What is the light of God?

The Prophet tells us that God created angels out of light. Light is a name of God, and the Koran tells us that "God is the light of the heavens and the earth" (24:35). In order to understand what angels are, we have to understand what light is. It will not help us much to think about light in physical terms. Rather, we have to grasp the signs that are revealed to us when we observe light.

Normally, we think of light as visible, but in fact, it is invisible. We can only see light when it is mixed with darkness. If there were only light and no darkness, we would be blinded by its intensity. Look at what happens when you gaze at the sun, which is 93 million miles away and is viewed through the earth's atmosphere. If we moved outside the atmosphere, just few miles closer to the sun, we could not possibly look at it for a moment without losing our eyesight. What we call visible light is pretty pale stuff. It can hardly compare with unfiltered sunlight, much less with the divine light, which illuminates the whole cosmos. Hence, it is said in Islam that God's light is so bright that people have all been blinded by it.

What is the light of God

God is unseen, angels are unseen, and light is unseen. Thus it should not be surprising that God and angels are light. You might object and say that we see light shining everywhere, but we don't see angels or God. Don't we? Tawhid (Unity of God) is telling us that the signs are nothing but God's radiance, and the creatures are nothing but the outward marks of God's creative power. "God is the light of the heavens and the earth" (24:35), and the heavens and the earth are the radiance or the reflection of that light.

Light is invisible, but without light we see nothing. Hence, light can be defined as an invisible something that makes other things visible. So also, God and the angels are invisible, but without them there would be no universe. Hence, God and the angels can be described as invisible somethings that make the universe visible.

The opposite of light is darkness, and darkness is simply the absence of light. In other words, light is something, but darkness is nothing. We see things because a nothing has mixed with a something. We would not be able to see if there were only light, or if there were only darkness. Light and darkness must come together for vision to occur.

God is Light. The opposite of light is darkness, which is nothing. In other words, God has no real, existing opposite, since nothing is not really something. If nothing is there, how can we talk about opposites? Of course, we say that nothing is the opposite of something, but this nothing does not exist except as a figure of speech or as an object of supposition for the purpose of discussion and explication.

Are creatures' light or darkness? The answer, of course, is that they are neither, or that they are both. If they were light and nothing but light, they would be God, and if they were darkness and nothing but darkness, they would not exist. Hence they live in a never-never land that is neither light nor darkness.

In respect of tashbih, the creatures are light, but in respect of tanzih they are darkness. In other words, to the extent that things are similar to God, they are luminous, but to the extent that they are incomparable with God, they are dark. They must have some luminosity, or else they could not exist.

To dwell in darkness (relative darkness, that is, since absolute darkness does not exist) is to dwell in distance from God; it is to be dominated by the divine qualities of majesty and wrath, which keep things far from God. To dwell in light is to live in nearness to God; it is to be dominated by the qualities of beauty and mercy, which bring things close to God.

There is one light, and that light is God. There are many darknesses, since each creature represents darkness in relation to God. The deeper the darkness, the greater the distance from God. Absolute darkness does not exist, because it would be cut off from God in every respect. How can anything exist if it has no relationship whatsoever to the Real, which is the source of every quality?

Created things dwell in distance from God, in difference, in otherness. This is to say that they dwell in relative darkness. Relative darkness has many modes and forms, since there are an infinite number of ways in which things can be different from God. "Nothing is like Him," but each thing is unlike him in its own unique way.

Dwelling in difference means perceiving God from the perspective of tanzih and hence to be dominated by the attributes of severity, majesty, and wrath. The goal of religion is to bring about a movement from tanzih to tashbih, from distance to nearness, from difference to sameness, from manyness to oneness, from wrath to mercy, from darkness to light.

The Koran frequently explains that God's goal in creation is to bring about unity, and often it employs the terms light and darkness to make this point. The broad significance of such verses becomes clear as soon as one grasps the meaning of tawhid. Notice that in the following verses light is one, since light is an attribute of God, but the darknesses are many, since darkness is an attribute that assumes many forms in keeping with the diversity of creation:

Are the blind and the seeing man equal, or are the darknesses and the light equal? (13:16, 35:20)

It is He who sends down upon His servant signs, clear explications that He may bring you forth from the darknesses into the light. (57:9)

Why, is he who was dead, and We gave him life, and appointed for him a light to walk by among the people, as one who is in the darknesses, and comes not forth from them? (6:122)

It is He who performs the salat over you, and His angels, that He may bring you forth from the darknesses into the light. (33:43) 

This article originally appeared in : What is the light of God? | IslamiCity.com | By: Sachiko Murata and William C. Chttick | 3/18/2015

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Ancient Stone Tool Brings New Ideas About Early Americans

Ancient Stone Tool Brings New Ideas About Early Americans - An ancient stone tool recently discovered in the high desert of southeast Oregon has archaeologists raising their eyebrows.

The tool, a hand-held scraper chipped from a piece of agate, was unearthed from beneath a layer of volcanic ash near the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter outside Riley, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced on Thursday. Archaeologists have linked the ash to a major eruption from Mount St. Helens that occurred about 15,800 years ago.

“When we had the volcanic ash identified, we were stunned because that would make this stone tool one of the oldest artifacts in North America," Dr. Patrick O’Grady, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon and the leader of the excavation, said in a written statement. "Given those circumstances and the laws of stratigraphy, this object should be older than the ash.” 

Ancient Stone Tool Brings New Ideas About Early Americans
The scraper was found at an ancient rock shelter in the high desert of eastern Oregon. It could turn out to be older than any known site of human occupation in western North America. 

The new finding may rewrite the story of early human migrations, as it was once previously thought that the first humans in the western hemisphere arrived about 13,500 years ago. 

“For years, many in the archaeological field assumed that the first humans in the western hemisphere were the Clovis people – dating to around 13,000 years ago. While a handful of archaeological sites older than Clovis cultures have been discovered in the past few decades, there is still considerable scrutiny of any finding that appears older,” Stan McDonald, the bureau's Oregon/Washington lead archaeologist, said in the statement.

If humans arrived more than 15,800 years ago, as the stone tool suggests, it would place humans in America's West around the end of the Pleistocene era, when mastodons, mammoths, camels, horses, and bison roamed the region, the Associated Press reported. But some scientists remain skeptical.

"No one is going to believe this until it is shown there was no break in that ash layer, that the artifact could not have worked its way down from higher up, and until it is published in a convincing way," Donald K. Grayson, professor of archaeology at the University of Washington, who was not involved in the excavation, told AP. "Until then, extreme skepticism is all they are going to get."

Archaeologists plan to continue excavations at the Oregon site this summer, O'Grady said in the statement, adding "that’s the next step."

This article has been updated with the quote from Stan McDonald, explaining the 13,500-year figure.

This article originally appeared in : Ancient Stone Tool Brings New Ideas About Early Americans | The Huffington Post | By Jacqueline Howard | 03/09/2015 9:15 am EDT Updated: 03/09/2015 8:59 pm EDT

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Thailand's 87-year-old king makes rare trip outside hospital

Thailand's 87-year-old king makes rare trip outside hospital — Thailand's 87-year-old king on Monday made a rare visit outside the hospital to observe development projects at his palace in Bangkok.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej took a one-hour trip from the riverside hospital where he has spent most of his time in recent years to see a rice mill and a solar energy exhibit at his royal residence in central Bangkok. He was wearing a yellow short-sleeved shirt as his wheelchair passed cheering crowds at the hospital.

Thailand's 87-year-old king makes rare trip outside hospital

The ailing monarch was admitted to Siriraj Hospital in October for a fever that the doctors said was caused by an infection. His hospitalization came a few months after he returned to his seaside palace south of Bangkok, following an almost four-year hospital stay that began in 2009 for a lung inflammation.

Worries about the king's health and succession have contributed to Thailand's political instability of the last eight years.

His wife, Queen Sirikit, apparently suffered a stroke in 2012. The 82-year-old queen has made almost no public appearances since she was admitted to the same hospital that year after experiencing symptoms indicative of a stroke. 

This article originally appeared in : Thailand's 87-year-old king makes rare trip outside hospital | AP | March 9, 2015 10:22 AM

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Helen Mirren reigns on Broadway as Queen Elizabeth

Helen Mirren reigns on Broadway as Queen Elizabeth - Nearly a decade after winning an Academy Award for her role as Britain's Elizabeth II in "The Queen," Helen Mirren is ruling over Broadway in "The Audience," a new play about the monarch's weekly meetings with her prime ministers.

Mirren said she has huge empathy for the 88 year-old royal she plays in the British import that premiered in London and opened on Sunday at New York's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

"Both times, for the film and now the play, I had to do a lot of research and the more research I did really, the more respect I gained for her," Mirren, 69, said ahead of the opening.

Helen Mirren reigns on Broadway as Queen Elizabeth

The queen's weekly meetings with her prime ministers are private, so "The Audience" is an imagining of the conversations and relationships Elizabeth has had with eight of the 12 British leaders who served during her more than 60-year reign.

Mirren, a multiple-Tony nominee, admits it is difficult to imagine what Elizabeth's world is like. But the newspaper USA Today said her Elizabeth defends the monarchy and "deftly reconciles her sense of entitlement with a deep humility and empathy."

In the play, which does not run chronologically, Mirren is shown as a older queen reassuring a doubtful John Major, played by actor Dylan Baker, that is he is up to the job. In the next scene she changes into the young Elizabeth, holding her first meeting as queen with the formidable Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews).

The play, written by Peter Morgan who also penned "The Queen," and directed by Stephen Daldry, lets audiences listen in to her conversation with a depressed Gordon Brown (Rod McLachlan.) They hear her playful, friendly banter with Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and watch as she soothes a testy Margaret Thatcher.

With each scene the queen's age changes along with her costumes and hairstyle.

"Even if she's not the real royal deal, this is still about as close as most of us are going to get to a cozy tete-a-tete with the best loved of the regal Windsors," said The New York Times newspaper.

Mirren also appears alongside younger versions of the monarch, showing her reluctant to move into Buckingham Palace and her early annoyances with royal life.

"It's obvious who the real ruler is when it comes to Broadway. Mirren's crown is safe," said The New York Post newspaper. (Editing by Jill Serjeant and Marguerita Choy)

This article originally appeared in : Helen Mirren reigns on Broadway as Queen Elizabeth | reuters | By Patricia Reaney | Mon Mar 9, 2015 4:00 pm EDT

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Broadway Review: ‘The Audience’ Starring Helen Mirren

Long live the Queen! Long live Queen Helen! Helen Mirren won an Oscar in 2007 for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth around the time of Princess Diana’s death in “The Queen.” It made a nice companion piece for the Emmy she’d won in 2005 for playing another British queen in the TV mini-series “Elizabeth I.” Maybe she’ll add a Tony to her collection for her triumphant return to Buckingham Palace in “The Audience,” Peter Morgan’s royally entertaining glimpse into the private weekly meetings at which the current Prime Minister brings the sitting monarch up to snuff on political affairs of state. 

Under the stylized helming of Stephen Daldry, who also directed the 2013 West End production, a stately Equerry (Geoffrey Beevers) steps forward to introduce each of the prime ministers who advised Queen Elizabeth over the sixty years of her reign. (A program insert offers an assist for American audiences who can’t quite place James Callaghan.)
‘The Audience’ Starring Helen Mirren

Designer Bob Crowley’s imposing setting for these tête-à-têtes is the Audience Room in Buckingham Palace, a grandly scaled space framed by massive pillars and, through the illusion of forced perspective, giving onto a long corridor that leads to the Throne Room. This majestic space doesn’t exactly match up with the Equerry’s description of a less forbidding room painted in “duck-egg blue” and warmed by a fireplace. But it certainly conveys the sense of majesty that would intimidate many a brand new PM.

Morgan, who also penned the screenplay for “The Queen,” doesn’t keep to a chronological time span or pursue a dominant theme. The fundamental appeal for an audience is watching the various prime ministers display their goods for the Queen and observing Mirren’s subtle skills at adjusting her age, voice, physical presence and state of mind to reflect (or try to hide) her feelings about each of these politicians.

Mirren is positively endearing as the young Queen Elizabeth, eagerly addressing Sir Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews, eerily realistic) at her first audience with a list of informed and thoughtful questions about the state of the postwar Empire — only to be told rather brusquely, in one of the more riveting scenes in the play, that her role is to shut up and listen to him.

Over the years (and through a number of lightning-quick onstage costume and wig changes), Lilibet, as Churchill affectionately calls the young monarch, becomes a shrewd judge of character and adept at maintaining the rigidly noncommittal political stance expected of her. (“It is my duty not to have preferences,” she sharply reminds someone who thinks otherwise.) But the scribe does grant her a lot of (frankly, unconvincing) freedom to voice her private thoughts to her Prime Ministers and to favor one over another on a personal level.

As Morgan would have it, her favorite was the down-to-earth Labour Party leader Harold Wilson (an old dear, in Richard McCabe’s warm-hearted performance), which does seem likely, since she extended to him alone (aside from Churchill) the rare endorsement of inviting herself to dine with him at 10 Downing Street. Their scenes together are critical to this schematic play, because they lend it a tone of honest emotion.

Fully appreciating this need to move an audience, the scribe invents some otherworldly appearances by a young Lilibet (very nicely played by Elizabeth Teeter, who alternates in the role with Sadie Sink) to interact with and greatly humanize her older self.

So, yes, theatrical allowances are made for such injections of heart. Just the same, it’s hard to believe that any politician, even a softie like Harold Wilson, would make so free with the Queen as to tell her that “You’re one of us,” or to suggest that “There’s a good Labour lady in there.”

That does seem to be where Morgan is leading her, though, by allowing her to indiscreetly voice some strong political opinions that are very liberal, indeed. Since no records whatsoever are kept of these weekly briefings, there’s no way of knowing whether the Queen did, indeed, beg the imperious Sir Anthony Eden (Michael Elwyn, an aristocrat down to his boots) not to go to war over the Suez Canal. Or try to stop Tony Blair (Rufus Wright) from sending an invading force into Iraq.

The real showdown, though, is between Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher (Judith Ivey), who slaps the monarch down like a naughty child when she makes a good case for sanctions against South Africa. In theory and substance, this should be the strongest scene in the play. But it’s painfully over-the-top dramatically and given a caricatured reading by Ivey, whose performance is as overdone as the ghastly fright-wig of the Iron Lady’s famous helmet-hair.

Although the level of realism fluctuates from meeting to meeting held in the Audience Room, the two most electrifying scenes in the play take place outside that room. The first is the extraordinary wartime radio address that the 14-year-old princess Elizabeth delivered in 1940 to the children of the commonwealth. The other is the fall-on-your-knees investiture scene at the end of Act I in which the 25-year-old Elizabeth is robed and anointed and crowned as Queen — “half human, half apostolic avenging angel,” as Morgan would have it.

At moments like this, we are all the adoring subjects of this Queen.

This article originally appeared in : Broadway Review: ‘The Audience’ Starring Helen Mirren | variety.com | By Marilyn Stasio March 8, 2015 11:19 PM

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Jordan's King Abdullah II

Jordan's King Abdullah II and his wife Queen Rania will begin a two-day visit to Morocco on Tuesday at the invitation of King Mohammed VI, the Moroccan royal palace announced.

The two monarchs will hold "official talks" during the visit, the palace was quoted as saying by the official MAP news agency on Sunday.

The Jordanian royal visit will end on Thursday.

Both countries are involved in a US-led coalition battling against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

Jordan's King Abdullah II and his wife Queen Rania will begin a two-day visit to Morocco on Tuesday at the invitation of King Mohammed VI, the Moroccan royal palace announced.  The two monarchs will hold "official talks" during the visit, the palace was quoted as saying by the official MAP news agency on Sunday.  The Jordanian royal visit will end on Thursday.  Both countries are involved in a US-led coalition battling against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
King Abdullah II (R) and Queen Rania (C) of Jordan in Amman on May 25, 2012 (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

The two nations are the only Arab monarchies who do not belong to the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council, closed to outsiders since its creation in 1981. But both kingdoms were invited to join the six-member club in May 2011 in the midst of the Arab Spring uprisings.

The move was welcomed by Rabat, which nonetheless reiterated its "natural and irreversible commitment" to building the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) to strengthen economic cooperation between several North African and Sahel countries.

Under the new rapprochement with the GCC, a strategic partnership was signed in late 2011 to finance development projects in Morocco and Jordan worth more than $5 billion.

The Moroccan king travelled to Jordan in late 2012 as part of a regional tour.

This article originally appeared in : Jordan's King Abdullah, Queen Rania to visit Morocco on Tuesday | AFP | March 8, 2015 7:27 PM

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Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green out at 'The Voice,' Shakira and Usher are in

Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green out at 'The Voice,' Shakira and Usher are in - Just one week into season three of “The Voice,” NBC is announcing big changes for cycle four. Coaches Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green, who have been with the singing competition since it launched, will be taking next season off. In their chairs will sit Usher and Shakira.

Adam Levine and Blake Shelton are staying through season four.

"Voice" coaches Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera are taking a hiatus from the show next season.

“We are thrilled to welcome Usher and Shakira to ‘The Voice,’ ” Robert Greenblatt, the chairman of NBC Entertainment, said in statement. “The addition of these popular iconic artists continues the tradition established by Christina, Cee Lo, Adam and Blake. Doing two back-to-back cycles of this show requires a tremendous amount of time, and we are happy to accommodate the commitments made by Christina and Cee Lo.”

Aguilera has a new album, “Lotus,” to promote and will be going on tour to support it. Green, meanwhile, is taking time off to work on new music and a scripted comedy about his life.

“ ‘The Voice’ has always been known for pairing incredible up-and-coming talent with superstar coaches who are top-level current artists,” executive producer Mark Burnett added. “Having award-winning artists as coaches means they need to be able to tour. … This is exactly why, after three seasons, we needed to allow them to rotate out so they can get on the road amongst their fans.”

Both Aguilera and Green made it clear that they will be back after their hiatus.

“By pursuing my first passion of music during the break, I am also able to come back and offer even more to my team on ‘The Voice’ in the future,” Aguilera said in a statement.

“Thank you, NBC, for supporting my decision to take this season four hiatus!” said Green. “I will return for season five and will be watching season four.”

Though Shelton is expected to stay through next season, he may be the next coach to take a break from the hit show. In an interview with Access Hollywood, the country star said he didn’t know how much longer he could do “The Voice.”

“It’s their decision (for us to leave), in that they’re the ones choosing to do back-to-back seasons,” he explained to Access. “They really leave us no other option … if we want to tour, there’s not a chance of that doing back-to-back seasons. That’s not acceptable to me.” ( today.com )

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