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January 20, 2021

The Niche of Lights

The Niche of Lights Subhanallah, wa-alhamdu-lillah, as-salatu as-salamu ala Rasulullah

Allah is the Light of the heavens and earth, The similitude of His Light is like a niche, In which there is a lamp, the lamp in a glass, The glass is as it were a shining star, Lit from the Olive Tree blessed, Neither of the East nor of the West Whose oil is well-nigh luminous Yet fire touched it not, Light upon Light, Whomever He wills Allah guides to His Light [Ayah Noor, Qur’an 24:35] by Motiur Rahman Bismillahi-ar-Rahmani-ar-Raheem Abu Hamed al-Ghazzali (d.1111), may Allah have mercy on him, has written a book called Mishkat al-Anwar (Niche of Lights), a thorough commentary explaining this ayah[1] on various levels. It is worth mentioning here Bishop George Berkeley’s (d.1753) thoughts, in simplistic terms, ‘things’ only exist so long as there is a being who perceives them or as he called it “Esse est percipi” (“To be is to be perceived”).

For our purpose here we shall define ‘things’ that include both concrete and the abstract, real and the imaginary, thoughts and feelings, physical and the spiritual. Parmenides (born c.515-510 BC) has demonstrated that ‘nothing’ is nonsense, it does not exist – and what does not exist is unknowable, unthinkable and unimaginable.

When we say ‘nothing’ we are not making a positive assertion but simply negating or denying ‘things’. So ‘nothing’ in fact is a negative description of things, as pure and proper nothing without a reference to ‘things’ does not exist! Modern mathematics, which only became possible after the Arabs discovered the zero, can also be used to demonstrate this.

Hence, anything to the power of zero is always equal to one. (nº = 1). For example, 7³ / 7³ = 7³‾³ = 7º = 1 That is, anything to the power of nothing is always something! The Arabic word for a ‘thing’ is ‘shay’, hence Allah most High has said in His Book, “Ala innahum fee miryatin min liqa-irabbihim ala innahu bikulli shay-in muheetun” Ah indeed! Are they in doubt concerning the Meeting with their Lord? Ah indeed! It is He that doth encompass all things (shay)! [Qur’an 41:54] In elsewhere also: But ye shall not ‘will’ except as Allah ‘wills’ (shay), – the Cherisher of the Worlds [81:29] The roots for both words ‘will’ and ‘thing’ in Arabic are the same shīn yā alif, the former being 3rd person masculine singular perfect verb, and in the latter instance it is an indefinite masculine noun. So a ‘will’ which is a mental construct or concept is directly related with the concept of ‘thing’. When we come to think of ‘things’, they are of two types: – they are either potential or in actual states of being. There cannot be a ‘thing’ that exists actually without it being potentially possible. But the opposite is not true.

All potential ‘things’ do not necessarily come into actual existence. However, we must make the distinction between the Real (al-Haqq) and ‘things’. “The Truth (al-Haqq)[2] (comes) from Allah alone; so be not of those who doubt” (Qur’an 3:60). The Real (al-Haqq) is the self-existing Being by the virtue of its self, which is not an effect either necessarily or contingently attributed to a cause.

The relation between the Real and ‘things’ is like the relationship between causes and effects i.e. a causal relationship, the latter is dependent on the former . Or, it may be likened to the relationship between an object and its shadow. The shadow only exists because of the object provided the conditions are there. What are these conditions? Namely light and its sources. For how there can there be light without its sources?

Here, it is worth mentioning that the intensity of light varies in the heavenly spheres according to their sources and rank, whether they are primary, secondary, or tertiary. For example, the sun, moon and the stars. The moon is not a source of light in itself – her beauty only shines forth when the sun smiles at her! The Prophet, peace be upon him, likened his Companions (sahaba) to stars, “My Companions are like the stars: whichever of them you follow, you will be rightly guided” It is also reported that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “Allah inspired me: O Muhammad! Your Companions are to Me of the station of the stars in the sky – some are brighter than others; so whoever takes from any of them in those matters where they have differed, then to Me, he is upon guidance.” Although the universe is potentially beautiful, this first has to manifest itself into actual existence, and only becomes visible with the accompaniment of light from the luminaries. But how useful is this without a perceiver who has the will, power and desire of perception? Closed eyes do not see the daylight! ‘Things’ potentially remain with the Real, then this potentiality actualizes when the conditions are right, and so heavenly ‘things’ manifest in the heavens and earthly ‘things’ manifest on Earth, the dimensions of each universe thus took its forms. However, all this is in vain without a perceiver – “Esse est percipi”. Thus alongside the potentials of all ‘things’ came the form of the perceiver, he who shall gather all ‘things’ in his perception as they unfold.

Even the heavenly angels could not gather all the names but the khalifa of Allah could: “And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: “Tell me the names of these if ye are right. They said: “Glory to Thee, of knowledge We have none, save what Thou Hast taught us: In truth it is Thou Who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom.” (Qur’an 2:31 – 32) In a hadith it is stated, Al-mu’min mir’at al-mu’min, ”the faithful is the mirror of the faithful”. The word ‘mu’min’ is ordinarily translated as ‘believer’. The roots for this word alif mīm nūn (a m n) stands for ‘trust’ and ‘turning to’ and nothing is more fit for this purpose than His khalifa, Adam, peace be upon him, in particular, and mankind in general! “We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it; – He was indeed unjust and foolish” (Qur’an 33:72) The mirror only reflects what is in front of it in the presence of light. But the ‘thing’ it reflects cannot properly be said to be either inside or the outside of the mirror. The image seen on the mirror is not same as the ‘thing’ in itself, it is merely a reflection. Yet it is a likeness. Hence it is said God created man in His own image! It is mentioned in the noble Qur’an about the Imam of humanity, Hazrat Ibrahim, peace be upon him, that: “When the night covered him over,

He saw a star: He said: “This is my Lord.” But when it set, He said: “I love not those that set.” When he saw the moon rising in splendour, he said: “This is my Lord.” But when the moon set, He said: “unless my Lord guides me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.” When he saw the sun rising in splendour, he said: “This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all).”

But when the sun set, he said: “O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah.

“For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.” [Qur’an 6:76-79] [1] Ayah (literally a sign or miracle, a meaning which I give preference over the modern usage of the Qur’anic verse which is a superimposition by Orientalists and increasing have found acceptance among modern scholars as opposed to Muslim tradition)

[2] Al-Haqq has the following usage in Arabic: the correct/the real/the truth/the deserved/the duty/the fact/the right/the certain/the definite/the just/the imminent/the share/the death (God’s name), it is also a name for God al-Mighty.

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