This article is about the word Ishq. For other uses, see Ishq (disambiguation).

Ishq or išq (Arabic: عشق, Urdu: عشق, Persian: عشق, Central Kurdish: عیشق) in classical Persian, literally means 'love'. Ishq does not appear in the Quran, which instead uses the verb habba (حَبَّ) and its derivatives, for example the noun hubb (حُبّ). Moreover, in Modern Arabic the relevant terms dominantly used are: habba and its derived forms hubb, habib, mahbub, etc.[1] The word is derived from ʿashiqah, a vine: the common belief is that when love takes its root in the heart of a lover, everything other than God is effaced.[2] The term "Ishq" is excessively used by Sufis in their poetry and literature to describe their selfless and 'burning love for Allah'. It is the core concept in the doctrine of Islamic mysticism as it is the key to the connection between man and God. Ishq itself was the basis of 'creation'.[3]


In the most languages such as Dari: eshq; in Pashto: eshq; in Somali: caashaq or cishqi; in Turkish: aşk and in Azerbaijani: eşq, in modern Persian as ešq or eshgh عشق, it literally means "love". ešq (عشق) used in Persian and Arabic (ʿišq), may have an Indo-European origin and may be related to Avestan iš- "to wish, desire, search", aēša- "desire, search", išaiti "he wishes", išt "wished for, beloved", išti- "aspiration, aim", and suggests that it derives from *iška. Avestan iš- is cognate with Sanskrit eṣ- "to wish, strive for, seek", icchā- "wish, desire", icchati "seeks for, wishes", iṣta- "beloved, sought", iṣti- "search, desire", Pali icchaka- "wishing, desirous". Note also that this word exists in Middle Persian in the form of išt "desire", as attested by Farahvaši.

In contrast, the origin mentioned by traditional Persian lexicographers for ešq is the Arabic ʿišq (عشق), from ʿašaq (عَشَق) "to stick, to cleave to". The latter is itself derived from ʿašaqa (عَشَقَه) the plant commonly called lablâb (لَبلاب) ("a kind of ivy"), because it twines upon trees, and cleaves to them (Zamaxšari, Tâj al-'arus).

Ešq lacks a Hebrew counterpart; the Hebrew term for love is ahav, which is akin to Arabic habba (حَبَّ). Another Hebrew term used in the Old Testament is xašaq "to desire; to attach; delight, pleasure" (for example, Deu 10:15, 21:11; 1 Ki 9:19; Exo 27:17, 38:17; Gen 34:8). According to Prof. Scott B. Noegel, the Hebrew xašaq and Arabic ʾašaq are etymologically unrelated. The Hebrew x (ḥet) can equate either with an Arabic h (ḥāʾ) or x (ḫāʾ) and the Hebrew ʿayin can equate either with an Arabic ʿayn or ghayn, but they do not mix. Also, typically the Hebrew š (shin) is reflected by an Arabic s (sin), and vice versa. As for the meanings, the similarity is a coincidence. Also, they are not ultimately of the same meaning. Hebrew x-š-q probably meant "to bind" or "press together", as does its Aramaic equivalent. Similarly, Prof. Werner Arnold underlines that Hebrew x in word initial positions is always an Arabic h (ḥāʾ) and never ʾayn.

As a word in different languages

Some scholars objected to the use of the term 'ishq' due to its association with sensual love but despite the linguistic, cultural or technical meanings, Sufis believe that 'ishq' can only be associated to the Divine.[5]

The word ishq referred to traditional ghazals and Indo-Persian literary culture[6] and has made its way to many other languages which were influenced by sufism. Some of the most notable languages which have this word are Persian, Hindi, Urdu, Pashto, Arabic, Turkish, Azerbaijani (Azeri), Sindhi, Saraiki and Punjabi. In Persian, Ishq construed with the verbs "bākhtan باختن", "khāstan خواستن", "sanjīdan سنجیدن", "rūīdan روییدن", "nishīndan نشاندن", etc.[7] In persian which is a neutral language, "Āshiq عاشق" are subjective forms, "Mā'shūq معشوق" are objective forms, and "Mā'shūqah معشوقه" contains a vulgar meaning, whilst in Arabic they are female objective forms of "Mā'shūq معشوق". Ishq is also sometimes used in Hindi ʻIshq and has a meaning of lustless love.[8] In Arabic, it is a noun. However, in Urdu it is used as both verb and noun. In Urdu, Ishq (عشق) is used to refer to fervent love for any object, person or God. However, it is mostly used in its religious context. In Urdu, three very common religious terminologies have been derived from Ishq. These terminologies are Ishq-e-Haqīqi (love of Truth), Ishq-e majāzi (love of God's creation i.e. a human), and ishq-e rasūl / ishq-e Muhammadi (love of the Messenger / love of Muhammad). Other than these, in non-religious context, ‘ishq is a synonym for obsessive love. In Hindi, ishq (इश्क़) is mostly used to refer to romantic love in its extreme passionate form. This interpretation of Ishq is mostly popularised by Bollywood movies and Indian filmi music. In Turkish, Aşk is commonly used to express love, passion or adoration. The Turkish version replaces the 'q' with a 'k', as Turkish lacks voiceless uvular plosive, and the letter 'ş' with the cedilla denotes the "sh" sound, /ʃ/. In comparison with Arabic or Urdu, (like Persian) the word is less restrictive and can be applied to many forms of love, or simply romance. It is common in the lyrics of Turkish songs.

Stages of Ishq

In religious context, Ishq, divided into three kinds, is a very important but rather complex concept of Sufi tradition of Islam.

Ishq-e Majāzi

Ishq-e Majāzi (عشق مجازی) literally means "metaphorical love". It refers to the love for God's creation i.e. love of a man for a woman or another man and vice versa. It is said to be generated by beloved person's external beauty but since it is connected to lust, it is against the Islamic law and considered unlawful. Hence, in Faqr, the term Ishq-e-Majazi is directed only towards Ishq-e-Murshid.[9] This love for one's Murshid eventually leads to love for Hazrat Mohammad and eventually for Allah reaching which one understands Ishq-e--Haqeeqi is in fact the source of all 'metaphorical love'.

Ishq-e Rasūl or Ishq-e Muhammadi

Ishq-e Rasūl (عشق رسول; in Arabic: ʻIshq ar-Rasūl, Arabic: عشق الرسول) ' means "love of Muhammad," an important part of being a Muslim. In Sufism, however, the Ishq-e-Majazi changes its form to Ishq-e-Rasool and the intense feeling of Ihsq is developed for Hazrat Mohammad. Everything form of creation which exists is in fact the slave of Allah, the Creator. Since, Hazrat Mohammad is the most beloved to Allah, the true Lover feels Ishq-e-Rasool till "the Prophet becomes dearer to him than his life, wives, children, house,business and everything else".(Bukhari and Muslim)[10]
Sufis firmly believe that the souls of the entire creation were created from the soul of Hazrat Muhammad hence, the purified soul of the Lover craves to return back to him. This is experienced at the level where the Lover witness the reflection of all the attributes of Allah within Hazrat Mohammad.

Ishq-e Haqeeqi

Ishq-e Haqīqi (عشق حقیقی) literally means "the real love" i.e. "the love of God". It refers to the belief that only God is worth loving and He is the only one who can return His creature's love for Him.[11] The inner subtlety whose locus is the heart is only felt by the true seeker of Allah otherwise there is no difference between a beast and a man because even a beast has five senses whereas the sixth i.e. the inner sight is only additional to the human.

"And those who truly believe, love Allah intensely."[12] (Al-Bakra 165)

See also


  1. M. Heydari-Malayeri On the origin of the word ešq
  2. Din al-Muhabbat
  3. Mohammad Najib ur Rehman, Hazrat Sakhi Sultan. Day of Alast-The start of creation. Sultan ul Faqr Publications Regd. ISBN 9789699795084.
  4. M. Heydari-Malayeri On the origin of the word ešq
  5. Ghazzali, Aaron Spevack, Fethullah Gülen. Ghazali on the Principles of Islamic Spirituality: Selections from the Forty Foundations of Religion Annotated & Explained. SkyLight Paths Publishing. ISBN 9781594732843.
  6. Ghazal Notes: Ishq
  7. STEINGAS, Francis Joseph. A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, عشق, Asian Educational Services, 1992, page 850.
  8. Ghazal Notes: Ishq
  9. Mohammad Najib ur Rehman, Hazrat Sakhi Sultan. Ishq-e-Majazi (Metaphorical Love). Sultan ul Faqr Publications Regd. ISBN 9789699795183.
  10. Muslim, Bukhari. "Hadith of Hazrat Mohammad pbuh".
  11. Mohammad Najib ur Rehman, Hazrat Sakhi Sultan. Ishq-e-Haqeeqi (Divine Love). Sultan ul Faqr Publications Regd. ISBN 9789699795183.
  12. 7 Renowned Translations, Arabic to English Translation. "Al Baqarah (The Cow) 165".
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