The Qur’an states: There are among people those who set up equals besides God, and love them as [only] God should be loved. But those who believe are more ardent in their love of God. [2:165] One can often hear certain people puzzle over why Jews, Christians, Sikhs and others, are not considered believers – given that they all profess faith in One God and love of Him.
In his all important discussion, Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751H/1350CE) explains that faith, or iman, does not just entail belief in God and love of Him. It also necessitates loving for His sake, and loving what He loves. Anything else just isn’t faith! He wrote:
‘Here there are four types of love (mahabbah) that are crucial to differentiate between: those who strayed did so because they did not make the necessary distinctions.
Firstly, love of God (mahabatu’Llah); which by itself is not sufficient for salvation from the Fire or gaining success through His reward. For the idolators, Jews, Christians and others, all love God.
Secondly, Love of what God loves (mahabbah ma yuhibbu’Llah); this is what brings one into Islam and removes him from disbelief (kufr). Those most beloved to God are the ones firmest and most committed to such love.
Thirdly, love for God’s sake and in Him (al-hubbu li’Llah wa fihi); which is a necessary upshot of loving what God loves. Loving what God loves will not be sound unless one loves for His sake too.
Fourthly, love of a thing alongside God (al-mahabbah ma‘a’Llah); this is the idolatrous type of love. Whoever loves something on par with God – not in God, for God, nor for God’s sake – has set-up a rival with God. This is the love of the idolators.
There remains a fifth type, which isn’t part of what we have been discussing; and that is the natural type of love (al-mahabbah al-tabi‘iyyah). This is where a person inclines, by nature, to whatever he finds agreeable, such as quenching thirst with cool water or satisfying hunger with food; or love of sleep, or marriage, or children. Such things are not blameworthy in and of themselves, unless they distract you from remembrance of God, or deflect you from love of Him. God says: ‘O you who believe! Let not your wealth nor your children distract you from God’s remembrance.’ [63:9] Also: By men whom neither wealth nor trade distract from remembrance of God. [24:37]’1
1. Al-Da’ wa’l-Dawa (Riyadh: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 1998), 292-3.