Love in Confucianism and Islam.. A comparative study

  • 2019-Oct-31
Mankind has entered again in calamities since the eighties of the 20th century, especially the Arab countries and the Muslim world.

Many people are suffering from wars and killing, which lead to the demolition of houses, the destruction of lives, escaping homelands and suffering afflictions inside the country. All these manifestations have almost become ordinary things in our time.

Before this troubled era, people were forced to reflect and seek to find a new way in order to restore the world order. Some have tried to use the military force to conquer people and force them to be silent and superficially stable, while others went too far to spread their ideas and values to control the minds and bodies of others. But it seems that the two methods of domination did not succeed in the end. Finally, one way has spread light and hope for people, it is the path of dialogue among civilizations and nations.

The Chinese nation and the Arab nation are two ancient civilized nations, and they have a long history and ancient civilization and precious legacy. They have occupied outstanding high position among all civilizations and enjoyed a good reputation among all nations. The two civilizations had a common task, which is to guide the people to guidance and righteousness, therefore each one of them has proposed positive views to maintain personal relationships and establish the social order.

It is known that Confucianism is the extract of the Chinese civilization, whereas Islam is the essence of the Arab civilization. Each one of them contains many ideas that relate to the guidance of human destiny and reform. Sometimes these ideas become identical and sometimes they have distinctive views on the theory of the world, society and individual. Here, I would like to establish a solid foundation for the dialogue between them, in order to exchange ideas, values and concepts between the two civilizations, which will finally lead to respect and mutual understanding between the two great nations.

Both civilizations, Confucianism and Islam, have cared about the concept of love from the beginning of time until now, and still love is an important issue in both the Confucian and Islamic traditions. Unfortunately, our time lacks love and intimacy between the people and races, even among family members, therefore the emphasis on love and calling for it has become a necessarily modern tone. Perhaps the dialogue about love would provide an effective way to save humans beings from misery and sadness and pave a new way to get rid of suffering and hardships in the 21st century.

Love in Confucianism is a special term and an important concept in the culture of Confucianism, as it is considered the essence of ethics and the basis of the principles of conduct and on which human relations between individuals and groups are built.

Some scientists believe that all Confucian ideas revolve around the theory of love. In fact, love is the essence and origin of ethics in Confucianism. Confucianism considers all ethics stem from love as some Confucian scholars said: “love reflects all ethics”. Confucianism has made love the basic criterion for human beings, considering man is only different from inanimate objects by love, as the Confucian legacy book mentioned: “Love is humanity."

Islam is the religion of integrity and the religion of mercy, as indicated by its (Arabic) name and what has been explained by its book (the Quran). The message of Islam is communicating mercy and compassion to all creatures. Therefore, Islam is not free of values and ethics that reflect the meaning of love. Perhaps the word mercy or compassion in Islam is closer to the concept of love in Confucianism. The Quran is full of these meanings as well as the Prophetic Hadith.

Islam believes that love is one of the attributes of Allah (God), so people should have this value. In Islam, love is divided into two parts: Innate love and Shariah-based love. Innate love is that when man loves something by his nature, such as: loving sleep, food, drink, children, money, generosity and beauty. As for Shariah-based love, it is the instructions enjoined by the Lawgiver as obligatory or approved, such as: loving Allah, His Messenger and the poor. Both types of love are recognized and admitted by Islam, however Islam has set some limits and constrains for innate love.

Love in Confucianism is a natural human feeling, stemming from people when they find something pleasant or satisfactory. It expresses true human feelings, which is gratitude and thanks, which children find towards their parents, as they are the source of life. It is not hidden from anyone that life is the most precious thing possessed by man, so there is no much blessing than life. Therefore, the giver of life is more deserving to be thanked and appreciated, and the love of one’s parents is instilled inside man. Therefore, Confucianism establishes its ethics on the basis of love.

Islam is a religion based on the worship of Allah and devotion to Him, and Allah is the only topic in the doctrines, ideas and values of Islam. One of the essential elements of this belief is to dedicate and direct love before anything to Allah, thus Islam enjoined the love of Allah.

On the other hand, Islam recognizes that the source of gratitude is love. Since love in Confucianism arising out of gratitude and thanks to the parents for the blessing of life, love in Islam is built on directing gratitude and thanks to Allah, since He is the Creator of life, Creator of life and death, Creator of the life of parents, Creator of the life of children and Creator of everything in the universe, according to the doctrine of Islam. So, the blessing of creation requires thanks, appreciation and love. Therefore, Islam has made loving Allah a kind of worship to Him. Since all things in the world are created by Allah, man has to love for the sake of Allah everything that relates to Him. Hence, ethics have emerged in Islam.

Confucianism considers being dutiful to parents is the top of all ethics, and therefrom the circle of love expands. So, the closest to parents are the children and so on. Hence, children should love one another for the sake of the parents and the young should respect the elder. The love of brethren follows respect to one’s parents and occupies a high position in the ethics of Confucianism. Then the circle of love expands to include all relatives, because through the parents the relation has been established, therefore each one of family members deserves love from every person in the family. Love in Confucianism has not been limited in brethren and relatives, but extended to all people, for being of the same race or for being brothers in humanity and expressed it by general love for all. Love in Confucianism is not only limited in man, but extended to all objects in nature, including animals, plants and inanimate objects. Confucian scholar Ming Zi said: “People have to progress from dutifulness to the parents to the mercy of people then from the mercy of people to the love of creatures."

Islam believes that the most entitled of love and the most deserving in this life is loving the one who created this universe and man; He is the Lord of the Worlds. There is no creator lord but Allah, the One and the Only, because out of His great attributes and blessing is that He has bestowed many types of goodness and blessings on them and granted them good sustenance and righteous deeds that entail His love either rationally or according to the Shariah. Love in Islam also extends to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by the command of Allah. Then, by the mercy to the world, Islam did not lose sight of human rights and creatures. Love in Islam includes the love of one’s parents for being the cause and source of life then loving one’s family, such as: the spouse and the children for the innate passion, then loving the relatives for the kinship relationship, then loving the believers for the fiducial relationship. Love in Islam has not stopped at this point, but it has extended to all things in nature such as animals, plants and inanimate objects.

It seems that the similarity between the Confucian civilization and Islamic civilization in the meaning of love and its dimensions is quite obvious until it has been identical in some aspects. Muslim scholars in China noted this similarity long time ago and spoke about sufficiently in their books, so it was said that this similarity came from the fact that both civilizations come from divine revelation. Just as Islam is the revelation of Allah sent down to Prophet Muhammad, Confucianism was revealed to ancient Chinese or it is the remnants of previous revelations in ancient times. So, it is not surprising to find similarities and convergence between the two civilizations in some of the concepts because their sources is the same. However, if we follow the characteristics of the two civilizations accurately, we find there is a great difference. The difference was not just in branches, but in the roots, for example, love in Confucianism stems from gratitude to one’s parents then extends to all people and objects. Based on this idea, it has become clear to us that Confucianism is characterized by humanity or human characteristics and considers man a central principle to establish its philosophical ideas on him, whereas Islam believes that love arising out of thanks and gratitude to the Creator of life for being the source of the universe. Love in Islam begins from the love of Allah then goes beyond to all people and objects. Based on that, it has become clear that love in Islam is characterized by divine characteristics, where Allah is the Only and the central fundamental in all Islamic thoughts and theories. 

Chinese civilization and the Arab Islamic civilization are the world’s most famous and most important civilizations, and both have left a great impact on the world in the past as well as the present and may have a greater impact in the future with the passage of time. It is no secret that the Chinese nation has risen from among the nations and was famous for the progress of its sciences, technologies and abundant population and exerting of efforts. The Arab and Islamic nation has also been known for its spread east and west, the huge number of population and vitality, therefore both civilizations are known for their noticeable impact on the world. Therefore, the study of their most important thoughts has become one of the requirements of the time, especially those ideas that are related to the march of the world and the fate of mankind.

It is good that the two civilizations have provided us with positive views and constructive ideas for the progress of societies and urbanization of peoples. One of these ideas is the theory of love whose benefit prevails to all human beings. Although the reality and the characteristics of the two civilizations are different, the features and means of love in both civilizations are almost identical. Dialogue between both civilizations on this issue will open a door for long relationship between them, and this kind of dialogue may lead to the love and respect of one another. Certainly, today’s world needs this dialogue, which could inspire people to generate ideas to resolve modern crises and lead us to peaceful cohabitation, and could pave a new way to get rid of suffering and hardship in the present and the future.


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