London is well known for its exotic architectural beauty, its history, and for its political significance. Furthermore, it is dubbed as one of the world’s important financial capitals, alongside New York and the Tokyo. However, to me London is the real city of love. This is because I once came across an extra-ordinary event in London, one which in fact shook my whole understanding of love. Therefore, with a loud voice, again I want to reassert that yes to me ‘London is the city of love’.
How have I reached this conclusion? Let me share my experience with you. In London I remember walking on a path surrounded by trees in Regents Park back in October 2008. It was a beautiful day. The sun shone brilliantly ahead as I watched as the trees widened their branches to embrace the sunlight with love. The leaves danced as they absorbed the sun’s love; dancing with joy in celebration of such a beautiful day.
After a minute’s stroll, I reached a point where a lake divided the park. The lake’s water flowed with delight as the sun beamed its rays on the water’s surface. Pigeons and ducks enjoyed both the lake, and those visitors who indulged them with feed. Yes it was beautiful.
Amid such affection between sun, the earth’s elements, the trees, the birds and humans, it seemed love was the artery of the Regents Park. My heart swelled with warmth. I began my journey back to my friends home in East London (my permanent safe-house in London), without any idea that I was about to witness the most beautiful form of love I had ever come across in my life.
Oh! What a magical scene it was. In fact, I am not entirely confident I can accurately depict it here through words… as the greatest Muslim mystic Rumi once said, ‘the pen breaks and writers cease to write while narrating the superb nature of love’. Because, such love cannot be reduced to its description no matter how poetic and lucid words I use here.
For this reason, in order to understand, or to even empathise with what I am about to describe, I ask you as a reader to connect with the love that resides within your soul, as I agree with Syyed Hussein Nasr, a prolific writer on Islamic Mysticism, who did his undergrad in Physics in MIT, Masters in Geology and Geophysics in Harvard, PhD in history of Science in Harvard and now teaches Islamic Studies at George Washington University, when he says, ‘the fire of love can become kindled through appropriate words if the substance of the soul is ready to burn in the fire of love’.
Now, let’s return to my narration of love in London. In order to reach my friend’s house from Regents Park, I had to change trains at Aldgate East station; a heavily migrant community in the city of London. It was here I witnessed the most raw and beautiful form of love.
At the station, I stood patiently awaiting my east-bound train whilst recollecting the loving memories of Regents Park with such pleasure. After a while, I noticed a couple standing next to me on the same platform. The man who was in his mid 30’s and dressed ordinarily, was holding the hand of his girlfriend in such a way that everyone knew it was with an expression of care, security and love. The girl gently rested her head on the man’s right shoulder. That notion outlines that she found her place. They were speaking with each other in very low voices. At some point they kissed each other gently – an expression of their spiritual affection. Afterwards, I could see a smile light up the girls face. No words can describe the essence of that smile. She was so happy that I could see her eyes glittering with joy. It was indeed divine. I felt a divine light touched my soul as well. That couple were so mesmerised with each other, that they were not aware of the fact that a strange and funny looking guy like me was watching and observing them very closely.
Soon after, a lady’s voice through the station’s microphone announced that the East bound train was due to arrive. Hearing this announcement, I saw the girl bring out a folding white stick from her bag. After unfolding the stick, with a lot of care she placed it in the hand of the guy. I was spell bound! Yes, the man was blind. When the train arrived at the platform, the man, while holding both his stick in one hand, and the hand of his girl in the other, entered the train. I was so petrified, that I hesitated whether to board the train or not. The doors closed, and the train of love passed me with immense noise and speed – powered by the love onboard. I needed a little more time to properly reflect on what I have just seen.
I thought to myself, how on earth could two people be so in love, and so happy, when they know one person is living in complete darkness? The man cannot see the beauty of his beloved, and the girl knows her man does not even know what she actually looks like. I then realized it was something beyond looks and physical beauty – the two dominant elements forming our understanding of love. With all the effort made through the commercialization of love today, I was overwhelmed at the time of this event – I was consciously disconnecting the notion of love with physical beauty. With billboards and posters of pretty faced men and women littered across London, it was hard for me to realize that love could actually blossom without looking to someone’s face and physical beauty.
On my return home, I went to look into the book of Nasr, and realized that what I had seen was the divine form of love based on simply the connection between two souls – a rather surreal concept in this modern world, at least to me.
Nasr, explains the meta-physics of love in his book on Islamic Mystical tradition and Sufism. According to him, ‘love is none other than the fire whose light illuminates and whose heat enlivens the heart and bestows life’.
In Nasr’s opinion, ‘true love of a man for a woman, or of a woman for a man is the most powerful love on this earth which is divine in nature because it is related directly to the love and ultimate union between the soul and the spirit’.
He says, ‘Real and authentic love in the romantic sense, and not merely sexual attraction, is a form of grace and a gift from heaven. It rips through our soul like a powerful hurricane, uprooting our usual attachment and habits. It yanks the roots of our soul from the soil of complacency and self-centeredness. It causes joy as well as pain, ecstasy as well as longing. It detaches the soul from other entanglements and attaches it to the object of one’s love, even overcoming the mind’s scattered thoughts and concentrating the mind on that single object.’
‘Something of the absoluteness of the love for God becomes reflected in such a human love that requires utter selflessness and unlimited giving,’ Nasr says.
I am sure what I have just described is bound to be a true love, thus divine in nature.
It is been said that for this type of spiritual union, heaven moves, the sun shines and the stars glitter. Why don’t they? ‘Cause such love is a gift from God to us, whom he created in pairs, as the Quran asserts, and this love cannot in the deepest sense be separated from the love of God, and God’s love for us,’ says Nasr adding, ‘hence the spiritual significance of human love.’ Besides, what love is if not spiritual?
*Mubashar Hasan writes from Brisbane. He is the founder of Alochonaa.com