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[The references in square brackets are to the pages of the Cairo Arabic edition. {these are written in the form [p. 3], to avoid confusion with the footnote indicators.--jbh}]


(Mishkât al-Anwâr)

Praise to ALLAH! who poureth forth light; and giveth sight; and, from His mysteries' height, removes the veils of night!

And Prayer for MUHAMMED! of all lights the Light; Sire of them that do the right; Beloved of The Sovereign of Might; Evangelist of the forgiven in his sight; to Him devoted quite; to sinner and to infidel the Arm that knows to fight and smile!

You have asked me, dear brother--and may Allâh decree for you the quest of man's chiefest bliss, make you candidate for the Ascent to the highest height anoint your vision with the light of Reality, and purge your inward parts from all that is not the Real!--You have asked me, I say, to communicate to you the mysteries of the Lights Divine, together with the allusions behind the literal meaning of certain texts in the Koran and certain sayings in the Traditions.

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And principally this text[1]:--

"Allâh is the Light of the Heavens and of the Earth. The similitude of His Light is as it were a Niche wherein is a Lamp: the Lamp within a Glass: the Glass as it were a pearly Star. From a Tree right blessed is it lit, an Olive-tree neither of the East nor of the West, the Oil whereof were well-nigh luminous though Fire touched it not: Light upon Light!

"But as for the Infidels, their deeds are as it were massed Darkness upon some fathomless sea, the which is overwhelmed with billow topped by billow topped by cloud: Darkness on Darkness piled! so that when a man putteth forth his hand he well-nigh can see it not. Yea, the man for whom Allâh doth not cause light, no light at all hath he."

What is the significance of His comparison of LIGHT with Niche, and Glass, and Lamp, and Oil, and Tree?

And this Tradition

"Allâh hath Seventy Thousand Veils of

[1. The Light-Verse in S. 24, 35. The Darkness-Verse. which almost immediately follows, and is mentioned in the exposition, has been added.]

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Light and Darkness: were He to withdraw their curtain, then would the splendours of His Aspect[1] surely consume everyone who apprehended Him with his sight."

Such is your request. But in making it you have assayed to climb an arduous ascent, so high that the height thereof cannot be so much as gauged by mortal eyes [p. 3]. You have knocked at a locked door which is only opened to those who know and "are established in knowledge."[2] Moreover, not every mystery is to be laid bare or made plain, but-

"Noble hearts seal mysteries like the tomb."

Or, as one of those who Know has said--

"To divulge the secret of the Godhead is to deny God."

Or, as the Prophet has said--

"There is a knowledge like the form of a hidden
thing, known to none save those who know God."

If then these speak of that secret, only the Children of Ignorance will contradict them. And howsoever many these Ignorants be, the

[1. Or Countenance; see Introduction, p. 66.

2. Cf. S. 3, 6.]

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Mysteries must from the gaze of sinners be kept inviolate.

But I believe that your heart has been opened by the Light and your consciousness purged of the darkness of Ignorance. I will, therefore, not be so niggardly as to deny you direction to these glorious truths in all their fineness and all their divineness; for the wrong done in keeping Wisdom from her Children is not less than that of yielding her to those who are Strangers to her. As the poet hath it--

"He who bestoweth Knowledge on fools loseth it,
And he who keepeth the deserving from her doeth a wrong."

You must, however, be content with a very summarized explanation of the subject; for the full demonstration of my theme would demand a treatment of both its principles and its parts for which my time is at present insufficient, and for which neither my mind nor my energies are free. The keys of all hearts are in the hands of Allah: He opens them when He pleases, as He pleases, and with what {p. 79} He pleases. At this time, then, it shall suffice to open up to you three chapters or parts, whereof the first is as hereunder follows.

Next: PART I.--Light, And Lights: Preliminary Studies