The Quran contains a highly puzzling verse, which explains through an allegory, the ultimate mystery of Cosmos - the definition of Creator Himself. Scholars down the ages have written exhaustive commentaries on this one verse, but no one has been able to do justice to it, and probably no one will ever be able to comprehend it, fully or even partially. The problem as outlined by Quran itself is that ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ [Ash-Shura 42:11], and there is also ‘nothing that could he compared with Him’ [Al-Ikhlas 112:4]; therefore, in the absence of anything to be used as a model, the description of ‘One’, who is the very Creator of this multidimensional universe, becomes almost impossible to decipher, even through a metaphor.
The verse is from Sura Noor and its translation by Yusuf Ali is as follows:
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass:ٍ the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light: Allah doth set forth Parables for men: and Allah doth know all things. [An-Noor 24:35]
Mohammad Asad quotes early commentators Tabari, Baidhawi and lbn Kathir, citing the authority of Ibn Abbas and lbn Masud, to suggest that "It is the parable of His light in the heart of a believer." The "lamp" is the revelation which God grants to His prophets and which is reflected in the believer's heart - the "niche" of the above parable - after being received and consciously grasped by his reason, for it is through reason alone that true faith can find its way into the heart of man. Regarding the allegory of an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of the west, Mohammad Asad says that ‘It would seem that this is an allusion to the organic continuity of all divine revelation which, starting like a tree from one "root" or proposition - the statement of God's existence and uniqueness - grows steadily throughout man's spiritual history, branching out into a splendid variety of religious experience, thus endlessly widening the range of man's perception of the truth.’
This is more or less the traditional perspective presented in a beautiful language. Now if we reflect on the verse with a fresh perspective, we find that the verse has two major components. First tells us - ‘Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth’; and the second, the rest of verse, simply describes this ‘light’ in allegorical terms.
The English word ‘light’ is the translation of nur in Arabic. In Quran, it has been used 43 times, and its usage is such that its exact meaning is hard to pin down. The word ‘light’, which represents a form of energy, does not explain the word nur fully. Eleven times  it has been used simply as something which is an opposite of zulmaat i.e. darkness. The Quran has also associated nur with moon in two verses;  while zia [Yunus 10:5] and siraj (lamp) [Nooh 71:16] has been used in association with the sun. In another verse [Al-Baqr 2:17], which is crucial for its meaning, nur seems to refer to the ability to see or the attribute of God for manifesting the objects.
The word nur is also mentioned along with hidayat (guidance) in association with revealed knowledge, such as Taurah [Al-Maeda 5:44], Gospel [Al-Maeda 5: 46] and Quran [Al-Anaam 6:91]. In one verse, the Quran itself is referred as nur and kitab-e-mubeen (perspicuous Book) [Al-Maeda 5:15]; and at other places, light manifest nur-an mubeen [An-Nisa 4:174]; a light to be followed [Al-Araf 7:157]; a light made to guide [Ash-Shura 42:52]; a light in which one should believe [At-Taghabun 64:8]; and a light whereby one can walk among man [Al-Anaam 6:122]. The Quran has also said that Opposition wants to extinguish the nur through their mouths, but He will perfect it [At-Tawba 9:32, As-Saff 61:8].
The nur is also mentioned as a reward in the afterlife, which will run ahead and towards right side of the good souls [Al-Hadid 57:12; At-Tahrim 66:8]. When evil souls would seek a part of it, they would be curtly refused and told to go back and seek their own light [Al-Hadid 57:13].
Thus, one can see the difficulty in defining the meaning of nur through its usage in Quran. The word in general seems to suggest an ‘attribute’, power or ability (of God) that makes the things manifest, perceivable, clear or visible. This is its usage in the verse [Al-Baqr 2:17] and in all verses where it has been used as an opposite of darkness. The use of nur with moon, identifying it as a visible object only, and other words such as zia and siraj (energy producers themselves) for ‘sun’, also suggests this meaning. The moon, unlike the sun, is not a light producer itself. It only becomes visible due to the reflected light of sun. Using nur with scriptures that make things manifest, visible or comprehensible, too affirms the same meaning. The usage of nur on the Day of Judgment, moving ahead of believers and to the right, may suggest that it is a reward of sorts that would help make things visible correctly for them in advance. On the comtrary, it is possible that it may suggest something else which is more profound, and which may not be conceivable by humans now. Unfortunately, the difficulty to pinpoint the meaning of this word increases as we proceed with the verse.
The original words are - mathalu noorihi - the parable of His Light is ka-mishkatin - as if there were a Niche - The particle ka implies ‘as if’ or ‘as it were’. When prefixed to a noun, it is called kaf at-tashbih, the letter kaf pointing to a resemblance of ‘one thing to another’. The word mishkat, translated as niche, denotes a little shallow recess in the wall of an eastern house, fairly high from the ground, in which a light (before the days of electricity) was placed. Its height enabled it to diffuse the light in the room and minimise the shadows. The background of the wall and the sides helped to throw the light well into the room, and if the wall was white washed, it also acted as a reflector: the opening in front made the way for the light in the room.  The next words feeha misbahun means ‘within it a Lamp’. The word misbah is used for a lamp or lantern that burns oil to produce light. Almisbahu fee zujajatin - the Lamp enclosed in Glass. Zujaj– means a glass crystal, window pane, or tumbler etc. Alzzujajatu kaannaha kawkabun durriyyun - the glass as it were a brilliant star; where kawkab means a star and durri – implies glittering, illuminated or sparkling.
Apparently, the words seem to describe a mystical metaphor, but when we try to reflect on words discussed till now, several correlations seem to emerge out of their usage. If Allah is the nur of ‘heavens and earth’, and nur implies something that makes the things manifest, then Allah seems to be that Source which is making the entire universe visible or perceivable.
The words also tell us that the lamp or source from which this ‘ability’ is emanating is not in the room, but in a niche, in the walls of room. Thus, if we consider room to represent the universe allegorically, the source of this ‘quality’ we are informed is present in its walls or foundations. Moreover, the receptacle in the wall or mishkat described in the verse usually has five sides in the wall, with the sixth one opening in the room. If ‘string on the brane’ picture is correct, the number of sides of the receptacle enclosing the source can be taken as a hint about the number of branes involved in our universe.
The source is then described as being enclosed in a glass or medium, which is akin to a glittering star. Physicists also tell us that the energy making the universe visible (only 25% of the total mass of universe is luminous) is getting released through the medium of stars.
Till this point, the metaphor thus seems to describe an area which is within our universe, but from this point onwards, the verse begins to describe something which goes beyond the universe.
The words yooqadu is from root waqad, which means it is being ignited or kindled; min– from; shajaratin mubarakatin - a blessed Tree, zaytoonatin - an Olive.
These words seem to tell us that the reality does not terminate at the source in the foundation of the universe. This ‘source’ is linked further with something, which can only be described as a tree full of blessings. This mystical tree is external to our universe, and can somehow be described by the allegory of an olive tree on earth. Why Quran has isolated the olive tree for this allegory is very difficult to say at this juncture, but the point common to all the trees on earth is its basic shape, which involves a trunk that divides into numerous branches. The presence of branches, logically points towards the link of this tree with several other universes too, like that of our own.
Other information this verse provides is that this ‘tree’ is - la sharqiyyatin wala gharbiyyatin - neither of the east nor of the west. The words seem to imply that the mystical tree does not have a location that can be described with reference to an object such as our universe. In fact, the concept of location may be meaningless with such an object.
Further words are - whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it. The Arabic words are Yakadu - from k’ud – which means almost near; zaytuha – its oil (mostly of zaitun); yudee is from ada – lighting up, illumination; tamsas– touch; and nar is fire. The verse seems to tell us that what can be described as the oil of this mystical tree does not require a warm up period or is close to being lighted up though fire has not touched it. Here too it is difficult to understand what exactly the verse is referring to, and why it is close to being lighted up. The only thing comprehensible about this statement is that the fire has nothing to do with the lighting of this oil.
The words light upon light - Noorun AAala noorin – seems to tell us that the quality that is making the universe manifest is just one layer, and layers upon such layers exist in Allah’s creation.
It is because of such complexity upon complexity that the verse ends with these words -
Yahdee Allahu linoorihi man yashao God guides to His light whom He wills wayadribu Allahu al-amthala lilnnasi and God propounds parables unto men (as certain truths can only be conveyed to man through allegories) waAllahu bikulli shay-in Aaaleemun and God (alone) has full knowledge of all things.
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