Love, my love.

Love in Arabic is ḥob (حُب) and for every complex Arabic word is a root word. Here, ḥob comes from ḥab (حَب) which means “seed” and alludes to the fact that once love is planted, like a seed, it grows and grows through nourishment, attention, and care.

I want to love. I want to love without society telling me how not to love or putting guidelines on how to display my affection. There are so many rules in the “dating game” and it’s so sad it’s even seen as a game. Getting to know someone with the intention to love is more than the expectation that there will be a winner and a loser at the end. Love has no limits; there is no finish line. Once you plant the seed, it grows like a tree, with a trunk for stability, branches to express yourself, leaves to absorb the lover’s luminary presence, and fruit that is the consequence of your loving actions.

They tell me, Yeee Allāh y’een jawzik! “Oh God help your husband, you’re going to control him!” But how is a lover’s ability to accurately predict and understand someone’s wants and desires putting them on a leash? How is my husband’s dedication to do something for me when I request it or knowing I would appreciate it a way of control? Love is nothing like control. You can’t control how much you love someone. It’s the only emotion that encompasses true freedom, because love is only accomplished without fear.

I want to crack my chest open and take my heart out and give it to you. Can you understand that?

In Arabic, the word for heart is qalb (قلْب) and roots from qalaba (قلَبَ) which means “flip” or “rotate” because our hearts turn over and change and react to words and actions and sights and sounds so easily. And our hearts are most sensitive to love. “My heart skipped a beat.”

I believe God promised me in the Qurān:

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And among His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find comfort and repose in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect. (30:21)

He created my lover from me. How am I not going to have hope from that? How am I going to neglect Him by denying the destiny of love He has already written for us?

Every Arab grows up with the story of Qays and Layla (قيس و ليلى), also called Majnoon Layla (مجنون ليلى), meaning “Layla’s Madman.” Qays and Layla lived in a place called Al’Ᾱmirīyah (العامرِيّة) in Iraq and met in a cave some 40 kilometers from their village. In that cave, they would share poetry and words of love between each other. Qays used to write poetry on the walls of their village.

I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla
And I kiss this wall and that wall
It’s not Love of the houses that has taken my heart
But of the One who dwells in those houses

مر على الديار ديار ليلى       أقبل ذا الجدار وذا الجدارا
وما حب الديار شغفن قلبي      ولكن حب من سكن الديارا

Qays left to sell his poetry so he can save money to marry Layla. In the years Layla spent waiting for him, she would cry making the sand beneath her feet wet. She would wipe her tears with her fingertips so much that her fingers turned red. When he returned, they met on the mountain of Rāma and Qays saw her red fingertips and feared she had left him for another, because it was tradition to dye your fingers with ḥenna when you are engaged. She swore it was not so and it was from wiping the tears she had weeped when he left.

و لمَّا تَلاقينا على ســـــــفحِ رامَةٍ        وجدتُ بنان الـــــــعامريَّةِ أحمرا
فقلتُ خضبتِ الكفَّ على فراقنا؟!        فقالت : معاذ الله , ذلك ما جرى
ولكنَّنِــــــي لـــــــما وجدتُكَ راحلاً      بكيتُ  دماً حتى بللــت به الثرى
مسحت بأطراف البنانِ مدامعي          فصار خضاباً في اليدين كــما ترى

Qays went to Layla’s father asking for her hand, but her father realized he was who had been writing on the walls near Layla’s home about her. Layla’s father rejected him for fear of exposing what he thought was a scandal and dishonoring his daughter. He quickly married Layla off to another man, breaking Qays’s heart and forcing him to leave the village to the desert. Only from the reports of travelers did the villagers know Qays was still alive, writing poetry in the sand and going mad, for Layla. Majnoon Layla.

I want love like that, even at the risk of going crazy. Because there is nothing wrong with it. Love is crazy, as cliche as that sounds. Love is borderline obsession. Love is so insane it is almost a psychological disability—no, a psychological capability! Now I’m just playing with words.

ismail-shammout-3

By the famous Palestinian painter, Ismail Shammout.

Being of Lebanese and Syrian origin, there is always the influence of the Levant running through me. The experiences my family and ancestors have gone through is not everyone’s history. There’s so much more that we understand and see and believe. This does not feign arrogance, it is simply that we are different, as every culture is. Susan Abulhawa reassured me in “Mornings in Jenin” that the love I can feel is not the love of everyone else.

“But when I confessed to a string of disappointing relationships in the United States, her [Fatima’s] voice deepened, pulling words from a wisdom at her core. Amal, I believe that most Americans do not love as we do. It is not for any inherent deficiency or superiority in them. They live in the safe, shallow parts that rarely push human emotions into the depths where we dwell. I see your confusion. Consider fear. For us, fear comes where terror comes to others because we are anesthetized to the guns constantly pointed at us. And the terror we have known is something few Westerners ever will. Israeli occupation exposes us very young to the extremes of our own emotions, until we cannot feel except in the extreme.
“The roots of our grief coil so deeply into loss that death has come to live with us like a family member who makes you happy by avoiding you, but who is still one of the family. Our anger is a rage that Westerners cannot understand. Our sadness can make the stones weep. And the way we love is no exception, Amal.
“It is the kind of love you can know only if you have felt the intense hunger that makes your body eat itself at night. The kind you know only after life shields you from falling bombs or bullets passing through your body. It is the love that dives naked toward infinity’s reach. I think it is where God lives.”
In the long wait for one another and in the sacred love nestled in war, Yousef and Fatima had discovered this secret.

Why am I using so many references and quotes? Because it is unbelievably difficult to explain what love is. I want love that is raw and unrestricted. I don’t care if I end up loving him more than myself. I’m a self-confident person and I love myself, which keeps my mind at rest, but I want my heart to be happy. Um Kulthoom sings ifraḥ ya qalbī (افرح يا قلبي) “Be happy, my heart!” Because you are my heart.

Baddi ḥib. I want to love.

Serine is a graduate student of Lebanese descent pursuing an International MBA in Healthcare Management. She hopes to one day use her studies to help ease the hardships Middle Eastern refugees face in accessing medical care. She tweets here

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Gab .

  2. Reblogged this on The Little Lantern and commented:
    She’s reading my mind.

  3. A beautiful, inspiring piece. But believe me, Americans can love like that. And do suffer deeply in life. If I told you just my own story, you might not even believe it. And the Love I feel is just as deep, just as passionate, as what is described. So that judgement made me sad, especially in a writing about Love. But other than that, wonderful.

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