What is meant by verse 35 of the chapter of an-Nur, which starts with the statement “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth...”?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In the verse in question, Allah Almighty uses the method of simile in order to make abstract things concrete so that they will be understood better.

The full verse is as follows:

“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 doth guide whom He will to His Light: Allah doth set forth Parables for men: and Allah doth know all things.” (an-Nur, 24/35)

 One of the meanings of the sentence “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth” is as follows:

As Allah illuminated the heavens and the earth with the sun, or suns, which is a manifestation and reflection of His name Nur (Light), He also illuminated the conscious beings in the heavens and on the earth - like angels, jinn and humans - with the light of guidance, and saved them from the darkness of heresy and ignorance. (cf Tabari, Razi, the interpretation of the verse in question)

In other words, by instructing the heavens and the earth with the divine/ontological revelation, He made them successful in their duties without being confused at all, and did not allow them to deviate from their orbits by not leaving them in the darkness of ignorance and misguidance. Similarly, He guides the conscious beings in the heavens and the earth to the straight path through revelation and inspiration.

The following verse also indicates the illumination in question: “Allah is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light.” (al-Baqara, 2/257)

One of the meanings of the sentence “The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp” is as follows:

The light of belief and the Quran that Allah has placed in the hearts of believers is like a niche within a lamp. That is, the heart is a niche and the light of belief and the Quran is like a shining lamp. (cf. ibid) It is not possible for a niche without a lamp to give light; similarly, it is impossible for a heart without belief to find the realities that illuminate all darkness.

It is possible to understand the statement “the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star” as follows:

The believer’s entire chest / inner body, illuminated by the lamp of the Quran that Allah has placed in the heart of the believer, will display a transparency suitable for the light to illuminate all parts like a glass bell jar. A star shows the same brightness and radiance no matter from which way one looks at it; similarly, the inside of the believer begins to shine like a star. (cf. ibid)

We can understand the statement “Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west” as follows:

The brightness of a lamp lit with olive oil is proportional to the beauty and quality of the oil. The best quality of olive oil is from a tree that gets sunlight both in the morning and evening. The oil of an olive tree that faces east, that is, that gets sunlight only in the morning or that faces west, that is, that gets sunlight only in the evening is less useful than others. (cf. ibid)

We understand from this simile that the realities of the Quran have a light that enlightens and satisfies not only the people of the east but also the people of the west. As it illuminates the hearts of the people of the east, it also illuminates the minds of the people of the west. It has the light of the truth that illuminates the world, which is regarded as east according to the hereafter, and the hereafter, which is regarded as west according to the world.

It is possible to understand the phrase “whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it” as follows:

The facts shown by the Quran are so strong that they are bright and clear enough not to need much evidence. Every part of the Quran is luminous. There will never be a cover on it; its verses, expressions, sentences, words, letters, and the arrangement of its verses and chapters all scatter the lights of wisdom like electric lamps. Even if there were no other auxiliary light source or beam of knowledge, the Quran alone could reflect the light of knowledge ensuring happiness in this world and in the hereafter to the humanity. However, due to His infinite mercy, Allah has provided thousands of evidences and examples for the correct perception of those facts. Anyone who closes his eyes makes it dark for himself.

We can understand the phrase “Light upon Light” as follows:

The Quran is a light coming from Allah. Every verse has one face and eye looking at another verse. Every expression of it has beams of light from the truth that illuminates other expressions. That is, it is light upon light.

Besides, the Quran is a light that illuminates and strengthens the lights that Allah revealed in the previous heavenly books; it is light upon light.

Moreover, the Quran has made the evidences of tawhid (oneness), which Allah shows to the mind throughout the universe, even brighter with its light. Ontological guidance is strengthened by the guidance of the Quran. Thus, the Quran becomes light upon light.

The meaning of the sentence “Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light” is as follows:

The light of guidance is Allah’s greatest blessing, grant, donation and reward. He does not give it to everybody. On the contrary, He gives it to whomever He wishes. Therefore, it is not surprising that the people who are like bats and are dazzled by the sun of the Quran do not benefit from this light because those who are dazzled are used to darkness. Light disturbs their eyes.

It is possible to understand the last sentence of the verse “Allah doth set forth Parables for men: and Allah doth know all things” as follows:

Allah aims to ease the understanding of the facts with similes. However, despite all the similes and examples, there are those who do not use their minds to understand. Such people are human beings in name. However, those who understand the examples given by Allah are people who are human beings both in name and in essence. Allah, who knows everything, knows very well who will benefit from the light of guidance and who will not, who will use it and who will not, and who deserves illumination with the light of guidance. For, Allah is the light/illuminator of the heavens, the earth and those in them.

According to some contemporary scholars, the light system depicted by the verse in question also refers to the modern electric current and the light bulb. (see Nursî, Şualar, p. 690)

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