By Aliya Vaughan
Imagine walking through life in total darkness; void of all cheer, purpose and meaning. This was me in my early twenties, a time when life should have been exciting and fulfilling. I did have fleeting moments of ‘happiness,’ but most of my memories were blighted by feeling empty, lost and alone. Deep down I knew something was missing. I had a gaping spiritual hole that longed to be filled. As an agnostic surrounded by atheists, I couldn’t acknowledge my inner need to know God, let alone realise how deep that need was, and since religion wasn’t very popular I didn’t let myself entertain any thoughts in that direction.
In my second year at university, my mental health took a nose dive. I remember seeing a tunnel in my mind. It was pitch black and I couldn’t see anything worth living for. At my very lowest ebb, I contemplated smashing my car into the nearest brick wall. With my eyes tightly shut and my foot hovering over the accelerator pedal, I remember seeing a speck of light at the end of that tunnel. It was so tiny and inconsequential, yet it was enough to make me stop and re-think: “Perhaps I would do it another day,” but alhamdulillah, I didn’t! That seemingly insignificant speck of light gave me a glimmer of hope for the future – not a lot, but it was a start.
When I entered into my third and final year of university, my flatmate invited me to church. I briefly mention this story in a previous blog ‘Having Trust (Tawakkul) in Times of Uncertainty.’ I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of going to church, but I had nothing else to do that Sunday, so I agreed to go.
During the service, a woman sitting in front of me began praying out loud. She said: “The only One you can put your full trust in, is God.” Upon the word ‘trust,’ a bright, pure light radiated from the core of my heart and throughout the whole of my body. I sat up with a jolt and glanced around the room. No one else appeared to have experienced it, except me. This light wasn’t scary or painful. It was comforting and cleansing. I later told my Christian friend but she didn’t seem to understand. To be honest, if I hadn’t experienced it for myself, I would have dismissed it as attention seeking. I mean, people who claim to have ‘seen the light’ are crazy, right? But at that very moment, I knew there was a God. I would be blind to deny or ignore His Existence when He had shown me so many signs.
One of Allah’s ﷻ Names is an Nur, the Light or Illuminator. From the moment Allah’s ﷻ Light entered my heart, I began my quest to find the correct path to follow. Looking back, I can see how brightly lit the road to Islam was. I was studying sociology at the time, so I learnt about man made theories, philosophies and systems. In my spare time I looked into various religions, but Allah ﷻ saved the best one until last. I was able to compare all my knowledge with Islam. I was like a moth drawn to this miraculous light. It literally felt like somebody had turned the light on. It illuminated my way out of darkness to see the true reality of life for the very first time.
Allah ﷻ revealed a chapter in the Qur’an called Surah an-Nur (The Light). Halfway through this chapter Allah ﷻ describes His amazing Light in the following ayah:
“God is the Light of the heavens and earth. His Light is like this: there is a niche, and in it a lamp, the lamp inside a glass, a glass like a glittering star, fuelled from a blessed olive tree from neither east nor west, whose oil almost gives light even when no fire touches it- light upon light- God guides whoever He wills to his Light; God draws such comparisons for people; God has full knowledge of everything.”
Surah an Nur 24:35
Allah ﷻ uses this beautiful metaphor as a powerful example of His Light and explains the guidance and eemaan that Allah places in the heart of the believer. It wasn’t until I learnt the tafsir for this ayah that I realised just how amazing it really is, especially having had first-hand experience of it all those years ago.
There are many interpretations of this ayah, but in a tafsir from Ibn Abbas, he explains that the niche represents the chest of the believer, the glass represents the heart of the believer and the light is guidance and eemaan (faith) from Allah ﷻ. The oil is the example of the soul’s natural disposition (fitra) which has the inherent capability to accept the truth. Allah ﷻ placed this light within the nature of the believer before they even came into existence. This light almost gives light even if fire doesn’t touch it, but when the Light of Allah ﷻ connects with light in the believer’s heart, the entire human being is lit up, or as Allah ﷻ describes it as ‘light upon light.’ This light will continue to brighten with the Light from the knowledge of Allah, light from His Guidance, light from the Quran, light from His Message and light from eemaan.
When Allah’s Light connected with my heart and within my soul that day in the church, my whole body lit up. I literally felt Allah’s pure Light connect with my heart’s little natural flicker.
So now that I have been guided – what does Allah ﷻ want for me? More importantly, now that we are all guided what does Allah ﷻ want for us? Allah’s Light shines throughout the whole message of Islam in the Quran and the Sunnah and will continue to shine when we do what He ﷻ guides us to do. This ‘light upon light’ shines when we become the best example (role model) and a light for others. This light shines brighter when performing wudhu, when performing the prayer and reciting the Quran. It continues to shine through all our acts of worship, from giving in charity, fasting, dikhr, having good manners and doing good deeds. Light glows on the believer’s face and radiates from their heart and soul and is definitely noticeable to others – I noticed this nur (light) on the face of the first Muslim I ever met, and this sister then became the person who Allaah chose to be my door to guide me into Islam.
Allah’s guiding light will be carried with us throughout our lives and in the grave, across the sirat (bridge over the Hellfire) and on the day of Judgement. If we want to benefit from this light in the hereafter, we need to polish our hearts from sin and wrong action so the light keeps radiating out and touching everything we do.
Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas said, “When the Prophet, ﷺ prayed the night prayer, and finished his prayer, glorifying Allah as he deserves, he said at the end of it:
“O Allah, give me a light in my heart and give me a light in my hearing and give me a light in my sight. Give me a light on my right and a light on my left and give me a light in front of me and a light behind me and increase me in light. Increase me in light, and increase me in light.'”
I ask Allah ﷻ to guide us all to maintain His light in our hearts so it will benefit us in this life and in the life that is still yet to come. Ameen.
About the author:
Aliya Vaughan has been a Muslim for 25 years and lives in the UK with her husband and children. She is a qualified life coach and author. Her award-winning children’s story ‘A Race to Prayer’ is available from Kube Publishing.
You can follow her @aliya_vaughan on Instagram
Lamp illustration bu Rakaiya Azzouz. You can follow her @azzouzillustrations on Instagram.