24:35 God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The likeness of His light is as a niche, inside the niche is a lamp, the lamp inside a glass… Light upon light. God guides to His light whomsoever He will.
In reality, light is that which illuminates other than itself. Whatever does not illuminate another is not called light. The sun is light, the moon is light, and the lamp is light—not in the sense that they are bright in themselves, but in the sense that they illuminate others. Mirrors, water, jewels, and the like are not called light, even if they are bright by their own essences, for they do not illuminate others. Now that this reality is known, know that God is the light of the heavens and the earth: It is God who is the brightener of the heavens and the earths for the faithful and the friends. It is He who gives form to bodies and illuminates spirits. All lights come forth from Him and abide through Him, some outward and some inward. Concerning the outward, He says, “And We appointed a blazing lamp” [78:13]. Concerning the inward, He says, “Is he whose breast God has expanded for the submission, so he is upon a light from his Lord?” [39:22].
Although the outward light is bright and beautiful, it is subordinate to and servant of the inward light. The outward light is the light of the sun and moon; the inward light is the light of tawḥīd and recognition. The light of the sun and moon is lovely and bright, but at the end of the day, it will be eclipsed and occulted. Tomorrow at the resurrection it will be opaque and enwrapped, according to His words, “When the sun is enwrapped” [81:1]. As for the sun of recognition and the light of tawḥīd, these rises up from the hearts of the faithful and will never be eclipsed or occulted, nor will they be overcome and enwrapped. They are a rising without setting, an unveiling without an eclipse, and radiance from the station of yearning.
Surely the noonday sunsets at night,
but the heart’s sun never disappears.
Know also that the outward lights are diverse in their levels. The first is the light of submission, and along with submission the light of self-purification. The second is the light of faith, and along with faith the light of truthfulness. The third is the light of beautiful doing, and along with beautiful doing the light of certainty. The brightness of submission is found in the light of self-purification, the brightness of faith in the light of truthfulness, and the brightness of beautiful doing in the light of certainty. These are the way stations of the Shariah’s road and the stations of the common people among the faithful. Then the folk of the Haqiqah and the chevaliers of the Tariqah have another light and another state. They have the light of perspicacity, and along with it the light of unveiling; the light of straightness, and along with it the light of contemplation; and the light of tawḥīd, and along with it the light of proximity in the Presence of At-ness. As long as the servant is within the stations, he is bound by his own traveling. It is here that the Real’s pulling begins. The divine attraction joins with him and the lights take each others’ hands—the light of tremendousness and majesty, the light of gentleness and beauty, the light of awesomeness, the light of jealousy, the light of proximity, the light of divinity.
This is why the Lord of the Worlds said, “Light upon light.” The situation reaches the point where servanthood disappears in the light of Lordhood. But no one in the whole world has ever had these lights or this proximity to the Possessor of Majesty perfectly save Muṣṭafā the Arab. Everyone has part of it, and he has the whole, for he is the whole of perfection, the totality of beauty, and the kiblah of bounteousness.
It has been narrated from Abū Saʿīd al-Khudarī that he said, “I was with a group among whom were the weak among the Emigrants, and some were curtaining the nakedness of others. A reciter was reciting the Qur’an for us and we were listening to his recitation. The Prophet came and stood over us, and when the reciter saw him, he became silent. He greeted us and said, ‘What are you doing?’ “We said, ‘O Messenger of God, a reciter was reciting for us and we were listening to his recitation.’
“God’s Messenger said, ‘Praise belongs to God who placed in my community those with whom He commanded me to make myself patient.’ Then he sat in our midst so as to be level with us. Then he indicated with his hand that we should form a circle, and their faces were illumined, but God’s Messenger did not recognize any of them, for they were the weak among the Emigrants. Then he said, ‘To the destitute among the Emigrants give the good news of complete light on the Day of Resurrection! You will enter the Garden a half-day before the rich among the faithful, a half-day whose measure is five hundred years.’” The likeness of this light is the same as what Muṣṭafā said: “God created the creatures in darkness, then He sprinkled them with some of His light.” The world’s folk were a handful of dust left in their own darkness and bewildered in the darkness of their makeup. They remained unaware in the wrap of their createdness. All at once, the rain of the lights of eternity began to pour from the heaven of beginninglessness. The dust became jasmine and the stone became pearls. The color of heaven and earth changed when the dust stepped forth. It was said, “This is dust, all dismal and dark. Makeup is needed all limpid and pure.” A subtlety joined with that makeup, and this subtlety was expressed as “He sprinkled them with some of His light.” They said, “O Messenger of God, what are the marks of this light?” He said, “‘When the light enters the heart, the breast dilates.’ When the banner of the just sultan enters the city, no tumult remains. When the breast is opened up by the divine light, the aspiration becomes elevated, sorrow is given ease, enemies become friends, scatteredness is changed into togetherness, the carpet of subsistence is spread, the rug of annihilation is rolled up, the door to the corner of grief is shut, and the door to the garden of union is opened. With the tongue of poverty, he will say, ‘O God, Your work has a beautiful beginning—without us You lit up Your lamp with loving-kindness, without us You sent light from the Unseen with servant-caressing, without us Your gentleness brought the servant to these days. What harm if Your gentleness carries through without us?’”
It is well-known and transmitted in the traditions that one of the knowers from the second generation went with the army of Islam to battle with Byzantium. He was taken prisoner and remained there for a time. One day he saw that the Byzantines were gathered in the desert and asked the cause. They said that there was a bishop, the leader of the bishops, who came out of the monastery once every four years and gave advice to the people. Today was the promised time of his coming out. The Muslims were present in that session, and they say that 30,000 Byzantines were present. The bishop went to the pulpit and sat silently without saying a word. The people were thirsty for him to speak. Then he said, “My speaking has been shut down. Look around, perhaps a stranger from the folk of Islam is among you.” They said, “We don’t know and we don’t recognize anyone.” The bishop said with a loud voice, “Whoever is here in this gathering from the community and religion of Muḥammad, stand up!” That Muslim said, “I was afraid to stand up and disregarded him.” The bishop said, “If you do not recognize him, and he does not recognize himself, then I will recognize him, God willing.” Then he pondered and he looked sharply at the faces of the people. He said, “His eyes fell upon me, and quickly he said, ‘This is the person I am seeking. Rise up, a young man, and come close to me so that I may speak with you.’ He said to me, ‘Are you a Muslim?’ I said, ‘Yes, I am a Muslim.’ He said, ‘Are you one of their knowers, or are you one of the ignorant?’ I said, ‘I know what I know, and I am learning what I do not know, and I am not among the ignorant.’
“He said, ‘I will ask three questions, and you answer.’ I said, ‘I will answer with two conditions: First, that you tell me how you recognized me. Second, I also will ask you three questions.”The two of them agreed on this and made a compact.
“Then the bishop placed his mouth to my ear and said softly to me, hidden from the Byzantines, ‘I recognized you by the light of your faith and your tawḥīd. It was shining from your face.’ Then with a loud voice, he asked, ‘Your messenger said to you that there is a tree in paradise, in every palace and every chamber of which is a branch. What is its likeness in this world?’ “I said, ‘The likeness of that tree in this world is the sun. Its disk is one, but in every house and every room there is a branch of its shining.’ “The bishop said, ‘You have spoken the truth.’
“He asked the second question: ‘Your Messenger reported that the folk of paradise consume food and drink, but no excrement comes from them. What is the likeness of that in this world?’ “I said, ‘The embryo in the womb of its mother. It nourishes itself but it does not excrete.’ “The bishop said, ‘You have spoken the truth.’
“He asked the third question: ‘Your Messenger reported that on the Day of Resurrection, a mouthful, a mote, and a grain of charity will be like a great mountain in the Scales. What is the likeness of this in this world?’ “I said, ‘In the morning when the sun comes up, or in the evening when it goes down when you hold before the sun something that itself is short, it shows itself as long and much.’ “The bishop said, ‘You have spoken the truth.’”
Then the Muslim asked him, “How many are the gates to the Gardens.” He said, “Eight.”
He asked, “And how many are the gates to the Fires?” He said, “Seven.”
He asked, “And what is written on the gates of the Garden?”
The Muslim said, “When I asked him what was written on the door of paradise, he was at a loss and did not answer. The Byzantines said, ‘Answer, lest this foreign man says that the bishop does not know.’ The bishop said, ‘If this question must be answered, it will not be truthful with sash and cross. He undid the sash and threw down the cross and said with a loud voice, ‘Written on the gate of the Garden is “There is no God but God and Muḥammad is God’s Messenger.”’
When the Byzantines heard this answer they threw stones and cursed. The bishop turned to that stranger and said, “Do you have anything memorized from the Qur’an?” He said, “I do,” and then he recited the verse, “And God invites to the Abode of Peace” [10:25]. The bishop wept and then said with a loud voice, “O people, the veil has been lifted from my eyes. Right now seven hundred angels are coming from heaven with seven hundred ornamented litters to take the spirits of the martyrs to heaven, and I am certain that seven hundred of you agree with me. Now look at this honor and fear no antagonist. Do not be frightened.” Then a large group of them broke their crosses cut their sashes and became Muslims. The deniers and unbelievers were killing them, and they also killed the bishop. When they counted the killed, there were seven hundred persons, not one more or less.
The point of this story is that the light of that tawḥīd-voicing man of faith shone among a handful of deniers and unbelievers such that the bishop saw him and this affair took place. If assistance is sent in your name from the light of the Unseen, a Byzantine warrior will not take you, prisoner, the way that that assistance of light will imprison you. But it will not come down because of any cause or travel for the sake of any occasion.
The likeness of His light. A group of the commentators has said that the pronoun refers to Muṣṭafā, for his creation was light, his robe of honor light, his lineage light, his birth light, his contemplation light, his practice light, his miracle light, and he himself, in his essence, was light upon light. He was a paragon in whose face was the light of mercy, in whose eyes the light of heedfulness, on whose tongue the light of wisdom, between whose shoulders the light of prophethood, on whose palm the light of liberality, in whose feet the light of service, in whose hair the light of beauty, in whose disposition the light of humility, in whose breast the light of contentment, in whose secret core the light of limpidness, in whose essence the light of obedience, in whose obedience the light of tawḥīd, in whose tawḥīd the light of realization, in whose realization the light of success-giving, in whose stillness the light of reverence, in whose reverence the light of surrender.
Ḥusayn ibn Manṣūr Ḥallāj said, “In the head is the light of revelation, between the eyes the light of whispered prayer, in the ears the light of certainty, in the tongue the light of explication, in the breast the light of faith, and in the natures the light of glorification. When any of these lights blaze up, it dominates over another light and puts it under its ruling power. When it becomes still, the ruling power of the other light comes back, ampler and more complete than it was. When all of them blaze up, that is light upon light.”
God guides to His light whomsoever He will. With His light He guides whomsoever He will to His power, with His power to His Unseen, with His Unseen to His eternity, with His eternity to His beginninglessness and endlessness, and with His beginninglessness and endlessness to His unity.