Light Upon Light


By Ikhwan Allani

I wrote the poem as an example for the Al-Azhar group of senior students that I facilitate in Toronto, Canada. I wanted to illustrate a technique to embed an esoteric aspect of the Ismaili tariqah (path) through a universal medium such as poetry. This was one of the methods used by Ismaili dais and great Ismaili philosophers to communicate during dawr-al satr (period of concealment) and also when practicing taqqiyah (precautionary religious dissimulation). It was very effective in conveying the intended message specific to Ismailis, while concealing it from non-Ismailis.

This particular poem is called Light Upon Light.

I wrote this poem from the perspective of a da’i informing the jamat of the passing away of the Imam (at that time), but also conveying that the Light of Imamat continues to shine through the next Imam. Hence the concept of nass, and also reference to Ayat an- Noor. The hidden message may be apparent to the Ismaili followers, yet non-Ismailis, ideally, would not be able to decipher that the poem is about the Light of Imamat.

In addition, from a metaphysical perspective, scholars and the individuals well versed with batini (esoteric or hidden) knowledge will understand that the “Light” reference in the poem indicates the Universal Intellect, the first being to originate from the Godhead or the Absolute Reality, and it exists before everything else.

I made an attempt to embed history, spirituality and metaphysics in this poem so that it can portray concepts of Ismailism at multiple levels and depths. The poem had to be simple enough to explain to the students, yet deep enough to convey a hidden concept.

I hope I have succeeded in this attempt.


Light Upon Light

Image Credit:  Irfan Lakhani/Saniya Hussain. Copyright.

Image Credit: Irfan Lakhani/Saniya Hussain. Copyright.

By Ikhwan Allani

The night is dark, [1]
It may seem as though the black clouds shall fade not.
Yet the Mighty [2] candle burns,
As it always has,
Even before time and space were created.
As if God’s hands were guarding it from the wind,
Or rather yet, as if God’s essence were the burning flame itself!
O Mankind, fear not,
Before the wax melts to its last drop
A new flame [3] is lit from the existing,
As it always has,
So that the light continues to shine
And guide those who follow it.
This light never has, and never will,
Cease to exist.
Lo, remember
It is from light that all is created!

Date Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2014.
Date last updated: Wednesday, May 27, 2014, 15:00 EDT


[1] The passing away of the Imam of the Time.
[2] The Noor of Imamat.
[3] The concept of nass, and passing of the Imamat from one Imam to the next.

About the writer:  Ikhwan Allani recently graduated from the University of Toronto, with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Mental Health Studies. He currently works as a Research Consultant for The Centre for Mindfulness Studies, and as a Research Assistant at the University of Toronto. He also facilitates at the Al-Azhar Ismaili Religious Education classes in Toronto.

Personal Statement: I am fascinated by the beauty of poetry, especially in the expression of mystical knowledge and devotion. I believe poetry, just like stories, has the power to transform people towards a better understanding of themselves and Allah’s creation, at multiple levels of esoteric interpretation. It is this aesthetic and intellectual prowess of poetry that I wish to utilize, as a medium, to bring insight and inspiration to myself, the Ismaili community, and non-Ismailis, in understanding Islam and the Ismaili tariqah.

From Him we have come,
Unto Him we return.
I may have lost my way now,
But I haven’t forgotten my way home. — Ikhwan


6 thoughts on “Light Upon Light

  1. Very inspirational and uplifting for me. If the night feels dark, then it may be just before the Light of dawn. If one finds oneself dispirited by problems, one is not alone when there is Light to sustain the heart and lift the spirit Inshallah to loftier heights, despite the ups and downs that affect just about everybody in the universal struggle that is life.

  2. Peaceful, clear and calm. Enjoyed reading this in the peace of the night Ikhwan. The explanation clarifies what you are meaning so the esoteric piece is well interpreted. Keep up the Seva

  3. Light upon Light. Such an inspiring poetry! Bless you & keep up the good work. May Mawla always be with you. amen,

    Rashida Kanji
    Toronto, Canada

  4. I really enjoyed this poetry and its essence. I hope he keeps writing more of these and shares with the world. Thanks a lot for Sharing this with all of us! Allah Bless you with lots of creativity and ideas for more of this work. Tazim Nasser

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s