Thursday, November 30, 2006

Let There be Light!

Like many urban centers, Chicago does a lot of decorating for the December holiday seasons. I do not “go” downtown for the purpose of taking in the sights, not because of anything other than I like being at home, and it takes a lot to get me out somewhere, especially in the winter (unlike my childhood of lousy igloo making). But invariably, I end up downtown (the Loop) each December for some reason, and behold, I’m amazed again at the grace of light. The streets and bushes and trees and parks and facades and windows are lit up, and for entirely human resources native in each of us, the light makes us feel better. Whether “artificial” (by our own determination) or “natural” it is still light (nûr in Arabic), an energy force that works with our eyes, the organ and the inner habiliment. Beyond the surface purpose of the lighting, you can’t help but notice the hope and warmth connected with light.

In the world there is night and day, darkness and light, guidance and error, and good and evil. Each of the positive aspects of these pairs relates to nûr, a sought after spiritual good. It is what brings meaning and clarity to life. In a physical sense, dark and light are integral features of the world: All praise is for God, who created the heavens and the earth, and made darkness and light (Quran, 6:1); It is He who made the sun a radiance and made the moon a light and determined its phases so that you may know the number of years and calculation. God has not created all of this except in truth. He makes distinct the signs for a people who know (10:5). The Quran makes the invitation to notice how God has created the seven-storied heavens, one above the other, and that He has placed the moon therein as a light and has placed the sun as a torch (71:15–16). Nûr, however, appears more poignantly in the Quran when referring to such non-material aspects of life as truth, spiritual knowledge, and certitude. Their opposites are associated with darkness, and they are doubt, ignorance, arrogance, misguidance, idolatry, superstition, and the like. People who plunge into adoring false gods are led from the natural state of light to that of utter darkness. God is the Protector of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false gods, who bring them out of the light into darkness. Such are the inmates of the Fire, abiding therein forever (2:257). God associates His scriptures with light (4:174, 5:44-46, 64:8); and He associates His messengers with light as well. But unquestionably, the greatest association with the word nûr is found in one of the most celebrated verses of the Quran, the Verse of Light: God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The likeness of His Light is that of a niche in which there is a lamp. The lamp in a glass. The glass as a glittering star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil nearly glows, though no fire has touched it. Light upon Light! God guides to His Light whomever He wills, and He gives examples to people. And God knows everything (24:34). Nûr comes from the root base nawara, from which nâr (fire) is derived.

2 Comments:

Anonymous irving said...

A really lovely post :) Light is indeed the guiding force of humanity, God's light, the light of the heavens, stars, sun and moon, and the quality by which we wonder at the world.

Ya Haqq!

12/01/2006 12:57 PM  
Blogger samer said...

Allahu Akbar! nicely stated, ya akhy!

12/12/2006 10:08 PM  

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