Spiritual Essays - Love

Interrogative Imperative Institute

The Sufi mystical path (tasawwuf) involves a process of purification under the guidance of an authentic (properly authorized) spiritual guide or master that focuses on different spiritual potentials within human beings,

and if that process is successfully completed, may lead, if God wishes, to the realization of one's essential identity as well as to the active expression of one's unique spiritual capacity to know, love, and serve Divine purpose.


People speak about falling in, and out of, love. According to Sufi masters, if one falls out of love, there is one thing of which one can be sure: one was never really in love in the first place.

Love may come in all kinds of strange, unexpected ways. Yet, once love comes, it comes to stay.

Love leaves an indelible impression on the heart and soul of an individual. Its stamp is impervious to the erosive tendencies of worldly circumstances.

In fact, the difficulties and tribulations of life merely become so many opportunities for love to bring forth its cornucopia of fruits. Like a fine wine, love becomes better with time.

Love has nothing to do with sexual relationships. Although many people confuse and conflate the two, there are a number of fundamental differences between the two. Sexuality tends to be dead to everything but itself. Everything, including sexuality, comes alive through love.

Love is frequently underrated. Sexuality is often overrated.

Sexuality rides on the crest of moods. Love transcends moods.

Love involves denial of the ego. Sexuality involves affirmation of the ego.

Sexuality very frequently leads to betrayal. Love can never lead to betrayal.

In love, something always is being found. In sexuality, something always is being sought.

The intensity of sexuality leaves. The intensity of love remains. In order for love to be enjoyed fully, one must be absent. In order for sexuality to be enjoyed fully, one must be present.

Sexuality always involves an act of disengagement. This never occurs with love.

With love, what is, is more than enough. With sexuality, more is never enough.

One can exhaust the mystery of sexuality. One can never exhaust the mystery of love.

Love is willing to sacrifice itself for the sake of others. Sexuality is willing to sacrifice others for its own sake. Sexuality is addictive. Love is liberating.

Love is a vocation. Sexuality is an avocation.

With sexuality, there is separation during union. With love, there is union during separation.

One becomes occupied with love. One becomes preoccupied with sexuality.

One can abstain from sexuality. One cannot abstain from love.

Love leads toward essence. Sexuality leads away from essence.

With sexuality, one runs the risk of many diseases. In love, there is a cure for many diseases.

One is prepared to die for love. One is prepared to kill for sexuality.

A life full of sexuality is common. A life full of love is rare.

Love flourishes with constancy. Sexuality thrives on variability.

According to practitioners of the Sufi path, the love of the spiritual guide for the initiate, is a sign of God's love for the seeker. Alternatively, the love of the seeker for the shaykh is a reflection of the individual's love for God.

An initiate is obedient to the shaykh because the spiritual guide is the khalifah or vicegerent of God. An initiate desires to learn from the shaykh because the teacher is the one through whom God is providing spiritual guidance, support and assistance for the seeker. An initiate has love for the shaykh because the spiritual guide is a very special locus of manifestation of God's love for the individual.

Sometimes, due to the confusion in the minds and hearts of people concerning love and sexuality, a seeker will interpret the attention, kindness and love of the spiritual master to be an expression of sexual attraction. This misinterpretation may be complicated by the individual's history of being starved for affection and/or being involved in exploitive or abusive sexual relationships.

This can lead to a very difficult trial for both the seeker and the guide. The seeker must learn the difference between love and sexuality without feeling rejected by the teacher. The teacher must try to nourish the seed of love in the seeker without encouraging the weeds of sexuality to grow.

In addition, the attention and the affection which the spiritual master gives to one initiate may, through no fault of the shaykh, engender jealousy in other initiates. This jealousy may be fueled by unresolved problems of sexuality concerning the shaykh, or it may be underwritten by other aspects of the ego, or some combination of the two.

As a result of the foregoing kinds of possibilities, some initiates will begin to project their problems onto the shaykh. In other words, instead of the individual recognizing whatever is going on as originating with himself or herself, the teacher is imagined to be guilty of various kinds of sexual impropriety. Consequently, sometimes even the most innocuous gestures, comments, glances and so on of the spiritual guide, become interpreted through these lenses of confusion.

To be sure, there are sexual predators who come dressed in the garb of spirituality. People do get exploited and abused by "spiritual" charlatans. In fact, sexuality is just one such possibility in the realm of exploitation.

There also are people who claim to be spiritual guides, yet, who, on the one hand, have not resolved their own confusions concerning love and sexuality, and, on the other hand, have not mastered their own egos. Consequently, these sort of people often lead others astray spiritually and, as well, permit themselves to be led astray in the same fashion.

The foregoing comments notwithstanding, a Sufi master is concerned with matters of love, not sexuality. However, because of the times, and the kind of society, in which we live, many Sufi shaykhs are called upon to minister to people's sexual problems through the healing properties of love.

Some people are never able to come to a proper understanding of these issues. For a variety of reasons, such people end up hating the shaykh they once professed to love. This only means they did not love the shaykh in the first place.

Anyone, in a spiritual context, who would be willing to give preference to sexuality over love, or who confuses the two, is admitting the following. The individual is acknowledging that she or he never has drunk the wine of love drawn from the mystical vineyards of Divinity.

One who has had the latter experience would not risk, God willing, the treasure of Divine love for the whole world. Therefore, mere sex would be a sordid substitute for the treasure in question.