Light upon Light (part 1)
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. His light is like a niche in which there is a lamp, the lamp is in a crystal, and the crystal is a shining star, lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree, located neither to the east nor the west, whose oil almost glows, even without being touched by fire. Light upon light! Allah guides whomever He wills to His light. And Allah sets forth parables for humanity. For Allah has perfect knowledge of all things” (Quran 24:35).
As for the disbelievers, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert, which the thirsty perceive as water, but they find nothing when they approach it. Instead, they find Allah there in the Hereafter, ready to settle their account. And Allah is swift in reckoning. Or their deeds are like the darkness in a deep sea, covered by waves upon waves, topped by dark clouds. Darkness upon darkness! If one stretches out their hand, they can hardly see it. And whoever Allah does not bless with light will have no light! (Quran 24: 39-40).
“My servant gains nearness to me with nothing more dear to me than that which I have obligated upon him. My servant then continues to gain nearness to me with optional acts of encouraging good deeds until I come to love him. If I love my servant I will be his leg with which he walks and his hand with which he grasps, I will be his hearing with which he will hear and his vision with which he sees, and if I come to love my servant when he asks me I will give him, and when he seeks refuge in Me, I will protect him” (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6502).
“It used to be said: beware of the insight of the believer, for he sees with the light of Allah” (Amr Ibn Abi Qays collected by Al-Uqayli Volume 4 page 129).
“Just as the eye cannot see without the presence of light before it, likewise the mind cannot perceive in any useful way until the light of revelation appears on its horizon.” (Sh. Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah Volume 1, page 6).
The Quran is the light of Allah on this earth in the chest of a human. It is the symbolic light in the hearts of those who choose to carry it. It is the light that gives the rest of the human being’s faculties meaning and usability. The human eye cannot see things for what they are until this light of Allah is before it. The human ear cannot hear things in any truly meaningful way until its verses first fill it. Most importantly, the human heart, the mind, cannot perceive things and understand them in any meaningfully accurate way until the light of the revelation of Allah has risen upon its horizon.
The human heart is like a compass that will only be of consequence when used with an accurate map. The heart tells us the general differences between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsehood. It is a very precious and delicate instrument meant to be used to read the map correctly, meant to be used to understand the revelations of Allah properly. But like every delicate instrument, it can become corrupted and damaged, and a damaged compass, a compass that does not accurately define the directions of north and south, spells disaster for the traveler.
In the opening verses of this article, Allah tells us of the light of His revelation in the believer’s life and the heart of the pious and says: “Light upon light.” Light upon light meaning guidance upon guidance, direction upon direction, knowledge, and insight upon knowledge and wisdom, or as some of the commentators on the meaning of the Qur’an put it: the light of revelation upon the light of the pure human disposition and unadulterated mind. This pure, uncorrupted mind of the human being, the heart, and the natural distinction between general good and evil is referred to in the Quran and Sunnah as the “Fitrah” or natural disposition of the human mind and heart.
Allah says that which translates: So be steadfast in faith in all uprightness O Prophet—the natural Way of Allah which He has instilled in all people. Let there be no change in this creation of Allah. That is the Straight Way, but most people do not know.
The Prophet ﷺ says expounding upon this meaning:
“Each newborn is born upon the natural Fitrah, and it is the child’s parents who steer him to Judaism, or Christianity, or Zoroastrianism.”
Suppose we understand this divine parable of light upon light and understand the relationship between the light of divine revelation and the light of the conscience, the words of All-Mighty Allah and His creation, the detailed map, and instructions the compass. In that case, we start to understand them as two pieces of the same puzzle. We begin to realize that without the map, the compass will not lead us to any defined specific destination, and without the compass, we won’t be able to make heads or tails of the map. If we understand this, we can begin to understand just how precious is the conscience’s innocence.
By: Sh. Ali Mashhour