Philosophers and Gnostics have divided love into various categories; however as a general division they have divided love into two types:
1. True love which is the love for Allah, His attributes, and His actions.
2. Metaphorical love which is applied to many things. It can be said that metaphorical love is not limited to a human’s love of another human; rather it is having love for anything other than Allah’s essence.
What is the ruling on love? It can be said that true love and some types of metaphorical love (rational love and spiritual love) are not immoral, and can even be considered a type of perfection. And the animalistic form of love, which is the lowest form of love, can also be acceptable so long as it is coupled with chastity and piety.
This type of love, which comes and goes quickly, is not honorable or recommended as it takes away from one’s character. One can only benefit from this type of love by being chaste, pious and by not submitting to it. On one hand it puts pressure on the lover’s soul when he is distanced away and alone and on the other hand when he is pure and chaste, but there are some good and beneficial outcomes from this.
Gnostics, regarding this issue, say that metaphorical love turns into true love (the love of Allah’s essence) and that man can benefit from this type of love. Moreover, it has many positive effects: it gives man strength, takes fear away from man, and gives him bravery and boldness. Love makes a stingy person charitable, perfects the soul, and brings out amazing inner-abilities. Love is a purifier that purifies the soul from impurities.
Therefore, if love is true love it is undeniably acceptable. And so long as metaphorical love is coupled with chastity and piety then that is acceptable as well.
Love is defined in philosophy and Gnosticism in the following way:
Love or “Eshq” means a strong desire and deep inclination for something. It has been derived from the word ‘ashqah’ which is a plant that dries up any other plant or tree that it grows on but it itself continues to grow. Therefore any ‘ashqah’ that grows on something and dries up all of that which it loves, makes the body weak and enlightens the soul.
Love is the most important, and one of the highest, states of a Gnostic. It is one of the important principles of Gnosticism. Love is a divine gift from the viewpoint of Gnosticism, not something made by humans although the groundwork for reaching love can be learned.
Ibn Sīnā has said that the reason behind the existence of all things is love. He believed that love is a gift which is not limited to man and all existences encompass some form of it.
Mulla Sadrā also believed that love is something that passes through all beings and that there is not a being that does not benefit from love.
Gnosticism and philosophy have divided love up into different categories.
As a general division love is divided into two parts:
A. True love. This is the love for Allah, His attributes and His actions. True love for Allah is identified when it is not cultivated by the desire for heaven or out of fear of hell; rather, by the mere reflection of the absolute beauty and perfection of Allah. Ideal love for Allah occurs when one’s whole heart is connected to Allah and one’s soul is purified from everything except Allah.
B. Metaphorical love. This type of love can be applied to many things. It can be said that metaphorical love is not limited to a human’s love for another human; rather, it is having love for anything other than Allah’s essence. Therefore metaphorical love may differ when that which is being loved differs. Examples of this are man’s love for natural scenery, for women, for children, for money, for beauty, for fame, for being loved, etc. So, metaphorical love is a human form of love, the lover is always human but the loved does not always have to be human.
Here we will briefly mention a few of the categories of metaphorical love:
1. Rational love. Rational love in philosophical terminology means a love which starts with Allah’s essence and those close to him. Rational love manifests from the glimmers of spiritual observation in the world of spiritual realities via the journey of universal intellect in proximity to the rational soul in the celestial realm.
Rational love relates to spiritual perfection (with those close to Allah and their virtues which are linked to the world of spiritual realities and that which is above it). This stems from the love of absolute perfection, pure beauty and splendor and its emanations whose place belongs in the heart. This regards those close to Allah and those of knowledge.
2. Spiritual love. This type of love is associated with pure beauty (not only formal and exoteric things which relate to that which is seen or heard). This stems from the love for perfection and beauty associated with rational pleasures; the lover wants the loved because of its beauty and perfection not because of the benefit it offers. This form of love is experience by the elite and special confidants.
3. Natural love. This type of love refers to the beauty of the loved (without lust) and the composition which makes it beautiful.
Ibn Sīnā says that this type of love is exclusive to humans and is not found in animals. He says that the soul’s desire for apparent beauty, like a beautiful face, can be attained in two different ways: animalistic or rational. Regarding rational-natural love, Ibn Sīnā’s opinion is that the lover loves the loved because of its beautiful face – only because of the perfect composition that it has. This form of love is empty of animalistic characteristics and is a way to raise one’s station closer to Allah. This type of love is stemmed from man’s natural tendency to love beauty and is related to man’s innate sense of understanding beauty and affection. Here, apparent beauty is what is loved by the lover.
In Mi‘rāj al-Sa‘ādah, Narāqī has written that love does not occur without a reason and there are many reasons for it. Therefore, love is divided into various categories as well. In his opinion, one of the categories of love is the love of a beautiful face. He says that one should not think that the love of a beautiful face is only for sexual pleasure; rather it is an understanding of beauty itself without taking into consideration other aspects such as pleasure. It is for this same reason that man loves greenery and flowing water – not to eat the greenery, drink the water or to just look at them. He narrates that the Prophet (s) would get become pleased when he would see greenery and flowing water. Any pure heart and natural temperament will take pleasure in seeing flowers and will love them; so much that they may unearth comfort through them.
4. Natural animalistic love. Animalistic love is in face of chaste love. Its main purpose is satisfying animalistic needs. Regarding this type of love, Ibn Sīnā has stated that it is harmful for the soul for a person to love a beautiful face due to animalistic pleasures, because the human soul deals with universal ideas and universal ideas are eternal and omnipresent. Therefore, this type of love is frowned upon.
Shahīd Muttaharī says, regarding this type of love, that it comes and goes quickly and is not consistent. He says that it takes away one’s dignity and the only way that one can benefit from it is by having chastity, piety, and not giving in to it. On one hand it puts pressure on the lover’s soul when he is distanced away and alone and on the other hand when he is pure and chaste. Nonetheless, this can incur positive effects. And the opinion of Gnostics regarding this issue is that, metaphorical love turns into true love – the love of Allah’s essence.
Animalistic love involves different types of pleasures, for example: for food and sexual relationships. It stems from man’s instincts and is related to the carnal soul (nafs al-Amārah). In this love, the lover desires the loved for pleasure and personal benefit. What is the ruling on this type of love? Philosophers have different opinions regarding this matter, as to whether or not this type of love is good and virtuous or bad and immoral. Mulla Sadrā says that this type of love, which results in taking pleasure from beauty and excessive love towards it, has existed in most societies and is a one of the divine designations which necessitate special benefits and rulings, and for that reason it is virtuous. These types of love mostly result from delicate constructs. He mentions that, love of beauty is the cause of marriage and matrimony which in turn is the cause of survival of the species.
Therefore, natural animalistic love, which is the lowest form of love and usually its main purpose is to satisfy animalistic lust, can be beneficial if is coupled with chastity and piety, although some Gnostics and philosophers have disapproved of it. If one does not cross the boundaries set by Allah, then this type of love can be beneficial; just as Mulla Sadrā has mentioned, it is the cause of marriage which causes the survival of the mankind through procreation.
Mulla Sadrā is one of the Gnostics and philosophers who has divided love into two categories: true and metaphorical. True love is the love for Allah, His attributes, and His actions, and metaphorical love is either spiritual or animalistic. He believes that all existences in this world are lovers of Allah in the real sense and eager to meet their Lord. Allah has attracted a special type of love from all existences of the universe.
General effects of love:
True love has many eminent and astonishing blessings which are very different from the effects of metaphorical love. Nevertheless, there are some effects which are common amongst all types of love, (regardless of whether it is true or metaphorical, and if it is metaphorical, then whether it is spiritual or animalistic) or who or what the loved is. These are the commonalities:
1. Lowering vanity and selfishness of the lover.
2. Generating energy and strength.
3. Overlooking the shortcomings of the loved and seeing them as beauties.
4. Taking away fear from the lover and giving him bravery and valor.
5. Giving an avaricious person the power to be charitable and generous.
6. Perfecting the soul and unveiling amazing concealed potentials via love.
Conclusion: From the collective views of Gnostics and philosophers, what is clear regarding the topic of love is that if love is true love or a type of metaphorical love like rational or spiritual love; not only is it praiseworthy, it can even be considered a type of perfection. However, if love is of the animalistic form (the lowest form of love) and it is coupled with chastity and piety and within the realm of modesty, then this is acceptable as well.
 Muhammad A‘la bin ‘Alī Iltahā Nawwī, Kashāf Istilāhāt al-Fanūn, v.2, p.1012; Sayyid Ja‘far Sājidī, Farhang Istilāhāt wa Ta‘bīrāt ‘Irfānī, under the word ‘ashq, p.357
 ‘Attār Nayshābūrī, Tadhkirah al-Awlīyā’, p.328
 Ibn Sīnā, Al-Rasā’il, p.375
 Mulla Sadrā, Hikmah al-Muta‘ālīyah, v.7, p.149
 Sa‘īd Rahamīyān, Hub wa Maqām Muhibbat dar Hikmat va ‘Irfān Nazarī, p.152
 Ibn Sīnā, Risālah ‘Ashq, narrated from Hub wa Maqām Muhibbat dar Hikmat va ‘Irfān Nazarī, p.139-140
 Mulla Ahmad Narāqī, Mi‘rāj al-Sa‘ādah, p.529
 Sayyid Ja‘far Sājidī, Farhang ‘Ulūm ‘Aqlī, p.139-140
 Ibn Sīnā, Risālah ‘Ashq, narrated from Hub wa Maqām Muhibbat dar Hikmat va ‘Irfān Nazarī, p.140-141
 Murtada Muttaharī, Majmū‘ah Āthār, v.16, p.251
 Sayyid Ja‘far Sājidī, Mustalāhāt Falsafī Sadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī, p.153-155