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Interpretation of Sura an-Nur - Verse 40

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"

40. "Or (the Unbelievers' deeds) is like utter darkness in a vast, abysmal sea. There covers him a wave, above which is another wave, above which is a cloud; (with layers of) darkness one over the other. When he holds out his hand, he can hardly see it. And for whomever Allah does not appoint light, for him there is no light."


Each deed that a believer does is light and each deed that a disbeliever does is darkness. Instead of opening way for them, disbelievers' deeds mislead them more and it will be veil upon veil. Therefore, in this noble verse the Qur'an says:

"Or (the Unbelievers' deeds) is like utter darkness in a vast, abysmal sea. There covers him a wave, above which is another wave, above which is a cloud; (with layers of) darkness one over the other. When he holds out his hand, he can hardly see it. ..."

Yes, the true light in men's life is only the light of faith, and life will be dark and obscure without it, but this light of faith comes only from Allah. The verse continues saying:

"... And for whomever Allah does not appoint light, for him there is no light."

To understand this example fully, it is first necessary to pay attention to the meaning of the Arabic word /lujjiy/. It means: 'a vast and very deep sea', and, in fact, it is derived from the Arabic word /lijaj/ which means: 'to go after or insist on a job, (usually bad ones)'. Then it has been applied to the succession of waves of the sea and to their standing behind each other.

Since if a sea is deeper and vaster, its waves are more, this word is applied to the deep and vast seas.

Now, consider a wavy and rolling sea which is very deep, and we know that sunlight, the strongest light, penetrates into the sea to a certain level and its last ray will disappear in almost a depth of 700 meter, so that in deeper parts continual darkness and eternal night rule, for no light penetrates there.

We know also this fact that if water is clear and calm, light will be reflected better, but wavy water breaks light ray, and a little amount of it can go deep into water.

And if, above a wavy sea, a dark cloud stands, the resulting darkness from it will be very dense.

First the darkness of the depth of sea, second the darkness of wavy sea, and third the darkness of dark cloud are the layers of darkness that are placed on each other. It is obvious that in such a darkness the closest objects can not be seen, and even if man holds his hand close to his eye, he can not see it.

A disbeliever who has not the light of faith is like someone who is involved in such triple darkness. On the contrary, fair-minded believers are the extension of 'light upon light'.

Some of commentators have said that this triple darkness in which faithless people are involved, is as follows: the darkness of incorrect belief,the darkness of wrong speech, and the darkness of bad behaviour. In other words, the deeds of faithless people are dark both from the point of fundamental and from the view point of their reflection in their speech, and also because of their full harmony with their other evil deeds.

Some other commentators have said that this triple darkness is the phases of their ignorance: 1) They do not know. 2) They do not know that they do not know. 3) Nevertheless, they think that they do know. And this phase is that compound and multiplied ignorance.

Some other have said since the main factors of cognizance, according to the text of the Qur'an, are 3, that is: heart (in the sense of intellect), eye, and ear, as Sura An-Nahl, No. 16, verse 78 says: "And Allah has brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers (while) you knew nothing, and He appointed for you hearing and sight and hearts ...". But disbelievers have lost both the light of heart, and the light of eye, and the light of ear and they are plunging in darkness. 83

It is obvious that these 3 comments are in harmony and it is possible that the verse refers to all of them.

Anyway, we conclude from these couple of verses that the deeds of disbelievers are likened a false light that appears like mirage in a dry and hot desert, and not only does not it quench their thirst, but also their thirst increases because of running.

Then, after this false light, which is the faithless hypocrites' specious deeds, there is the inward of these deeds, which is full of darkness and dense horrible obscurity. This awful inward deranges all man's senses and the closest objects will be invisible to him, even he cannot see himself, let alone others.

It is obvious that in such a terrible darkness, man is totally lonely and ignorant. He can neither find the way, nor does he have any fellow traveler, nor does not know his status, and he does not have any means, because he has not enjoyed the source of light, that is Allah, and he has covered with the veil of ignorance and conceit.

If you do not forget, we have said that light is the source of beauties, luminosities, life, and movement, but darkness is the source of the ugliness,death,mortality, immobility and silence. Darkness is the center of fear and hate. It is accompanied with coolness and depression. This is the status of those who lose the light of faith and plunge in the darkness of disbelief.

Some tradition about 'Light' and 'Darkness'

1. Once Imam Sajjad (a.s.) was asked: "Why are those who stay awake during the night and make supplication to Allah facially the best?" He said: "Because they have private communion with Allah and Allah covers them with His light." 84

2. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "Since I heard the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: 'Night prayer is light.', I have not lost one night to perform night prayer." 85

3. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Prayer is light." 86

4. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Anyone who testifies rightly in order to restore a Muslim's right by it, his face will be luminous on the day of dooms and his face emit light as far as the eye can see and people know him by his name and family." 87

5. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "There is truth with any right matter and there is light with any right thing." 88

6. A man said to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) that I would like to be mustered on the Day of Hereafter luminously. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Do not commit oppression upon anyone (so that) you will be mustered in light on the Day." 89

7. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "Be in awe of injustice, because it causes darkness in the Day of Hereafter." 90

8. Sura Al-Baqarah, No. 2, verse 257: "Allah is the Guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light; and those who disbelieve, their guardians are false-deities (taqut). They bring them out of the light into the darkness; they are the inhabitants of the Fire, wherein shall they abide forever."


83. Tafsir-i-Fakhr-i-Razi, following the verse

84. 'Ilal-ush-Sharayi', Vol. 1, p. 366

85. Bihar, Vol. 41, p. 71, and 'Allhar us-Sadiqin, Vol. 11, p. 91

86. At-Taqib wat-tarhib, Vol. 1, p. 156

87. Bihar, 104/311/9

88. Kafi, 2/54/04

89. Kanz ul-Abraham'mal

90. 'Usul Kafi, Vol. 4, p. 17

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