acquiring more of such traits to achieve a high level of harmony with the partner, at the spiritual and human levels, becomes the actual means for further attaching the couple to one another.
The presence of this kind of love between couples is the only guarantee for establishing a strong, deep, and everlasting relation between them; whereas love that is based on temptations and lust, knowing that this is the kind of love that is prevalent in love stories between men and women in general, cannot be deep and strong and would not last. This is because lust itself often cools off once it is quenched and satisfied, and it tends to look for other means to satisfy it. Actually, this is what would lead to treason or coldness between the couple; thus, destabilizing the relation and even tearing it apart; a thing which would not happen in a relation based on love and mercy, since every party would feel that the other completes him. Therefore, if the sexual relation between them comes to a halt, the relation itself would not freeze, just as is the case with the married elderly couples who love each other, despite the fact that their sexual desire turns off, leaving behind only their human relation that grows with time.
Q: On the fourteenth of February, the French and Americans hold big celebrations for Valentine's Day, where the bachelors celebrate this occasion and gather around in public squares to exchange kisses and gifts…etc. What is your view on dedicating a day of the year for celebrating love, knowing that this concept is widely circulating in our communities recently?
A: I believe that this kind of celebrations is rigid and dull, for love is a human state that man experiences vitally and vividly in his life; therefore the act of restricting and limiting it to a certain day, or occasion, or person actually stifles it. As a matter of fact, what people get accustomed to practicing loses its meaning at a certain point, and every means of celebrating Valentine's that people get used to doing, such as hugging and kissing and the like, turns into a dull thing that does not represent the deep and spontaneous sense of love, keeping in mind that these means of celebration represent to some people nothing more than an opportunity to satisfy their lusts. Valentine's Day does not create love, and I do not even believe that this day is worth being what actually represents and embodies love, for a special intimate gathering between a couple could be a source for living love that is bigger and far more important than gathering in the public squares to celebrate and kiss one another. This is from a general point of view.
As for the Islamic point of view, actually Islam does not approve of many of the aforementioned celebration styles, for they contradict with the legal Islamic lines in their form. As for the content, they actually represent celebrations that add nothing to the human relation between a man and a woman, a boy and a girl, or a human and any other human.
Valentine's Day is merely an occasion of celebration that once celebrations end; everyone would go back to their private matters, as if nothing had happened.
Q: Do you not think that celebrating such an occasion holds any positive aspect whatsoever?
A: Love is a sense that the human experiences at a daily basis in many of his experiences and human relations, and not only the relation between man and woman. Therefore, focusing on one definite and limited form of love and making it a symbol of the wide love that includes all the human feelings people hold for each other and for life and the homeland, and Allah, the Creator; which is the most sacred and most supreme kind of love, would not serve love, especially when it is represented by the image chosen to celebrate it in the West, for it is closer to being an instinctive celebration than a human one.