Transcript of video posted today on YouTube. Find the video here.
Dr. Safiyyah Ally: I understand there are many verses where God is described as Loving. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Dr. Shabir Ally: There are many verses in the Quran where God is described as loving. The Quran mentions that God is Forgiving, and as one translator puts it, Full of Loving Kindness. Another verse in the second chapter of the Quran says that God is Tender and Merciful towards human beings. Muslims scholars explain that this means God has what is called Compassionate Love for all His creatures in general, and for human beings in particular.
Safiyyah: Dr. Shabir, I notice in the Quran that there are categories of people that are described as beloved by God. Can you tell us what those categories are?
Shabir: Yes, the Quran mentions several categories of people that are particularly beloved by God. God loves the muhsineen, doers of good or generous people (it can be translated both ways). And this is mentioned again and again throughout the Quran. God loves the sabireen, those who are patient. God loves the those who put their trust in God. God loves the mukhsiteen, those who are just and fair. God loves people who purify themselves, and this could speak to both internal and external purity. Basically, God loves good people.
Safiyyah: Why do you think it's mentioned that God loves these individuals in particular?
Shabir: In order to encourage people to be of these categories, to be good, to be just, to be fair, to put their trust in God, to be patient in the face of calamities and disasters and things like the COVID pandemic that we are facing now.
Safiyyah: I also noticed that in the Quran that there are some categories of people that God does not love. The Quran doesn’t mention that God hates anyone, but are there some people that God does not love?
Shabir: The Quran says that God does not love those who are oppressors, those who transgress limits, and those who are treacherous. And God does not love the sinner, that is, the person who not only disbelieves in God but is committing sins. So again, we get the impression that just as on the one hand, God loves the people who are doing good, on the other hand, God does not love people who are doing bad stuff.
Safiyyah: Dr, Shabir, how do we grab onto that love and allow it to illuminate our lives? How do we ensure that we're not one of those in the category that God doesn't love?
Shabir: That’s a very important point, because God invites us in the Quran to love Him. The Quran says that if people do not shape up, God will replace them with people who love Him and who He loves. So there will be a mutual relationship of love between God and His people. And we want to be those people. God is inviting us to love Him. So how do we get that love? One verse of the Quran in the 3rd chapter, the 31st verse, says to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): Say, if you love God, then follow me. So by following the prophet Muhammad, that is one way of cultivating that love and even expressing that love. If we love God, we want to please God. And God sent a model for us and said, follow this man, and that will be your way of pleasing me.
Safiyyah: Dr. Shabir, is God's love conditional or does it extend to all people? Because I noticed we’re talking about categories of people that God loves, but what about the rest of the population?
Shabir: God loves His creatures in a basic way. But then among His creatures, He naturally loves those who comply with His commands and fulfill the purposes for which He created them much more so than the people who are disobeying Him and not fulfilling His commands. And in fact, doing evil on the earth, naturally their actions are going to make God angry and God's not going to love them. So to speak of the unconditional love, unconditional love sounds like a nice idea…
Safiyyah: Well, it's a Christian idea, right? Like God is love, you know, God loves everybody.
Shabir: Yes. So unconditional love sounds like a nice idea, but then we get into the problem of whether God loves Satan. And if God loves the sinners, why would the sinners be punished in hell? And then the answer to that has to be something like, God loves sinner, but He hates the sin. But then it's not the sin that will be punished in hell. It is the sinner that will be punished in hell. So how do you reconcile the two? So a verse of the Quran says that some people are saying we are the children of God, and His beloved. But the Quran says in reply, then for what reason is He going to punish you on account of your sins? So from the Quranic point of view, it seems that there is a contrast here between the love of God and the punishment of God. Of course, some people may say, God punishes in a loving way, in a way in which a loving father might punish his children. But this idea of punishment hardly fits our present ideas in our modern world about how a loving father would behave towards his children. We're moving away from punishment styles of correction to persuasion and reasoning. So the Quranic perspective on this is that yes, God loves all people in a basic way. When it comes to human beings in particular, God is calling them towards what is right. God desires for them ultimate success, for them to be in paradise forever and enjoy all of the good things that God is creating for them. But God has created a certain means to achieve that end. And some people do not follow that means. And God is in a sense distressed over them. So the Quran says, in the 36th chapter, how unfortunate it is that these people do not follow God's messengers and rally to the call of the messengers and come towards the right path.