The Hierarchy of Love – A Statement of the Tongue or a Belief in the Heart?

The Hierarchy of Love - A Statement of the Tongue or a Belief in the Heart?

Let us first begin by analyzing the title of this article and ascertaining our understanding of the terms ‘statement’ and ‘belief.’ Google defines a statement as a definite or clear expression of something in speech or writing and a belief as ‘trust, faith, or confidence in (someone or something).’

Based on these definitions, it would be reasonable to assume that our actions and behaviors are more likely to be governed by what we trust and accept, a belief, rather than what we proclaim, a statement. A belief is indicative of a commitment whereas a statement may change depending on circumstance.

Now that we have established our understanding of these words, we can move on to categorizing our thoughts in this article and ask ourselves deeper questions such as ‘Do I really hold this as a belief or do I simply voice it as a statement?’

The article will look to cover two main areas:

1). The Rankings of Your Nearest and Dearest

2). Methods on How to Form a Better Relationship with Those Individuals.

1). Who Do You Hold Dearest In Your Heart?

This is something I like to refer to as the ‘hierarchy of love’ and essentially looks at the individuals we should give the most importance to in our lives.

If I were to be asked about this a few years ago, I may have started with my mother and father and gone on to list various close friends and family members. Parents are undoubtedly held with great importance and regard in Islam but the more my understanding developed, the more my priorities changed. The top of the list for every believer must be our Lord, he has after all given us life (Al-Muhyi).

Allah SWT

Allah SWT decrees what he wills and if you are ever in need, who is it that you turn to? You call upon Al-Mujeeb, the Responder to Prayer. He is Al-Hakam, the Judge, and Al-‘Adl, the Most Just, so who better to take account of your deeds? Every son of Adam is a sinner and Allah SWT is the greatest of forgivers. He is Ar-Rahman, the Most Gracious, Al-Ghafur, and Al-Ghaffar – the Greatest Forgiver. For every blessing we have been afforded, we owe it to Al-Wahhab, the Real Bestower.

The above are just a few qualities of our Lord but I think we can continue on with the rankings by all being in consensus that, without a doubt, Allah SWT is the most important in our lives.

Prophet Muhammed (SAW)

Next on our list has to be our beloved Prophet (SAW). It has been reported in the hadith by Muslims [no.44] “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“None of you truly believes until I am more beloved to him than his child, his father, and all the people.”

For us to truly understand this hadith, let us explore a well-known story of the greatest man to have lived.

One day Omar ibn Al-Khattab (RA) went for a walk with the Prophet (SAW) and Omar (RA) started to pronounce his love for the Prophet (SAW). At one stage, the Prophet (SAW) asked Omar (RA) if he loved him “More than yourself, O Omar?” Omar (RA) replied, “No, O Prophet of Allah.” The Prophet (SAW) said, “O Omar, your faith will never be complete until you love me more than yourself.” Omar (RA) went away and stayed alone for a while, then he came back and stood in the middle of the mosque saying loudly, “O Prophet of Allah, now I love you more than myself.” The Prophet (SAW) then replied, “Now, O Omar. Now, O Omar.” (Meaning that now Omar’s faith is complete). Omar (RA) was later asked how he could make himself love the Prophet (SAW) more than himself in such a short time. He replied, “I went out and asked myself whom I needed more, myself or the Prophet of Allah? I found that I needed the Prophet more. I will not intercede for myself on the Day of Judgment, but the Prophet of Allah will. My deeds will not place me in the highest of levels, but my love for the Prophet will. I did not take myself from the darkness to light, but the Prophet of Allah did. Hence, the love of the Prophet fell in my heart more than my love for myself.”

Subhan’Allah, what a profound response. How can you not hold the only individual who can intercede for you on the final day dear to your heart?

Before we continue with the rankings, it is important to acknowledge and understand that we should not feel as though we must love someone simply because we are ordered to. The love of Allah SWT and Prophet Muhammed (SAW) is not a one-way relationship. We should not love out of fear and instructions, rather we should love them knowing that they love us more.

Once a woman was searching for her child and when she found him, she took hold of him, pressed him against her chest, and gave him her breast to nurse him. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) saw her and asked his companions: “Do you think this woman would ever afford to throw her child in the fire?” They said: “By Allah, so far as it is in her power, she would never throw her child in the fire.” Thereupon the Prophet (SAW) said:

“Allah is more merciful to his believing servants than this woman is to her child” [Sahih Al-Bukhari: 28].

Further, on a day [of Judgement] where the suckling mother would abandon her own child and on a day when all will cry ‘nafsi, nafsi’ (‘myself, myself’), only Muhammad (SAW) will say ‘ummati, ummati’ (‘my people, my people’).

It is a unilateral belief that the strongest bond in this dunya is that of a mother and a child. With that being said and now being aware of Allah SWT and the Prophet’s (SAW) love and mercy for us from the above, how could we not cherish them more than our own parents? This fact alone is enough to make us reassess our rankings and strive to be closer to our Creator and beloved Messenger (SAW).


As noted from the outset, if you were to ask me who I hold dearest to my heart a few years ago, I will most probably have replied with my parents. Our parents hold the utmost importance in Islam and disobeying them holds great consequences. The significance of being obedient and dutiful to one’s parents is so great that it has been widely mentioned directly by Allah SWT in the Qur’an.

Allah says: “And We have enjoined on man to be good and dutiful to his parents” [al-‘Ankabut 29:8]

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young” [al-Isra’ 17:23,24]

Further, in as-Sahihayn it is reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said: “The Messenger of Allah (SAW) was asked which deed is the best? He said, ‘Faith in Allah and His Messenger, then honoring one’s parents…’” And there are many other verses from the Qur’an which say similar things.

The respect and honour owed to parents is so significant in fact that it does not diminish even if they are non-Muslims.

Allah says: “And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination. But if they (both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do” [Luqman 31:14,15].

It says in al-Fawaakih ad-Dawaani ‘ala Risaalat Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawaani (2/290): One of the individual obligations upon every accountable individual is honoring his parents, i.e., treating them kindly, even if they are evildoers, with regard to anything that does not involve shirk (or sin), and even if they are non-believers, because of the verses which indicate that in general terms. Rights are not waived because of evildoing or being of different religions.

Let us conclude the first topic area here as we now have a better awareness and understanding of whom we should value most and why. We would all agree that in order to love someone, we need to get to know them. In the next section, we will discuss how to increase this knowledge in order to increase our bond.

2). How to Form a Better Relationship with Your Loved Ones?

Allah SWT

We will touch on two very fundamental and simple ways of drawing closer to Allah SWT.

The first is to get into the habit of reading Allah’s direct words sent to Prophet Muhammed (SAW) – al-Qur’an. Not only is reading the Book of God imperative, but reading it correctly is equally essential. Knowing how to read correctly with tajweed (rules governing correct pronunciation) is in fact the basic requirement of a Muslim. Once that basic requirement has been met, the feeling of knowing that you are reciting the Qur’an in the same style that Allah SWT had descended is what we can only imagine to be an indescribable feeling.

Once tajweed is mastered, one can build on this naturally by then learning the meanings of the Qur’an, memorizing Surah’s, gaining a deeper understanding through tafseer (expanding on Qur’anic text), and most importantly, reflecting upon the great verses and implementing them in our lives.

What is important to acknowledge is that the Qur’an is no ordinary book. We cannot claim that we love Allah SWT and abandon the Qur’an – this would simply be a statement with no action. We can go to as many lectures, sit in as many circles and watch as many YouTube videos as we like but without the Qur’an, we are empty and are denying ourselves of true reminders and guidance. The harsh reality is that we will be resurrected as blind person if we abandon the Book of Allah.

Allah says: “And whoever turns away from My reminder (the Quran) – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind” [Ta-Ha 20:124].

There are many virtues of reciting the Qur’an and another reality is that on the Day of Judgement, the Qur’an will either intercede for us against the hellfire or it will be evidence against us. Abu Umaamah (AR), related that the Prophet (SAW), said: “Read the Qur’an, for indeed it will come on the Day of Judgement as an intercessor for its companions.” [Muslim]. It is for these very reasons that we must strive to be amongst the Ahlul Kitab (the people of the Book).

The second way of drawing closer to our Lord is by knowing his Beautiful Names and Attributes. To truly appreciate someone, you must be aware of their attributes. Earlier in this article, we referred to Allah SWT with Al-Muhyi (Giver of life), Al-Mujeeb (the Responder to prayer), Al-Hakam (the Judge), Al-‘Adl (the most Just), Ar-Rahman (the Most Gracious) Al-Ghafur and Al-Ghaffar (the most Forgiving). This was not done out of coincidence, rather it was done to add emphasis on certain areas. Similarly, it is important to learn the beautiful names and attributes and to use them to call upon Allah SWT for these are one of the actions that are most beloved. It is so important in fact that Allah also instructs us to do this, Allah says: “Say: Call upon Allah or call upon Ar-Rahman (the All-Compassionate); by whatever name you call upon Him, to Him belong the most Beautiful Names.” [al-Isra’ 17:110]

An example scenario of this is if someone is in great need after being dismissed from employment, they would call upon Allah by ‘Ar-Razzaq’ (the Sustainer), to provide them with worldly provisions.

Prophet Muhammed (SAW)

Simple ways of drawing nearer to our Prophet (SAW) include gaining an understanding of his life, his struggles, his patience, and his great attributes through his Seerah (biography of the life of our Prophet (SAW) and also obtaining a better understanding of the Sunnah via learning authentic Hadiths (collections of the reports quoting what the Prophet (SAW) said on any matter). It is only after this that we can get a glimpse of the great trials and tribulations our beloved Prophet (SAW) had to endure so that you and I could have Islam today.

We are quick to endorse footballers and celebrities as role models and try our best to imitate them – their haircut, the way they dress, and the way they behave and act. For us to gain this level of detail about our beloved Prophet (SAW), we must familiarise ourselves with his Seerah and Hadith.

An indication of our love for Prophet Muhammed (SAW) is that we will hold him as our role model. He was the best Messenger, best husband, best father, best friend, best employer, best ruler – the list is endless – and it is only him that we should truly aspire to be like. We will then begin to endorse the Sunnah and start to implement it in our lives. The most common of which include keeping a beard, keeping optional fasts (Mondays and Thursday’s, three consecutive days in the middle of the month, ‘Arafah), praying Sunnah and Nawwafil Salah, spreading Salam, and smiling.


There isn’t so much a need to ‘get to know’ one’s parents as many will have known them since birth. For those in this category, it is important to spend quality time with them when they reach old age to increase the love and bond. We should continue to be obedient, and respectful, and not raise our voices on disagreements.

As noted earlier, there is a great level of respect and obedience that is owed to one’s parents even if they are non-believers (so long as the obedience does not contradict with the beliefs of Islam).


Let us end with where we began. Looking back at this article and unraveling the hierarchy of love, we are all quick to embrace the fact that we are Muslims and that we love our Lord and the Sunnah (a statement). How many of us actually have the belief, however – the basic knowledge, the understanding, and most importantly, the application to show that we are committed to this belief?

We must perform a self-review of ourselves, identify the gaps we have and strive to turn our statement into a belief insha’Allah. I pray this article changes/reinforces our value systems and provides practical tips to strengthen our love for the beautiful Deen. Ameen

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The Hierarchy of Love - A Statement of the Tongue or a Belief in the Heart?
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The Hierarchy of Love - A Statement of the Tongue or a Belief in the Heart?
Understanding love's hierarchy: Is it simply spoken or truly felt? Discover the nuances between words and heartfelt beliefs.
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