*All references from Nouman Ali Khan.
You may be familiar with this mesmerizing verse of the Quran:
Let’s break it down, shall we?
First off, I am a visual person so I needed to draw out what I was hearing from this RIS2013 talk. Sadly, my notes look like a bunch of scribbled words all over the place, so I’ll reveal it at the end of the post when you can easily look at it and know exactly what all the scribbles mean.
Nouman Ali Khan starts off by explaining in detail what the basic translation of the ayah is; then he proceeds to make a fascinating connection that will leave you breathless with amazement! (Stay tuned.)
- “The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp”
Never forget that God cannot be explained or understood fully through a human’s mind… He is much too Great, Glory to He, for our limited minds to comprehend Him. Nonetheless, in His mercy, He knows that those who love Him strive to know Him, and gives us examples to help us relate to the reality of things.
“Like a niche“: A niche is an arch-like spacing in a wall to allow for a lamp to be placed within it. The shape of the niche is constructed such to allow for light placed within it to spread outwards. Here is a visually appealing example of a niche with a lamp inside it:
- “the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star”
It’s nothing new that the lamp should be made of glass… but for the glass to be shimmering and luminous like a pearly white star, even before a flame is lit up inside of it? Hmm! So the lamp itself, flameless, is almost lighting up on its own. It’s pearly white, clean, pure.
*Note: the word used for lamp in the Quran is ‘misbaah’, which comes from the root word ‘subh’. ‘Subh’ means dawn, but it can also mean to be alert and awakened (“asbe7!”)
- “star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west”
Now note: the lamp is inside a niche, which is inside a building. Yet Allah tells us in this example that the lamp is lit from the oil of a blessed tree; trees are outside. Blessed things are from outside this world. This lamp is indoors, yet its source comes from outdoors… interesting point to keep in mind.
the word used in the Quran for oil is ‘zayt’,
which comes from the word of olive oil,
“whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire”
Not only is the glass itself seemingly glowing without a flame, but so is the oil without the spark! Two sources of luminous matter interacting… what results in…
“Light upon light.”
and we know that
“Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.”
And now to blow your minds away. (Metaphorically speaking, that is.)
Take a moment to look at my scribbles below: they should make some sense now.
Prepare for a paradigm shift.
Look within yourself.
You have a rib cage. Inside the rib cage is the heart. Inside the heart is the ruh (or spirit).
- RIB CAGE = niche
- HEART = lamp
- FUEL = ruh
Mind = blown!
Just as a niche’s purpose is to spread light outwards, so is our duty to spread our inner light out.
Just as the lamp is clean and shimmery, so is the heart initially at the time of birth; clean, flawless and bright.
Just as an unkempt lamp will get dusty with time, so does a heart rusty with sins or consistent in refraining from doing any good for the soul.
Just as the lamp is lit from the oil of a blessed tree, so are you, an ordinary earthly human being, lit up by something otherworldly, an outside source… by God Himself…
And just as the oil is initially luminous and blessed, so is your ruh… because it comes straight from Allah SWT. It is your essence, and if you do not actively keep a spark near it to light up your and others’ surroundings, then your inner light is of no benefit.
“The believer and his heart is necessary for dark times… What’s the point of a lamp if it doesn’t light its surroundings?” (Nouman Ali Khan)
Light upon light: the light of your ruh, and the light of Revelation.
May Allah guide us all to His light!