Love is doing

Some women have dreams about their weddings.
Some men dream about finding “the one.”
I’ve dreamed about having a kid…ever since I was 12.
A few years later, we became pregnant, and added a baby girl to our family. The birth of my daughter, Roya, stands out as the single most powerful and most beautiful day of my life.
Yup, it’s kind of freaky, but I have always wanted to be a dad.
When it was time to marry, I was fortunate enough to find a strong and beautiful woman who was already a single mom, thus making us an instant family, and allowing me to step into the role of fatherhood right away.

What stands out in my mind is the very first time that I held my daughter, down to the exact feel of that soft, supple, beautiful light brown skin. I remember holding my daughter in my eyes, and in Muslim fashion whispering the call to prayer and a chapter of the Qur’an in her ears as the first sound that she would hear in this world.

She opened up her beautiful gray eyes and stared at me. There I was, holding this little being with a big soul whose eyes were fixated on me, never wavering. She didn’t blink. She stared into my heart. That unwavering glance reminded me of the loving glance exchanged between the Prophet (S) and God at the very zenith of the mi’raj.

There and then, in that very moment, I felt my heart physically expand to a point that I hadn’t known before. It wasn’t that I loved the rest of humanity less. It was that my heart expanded to create space for this newborn soul in a perfect and absolute way than I had never experienced before.

I had known love before, loved my family, loved my friends, and passionately so. But this was a love unlike all those. It was, paraphrasing that beautiful Rumi poem:

perfected and whole,
you arrive.

That love has lingered. It is not a rose-y kind of love, not the stuff of legends and story books. It is the most real love I have ever known.

It is the get-up-in-the-morning-and-fix-breakfast-when-you-are-exhausted kind of love.

It is the take-your-child-into-your-bed-when you-haven’t-had-a-good-sleep-for-weeks –because-she-has-had-a-bad-dream kind of love.

It is the forget-seeing-cool-movies-and-reading-the-latest books-and-replace-them-with-Disney-and-Pixar kind of love.

What amazes me about this love, compared to any romantic love I have ever known, is that in this love there is no holding a grudge. In romantic love, probably because of my own spiritual shortcomings, I hold a grudge, and I mope. Not so with the love for my children.

They can throw an absolute temper tantrum (and do about 17 times a day). Yet when they wake up every morning, sleepy with dragon breath, they crawl into my lap and give me kisses as if nothing happened the day before. They don’t remember, and I don’t linger. That kind of love reminds me of the blessing of living in the now, the eternal love, in love and gratitude, rather than attaching ourselves to the past or hurling ourselves into the future.

It is the closest I have come to realizing a perfect love, indeed, a Divine love. It reminds me that this is what it must be like for God to love us: Offering absolute love, and forgiving when one has the power to punish.

It reminds me of a story by the Blessed Prophet: There was a mother who had lost her infant child, and was extremely anxious over her. When she found her baby, she held her child to her chest and began nursing her. The companions of the Prophet were deeply moved by the outpouring of her love.

The Prophet (S) said to them: “Do you think that this mother would throw her child into the fire?” The companions said “Of course not!” The Prophet said: “Then, know that God is even more loving towards humanity than this woman is to her child.”

Prior to parenthood, I thought of love as an emotion, as something that one experiences. Now, I see it more as something that one does. You do love. Love is everyday; love is service.

I am grateful for having come a step closer to experiencing Divine love, a love that is absolute and not dependent on reciprocity.

For all of this, I am grateful to God, to the cosmos, to my wife, and to my children.
Dr. Omid Safi is an award-winning teacher, speaker, and a leading progressive Muslim intellectual in America. He is a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in contemporary Islamic thought and classical Islam. His most recent book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. His commentary has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, and other national and international media. He is also the lead Islam writer for The Huffington Post. This piece was originally published on

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