Reasonable Criticisms of the Unconditional

December 7, 2006 § 2 Comments

What is a condition? By definition a condition is a state of being, and logically the word unconditional would mean the absence of this “state of being”. Unconditional, the negated condition is stateless, being less and void of position. So when we use the phrase unconditional love what we are implying is: an affection not dependent on a state of being. However, how is this possible to offer another human being who only exists in a state of being?

The answer is one cannot, this condition of unconditional love can only be experienced upon the negation of condition. Is this even possible, if not why is there such emphasis on these ideas in certain religious, spiritual and even social circles. I think it is better for society to move away from lofty ideals that have more to do with entertaining the imagination than benevolence in society. Even benevolence and charity is based on condition; that condition being the existence and relationship of abundance and dearth. Abundance must exist for the exchange to exist or else the exchange would eventually lead to decay (death), such is the nature of man and our mutable lives.

Lately, I have been contemplating human nature as it relates to love and affection. What I’ve realized is that often the usage of “unconditional love” is used to express a higher virtue of great nobility. But something about this terminology strikes me as erroneous and the cause of more social misunderstandings than public good. Often romantics of both religion and art refer to unconditional love as an attainable virtue and occasionally an essential part of faith. For example, in Alesia Hoofat’s article, True Christianity she cites someone saying that to be a Christian means,

“Respecting and loving one another as God would.”

This is fine, I have no problem with this statement (other than its impossibility). But for arguments sake it should be noted that the created thing cannot express the same quality of love toward its creator, it seems to me that the difference in natures prohibit this, very much like a parent-child relationship. For instance, there is no way, looking back, that I can ever repay my parents for the years of support aid and guidance. Likewise, man is eternally indebted to its creator as all attempts at repayment are doomed.

Consequently, Hoofat expounded on this idea of ‘respect and love like God’ writing,

“An individual should love someone regardless of who they are, and what they believe. That unconditional love is hard to obtain because of human nature, and of course our God given free will.” (A. Hoofat, The Crusader)

Hoofat suggests that we (human beings) can and “should” love regardless of who someone is or what they believe. Which is nice and romantic; food for the imagination but in terms of substantive life, an oversimplification. This cannot be the position of a householder for instance, a member of a community as well as society expressed absolutely. There must be conditions to which the affection must change. But of course this does not imply that inhumanity has a place in this dialogue, perhaps the measurements or terms to which one must examine his or her affections does however.

As the earlier example suggests, there is no benefit in taking from dearth and giving to dearth, this is not charity. It is the exchange of abundance and dearth that increase harmony and sustain life, which is a natural condition of their relationship. Similarly, religious text repeatedly speaks of conditions upon man to obtain God’s love by way of Compassion and Mercy. For instance, in the Qur’an of the Muslims there are 56 verses (ayah) which contain the word “love” (however, in Arabic more than one word for love is used), in each of these verses God says what He loves, what man can do to obtain His love, what the righteous love or what the wicked love to say and do as described here,

“Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity: For He loveth not creatures ungrateful and wicked.” (2:276)

Likewise, the Bible has text with a similar style, one where Jesus implies what the righteous do saying,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)

In summary I would like to point out that although unconditional love seems a novel idea, its application by definition of the word is impossible, as all affections are conditional the first being the human condition, birth and death (existence). My guess is that the term is more the result of art and culture than virtues derived from any of the three Abrahamic religions. Although, I could be wrong on this point, the logical stand makes a strong enough case against the validation of the terminology as an authentic virtue. Be that as it may, the notion ‘love thy enemy even as thyself’ does not equate to unconditional love, there are inherent conditions and a profundity in contrasts.


§ 2 Responses to Reasonable Criticisms of the Unconditional

  • Me2 says:

    Assalamu Alikum brother,

    A great issue as usual
    something you said in here may explain a lot

    In summary I would like to point out that although unconditional love seems a novel idea, its application by definition of the word is impossible

    this explains why the Arab world – which is the center of Muslim world- hate the Jew.. simply Jew for us = Israel & though that we shouldn’t hate Judaism as we believe that it’s a religion,,, still we can’t love Jew people, but if we’re dealing with American Jew we won’t feel that hatred,, I won’t ask for his/her religion, I’ll deal with him/her normally till I discover that he’s not a Christian, things can’t be changed easily.
    Though as a Muslim I should love all the people & shouldn’t hate… some how hatred seems like a sin, still unconditional love is impossible as you said

  • Abu Sahajj says:

    wa ‘alaikum as-salaam Sis,

    Thank you for compliment and confidence in my efforts here at Wa Salaam. It means a great deal to me, but it strikes a chord with me that your thoughts are so definitive (final) about Arab-Jewish relations. Overall, I think that we share the same fire that burns in our hearts when you see a Muslim-Mother shot in the stomach by Israeli soldiers or a woman’s hijab ripped off her head, by soldiers or even other women, powerless against them. The tears in my eyes when I see a boy no older than 14 in front of an Israeli tank, fearlessly protesting with rocks (rocks vs. tanks!), are in your eyes too, this I know.

    However, somewhere along the way we have got to put the cards on the table, and to me those cards include a spectrum of ideas and solutions that cannot be resolved with rocks, nor can they be resolved in racist nationalism (that does not only includes Israel, Britain, and US but Saudi Arabia as well) masked in partisan pseudo-democratic politics (which is just as bad really).

    There needs to be a grass-roots assesment of the violence and crimes committed against innocent people. That is what first need to be assessed, the actual numbers of people dying, without jobs or transportation. Once the quality of life is increased for those suffering what left is there to fight for, after that I’m sure the people who’s lives have improved will get rid of the hirabi trouble makers themselves, without enormous War campaigns.

    Besides, hating Jews is a dangerous generalization, and as far as I know, not what the Prophet Muhammad would accept. For example, is it fair to hate the man who is in another country fight, protesting making on a jihad against injustices committed by his own people? What do you think?


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