The world can feel like a very dark place at times. With the non-stop reports of horrors occurring around the world, tragedy after tragedy streaming in through our multiple screens. Or sometimes also in our own personal lives, we face difficulties and tragedies of our own. In various ways and extremities, from a distance or directly upon us, the storm clouds can gather and surround our paths with gloom. Life is not easy, and it’s almost guaranteed that at times we will step into darkness, sometimes momentarily, and sometimes, for some, into the deepest depths of the shadows.
When experiencing these trials of pain or sorrow, we have two choices: we can close our eyes, bury our heads, and completely succumb to the darkness, either refusing to move or carrying on with no vision before us and no idea of where we’re going. Or, we can defy that darkness with a beautiful light that we’ve stored for such times of need; a light within our hearts that’s fuelled with hope, faith, and complete tawakkullah (total trust in God). With this torch, the darkness still surrounds us – we are not exempt from the pains and trials of this life – but moving forward is much easier, and a way through is so much clearer.
In the Qur’an, in Surah al-Baqara, Allah talks about non-believers who have had their light removed. He describes their difficult journey through the darkness of a storm, their fingers pressed in their ears to block the thunder out of fear. Allah describes their helplessness, as each time the lightening flashes they quickly move forward, but when darkness suddenly resumes they stand still, dumbfounded and afraid.
As with all chapters of the Qur’an, we can draw so many metaphors and parallels with this. Without Allah’s guidance, we’re a lost traveller fumbling through glimpses of fleeting light. We make rash decisions in impulse and panic, and barely know who we are from one day to the next. But under the blanket of faith, we feel comfort and protection. Regardless of the decibels of the thunder, regardless of the severity of the storm or the heaviness of the darkness, we have an-Nur (the Light).
“So truly where there is hardship there is also ease; truly where there is hardship there is also ease.” (Qur’an 94: 5-6)
Lightness can be found in the words “la hawla wa la quwwatta illaa billah” (there is no strength and no power except with God). Lightness can be found in the words “Allaahu akbar” (God is greatest). As Muslims, every time we pray, we begin with the words Allaahu akbar, reminding us that the One we stand before is far greater than any trial or difficulty that might be currently overshadowing us. As we place our heads on the floor in sujood (prostration), we say ‘Subhaana rabbiy al-a’la’ (glory to the Lord most high). We bow our heads, not to bury them in woe, but to absorb the radiant light of imaan and tawakkul.
“God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” (Qur’an 24: 35)
To understand further the nur (light) of Allah, contemplate this: There is a light that everyone knows about, whether they believe in God or not. It burns continuously, providing not just light, but warmth, food, and all life that we know. Without it, we couldn’t exist, and yet its presence is so powerful we cannot look directly at it. Of course, I am talking about the sun. So what about the One who made the sun? His Light is even brighter, His warmth even more comforting, His food even more nourishing.
“Seek help through patience and prayer” (Qur’an 2: 45)
However dark the night may seem, the sun will always rise. However difficult, however painful, however frightening our trials may seem, Allah’s Light is always there, eternally burning as a torch within our hearts; and no matter how difficult it might sometimes be to remember that, it is vital that we hold onto it, because ultimately it’s our responsibility to keep it burning.