One of the divine attributes of our Lord – Allah ta’ala, is Al-Noor, the Light. It is said in the Qur’an: “Allah is the light of heavens and earth” (24: 35).
The meaning of light, in itself, is a deep sea, where ordinary knowledge of this specific term dissolves in it completely, leaving no trace of its visibility, as if it were darkness disappearing with light.
There have been many theories by scientists as to what exactly is the physical light. In 1637, Newton said light is a series of particles, while Thomas Young through his famous experiments in 1801 proved that light has a wave nature.Again, in 1905, Einstein put forward his theory which contradicted Young’s discovery, and said light is a particle and not a wave, for which he even won a Nobel prize.
However, the story of light continued further,with scientists contradicting each other to understand what exactly light is.In1924, Luis Broglie proposed that light is neither wave nor a particle completely, it is both: that is, it has dual nature.
For now, the dual nature of light is the concluding fact, but stunningly, the philosophy of this very term “Light” as interpreted by Imam Ghazali(d. 1111CE),in his book,‘Mishkat-ul Anwar,’ is beyond all these experimental discoveries. There is also an English translation of this book by the Royal Asiatic Society, London, in 1924. (Note: this is the same year when it was discovered that light has dual nature).
As for Imam Ghazali, his argument goes thus: If we take physical light as ordinarily understood, it is phenomenon or appearance, and therefore liable to pass away. For its illuminative power it has to depend upon the perceiving instrument, the eye. But the eye has many defects. It is only the Perceiving faculty or intelligence which is properly entitled to the name of Light, considered as a source of enlightenment.
The verses of the Qur’an, in relation to intelligence, have the value of sunlight in relation to eye-sight. The Qur’an is, therefore, spoken of as the Light: “For we have sent unto you a Light (that is) manifest.” (4:174)
Thus, the physical eye sees by the sun; the spiritual eye sees by revelation (the Qur’an). There is a world invisible, with a Light of its own, quite different from the world visible with its own physical light. The former, the spiritual world, is far above the physical world: not in space, for there is no question of space, but in grade.
The Ultimate Light is the final fountain-head, who is Light in, and by, Himself, and not a Light kindled from other lights (i.e., Allah ta’ala).
The term ‘light’ as applied to any other than this primary Light is purely metaphorical. There is no darkness more intense as the darkness of not-being. A dark thing is called “dark” simply because it cannot appear to anyone’s vision; it never comes to exist for sight, though it may exist in itself.
But that which has no existence for others, nor for itself, is assuredly the very extreme of darkness. In contrast with it is Being, which is therefore Light. Thus, God most high is only reality, as He is the only light.
In the physical world, Light is itself visible and makes other things visible. This visible white light is the intense union of all colours, which appear to us when white light gets refracted. So white light is the invisibility of intense combination of all the colours. Similarly one can say, God is with all things, but some visions perceive Him not on account of His intense brightness.
Imam Ghazali concludes with the words: “Hard, hard it is, to essay the discovery of the Lights Supernal that are beyond the veil.”True indeed, is this statement, for those who seek to understand Light.
In ahadith from Mishkatal–Masabhi, our Prophet said: “God has seventy thousand veils of light and darkness, were He to withdraw their curtain, then the splendour of His countenance will surely consume everyone who sees Him with his sight.” In another hadith, Jibraeel (asws) says: “Between me and Him (Allah ta’ala) are seventy thousand veils of Light.