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The word ishq does not appear in the Quran, which instead uses derivatives of the verbal root habba (حَبَّ), such as the noun hubb (حُبّ). The word is traditionally derived from the verbal root ʿašaq "to stick, to cleave to" and connected to the noun ʿašaqah, which denotes a kind of ivy. In its most common classical interpretation, ishq refers to the irresistible desire to obtain possession of the beloved (ma‘shuq), expressing a deficiency that the lover (‘āshiq) must remedy in order to reach perfection (kamāl). Like the perfections of the soul and the body, love thus admits of hierarchical degrees, but its underlying reality is the aspiration to the beauty (al-husn) which God manifested in the world when he created Adam in his own image. Islamic conception of love acquired further dimensions from the Greek-influenced view that the notions of Beauty, Good, and Truth (al-haqq) "go back to one indissoluble Unity (wahda)".
Among classical Muslim authors, the notion of love was developed along three conceptual lines, conceived in an accending hierarchical order: natural love, intellectual love and divine love. The growth of affection (mawadda) into passionate love (ishq) received its most probing and realistic analysis in The Ring of the Dove by the Andalusian scholar Ibn Hazm. The term ishq is used extensively in Sufi 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 is held to have been the basis of 'creation'.
Traditional Persian lexicographers considered the Persian ešq and Arabic ʿišq (عشق) to derive from the Arabic verbal root ʿašaq (عَشَق) "to stick, to cleave to". They connected the origin of the root to ʿašaqa (عَشَقَه), a kind of ivy, because it twines around and cleaves to trees (Zamaxšari, Tâj al-'arus).
Heydari-Malayeri suggests that (ʿišq) may have an Indo-European origin and may be related to Avestan words such as iš- "to wish, desire, search", and ultimately derive from *iška. The Avestan iš- also exists in Middle Persian in the form of išt "desire".
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.
The word ishq referred to traditional ghazals and Indo-Persian literary culture 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, Urdu, Pashto, Arabic, Sindhi, Saraiki: عشق, Turkish: aşk, Azerbaijani: eşq, Bengali: ইশক and Punjabi: ਇਸ਼ਕ.
In Persian, Ishq construed with the verbs "bākhtan باختن", "khāstan خواستن", "sanjīdan سنجیدن", "rūīdan روییدن", "nishīndan نشاندن", etc. In Persian, "Āshiq عاشق" is the active participle (lover), "Mā'shūq معشوق" is the passive participle (beloved), and "Mā'shūqah معشوقه" conveys a vulgar meaning, whilst in Arabic it is the female passive participle of "Mā'shūq معشوق".
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 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.
Ishq is also sometimes used in Hindi-language Bollywood movies which often borrow more formal, flowery and poetic words and language heavily from Urdu and Persian. The regular Hindi word for love is pyar. In Hindi, ʻIshq' (इश्क़) means lustless love. In Arabic, it is a noun. However, in Urdu it is used as both verb and noun.
In Modern Arabic the usual terms used for romantic love are habba and its derived forms hubb, habib, mahbub, etc.
In religious context, Ishq, divided into three kinds, is a very important but rather complex concept of Sufi tradition of Islam.
Ishq-e Majāzi (Persian: 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 law and considered unlawful. Hence, in Faqr, the term Ishq-e-Majazi is directed only towards Ishq-e-Murshid. This love for one's Murshid eventually leads to love for Muhammad and eventually for God, upon which one that understands Ishq-e-Haqeeqi is in fact the source of all 'metaphorical love'.
Ishq-e Rasūl or Ishq-e Muhammadi
Ishq-e Rasūl (Persian: عشق رسول) 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 Muhammad. Everything form of creation which exists is in fact the slave of the Creator. Since Muhammad 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". (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)
Sufis firmly believe that the souls of the entire creation were created from the soul of Muhammad. Hence, the purified soul of the Lover craves to return to him. This is experienced at the level where the Lover witness the reflection of all the attributes of God within Muhammad.
Ishq-e Haqīqi (Persian: 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. The inner subtlety whose locus is the heart is only felt by the true seeker of God 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." (Al-Baqarah 165)
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- M. Heydari-Malayeri On the origin of the word ešq
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