by Hashim Ali Alaudeen
As Salaamu Alaykum,
May Allah Most High accept the fast and prayers of all of those who partake in ‘ibadah during this Blessed Month of Ramadan. Juz’ 18 (23:1–25:30) of Qur’an al-Karim is replete with important ayahs that provide guidance to humanity. I found one ayah, known to the ‘Arifs or Gnostics of Islam as “Ayah al-Nur” (Verse of Light), quite profound.
۞ اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ ۖ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ ۖ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ مُبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ ۚ نُورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ ۗ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not – light upon light – Allah guides to His light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth parables for men, and Allah is Cognizant of all things. — 24:35
Numerous ‘Arifs (Gnostics) have written tafsir about this ayah, and I refer you to those by Avicenna (Ibn Sina), al-Ghazali, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Ibn al-‘Arabi, Rumi and Mulla Sadra for a variety of spiritual guidance.
ʻAllamah Tabataba’i in his Tafsir al-Mizan says that the Ayah of Light refers to Allah giving guidance toward Himself and His religion. Allah is the Light of Faith and Knowledge of the Believer.
In Surah al-Hadid (57:27) Allah says,
يُؤْتِكُمْ كِفْلَيْنِ مِنْ رَحْمَتِهِ وَيَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ نُورًا تَمْشُونَ
…He will bestow on you a double portion of His Mercy: He will provide for you a nur (light) by which ye shall walk (straight in your path)…
Allah also states in Surah Zumar (39:22),
أَفَمَنْ شَرَحَ اللَّهُ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ فَهُوَ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ مِنْ رَبِّه ۚ
Is the one whose heart Allah has opened to Islam and is walking in the nur (light) from his Lord…
It is also said that Allah has veils of Light on the path to His Light, that the salik (traveler) to Allah goes through till they reach near to Him.
“God has seventy thousand veils of light and darkness” (Bahar Anwar)
The human is guided by Allah’s Light from levels of darkness to His Light with Allah as their Wali (Guardian and Friend) on the path of Salvation:
Surah Baqarah (2:257):
اللَّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُخْرِجُهُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَوْلِيَاؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُمْ مِنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ ۗ أُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
Allah is the Wali (Guardian and Friend) of those who believe, He brings them out levels of darkness and leads them into the light. As for the unbelievers, whose Wali (Guardian and Friend) is Taghut (forces of Shaytan), he takes them out of the light and leads them into levels of darkness. As a result, they will become the companions of the Hellfire and shall live therein forever
And it is Allah who is the Guide for us then on the path of truth.
It is these ayahs and understanding which reminds me of our ‘Ayatullah’ (Sign of Allah), the Shahid (martyr) El Hajj Malik El Shabazz better known as Malcolm X (ra). He is not only an example of how Allah guides from levels of darkness to Light for African Americans, but also to humanity. In fact, Malcolm’s life can be viewed as a man whose life was a journey from darkness (or rooms of darkness) into the Light. He continually sought and followed these new sources of Light – Lights given to him while sitting in rooms of darkness.
As Malcolm entered prison in 1946, he was at his lowest level of darkness, to the extent that his nickname in Prison was “Satan.” But Malcolm was awakened from this dark room when he was saw a light at the bottom of the door. This Light I call “reading, critical thinking and understanding.” Malcolm noted that reading opened a whole new world for him. Interestingly, it is also the first words sent to our Prophet Muhammad (saws) while meditating in Mount Hira, Iqra “Read.” This Light of “reading, critical thinking and understanding” was the first awakening for Malcolm and thereafter, he stepped into the room of “knowledge,” which had more light than the first.
Room 2 was the filled with knowledge of self and understanding the oppression under which he and his people had suffered for 400 years of the torture chamber of slavery and segregation, including rape, lynching, beatings, murder and the destruction of a people in every form. In this room, Malcolm joined the Nation of Islam and not only learned about these issues, but also preached to the world about the crimes committed on us as a people. Yet, Malcolm saw the Light under the door leading to another room. He then left this room and entered into the next one because Malcolm was seeking Truth above all things. It was the Light of Islam of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) that he encountered in the next room.
This room was the brightest of them all for Malcolm; for in this room, he saw the Light of Islam and the Light of Humanity. His struggle now combined the struggle for African Americans with all humans facing oppression. Malcolm found his inner peace and his mission in life to spread Islam and the fight for human rights. You would think at this point that there are no more rooms, but as the ayah says “Allah guides to His Light whom He wills.” So, Malcolm was honored to be chosen and guided by Allah to see another Light from this room. It is the hardest light to see for most because only a pure-hearted lover of Allah can see it. The next room in the room of Islam had a special light under its door, Malcolm saw it and walked through it. This room is reserved for those who gave their lives fighting and dying on the path to Allah. It is the Light of Shahadat (Martyrdom).
I cannot write or even imagine what is inside of this room, for only the Gnostic and the Lovers of Allah can know. But I can wonder and romantically speculate.
Malcolm, we are told smiled as his assassins walked up and shot him. Why did he smile? Maybe he saw a Light and knew that his journey through these veils of Lights was taking him now to the ultimate Source of Light.
My Lord, grant me complete severance of my relations with everything else and total submission to You. Enlighten the eyes of our hearts with the light of their looking at You to the extent that they penetrate the veils of light and reach the Source of Grandeur, and let our souls get suspended by the glory of Your sanctity. — Dua Shabaniyh
May Allah grant us the hope of reaching the Light of the Heavens and Earth.
Shaykh Hashim Ali Alauddeen converted to Islam in 1987 and began his activities at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). Hashim currently finishing his dissertation for his PhD from UC Berkeley, where he has studied for 12 years under Dr.Hamid Algar. He also attended Madresseh Imam Khomeini in Qum, Iran, in 1997–2000 and has had many personal sessions with Ulamaa such as Ayatullah Javadi Amuli and Ayatullah Shirazi while working with IFC in Qum. He is now the director of Madina Academy, which is an Islamic education organization, and Shabazz Village, which is an organization that advocates for human rights and multicultural education.