Friday, July 25, 2008

MISBAH-AL-HEDAYAH

Ayatullah Sayed Muhammad Ali Musawi Bahbahaani (r.a..).Translator Dr Shabeeb Rizvi TWENTY-NINTH TRADITION The commentary of the word of Allah, the High: اللهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونِةٍ لاَ شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلاَ غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ نُّورٌ عَلَى نُورٍ يَهْدِي اللهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَآء وَيَضْرِبُ اللهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ وَاللهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ. “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not — light upon light — Allah guides to His light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth parables for men, and Allah is Cognizant of all things.”[1] In Ghaayah al-Maraam: Ibn al-Maghaazeli al-Shaafei in his book ‘al-Manaaqeb’ narrates directly from Ali Ibn Ja’far (a.s.) who says, ‘I asked Abul Hasan (a.s.) about the verse, ‘…as a niche in which is a lamp…’. He (a.s.) replied, ‘Niche refers to Fatemah (s.a.) and lamp implies al-Hasan (a.s.) and al-Husain (a.s.). ‘…(and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star…’ He (a.s.) explained, ‘Fatemah (s.a.) was a brightly shining star amongst the women of the worlds.’ ‘…lit from a blessed olive-tree…’ refers to Ibraheem (a.s.) ‘…neither eastern nor western…’ he (a.s.) was neither a Jew nor a Christian ‘…the oil whereof almost gives light…’ knowledge was almost emanating from him (a.s.) ‘…though fire touch it not – light upon light…’ from it was Imam after Imam ‘…Allah guides to His light whom He pleases…’ Allah guides to our mastership whosoever He pleases.’[2] This was from the Sunni source. As for our sources, it is narrated from Jaaber from our master Imam Abu Ja’far (a.s.) who said, ‘Surely the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) placed the knowledge that was with him (s.a.w.a.) with the successor (a.s.). And this is the saying of Allah – Mighty and Glorified be He – ‘Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. A likeness of His light …’ says, ‘I am the Guide of the heavens and the earth like the knowledge which I have given to him. He is my light by which he receives guidance. Like the niche in which is the lamp. The niche is the heart of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and the lamp is the light in which is the knowledge. And His saying, ‘…the lamp is in a glass…’ He says, ‘Verily I intend to capture you (your soul), so place what is with you with your successor just as the lamp is placed in the glass. ‘…as it were a brightly shining star…’ Then inform them of the superiority of the successor. ‘…lit from a blessed olive-tree…’ The root of the blessed tree is (Prophet) Ibraheem (a.s.) and it is the saying of Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He – ‘…The mercy of Allah and His blessings are on you, O people of the house, surely He is Praised, Glorious’[3] and it is the saying of Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He – ‘Surely Allah chose Adam and Nuh and the descendants of Ibrahim and the descendants of Imran above the nations. Offspring one of the other; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing’[4] ‘…neither eastern nor western…’ He says, ‘He was neither a Jew that you pray facing the West nor a Christian that you pray facing the East. You are on the ideology of Ibraheem (a.s.) while Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He – says, ‘Ibraheem was not a Jew nor a Christian but he was (an) upright (man), a Muslim, and he was not one of the polytheists.’[5] And His saying, ‘…the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not — light upon light — Allah guides to His light whom He pleases…’ He says, ‘The likeness of your children those who are begotten by you is the likeness of the oil extracted from olive.’ ‘…the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not — light upon light — Allah guides to His light whom He pleases…’ He says, ‘Soon they will talk like Prophethood even if it has not descended upon them.’[6] In another narration from Eesaa Ibn Raashid again from our master Abu Ja’far (a.s.) concerning the saying of Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He – ‘…as a niche in which is a lamp…’ Niche refers to the light of knowledge in the heart of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.); ‘…the lamp is in a glass…’ Glass implies the heart of Ali (a.s.), the knowledge of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) came to him (a.s.); ‘…(and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree,…’ The light of knowledge; ‘…neither eastern nor western,…’ neither Jew nor Christian; ‘…the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not…’ Soon the knower from the progeny of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) will speak with knowledge before he is asked; ‘…— light upon light…’ That is, an Imam supported with the light of knowledge and wisdom following an Imam from Prophet Adam (a.s.) till the Hour is established.’[7] In yet another tradition, from Jaaber from our master Imam al-Baqer (a.s.) concerning the saying of Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He - ‘Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. A likeness of His light …’ refers to Muhammad (s.a.w.a.); ‘…in it is the lamp…’ refers to knowledge; ‘…the lamp is in a glass…’ glass implies Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and the knowledge of the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is with him.’[8] In another narration, our master Imam Reza (a.s.) says, ‘Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth…’ means He is the guide for the people of the heaven and the people of the earth.[9] In another tradition, Jaaber recounts, “I entered the Mosque of Kufah while Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) was writing with his fingers and smiling. I asked him, ‘O Ameerul Momineen! What is it that makes you smile?’ He (a.s.) replied, ‘I wonder at the one who recites this verse but does not recognise it as it ought to be recognised.’ I asked, ‘Which verse, O Ameerul Momineen?’ He (a.s.) informed, ‘The saying of Allah – the High “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche…’ Niche is Muhammad (s.a.w.a.); ‘…in which is a lamp,…’ I am the lamp; ‘…the lamp is in a glass,…’ Glass is al-Hasan and al-Husain; ‘…(and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star,…’ It is Ali Ibn al-Husain; ‘…lit from a blessed tree,…’ is Muhammad Ibn Ali; ‘…olive…’ is Ja’far Ibn Muhammad; ‘…neither eastern…’ is Moosa Ibn Ja’far; ‘…nor western,…’ is Ali Ibn Moosa al-Raza; ‘…the oil whereof almost gives light…’ is Muhammad Ibn Ali; ‘…though fire touch it not…’ is Ali Ibn Muhammad; ‘…light upon light…’ is al-Hasan Ibn Ali; ‘…Allah guides to His light whom He pleases…’ is al-Qaem al-Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). ‘…and Allah sets forth parables for men, and Allah is Cognizant of all things.’[10] Since you are acquainted with the traditions of this chapter, then know that the explanation of the matter over here and application of the noble verse in accordance with the traditions as per the literal laws depends on a few premises. That is, the implication of light over here is spiritual light which is for knowledge and guidance and not physical light i.e. the light of the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. These premises are as follows: a) The likeness of the niche in which is the lamp and the lamp in which is the glass and the likeness of the glass to a bright shining star and its description that it is lit from a blessed olive tree till the end of the verse, is not found in the light of the sun, the moon, the stars and similar physical lights, as is apparent. b) A hidden thing is likened to a thing that is manifest and not vice-versa. The furtiveness of the likened thing to which it is likened is either from the aspect of the likened thing being an intellectual or spiritual matter and the thing to which it is likened being essentially sensory which can be felt, or from the aspect of the thing to which it is likened being the stronger of the two in case of them both being equal in their being sensory or spiritual. While, the matter over here is exactly the opposite because the light of the sun, the moon and the stars besides being sensory and physical, is also stronger than the light of the lamp in the niche. Thus, it is quite obvious. c) The saying of Allah – the High, ‘…He guides to His light whomsoever He wishes…’ while the guidance towards the sensory lights like the brightness of the sun, the moon and the stars is common for all creatures, regardless of them being guided by Allah or not. The one who is distinguished with divine guidance (in this verse) refers to the guidance towards the light of Allah in His earth and in His sky, His proof upon His servants and His caliph amongst His creatures. d) His saying, “In houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them;…” is related to His saying, ‘The likeness of His light…’ i.e. surely this light which ‘…as a niche in which is a lamp…’ exists in the houses bearing the aforementioned descriptions. It is known that the brightness of the sun, the moon and the stars is not related to the houses bearing the above mentioned qualities, regardless of houses implying mosques as has been interpreted by some commentators[11] or the houses of the Prophets (a.s.) as has been established by the traditions of both the sects. It has been narrated by al-Hasan (a.s.), Abi al-Aaleyah and Zahhaak that the meaning of ‘Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth…’ is that Allah is the One Who lights up the heavens and the earth and the implication of the sun, the moon and the stars is wrong.[12] There can be no justification for such an interpretation because the light of the sun, the moon and the stars is not manifest except in the earth and the immediate atmosphere surrounding it has reflective effect upon the earth. Then it is obvious from what we have explained that there is no scope for interpreting “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth…” in the noble verse except what is in harmony with the traditions that He is the Guide of the heavens and the earth. Explanation: Surely, light is like all the realities of the contingent world and therefore, it cannot be applied as the reality of Allah – the High. Allah is Pure and Transcendent from what the unjust believe – a great transcendent. Therefore, to use it for Allah – the High – is only in the metaphorical sense of the presence of its effect through Allah – the High – and the non-permissibility of its opposite (i.e. darkness or deviation) being available in Him. Just as the presence of the attributes of perfection for Him is in this very meaning and the apparent effect of light is the manifestation of things through it. Hence, the manifestation of things through it can be either sensory or spiritual. But it has already become clear for you that the former application (i.e. sensory and physical) is not in consonance with the subsequent part of the verse. As a result, only the latter aspect i.e. the spiritual aspect can be applied and it is the removal of the darkness of ignorance through the light of knowledge and guidance. When this is proved, it becomes clear that attributing light to the heavens and the earth is not valid except its implication for its inhabitants. For, knowledge and guidance is not related to the heavens and the earth themselves. So, the usage of the term ‘heavens’ is only in the meaning of the non-limitation of the scope of guidance, limiting it to one individual to the exclusion of the other, as the usage of the plural is generally popular in common parlance. Like the saying of Allah – the High “And inquire in the town in which we were and the caravan with which we proceeded…”[13] in which the plural is not used as permissible in the word due to the attachment of the subject, as they think. It is only permissible on account of the context in which it is used, as we have proved in its place. From what we have explained, it has become clear that the interpretation of “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth…” that He has adorned the sky with the angels and the earth with the Prophets (a.s.) and the scholars – as has been attributed to Obayy Ibn Ka’b[14] – is improper, except that it returns to what we had explained. For, although adornment is from the effect of light, but it is not from the aspect of its manifestation. So, the perfect interpretation is what is in the traditions that is, the guide for the people of the heaven, and guide for the inhabitants of the earth. Since, guidance of Allah – the High – for the people of earth is not without a medium; hence it is necessary for the guide between Allah – the High – and the creatures. As for the saying of the Majestic: “…a likeness of His light…” that is, the guide selected by Allah – the High – is the only guide for them. It is possible that the separation between the sky and the earth is by using the plural noun for the former and the singular noun for the second denotes this very meaning and it is the presence of the medium in guidance between Him – the High – and the people of the earth and its absence with regards to the people of the skies since the guidance of the inhabitants of the earth is through His caliphs while the guidance of the residents of the skies is vide inspiration or whatever is proper for them as per their position. In any case, the term ‘light’ is attributed to Allah – the High – in the phrase ‘the likeness of His light’ is other than the light that was used as the predicate earlier since it is not permissible to attribute the predicate to its subject. Therefore, the reference over here is to the guide attributed to Him – the High – who is appointed as a medium between Him and His creatures and is the cause of their guidance. So, the likeness is cited for him and not for Allah – the High. Moreover, the likeness is only for the similarity of His caliph amongst His creatures i.e. an appropriate subject befitting him and the aim of the similarity is the explanation of the position of His caliph and the non-severance of the rope of Caliphate of what is commensurate with the world of senses so that the creatures can relate to the perception of his position through the application of the comprehended one upon the sensed one. When you have understood this, then it has become clear for you that to interpret ‘the likeness of His light’ as faith in the hearts of the believers and their obedience for Allah – the High – is improper. For, faith and obedience are the consequences of guidance and not its cause, besides the fact that the similarity with a niche in which is the lamp till the end of the verse is not at all in harmony with such an interpretation. It is also necessary that the likened thing is the cause of guidance and the medium for the removal of darkness; thus, the thing which is likened is merely the cause for the guidance and not its consequence. Explanation: The aim of the likened thing is the explanation of the cause of providing light and brightness to the one who seeks light through it because the niche is lit through the lamp regardless of the fact that what is intended by niche, be it the niche of the louver or the lantern or the pole which has a cord in it, as is apparent. The conclusion is that the niche entails lights through which people seeks brightness, not from the aspect of its seeking brightness through the lamp. Hence, there is no scope to liken faith in the heart of a believer or the obedience of Allah in his heart to a niche in which is a lamp because the heart of a believer is illuminated only after faith and guidance and it does not become a cause to seek light from other than it. As for the narration of Obayy Ibn Ka’b who used to recite ‘the likeness of His light’ as the one who has believed in Him[15], then it is not contrary to what we have explained because Allah’s Caliph amongst His creatures is the light of Allah in the sense that he has been appointed from His side, a guide for the creatures and the light of the believers as a medium through whom they receive guidance. Therefore, it is correct to attribute it to Him – the High – and to the believers from both the above aspects. From what we have explained, it has become clear that the interpretation of ‘the likeness of His light’ as the Quran in the heart[16] is also improper and incorrect, apart from its non-compatibility with the saying of Allah – the High - ‘…lit from a blessed olive tree,…’ because only our Prophet (s.a.w.a.), our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and the infallible Imams (a.s.) from his progeny are those lit from the tree of Prophet Ibraheem – the friend of Allah (a.s.), and not the Quran. It is also not in harmony with the saying of Allah – the High – ‘Allah guides to His light to whomsoever He pleases…’ because the usage of the alphabet لام is compatible only when the receipt of guidance towards Him is intended, like the Caliph of Allah – the High – in His servants, where it implies His mastership and receipt of guidance to His recognition in belief. But as for the Quran, it does not have such a position and is merely a cause for the guidance. So, the appropriate term for him is ‘Allah guides through His light to whomsoever He pleases…’. As for its interpretation as proofs that establish His Monotheism and His Justice which in their manifestation are like light – as has been done by those who indulge in whimsical interpretation[17] - then it is the most incorrect and inappropriate of all interpretations since besides its incompatibility with the numerous reasons mentioned by us, it is also not in harmony with the saying of Allah – the High - “In houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them;…”. Therefore, nothing remains except what has been interpreted in the traditions of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) that the implication of the phrase ‘the likeness of His light’ is the Caliph of Allah amongst His creatures, who is the light of Allah in His earth. The phrase ‘niche in which is the lamp’ is compatible with the Seal of the Prophets (s.a.w.a.), in whom is the lamp of prophethood. The word ‘glass’ is applicable for the Chief of the Successors, our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) in whom the knowledge of the Seal of the Prophets (s.a.w.a.) was manifest and radiant. His (a.s.) position vis-à-vis the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was like the gate to the city; hence, none enters the city but through its gate. He (a.s..) is the bright star lit from the tree of Prophet Ibraheem – the friend of Allah (a.s.), a tree which is auspicious and blessed. The oil extracted from the blessed olive tree is applicable for his (a.s.) infallible descendants (a.s.), those who are light after light and the earth cannot be devoid of them till the Day of Judgment. As for the application of each phrase of the noble verse for each of the Imams (a.s.) – as has come in the tradition of Jaaber from our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) – then perhaps it is from the esoteric interpretations of the verse. The teacher of our teachers al-Allamah[18] - in his enlightening article[19] has applied the phrases of the verse upon the Imams (a.s.) as has come in the tradition in a very beautiful and subtle way. Whoever desires to study may refer to it. As for the application of the phrase ‘niche in which is the lamp’ for the chief of the womenfolk of the worlds Fatemah Zahra (s.a.) – as has come in the tradition of Ali Ibn Ja’far (a.s.) from Sunni sources[20] and in some of the traditions narrated from our sources[21] - seems doubtful. Perhaps, it can be justified if their has not been any mistake committed by the narrator. In any case, it is manifest from the noble verse that Allah – the High – has not left alone His servants, has not forsaken His earth without a controller and has not delegated the affair of Mastership and Imamate in the hands of the people. Rather, He has appointed in His earth lights, one light followed by another light, pure, infallible, guides, guided (by Allah) without a trace of darkness or uncleanness in them. Verily, the usage of the word ‘His light’ for them (a.s.) and the way He has described them (a.s.) clearly establishes their infallibility and purity. For, had they not been infallible and pure, presence of the darkness of disobedience, the filth of ignorance, forgetfulness and negligence could have been a distinct possibility in them and they would not have been pure in their resplendence. Moreover, Allah – the High – has described them with the completeness of resplendence, a description not applicable on anyone except our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and the infallible Imams (a.s.) from his progeny because none from the Ummah have claimed documentary evidence for the infallibility of the three caliphs or others from the Ummah. All praise if for Allah, Who illuminated our hearts and guided us to His light and guidance would not have been possible for us had Allah not guided us. Blessings of Allah be on Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and his pure progeny (a.s.). [1] Surah Noor (24): Verses 35. [2] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 315; Manaaqeb of Ibn al-Maghaazeli, p. 317. [3] Surah Hud (11): Verse 73. [4] Surah Aale Imraan (3): Verses 33-34 [5] Surah Aale Imraan (3): Verse 67 [6] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 315 narrating from al-Kaafi, vol. 8, p. 380 [7] Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 315-316 narrating from al-Saduq (r.a.). [8] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 316 narrating from al-Saduq (r.a.). [9] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 315 narrating from al-Kaafi, vol. 1, p. 115 [10] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 317. [11] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 7, p. 144 [12] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 7, p. 144 [13] Surah Yusuf (12): Verse 82 [14] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 7, p. 142 [15] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 7, p. 142 [16] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 7, p. 142 [17] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 7, p. 143 [18] Referring to al-Shaikh al-Hadi al-Tehrani (r.a.) [19] It has been printed along with its translation. [20] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 315; Manaaqeb of Ibn Maghaazeli, p. 317 [21] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 316

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