What is the “enlightenment”? Generally, it translates into a state of constant self-realisation and spiritual revitalisation, while being aware and conscious of the one who creates, nourishes and sustains us. But it has a much deeper essence. If we delve into this reality, we find that this “consciousness” develops into a complete spiritual enlightenment opening up in myriad expressions in human life. For instance, when a child begins to awaken to his/her parent, nature and the language they speak, s/he is actually in an initial state of enlightenment. In reality, enlightenment is born as a flower and the fragrance comes to it naturally. And eventually, it reaches its highest culmination of the ultimate divine essence. In Buddhist mysticism, it is identified as the concept of bodhi or satori.
The same is called moksha (liberation) in Hinduism or what is termed as the philosophy of aduvaita in a deeper mystical sense. It exhorts to take constant cognisance of one’s inner self or atman, while at the same time realising the whole being of the divine (brahmana). While enlightenment is expounded as kevala in Jainsm, it is reflected as ushta in Zoroastrianism. All these manifestations of one similar realisation foster the spiritual cognisance of one’s secrets in an effort to attain liberation and eternal salvation. While the literal translation of “enlightenment” is seldom found in the Biblical sources, its broader connotation is well-embedded in the terms like kenosis and metanoia or illumination.
In Islam, the primary source of spiritualism (ihsan or tasawwuf) is the Quran. It explicitly refers to “enlightenment” in various verses containing the word “al noor” (light or illumination). It is believed that when the Quran was revealed, people, particularly in the Arabian peninsula, were steeped in an era of ignorance (jahiliyat), deception (dalaal) and aberrance (zulumat). Therefore, the history of the pre-Islamic Arabia is soaked in bloodshed and tribal wars on trivial issues. The Quran says about the plight of those people: “Their deeds were like thick darkness in a vast and deep sea, which a wave covers, over which there was another wave, above which were clouds: layers of darkness, one upon another. When they held out their hands, they could hardly see it. And he whom Allah gives no light — for him there is no light at all”. Inevitably, the Prophet tried to take the Arabs from the era of ignorance (zulumat) to the age of enlightenment (noor). He sought to break the shackles of jahiliyyah (state of ignorance) with the light of guidance (hidayah) from the Quran. In practical life, we seem to retreat in a similar age of darkness. Therefore, we must reclaim the spiritual Quranic trajectory of “min-az zulumaat-i-ilan noor” (deliverance from darkness to enlightenment).