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The degrees of love in the Arabic language

Middle East Eye
Writer: Nadda Osman
Illustration: Mohamad Elaasar
Calligraphy: Anas Alaa

For Middle East Eye's Discover story on love in Arabic, I was tasked to Illustrate the ten forms of classical Arabic words and explain the type of love they refer to. The combination of illustration and calligraphy creates a unique visual representation of the words. Allowing the Middle East Eye readers to understand how each Arabic word is represented.

Read the full story here

Al meel - Liking/interest

This word describes a fondness or penchant for someone and can describe the early stages of someone falling in love. A functional English equivalent can be "to have a crush on someone" - a feeling that can be fleeting and may change over time.

Love (1).jpg

Al khala - Deep friendship

This term is commonly used in religious texts and denotes a strong companionship. Al-khala is the feeling someone shares with someone they have a lot in common with, have a fondness for, and see in a positive light.

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Al shagaf - Infatuation

When love starts to impact a person physically, it can be described as a state of infatuation. This stage causes the lover distress and difficulty, as they can't be away from their beloved. Usually, when someone is at this stage of love, they are willing to compromise on anything for the one they love, regardless of the consequences.

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Al eshq - Passionate love

The stage of love can be described as a state of adoration, where the person is overcome with desire. This form may involve some form of intimacy; typically, the couple will be inseparable. This particular word features very heavily in songs and poetry, and the direct translation of the word is "to be nested in".

Love 4.jpg

Al taym - Bewitchment

This kind of love is considered so intense it is likened to becoming insane. With this intensity of love, the thoughts of the person in love will be entirely preoccupied with their beloved. The intense feelings will cloud the person's mind, leaving them unable to function properly.

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Al luw'aa - Anguish

Some expressions of love are synonymous with pain and describe how a lover feels without their beloved. A similar word is al shaju, which means grief, or sababa, which comes from the Arabic word for injury. The term describes the figurative act of spilling blood from one's heart.

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Al tadleeh - Disorder or enslavement

This degree of love denotes a love so intense and strong that the lover's heart is no longer theirs and becomes a slave to their beloved. They can not free themselves of this love or let go of the person. Controlling emotions becomes difficult, and the heart feels like it belongs to the beloved.

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Al sahd - Insomnia

At this point, the person has already become too attached to their beloved, and they cannot be without them or think of themselves without the other person. Their thoughts are entirely preoccupied with the one they love, so it causes them pain.

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Al istikana - Submission

This degree of love is often described as unhealthy, leading a person to blind submission to the one they love. At this stage, one sees the other as almost perfect, with no faults. It can cause someone to overlook any issues or mistakes. In relationships, it can lead to someone blindly obeying the other, seeking their affection and approval unquestioningly.

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Al huyaam - Madness

One of the most intense degrees of love, huyaam, plunges a person into insanity. At this point, a lover has lost all sense of reason and rationality. Containing elements of obsessiveness, this type of love can cause a person to act unusually and do things not typical of their personality because of how blinded by the passion they are.

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