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“.