By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
29 September 2016
نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ الْمِصْبَاحُ
فِي زُجَاجَةٍ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ
زَيْتُونِةٍ لَّا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ
لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ نُّورٌ عَلَى نُورٍ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَضْرِبُ
اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Allah is the Light of the heavens and
the earth. The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a
Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit
from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil
is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! – Allah
guides to His light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth parables for men, and
Allah is Cognizant of all things. (al-Nur, 24/35)
One of the most beautiful and commented
verses of the Qur’an is the verse of light (Ayat al-Nur), which exegetes,
mystics and philosophers have all discussed, and about which they have offered
opinions according to their understanding.
The method of communicating something
indescribable using the insufficient vocabulary of the language is by the use
of allegory, metaphor and simile; the verse above also falls under the category
of allegory. However, there is another verse of the Quran which tells us what
the metaphors used in the verse mean.
Allah is the
light of the heavens and the earth;
Light is another word for knowledge since
it illuminates the reality around us and makes it known to us.
This Ayat or verse occurs in Surah Nur or
The Light which has 14 sections, and each section deals with some aspect of the
law or the moral way of living. The connection of the Ayat with the moral way
of living is unmistakable. Besides, the main objective of the Book is to show
mankind the straight path and to complete the Deen or give the complete way of
living which is the moral way of living. This is covered in more detail in my
Science and Religion
The following Ayat explains the meaning of
the metaphors used in the Ayat al-Nur
(10:37) This Qur´an is not such as can be
produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of
(revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book -
wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds.
The Deen-e Islam expounded in the Quran can
be seen as both a confirmation and fuller explanation of what could arguably be
the very first moral principle given by God to mankind.
unto others as you would have them do unto you”
It is easy to see that the very first moral
principle is self-luminous and has guided mankind to transition from the stage
of living like a savage to civilization. No civilization was possible without
this moral principle. The self-luminous olive oil from a sacred tree is the
metaphor used for it.
زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ
whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though
fire scarce touched it
The unparalleled excellence with which the
Quran teaches us the moral way of living is at several levels. The first level
is the moral principle itself which is self-luminous and Allah compares it with
the olive oil from a blessed tree neither of the east nor the west which
clearly means that the source of the self-luminous moral principle is Divine and
not from this earth either from the east or the west.
second level is the use of imagery created with words and using the most
effective devices of the psychology of influence such as priming and through
reinforcement by repeating the message but in different ways and in different
contexts to make the point clear and beyond doubt. The second level of light is
when the already self-luminous olive oil is lighted up and flares up throwing
light on every aspect of man’s relationship with the rest of the Universe. This
is the detailed exposition of the first self-luminous moral principle covered
in my article:
Deen-e-Islam or the Moral Way of Living in Islam
A likeness of His light is as a niche in
which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) the glass is as it were a
brightly shining star,
Now, what could the glass that encloses and
protects the flame, as mentioned in the verse, possibly denote? The function of
the glass is to keep the flame steady and constant to enable seeing things
clearly and without strain or distortion. It should achieve this without
absorbing any light. The glass must be crystal clear without a blemish and like
a shining star. This is the function played by language and refers to the
linguistic excellence of the Quran. Use of language helps in communicating as
well as preserving and protecting the knowledge. The linguistic excellence
helps clear communication and prevents distortions. The Book has often been
described as Kitabum Mubeen or a Book that makes things clear and a Book
without crookedness. The third level of excellence is therefore the linguistic
perfection which clothes/covers this light and is likened to the glass which
itself is brilliant like the star.
of these are within the framework (niche) of a complete and self-sufficient
system of belief in a God who is the Creator, Sustainer, Helper, Law Giver, the
source of all power, the Wise, the Aware, the Knower, the Just, the Merciful,
the one who Rewards, the Forgiver, the Lord of the Day of Judgment and with
many more attributes.
Light upon light
meaning of light upon light is now crystal clear – the self- luminous moral
principle made clearer by the manner in which it is elucidated in the Quran and
enhanced, protected and preserved by the linguistic excellence. The Quran sheds
light on many truths but specially on the complete way of living a moral life
and the source of this knowledge/light is Allah Himself. The excellence is best
described by the Quran itself.
Why does God not compare his light to the
Sun but to a lamp? Because the light of a lamp is available only to those who
seek the light and not to everyone like the light of the sun. The Light of God
only illuminates the hearts of the seekers of His light. It is not for those
who prefer to remain in darkness and those who shun the light of God.
The closer a person is to the source of
light, the more he is able to benefit from its luminance.
(24:36) (Lit is such a Light) in houses,
which Allah hath permitted to be raised to honour; for the celebration, in
them, of His name: In them is He glorified in the mornings and in the evenings,
(again and again),-
(37) By men whom neither traffic nor
merchandise can divert from the Remembrance of Allah, nor from regular Prayer,
nor from the practice of regular Charity: Their (only) fear is for the Day when
hearts and eyes will be transformed (in a world wholly new),-
(38) That Allah may reward them according
to the best of their deeds, and add even more for them out of His Grace: for
Allah doth provide for those whom He will, without measure.
24:35 is the most commented because of its beauty, rich imagery and mysticism.
The meaning appears to have however remained a mystery because the scholars
could not see what now appears obvious after this discussion. The pre-Islamic
society was also a civilization and many of the moral principles were already
known and thought to be “common sense” little realizing their origin in
previous revelations. Imam Ghazali has written a treatise on this ayat. He
likens the niche to the rib cage and the glass to the human heart and the light
to spiritual knowledge from Allah. This explanation is problematic in several
The beginning of the verse, the ending of
the verse and every simile/metaphor in between refer to only things that are
perfect or divine and not to what is imperfect or to man at all. Words of
perfection are never used to describe a human being. A human heart is not
perfect transparent glass or the best protection of divine knowledge. There is
no human being who is perfect and without human frailties. This analogy has not
been used by the Quran even when speaking about the heart of any of the
prophets let alone using it for lesser mortals. The Prophet (pbuh) himself hid
in his heart what Allah made manifest (33:37). The analogy of the perfect glass
for the human heart that hides nothing fails right here.
the Quran, the heart is made stronger by reading the Quran and not cleaner. It
hides secrets which is the opposite of revealing everything. A person may bring
a sound heart (Qalb in Saleem) or may have a disease (Marz) in his heart.
Prophet David is advised not follow the lusts of his heart (38:26). Hearts are
soft or hard like rocks but never like glass let alone perfectly clean and
يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَضْرِبُ
اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Allah does guide whom He will to His Light:
Allah does set forth Parables for men: and Allah does know all things. May
Allah guide us all to His Light!
And Allah knows best.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an
independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private
sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent
contributor to NewAgeIslam.com
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GM Sb says: Naseersaab says, "Nobody ever
said that these laws were not sent down earlier."
This is a deceptive reply to what I
had said. What I had said was,
What you said is immaterial and irrelevant. "Nobody ever said that these laws were not sent down
earlier." applies to me. I never claimed that the 10 commandments
were original and therefore your argument is uncalled for and irrelevant.
Civilization did not start with Moses or even Abraham and therefore many of the
laws/principles will be found in earlier civilizations. Deception is your way
not mine. I have no need for it.
According to the
Quran, every nation on the earth was sent a Prophet for their guidance.
And for every Ummah (a
community or a nation), there is a Messenger; (10:47)
And verily, We have
sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (Qur'ân 16:36)
"And there is not
a people but a warner has gone among them." (35:24)
Of some messengers We
have already told thee the story; of others We have not; (4:164)
And, indeed We have
sent Messengers before you (O Muhammad(P)); of some of them We have related to
you their story and of some We have not related to you their story, (40:78)
Surah 41 (The Signs
Expanded version of
the Golden Rule:
34. Nor can goodness
and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom
and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!
35. And no one will be
granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint,-
none but persons of the greatest good fortune.
36. And if (at any
time) an incitement to discord is made to thee by the Evil One, seek refuge in
Allah. He is the One Who hears and knows all things.
that the same message was given to the apostles before
43. Nothing is said to
thee that was not said to the apostles before thee: that thy lord has at his
Command (all) forgiveness as well as a most Grievous Penalty.
52. Say: "See ye
if the (Revelation) is (really) from Allah, and yet do ye reject it? Who is
more astray than one who is in a schism far (from any purpose)?"
Schism: a split or division between strongly opposed sections or
parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief.
that the same message was delivered to all people
53. Soon will We show
them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own
souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not
enough that thy Lord doth witness all things?
We do find the Golden
Rule in the furthest regions of the earth both geographically and in time from
the earliest civilization.
The scholars also
attribute the Golden rule to religions:
The golden rule, "Do to others as you would have others
do to you," is widely assumed to have a single meaning, shared by
virtually all the world's religions. (Jeffrey Wattles)
Interestingly Jeffrey Wattles calls it "the principle
of the practice of the family of God."
And yet GM Sb says: If the same precept is expressed by wise
men in different countries and at different times, it does not necessarily mean
that what they are saying comes from divine origin. It means they are
expressing a universal sentiment felt by all those who try to co-exist in
groups. That applies to Confucius's dictum, "Never impose on others what
you would not choose for yourself."
From the same Sura
41: 5. They say:
"Our hearts are under veils, (concealed) from that to which thou dost
invite us, and in our ears in a deafness, and between us and thee is a screen:
so do thou (what thou wilt); for us, we shall do (what we will!)"
40. Those who pervert
the Truth in Our Signs are not hidden from Us. Which is better?- he that is
cast into the Fire, or he that comes safe through, on the Day of Judgment? Do
what ye will: verily He seeth (clearly) all that ye do.
Allah knows best.
Sb indulges in straw man arguments:
says : “There is no reason to think that the moral principles of the Ten
Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount were not known and articulated by men
long before Moses and Jesus pronounced them with thundering effect.”
ever said that these laws were not sent down earlier. As a matter of fact, I
have said earlier that Atenism has at least 3 of the 10 commandments. The fact
however is that all of these are from religion. The Quran does not say that it
is a confirmation of revelations sent only to the prophets from the Abrahmic
tradition. On the contrary, it says that prophets were sent to every nation all
through the ages and clearly says that only a few of these prophets are
mentioned in the Quran.
says: The fact that many moral principles have been articulated and
sanctified by religions does not mean that this is the exclusive province of
If we can find a person who does not
show the influence of religion by talking of soul, heaven, god etc, who has
come up with a moral principle that is original, then I have no problem
agreeing with him. However, he keeps on arguing without evidence. My journey of
discovery started from philosophy and found confirmation in the Quran. As a
matter of fact, this argument was first stated by me in my article of March
as a Civilizing Influence” three and a half years ago. At that time, I had not made any
connection with the finding with any verse from the Quran.
The journey has lead me to discover the
meaning of ayat AL Nur. The fact that my explanation fits the verse perfectly,
and all earlier explanations are falsified by verse 24:36 according to which
the Light is external to man since: “(Lit is such a Light) in houses, which
Allah hath permitted to be raised to honour; for the celebration, in them, of
His name: In them is He glorified in the mornings and in the evenings, (again
and again)”, and such houses are described as-“monasteries, churches,
synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant
The universality of ayat Al Nur, and the
source of all scriptures as of Divine origin and beyond what man can produce is
what the Quran is saying clearly. The meanings of the components of the lamp
giving out the Divine Light are also clear. This Light shines in places of
worship where the scriptures are recited in prayers, read, taught, studied and
What GM Sb is saying effectively, is that
what is in the scriptures could have been produced by man. He says this without
any evidence, and as a matter of fact, with evidence to the contrary. He is not
alone in saying this, and the entire Western academic discipline backs him up. For
them religion is only a human construct. In effect he is saying that ayat 10:37
and 24:35 are empty claims.
person bent on denial, and bent on arguing in circles, can go on doing so till
eternity and so I must part ways with such persons and say “To you be your way
and to me mine and Peace”
GM Sb, God did not teach us
rocket science because God gave man the inclination to pursue all utilitarian
disciplines on his own. We excel in every utilitarian field.
Man is the only
creation capable of making moral choices. Man can override his instinct,
emotions, utilitarian considerations to do what is right. No other creation has
such freedom or ability to make moral choices. They are slaves of their
instinct and emotions and limited ability to see through reason what is good
for them in the immediate context.
God has also put
utilitarian value into every moral principle to a limited extent to enable man
to understand its value and appreciate the transcendent value or necessity of
the principle regardless of what his instinct, emotions and reason based on
utilitarian conditions demand. It is rising above all other considerations to
make a choice that is moral that makes man a creation worthy of the Angels and
the Jinns to prostrate before him.
Moral principles are
divine from the Divinity and what raises man above every other creation to a
level where it is appropriate for the rest of the creation to prostrate before
It is not given to
man to become moral on his own leave alone discovering the moral principles.
That is why the Quran says repeatedly that Allah guides whom He wills and
allows to go astray whom He wills.
Those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of right - them will I
turn away from My signs: Even if they see all the signs, they will not believe
in them; and if they see the way of right conduct, they will not adopt it as
the way; but if they see the way of error, that is the way they will adopt. For
they have rejected our signs, and failed to take warning from them.
Relate to them the story of the man to whom We sent Our signs, but he passed
them by: so Satan followed him up, and he went astray.(176) If it had been Our
will, We should have elevated him with Our signs; but he inclined to the earth,
and followed his own vain desires. His similitude is that of a dog: if you attack
him, he lolls out his tongue, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls out
his tongue. That is the similitude of those who reject Our signs; So relate the
story; perchance they may reflect.
Allah had found in them any good. He would indeed have made them listen: (As it
is), if He had made them listen, they would but have turned back and declined
"Of no profit will be my counsel to you, much as I desire to give you
(good) counsel, if it be that Allah willeth to leave you astray: He is your
Lord! and to Him will ye return!"
Yet no faith will the greater part of mankind have, however ardently thou dost
(17:94) What kept men back from belief when
Guidance came to them, was nothing but this: they said, "Has Allah sent a
man (like us) to be (His) Messenger?"
If you read the
verses about righteousness, it is righteousness alone that makes one man
superior to another and not whether he is follower of Muhammad, Christian, Jew,
Sabian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian etc ( I avoided using Muslim because Muslim
covers all people who are righteous). However, unless a person orients himself
to the Giver of the moral code, there is no motivation to be moral but simply
the motivation to do what is dictated by “practical ethics”. If man was capable
of becoming righteous on his own, there was no need of any religion. If
revelations were not necessary for man, there would have been no revelations.
If man was capable of discovering moral principles on his own and becoming
moral, there would have been no need for God to send prophets and reveal Books
Man only shows a
great capacity to regress from what is moral even though he keeps the Book of
revelations with him and even reads it. That is why every religion has become a
source of immorality as well. The ayat Al Nur cannot apply to any human being
and not even to the prophets. In any case the verse following 24:35 makes it
clear that the Light is external to man and is found in mosques, monasteries,
churches, synagogues etc and not in the hearts or minds of men. Every single
element of what produces Allah’s Light for man to perceive the higher truths is
perfect or divine. Past scholars could not fathom its meaning but felt
compelled to comment because of the obvious beauty and mysticism of the verse.
This series has been
a journey of discovery for me. It started several years ago when I discovered
while studying philosophy relating to ethics and morality that philosophy has
not produced a single moral principle and this was not because this was not
tried or attempted. I had then not
related this to any verse from the Quran and in fact my earlier articles make
no reference to the Quran. It is only in my recent series that I related it to
the Quran and at first, I saw my challenge different from the challenge in the
Quran. It was only while writing the article “Science and Religion” that I saw
that the challenge was essentially the same and also included the other
elements of excellence of the manner in which the message is communicated and
the language. The challenge could be on each of these elements separately or
together. What is capable of being compared was however based only on the
objective element. The meaning of Ayat An Nur became clear to me only while
writing the article “deen-e-Islam”. Anybody can see how well the meaning fits
the verse and how inappropriate all other explanations appear. Allah however
had made the meaning clear by giving us 10:37. Once explained, in hindsight,
everything becomes clear but the correct meaning escaped us for a thousand
years. What contributed to its discovery is also the constant questioning which
made me write one article after another finally leading to discovering the
meaning of this ayat. Strange are the ways of Allah! He strengthens the belief
of one person by the same process with which others are misled!
I would never have
understood the meaning of several verses of the Quran but for the interactions
on this website - the characteristics of people “who will not believe” no
matter what evidence is provided. It is not doubting and questioning that is
bad but closing our eyes and ears to all evidence because of a predisposition
to believe otherwise irrespective of the evidence.
GM Sb, This is what the Quran says:
(10:37) This Qur´an is not such as can
be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of
(revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book -
wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds.
From the above, it is clear that the
Quran is mainly:
revelations that came before
Fuller explanation of what
So you will find whatever you find in the
Quran in earlier scriptures also. You will find them in the religion of the
earliest civilization also since the Quran also confirms that guidance has been
provided all through the ages to all nations/civilizations.
The Quran and the scriptures contain
what cannot be produced by other than Allah as per the cited verse and these
contain among other things moral principles. The fact is that the main objective
of the Book is to give us the moral way of living.
This understanding has been confirmed
by reviewing the complete history of philosophy to see if philosophy has given
us any useful and durable moral principle that is original or not derived from
pre-existing moral principles from religion. You have also tried to find
something but drew a blank.
Beyond this, Allah knows best and may
He help us to become among those who brings out the truth and support it and
not among those who utter a lie or reject the truth when it comes to us.
(39:32) who, then, doth more wrong than one who utters a lie
concerning Allah, and rejects the Truth (Bil-ṣid'qi) when it comes to him; is
there not in Hell an abode for blasphemers?
(33) And he who brings the Truth (Bil-ṣid'qi) and he who confirms
(wa Saddaqa) (and supports) it - such are the men who do right.
(34) They shall have all that they wish for, in the presence of
their Lord: such is the reward of those who do good:
(35) So that Allah will turn off from them (even) the worst in
their deeds and give them their reward according to the best of what they have
The Quran does make a
claim and what that claim means has been explained in my article "Science
and Religion". The rhyme and reason to believe is also covered in the same
GM Sb is just engaged in
persistent denial without evidence, and inspite of all evidence which supports what
I have said.
The meaning of Ayat Al
Nur was not known to me although it intrigued me and I had read several
commentaries on the same including Imam Ghazali's. I had found all of them
unconvincing. While writing my article on Deen-e-Islam and explaining the
three levels of excellence of the moral way of living in Islam, it struck me
that I was actually describing the ayat Al Nur. Anybody can see that the
meaning has slowly dawned on me and each subsequent version is an improvement
on the previous one starting from the article on Deen-e-Islam. Being such an
important ayat, it deserved a separate article.
I have covered what
others have said on this ayat in my comment and also briefly in the article.
The beginning of morality in Islam is belief in Allah and His revelations through
the medium of Angel and prophets after which only can come the guidance on the
moral way of living.