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Interpretation of Sura an-Nur - Verse 35 - Allah Is Light Commentary

Adopted from the book: "The Light of the Holy Qur'an - Interpretation of Sura an-Nur" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani & a Group of Muslim Scholars"

Allah, He is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth - Similitude of the Radiance of the Divine Light - Allah guides unto His Light whomsoever He pleases - In which Holy House the Divine Light Burns - The Divine qualities the holy members of the Sacred House posses - Allah provides sustenance to whomsoever He pleases without a measure - The similitude of the disbelievers gone astray

35. "Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a glittering star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light, Allah guides unto His Light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth similitudes for mankind, and Allah is All-Aware of all things."


'Light' is something that is itself bright and causes the brightness of other things. In Islamic culture, several things have been mentioned as 'light', including: The Holy Qur'an, tradition, knowledge, wisdom, faith, guidance, Islam, the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.), and the Infallible Imams (a.s.).

Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "Nothing I saw unless I saw Allah before it, after it, and along with it." 66

Concerning the Pure Essence of Allah a famous Persian poet says:

When I look at desert,

I see You.

When I look at sea,

I see You.

Whatever I look at, mountain and plain,

I see a sign of Your elegant stature.

For commenting on the above verse, there have been said many words, and commentators, philosophers, and Islamic mystics have discussed a lot.

The relation of this verse with the previous verses is in this way that in the former holy verses the discussion focused on chastity, struggling against indecency by means of various ways, and since what guarantees the execution of all Divine ordinances, especially controlling unrestrained instincts, more importantly sexual instinct, which is the most powerful one, can not be done without having 'faith' as support, finally the discussion is led to 'faith' and its powerful influence, when the verse begins saying:

"Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth..."

What a nice, interesting, and valuable sentence! Yes Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. He is the brightness and illuminator of all of them.

Some commentators have interpreted the word 'Light' here as guider and leader 67; and some of them have interpreted it as 'lighter' and some as 'beautifying'.

All these meanings are true, but the concept of the verse is still more inclusive. In the Qur'an and Islamic Narrations some entities are called as 'light':

1. The Glorious Qur'an: As Sura Al-ma'idah, No. 5, verse 15 is recited: "... indeed there has come to you light, from Allah, a Light and a clear Book." Also recite in Sura Al-'A'raf, No. 7, verse 157: "... Then those who... and follow the light which has been sent down with him: these are they that are the prosperous ones."

2. Faith: We read in Sura Al-Baqarah, No. 2, verse 257: "Allah is the Guardian of those who have faith; He brings them out of darkness into the light..."

3. Divine Guidance and clear-sightedness: As it is mentioned in Sura Al-An'am, No. 6, verse 122: "Is he who was dead (with ignorance and polytheism) and We gave him life (by Our guidance), and provided him with a light by which he walks among the people, as one whose likeness is in the utter darkness (of ignorance and polytheism) whence he cannot come forth from thema ..."

4. Islam Religion: It is said in Sura At-Taubah, No. 9, verse 32: "... and Allah refuses but to perfect His Light, though the infidels detest it."

5. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.): In Sura Al-Ahzab, No. 33, verse 46 we read about the Prophet (p.b.u.h.): "And as a summoner unto Allah by His permission, and as a light-giving torch."

6. Imams and the Infallible Leaders: As we read in Ziyarat-i-Jami'ah: "Allah created you (as) lights, then He set you encircled (His Throne)." In the same Ziyarat we read: "You are the light for the good ones and guiders of those who do good deeds."

7. Science and Knowledge: This is also mentioned as light, as we read in a famous tradition: "Knowledge is a light that Allah casts in any heart that He wills." 68

The above mentioned matters are on one side and, on the other side, we must study carefully the special characteristics of light some of its properties and qualities are as follows:

a. Light is the most beautiful and delicate entity in the world of material. It is the source of all beauties and delicacies.

b. As scientists say, light has got the highest velocity in the world; 300,000 kilometers per second. Light can circulate the earth 7 times in less than a second (in a wink), therefore, extraordinarily great astronomical distances are only measured by the speed of light per year. It means the extent that light, with its extraordinary speed, can go in a year.

c. Light is a means for making things comprehensible and for viewing different creatures of the world. Without it we cannot see anything, therefore, it is both visible and making visible.

d. The light of the sun, which is the most important light of our world, grows flowers and plants. It is in fact the secret of all living creatures' survival, and it is impossible for any one or any creature to continue to live without light (directly or indirectly).

e. Today, it has been proven that all the colours that we see are the result of sunlight or other similar lights, otherwise, creatures have no colour in absolute darkness.

f. All existing energies in our environment, except atomic energy, are resulted from sunlight. The movement of Winds, falling of rain, movement of rivers, floods, and waterfalls and, finally, the movement of all living creatures are derived from sunlight.

The source of warmness, heat and what warms creatures is the very sunlight. Even the heat of fire that is gained from wood of trees or coal or petroleum and its derivatives are from the heat of sun, because all of them go back, according to scientific researches, to plants and animals that have acquired heat from sun and have stored it in themselves. Therefore, the movement of engines is because of it, too.

g. The light of sun kills kinds of microbes and harmful insects. And if there were not the shining of this blissful light, the earth would turn into a great hospital whose inhabitants would be coming to grips with death.

Shortly, as we look more and closely at this strange phenomenon of the world (light), its valuable benefits and blesses will be more obvious.

Now, with these two introductions, if we want to choose a parallel or comparison from among sensible creatures of this world for Allah's Pure Essence (although He, the Almighty, is higher than any comparison), can we select any word other than 'light'? He is the same Lord Who is the Creator of all universe. He is the Lighter of the world of creation, all living creatures are alive because of His command, and all creatures are sustained by Him, so that if for a second He stops His blissful looking at creatures, all will be inexistent.

It is interesting that as much as any being is related to Him, it acquires luminousness with respect to it:

The Holy Qur'an is light, because it is His words.

Islam is light, because it is His religion.

The prophets are light, because they are His messengers.

Infallible Imams (a.s.) are Divine lights, because they are guardians of His religion after the prophets.

Faith is light, because it is the secret of relationship with Him.

Knowledge is light, because it brings familiarity with Him. Therefore, "Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth..."

If we consider a wider meaning for light, that is: 'anything whose essence is obvious and apparent and clears other things', in this case applying the word 'light' to His Pure Essence is not likening, because nothing in the world of creation is more apparent and obvious than Him, and all other things than Him are apparent because of Him.

In the book named: TauHud we read a tradition by Imam Ali Ibn mas-ar-Rida (a.s.). That Imam was questioned about the interpretation of the verse, "Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth...", and he said: "He guides both the inhabitants of the earth and the inhabitants of the heavens."

In fact, this is one of the qualities of the Divine Light, but it is certainly not limited to it. Thus, all the mentioned commentaries of this verse can be included in what was said. Each of them refers to one of the dimensions of this unique Light.

It is interesting that in the 47th part of Jushan KAbir supplication, which is a collection of Allah's attributes, we read: "...Oh Light of lights! Oh Lighter of lights! Oh Creator of lights! Oh Administrator of light! Oh Measurer of light! Oh Light of all lights! Oh Light before any light! Oh Light after any light! Oh Light that is superior to any light! Oh Light that has no parallel!"

Therefore, all lights of universe come from His Light and return to the Light of His Pure Essence.

Mentioning the above fact, the holy Qur'an specifies the manner and the way of Divine Light by means of an exact and nice similitude. It says:

"... The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a glittering star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light, Allah guides unto His Light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth similitudes for mankind, and Allah is All-Aware of all things."

To explain this example, paying attention to some matters is necessary:

The Arabic word/miskat/ is, in fact, a hole and a tiny place which was used to be created in a wall and old common lanterns were kept in it in order to be protected from wind and storm. And sometimes a ledge was made in the room and the side of that part of the wall, toward the yard, was covered with glass.

Thus, both inside of the room and the yard were lighted, meanwhile the lantern was saved from any wind and storm. Again 'Mishkat' was also applied to the glass cases that were made in the form of cubic rectangle, which had a lid and on the top of it there was an opening for letting air out and it was used for putting light in it. In short, 'Mishkat' is a case for protecting light against wind and storm and, since it was often made in wall, the light was focused and reflected.

The Arabic word /Zujajah/ means glass. In fact, it is applied to transparent stones and since glass is made of stone materials and it is transparent, it is also called /zujajah/. Here it means a bulb that is put on the lamp to protect its flame and to lead the movement of air from bottom to the top and to increase the lightness of the torch.

The Arabic word /misbah/ means a lamp that usually has a wick and a flammable oil material and the wick is burned.

The Qur'anic sentence "... lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither of the East nor of the West, ..." refers to an energetic material which is particularly suitable for this lamp, because olive oil is pressed from a blissful and fruitful tree. It is one of the best oils for burning. It comes from a tree that all its branches and stems must be equally exposed to sunlight and it must be neither located in the eastern part of the garden near wall nor in the western part of it, where one side of it is in expose of sunlight, otherwise, its fruits will be half ripe and half unripe nor its oil will be pure.

Now we realize that for having a full light of this lamp, we must have 4 factors: a lantern which protects the lamp completely, and focuses light without decreasing its light. A bulb that regulates the movement of air and it must be so transparent that does never prevent lighting. A lamp that produces light by using wick. And, finally, an energetic material that is pure and clean and must be so flammable that as though it is going to be burnt without touch of fire.

All of these, on one side, show the reality of material and its appearance. On the other side, great Islamic commentators have different opinions about the concept of this likening; or, in other words, to what Divine Light it is likened:

Some say that its purpose is that guiding light that Allah casts in the heart of the believers; in other words, its purpose is 'faith' that is placed in the hearts of the believers.

Some say that it is the holy Qur'an that casts light in the heart of man.

Some say that the similitude refers to the noble Prophet (p.b.u.h.).

Some say that it refers to the reasons of monotheism and Allah's justice.

Some commentators have interpreted it as the spirit of piety and obedience, which is the cause of goodness and prosperity.

In fact, all the extensions that are for the spiritual light in the holy Qur'an and Islamic narrations are mentioned here as commentary. The spirit and concept of all of them is, in fact, one thing and that is the light of 'guidance', which comes from the holy Qur'an, revelation, and prophets, and it develops by reasons of monotheism and its result is submitting to Allah's command and piety.

Note: The light of faith that is in the heart of the believers has all these 4 factors which exist in a lighting lamp.

"Misbah" is those very flames of faith that appear in the heart of the believer wherefrom the light of guidance comes.

"Zujajah" and bulb is the heart of the believer that controls faith in his entity. And "ieshkat" is the chest of the believer or, in another word, it is the collection of his personality, knowledge, sciences, and thoughts that saves his faith from mishaps.

The meaning of the Qur'anic phrase which says: "... a blessed olive-tree, ..." is the very Divine revelation whose essence is fully pure and sincere and the believers' faith is fruitful and flaming by it.

In fact,this is the Light of Allah,the light which illuminates the heavens and the earth, and it comes from the center of the believers' heart and lights all their entity and being.

The reasons that are gained through wisdom and intellect are mixed with the light of revelation and will be the extension of 'light upon light'.

And it is by this that the receptive hearts are guided to the Divine light, and the concept of "... Allah guides unto His Light whom He pleases ..." is applied to them.

Therefore, for saving this Divine Light (the light of faith and guidance), a collection of Islamic teachings, knowledge, self-edification,and ethic is necessary to protect this "Misbah" as a "Mishkat" does.

It also needs an apt and receptive heart to regulate this program like 'zujajah'. And help through revelation is needed to give energy to it, like the blessed olive tree.

And this light of revelation must be free from deviating money-oriented tendencies that are western and eastern and cause decay, evilness and darkness.

It must be so pure, and clear, free from deviation that it mobilizes all man's powers without help of anything and becomes the extension of "... whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it..."

Any kind of interpretation by personal opinion, incorrect prejudice, personal tastes, imposed ideas, inclination to west and east, and any superstitions that defile the fruit of this blessed tree will decrease the luminosity of this lamp and sometimes put out the light.

This is the example that Allah has stated for His Light in this verse and He is All-Aware of all things.

We understand from the above matters that if we see in narrations by the infallible Imams that 'Mishkat' is interpreted as the heart of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), 'Misbah' as the light of knowledge, 'Zujajah'' as Imam Ali (a.s.), his successors, and 'Shajaratin Muburakah' (the blessed tree) as 'IbRuhim Khalil who is the root of this family, and the Qur'anic sentence: "neither of the East nor of the West" as negation of inclination to Judaism and Christianity, these are in fact the other face of that light of guidance and faith and are the statement of a clear extension of them, but it is not limited to them only.

And also if some commentators have interpreted this Divine Light as the holy Qur'an or intellectual reasons, or the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.), it has a root in common with the commentary of the above verse, too.


66. The Commentary book: 'Nur', following of the verse, and for more information, you may refer to Kitab ul-Wafi, Vol. 1, p. 382, and TauHud-i-Saduq, chapter Ar-ru'yah, p. 107

67. Burhan and Safi commentary, because of this noble tradition by Imam Rida (a.s): "Allah guides all dwellers of the skies and the earth to what is their best"

68. Bihar, Vol. 1, p. 325; and mazan ul-Hikmah, p. 6016

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