Man Love

Man Love

Here in the West when a man expresses his love for another man it is usually looked upon disapprovingly and suggestions of homosexuality are insinuated. However, it is fair to say that in most “eastern” traditions men can have very intimate relationships and homosexuality will not even occur to them. The archetype for this type of relationship is that of Rumi and Shams al-Tabriz although the common factor for their love was the Love of the Divine which is what ultimately bound them to one another. This relationship, quite clearly non-sexual, was intense and the poetry of love that emanated from Rumi upon separation from his beloved Shams is testimony to that. To the Western reader who reads of this relationship for the first time, there is an uneasiness as we cannot see past our modern interpretation of homosexuality for this type of love and affection between two men. Indeed some non-Muslim commentators on Rumi have made this mistake.

In non-western cultures, men walk hand-in-hand or even with their arms around one another in the street, they refer to each other as “habibi” which is the Arabic for “my beloved”, in Urdu it is not uncommon to hear the phrase “jiggari yaar/dost” which doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but literally means “intimate friend of my liver”, the liver being associated with closeness and intimacy such as when a mother cradles her child stomach to stomach, the liver of the mother and the child are in very close proximity. Expressions of love between men are very common without an inference of sexualisation of the relationship. The language of love in the modern era has, like many other things, been profaned. Unfortunately love and lust are now synonymous.

It is common for Muslims to fall in love with the awliya, the ulama and other Muslims, I can say this for myself for a number of our shayukh, they are people that you feel a deep intimate love for, there is a yearning to see them again and an enthralment when in their presence. This is what we have inherited from the Sahabah who had such intense and deep love for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that even in prayer they would gaze upon his countenance and the prayer would not be invalidated. At its fountainhead the reason for our love for the ulama and awliya is the Light of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) which is reflected and transmitted by them, how can you not fall in love with that?


Just realised that there is a similar concept now emerging in the west, it is called “Bromance“.

12 thoughts on “Man Love

  1. Jazak Allah Masud Bhai, very nice post! Following on from what you’re saying, it seems to me that when the divine presence is with one (in my case very rarely), one looks at all created beings with love, and see the light of Allah’s beauty reflected in them. Is there a word for this kind of love?

  2. I experienced this after a recent trip to Istanbul: almost every Turk that I met, hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks.

    Incredibly warm people. I asked an Imam why Turks are like this and he said its because they’re the descendents of Sufis.

    Its not difficult to realise why Westerners (Muslims included)are devoid of such warmth.

  3. Good post. I remember explaining to an Emirati brother on campus that men holding hands for more than 15 seconds in front of the main library may be misinterpreted by some as a sign of homosexuality.

    It’s my experience Muslim peoples are warmer with each other than Westerners. I felt this in Pakistan, every friend of my cousin would embrace me even if it was the first time we had met. In Amman, I’ve seen friendship expressed with 3-4 kisses on each side of the face (not smack right on the cheeks, but sometimes in the air).

    My question is: Why is it alright for American football players to pat each other’s behinds when they want to congratulate them?

    Until now, I never knew why the liver was used as a term of endearment. Thanks!

  4. SubhanAllah, my husband and I were recently discussing this, how he refers to his friends and acquaintances as “habibi,” which used to irritate me, but now I completely understand, living here in the M East and knowing that our son walking arm in arm with his buddy is totally benign.

  5. It seems that without Man love there is no society – and with its deformation or ‘Man Lust’ there is also no society. Man Love is extremely interesting, implicit in the west inscribed in customs, subtlest of behaviour and ‘manliness’ (i.e. common love for a football team), its more explicit in the west where people are more expressive in the ‘traditional medium’ of expression. For the subtle western sense see ‘good will hunting’, ‘gattaca’ (relation between 2 main males) and stand by me (for more explicit universal).

    The ‘deformation’ or ‘Man Lust’ – is diametrically opposite – whats interesting here is the ‘circle’ we need to be in for this to be diametrically opposite (assuming only purely secular or traditional western philosophy of these two concepts).

  6. I lived in Egypt last year & must admit that in the first week I found it totally strange to see guys walking hand in hand. Then I grew to love it, and I find it so sweet to see father & son walking in close proximity, with arms around each other or to see men greeting with kisses.

    The Lebanese, Jordanian & Syrian dialects are so soft & lilting, it sounds especially nice when they say ‘habibi’

    Indeed, why should something pure be sullied by the impure thoughts of the West

  7. That’s true, who’s the truly mu’min who can not fall in love with that..
    That’s a beautiful thing in Islam, the good intention !!

    Jazaka Allahu khayran

  8. Good one.

    Without love how can one understand why the Companions rushed to catch the water from the blessed body of the Prophet (SAW) as he performed ablution.

  9. It is something my non-Muslim friends will never understand. I blame it on too much emphasis on exotericism and not enough on esoterism. If people can scratch beyond the surface of outward manifestation of this ‘man love’, perhaps there will be less stigma around this.

    I remember my Ustad telling me of a hadith about the day of Judgement:

    It is related on the authority of Abu Haraira (Rahimahullaah) that the Holy Prophet(salAllahu `alaihi wa sallam) said,”Seven people will be shaded by Allah under His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His. They are:
    1) The judge who is just;
    2) The man who devotes his life in the worship of God even in his youth;
    3) The man who eagerly awaits the call to prayer to go to the Mosque and worship God;
    4) The two friends, who love each other for the sake of God, when they meet they meet for the sake of God, when they separate they separate for the sake of God;
    5) The man who resists the temptation of a woman who is beautiful and comes of a respectable family and tries to incline him towards her for evil purposes;
    6) The man who gives alms with his right hand but conceals it from the left;
    7) The man when alone, meditates on God, and his eyes become filled with tears.”

    When he (my ustad) got to point number 4, he mentioned about the point you were making here. When 2 men love each other so much for the sake of Allah s.w.t, they shall be shaded on the day of judgement when the sun will become so close to earth and there is no shade except that of Allah s.w.t.

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