Clarification of the Ethical Theory of Islam
By: Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi
A significant matter to be noticed here and to be reasonably and philosophically clarified and justified is how human behaviour and permanent qualities become possessed of value through ‘ibadah to Allah and perfect obedience and humbling oneself before Allah? In this regard, from the outlook of Islam and 5yat of Holy Qur`an and riwayat, we have no doubt, for the Almighty Allah says:
“And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should worship Me (51:56).”
The only aim of creation of man and of jinn who from the viewpoint of the Holy Qur`an are two kinds of responsible (entrusted with duties) beings is just (their) serving the One God (Allah - The One and Only). Of course taking into consideration other ayat (of the Holy Qur`an) we come to realize that this is not the final goal, for this very ‘ibadah to Allah has in another ayah of the Holy Qur`an been propounded as the right way.
“And that you should serve Me; this is the right way (36:61) ”
Worship Allah, this is the right way. The same thing which in the former ayah (56:51) had been mentioned as the aim of creation, has been introduced as the right way in the latter (61:36), meaning that ‘ibadah is a medium goal and above it there is another goal. That very act of ‘ibadah itself has been considered for a higher goal and that is attaining nearness to the Almighty Allah (attaining Allah’s pleasure) in which all human virtues and perfections are summed up.
But for this theory to be presentable and defendable in the face of the other ethical and value theories of the world and particularly so that our educated youth will be able to defend the righteous position of Islam before other schools of thought, it is necessary to clarify this theory on the basis of intellectual reasons and philosophical proofs. The principles which are necessary for the clarification of this matter are three basic principles.
The First Principle:
It is that the criterion for the goodness and value of the action is the effect which a free conduct has on man’s spiritual and intellectual perfection. For the clarification of this basic principle which is of the significant matters of the philosophy of ethics in the scientific and philosophical circles of the world, we express an analysis on the concept of value and anti-value and their equivalent in the Islamic culture, namely, “good” and “evil”.
We regard certain things as good and also accept certain things as evil. For instance, all of us regard health to be good, rate knowledge, power and ability as good and opposite to them, regard sickness, being malformed, being ignorant, disabled and powerless to be evil. Philosophers have conducted a wise analysis on this concept and have come to the conclusion that the common aspect among all these goods consists of the perfection of the being and the common aspect among all the evils consists of the imperfection of the being. For instance, when we compare an ignorant man with a learned man, we observe that the learned man has a perfection which the ignorant man lacks. So, the being of the learned man is more perfect than the being of the ignorant man, and/or since a sick man does not have the power to defend against diseases and cannot confront aggressive microbes and loses his body's balance, his being is imperfect compared to a healthy person.
A brave man, in various phases, can achieve his goals, but a timid and cowardice cannot. Then they (the philosophers) have gone further and with a more careful analysis have come to the conclusion that perfection is a stage of being and imperfection is a stage of non-being and is a matter, of non-being. Hence, we can regard being (existence) as equal to good, since it is being (existence) and regard non-being (non-existence) to be evil, since it is non-being (non-existence). Therefore, the good of every being is its perfection and the evil of every being is its imperfection.
Sometimes the perfection of a being causes the imperfection of another being. The burning effect of the fire is the perfection of the fire, but if it falls into a harvest, it causes the destruction of the harvest. The cutting effect of knives and swords is their perfection. But when they contact the body of an innocent man, they cause his death. A microbe, has a perfection since it is a living being, but this very microbe, when enters our bodies, may afflict us with diseases and cause an imperfection for us. Maulawi, the great gnostic and poet has famous poems in which it is said that poison is good for the snake itself, but bad for the one who is stung by the snake.
Also sometimes the opposite is the case. A matter may be a non-existence, imperfection and in itself evil, but becomes good and the cause of perfection for another thing. You enter a garden and see a gardener cutting off the branches and leaves of a tree. If you are not aware of the gardening works, you will think that the gardener is doing a bad work, cutting off the branches and leaves of the tree which are apparently being and perfection for the tree. But if you are aware of the matters related to gardening, you know that the gardener cuts off some of the extra branches (which hinder the growth of the tree) so that the tree will grow more. Here, the non-existence of these branches is an imperfectional and non-existence matter, but for the tree it is considered to be good and causes the tree to grow better.
Now let us see on what the superiority of perfections depends?
We start this matter from plants. In your opinion, in comparison, which one is more perfect, a walnut tree or a plain tree? You certainly think a walnut tree is more perfect. Why? Because a walnut tree has something more than the plain tree and that is the fruit it (the walnut tree) bears. Therefore, since it has more effects of existence, it is more perfect. Comparison is in the same manner between two walnut trees. That walnut tree is more perfect of which the final result and fruit is more, and the same is true of the walnut tree which is of less size but which gives more fruit, compared to the walnut tree which occupies more size, but has little fruit. Now let us compare an animal with a tree. Can the criterion for superiority be regarded to be the size of the animal? If it were so, a plain tree would be a thousand times more perfect than a nightingale.
But it definitely is not so. Because a nightingale has something more than a plant (something which a plant lacks), namely, besides its physical growth, it has senses and (the ability of) voluntary movement. It is the nightingale which on seeing a flower starts twittering and in which a feeling and sense emerge, a sense which a plain tree will never have. So the criterion for the superiority of a nightingale to a tree is not either’s being bigger. But if we also compare two animals with each other, that animal which has more sense and stronger understanding is more perfect, not that one which is bigger in size, like an Arabian horse and a rhinoceros, an Arabian horse has more wits, has better leaping, is capable of performing more useful work and is more loyal than a rhinoceros, but a rhinoceros is just big in size.
Now let us consider a man. If we want to compare a man with trees and animals, what should we consider his superiority to be? Which one is more perfect, a man or a plain tree? Is a man more perfect or an elephant? Man’s superiority to plants and animals is not in having more bodily growth, more physical power, more passions (carnal desires), greater power of defence and/or even more animal perceptions, these do not contribute to human perfection. If these were the criterion, then animals would be by far ahead of us (and this is not selfish of ours that since we regard ourselves more perfect, we should look for another criterion! This is a truly philosophical matter).
Rather what makes man superior to and more perfect than the animals and other beings is that human and divine soul of his which constitutes the proof for the following ayat of the Holy Qur`an:
“... And I breathed into him of My spirit ... (15:29 and 38:72).”
“... so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators (23:14).”
The question which is raised here is that is the value just in the superiority of man’s spiritual perfections or are plant and animal perfections also of value?
Let us consider an apple tree. In an apple tree, taking root, turning green, bearing branches, leaves and even blossoms are considered perfection insofar as they cause bearing fruit, otherwise they will not be of value. These kinds of perfections are preliminary perfections which are not of value in themselves, rather they are preliminaries for eventual and genuine perfection, and value is acquired through them.
In man it is also true. If a growth emerges in the body by itself and does not cause that main, basic and eventual growth, it is an animal growth and will not be of any value for man from the viewpoint that he is man. A healthy body is valuable for man in case he uses it for his spiritual and intellectual progress, not if he misuses his health - using it for hurting the others. The same is true of other qualities too. For example, bravery is desirable from the Islamic viewpoint when it is used in the way of man’s spiritual and intellectual perfection and in .the way of getting near to the Almighty Allah (winning Allah’s pleasure and favour), otherwise ‘Amr ibn ‘Abd Wadd (the great (notorious) enemy of Islam) and some others like him were also brave and had this animal value. The superiority of a brave man, apart from his spiritual goal and perfection to another man is like the superiority of a rhinoceros to a horse and the superiority of an elephant to a gazelle. This preliminary perfection will be of value when it is used in the way of attaining that eventual human perfection, when it has been achieved for that and used in the way of attaining it (eventual human perfection). Justice, too, which in today’s world culture has absolute value, in the view of the Holy Qur`an is valuable since it is a preliminary stage for getting near to taqwa:
“... Act equitably, that is nearer to piety ... (5:8).”
Otherwise, this sense is found in some animals like the honey-bee, termite and some others too. This is not an absolute human value. In the value system of Islam, justice is of value when it is in the way of Allah and for attaining a loftier goal and moves man towards that point of peak (that highest point of perfection).
The point which is necessary to be paid to here is the relationship between the philosophical good and the ethical good, but before clarifying this relationship, we will somewhat discuss about the good and the evil and their criterion.
Clarification of the Criterion for the Good and the Bad
One of the most disputed human matters in the course of the history of man’s life has been the issue of the criterion for good and bad action and good and evil. Today, many of the world’s philosophical schools which have the great universities of the Western World under their domination, including the Positivists maintain that good and bad are subjects to the persons’ taste and inclination and that there is no reality beyond this like and dislike. In the Greek moral philosophy it was said that the criterion for value is moderation of three powers; the power of passion, the power of anger and the power of intellect. But the question remains to be answered as to who says that moderation should be the criterion for goodness and badness. Eventually, the highest ethical school which the West presented, was the ethics of Kant. Kant maintained moral axioms and stated that they are unquestionable; telling the trutht is absolutely good and there is no condition for it either, it is a criterion itself. When asked” in case telling the truth causes an innocent man to be killed, should one still tell the truth’?” Kant replied: “One should tell the truth, this is an absolute value.” This is the zenith of the Western thinking in the clarification of the philosophy of ethics. But Islam says: "Basically, action is a means not an end. A free action is performed for an end and receives its value from that end. In the philosophy of the morality of Islam, good is an action which drives man towards his eventual perfection, namely getting near Allah and bad is an action which drives man away from that end (ie, from attaining nearness to Allah) and from this it becomes clear why in Islam so much emphasis is laid on niyyah (intention); well, in fact it is man’s niyyah which gives direction to his action.
As for the relationship between philosophical good and ethical good, ethical good is propounded in relation to man’s free conducts and actions and there is a good which is a means, because it is a quality for action and the nature of action is a means for the result and the end; but as for the desired result, it is not an ethical concept, rather it is a philosophical topic.
So, the ethical good is in one sense other than philosophical good, but is however not separate from it either and there is a cause and effect relationship between these two, and in other words, ethical good is preamble for philosophical good. Therefore, when we say that good action causes perfection for man's soul, the goodness of the action is an ethical concept, but the perfection of the soul is a philosophical concept.
The second principle:
In the clarification of the criterion for the evaluation of actions is the fact that perfection of the soul which man should attain through (good) free actions is nearness to Allah (winning Allah’s pleasure and favour). About the meaning and concept of this qurb (nearness) to Allah various statements and views have been expressed about each one of which we will give some explanation to the extent necessary.
Various Meanings and Cases of the Application of Qurb
The first concept which in common conversations is applied about ‘qurb’ is qurb in terms of place. For example, as when two persons are seated near or in proximity to each other, ‘this person is near that person and/or this person is away from that person’. Is man’s being near to Allah in this sense? Where (in the Holy Qur`an) Asiyah - the wife of Fir’awn (pharaoh) says:
“... My Lord! build for me a house with Thee in the garden ... (66:11).”
Did she (by saying so) mean that-a faithful person attains nearness of place with Allah in the Paradise? Those who know even the fundamentals of the Islamic beliefs will know that nearness to Allah is definitely not in this sense, because nearness of place is imagined among objects and Allah is not an object to have a place, to Whom another object becomes near or from Whom another object gets away. So, getting near to Allah does not mean nearness of place.
One of the other cases (of the application) of qurb in our conversations is the nearness in terms of time. About two persons living in a time close to each other it is said that they are qaribul-‘asr (near in terms of time), vis-a-vis two beings, two individuals and/or two societies which have great time distance, one has been living thousands of years ago and the other is living today, about them it is said that they are away from each other. It is obvious that man's getting near Allah is not in terms of time either, because firstly Allah does not have a time, rather He encompasses all times, just as He has no place and is available at all places. Besides, being near and/or being away in terms of time and place in themselves do not create any perfection. Anyhow, nearness in terms of place and time is impossible with regard to the Almighty Allah and getting near Him in these two definitions is false. So, how is man to get near Allah?
One other kind of qurb which we have in common conversations is that two things are compared with each other in respect of resemblance in specifications, perfections and characteristics apart from time and place. Can in this sense be said that man gets near Allah? Does durb to Allah mean that more resemblance to Allah is achieved? Some have attempted to interpret qurb to Allah in this way, but in reality this sense is incorrect too. because firstly, Allah does not resemble any thing, (as says the Holy Qur`an):
“... Nothing is like a likeness of Him ... (42:11).”
and that sometimes the interpretation of “being like God” is applied, is a neglectful interpretation. Secondly, this comparison is where two beings are independent of each other. For example, when we compare two learned men with each other and say that the knowledge of this learned man is near that of the other learned man, none of these is dependent on and/or the ray of the other, rather each one of them is independent of the other, this learned man has a knowledge for himself and the other learned man has a knowledge for himself, we compare these two knowledges together and say this one is near that one. Such a comparison between man and Allah is not proper, because man has nothing independent of Allah and all he has is from Allah. Thirdly, Allah’s perfection is infinite and each being, at least in the stage of existence has a phase of finiteness and limitation, and never the finite is comparable with the infinite. If you consider a line with a length of one metre and ask what proportion does this one metre line have with an infinite line, those who are even a little conversant with mathematics know that the answer to this question is that there is no proportion between the finite and the infinite. Now if instead of a one metre line a two-metre line is put, again the answer is “nothing” and even if we draw a line as long as the distance between the earth and the sun, and it is asked that what proportion does this line have to an infinite line, again the answer will be “nothing”. No matter how much man attains perfection, he is after all limited and is not a party in proportion to Allah’s infinite perfections, to be said about him that he has now got some what nearer to Allah. Therefore, that some imagine that when man’s perfection becomes more, his difference with Allah becomes less and in this sense he gets nearer to Allah, is due to short-sightedness in knowing Allah. Such comparisons can be assumed between objects and the beings which are independent of each other which do not have relation of existence with each other and one of which is not of the stages of the other and is not its effect, but between the existence-giving Cause and the effect such a comparison is totally wrong.
Also some have imagined that by qurb is meant just what the following verse of the Holy Qur`an refers to:
“... And We are nearer him than his life-vein ... (50:16).”
Namely, Allah is nearer to man than his life-vein.
Though this matter is true and no firmer and closer relationship between this (relation) can be assumed between Allah and His creatures, but it is clear that this qurb and nearness is not particular to the believers and that it exists not only for all men, whether believers, or the disbelievers, the pious, the lewd, but it also exists for all creatures and all creatures have this relationship with Allah.
Sometimes qurb is also applied in the sense of honour and formality. For example, we say that such and such a person is near to such and such a minister and is favoured by him, that is, they have friendly relations with each other and if the former has a request, the latter will not reject it and will listen to him. About man’s qurb to Allah, too, sometimes interpretation is made in this way, in the sense that man gets so near to Allah in the sense that Allah heeds his words, pays attention to his requests and hears his prayers.
Among these five meanings, only the last-mentioned meaning conforms to qurb of Allah, a qurb which is attained through worship and obedience to the Almighty Allah, as is said in a hadithun-qudsiyy.
“A servant (of Alah) owing to servitude (to Allah) attains such a position Where the Almighty Allah becomes his hearing ears, his seeing eyes rind his mighty hands. (1)”
A servant (of Allah) owing to servitude (to Allah) attains such a position that in accordance with the interpretation of the above hadith, the Almighty Allah becomes his hearing ear, his seeing eye and his capable hand and it is clear that the prayer of such a servant (of Allah) will be heard (by Allah) and that the Almighty Allah will secure his needs and wants. But the question (which may be raised here) is that is such position just an honourary and formal position or is it an existential and true perfection? And our reply is that this position of qurb to Allah is a true perfection for human soul and that to become mustajabud-da’wah (one whose prayer is heard by Allah) and even the acceptance of one’s intercession for the others with Allah are of the effects of this spiritual perfection, not that they are merely a credit and an agreement and in other words, the true meaning of qurb to Allah is the sixth meaning which we will now explain to the extent the situation demands.
For the clarification of this meaning, we should point out two noble philosophical matters the details of which should be sought in their own place and in the related books.
The first matter:
It is that the existence of each creature is the relation itself between the Creator and the creature and that no creature has any independence of the existence-giving Creator and this is a matter the clarification of which is rated among the honours of the great Islamic expert Sadrul-Muta`allihin Ash-Shirazi and the philosophical expression of the fourth meaning of the above-mentioned meanings is also based on this very matter, that is, the reason why the Almighty Allah is nearer to each being than any other thing is the very fact that the existence of each creature is the relation itself to and dependence on Him (the Creator) and if this relation is cut off, it will no longer have any existence; it can be said that the existence of each creature in relation to the Almighty Allah is like the existence of a subjective figure for man which if set aside, will have no existence any longer and certainly the relation of the beings with the Almighty Allah is by far stronger than this example.
The second matter:
It is that the existence of the soul is of the category of the existence of science and in other words; just as the requisite for each physical existence is “extension”, the requisite for each abstract existence is also “knowledge” which requisite is of course not anything outside the existence of the soul.
Taking into consideration these two matters, we conclude that whenever the existence of man’s sould becomes more perfect, his knowledge will become more perfect. The first stage of the perfection of the soul is attaining “self-awareness” and when one’s self-awareness becomes perfect, he will find the reality of his existence which is the same as relation, belonging to and dependence on the Almighty Allah, namely, he will attain “self-awareness” and it is for this reason that in the Islamic culture “self-awareness” and “God-awareness” are coupled together. On the one hand, it has been said that:
“Any body who knew himself knew his Lord.”
and on the other hand, the Holy Qur`an says:
“... Those who forsook Allah, so He made them forsake their own souls ... (59:19).”
Those who forsook themselves became afflicted with Allah’s forsaking.
So, an inseparable relation exists between knowing one’s self and knowing Allah and also between forsaking one’s self and Allah’s forsaking. The reality of “forsaking oneself” and “self-alienation” in the Islamic culture is this very matter that a person forgets his human identity and his attention is so diverted to this world's luxuries and pleasures that he forsakes his reality and his human perfection and felicity, namely, he forgets about his relation to and dependence on the Almighty Allah.
The conclusion is this that true perfection of man's soul is God-awareness (awareness of Allah) which has innumerable stages and more the man’s celestial soul becomes perfect, the more his awareness of Allah will increase and this awareness of one's self and of one’s God is the same as the existence of the soul. Therefore, man’s eventual perfection is his attaining perfect awareness and his innate and intuitive knowledge (knowledge acquired not through the five senses, but through illumination of one’s heart) about the Almighty Allah and this awareness about Allah is the very true qurb to Allah which should be attained through efforts and endeavours. Therefore, the true meaning of qurb to Allah as an acquired perfection for man’s soul consists of intuitive and inner qurb and the realization of this fact that man’s existence is nothing but relation and attachment to the Almighty Allah and that it is not merely knowledge and acquired learning which arc attained through concepts and by way of intellectual reasoning.
The third principle:
The clarification of the moral and value theory of Islam says that this perfection and qurb to Allah is attained just in the light of the conducts the general title of which is ‘ibadah, worshipping Allah, and virtuousness. To prove this principle from the philosophical point of view, too, requires a technical and complicated expression which does not suit this discussion. However, we try to explain, with a simple expression this principle, too.
We came to know that the Almighty Allah is not a physical and place-occupying being whom we could get near to with the movement of the body and traversing material distance and that no kind of physical action and reaction and body change and development can in itself have any role in changing man’s relation to the Almighty Allah and that the truth of man’s qurb to Allah is inner and intuitive nearness and attaining man’s existential relationship with Him. Taking into consideration these points it can easily be accepted that what plays the main role in man’s getting near to the Almighty
Allah is that very man’s power of perceiving and witnessing, namely, the truth of his soul which in many cases is called “heart” and the free (voluntary) relationship which is established between man’s heart and the Almighty Allah is by means of attention (to Allah), this very attention itself is termed “dhikr (remembrance of Allah) of the heart” and when this attention and remembrance become the source of performance of an action and a conduct, it is rated as the niyyah (intention) and motive for the action, and since the perfection of man’s soul and spirit- is attained by means of free actions and each kind of conducts can have a role in the promotion or regression of the soul in one of its dimensions, therefore we conclude that man’s all-sided perfection is attained when all distinguished conducts are fulfilled with divine motive and the main stimulant and the giver of direction to conduct is attention to Allah (s.w.t). In other words, just as physical forces determine the direction of the movement of the objects, so also psychic motives which stem from attention to and remembrance of Allah are spiritual forces which determine the spiritual direction of man’s actions and conducts and which give value to them and as already explained, such conducts have two general terms in the Islamic culture: one is taqwa in its general sense and the other ‘ibadah in its general sense.
The conclusion is that each free action to the extent it enjoys divine intention and motive will have positive value; and to the extent it stems from ungodly, egoistic and polytheistic intention will have negative value. Thus, the role of At-Tawhid in the value system of Islam becomes clear.
Qur`anic Expressions about the Philosophy of Morality
So far, we have explained the theory of Islam in the philosophy of morality and values with the most simple rational expressions which were possible for us. Now we cite some examples of Qur`anic expressions concerning the principles of this theory:
In Suratush-Shams (Surah 91 of the Holy Qur`an) in the wake of a number of ayat in which the Almighty Allah swears by the sun, by the moon, by the night, by the day and the like, He says:
“And the soul and Hint Who made it perfect, then He inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it; He will indeed he successful who purifies it, And he will indeed fail who corrupts it (91:7-10).”
Of the many points inferred from these ayat, we content ourselves with citing three points:
The First Point: is that Allah swears by human soul, the soul which Allah has made and delivered well and among all creatures man has a particular privilege to determine his destiny with his own free will: to choose either the way of felicity and salvation or the way of adversity and corruption and certainly Allah’s goal of the creation of man is that he attains felicity and salvation, but since human felicity is a matter to be attained by the way of man’s own will-power and free choice, so there should necessarily exist another point in the face of it too towards which would retrogress of his own ill-choice any body who chooses to.
The Second Point: is that selection of either of the two points exaltation and perfection or fall and retrogression demands recognition. Because it is obvious that without awareness and recognition proper selection and choice does not take place. Hence, the Almighty Allah has made two general ways known to man: one the way of taqwa and the other the way of fujur, and from this very interpretation it is inferred that the criterion for the positive conduct values is “taqwa” and the criterion for the negative moral values is fujur, as was already explained in the foregoing expressions.
The Third Point: is that to traverse the way of taqwa is the very “purification of the soul” and its result is the growth and perfection of the soul, just as to traverse the way of fujur is the very pollution of the soul the result of which is the fall and destruction of the soul itself. So man, by selecting the way of taqwa, gives growth and perfection to his soul and by selecting the way of fujur and licence pollutes and destroys his own soul. Therefore, the result of man’s free conducts, be they in the direction of growth and perfection or in the direction of fall and retrogression, will accrue to man himself, and from here it can well be inferred that the value conducts have true effect on the perfection and imperfection of the soul and that the positive or negative value criterion is this very perfection and imperfection of man's soul and this is that very first principle in the expression of the logical reason we referred to previously.
From another set of the ayat of the Holy Qur`an it is inferred that man’s eternal felicity and adversity is the result of his own faith and infidelity and praiseworthy and indecent actions:
“And that man shall have nothing bur what he strives for (53:39).”
“... For it, is what it has earned, and against it what it has incurred ... (3:286).”
“ ... And every soul is paid off whatever it has earned ... (3:25)”
“ The day when every soul shall find present what it has done of good ... (3:30).”
and there are tens of other ayat in the Holy Qur`an indicating that the blessings and torments in the Hereafter are the result of the actions which man has himself fulfilled in this world, rather they are that very actions of his which in the Hereafter world appear in the form of blessing or torment.
Of course the language of most of the ayat of the Holy Qur`an is that the blessings or torments in the Hereafter are the reward or punishment for the conducts in this world. With our mind having got acquainted with the concepts of reward and punishment, it might at first be imagined that the relation of good and bad actions with their Hereafterly results is a nominal and conventional relation, but taking into view the cited ayat of the Holy Qur`an it becomes clear that beyond these nominal concepts a series of creational facts and true and real relations are hidden, though our knowledge is not sufficient for the discovery of these true relations, because we have no experience of such relations.
Included among the ayat to be considered in this discussion are the ayat which have mentioned about spiritual light and darkness, which terms have been largely applied with regard to truth and falsehood, moral and value, good and evil and with regard to the affairs related to them in the Holy Qur`an and also in the sayings of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) of Islam and the Infallible Imams (a.s) and which have a particular position in Islamic culture.
On one hand, the Holy Qur`an introduces the Almighty Allah as “nur (the light) of the heavens and the earth” and it is obvious that by this light the generally known -physical light is not meant and on the other hand, the Holy prophet (s.a.w) of Islam has been introduced (by the Holy Qur`an) as
“... a light-giving torch (33:46).”
and on the other hand the Holy Qur`an has itself been named “nur” (light)
“... There has come to you a light and a clear Book from Allah (5:15).”
and also the aim of the revelation of the Holy Qur`an to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) of Islam has been considered (by the Holy Qur`an) to be taking the people out of darknesses and bringing them into the “light”:
“... That you may bring forth men, by their Lord’s permission from cider darkness into light ... (14:1).”
Also, the believers have been in roduced (by the Holy Qur`an) as those who in this world are possessed of light (nur), versus the infidel and those who are disobedient to Allah’s commands who have sunk into darknesses:
“Is he who was dead then We raised hint to life and made for hint a light by which he walks among the people, like hint whose likeness is that of one in utter darkness whence he cannot come forth? ... (6:123).”
Finally, among the descriptions of the Resurrection Day, the Holy Qur`an says:
“On that day you trill see the faithful men and the faithful women -their light n inning before them and on their right hand- ... (57:12).”
“On the day when the hypocritical men and the hypocritical women trill say to those who believe: Wait for its, that we may have light from your light; it shall be said: Tutn back and seek alight (hinting that for seeking light you should return to the world which is impossible) ... (57:13).”
And the most comprehensive 5yut in this connection are the ayat 35 to 40 of Suratun-Nur (Chapter 24) of the Holy Qur`an which start with this sentence:
“Allah is the light of tire heavens and the earth ... (24:35).”
and end with this sentence:
“... And to whomsoever Allah does not give light, he has no light (24:40).”
Here, we do not have the time to completely interpret and explain these ayat, but for the clarification of their relationship with the present discussion, we have to give a brief explanation:
In these ayat, after the Almighty Allah has been introduced as the light of the heavens and of the earth (the light of the worlds), a parable has been given for His light in ayah 35 of surah 24.
“... A likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) tire glass is as it were a brightly shining star; lit front a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western ... (24:35).”
(Hinting that the sun shines from all its sides perfectly and no unripe fruit remains in it). Such oil is so susceptible for being inflamed that it is as if it automatically lits without any fire reaching it.
About this parable many sayings have been expressed by the exegetists which we are unable to survey here. One of such commentaries is that the proof of this torch which is ready to be kindled is the heart of a mu`min person which has perfect aptitude for relationship with the Almighty Allah and enjoying the divine light. The other ayat confirm this view:
“In houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them; there glorify Him therein in the mornings and the evenings, men whom neither merchandise nor selling diverts front the remembrance of Allah ... (24:36-37).”
In fact, it is the remembrance of Allah which makes their (godly men`s) lives lit and illuminous and which gives value to all their conducts and deeds.
On the opposite side of these, there arc the disbelievers, who due to forgetting Allah have sunk into darkness and whose actions have become null and valueless. And in the two last-mentioned verses, two parables have been cited for the actions of the disbelievers: The first parable is
“... The mirage in a desert, which the thirst), man deems to be water; until when he comer to it he finds it to be naught, and there he finds Allah, so He pays back to hint his reckoning in full... (24:39).”
That is, the disbelievers engage in efforts and endeavours in hope of felicity and attach their hearts to their own deeds, but when they should derive benefit from these efforts (in the Hereafter), they see no useful thing and the Almighty Allah will make it clear to them that they have done no useful work for their felicity.
The second parable for the disbeliever and the value of their deeds is:
“Utter darkness in the deep sea: there covers it a wave above which is another wave, above which is a cloud (layers of) utter darkness one above another; when he holds out his hand he is almost unable to see it ... (24:40).”
The above ayah ends with the following sentence:
“... And to whomsoever Allah does not give light, he has no light (24:40).”
Whatever ambiguity, if any, might exist about the reality (the true meaning) of “misbah” (lamp), “zujajah” (glass) and mishkat (niche) (The expressions applied in surah 24 of the Holy Qur`an, in ayah 35 referred to) and whatever discussion, if any, might be made regarding the sea, the waves and the clouds surrounding it, there is no room for any doubt and ambiguity about this matter that these ayat regard the men of Allah (the believers) to be those who are blessed with light and felicity, who through remembrance of Allah and heart-felt attention to the Creator make their lives valuable and that the disbelievers, through forgetting Allah, destroy the value of their deeds and will finally be afflicted with darkness and adversity. So, the criterion for good, felicity, light and true value is relation with the original source of light which is attained by means of faith in Allah and the attention of one's heart to Him and the criterion for evil, adversity, darkness, valueless ness and futility is lack of relationship and connection with the original source of light which develop as a result of disbelief (in Allah), forgetting Allah and turning away from His remembrance, like an electric light which on connection with the electricity-generating system is lit and on disconnection is extinguished. And these are the purports of those very principles to which in the last expression of logical reason we referred and thus the conformity of the expression of logical reason with the Qur`anic expressions becomes manifest.
Here, we end our discussion and beseech the Almighty Allah to deliver all of us from the various kinds of darkness, to strengthen our relation and connection with the origin of Light, to protect all of us against any sort of deviation and unsound judgment and to finally associate us with His worthy servants and the pure lights of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s) The Infallible and the Purified.
May greetings and Allah’s blessings and mercy be upon you all.
1) Al-Usul Kafi, Vol. 2 p. 352.