Salam (Peace) Dear Anelie,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
You didn’t mention whether you are a Muslim reading the Quran for the first time as a believer to apply it to your life and recite it in prayer, or reading just for research or comparison to other Scriptures. The difference lies in the angle from which you choose to see the text, and the senses you choose to engage while reading.
You are right that if you search the Quran more carefully you’ll find a lot of very moving beautiful verses. You are also right about translations not doing the Quranic text justice. You can try reading M.A.S. Abdel Haleem’s modern English translation for a clearer picture.
The Quran is not only a book of prayer; it’s a unique book chartering a complete system for a human’s life, so it contains a wide array of information, from creed to legislation, to historic lessons, to scientific phenomena, to rules for handling domestic, social, and business affairs, thus giving Muslims a practical manual of how to run their lives according to God’s laws in the universe.
However, all of these topics are woven with fantastic literary brilliance into one solid and mesmerizing text, touching the depths of the soul, and speaking both to the mind and the heart of the reader. It’s important to engage your senses in exploring the Quran in order to get the full scale of the experience.
What About Love in the Quran?
Love is definitely one of the prominent topics of the Quran, although it is illustrated in a highly evolved, sophisticated manner, both linguistically and intellectually.
According to dictionaries, the verb “to love” in English means:
1- To have a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward (a person):We love our parents. I love my friends.
2- To have a feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person.
3- To have an intense emotional attachment to something or someone.
In Arabic, the same verb carries more than just the simple emotional meanings illustrated above, as Arabic is a very rich and complex language. Moreover, the deep shades of love could be expressed very eloquently without mentioning the word “love” at all in the way we do in English.
Expressing the manifestations of love and its obligations and responsibilities of compassion, care, esteem, respect, self sacrifice, humbleness, forgiveness, and so on, is a very beautiful form of expressing love in Arabic, the original language of the Quran.
The Quran is full of verses with practical manifestations of God’s love for His creation, and of believers’ love for God. In Islam, faith is a practical deed, not just an emotion. It has to be expressed practically in deeds as well as verbally in prayers. Consequently, you will find that in the Quran whenever faith is mentioned, it will always be coupled with “doing good deeds”.
Similarly, whenever God’s love is mentioned, it’s coupled with the practical gifts this love will bestow on believers, as the practical application of their love for God brings them closer to Him.
The Quran’s approach to human nature is balanced: it recognizes that emotions sway between positive and negative, and people are not expected to be angels who do not know weakness or negative feelings. Consequently, the Quran regulates emotions and disciplines manners, while rewarding the reader with amazing tenderness, hope, and soft emotions interwoven into the text.
Some of the most beautiful verses of the Quran that can be recited as prayers are those spoken by the prophets to invoke God, and those spoken by God to the believers detailing His rewards promised to them in this life and the next, and even to the wrongdoers, promising them forgiveness and limitless mercy if they repent and return to His path.
There are also magnificent verses with the beautiful names of God, recited to sing His praises and exalt His grace.
When a Muslim meets God in prayer, this is seen as the ultimate expression of love through humbleness and obedience from a loving respectful creature to his or her exalted Creator.
It is also seen as a chance to “talk” to God directly five times a day through reciting the Quran, as well as one’s own simple, honest, and spontaneous words pouring straight from the heart during prostration.
The same applies to all the forms of practicing Islam, whether mandated or optional, rituals or conduct. God’s answer and rewards to such honesty of feelings and sincerity of deeds is detailed in the Quran, and felt daily by millions of worshipers. What more would one need to prove a mutual love relationship?
Jeffrey Lang addressed this subject in his book Losing My Religion: A Call for Help, so let me borrow so
me of his thoughts:
Worship in Islam is holistic. Self-surrender to God is revealed more by our day-to-day conduct toward others than only by our practice of religious rites. Righteous living enhances our relationship with God.
The Quran frequently speaks of the love of God for the good-doers (2:195; 3:134; 3:148; 5:13; 5:195) the repentant (2:222), those that purify themselves (2:222; 9:108), the God-conscious (3:76; 9:4; 9:7) the persevering ones (3:146), those that put their trust in God (3:159), the upholders of justice (5:42; 49:9; 60:8), and those who struggle in the path of God (61:4).
God’s names and attributes mentioned in the Quran sum up the virtues that enable us to attain His love. The most frequently occurring names are associated with God’s attributes of mercy, compassion and forgiveness: the purest manifestations of love. Therefore, we find the relationship between the sincere believer and God consistently characterized as a bond of love.
Since God is the perfection of the virtues we should acquire, the more we grow in them, the greater our ability to get closer to Him. The more we grow in mercy, the greater our ability to experience God’s infinite mercy. The more we develop compassion, the greater our ability becomes to know God’s infinite compassion. The same could be said of love. (90;295)
In the Biblical verse you quoted, it’s clearly stated that love is an absolute, greater in value than deeds, however good, and that it is more important than faith.
In Islam, this doesn’t hold true, since faith is the supreme source of everything related to a human’s relationship with God.
Faith, therefore, is where love comes from, blooming to generate and strengthen faith, thus producing more love to fortify faith even more, and so on, in an eternal golden circle.
I hope this answers your question. Please, keep in touch.
Lang, Jeffrey. Losing My Religion: A Call for Help. Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 2004.