"Love, according to the dictionary, is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another being. Heartwarming though this definition may be, it doesn't begin to describe the power contained in that four-letter word. Love, according to Islamic mystics, is the ultimate divine mystery, the force that brought the universe and, indeed, each one of us, into being. 'I was a secret Treasure,' God revealed to the Prophet Muhammed, 'and I longed to be known, so I created the worlds, visible and invisible.' The secret Treasure, in Sufi writings, is Al-Wadud, the One Who Loves. This Divine Lover appointed us humans as God's representatives on earth and, says the Qur'an, has made Her Bounties flow to us 'in abundant measure, seen and unseen' (31:20). All we are asked in return is to worship none other than Allah. And what is worship? Again the dictionary provides the basic answer: It is to adore, and to adore is to regard with utmost love and esteem.

"How does one begin to explain love? If we use intellect to fathom love, we shall be left far behind in life's journey. Overthinking leads us to shrink from the smallest obstacles to love, and we often experience love as subtle degrees of domination and servitude. 'But this is not love!' exclaims Rumi. From the depths of his being he pours out poetic insights about the true nature of love. Love arrives complete, like the moon in the sky, he says. It is an ocean whose depths cannot be fathomed. The garden of love is green without limit and yields many fruits other than joy and sorrow. To understand the beauty, mystery, and power of love, we must experience this divine attribute not in our minds but in our hearts. With hearts truly open to love, we no longer shrink from its obstacles and are ready to take on dragons!

"We humans tend to 'love' all kinds of things other than our fellow beings. We love our new cars, our technological gizmos, our favorite foods. Many of us also love peace, social justice, earth care, and other worthy causes. What we may not realize is that in all our pursuits of people, things, and causes, what we are really longing for is the ultimate satisfaction of being in a loving relationship with the Divine Source of Love. 'There is a disease in my breast that no doctor can cure,' said the early Sufi saint Rabia; only union with the Divine Friend could cure her malady. All our longings for emotional and material satisfaction are really a deeper yearning for Absolute Mystery, veiled and obscure. 'Friend!' cried out the sixteenth-century sage Kabir, 'Ask yourself, who is it we spend our entire lives loving?'

"This leads to a deeper mystery: Loving God is about widening and deepening our inner capacity to encompass love for the Source. The absolute splendor of the Beloved and our capacity to hold love for the Beloved are revealed as one and the same. This is a wondrous insight. This is the crux of love."