Surah An-Nur, 24:35-40 contains a series of similitude, contrasting the people of faith with the people of disbelief. The contrast is drawn in terms of light and darkness. Surah 24, Verse 35 makes the point that the light of divine guidance is given to one who has kept the natural goodness of his heart intact. Already possessing an inner light, such a person is prepared to receive 'the light of God'. His natural goodness reinforced by faith, he comes to possess 'light upon light'.
The verse reads:
“God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of his light is as if there is a niche, in which there is a lamp, the lamp in a glass; the glass looks as if it is a bright star. It [the lamp] is kindled from a blessed olive tree that is neither of the east nor of the west, one whose oil all but lights up, even though no fire has touched it. Light upon light! God guides to His light whomever He likes. God strikes similitudes for people, and God has knowledge of all things.” [Surah An-Nur: 35]
The niche is the heart of the good man, and in that niche is a lamp that burns with the light of his innate goodness. The high degree of the purity and brightness of the light is emphasised.
First, the lamp is enclosed in a glass, so that it has a steady and bright flame and is not put out by the wind. Second, the glass is not dirty but clear and shiny. It is like 'a bright star' so that it reflects the light well. Third, the lamp is fed with olive oil that has been extracted from a tree that was planted not on the fringe of the garden – “neither of the east nor of the west” - but right in the middle of it, so that, being secure against the fury of the elements, it has yielded the purest kind of oil. The oil, in fact, is so pure that it would catch fire before coming into contact with fire. And when the oil, or the inner goodness of a man, does come into contact with fire or divine guidance, the result is “light upon light”.
Possessing this 'double light', one sees the heavens and the earth lit up, acquiring the master key to all knowledge and understanding, for, as the opening part of the verse says, “God is the light of the heavens and the earth.”
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