Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is that of a niche in which there is a lamp; the lamp is in a glass – the glass looks like a brilliant star – it is lit by (the oil of) a blessed tree, the olive, which is neither eastern, nor western. Its oil is about to emit light even if fire has not touched it – (it is) light upon light. Allah guides to His light whomsoever He wills. And Allah describes examples for the people, and Allah knows everything well. [24:35]
The scholars call this verse as the “Verse of Radiance”, because it describes in great detail the radiance of faith and the darkness of disbelief.
The definition of Nur (Light)
Imam Ghazzali (Rahimullah Ta’ala) has given the definiton of Nur (Light) as that is something which is bright and manifest on its own, and makes other things bright and evident. Tafsir Mazhari has explained that Nur is in fact that condition which is initially perceived by man’s sense of sight, and then through that perception he comprehends all those things which can be seen by the eye, such in the case of rays of sun and the moon, which on falling on a solid mass brightens it up, and then through the reflection of solid mass brightens other things. Hence, it is evident that the word Nur cannot be used for Allah Ta’ala in its literal or common meaning, because He is free from body or materiality. Therefore, there is consensus among the scholars that the use of the word Nur for Allah Ta’ala in the verse under reference is purported for Munawwir, meaning the one who brightens, or may be the master of brightening is referred here as Nur, in the same way as the possessor of grace is sometimes called Grace, or the possessor of justice is called the Justice. So, meaning of the verse is that Allah Ta’ala bestows Nur to earth and the heaven, and to everything living there, and the Nur is purported to be the Nur of righteousness. Ibn Kathir has reported the explanation put forward by Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas (Radhiallaho Ta’ala Anho) that (that is, Allah is the Guide of all living in the heavens and the earth).
Nur of the believer
‘The example of His light is that of a niche in which there is a lamp – 24:35’. This is a nice example of Allah Ta’ala’s Nur of guidance, which penetrates into the heart of the believer. Ibn Jarir has reported its explanation put forward by Sayyidna Ubayy bin Ka’b (Radhiallaho Ta’ala Anho).
It means that this is the example of the believer in whose heart Allah Ta’ala has laid down the Nur of faith and of the Qur’an. In this verse Allah Ta’ala has first mentioned His own Nur (‘Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. – 24:35’), and then the Nur of the believer’s heart and the following example is for the one who believes in Him. Sayyidna Ubayy bin Ka’b (Radhiallaho Ta’ala Anho) used to recite this verse as instead of (to explain this). Sa’id ibn Jubair (Radhiallaho Ta’ala Anho) has also reported the same meaning and recitation of the verse from Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas (Radhiallaho Ta’ala Anho). Ibn Kathir has narrated all these explanations and then remarked that there are two view points among the jurists about the pronoun of the example of his light. One, that this pronoun has reference toward Allah Ta’ala, and thus the meaning of the verse is ‘Allah’s Nur placed in the heart of believers naturally’, and the example of that is like a niche). This explanation is put forward by Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas (Radhiallaho Ta’ala Anho). The other explanation is that the personal pronoun refers to the believers, who are presumed to have been referred to by the context. So, the example given in the verse can be explained as follows: The chest of a believer is like a niche, while the heart of a believer placed in the chest is like a lamp (placed in the niche). Then the transparent oil of olive is the example of the natural nur (light) of guidance which is deposited in the nature of a believer and which has the inherent capability to accept the truth (which is indicated in the verse by the words ‘Its oil is about to emit light even if fire has not touched it’). Then as the olive oil produces brightness when caused to burn with the flame of fire, the same way natural Nur of guidance which is placed in the heart of the believer, when joins the message and knowledge of Allah Ta’ala, then it gets brightened and also brightens the world. When the companions and their pupils confined this example to the heart of a believer alone, they have most probably done so because it is only the believer who draws benefit from this Nur. Otherwise the natural Nur of guidance which is placed in the hearts of humans at the time of their creation, is not confined to believers, but is part of the nature and instinct of every human being. It is for this reason that one can see all around the world that there are people in every nook and corner, in all societies and religions, who believe in the existence of God and His Omnipotence, and do turn towards Him. No matter one may make all types of errors in the perception and understanding of God, yet every individual does believe by nature in His existence, with the exception of a few atheists, who have lost their natural instinct.
A Sahih hadith endorses this view, which says, that is ‘Every child is born with natural instinct’. Later, his parents put him on the wrong path. This natural instinct is the guidance of faith. The guidance of faith and its Nur is bestowed to every individual at the time of his birth, and because of this Nur of guidance, one possesses the ability to accept the truth. When they come to know about the revelations of Allah through His messengers and their deputies, they readily accept them, except those unfortunate people who have erased the Divine Nur from their heart with their wrong doings. Perhaps that is the reason that in the beginning of the verse the bestowal of Nur is said to be common to all, which includes every one on the earth and the heavens, without any difference between believers and disbelievers, but towards the end of the verse it is said ‘Allah Ta’ala guides to His light whomsoever He wills – 24:35’. Here the will of Allah is not pointing towards that Divine Nur of which is bestowed to all humans, but towards the Qur’anic Nur, wich is not availed by everyone, except those fortunate ones, to whom Divine help is granted. Otherwise even one’s endeavour goes waste without Divine help, and sometimes becomes detrimental:
‘If there is no help to man from Allah, then his striving puts him to trouble instead.’
The Nur of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam)
Imam Baghawi (Rahimullah Ta’ala) has narrated that Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas (Radhiallaho Ta’ala Anho) once enquired from Ka’b al-Ahbar, who was a great Muslim scholar of Torah and Injil, said that this example was meant for the heart of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). Mishkat (the niche) stands for his chest, Zujajah (glass) for his heart and Misbah (lamp) for his prophethood. What was unique about this Nur of prophethood was that even before the declaration of prophethood it had the illumination of light for the people. When the revelation from Allah Ta’ala is coupled with the Nur of prophethood, then it turns into such radiance that the whole world is brightened.
Before the declaration of prophethood of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), and even before his birth, some strange and amazing events had taken place in the world, which were in fact advance notice of the incoming prophet, and are called Irhasat in the vocabulary of the scholars of hadith. The difference between this word and miracle is that the latter is used for such unusual events which are bestowed by Allah Ta’ala to his messengers for the endorsement of their prophethood, while Irhasat are those unusual events which happen before the declaration of prophethood. There are a number of unusual incidents which are recorded by several authentic narrations, and have been compiled by Shaikh Jalaluddin Sayuti (Rahimullah Ta’ala) in his book Khasais Kubra and by Abu Nu’aim in his Dalail-un-Nubuwwah. Tafsir Mazhari has reproduced a good number of these events.
Benefits of olive oil
‘A blessed tree, the olive – 24:35’. This is an endorsement that olive and its tree are blessed by Allah Ta’ala and are benificial and useful. Scholars have commented that Allah Ta’ala has instilled many benefits in it. Olive oil is used in the burning of lamps. Its light is the brightest and clearest as against any other oil. It is easten as a fruit and its oil is used in cooking. The interesting part is that there is no need of any machine for the extraction of its oil. When the fruit is ripe, the oil comes out automatically. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) has asked to eat and massage the body with olive oil. (Baghawi – Mazhari)
“Ma’ariful Qur’an” by Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (Nawarallahu Marqadahu)
English Edition: Volume 6, pages 430-435
Translated by Muhammad Ishrat Husain
Revised by Maulana Muhammad Taqi ‘Usmani