The Verse of Radiance
(Surah AnNoor, 35)
According to Ibn Abbas RA, ‘Allah is the light of the heavens and the Earth’ means, “the Guide of the inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth”.
According to another view of Ibn Abbas and Mujahid, it means, “He is controlling their affairs and the stars and the sun and moon.” It is recorded that Ibn Abbas RA said, “When the Messenger of Allah SAW got up to pray at night, he would say: ‘O Allah, to You be praise. You are the sustainer of the heavens and the Earth and whoever is in them. To You be praise. You are the Light of the heavens and the Earth and whoever is in them.’” (AlGhazali, A Thematic Commentary of The Qur’an)
All these statements of the companions RA and the Messenger SAW point to the fact that the light mentioned in this verse is nothing like the light known to us. Instead,
the light of Allah is incomparable to any other kind of light, just as is true for all other attributes of Allah SWT.
“...it is only the believer who draws benefit from the revelation, even though the pure fitrah has been granted to each and every human being. "
Unpacking the Parable
“The lamp is within a glass.” The glass represents the heart and Allah describes the glass as if it were a pearly white star, which implies that the glass combines the qualities of transparency as well as of solidity. The transparency indicates that the light has the ability to not only enter the heart, but to exit from it as well. Hence the light of emaan not only enters the heart of a believer, but radiates out from it as well, illuminating the hearts of those around it. The solidity represents being steadfast upon the truth. Unlike liquids, which take the shape and form of whatever container they are poured into, the believer’s heart is constant upon the truth. It does not change or overturn with the changing events and circumstances, as opposed to the heart of the hypocrite. (Elshinawy, M. An In-Depth commentary of The Diseases of The Heart and Their Cure)
The parable continues “…lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire.” Here the oil represents the pure fitrah; the natural light of guidance that has been inherently placed within each and every human being by Allah SWT. For this reason, Allah SWT says that this oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire – meaning that all humans have the natural tendency to be inclined towards good and to recognize the truth with the light of their pure fitrah.
In conclusion, the niche is the chest of the believing slave, and the glass is the heart. The illuminating lamp is the revelation that descends from Allah SWT, and the pure olive oil is the sound fitrah. The oil is so pure that it glows on its own. However, when it is touched with the light of fire, it generates the most perfect light, and becomes light upon light. In a similar manner, the believing slave could almost recognize the truth on its own with the light of his fitrah, but when the light of revelation comes and coincides with it, it becomes light upon light. (Elshinawy, M. An In-Depth commentary of The Diseases of The Heart and Their Cure). Hence, light upon light represents the combination of the pure fitrah and the revelation of Allah SWT.
Al-‘Awfi narrated from Ibn Abbas that ‘light upon light’ means the faith and deeds of a person, (Al-Mubarakpuri, Tafsir Ibn Kathir) the basis of which lies within the heart. Whatever is nurtured in the heart, manifests itself through the limbs. While the fitrah has the natural tendency to incline towards the commands of Allah SWT, it is only when one actually submits to Him in obedience – making it a matter of both the heart and the limbs – that he exemplifies Light upon Light. For this reason, the companions and their students confined this parable to the heart of a believer alone; due to the fact that it is only the believer who draws benefit from the revelation, even though the pure fitrah has been granted to each and every human being. As for those who reject the revelation, they eventually end up corrupting their fitrah with their wrong doings.
Excerpt From Noor Magazine - Volume 1,2021