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Ibn Hazm

On Character and Conduct

[Translated into English by me, from the Spanish translation by Miguel Asín, Los Caracteres y La Conducta, Madrid, 1916.]

Chapter 6. On the Species of Love

155. I have been asked for a precise exposition of love and of its species. Love is, on the whole, of a single type. Its description is as follows: the desire for the thing loved, the annoyance caused to us by its dislike, and the desire that we feel that the thing we love should match us in love. If people imagine that there are different species of love, that is only by reason of the purposes of the will, which in turn differ among themselves only by reason of the objects desired, as well as in the greater or lesser intensity of the desire, or even because, when an aspiration ceases, the appetite turns in another direction.

Thus, for example, there exists in man a love for God, a love of God, a love that some of his aspirations should be realized; there exists the love of the parent, that of the child, that of the family, that of friends, love for the king, the love of the concubine, that of the benefactor, the love of that which we hope for, the love of that which we long for with passion. All of these loves constitute a single type, divided into various species, according to what we hope to be able to obtain from the beloved object.

156. The least good that the lover can yearn for as an objective of his love is good esteem or consideration in the eyes of his beloved and seeing himself honored by him. This occurs whenever the lover does not deem a better good possible or, for all that, desirable by him. And this minimum objective is, no doubt, the height of the aspiration of those who love God.

157. Beyond this objective, a better one is possible that consists of accompanying the beloved, conversing with him, helping him, and assisting him. These are the longings of the one who loves his king, his friend, or his relatives.

158. However, the highest desire of the lover comes in him who would strive for mutual comingling of the members, that is, his own with that of his beloved, provided, however, he hopes that such comingling is in any way possible. Thus for this reason you will see the lover who out of inordinate love toward his concubine vehemently desires venereal congress with her in many and various modes, places, and circumstances, in such a manner that he obtains a great bond. This also pertains to reciprocal bodily contact, and certainly kisses.
Some of the latter desires also exist in the love of the parent towards his child, which may manifest itself demonstratively by means of kisses and hugs.

159. All of these varieties of love spring solely from the various desires that the lover hopes to be able to satisfy. And so, when desire does not arise with respect to any of these objects, for any impeding cause, then the appetite inclines toward another object that it hopes to be able to attain.

160. Thus we observe that the one who firmly believes in the dogma of the beatific vision of God in heaven, burns with the most intense desires to obtain it and longs to arrive at it, not being satisfied with a lesser degree of glory; and this because he esteems such a vision to be a possible and therefore wishable thing. On the other hand, to him who denies this, it does not worry him nor does he aspire to it, because he does not think it possible; and thus he limits himself solely to the desire to be accepted in the eyes of God and to live in the celestial mansion, and does not desire something else, because his hope does not reach to any higher limit.

161. Likewise we observe that the one who believes that marriage with women of his own blood is licit, does not remain satisfied in abstaining from contracting it the way another who believes it is illicit is satisfied, not does he keep his sexual love within the limits in which the other's love is kept, who does not consider it possible or wishable. So we find that the Zoroastrian and the Jew, who think matrimony with one's own daughters and nieces is licit, do not put limits on their love equal to those that the Muslim puts on his. What's more: you will observe them as desperately enamored of their own daughters and nieces as a Muslim might be of any foreign woman with whom it might be possible for him to contract sexual relations. On the other hand, we do not find a Muslim who arrives at this extreme with respect to his daughter or niece, even if they are more beautiful than the sun and he is the most libertine and woman-chasing of men. And if, by chance, one were to encounter such a Muslim by exception, it would by necessity have to be an irreligious and impious man, completely loosed from the restraints of religion, and in whom, for that reason, the sphere of possible aspirations had expanded without limit and the doors of lust had opened wide.
By the same token, it is possible to believe that a Muslim comes to love his cousin with a tenderness so excessive that it turns to sexual passion, and that it would be more intense than the love that he feels toward his own daughter or niece, even if they were prettier than the former; and this because the Muslim considers possible, with respect to union with his cousin, what he does not consider possible regarding his own daughter or niece. On the other hand, we observe that the Christian cannot believe in this, not even respect to his own cousin, because the Christian cannot form such aspirations even with respect to his cousin. The case when it is possible to betroth, is when it involves a milk-sister [someone who had been breast-fed by the same nurse], because under their religious law it is possible to hope to unite with her.

162. Thus it is proven what we asserted: that love, in its totality, consists of a single type, but is divided into various species according to the purposes that it tends toward. It cannot be otherwise, since, even though the nature of all people is one and the same, nonetheless social customs and religious beliefs exercise a most evident influence over it ...