A Way Beyond the Rainbow

#20 - On David and Jonathan, Shams and Rumi

August 21, 2020 Waheed Jensen Season 2 Episode 8
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#20 - On David and Jonathan, Shams and Rumi
Episode Introduction
Al-Ghazali's Four Types of Love
On Love for the Sake of Allah SWT
On David PBUH and Jonathan
On Shams and Rumi
Unfounded Critiques
Write Your Own Love Story
Ending Remarks
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#20 - On David and Jonathan, Shams and Rumi
Aug 21, 2020 Season 2 Episode 8
Waheed Jensen

In this episode, we explore together the concept of love for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, presenting the examples of two pairs of giants: David (PBUH) and Jonathan, as well as Shams and Rumi. Pure love between members of the same sex can be very profound, healing and uplifting, such that even poetry fails to describe its magnitude.

What was the kind of love that these two pairs shared such that its legacy still stands until this day? Were any parts of this love sensual or physical, or was this love spiritual and beyond? How can we cultivate this kind of transformative love? These and other questions are discussed in this episode.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, we explore together the concept of love for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, presenting the examples of two pairs of giants: David (PBUH) and Jonathan, as well as Shams and Rumi. Pure love between members of the same sex can be very profound, healing and uplifting, such that even poetry fails to describe its magnitude.

What was the kind of love that these two pairs shared such that its legacy still stands until this day? Were any parts of this love sensual or physical, or was this love spiritual and beyond? How can we cultivate this kind of transformative love? These and other questions are discussed in this episode.

Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh, and welcome to a new episode of "A Way Beyond the Rainbow", this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and Islam. I am your host Waheed Jensen, thank you so much for joining me in today's episode. Today's episode is a very special episode. It is one that is very dear to my heart. I have poured so much love into this, because it is an episode that is all about love. We're going to be talking about love from a very, very unique perspective, inshaAllah. So, last week, as you remember, in the last episode, we spoke about the gifts that come with SSA. We spoke about empathy and compassion, we spoke about the hidden talents, and of course we spoke about all of the blessings that come with hardships and trials and tribulations and patience and Divine openings from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, in the previous couple of episodes, when my dear friend Aadam was a co-host with me. In this episode, we will be talking about a special kind of gift. And this gift is a Divine opening from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and it is love for His sake. And we will look at this kind of love from a unique perspective. I will be sharing the stories of two amazing pairs of giants from our human history with you today: the story of David (PBUH) and Jonathan, and the story of Shams and Rumi. You may have heard of both of them, you may have heard of one pair, or maybe you haven't heard of them. Today we will explore their stories together and see how love that is very pure, between two members of the same sex, can really transform lives. Pure love that is transformative, that is capable of moving mountains. This episode is dedicated to love.

Now before we talk about the stories of these two pairs of giants, I would like to start this episode by talking a little bit about the different kinds of love available. And why is pure love for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala unique, and how does this manifest itself? To do this, I went into al-Ghazali's famous book, The Revival of Islamic Sciences (إحياء علوم الدين), volume two, chapter five. And that chapter is dedicated to love and brotherhood. I encourage everyone to read that book. Of course, the book is huge, it comes in so many volumes. But in this particular chapter, there are so many beautiful, beautiful stories that are dedicated to love and brotherhood. In this chapter, Imam al-Ghazali talks about four kinds of love, and he gives the different examples of those. So, the first kind is, as he says, when a man is loved for his own merits. So usually, we can love a person in a very natural way, when we see that person, when we get to know that person, when we think about the person in a good way, and you know, we tend to appreciate that person based on their own character and conduct, and we grow fond of that person. So, we might like a person based on their external qualities, so that would be their external form, the way that they look, or the way that they smile, the way that they behave. And we can also like them based on their own internal qualities, their own character, their good qualities. In a hadith sahih (according to al-Albani) Our mother 'A'isha said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say, 'The arwah [souls/spirits] are a massed army. When they already know each other, they are friendly. When they do not know each other, they disagree.'" So that's one of the ahadith that is given in this particular chapter of the book. And it just goes to show that a lot of us in the realm of the spirits, we tend to know each other. And so when we meet in real life in the physical world, sometimes we get to know each other, and we become very friendly. And you know, the notion that, "Oh my God! It feels like I have known you forever, but we've only just met or we've only known each other for a few days or a few weeks". So there is this general notion that the souls actually know each other before the physical bodies know each other. And some of the 'ulama (scholars) have said that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, after creating the souls, He let them off in the Heavens, and they were roaming around the Throne. And so it was inevitable that some of the souls would get to know each other. So the souls which knew one another in the air, meet one another in the world, and they love one another. And so, according to Abdullah ibn Amr (and this is a hadith sahih according to al-Bukhari), the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Verily, the spirits of two believers will meet throughout the day, even if they do not see each other". So that's the first kind of love, we love a person based on their merit, based on their internal or external qualities, their character, their conduct, etc. 

The second kind of love is, according to al-Ghazali, when a man loves another to gain the love of a third person or a third thing. So the thing which becomes the means of a dear thing become also dear. So he gives the example of gold and silver - these are dear to men, although they have got no attribute of their own, as we cannot eat them, we cannot use them as clothes, but we can use them as means to get those things that we need in life. So those things in particular, gold and silver, become dear to us, because we can use them to get things that we need or love. And so this metaphor is used for people whom we love, like gold and silver, and they become means for us to reach a specific destination or to reach a specific goal, and through their help we can earn wealth, fame, fortune, or knowledge and what have you. So an example would be when some people would love someone in power, because they desire power, or when they love someone who is wealthy, because they desire to become wealthy, or when someone loves a teacher or a scholar of knowledge, because they want to attain knowledge. So it's through the love of the person that you tend to attain something else which you desire. So it's something that is beyond the person, but you love that person in order to attain that particular thing. So that's the second class. The third class is, according to al-Ghazali, a thing is not loved for its sake, but for another thing, which is not for the good of this world, but rather for the good of the Next World (the Akhirah). So, in contrast to the second class, where you love something or someone in order to attain something that is good to you in the Dunya, the third class is actually to attain something that is good to you in the Akhirah. We love, for example, a spiritual guide or a leader or a master of religious sciences, for example, and this becomes a means for us to gain spiritual knowledge, which is good for us in the Akhirah, because we seek the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. This becomes the object to get success in the Next World. So this is one example of this. Al-Ghazali cites Jesus (PBUH) who said, "He who acquires knowledge, acts according to it, and teaches it to others is termed noble in the Kingdom of Heaven". So notice that, according to Jesus (PBUH) in order to be termed noble in the Kingdom of Heaven, we have to have three things: we need to have or to acquire the knowledge, to act according to the knowledge, and then to teach it to others. So that's the third class. 

The fourth class, which Imam al-Ghazali calls "the love for God and the hate for God". The fourth kind of love is beyond loving someone for the sake of that person, or that person's money, or fame or knowledge, or to seek something through that person, like all the previous kinds, but you love that person solely for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. And this is the most selfless love, it is the highest kind of love, the most secret, the most subtle. Love of this kind is possible, as it is beyond limitation. This love is beyond limitation. Imam al-Ghazali says here that the love spreads towards the things that the beloved loves, or the things that are in connection with the beloved. So if you love someone so dearly, you would love the things that he loves, you would love the people whom that person loves. You would love the people who serve the person you love, or the one you love. If anyone glorifies or praises the beloved, you love them, and you try to even please them. Majnun Laila, who was a very famous Arab poet, used to say, "When I went to the house of Layla, I kissed its wall. Love is not for the wall, but for its owner". So when the love is strong, it spreads beyond the beloved. And so, all of this is a metaphor for the love of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. When we love Allah, we love everything that connects us to Him. We love the things that He loves. We love those whom He loves, and those who love Him, subhanahu wa ta'ala. When we love Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, we see His power in everything. His love envelopes our hearts, it rules our hearts, and it spreads over everything in our lives. Al-Ghazali also cites Jesus (PBUH) whose companions actually asked him at some point, "Oh Spirit of God, whose company shall we keep?" And he replied, "Keep the company of him whose sight reminds you of God, whose speech increases your knowledge, and whose deeds make the Afterlife desirable". And then there's another example that al-Ghazali gives, he says, "Once, God revealed to Moses (PBUH): Oh son of Imran, if your heart is awake, seek friends for you. The friend who does not meet you with My pleasure is your enemy". So, our focus in this particular episode is on the highest and the most sublime kind of love, and that is the love for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. And in the remainder of the chapter, Imam al-Ghazali goes into the details and the qualities of people, conditions of friendship - there are so many conditions for friendship, like intellect, good conduct, religious nature, not being a sinner, for example, not to be an innovator and not to be addicted to the world, etc. - and so many other very nice and very important themes. I encourage everyone to check that chapter out. And of course, the huge book is a masterpiece with many different volumes. So definitely, it's a must read whenever you get the chance. But in this episode, again, we're going to focus on the love for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, which is the fourth kind of love that Imam al-Ghazali mentions.

There are lots of ahadith from the Prophet (PBUH) that talk about those people who love each other so purely, so deeply, for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Among Allah’s servants are people who are neither prophets nor martyrs, but whom the prophets and martyrs will deem fortunate because of their high status with Allah.” The Companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Inform us of who they are.” The Prophet (PBUH) told them that they are people who loved each other for Allah’s sake, even without being related to one another or being tied to one another by the exchange of wealth. The Prophet (PBUH) went on to describe their great reward on the Day of Resurrection: “By Allah, their faces will be luminous and they will be upon light. They will feel no fear when the people will be feeling fear, and they will feel no grief when the people will be grieving.” Then he (PBUH) read the verse: "Behold! verily on the friends of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve" (10:62). In another hadith, Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported: the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Verily, Allah will say on the Day of Resurrection: Where are those who love each other for the sake of my glory? Today, I will shelter them in my shade on a day when there is no shade but mine”. Another beautiful hadith of the Prophet (ﷺ) said, "A man set out to visit a brother (in Faith) in another town and Allah sent an angel on his way. When the man met the angel, the latter asked him, "Where do you intend to go?" He said, "I intend to visit my brother in this town". The angel said, "Have you done him any favour?" He said, "No, I have no desire except to visit him because I love him for the sake of Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious." Thereupon the angel said, "I am a messenger to you from Allah (to inform you) that Allah loves you as you love him (for His sake)", meaning as you love your friend for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. The sage Mujahed said, "When two people who love each other, meet with each other and express gratefulness, their sins drop down from them, as the leaves of trees drop down in winter season". And the sage Fudail said, "If a man looks to his brother with affection and kindness, it becomes his Divine service". We've seen in the first season of this podcast how, for men with same-sex attractions, having deep and loving relations with other men is of utmost importance. And the same applies to women who experience same-sex attractions. Pure love fills the voids, it transforms us. It makes us better people. There's a lot to be said about this. And one episode, of course, is not enough. But I hope that this episode gives you light and gives you something to reflect upon. Now, let us take a look at two powerful examples of such love between members of the same gender. Love that was so deep, its effects still ripple until this very day.

Let us first start by talking about David (PBUH) and Jonathan. I am quoting David here when he said, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women” (2 Sam 1:26). With these words, David mourns his fallen companion Jonathan, slain in battle on Mount Gilboa. But who was Jonathan, and what was his love for David that surpassed “the love of women”? David’s song of mourning is an extraordinary outburst of grief at the loss of the dearest of friends. Let’s go back to how David met Jonathan. The story of David and Jonathan is cited in the Hebrew Bible, in the Book of Samuel. David is Prophet Dawood PBUH, and we know from the Qur’an the story of how he led an army that defeated Goliath (Jalut). When the battle was over, according to the Bible, the king of the Israelites at the time, King Saul, held an audience, and his eldest son, Jonathan, was in attendance. David, a youthful shepherd back then, was excitedly recounting his story of victory with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. “As soon as David had finished speaking to Saul, Jonathan and David became bound together in close friendship, and Jonathan began to love him as himself.” Jonathan gave David his own fighting gear, including his bow​—quite a gift, for Jonathan was a renowned archer. What is more, Jonathan and David made a covenant, a solemn agreement, that bound them together as friends who would support each other.​ With this began one of the greatest friendships described in the Bible. Until that moment, Jonathan was living through a difficult time. His father, King Saul, had been changing over the years and for the worse. Once a humble, obedient man of faith, Saul had become an arrogant, disobedient king.​ The changes in Saul had troubled Jonathan deeply, because he was close to his father. That background may help us understand what drew Jonathan to young David. Jonathan saw David’s great faith. Now unlike those in Saul’s army, David was undaunted by Goliath’s colossal size. He reasoned that going into battle bearing God’s name made him more powerful than Goliath with all his weaponry.​ Jonathan had similar convictions as a man of God. So both men had strong faith in God and deep love for Him, subhanahu wa ta’ala. That was the ideal basis for this deep friendship between the two men. Even though Jonathan was a mighty prince and almost 50 years of age at the time, while David was a humble shepherd and likely not yet 20 years old, those differences between them did not matter. The covenant they made was a real protection for their friendship. David knew what God had in store for him: He was to become the next king of Israel. Did he withhold this knowledge from Jonathan? No he did not. A good friendship such as theirs thrives on open communication, not on secrets and lies. And mind you, Jonathan was the king’s son - he was heir to the throne. But he was loyal and faithful to his word. So Jonathan fulfilled his oath and continued to view David, not as his rival, but as his friend. What mattered is what God wanted. This friendship turned out to be a great blessing. What can we learn from Jonathan’s faith? Any servant of God does well to see the value of friendship. Our friends do not necessarily have to match our age or background, but they can do us enormous good if they have genuine faith. Jonathan and David were able to strengthen and encourage each other many times. And they would both need such help, as their friendship was about to face even greater tests. David (PBUH) met with victory after victory leading the army, and so he won lots of praise and admiration more than King Saul himself. And so the king’s jealousy grew, and he feared that David would try to take his throne away from him. King Saul schemed to get David killed in battle, but nothing worked. David kept winning battles and growing in people’s eyes. Saul’s next move was to try to unite his household​—all his servants and even his own son Jonathan​—in a plot to kill David. Jonathan was a loyal son, but he was also a loyal friend, and most importantly, a loyal servant of God. So he was in conflict. Jonathan spoke up: “The king should not sin against his servant David, for he has not sinned against you and what he has done for you has benefited you. [...] So why should you sin against innocent blood in having David put to death for no reason?” Jonathan tried again to reconcile Saul with David but he had less and less success with time. David came to Jonathan in secret, revealing that he feared for his own life, and he said: “There is only a step between me and death!” he told his older friend. None of Jonathan’s attempts at reconciliation worked, and the men met in secret. While David hid, Jonathan would signal him the news by using a bow and arrows. Jonathan asked only that David swear to the promise that he would always look out for those of Jonathan’s household.​ And he did. Both men wept, and Jonathan sadly saw his young friend off as David started his new life as a refugee.​ Notice how Jonathan didn’t put his own ambitions for power or glory first, and he honored his word, loyalty and friendship with David.

Saul’s hatred for David grew into an obsession. Jonathan was helpless as he watched his father descend into a kind of madness, gathering his army and leading it around the country, seeking to destroy one innocent man (that is, David). Jonathan’s loyalty to God, to David, and to his own oath of friendship prevented him from taking part in any of these campaigns. His feelings for his young friend never changed. Let’s put ourselves in Jonathan’s shoes for one moment: he was the son of the king and heir to the throne. Powerful. Wealthy. Desirable. And his father is out to get the man who would replace him and his son. This is a big test in loyalty to one’s word, and it is a huge test to one’s loyalty to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. What we’re talking about here is a deep love for another man for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. This isn’t defined by worldly means or ends. In time, Jonathan found a way to meet David again. It was in Horesh, which means “Wooded Place.” Horesh was in a wild, mountainous region likely a few miles southeast of Hebron in Palestine. “Do not be afraid,” Jonathan told David. He added this reassurance: “My father Saul will not find you.” On what was this reassurance based? On Jonathan’s deep faith that God’s purpose would succeed. He went on: “You will be king over Israel.” And how did Jonathan see his own future? He told David, “I will become second to you.” Notice the deep and priceless humility he showed! He would be content to serve under the command of this young man who is younger than him by 30 years, to serve as his supportive right hand. And this coming from the heir to the throne who, all things being equal, was himself supposed to become king of Israel after his father. Let’s take all this in and realize the deep humility, passion and love that he had for David, that is based on their mutual love for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Jonathan concluded: “My father Saul also knows that (i.e., that the kingdom of Israel would belong to David).” In his heart, Saul knew that he was doomed to lose his fight against the man that God had chosen to be the next king. In the years that followed, David surely looked back often and fondly on that meeting. It was their last meeting. Jonathan’s hope to become second to David was never realized, unfortunately. Jonathan went to battle at his father’s side against their enemies, but the battle at the time went badly for his army. Three of Saul’s sons, including Jonathan, were killed in battle. Saul was wounded and eventually took his own life.​ David was stricken with grief and mourned his beloved mentor and friend: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan; you were very dear to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love of women.”​ This is deep. This is priceless. This is out of this world. David never forgot his vow to Jonathan to take care of his family. Years later he sought out and took care of Jonathan’s disabled son. Life or death don’t end one’s love or that pact of honor and friendship. Because this love is beyond Dunya. This is Jonathan’s love: a deep, emotional attachment to David that lead him to swear loyalty to David and protect him from the madness of his father. In the androcentric world of the story, none of the women who love David can compete with his companion’s love. Jonathan is the only one for whom David himself expresses anything approaching love. It was over and beyond. Now let's fast forward a little more than two millennia. And let's take a look at two giants with another pact of indescribable love for one another. And this is the story of Shams and Rumi.

Jalaluddin Ar-Rumi was born in 1207 A.D. in Afghanistan, which was then part of the Persian Empire. His father, a Muslim scholar and mystic, moved the family to Roman Anatolia (present-day Turkey) to escape Mongol invaders when Rumi was a child. They settled in the city of Konya, in southern Turkey. Rumi’s father died when Rumi was 25, and he inherited the mantle of religious scholarly authority from his father - he followed the Hanafî school of Islamic law, had a position as teacher at a madrassa (Islamic school), and continued studying Shariah (Islamic law), eventually issuing his own fatwas (legal opinions) and giving sermons in the local mosques. In winter of the year 1244, at the age of 37 or so, Rumi met the man who would change his life: a man by the name of Shams al-Din of Tabriz, better known as Shams-e-Tabrizi. He came from the city of Tabriz in present-day Iranian Azerbaijan. It is said that Shams had traveled throughout the Middle East asking Allah to help him find a friend who could “endure” his companionship. A voice in a vision sent him to the place where Rumi lived. We have more information about Shams now, from his "Discourses" [Maqâlât], a collection of excerpts from his talks written down by his own disciples. We know that he was not an uneducated, "wild", or "heretical" dervish, as he has often been portrayed. He was a Sunni Muslim, with a solid Islamic education in the Arabic language, and he followed the Shâfi`î school of Islamic law. There are translated quotes from Shams in which he criticized other sufi teachers for "not following" the example of the Prophet PBUH sufficiently. We know that Rumi was married during the time he knew Shams, and we know that Rumi arranged for Shams to marry a young woman raised in Rumi’s household, by the name of Kîmiyâ.

The accounts of the first meeting between these two men vary. Some say that, while Rumi was riding a donkey home from work one day, Shams in his ragged clothes approached him for the first time. Shams grasped the reins of the animal and started a theological debate. “According to the most reliable account, Shams asked who was greater, Muhammad PBUH or Bayazid al-Bestami, the legendary Sufi master, for Bestami had said, “How great is my glory,” whereas Muhammad (saas) had acknowledged in his prayer to God, “We do not know You as we should.” Rumi heard the depth out of which the question came and fell to the ground. He was finally able to answer that Muhammed (saas) was greater, because Bestami had taken one gulp of the Divine and stopped there, whereas for the Prophet (saas), the way was always unfolding.” In other words, Bestami’s cup was small, so to speak, and his thirst was quenched, whereas that of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH would only continue to be filled by the Divine. In another account of the meeting, Rumi was teaching by a fountain and reading from his father’s teaching. Shams cut through the crowd and pushed that book and others off the ledge into the water. “Who are you, and what are you doing?” Rumi asked. “You must now live what you’ve been reading about.” Rumi turned to the volumes at the bottom of the water. “We can retrieve them,” said Shams. “They’ll be as dry as they were before.” Shams lifted one of them out to show him. It was dry. “Leave them,” said Rumi. Whatever their initial meeting, Rumi and Shams soon became inseparable. They spent months together, had a mystical and deep spiritual friendship and were lost in a kind of ecstatic mystical communion, conversing and gazing at each other until a deeper conversation occurred without words. They forgot about human needs and ignored Rumi’s students, who became jealous. This inspired a bit of resentment in Rumi’s community. Shams sensed the unrest among the people of Konya and disappeared. Modern day scholar Annemarie Schimmel believes that this disappearance evoked a grief that inspired Rumi’s transformation into a mystical artist. Rumi’s loneliness at their separation led him to begin the activities for which he is still remembered. He poured out his soul into poetry and mystical dances of the spirit. Eventually, word reached Rumi that Shams was in Damascus, so Rumi sent his son to retrieve his friend. He wrote letters begging Shams to return. “When Rumi and Shams met for the second time, they fell at each other’s feet, so that ‘no one knew who was the lover and who the beloved.”‘ In the past they were like disciple and teacher, but now they loved each other as equals. One account says, “No one knew who was the lover and who was the beloved.” Both men were married to women, but they resumed their intense relationship with each other, merged in mystic communion. Jealousies arose again and some men began plotting to get rid of Shams. One fateful winter night in 1248, four years after they had first met, Shams disappeared. It is said that “as Rumi and Shams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again.” Many believe that he was murdered that night, but Rumi continued to search for his friend. Rumi grieved deeply. He searched in vain for his friend and lost himself in whirling dances of mourning. One of his poems hints at his powerful emotions:

Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.

Rumi danced, mourned and wrote poems until the pressure forged a new consciousness. “The wound is the place where the Light enters you,” he once wrote. His soul fused with that of his beloved. He wrote:

Why should I seek? I am the same as he.
His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself.

After this breakthrough, waves of profound poetry flowed out of Rumi. He attributed more and more of his writings to Shams. One of his literary classics is a vast collection of poems called “The Works of Shams of Tabriz.” I’ll give two examples from this. One goes as follows:

When my heart saw love's sea, of a sudden
It left me and leaped in, crying, ' Find me.'
The face of Shamsi Din, Tabriz's glory, is the sun
In whose track the cloud-like hearts are moving.

In another poem he writes:

At morning-tide a moon appeared in the sky,
And descended from the sky and gazed upon me.
Like a falcon which snatches a bird at the time of hunting,
That moon snatched me up and coursed over the sky.
When I looked at myself, I saw myself no more,
Because in that moon my body became by grace even as soul.
When I travelled in soul, I saw naught save the moon,
Till the secret of the eternal Theophany was all revealed.
The nine spheres of heaven were all merged in that moon,
The vessel of my being was completely hidden in the sea.
The sea broke into waves, and again Wisdom rose
And cast abroad a voice; so it happened and thus it befell.
Foamed the sea, and at every foam-fleck
Something took figure and something was bodied forth.
Every foam-fleck of body, which received a sign from that sea,
Melted straightway and turned to spirit in this ocean.
Without the power imperial of Shamsu 'l Haqq of Tabriz
One could neither behold the moon nor become the sea.

As a side note, the whirling dervish ceremonies were started as a form of meditation by Rumi himself. Inspired by this, other sects started to spread his dance, called the sema, throughout the Ottoman Empire. The most renowned sect was the Mevlevi order, and dance participants were called semazen. By the 15th century, the order had established rules for the ritual to maintain its myriad traditions.

Now, some researchers and modern day critics have claimed that the relationship between Jonathan and David and that between Shams and Rumi was homosexual in nature. And there's no basis whatsoever for such assumptions. In the case of David and Jonathan, David's words about Jonathan, which were, "more wonderful was your love to me than the love of women", and some verses that mentioned that the two men kissed each other, such words and expressions of affection between two men were quite common in Biblical times, and in the culture of the ancient and even contemporary Middle East, without suggesting anything sexual at all. Now in contemporary Western society, any expression of love between two members of the same sex, particularly two men, is automatically interpreted as "homosexual", but that is not the case in many and probably most other societies. Even in modern Middle Eastern societies, for example, men kiss, hold hands, say they love each other, they call each other "habibi", they can lie down on the ground with their head on their friend's thigh, for example, and so on. All of these are just expressions of pure friendship. Whereas, if you translate these terms and behaviors into, for example, an American or European context, it immediately reads as "gay", right? Recall the ahadith on love that were mentioned at the beginning of this episode. And in another sahih hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) said, "When one of you loves his brother, let him know". All of this would sound awkward to contemporary Western ears, right? But clearly, none of this was meant in a romantic or a "gay" sense. In the case of Rumi and Shams, it is a Western misunderstanding of Persian poetry and Persian culture in the context of Islam and Islamic mysticism. In Islamic societies, there is a general segregation of men and women, as we know. And, as a result, men are closer to each other than can be readily understood in Western culture nowadays, and they are so without being any more "homosexual". Rumi did employ the symbolism of homoerotic, or more properly androgynous love, in his poems addressed to Shams as his beloved, but this merely adopts an already 300-year-old convention of the poetry of praise in Persian literature. Now, as a side note, even in Western societies not too long ago, like the 19th century, there were seemingly much warmer, closer and more intimate relationships between and among men than is currently the case, and much past behavior and sentiments expressed would easily be interpreted today as "homosexual", which in itself is an indictment, not of them, but of the modern sexual paradigm, which can't even imagine love between two men that is not sexually charged, and therefore, homosexual or "gay". And presumably between and among women too, though, you know, the difference is starker in the case of males, since current day strictures on male behavior with other males is much tighter than for females, as you can tell, right? There are even pictures of men from earlier periods like, let's say, the 19th century, with their arms around each other's shoulders, hands resting on each other's thighs, one of them semi embracing the other from behind, etc., which all seem to be pictures of average guy friends in a world where homosexual behavior was not at all welcome. In other words, if this behavior had been interpreted as "gay", in any way, they wouldn't have been posing like that for all people to see. Friends, apparently, used to share beds together as well, especially when they were traveling or living away from home, like, for example, in hostels and so on. It is necessary to recall how much homosexuality has increasingly become accepted and viewed as natural in our global culture. As a result, it is more common to think, assume or suspect that men who are exceptionally close to each other and enjoy spending time together might be "homosexuals" or "bisexuals", but this is merely a projection of those assumptions that underlie the current Western sexual paradigm onto other times and places without any justification whatsoever. So, as a result, when we read that when Rumi and Shams first met, they were so enthralled with each other, that they spent several months secluded together; for the Western reader, the thought is almost irresistible to wonder if they might have had a sexual as well as a deeply spiritual relationship, but there are no allusions to such a relationship in any scholarly texts. Nothing in the Bible suggests that Jonathan or David had homosexual leanings either, or that there was anything sexual about their deeply involved friendship. To state otherwise is to read something into the account that simply is not there. So there is no evidence of a "physical relationship" between David and Jonathan, or Rumi and Shams, and it is a suspicion or assumption with no basis. Also, in the case of David and Jonathan, both men were married to women and they fathered children. David had several wives and many children. Jonathan's wife is not named but he fathered a son named Mephibosheth, or Merib-baal. In the case of Rumi and Shams, Rumi was married and had kids, as we mentioned, and then Shams later married a woman from Rumi's household. Most importantly, the four men were loyal to God's Law. Jonathan and David had in common their faith in and love for God, and they swore their oath of friendship in the name of Jehovah (Yahweh). Obedience to Jehovah was thus the highest priority for both men. And God's Law clearly condemned all forms of sexual immorality, including homosexual acts. The same applies to Rumi and Shams who were well versed in Islamic Shari'a [Sacred Law] and abided by Islamic values. So, to imply that any of these giants had homosexual relations is to deny the very foundation of their deep love and friendship, as well as to deny their own religious principles and moral commitments. Now, even if we were to entertain the notion that they had same-sex attractions, which could have been a possibility, we shall never know, they still abided by the rules of God, and they invested in their relationships to make them God-conscious and God-centric. Those relationships were over and beyond. They were based on Allah, and He, subhanahu wa ta'ala, beautified them and allowed their legacy to continue until this day. Another side note - unfortunately, such deep relationships, this love for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, with such pure expressions of love, through hugging, holding hands, showing pure physical affection, as just described a little while ago, are becoming more and more scarcely available to men, especially to men in modern Western or westernized cultures. You know, women can "get away with" a lot more in modern society in terms of closeness in their relationships, affection and touching, etc. but not men! Even in many Muslim countries nowadays, we are starting to see this, you know, for example, the phenomenon of men holding hands in public, which was all perfectly normal. has been declining, right? This is frankly a very bad sign. It means that Muslims are starting to deeply imbibe and be impacted by Western notions of sexuality. We need to reclaim our own notions of pure expressions of love.

Now, the reason I devoted an entire episode to talking about the deep emotional love between men, giving the examples of giants like David (PBUH) and Jonathan, and Rumi and Shams, may Allah be pleased with all of them, was to show how such pure love manifests. It is moving. It is transformative to those involved. It cannot be described in words. That's why Rumi wrote poetry and used metaphors. Using words from this Dunya to describe love of this magnitude is a futile attempt. And Who blessed this love? Who allowed this fountain of love to flow even after the death of those involved, a love rendered immortal through their words? It is He, subhanahu wa ta'ala, the Basis and Foundation of this love. This love stood the test of time, trials and tribulations. David and Jonathan faced severe trials (jealousy, murder attempts, tests of loyalty, and others), and their love withstood those trials. And the same applies to Shams and Rumi’s love. Once Allah is kept front and center, there is peace and bliss. There is silence. And as Rumi said, “Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation.” They all knew that He, subhanahu wa ta'ala, is the basis of everything, including their deep love for each other. They knew that this life is fleeting and that the real Life is the one to come. In Surat Al-'Ankabut, Allah says, “And this worldly life is not but diversion and amusement. And indeed, the home of the Hereafter - that is the [eternal] life, if only they knew" (29:64). So, what about us? How does this relate to us, men and women experiencing same-sex attractions? You see, everyone is looking for love. It’s part of our inherent disposition, our fitra. We all want to love and to be loved. But for people like us in particular, our desire for love is even more intense. It takes on the form of an ideal that we want for ourselves but we’re restricted from having – thinking that if we got it, we’d be fulfilled, and if we don’t get to taste it, we’ll always be craving it. Sometimes we taste a version of it, or something we thought was “love”, only to realize it’s not actually what we thought it was all along. And it comes with a price. It’s addictive. Dark. Sabotaging. I’m talking about focusing on the carnal desires and chasing one’s physical needs - particularly in this time and age when this is easily accessible.

For many of us, we really want that special connection with a special someone, particularly from the same sex, don’t we? Of course, for members of the same sex who don’t experience SSA to begin with, it’s much easier to cultivate such deep friendships compared to individuals who experience SSA, in whose case there has to be more vigilance to keep things in check, transparency if and when particular emotions emerge, as well as accountability. As we’ve discussed before, some of us experience a myriad of emotional issues and co-dependencies, along with other matters that make such relationships challenging, particularly if one or both persons are still at earlier stages of healing, emotional maturity and growth. Many of us have an intense desire for love, and there is potential to look for it and possibly find it in the wrong places. Some people start off as good friends, but the relationship becomes intense and they end up overstepping particular boundaries, even though that was never their intention at the beginning. Things might get sexual, addictive, draining, suffocating, and in many cases heartbreaking. 

Real Love is nothing like that. What I’m talking about is pure, unadulterated, unconditional love. That is the love that heals. There is a void that only unconditional and pure love will be able to fill. That is the love that’s capable of healing the wounds of the past and transforming the present. A yearning of a sort to fill a void. Men need men. Women need women. We all need and deserve to love and to be loved. How do I know if the love that I experience is pure? Ask yourself, where is Allah SWT with regards to this particular love – is He front and center? Are we obeying His laws and keeping things in harmony with what He approves? Are we avoiding potential pitfalls? Are we lifting each other up and moving towards Him SWT together? Or are there moments when we feel weak and cross particular lines (i.e. physical, sensual, sexual and what have you)? That’s our compass. He is our Compass. Keep Him front and center. Just like David PBUH and Jonathan as well as Shams and Rumi did, in addition to many people who experiences pure, unconditional and transformative love in their lives. 

Pure love is a blessing from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Pure love is healing. It is moving. It is transformative. It heals the wounds, soothes the soul and fills the voids. Pure Love that is based on the love of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala can move mountains. The Almighty subhanahu wa ta'ala, He is the Source of the ultimate healing, purifying, unconditional Love that we seek. If all else ceases to exist, He will always be there, eternally providing His never-ending Love. He is and will always be the Starting Point. The Fountain of Life. The Fountain of Love. Write your love story with Him. And He will send you the right people at the right time with whom you can write your own love story, inshaAllah. May Allah bless you with your own love story for His Sake, one that you write with His ink, one that raises you, blesses you, purifies you and heals you. May He fill you up with Pure Love so that it fills the voids inside you completely. May He love you in ways that only He is capable. May He shelter you, protect you, shower you with peace, blessings and guidance, and may He take away all your pain, suffering, confusion and misdirected efforts to find that Pure Love. May you finally find your missing piece of the puzzle, inshaAllah. Amen. Ameen, ya Rabb al-’Alamin! 

And with this we have come to the end of today's episode. I would like to leave you with the words of the famous Persian poet Hafiz of Shiraz who said,

It happens all the time in heaven,
And some day
It will begin to happen
Again on earth –
That men and women who are married,
And men and men who are
And women and women
Who give each other
Often will get down on their knees
And while so tenderly
Holding their lover’s hand,
With tears in their eyes,
Will sincerely speak, saying,
“My dear,
How can I be more loving to you;
How can I be more

This has been Waheed Jensen in "A Way Beyond the Rainbow”. Thank you for listening to today's episode, and I look forward to talking to you next week, inshaAllah. Until then, stay healthy, stay safe, and may your days and nights be filled with pure and unconditional love, inshaAllah. Until next week, assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta'ala wabarakatuh.

Episode Introduction
Al-Ghazali's Four Types of Love
On Love for the Sake of Allah SWT
On David PBUH and Jonathan
On Shams and Rumi
Unfounded Critiques
Write Your Own Love Story
Ending Remarks