I love my cousin and I can’t control my feelings, is God angry with me?
I have been taught today that if I love anything/anyone other than God I will be punished by it. I am in love with my cousin. And I have learned my lesson a long time ago that affection/attachment to that which is not God is a sin. But I cannot control my heart. I tried and I tried and I tried and I am very frustrated. His love does not make me go away from God, it makes me ask God to help me and take hold of my heart and feelings. I keep asking Him to support me, and I do not let myself think of my cousin more than God. I am fighting myself. I do not wish to be tortured by it. What do I do?
When I read your letter, I understood that the source of your confusion is not your love for your cousin but rather your misunderstanding of the concept of love in Islam. You have started your letter by saying that “if I love anything or anyone other than God, I will be punished by it”, this statement of yours is phrased in the wrong way because your statement simply means that we are not allowed to love our parents, spouses, families, friends, neighbors, humans or animals or anything for that matter as all things fall under “other than God”. The correct statement is that “if we love anything or anyone more than God then this would be wrong”.
Before going any further we have to differentiate between two kinds of love. The first kind is natural love which is instilled in our hearts and this includes love for one self, family, spouses, friends, neighbors along with other inclinations towards certain food types, colors, movie choices, pet kinds etc…
The second type of love is the love for God, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the divine law which includes a list of rulings of permissions and prohibitions towards certain things.
When natural love goes against divine love, we should not favor the former over the latter. Love of God, his Prophet and the divine law should take precedence over other types of natural love and the reason for this is because naturally humans fall captives to what they love and to whom they love. Therefore we should be very careful to whom or to what we give the reins of our heart. For example, love between men and women are natural and no sane person can deem it prohibited but channeling this love outside the wedlock is prohibited in Islam and for this reason if someone chose to favor his natural love feeling towards the one he or she loves over the love of God who prohibited proceeding in this relationship outside matrimonial ties then this love is prohibited.
This is the meaning of the verse in which God says, “Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight ... are more loved to you than God and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause , then wait until God brings about His Decision (torment). And God guides not the people who are disobedient to God). (9:24)
This means that as long as your love for your cousin does not lead you to commit anything which goes against your love for God by disobeying Him or transgressing against His laws, then there should be no prohibition there. Love is a natural beautiful sentiment that God instills in the heart of people to have the ability to love one another. The rule of thumb in this issue is that the love of God and Prophet Muhammad takes precedence over other kinds of love so it should act as an umbrella under which other kinds of love nourish. God says in the Quran, “Say (O Muhammad to mankind): "If you (really) love God then follow me and God will love you and forgive you of your sins. And God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."