Uns — The Stages of Love and The Magic Called Infatuation
A Sufi Celebration of Life, Inspired By Urdu
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Ai Ki Tha Uns Tujhe Ishq Ke Afsanon Se
Zindagani Teri Abad Thi Rumanon Se
— Akhtar Shirani
You were always infatuated with love stories
And your life always flourished with romances
A couple of years ago, a Bollywood movie called Dil Se epitomized the idea of seven stages of love. These seven stages have been variously attributed to Arabic literature and/or Sufi philosophy. My research could not find anything to validate the roots of this stages in Arabic literature, and I can confirm that these stages have not been taken from Sufi philosophy, because the Sufi stages of love are far more complex, both philosophically ans spiritually. Someday, I’d do a series on the real Sufi stages of love.
This piece however is about the seven stages of love that pop culture presented to us. In all probability they are a derivative from some existing source, or maybe they’re just a spiritual lightning that struck the writer’s room for this movie. Either way, they’re fascinating.
So the seven stages of love, according to some unnamed sources and at least two Bollywood movies are:
Dilkashi (attraction), Uns (infatuation), Ishq (love), Akidat (trust/reverence), Ibadat (worship), Junoon (passion/madness) followed by Maut (death)
As I said, absolutely fascinating. My only issue is with the seventh stage, that is, death. Because for me, love, in its purest form, can never be destructive and consuming in the sense of physical death or even spiritual annihilation. It only makes sense to me if death here is symbolic of subsuming one’s very essence into their beloved. Of course, even this interpretation works only when we presume love to be the love in its purest Sufi essence, as the one directed towards one’s ultimate beloved — God or or whatever it is that one may choose to name their life defining Higher Force.
Maybe I should do individual pieces on these seven stages as well. Maybe I would.
This piece, however, is about the most exciting stage of any love affair.
Literally translated, Uns means affection, and friendship and attachment. If you Google Uns, the confused search engine will throw up a series of random words as the meaning of Uns, including cheerfulness, familiarity, companionableness and friendship.
Even Google doesn’t know what to do with its Uns, its infatuation.
Adorable as Google’s confusion is, it is also unintentionally symbolic of everything that Uns means and implies and causes. Uns is confusion. Uns is excitement. Uns is shy, stolen glances. Uns is stilted conversations. Uns is waiting. Uns is wild guesses about your (potential) beloved’s feelings. And Uns is raging hormones that one doesn’t know what to do with.
Uns is almost love. But not love. Not really.
In the seven stages of love defined above, Uns is right behind Ishq, a step before one finally plunges into the unfathomable depths of love. Uns is the threshold that leads into the enthralling Universe of love.
Uns is also the gateway that may sometimes lead straight to the friendzone.
Uns is a step above friendship and step below full blown love. No wonder, it is the trickiest stage to navigate, and the one that has marked the demise of the dignity of many a suitors and love-lorn hearts. Not to mention the many friendships that died at the altar of Uns.
Aaine Se Unhein Kuchh Uns Nahin Baat Ye Hai
Chahte Hain Koi Dekha Kare Surat Meri
— Jaleel Manikpuri
The fact is they have no infatuation with the mirror
What they desire is to have someone gaze at their face
Is there a larger lesson that Uns has up its sleeve for us? Of course yes. Uns, situated between Dilkashi, which is innocent attraction and Ishq , which is head over heels love, reminds us that we are on track but not there yet. Uns warns us to tread carefully, or else we may lose more than our hearts in the process.
However, beyond the material love and the woes of the friendzone, we must remember that indeterminable sources notwithstanding, all ideas of love that have or claim to have roots in Sufi beliefs are ultimately and essentially about a much higher form of love. Of course they can be transposed into our material lives, and we can always hope to find the kind of love in our lives that is deserving of the devotion these seven stages embody. But from a spiritual, Sufi perspective, these seven stages of love are in fact seven steps to achieving our spiritual zenith. For Sufis, it was attainment of their beloved God. But of course, the idea of spiritual zenith is individualistic in nature and each of us will have a different definition that emanates from our individual spiritual instincts.
In the spiritual context, ordinary mortals like us, slaving under our materialistic existence often get stuck at Uns. Some of us may still be at Dilkashi, and some maybe a million miles away from the seven stages. But anyone who makes even a cursory effort towards cultivating their spiritual identity will quickly find themselves at Uns. A lot of others will land at Uns because they know how to ask questions and not accept readymade answers, spiritual or otherwise.
Either way, Uns is a spiritual condition that we can quickly arrive at. It is the place where we are fascinated by the ideas of Higher consciousness and are looking beyond the obvious for answers that nobody taught us how to ask. It is the stage where we are attracted by the wonders of this Universe, and we are ready to fall in love with the Universal consciousness.
Our spiritual Uns is a step before we finally plunge into a world of spiritual wonders; a step before pop culture ideas like mindfulness merge with the Higher ideas of consciousness; a step before we actually start finding answers to the question ‘Who am I?” that are beyond our materialistic identity.
Uns, however, is the stage where “Who am I?” emerges and becomes pressing enough for us to start taking notice. The step beyond Uns is incredibly difficult. Most of us might never make the plunge, not because we are incapable or insufficient, but because the challenges of our material lives don’t let us.
But that is okay. Because as I said, Uns is the most exciting, most magical stage of any love affair. It is the stage most lovers get nostalgic about. And to be stuck at Uns means to be stuck in a stage of perpetual excitement; the stage where magic never dies. Not a bad deal, all things considered.
Our spiritual Uns is the stage of constant inquiry; the stage where we set out on the quest and start walking. Uns is the stage where our material and spiritual identities co-exist in a delicate, ideal balance. For us ordinary mortals, perhaps Uns, is the best stage, the ideal stage.
If we do find it in ourselves to take the plunge, by all means, we should. To be able to walk down, or rather walk up the seven stages of spiritual love is a kind of dream that only a few of us can conceive, let alone live. If you are one of those rare ones, consider yourself blessed.
But if not, then make sure you land at Uns, and make every effort to stay there. Don’t give up the quest just because you can’t or don’t want the answers. Because sometimes, the quest is kind of the whole point.
Uns Apne Mein Kahin Paaya Na Begane Mein Tha
Kya Nasha Hai Saara Aalam Ek Paimane Mein Tha
— Agha Shayar Qazalbash
My infatuation found no place within me, or any stranger
How intoxicating, infatuating is this Universe poured into a glass
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