Inner Meaning (Ta'wil) of Ayat al-Nur
God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. God guideth unto His light whom He will. And God speaketh to mankind in allegories, for God is Knower of all things. (Qur'an 24:35)
In our interpretation of this famous Qur’anic ayat, known as the ayat al-nur (Verse of Light), the ‘niche’ symbolizes the Imam’s physical body and the ‘lamp’ with its ‘glass’ symbolizes his pure soul.
The ‘blessed tree’ is Imam’s pure lineage which extends back through the previous Imams, the Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet Ibrahim and Adam himself; a lineage both physical and spiritual from which many great Prophets, saints and sages have come forth.
The light inside the lamp which shines and illuminates the darkness like a ‘shining star’ is the Light of Imamate which is the source of the Imam’s virtues, knowledge and guidance.
It is a universal spiritual Light, ‘neither of the East nor the West’, which shines upon the ‘heavens and the earth’ illuminating all the seekers of enlightenment.
When the Imam departs this world and hands over the Imamate to the next Imam, one bearer of Light is succeeded by another bearer of Light; but their Light is one and the same and in reality there is no change, only ‘Light upon Light’.