Parable: Guidance to humankind
God 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 tree, neither of the
east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce
touched it, light upon Light!
God doth guide whom He will to His Light. God doth set forth parables for men:
and God doth know all things.
(Lit is such a light) in houses, which God hath permitted to be raised to honor;
for the celebration, in them, of His name: In them is He glorified in the
mornings and in the evenings, (again and again),-
[Quran 24:35-36 – Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali]
This is probably the richest parable in Quran in which God has used many
symbols to illustrate how human heart is illuminated with the guidance from
the wisdom of the scriptures.
Let us analyze each of the symbols and terms used in this parable:
Light [iii]– Quran has extensively used the symbol of light for guidance from
faith, wisdom, and knowledge; which God has revealed in the scriptures.
Quran says that the Torah, Gospel and all the scriptures before Quran are
guidance and manifest light from the creator.
Lamp enclosed in Glass – It is the symbol of scripture which is the
source of the guidance i.e. Light. The light emitted by the lamp does’t come
from outside rather it is already hidden inside the lamp and its oil, till kindled
by an outside source; similarly the illumination to human heart comes from
within, when guided by the scripture of the God.
Glass as it were a brilliant star – This could mean that God’s scriptures
(the lamp) is protected by God from corruption.
Lit from a blessed Tree neither of east nor of west – This could
mean that the just like oil gives every lamp the capacity to light up, the
capacity of every human heart to receive guidance from God is not limited to
people from east or west. God can guide whom he chooses and without any
intercession from others.
Niche - is the heart of a person. A lamp gives light when it is lit up; similarly
the human heart is illuminated when it receives guidance from the God.
Moral of this parable is that the guidance is not limited to people from
east or west. Every human heart has the natural capacity to receive it, only if
God wills and touches the heart with the Light from the scriptures.
And if a person’s heart is thus illuminated by God, that person will spread this
light to other human beings and illuminate the environment with goodness.
Notes & References
A parable is a narrative of imagined events used to illustrate or convey a
moral or spiritual lesson. Quran uses parables to convey its message. Quran
says “And these similitudes we put forward for humankind, but none will
understand them except those who have knowledge” (29:43)
[ii] This is our humble effort to understand this parable. Given the richness of
this parable, we understand that there can be better interpretations.
2:257 God is the Guardian of those who believe. He brings them out from
darkness into Light.
4:174 O humankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from you
Lord, and We sent to you a manifest Light
5:15-16 Indeed, there has come to you from God a Light and a plain Book.
Wherewith God guides all those who seek His Good Pleasure to ways of
peace and He brings them out of darkness by His will into Light and guides
them to Straight Way.
5:44 Verily we sent down Torah therein was guidance and Light…
5:44 … We sent Jesus son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come
before him, and We gave him the Gospel, in which was Light and Guidance…