As I continue to listen to Gotye's "Somebody I Used to Know," the beginning stanza struck me even more deeply than before:
Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it's an ache I still remember
The key phrase for me was: "But that was love and it's an ache I still remember."
Indeed, love with another human being can cause tremendous fulfillment and comfort. But, it can also cause significant pain, especially when love goes wrong and two people break up and go their separate ways. Yet, there is a love that can never hurt, a love that can only fulfill and make you stronger. When filled with this love, it will bring a peace that Kings and Emperors would spend their entire fortunes to obtain: the love of God.
Yet, what do I know - as a Muslim - of the love of God?
Indeed, there is a widespread perception that the God of Islam is a mean, vindictive deity, one who demands violence and belief upon pain of death. That is based, I am sure, upon the actions of extremists who claim that God tells them to kill, murder, maim, and sow mayhem. Yet, these assertions are completely incorrect and fallacious. The God of Islam is overwhelmingly a God of love.
Yes, there is no verse in the Qur'an that says: "God loves you." Moreover, it seems that His love is conditional:
Say [to them Muhammad]: 'If you love God, follow me: God will love you and forgive you your sins: for God is oft-forgiving, most merciful.'" (3:31)
Yet, when one reads the Qur'an, it is quite clear that, a priori, God loves us.
Read this verse of the Holy Scripture:
How can you refuse to acknowledge God, seeing that you were lifeless and He gave you life, and that He will cause you to die and then bring you again to life, whereupon unto Him you will be brought back?" (2:28)
The operative word is kufr in this verse. Many Muslims (and detractors of Islam) translate this word as "disbelief" or "infidelity." Yet, this word actually means "refusal to acknowledge the truth" or "ingratitude." Thus, the verse can also be correctly translated as "How can you be ungrateful to God, seeing that you were lifeless and He gave you life..." The act of His giving us life when we were dead is one of selfless love.
What were we before God brought us to life? Absolutely nothing. God asks a question in the Qur'an:
Has there [not] been an endless span of time before man [appeared - a time] when he was not yet a thing to be thought of? (76:1)
The answer is clearly yes. Yet out of this nothingness, God gave us the breath of life, even though we have done nothing for God or to God to deserve this incalculably precious gift. Is this nothing but an act of tremendous love?
In addition, once we are brought into this world, we are given complete free will, despite the fact that we are eternally indebted to the Lord for His gift of life:
And say: 'The truth [has now come] from you Lord: let then, him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it. (18:29)
Given that we have said free will, it is inevitable that we will sin and disobey the Everlasting Life-Giver. Yet, when that happens, He showers us with His soothing mercy:
Yet, [withal] thy Sustainer is the Truly Forgiving One, limitless in His grace. Were He to take them [at once] to task for whatever [wrong] they commit, He would indeed bring about their speedy punishment [then and there]: but nay, they have a time-limit beyond which they shall find no redemption. (18:58)
But pray God to forgive [them]: behold, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. (4:106)
Tell My servants that I, I alone, am truly forgiving, a true dispenser of grace. (15:49)
Say [to them Muhammad]: "[Thus sayest God:] "O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of God's mercy: behold, God forgives all sins - for, verily, He alone is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace." (39:53)
Say [to them Muhammad]: "Unto whom belongs all that is in the heavens and earth?" Say: "Unto God, who has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy..." (6:12)
Not only that, but our Lord is so near to us, ready and waiting for us to reach out to Him:
When My servants ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way (2:186)
It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein (50:16)
Is this not all a manifestation of the love of God? Is this not clear proof that the basis of the relationship between God and humanity is one of mutual love? The verses I quoted above are but a smattering of all the passages in the Qur'an that mention God's mercy. From where does such mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness come? Is it not from love? It is, indeed.
Furthermore, among the many attributes of God mentioned in the Qur'an, love is one of them:
And He alone is truly-forgiving, all-embracing in His love (85:14)
And when this love envelopes you, when God's love embraces you, it is a feeling that is nigh indescribable in its beauty. It is as the warm rays of the sun, which bring joy, contentment, and fulfillment. His love is like an oasis in the heat and desolation of a desert long abandoned by water. God's love is the quenching flow of water to a throat parched from thirst; the loving arms of a mother reaching out to her crying child; the soothing drops of rain bringing life to the dead earth. God's love is the only thing that can truly fulfill the human heart, however human beings may try to fulfill said heart with other material things.
God's love is unlike any other, and contrary to the narrator of this song, His love could never ache. It can only soothe, comfort, and bring peace.