The First of Seven Discourses on Hubb,
21st July 2007,
Masjid Mahmoud, Constantia, Cape Town, South Africa

I would like, inshallah, over the next few gatherings of Dhikr to look at some of the technical language of Tasawwuf, and some of the framework of the Suluk of the Sufi on his Path.

Tonight we will make an introduction to it by discussing three terms, and then, properly speaking, we would begin looking at the Ten Stages of Love as it is defined by the great Sufis and ‘Arifin in Islam.

There are three terms I want you to become acquainted with. The first is Mahabba, which is affection. Mahabba derives from the root word Hubb. Hubb is, in its root meaning, a seed. It is a seed which lies embedded in the ground and while the rain comes on it, it does not move. The sun comes on it and it does not move. The winter comes on it and the summer comes on it, and there is no change in it. Once that not-changing is established so that the summer and the winter are the same for it, and the rain and the sun are the same for it, at a certain moment it is ready to sprout, and from it come the green shoots and the leaves and the fruit.

This affection does not change. Absence or presence, pain or pleasure become the same. So when the time comes it begins to sprout with its life. The Sufis say that this word Hubb has two letters: Ha and Ba. Ha is the last letter of Ruh – spirit, and Ba is the first letter of Badan – body. So it is said that Hubb is where these two come together – the Ruh and the body, and between these two letters, separating them, there is a Barzakh which is love. It is something that comes between the incompatibility and the ‘un-meetability’ of Ruh and body.

The other term we shall look at is ‘Ishq. ‘Ishq appears in many Diwans and much of the literature of the Sufis, and in the writings of the great scholars of Tasawwuf. ‘Ishq derives from ‘Ashiqa, and ‘Ashiqa is also a term used for a creeper, whose other name in Arabic is Liblab. The creeper grows and entwines itself around a tree and slowly, slowly it covers all its branches and it takes from the tree its leaves and its fruit until the leaves turn yellow, and it completely destroys the tree until it becomes the tree. ‘Ishq is this term for ardent love, and it is one of the key terms of Tasawwuf.

We are going to look at Ten Stages of Love, and prior to the Ten Stages we have what is called Muwafaqa. Muwafaqa is Compatibility. Imam al-Ghazali says that Muwafaqa is the prior condition of the Path of Love. In other words, you have to be compatible with it. It suits you. This is part of the secret of the Khatam, of the Destiny. The Destiny is a hidden thing, but at the same time it of course manifests through events – the event of the person and the event of the action. Allah says in Surat as-Saffat (37:96):

Allah is the Creator of you and your actions.

So it is a secret of the Destiny which is hidden even in the genetic pattern of the individual. For example, Sayyiduna Yusuf, ‘alayhi salam, and his brothers are from the same father, and yet they are not the same. There is something in Yusuf which makes him beloved by Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.

The sign of Muwafaqa on the person, according to Imam al-Ghazali, is that they love with the Love of Allah, and they hate with the Hatred of Allah. This is the command of Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who said, “O Allah! With those You hate I have put an enmity between them and I.” So you love what Allah loves and you hate what Allah hates. This means that already you have this Compatibility, because in this very first stage you are ready for the encounter with Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, with illumination, with entering into states and establishing yourself in Stations by your knowledge of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala – because you are established in being compatible. You love what He loves, and you hate what He hates.

These are the beginning terms which will allow us to look at the Ten Stages of Love: Mahabba, which transforms into ‘Ishq in its extreme ardent love, and underlying it is Muwafaqa – Compatibility. Inshallah, with these as our guide-posts we will look at these subjects further.