Ayat Al-Nur: Revealed in Ring Composition, and Black Holes

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Ring Composition of Ayat Al-Nur, Surat Al-Nur 24:35

This illustration reveals the connection between light and knowledge, otherwise not quite so obvious, by comparing the sections highlighted with the same color which form corresponding pairs starting with the first and last, then pairing them in mirror fashion towards the middle section which is the center and focal point of the aya. There is an expression “knowledge is light” or Al’alm nur in Arabic, and if one contemplates this statement more deeply, one finds that knowledge must be truth, ie stands up to the light of scrutiny, and further, the infinite and complex nature of that which needs to be illuminated is such that only God can be Omniscient. This observation is highlighted in this aya, which the analysis of this form of composition helps us see more clearly.

Note that the separation of thematic sections numbered in the illustration above are mine, based on their meanings and my finding of correlations between these sections and their mirror-placed counterparts. Ring Composition is the arrangement of sections of text in a mirrorform wherein the upper sections correspond in some way to the lower sections, in an order usually referred to as ABCBA to show the mirror pattern (and can be of course larger or smaller), where C represents the Center section that stands alone; those sections before and after it match in the order of their approach to the center, creating a mirror effect. The matched pairs formed before and after the center are indicated by the highlight colors on each phrase that forms a section within the aya placed in order of their occurrence.

Commentary on each of these pairs is below, noting interesting correlations between the numbers of sections themselves. The total number of sections is eleven (11), an odd number, giving us an obvious choice for the central section, “neither of the east nor of the west.” This is a perfect center or middle as it shows a balance between two sides, in this case east/ west, which considering its use on maps would indicate a horizontal balance. It shows us that a balanced approach to knowledge, not a prejudicial one, will bring us closer to the light, and is eminently applicable to our reading and approach to understanding the Quran itself.

Commentary:

1 & 11 (three 1’s): “Allah is” = the basic structure of both; in 1, He is light; in 11, He is Knowing, establishing a correspondence between light and knowledge; in 1, He is the light of “the heavens and the earth,” comparable to “all things” in 11, the difference being “all things” is more specific to “knowledge” as an idea. Light, of course, is a “thing,” not merely an idea, hence creation is invoked. Illumination is a word that exemplifies the connection between knowledge and light in English. The Quran is light in the form of words. This also evokes the importance of transparency in the form of truth/ honesty. Lying obscures; Allah is Truth, wherein can shine Light. Lying can be in a sense defined by darkness, a means of obscuring the light of Truth.

2 & 10 (the 2 halves of this example are 2 fives, like two hands of 5 fingers; presenting examples relates to one’s hands, to hold something up): “Example(s)” links these two sections; in 2, the mishkatin could also be a “pillar” or “carrier” whose function is to “hold” or “raise up” the light, as on a “stand” (reminiscent of the Biblical reference of putting one’s “light” on a “stand”), the aim of which is to illuminate more widely, which aligns with 10 wherein the “examples” are “presented” to an audience of people. “Presenting examples” is also done with a Book which when it comes to knowledge, performs the function of a “niche” or “pillar” in holding up the light — almusbah.

3 & 9: “the lamp is within glass” from 3 implies the “glass” is a container holding the lamp or a covering in which the lamp is shining. Because it is glass, this covering or container is transparent, allowing the lamp’s light to shine through. From 9 we are connecting this image to guidance: Allah guides to His light whom He wills. The “whom He wills” refers to the “containment” qualities of glass, and the guidance refers to its transparency. Here again the glass could be a metaphor relating to words, or possibly their meanings shown in the book, insofar as words and their meanings are the “glass” container in which the light-source or guidance from Allah is contained, the example of which would be Al-Kitab al-mubeen, the perspicuous or clear Book, the Quran.

4 & 8 (4 is half of 8, 4 relating to birth/ heart and 8 relating to infinity/ eternity and also a kind of rebirth): “The glass as if it were a sphere made of light” – in 4, shows the glass itself has a shape, that of a sphere (“planet”). If the glass is a metaphor for meaningful words, then the words themselves can be like light, “as if” light. Such then is “light upon light” as expressed in section 8. The light itself is Truth, as all knowledge emanates from the Omniscient; thus His light contained in words whose meaning is transparent, set in a book whose presentation itself (“architecture”) helps raise the light for all to see. Eight is also a number of exaltation, showing that the light of knowledge + light itself = light on light, true inner and outer illumination.

5 & 7: these two sections are part of one subject/ sentence, between which is the central section. So the center (neither east nor west) divides these two sections, one naming the blessed olive tree, and the other its oil. Here one finds reciprocity: the lamp is lit by the olive tree, which is described as mubarakatin, which is a reciprocal-use word, common in Arabic but not English, where it is both blessed and exuding (giving off) blessings, a giver not only recipient, of blessings. That in turn also means it is living, life being characterized by exchange or reciprocity. The oil is the essence of the olive tree, also familiar to us, the audience, as a fuel. But in this case, the oil itself, being the essence of the olive tree, is as if alight (implying that it acts as a fuel but itself needs not be ignited to give its apparent illumination), “although untouched by fire.” So we are speaking now of a different kind of light, that is as if giving off light itself, instead conferring knowledge, as we approach the center. The tree is clearly a mathal or metaphor/symbol of life, perhaps eternal life. Olive trees are a symbol of peace generally; showing us that the light of knowledge is alive and beautiful, exuding peace and blessings. This then characterized the Quran.

6: This is the central, pivotal section. “Neither of the east nor of the west” is both a point of balance between two opposites, and a compass point, a central or midpoint, like a pivotal point or fulcrum. This is clearly the center on which the two sides, upper and lower, or right and left, if one pictures it horizontally, are balanced. Although in Al-Fatiha I envisioned it in a north-south/ up-down configuration, this clearly states a horizontal east-west configuration of the sections. Since the dynamic is between light and knowledge, we are subtly directed to consider each of these as equals, balancing light with knowledge and knowledge with light. And since these are associated directly here with Allah the exalted, we must understand that His justice (balance scales) is a part of this knowledge as well.

Those interested in physics and optics might find the idea of “light cones” (pictured above) interesting in this reference: from an event in real time/ the emergent present, such as the collapse of a star into a black hole, light is emitted as light cones in four dimensions, whose cross-sections form spheres. The cones themselves relate to time, in that they form, interestingly, an hourglass shape wherein the upper cone is the future, the lower cone is the past, and a plane in the middle is the emergent present or moment of the event. Its similarity in details to this aya and other Quranic references I found fascinating, but since that is not my field of expertise, I leave it here as a tantalizing idea for those with more knowledge to explore.

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