I chanced upon this post recently on Kuhlsnotes and felt moved to share it.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf told one of the most beautiful stories on love, unrequited love and shifa during the RIS Knowledge Retreat last winter in Toronto, Canada –
Speaking of the generosity of ‘Aisha (Rd.) –
“… she also was very generous – Bareerah was a woman that ‘Aisha (Rd.) purchased and then set free, and the famous story about Bareerah was that she was married to someone named Mugheeth. Now if two slaves were married and then the woman was freed, then she can leave/divorce her husband if she wants to because now she’s free and the husband is not, so there is no parity between them.
So Bareerah wanted to leave Mugheeth, but Mugheeth loved her. He went into total distress, and he literally was walking behind her around Madina begging her to take him back.
Abbas (Rd.) was with the Prophet (saw) one day and they saw Bareerah and the Prophet (saw) said: “Isn’t it strange how much Mugheeth loves Bareerah and how much Bareerah dislikes Mugheeth?”
And the Ulema say when the Prophet (saw) said “Isn’t it strange”, the Arabs use the word “strange” only when the means/cause (sabaab, lit. ‘door’) of/to something is unknown – and that there is no need for something to be called “strange” if the cause is known.
So the Prophet (saw) was calling him to the point the strangeness of love. Love is very strange.
Why do people fall in love?
Why are our hearts are attracted to some people and not other people?
Why love is sometime unrequited (un-returned)?
Because the worst type of love is unrequited love: when you love somebody and they don’t love you – there is nothing worst than that in the world, unrequited love. And obviously the worst type of unrequited love is with God, because we want the Love of God. That’s why Abu’l-Hasan ash-Shadhili (teacher of Ibn ‘Ata’ Illah al-Iskandari ) use to say:
“Oh Allah –
make my wrong actions, the wrong actions of people whom You Love, and
don’t make my good actions, the good actions of people whom You do not Love.”
In other words – I would rather have wrong actions and be someone who You Love, than have good actions and be someone who You don’t Love.
So the Prophet (saw) went to Bareerah, who was the freed slave of ‘Aisha, and he said: “Won’t you reconsider Mugheeth?” And she said: “are you telling me to do this, because if you are telling me to, then I have to do it.” He (saw) replied: “I am only interceding on his behalf”.
And that’s his Shifa – ‘he finds it difficult things you find difficult’. The Prophet (saw) saw Mugheeth suffering and he wanted to help him. That shows you his shafaaqa, even in love he wanted to help this poor man who was suffering from the loss of his love.
So when the Prophet (saw) replied that he was only interceding, Bareerah replied: “I don’t have any need for him”. So there was something arrogant in her answer, as she was free and he was still a slave – there was something there from her nafs.
Now when Mugheeth saw that Bareerah rejected intercession from the one that even God had given intercession, Mugheeth suddenly lost all desire for her – it was just taken out of his heart.
And at that point when he lost all desire for Bareerah, suddenly she fell madly in love with him – like a punishment for rejecting the intercession of the Prophet (saw) – he did not want anything to do with her, yet she was now begging him to take her back now!”
– Shaykh Hamza Yusuf,
RIS Knowledge Retreat 2008, Toronto, Canada