Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Festival of Light

By Mansur Ali
Delivered at Oldham Interfaith program 2005
Queen Elizabeth Hall

There are two types of light, one that illuminates and one that scorches the eyes.

Rumi the great mystic was once asked by a person to pinpoint the exact location of God. In response he lit up a candle and asked his interlocutor to identify the precise orientation of the light. In this manner Rumi demonstrated that like the light, God does not take to one place, rather he is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. The Quran speaks of God being light in chapter 24 which is called the chapter of light, verse 35

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guides unto His light whom He will. And Allah speaks to mankind in parables, for Allah is Knower of all things.

It is with this very divine light that the whole world is illuminated; also the hearts of the believers are kindled with this blissful and heavenly aurora. Ar-Rumi says:

I tried to find Him on the Christian cross, but He was not there; I went to the Temple of the Hindus and to the old pagodas, but I could not find a trace of Him anywhere.
I searched on the mountains and in the valleys but neither in the heights nor in the depths was I able to find Him. I went to the Ka'bah in Mecca, but He was not there either.
I questioned the scholars and philosophers but He was beyond their understanding.
I then looked into my heart and it was there where He dwelled that I saw Him; He was nowhere else to be found.

There are many lessons for us to be learnt from this heavenly light. One of the qualities of light is that it gives to everyone friend and foe, rich and poor and good and bad. God gives in abundance without asking for anything in return, we should take up this Godly trait and be more charitable, give to the needy, feed the poor. We should try our best in this time of giving that we just don’t remember our immediate family, rather we remember that we belong to the greater human family and recognize our moral obligations towards the less fortunate members of this family.

We might think that if we were to share our light it will diminish but that is not true, for we see that it is impossible for a person to light the path of others without shedding some light on his own.

Allah says: in chapter 2 verse 261

The likeness of those who spend their wealth in Allah's way is as the likeness of a grain which grows seven ears of corn, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah gives increase manifold to whom He wills. Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within. This light is very important as it is the essence of all good, we are in need of this light to lead a happy life, even relationships are in need of a spark.

Now it sickens the heart and makes one so sad to see many horrible crimes being committed, all we can do is to be patient and pray to God, because as someone said I will love the light for it shows me the way. Yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars

I will conclude by reading a couplet written by the great mystic Muhiyy al-Din ibn al-Arabi who says

There was a time when I took it amiss in my companion if his religion was not near to mine. But now my heart takes on every form, it is a pasture for gazelles, a monastry for monks, a temple for the tablets of the torah, a kabah for pilgrims and the holy Quran. Love is my religion, and whichever way its riding beasts turn, that way lies my religion and belief.

No comments: