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Diasporic Musings

March 3, 2018

Seeing the Light

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — fatemaelbakoury @ 3:15 pm


For my first post, I used photography to study light as I see it in my daily life. I wanted to document my experience as I lived through this light. While the photos included here depict light as it shed itself on my quotidian experiences (on my way to class, while studying, while eating breakfast), I felt a certain effervescence that I hadn’t noticed prior to committing to this exercise of seeing the light. The light was so beautiful when I looked closer, and I felt a certain materialism in my attempt to capture it: this was meant to be temporary, a passing moment intended solely for that small space in time. The pictures, as always, could never capture the fullness of this light, but I processed them such that I increased the contrast and lowered the exposure so that the light stands out. I realized in doing this how symbolic that act is, to heighten the light. It is a choice one makes, to see the light. I made it twice: the first when I chose to see it, the second when I chose to capture it and then render it.

Of course, I am unendingly inspired by verse 35 of Surat al-Nur:

TRANSLATION: Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.

I wanted to capture light in the way it’s described here: an infinite and almost blinding presence. There are moments where I couldn’t look closely enough at the light as I took pictures of it–I could not handle the radiance. And yet, I took the picture. I think that being a Muslim is in many ways like the effort I undertook. We know we can never look the light in its face, but we try anyway–and when we must reckon with how far Allah is, we placate our fears by reminding ourselves that the effort alone is worthwhile. We usually call this jihad, but unfortunately, that word has been tainted with violent connotations. In Renard’s Seven Doors, he details jihad as the “…struggle against whatever stands between the self and its origin and goal, and strive to overcome injustice and oppression” but I felt a quieter jihad here (11). Mine was shaped by my desire to constantly see that light, to let it escape me by as rarely as possible so I do not lose sight of my love for God. To become better such that my attitude and philosophies always function as means by which I can see the light. 


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