A study of the word "love" in the Qur'an

Hubb Allah fi al-Qur'an

Farid Mahally

One of the most compact, penetrating discourses on love is found in I John 4:7-21. The word is used 27 times in these verses. The central basis for men to love one another is rooted in the nature of God Himself. "God is love." What is accepted as commonplace in Christianity is a dim reflection in the Qur'an. While "God is great" [Allahu akbar] is a statement of faith, affirmation and expression, "God is love" [Allahu muhibba] is absent from the attributes of God. Such a profound contrast between the two religions, Islam and Christianity, demands an inquiry as to why. Since Christians are known as "the people of the book" referred to in the Qur'an, it is appropriate for us to look at the Muslim holy book to seek to discern those elements of God's character described therein. This article seeks to categorize and analyze the various Qur'anic verses that incorporate the word "love."

The translation of Abdullah Yusuf Ali has been chosen for this study, as it is probably the most popular bi-lingual version used in English speaking countries. The side-by-side English-Arabic allows for a crosscheck on the choice of English words. The translation itself tends to be interpretive and sometimes propagandistic rather than literal so occasionally the English word "love" is used without linguistic warrant. These will be noted in the paper. The writer has included within brackets the Arabic transliteration of the words under consideration so that those acquainted with the language may note the verbal or noun form. For those who do not know Arabic, at least one can note that there are various words that are used.

As noted, Christians are referred to as "the people of the book." While it would have been interesting to include the references from the large body of Hadith of the word love, it is outside the parameter of this study. While Muslims hold the Hadith in high esteem, there is controversy as to whether they bear equal authority with the Qur'an. Many hadith (traditions) state that God said thus and so. But since the witness is based on the report of a hearer, its authenticity is really a value judgment expressed by the integrity of the collector. Suffice it to say that another investigation could be made into the various uses in the Hadith. Bukhari lists 95 uses of love and 36 of loved. Muslim lists 22 usages of love and 4 for loved. Abu Dawud lists only 10 for love, one for loved. Malik's Muwatta lists love 12 times and loved 4 times. Considering the substantial amount of material in their texts, even in abbreviated form, this seems rather limited. Most of these have to do with human love or love of things and only a limited number referring to God's love. This is in distinct contrast with the Bible, which list 409 uses of love. The New Testament alone lists 223 uses.

The word love, hubb in its various grammatical forms, is used 69 times in the Qur'an. The writer has divided these into five categories:

Man's love of things.

Human love.

Man's love for God.

God's love in the negative sense, i.e. "God loveth not ..."

God's love for man.
(1) Man's Love of Things (15 times)

As one looks at the collection of verses scattered through 13 surahs, where the word love is employed, one observes that the use of the word carries a negative meaning. A repeated theme concerns those who love the world.

14:3 Those who love [istahib] the life of this world more than the Hereafter, who hinder (men) from the Path of Allah and seek therein something crooked: They are astray by a long distance.

16:107 This because they love [istahib] the life of this world better than the Hereafter: And Allah will not guide those who reject Faith.

75:20 Nay, (ye men!) But ye love [hubb] the fleeting life,

76:27 As to these, they love [hubb] the fleeting life, and put away behind them a Day (that will be) hard.

89:20 And ye love [hubb] wealth with inordinate love!

100:8 And violent is he in his love [hubb n.] of wealth.

The above theme is more fully defined in Surah 3:14

3:14 Fair in the eyes of men is the love [hubb] of things they covet: Women and sons; heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world's life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (to return to).

This emphasis on the love of things is further defined in Surah 3:92

3:92 By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love; [hubb] and whatever ye give, of a truth Allah knoweth it well.

Here again is reference to loving wealth and things, but that righteousness is attained by giving or spending [nafuq] for what one loves. Thus, these verses come closest to the Biblical injunction "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world." I John 2:15

Other verses in this category refer to:

The hesitance of believers to engage in battle:

2:216 Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love [hubb] a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.

Pride and hypocrisy:

3:188 Think not that those who exult in what they have brought about, and love [hubb] to be praised for what they have not done, -- think not that they can escape the Penalty. For them is a Penalty grievous indeed.


6:76 When the night covered him over, he saw a star: He said: "This is my Lord." But when it set, He said: "I love [hubb] not those that set." (This passage is a reference to Abraham when he rejected heavenly objects as being divine.)

Rejection of counsel:

7:79 So Salih left them, saying: "O my people! I did indeed convey to you the message for which I was sent by my Lord: I gave you good counsel, but ye love [hubb] not good counsellors!"

Warning against those who love infidelity above faith:

9:23 O ye who believe! Take not for protectors your fathers and your brothers if they love [istahib] infidelity above Faith: If any of you do so, they do wrong.

Those publishing scandal:

24:19 Those who love [hubb] (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not.

The promise of victory:

61:13 And another (favor will He bestow), which ye do love [hubb], -- help from Allah and a speedy victory. So give the Glad Tidings to the Believers.

The majority of the verses above reflect basically a negative use of the word love. It is used of loving inappropriate or wrong things. The sole positive verse concerns loving God's help and favor in victory. Are we seeing here an Arabic preference for stating things in the negative in order to reinforce a point? "There is no god, but God," uses the negative to enforce the positive.


(2) Human Love (15 Times)

(Hubb - 5 times; Mawadda - 7 times; Interpretive insert - 3 times)

The five usages of love [hubb] in the sense of human love are found in the following Qur'anic surahs:

3:119 Ah! Ye are those who love [hubb] them, but they love [hubb] you not, -- though ye believe in the whole of the Book. When they meet you they say, "We believe": But when they are alone, they bite off the very tips of their fingers at you in their rage. Say: "Perish in your rage; Allah knoweth well all the secrets of the heart."

This is referring to those outside the ranks of believers. The believers may show love to them, but this love is not reciprocated. It is only a feigned love and when the unbelievers are away, they rail against the believers.

12:8 They said: "Truly Joseph and his brother are loved [ahubb] more by our father than we: But we are a goodly body! Really our father is obviously wandering (in his mind)!

The passage refers to the Old Testament record of the jealousy of Joseph's brothers who are disturbed that Jacob loves Joseph and Benjamin more than the other sons. Here is an instance where fatherly love creates resentment in men's hearts.

12:30 Ladies said in the City: "The wife of the (great) Aziz is seeking to seduce her slave from his (true) self: Truly hath he inspired her with violent love [Hubb n.]: We see she is evidently going astray [shghfaha hubban anan].

This refers to Potiphar's wife. Here is an instance where love is described as erotic by emphasizing that it was violent or intense. The Greek language with its various words to express erotic, brotherly or real love provides a more precise definition for such cases.

28:56 It is true thou wilt not be able to guide every one whom thou lovest; [hubb] but Allah guides those whom He will. And He knows best those who receive guidance.

The occasion of this verse was the death of Abu Talib, an uncle whom Muhammad loved. This implies that Muhammad would not be able to guide everyone he loved, nor expect to do so. There would be those who would hold to their beliefs in spite of his own personal desire.


5:85 Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love [mawadda] to the Believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians": Because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.

29:25 And he said: "For you, ye have taken (for worship) idols besides Allah, out of mutual love [mawadda] and regard between yourselves in this life; but on the Day of Judgment ye shall disown each other and curse each other: And your abode will be the Fire, and ye shall have none to help."

30:21 And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love [mawadda] and mercy between your [hearts]: Verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.

42:23 That is (the Bounty) whereof Allah gives Glad Tidings to His Servants who believe and do righteous deeds. Say: "No reward do I ask of you for this except the love [mawadda] of those near of kin. " And if any one earns any good, We shall give him an increase of good in respect thereof: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Ready to appreciate (service).

60:1 O ye who believe! Take not My enemies and yours as friends [or protectors], -- offering them (your) love, [mawadda] even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the Prophet and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in Allah your Lord! If ye have come out to strive in My Way and to seek My Good Pleasure, (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) [mawadda] with them: For I know full well all that ye conceal and all that ye reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the Straight Path.

60:7 It may be that Allah will grant love (and friendship) [mawadda] between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For Allah has power (over all things); and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

The word mawadda carries the sense of love and friendship. The verbal form wadda is similar to: "to like, be fond of." Various other verbal forms convey the idea of becoming friends or to show affection. Thus the usage above conveys those expressions of friendship among men. Here is a more positive emphasis to love others. There is also the teaching in surah 5:85 that the Christians are the closest in friendship to the believing Muslim.

Interpretative Inserts

14:37 "O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: So fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with Fruits: So that they may give thanks.

The literal sense here is "induce the hearts of people towards them." The addition of the word love is by inference, but in keeping with the sense of the phrase.

3:103 And hold fast, all together, by the Rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah's favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the Pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided. [Interpretive insert]

7:189 It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, (saying): "If Thou givest us a goodly child. We vow we shall (ever) be grateful." [Interpretive insert]

It is only for completeness that we include these three verses. The word love in all cases is an interpretative insert by the translator Yusuf Ali. 3:103 implies that God's favor or grace united their hearts. In 7:189 the insertion of love is perhaps added due to the verse context of a conjugal relationship that results in a child.


(3) Man's Love for God (7 times)

(Raghban, anab, uruban - once each, interpretive insert - twice)

2:165 Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah, as equal (with Allah): They love [hubb] them as they should love [Hubb] Allah but those of Faith are overflowing in their love [hubb n.] for Allah. If only the unrighteous could see, behold, they would see the Penalty: that to Allah belongs all power, and Allah will strongly enforce the Penalty.

This is an interesting verse as the word love [hubb] is used for idolaters as well as for true lovers of God. The implication being that their love is real, but misdirected. True worshipers are said to be overflowing in their love for God. Here the noun form is used.

2:177 It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards the East or West; but it is righteousness -- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, ['ala hubbahu] for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and to practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing.

Here love for God is indicated as a motivational factor of believers along with love for kin, orphans, the needy, and others for which one spends of his substance.

38:32 And he said, "Truly do I love [hubb] the love [hubb n.] of Good, with a view to the glory of my Lord," -- Until (the sun) was hidden in the veil (of Night):

The reference is to King David who loved fine horses. Horses of high breed were brought to him to admire, but he first sought to make his evening prayers before examining the horses. This is nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament, but mention is made of Solomon's love of horses.

76:8 And they feed, for the love of Allah, ['ala hubbahu] the indigent, the orphan, and the captive, -

76:9 (Saying), "We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: No reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.

This refers to the righteous and their deeds of caring for the less fortunate.

21:90 So We listened to him: And We granted him Yahya: We cured his wife's (barrenness) for him. These [three] were ever quick in emulation in good works: They used to call on Us with love [raghban] and reverence, and humble themselves before Us.

This refers to Zacharia, his wife and John the Baptist. The expression literally means "torn between greed and fear," or "between desire and fear." Thus they called on God because they desired Him, which desire was tempered with respect.

31:15 "But if they strive to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration), and follow the way of those who turn to Me (in love): In the End the return of you all is to Me, and I will tell you the truth (and meaning) of all that ye did." [Interpolated] [anab]

This is an interpretive insertion by the translator. The expression means, "to turn repentantly to God." Or "to visit frequently." In the context it means to join those who have rejected idols and turned to God.

56:37 Beloved [`uruban] (by nature), equal in age, -- (companions of the right hand in paradise) [interpretive]

The passage refers to those enjoying the pleasures of paradise and the delights of the companions who are virgins. The phrase is somewhat difficult to render. It is composed of only two Arabic words. `uruban atraban. A possible rendering would be "true Arab companions." i.e. suitable companions for Arabs. This ethnically awkward wording may have prompted the translator to choose "Beloved (by nature)" to approximate the sense for non-Arab readers. Maulana Muhammad Ali in his translation renders the phrase loving, equals in age.

4:69 All who obey Allah and the Apostle are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of Allah, -- Of the Prophets (who teach), the Sincere (lovers of Truth), [sadiqiyeen] the Witnesses (who testify), and the Righteous (who do good): Ah! What a beautiful Fellowship! [Interpretive insert]

57:19 And those who believe in Allah and His apostles -- they are the Sincere (lovers of Truth), [sadiqiyeen] and the Witnesses (who testify), in the eyes of their Lord: They shall have their Reward and their Light. But those who reject Allah and deny Our Signs, -- they are the Companions of Hellfire. [Interpretive insert]

The preceding two verses are interpretative inserts. The translation of sadiqiyeen as "lovers of truth" is commendable, but the meaning indicates those who are righteous and faithful and so by implication they are ones who love truth.


(4) Negative - God Does Not Love The ... (22 times)

Here in this selection of verses we notice again the Arabic preference for the negative to state an opposite. While the following do not state that God hates, it certainly enforces the idea that the love of God is withheld from those who practice certain deeds or are described as manifesting a certain character. Several of the verses are repetitious and so we have the following categories.

1. God does not love the al-mua'tadeen Those involved in brutal aggression.

Those who are overstepping the boundaries or limits.

2:190 Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors [la uhibb al-mua'tadeen]

5:90 O ye who Believe! Make not unlawful the good things which Allah hath made lawful for you, but commit no excess: For Allah loveth not those given to excess [la uhibb al-mua'tadeen]

7:55 Call on your Lord with humility and in private: For Allah loveth not those who trespass beyond bounds. [la uhibb al-mua'tadeen]

2. God does not love the al-fasideen, the corrupt.

2:205 When he turns his back, his aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and destroy crops and cattle. But Allah loveth [hubb] not mischief. [alfsad]

5:67 The Jews say: "Allah's hand is tied up." Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter. Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched: He giveth and spendeth (of His bounty) as He pleaseth. But the revelation that cometh to thee from Allah increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. Amongst them We have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgement. Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth [hubb] not those who do mischief [al-mufasideen]

28:77 "But seek, with the (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on thee, the Home of the Hereafter, nor forget thy portion in this world: But do thou good, as Allah has been good to thee, and seek not (occasions for) mischief in the land: For Allah loves [hubb] not those who do mischief." [al-mufasideen]

The word al-mufasideen is actually much stronger than the translation of "Mischief," by the translator. The Arabic word conveys the stronger idea of corruption, decay, and decomposition. In the moral sense it becomes depravity, iniquity, perversion and in today's usage implies immorality. Thus, this is not referring to people who may have done mischievous things, but one who has fallen into corruption and immorality. The translator may not have been aware of the weakened sense of the word mischief in our English of today.

3. God loves not the al-kafireen, the unbelievers.

In the following verse, the intensive form of the word is used to indicate one who is an inveterate unbeliever. One who practices the rejection of truth. The use of ungrateful falls short of the intensive meaning of the Arabic word.

2:276 Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity: For He loveth [hubb] not creatures ungrateful and wicked. [kul kffar]

3:32 Say: "Obey Allah and His Apostle": But if they turn back, Allah loveth [hubb] not those who reject Faith. [al kafireen]

30:45 That He may reward those who believe and work righteous deeds, out of His Bounty. For He loves [hubb] not those who reject Faith. [al-kafireen]

4. God loves not the ad-dalemeen, the wrongdoers.

The word is related to darkness, gloominess and by extension to the heinous oppressor, the unjust tyrant. Thus the one who practices wrong.

3:57 "As to those who believe and work righteousness, Allah will pay them (in full) their reward; but Allah loveth [hubb] not those who do wrong." [ad-dalemeen]

3:140 If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) we give to men and men by turns: That Allah may know those that believe and that He may take to Himself from your ranks martyr-witnesses (to Truth). And Allah loveth [hubb] not those that do wrong. [ad-dalemeen]

42:40 The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): But if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: For [Allah] loveth [hubb] not those who do wrong. [ad-dalemeen]

5. God loves not the musarifeen, the wasters.

6:141 It is He who produceth gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety): Eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: For Allah loveth [hubb] not the wasters [al-musarifeen]

7:31 O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: Eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth [hubb] not the wasters. [al-musarifeen]

6. God loves not the boaster.

31:18 "And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loveth [hubb] not any arrogant boaster. [kul mkhtal fkhur]

57:23 In order that ye may not despair over matters that pass you by, nor exult over favors bestowed upon you. For Allah loveth [hubb] not any vainglorious boaster, -- [kul mkhtal fkhur]

4:36 Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good -- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the Companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess: For Allah loveth [hubb] not the arrogant, the vainglorious; -- [mkhtalan fkhur]

7. God loves not the proud and boasting.

16:23 Undoubtedly Allah doth know what they conceal, and what they reveal: Verily He loveth [hubb] not the arrogant. [al-mustakibereen]

8. God loves not those who boast in their riches.

28:76 Qarun was doubtless, of the people of Moses; but he acted insolently towards them: Such were the treasures We had bestowed on him, that their very keys would have been a burden to a body of strong men. Behold, his people said to him: "Exult not, for Allah loveth [hubb] not those who exult (in riches). [al-fraheen]

9. God loves not the treacherous.

8:58 If thou fearest treachery from any group, throw back (their Covenant) to them, (so as to be) on equal terms: For Allah loveth [hubb] not the treacherous. [al-kha'ineen]

10. God does not love those who are given to crime and to evil speaking.

4:107 Contend not on behalf of such as betray their own souls; for Allah loveth [hubb] not one given to perfidy and crime;

4:148 Allah loveth [hubb] not that evil should be noised abroad in public speech, except where injustice hath been done; for Allah is He who heareth and knoweth all things.


(5) God's love for Man (20 times)

Here we find a few categories of individuals who are recipients of God's love because of their deeds. One would think these positive statements of God's love would bring us a revelation of the personal and infinite love of God to mankind. What we find are statements of conditional love based on human activity.

1. God loves those who do good.

The muhasneen or those who do good deeds [hasanats]. In some contexts, it implies giving of one's money or goods for Allah's cause.

2:195 And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction; but do good; for Allah loveth [hubb] those who do good. [al-muhasneen]

3:134 Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men; -- for Allah loves [hubb] those who do good; -- [al-muhasaneen]

3:148 And Allah gave them a reward in this world, and the excellent reward of the Hereafter. For Allah loveth [hubb] those who do good. [al-muhasaneen]

5:14 But because of their breach of their Covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard: They change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the Message that was sent them, nor wilt thou cease to find them -- barring a few -- ever bent on [new] deceits: But forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): For Allah loveth [hubb] those who are kind. [al-muhasaneen]

5:96 On those who believe and do deeds of righteousness there is no blame for what they ate (in the past), when they guard themselves from evil, and believe, and do deeds of righteousness, -- (or) again, guard themselves from evil and believe, -- (or) again, guard themselves from evil and do good. For Allah loveth [hubb] those who do good. [al-muhasaneen]

2. God loves the pure and clean:

2:222 They ask thee concerning women's courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean. But when they have purified themselves, ye may approach them in any manner, time, or place ordained for you by Allah. For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves [hubb] those who keep themselves pure and clean. [al-mutdhreen]

9:108 Never stand thou forth therein. There is a mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety; it is more worthy of thy standing forth [for prayer] therein. In it are men who love to be purified; and Allah loveth [hubb] those who make themselves pure. [al-mutadhreen]

3. God loves those who are righteous:

3:76 Nay. -- Those that keep their plighted faith and act aright, -- verily Allah loves [hubb] those who act aright. [al-mutaqeen]

9:4 (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term: For Allah loveth [hubb] the righteous. [al-mutaqeen]

9:7 How can there be a league, before Allah and His Apostle, with the Pagans, except those with whom ye made a treaty near the Sacred Mosque? As long as these stand true to you, stand ye true to them: For Allah doth love [hubb] the righteous. [al-mutaqeen]

19:96 On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, will (Allah) Most Gracious bestow love. [arrahman wdan] [Interpretive insert, the thought is that God will bestow benevolence]

4. God loves those who are just and judge rightly:

5:45 (They are fond of) listening to falsehood, of devouring anything forbidden. If they do come to thee, either judge between them, or decline to interfere. If thou decline, they cannot hurt thee in the least. If thou judge, judge in equity between them. For Allah loveth [hubb] those who judge in equity. [al-muqasiteen]

49:9 If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: But if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah; but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair: For Allah loves [hubb] those who are fair (and just). [al-muqasiteen]

60:8 Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for [your] Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: For Allah loveth [hubb] those who are just [al-muqasiteen]

5. God loves those who trust Him:

3:159 It is part of the Mercy of Allah that thou dost deal gently with them. Wert thou severe or harsh hearted, they would have broken away from about thee: So pass over (their faults), and ask for (Allah's) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when thou hast taken a decision, put thy trust in Allah. For Allah loves [hubb] those who put their trust (in Him). [al-mutawakileen]

6. God loves the persevering or patient:

3:146 How many of the Prophets fought (in Allah's way), and with them [fought] large bands of godly men? But they never lost heart if they met with disaster in Allah's way, nor did they weaken [in will] nor give in. And Allah loves [hubb] those who are firm and steadfast. [as-sabreen]

7. God loves those who love Him and follow the Prophet:

3:31 Say: "If ye do love [hubb] Allah, follow me: Allah will love [ihbbikum] you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."

8. God Himself will produce a people He will love:

5:57 O ye who believe! If any from among you turn back from his Faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love [hubb] as they will love [hubb] Him, -- Lowly with the Believers, Mighty against the Rejecters, Fighting in the Way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproaches of such as find fault. That is the Grace of Allah, which He will bestow on whom He pleaseth. And Allah encompasseth all, and He knoweth all things.

9. God loved Moses:

20:39 "Throw (the child) into the chest, and throw (the chest) into the river: The river will cast him up on the bank, and he will be taken up by one who is an enemy to Me and an enemy to him': But I cast (the garment of) love over thee [muhiba minahu] from Me: And (this) in order that thou mayest be reared under Mine eye. (This passage relates the placing of Moses in the bulrushes and his subsequent adoption by Pharaoh's daughter and God's care of him.)

10. God loves those who fight in His cause:

61:4 Truly Allah loves [hubb] those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure.


The 99 names of God

As mentioned previously in the introduction, Allahu Muhibba or "God is love" is not found among the 99 names of God given in Islam. There is however, the name Al-Wadud or "the Loving One," which is found in Surah 11:90 as well as Surah 85:14. In each case the translator translates "full of loving kindness." This is interesting in itself since it indicates that this quality lies imbedded in the nature of God himself and of course would then be infinite. However, Islam is careful in stating that we cannot in any way know the nature of God. We can only know His will. The Arabic word "wadud" is related more to the area of friendship and affection. It is applied to one devoted in a relationship and expresses fondness. The word "hubb" carries a much more intense meaning and is used in its other grammatical forms for "beloved," "sweetheart," "courtship," "lover," and "mutual affection." It is also elastic, as our use of love in English, where one might express his love for sports, movies, food or other common day interests. However, any attribute when applied to God Himself then takes on an infinite value and meaning.

It is here that the Muslim reaches an impasse. The 99 names; are they to be taken as attributes or qualities of Allah? The doctrine of tawhid or the oneness of God claims priority over any other consideration of God. If one says that the 99 names are attributes of the Most High God and are then infinite, how then can God be One? If an attribute is a part of God then tawhid says that we have "shirk" or a partner with God, a heinous blasphemy against God who is One. Anything that is infinite must be God and how then can we have a multiplicity of gods?

Muslims are then driven to speak of the unity of God, but in reality they mean the "unicity" or absolute oneness of God. If God is One then He cannot have any parts. And to speak of attributes implies that God is somehow relying on His inward parts to sustain His existence. This can create misunderstanding between Christians, who are Trinitarian, and Muslims who are extreme monotheists. For the Christian, "unity" in reference to God implies a Oneness of the Three Persons of the Godhead. Any attribute of God is an expression of His nature and not simply a description of an action or command He has taken. Any action or command springs from His nature. Attributes may in no way compromise His unity. For the Muslim "unity" implies the absolute oneness of God's being. While "unicity" is not commonly used in English, Webster gives its definition as "the state of being unique." This word more accurately describes the Muslim use of unity. So any thinking of the attributes of God as being part of His nature is rejected in Muslim theology.

While we certainly concede that God is indeed unique, we contend with the Muslim in asking for a definition. "One what?" Their reply would be "One God, for God is unknowable except through His will. We can know nothing about the nature of God except through the command He has given through His prophet. We can only do His will, we cannot know Him."

Here is where the strongest point of difference is most pronounced between Christianity and Islam. The Qur'an is a revelation of God's will that is to be obeyed by His creation. The Bible is a revelation of the Person and character of God. It is here where we find what God is like and what that means in our relation to Him. God is Spirit, God is Light, God is Love, are all statements of the revelation of God's person and character. One of the problems in dealing with the attributes of an eternal God is: how was God expressing in action what was integral to His character when no creation yet existed? In other words, if God is One, who did God love when He was the only One existing? For the Christian the answer lies in the relationship that has always existed in the fellowship of the Trinity. A strict monotheism that is occupied with a number that knows no plurality cannot conceive of the inward nature of a loving God. A powerful God whose will must be obeyed in order to maintain his power, yes. But a risk-taking God who is limited by His own exercise of His nature, no.

So now we come to the crux of why we deemed it important to investigate the Qur'anic teaching on the love of God. What we have observed is that while the Qur'an tells of the love of God, in most cases it is expressed in a negative fashion, "God loves not ..." or it is based upon human conditions for its exercise. God loves the one who does good, the pure, the just, the trusting, the patient and persevering, the one who takes up arms to fight in God's cause. But where is there room for a God who initiates love in order to win over the lost and erring? Where is He who loved us while we were yet sinners? Where is there room for the one who was rich, yet for our sakes became poor so that we might be made rich? The contrast is too great to overlook. Could we not also reply that, yes, we too love those who do good and are just and demonstrate good qualities. But that would mean that God only expresses a human love if His love is based on conditions. A revelation of infinite love demands something of the extraordinary, something commiserate with the nature and character of God Himself. The cross is the only historical expression of that love.


For those acquainted with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the Qur'anic commentary of God's love is striking in its paucity, and in its human-like description of God's love to mankind. Jesus said in Luke 6:32 "But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them."

If God then only loves those who love Him, or do good, or are pure then this love is not above or beyond man's love since man also loves and appreciates such people. But a love that goes beyond the surface and loves the unlovable and seeks to win over even the most wicked and rebellious can only be a manifestation of the One who is love.

In I John chapter four, love is used some 27 times.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His one and only Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

19 We love Him because He first loved us.

20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Further, we have the testimony from God who states to His own:

"I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Jeremiah 31:3

"The Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10

One could say that Jesus is God's love expressed in History.

One final passage that emphasis that the relationship of the believer to the Lord is based in love is found in Ephesians. It is in fact the nature of God that dwells in the believer to produce love and to fill the believer with the fullness of God's presence.

Ephesians 3: 14-19
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,

17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height --

19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Thus the real goal of the believer is the personal knowledge of the nature and person of God. That Islam rejects this possibility serves only to affirm the distinction between Islam and Christianity and confirms the riches we enjoy as believers in Jesus Christ.

Themes of the Qur'an
Answering Islam Home Page