The Discourses by al-Ḥasan al-Yūsī is a collection of essays on a wide variety of subjects, including theology, literature, and history, by an influential Moroccan scholar who began writing in 1084/1685, at the age of roughly fifty-four. In this excerpt, translated by Justin Stearns, al-Yūsī writes about why we as humans long for our homelands:
There are three reasons [that a person likes to identify with his city and boast about it]: (1) Generally, a person knows no other place. (2) Exalted God has caused people to love their homes so that they remain in them and the earth to be cultivated in accordance with Exalted God’s decree. It is as the Prophet said, God bless and keep him: “God made Medina beloved to us to the same extent as Mecca, if not more.” (3) Natural inclination, for everyone feels affection for his land, just as he does for his mother or father. Thus, people continue to long for their home, or any place where they have experienced happiness and intimacy. There is a saying: “A noble person longs after his country, just as the camel rider longs for the watering hole.”
The part of God’s earth I most love
is between Manʿij and Salmā, may it be watered by clouds.
This land in which I came of age
was the first earth to touch my skin.
Another poet said:
This is my country: where I spent my youth and childhood
and wore the robe of life when it was new.
When I see it now in my mind’s eye
it is draped in those clothes of youth.
The wishes that youths fulfilled in their homelands
cement their attachment to them as men.
When men recall their homelands, they are reminded
of their childhood, and feel a longing to return.
There are many famous poems that convey this meaning. One of the reasons a person longs for the homeland is that it is the first place he tasted happiness, and where he experienced kindness, intimacy, and generosity. There is a hadith: “Hearts are created with a disposition to love those who treat them well.” There are two facets to this. One is subtle: Hearts that are free of desire, purified of the soul’s frivolities, and bright with the lights of knowledge are drawn to the love of Exalted God because He alone is their benefactor. The second is obvious: By their nature, hearts incline toward any benefactor. Now, it is undoubtedly true that no benefactor has any influence but God, and that any apparent benefactors are a medium through which the beneficence of Exalted God is channeled. Despite this, they are loved. Similarly, the homeland is the first place people experience divine beneficence, so they love it deeply and above all else.
As has famously been said:
I desired her before I ever knew desire;
she struck an empty heart and possessed it.
As has also been said:
A young man can know many homes in this world
yet his longing is always for the first of them.
Another reason for affection and longing for a place is a person’s love for his relatives and loved ones there whom he remembers when recalling it. It has been noted about the Prophet’s saying, God bless and keep him, regarding Uḥud—namely, “It is a mountain that loves us as we love it”—that he refers to the Companions who lie buried there, such as Ḥamzah and others, God be content with them.
When I pass the abodes of Laylā
I kiss each of their walls, one at a time.
It is not for love of houses that my heart fills with passion
but love for the one who lived there.
Another has said, addressing his homeland:
My family and neighbors are divided by the earth—
on the outside are my living relatives, on the inside my dead.
This is why one remembers houses, places one has lived, and one’s homeland. Too much has been said about this to treat the subject comprehensively: God willing, we will gather just some of it in this book.