I was asked to write something about how it is to live with Love. I write it as a tribute to Dr
Zahurul Hassan Sharib.
Living with Love
Beneath the miscellany of incidentals that veil its essence,
Love lays quiescent in the heart, awaiting the eloquence,
Of words from a true book, or a divine look, to be stirred,
Into a fault consuming fire, a pyre for petty puerile hatred.
Love is the power that resides at the heart of our humanity, at the heart of our nationality, at
the heart of our community, at the heart of our family, at the heart of our personality. Every
sphere of human activity contains within it an essence and the nature of that essence is
oneness. Love is a Divine quality that is implicit not only in the realm of human activity but in
all creation, if we understand it well.
Love is the very essence of unity. It is One that is constantly and simultaneously becoming
two and constantly re-uniting to become One again. So perhaps we can call it Divinity in
constant motion of becoming and returning. The one who lives with love is one whose very
heart mind and soul have become conscious of that process whilst aware of and
participating in the physical dimension with all its differentiations. For them this is not
imaginary or conceptual, it is tangible, experiential, and actual.
We cannot meaningfully describe love itself nor should we try though it has inspired many
great utterances such as:-
Before Time was, a ray of Your beauty made manifest Your glory,
Revealed then was love, and it burnt up the world immediately.
Its two greatest signs are that of lover and Beloved. The annihilation of any distinction
between those two is the ardent desire of both; the Beloved by resistance, and the lover by
persistence. The resistance of the Beloved is there to enhance the desire in the lover till it
reaches such a point that the lover is annihilated in the Beloved – at which point there is no
more distinction and both are absorbed into love.
In some of the finest mystical love poetry, such as that of Hafiz Shirazi (quoted above), the
Beloved is therefore often described as a hard hearted, contemptuous beauty and so on; all
qualities that merely stimulate the lover to try harder to unite with the Beloved. The Beloved's
apparent aloofness stimulates the lovers desire for engagement.
Khwaja Muinuddin Hasan Chishti referred to Love as a fire which burns all that enters in to it.
Thus all distinctions of lover and beloved are absorbed into a unity; returned to their unified
source. This one can say in words, but it can only be known by direct apprehension; ‘tasting’
as the Sufis call it. The fire that appears to be burning in the lover is found to be the Beloved
actually. The lover appears active and the Beloved passive, but the ‘active desire’ of the
lover is merely the externalisation of the ‘passive' desire of the Beloved.
Another name for love as Mevlana Rumi says is – need. Thus the human body is a lover of
air and water and food. The flower seed is a lover of earth and water and nutriments. In fact
if you consider well there is no aspect of physical creation which is not in some respects a
lover and in other situations a beloved. Need is the fundamental state of creation.
To live with love implies that this constant and usually unconscious process enters into the
conscious awareness of the individual concerned – though the term ‘individual’ loses its
normal meaning at that point – as Mevlana Rumi says again – ‘When it comes to love, the
When You came this dawn, love-showering,
Bestowing another kiss in the still dark morning;
You expressed it like this; ‘Love is universal gravity,
Not a single planet, or system, or some place to be.
But a constant unwavering attraction, pulling us in.’
Futile, but required, is all the struggling and trying,
Yet, in our mind, much harder it seems to give in,
And be drawn into the ease of sweet surrendering.
In case you wonder – what is the point of all this ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ between lover and
beloved, the answer is at once very simple and profound. Consider it for a moment at a
purely physical human level. Consider the act of generation between man and woman which
many think of first when the term love is used. The consummation of desire in this case
produces an infant. When the seed ‘makes love’ with the earth and water and heat it
becomes a flower. The division of love into lover and beloved in order to reunite thus
produces a tangible physical result. Thus it is that intangible and spiritual though it is in a
sense – it produces what is tangible and physical. It makes manifest the physical universe.
Consider the planet we inhabit – it revolves on an axis does it not? What axis? Can you see
the axis, touch it or measure it? Yet on this ‘non-existent’ entity our very planet depends.
Here is an excerpt from a poem exploring the relationship of lover and beloved:
So many words of mine about You
Or are they, also, only Your words too?
Am I hiding behind them or are You?
Is there is only one, and there never was two?
The Beloved's Reply
The beginning of loving is becoming 'Me' in 'You'
To bring love into existence I became 'Me' and 'You'
Love separates and unites both 'You' and 'Me'
And between brings into being what needs be.
The Lover's Reply
You have broken my heart,
And it really, really did hurt.
What an excellent start!
Remember Jacob and Joseph's Shirt!
Mevlana and Shems (I can't tell apart)?
Nizamuddin and Amir Khusro too?
And Majnun and Laila – so very true!
And what purpose can there be
In this game of You and me?
The purpose is to bring into being
The actual fact, yes the material thing.
That is the evidence of the true love
In man and woman and heaven above.
And this talk now of you and me?
Print out the poem - you will see.
The one who lives with love is aware of spiritual ascent and descent as if it is inside him or
her self – in a similar fashion to our normal awareness of our own body’s functions. He is a
traveller within his spiritual body. Just as the physical body has a liver, heart, and other
organs there are ‘places’, spiritual stations that he can visit. These are manifest within, but
also sometimes become externalised affecting the body. Thus the spiritual traveller at
various points in his or her developments exhibits physical behaviours that are sometimes
‘abnormal'. The whirling in the music concert called 'Sama' is one such. Copious weeping
with no external cause is another. Shah Wali Ullah describes these states as acceptable in
the one who is seeking, but the one who has experience of the 'Real within the real' passes
beyond such manifestations. In fact cannot be distinguished from any ordinary person in
behaviours - except by those few who can sense the spiritual power within that person.
The holy Qur’an says;
“Do they not travel through the land so that their hearts may thus learn wisdom, and their
ears learn to hear. Truly it is not the eyes that are blind but the hearts which are within their
The one who lives with love is a traveller within, and sometimes a traveller externally. We
can read the passage as referring to either or both. The remembrance of God is called 'the
greatest thing'. The one who lives with love is not unaware of the presence of God inwardly
(Fikr), but often participates in the external life including the external practices of
remembering God verbally or silently (Zikr), or Sama anyway. Perhaps this is for the benefit
of those around. The extent of this varies. Some great mystics hold it to be important to do
so - some do not. At all events one should not pass judgement on the choices made by such
people. They are made with a knowledge of the inner life not available to most.
It is no surprise if some verse is obscure,
God alone draws back veils for the pure;
So if puzzled by these mystic themes,
Contemplate a little and then no more;
Unless in the heart, a sun rises, unbidden,
Or the moon by clouds is no more hidden.
Then, in that light, maybe you will discern,
Your own bemused reflection, of a sudden.
It is in the nature of people to think of time, or indeed life, as a kind of one-directional flow.
As a direct line from one point to another with no going back. Something happens and then it
has gone and never returns. The one who lives with love sees time in a more circular
fashion. Some like to think of it as a rose - unfolding.
A Brief Story of Time.... Overcome
Would you like a glimpse beyond Time, with me,
Only a glimpse mind! More would be too much to see,
More cannot so easily be born,
It could leave a frail mind far too torn.
Step through this mirror then and look.
There, being written, is The Book.
See there is Adam being made,
And the angels complaining and afraid.
There see Shaitan objecting to prostrate,
And here Adam with Eve, repenting too late.
Over there the Last Judgement is underway;
See great Muhammed, the beloved, learning to pray.
Over there Gabriel is giving life to Jesus, see!
There the universe is becoming what it will be,
To your left the Divine assembly sits in parliament,
Right the Abdal meet, summoned by Gabriel's intent.
See in that corner those palaces of light,
Real estate prices there are really a fright!
Out of this world, if you will forgive the joke!
The saints live there - the true inspired folk.
Over there is the Muslim Paradise pure,
And see yonder the hell fire for sure.
Way over there the Hindu heavens see,
And the Buddha's wheel and old Lao Tze.
Want a more local view? There you are, being born,
There a child, there an adult, and here, see others mourn.
Don't look too close or you will be there now!
Don't ask - it just happens that way somehow.
That circle of souls are the Holy fold, you in their midst,
With a bag over your head, wondering what you missed.
There are the seven heavens, and above Hafiz smiles,
Mevlana meets Shems Tabrizi here, and there he whirls.
And yonder see the august hall of fame
For those who in the world have made a name.
And behold there flows the 'super highway'
And before us appears the 'straight way'.
I could show you more, much more, but don't ask how,
Let the mirror cloud, and return to what you think is now
Each moment returns to its source where it continues to exist. The centre of the circle is
intense unity, the periphery a distant memory of that intense unity. The journey of life is a
journey towards the single point of unity. As we approach it we become conscious that our
entire life is, and always was, a unity; and only appeared to us a series of causes and effect.
We may bury the past in our minds temporarily but it waits for us. Success in life comes from
purifying it, not in pretending it never happened or inventing excuses to hide some sense of
Overcoming the guilt, necessarily found in looking honestly and sincerely at
oneself, is a process called Tauba - repentance. It is the first step for the would be lover.
One must check carefully the narratives one has invented for oneself; do they have the ring
of truth, or of fiction? When repentance is sincere and acted upon, forgiveness descends on
that person; then it is possible to begin to move towards that state of oneness that Love
Man is inclined to like stories, is it not so?
Of your own life you have made a story also.
It's a tale you tell yourself to get you through,
Difficult things that have happened to you.
It’s not sufficient to say, “I see it this way,
So for me it’s true!” Look deeper I pray.
Say to Truth, "How does it look to You",
And then start to build your life anew.
What is the experience of living with love? It is as if one were transmuted inwardly to a higher
level of evolution. “In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king.” Though not its original
meaning, the lovers are one-eyed in the sense that they see through the eye of oneness.
Mevlana Rumi and Shah Wali Ullah both write quite explicitly of this transformation to a
higher level; describing creation as a series of evolutionary steps. Each evolutionary step is
dependent on the preceding stage in a certain sense. Thus the mineral/chemical soul was
the first physical origination. The Divine creative power breathed into it, and the most
perfected of those chemical processes it had manifested was enhanced and took on the
functions of vegetal growth. This process continues through the vegetal soul, the animal soul
and the human soul. This process does not stop there however and the one who lives with
love is a human being who happens to have the potential to be developed to a higher level
of creation. Just as the animal cannot comprehend the nature of humanity (though some are
nearer than others), normal human experience cannot comprehend what it is to live with love
unless they are themselves amongst those transformed by divine blessing. If you
contemplate this deeply enough you will find that all those doubts connected with physical
evolution theory can be resolved.
The prophets and the true spiritual masters and guides are themselves a manifestation of
the divine process of perfecting creation. Thus it is true to say God is the guide. Only certain
individuals can be benefited specifically in this way by them. All mankind however - indeed
all creation in fact - benefits from the divine influence they serve.
At a more mundane level, in ordinary human terms, there is a transformation of the individual
who is rightly guided that can take a lifetime; or a very short time indeed to manifest. Khwaja
ibn Arabi received illumination in a matter of hours one dawn. The process takes as long as
it takes - the result is essentially the same. It is someone in whom the capacity for real love
is realised and who is thus a (often hidden) blessing for all mankind. Side effects occur such
as increased intelligence and additional skills and capacities that may show themselves but
may be concealed. Overnight Khwaja Hafiz Shirazi went from a struggling would-be poet to
be one destined to be recognised universally as a great light in the galaxy of love poets of
the world. There are many however who conceal themselves from all but their immediate
followers and even some who shun all followers or any publicity.
What is it like to live with love? If these phrases had not been overused, misused or
misunderstood I would say it is like dying and being born again; or like being blind and
starting to see. It is like living instead of just breathing. How can you imagine it? Think of that
moment or moments when you experienced a burst of love for another person; a lover, a new
born infant, a dying parent. Now visualise this extended to a daily, even hourly or moment by
moment experience of life. Then you will have an idea of the shadow of what it means to live
This was the way Dr Sharib lived, quietly, unobtrusively, day by day. This is what he taught
– not by his words of wisdom, though they were profound and inspiring enough, but directly
inside the hearts of those who followed him closely. As Mevlana Rumi puts it – “There is a
way between heart and heart”.
Sunlight on frost-frozen bare branches,
Yes, winter has its beauty also,
As, peering from beneath silver eyebrows,
Your pearl-piercing eyes used to show.
Eighteen thousand worlds shone and revolved,
In the void between me and you,
In the spring-sun we buried your winter,
But we never buried you.
Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri