Light and Darkness

Allah the Almighty created man’s perception and intelligence for him to understand reality by means of contrasts. We can comprehend the good by contrasting it with the bad, beauty through ugliness, right through wrong, and light through darkness. Hence human perception works by identifying objects and concepts on the basis of contrasts. We can only perceive the beauty and value of believing in Allah (īmān) through the ugliness of disbelief.

The Qur’an guides mankind towards the light of faith and away from the darkness of disbelief. Allah manifests Himself in two ways: one is His manifestation in the universe and the other His manifestation in the Qur’an. These two manifestations complement each other. The universe we live in is a Qur’an without words, and the Qur’an is a verbal universe. The universe is full of the divine secrets of Allah’s greatness and the manifestations of His actions. Human beings are the essence of these two manifestations. Hence, Allah the Almighty clarifies this high position in the following hadith qudsī:

O my servant! I have created you for Myself. And I have created all of the universe for you. My right over you is that what I have created for you should not engage you and make you heedless of Me. For you were created for Me (not for worldly concerns).

As a result of this, the Sufis refer to mankind as a microcosm and the essence of the universe. Man, because of his nature, inclines to both goodness and evil. There is both light and darkness in him. It is his responsibility to make sure that the light of faith is not covered by the darkness of disbelief. The Qur’an commands the believers to work for the victory of the light over darkness not only at the personal level but also at the social level, so that society can be saved from destruction. The Qur’an says: “Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may learn wisdom and their ears may learn to hear? Truly it is not the eyes that are blind, but the hearts which are in the breasts.” (Hajj, 22:46) The Qur’an further addresses heedless hearts: “Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur’an, or are there locks upon their hearts?” (Muhammad, 47:24)

Those who can read and understand the pages of the Qur’an and the mysteries of the universe can see the manifestations of Allah in the external and internal world in proportion to the purity of their souls. Unfortunately, at times humanity behaves very heedlessly and darkens the divine realities out of ignorance and love of personal interests. Human beings idolize material benefits such as monetary wealth and worldly position. Hence, they leave the light of divine guidance and turn to the darkness of their nafs. In the Qur’an, Allah says that “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” (Nūr, 24:35) Accordingly, those who reject Allah’s way are left without light and they are blinded because of their rejection of the light of the Qur’an.

We can conclude that Allah wants us to lead a life in which we follow the divine light in all our everyday matters, whether social or personal, commercial or charitable, physical or spiritual. If we possess power over people as a ruler, or if we hold a position in government, we must always behave according to the divine light that leads us to Allah. Human vices such as ignorance, laziness, tyranny and disbelief all lead to the darkening of the soul. Some of this darkness affects the personal life and some of it the social life. The Qur’an shows us the opposites of these traits, such as attaining knowledge, working hard, acting with justice and belief in the hereafter as the light of divine illumination. The prophets showed humanity the true nature of darkness as well as the correct code of behavior as a divine light which will ultimately lead us to the contentment of Allah.

Allah has never left humanity without a guiding light. The greatest lights that he bestowed on humanity is the light of the Qur’an and the light of our Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). History bears witness that the darkness of the Jāhiliyyah (the period of ignorance before Islam) was dispelled by the light of the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). Hence, in order that we not return to the darkness of ignorance, we must follow the light of the Qur’an and the Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace). Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an: “Believe, therefore, in Allah and His Messenger, and in the light which We have sent down. And Allah is well acquainted with all that you do.” (Taghābun, 64:8)

Those who do not lead a life in the light of the Qur’an are those who live in darkness. We must protect ourselves and our families from this darkness. The first step is to teach our children how to lead a life in accordance with principles of the Qur’an. In addition, we must teach them the pillars of Islam and the articles of faith. We must teach them all the good manners of Islam. The education process cannot be successfully completed within the family only, we also need to ask some professional help from qualified people. This might be local imams or Islamic schools and teachers.

The education process is very important in facilitating the perfection of human beings. It is like throwing healthy seeds into fertile lands; eventually they will produce the fruits of faith embedded in a Qur’anic lifestyle. In reference to this reality, the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) states that we must encourage our children to perform daily prayer (salāt) after they are seven years old so that they get accustomed to worshipping Allah. This hadith indicates that religious education should start at an early age. The sincere advice and training given to the child is like engraving a piece of marble. If the love for Allah and His Prophet is cultivated in these little hearts, this beneficial influence continues throughout their lives.

One of the friends of Allah, Abū Bakr Warrāq sent his son to a school where they taught the Qur’an. One day his son came back from the school with a very pale face. Abū Bakr asked his son what the problem was. He replied, “O my father! Today in the school we learnt the following verse: “Then how shall you, if you deny (Allah), guard yourselves against a day that shall turn the hair of children gray?” (Muzzammil, 73:17) When I contemplated the meanings and warnings of this verse, I felt inside me great awe and I shook with fear.”

After a short time his son passed away. Abū Bakr would often visit his graveyard and lament to himself, “For so long I have been reciting the words of Allah but, oh! How unfortunate I am that I could not comprehend the essence of this verse as my son did.”

Truly the Qur’an is a mighty ocean that engulfs the childlike hearts of those who read it. Reading the Qur’an – the last revelation of Allah – is the best way of worshipping Allah. It is so important to recite the Qur’an in the salāt that if one does not read some parts of it in salāt, the prayer is not valid. Other essentials of the salāt such as standing or prostration can be left out in times of difficulty, but never the reading of the Qur’an. However, reciting the Qur’an should not be taken lightly for when a Muslim reads it. He or she should heed the following verse: “And recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones.” (Muzzammil, 73:4)

The Qur’an also advises us to listen to the words of Allah in a careful manner: “When the Qur’an is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace so that you may receive mercy.” (A‘rāf, 7:204)

To be silent when the Qur’an is recited allows one to understand it, and understanding it leads to certainty of knowledge; this, in turn, invites divine mercy. The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) also gave a good example in this respect. He would ask ‘Abd Allāh b. Mas‘ūd to recite the Qur’an and would listen to him with great respect and spiritual ecstasy from which his eyes would fill with tears.

Similarly it is a great bliss for parents that they listen to their children reading the Qur’an with a beautiful voice and pronunciation. Reading the words of Allah will lead them to become pious Muslims when they grow up.

Love and respect for one’s parents is a strong natural inclination, but stronger than this is man’s love for his own children. The strength of this emotion can overcome all other feelings. Hence, the Qur’an warns us not to neglect our parental duties towards our children. If parents educate their children according to Islamic principles, they become a blessing from Allah; otherwise they become a calamity (fitnah) for them. The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) gives the following tidings for parents who have completed their duties towards their children by teaching them the Qur’an:

“The parents of those who read the Qur’an will be adorned with crowns of light and clad with garments of light (nūr).” (Abu Dawud, Ahmad, al-Hakim)

It is every married couple’s desire at some time to have children; it is a strong drive in one’s nature to do so. However, if one knew what bringing up children according to the principles of Islam entailed, they would think twice and would feel a daunting sense of responsibility. To raise children in an Islamic way is in effect to obey the Creator’s divine will, since He created mankind in order that they worship Him. If one exerts oneself to the utmost of his ability, then even the worldly difficulties he suffers, such as working and being a breadwinner of the family – are counted as worship or forgiveness of one’s sins. Children are shields between the parents and hellfire; they may save them from the fire. Our children are our most precious investment and the greatest blessing of Allah upon us. Hence we must protect them from all sorts of dangers, in particular the spiritual ones. Even animals protect their little ones from all sort of dangers with great acts of bravery. A mother hen, usually a very timid animal, behaves with extraordinary fierceness when its chicks are threatened.

But, you may ask, how are we to protect our children from harm and injury? Is it, for example, by feeding them with the best kinds of food, or should we satisfy their appetites with every kind of nutritious food? The true healthy diet our children need is that of spiritual food. It consists in firmly inculcating love for Allah and His Messenger (upon him blessings and peace) in their hearts. In this way they will carry out their religious obligations willingly and happily. Otherwise, they will perform their prayer irregularly and without any satisfaction. It is a pity that some Muslims do not teach their children their religion and the Qur’an, cutting themselves off from the light of the Qur’an. This is the greatest potential darkness looming in our children’s future.

We must also be very careful when we choose spouses for our children. The first thing we must look in a would-be bride or bridegroom should be his or her Islamic upbringing and practice of Islam. Families based on non-Islamic foundations are destined to separate sooner or later.

In short, we must protect our children from the vices of our present society such as coming home late, wasting time and money, immoral films, and so on. Instead, we must fill their hearts with the love for Allah, His prophets and the upright friends of Allah. By this means alone can pure hearts make progress in the spiritual path by enjoying recitation of the words of the Qur’an and establishing the prayers voluntarily. They follow every detail of their religion with great care. Without love, prayers and worship are nothing.

Furthermore, the problems of society can only be solved by the moral system of Islam. Anarchy and crimes such as theft, rape and all other social diseases can easily be eradicated if we follow Islam. All these crimes are committed by those who cannot control their base desires, and Islamic morality is based on controlling one’s actions and thoughts. The other big problem – selfishness and materialism – can also be treated by Islam, since Islam always commands sharing and thinking of the interests of others. Materialism can only grow when religion is absent; hence materialism is not a philosophy of life but rather a manifestation of the decline of mankind.

There are many non-believers in the society today who misuse their intelligence, or who do not know the limit of their five senses and where they must stop. Since they cannot understand religious facts they attempt to refute their existence. The Qur’an also answers the non-believers’ mentality in their rejection of faith and the authority of Allah: “Does not man see that it is We Who created him from sperm? Yet behold! he stands forth as an open adversary!” (Yāsīn, 36:77)

These non-believers do not accept the reality of Islam because their hearts are dead. When a believer invites them to Islam, they say, “We are living in the age of science and reason, and what you are telling is the stories of the old times, nothing but superstitions.” The Qur’an refers to such claims: “When their Messengers brought them clear verses they rejoiced in such knowledge as they had; but they were encompassed by that which they had mocked.” (Mu’min, 40: 83)

The most important asset that we can pass on to our children is to educate them in such a way that they can wrest their next-worldly salvation from Satan’s hands. We must send them to Islamic schools. Unfortunately, many Islamic schools around the world are on the brink of shutting down because of a lack of students. Most parents put money first when they choose schools for their children, and as a result very few of them decide to enroll Islamic schools. Nevertheless, only if our children gain a proper Islamic education can we solve the social diseases of our times such as anarchy, divorce, crimes rates and so on. Qur’an is the only cure for us as Allah says in the Qur’an: “We send down of the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe. To the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss.” (Isrā’, 17:82) In another verse Allah says: “To Allah belong the treasures of the heavens and the earth; but the hypocrites understand not.” (Munāfiqūn, 63:7)

Hence we should not give priority to worldly concerns, but rather our concern must be the place of our children in the hereafter. It is a weakness in the Muslim ummah that many do not follow the correct path in the education of their children because of their obsession with worldly interests. History bears witness that those who have followed the path of the Allah’s messengers and the path of the prophets and people who are trustworthy (sādiq) and righteous (sālih), have achieved great worldly success as well as attained Allah’s pleasure.

The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) also informed us that Allah would elevate some nations because they followed the Qur’an, and destroy some others because of their rejection of the Qur’an. (Muslim, Ibn Majah)

The world can be compared to a large dining table laden with the most beautiful and exquisite kinds of food, which are the manifestation of two of Allah’s attributes: the Rahmān and the Rahīm (the Beneficient and Merciful). We are sent into this world and we partake of and benefit from the delightful dishes of this banquet all due to grace of Allah. However, we must not ignore the fundamental truth that one day we will leave this banquet and will be questioned about our conduct around it. This means that we must abide by the rules of conduct and the etiquette laid down by the host – Allah. We should therefore follow the correct manners of eating and not plunder the food or overeat. Due to the mercy of Allah, everybody is given a place to eat at this table, whether it be a non-believer or a hypocrite or a good believer. However, one day, all of us will be held to account for our actions in the presence of Allah. We will be rewarded or punished according to our actions. We should take account of our actions before they are taken account of after we have passed on to the next world.

The Day of Judgement is not an ordinary day, but as the Qur’an describes it: “We only fear a day of frowning and distress from the side of our Lord.” (Insān, 76:10) and “That day will man say: “Where is the refuge?” (Qiyāmah, 75:10). Allah, out of His boundless mercy for mankind, warns us of the perils and tragedies of that day so that we may not be caught unprepared:

O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are appointed angels stern and severe, who flinch not from executing the commands they receive from Allah, but do precisely what they are commanded. (Tahrīm, 66:6)

The best of words is the word of Allah, and the best of the guidance is the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him blessings and peace). The best wealth that one inherits from his parents is knowledge of the Qur’an and the teaching of its commandments.

May Allah bestow upon us hearts which fear Allah and worship Him as though they  see Him. May Allah also give us the power to follow the path of the Qur’an and the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) which is the starting point of the trip whose destination is Paradise and the pleasure of Allah. May Allah also make it easy for us to attain the best morality of our Prophet Muhammad (upon him blessings and peace) in a spirit of Islamic brotherhood.