Light upon Light
Mufti Muhammad Qasim ‘Attari
Allah Almighty stated:
قَدۡ جَآءَکُمۡ مِّنَ اللہِ نُوۡرٌ وَّ کِتٰبٌ مُّبِیۡنٌ (۱۵)
“Indeed, towards you has come a light (nūr) from Allah (i.e., the Prophet Muhammad), and a clear Book (i.e. the Holy Quran).”
The literal and technical meaning of “nūr”: The literal meaning of nūr is illumination, glimmer, and light. Also, the thing from which light or illumination comes forth is also known as nūr. The technical meaning of nūr is something which is apparent itself and causes other things to become apparent too. Then nūr is divided into two types: physical nūr, i.e., actual, tangible light, and figurative nūr, i.e., the light of insight and clarity.
Physical nūr is that which can be seen with the eyes, such as sunlight or candlelight; this nūr is visible itself and also causes other things which enter its boundaries to become visible to the observer.
Figurative nūr is that thing whose light cannot be sensed by the eye, but the mind recognises that it is being freed from the darkness of ignorance and ambiguity through it. This is the light of insight through which intellectual and rational matters become evident. In accordance with this meaning, Islam, the Quran, guidance, and knowledge are referred to as nūr.
The Muhammadan reality: The reality of the master of both worlds, our liege-lord Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is that he was fashioned out of nūr by Allah Almighty, and then sent to this world in human form. Hence, it is stated in the above-mentioned verse that a nūr has come to the people from Allah Almighty, and this nūr refers to our beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم . Just as Imam Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī writes in his commentary of the word “nūr”: وَھُوَ النَّبِیُّ صلَّی الله علیہ واٰلهٖ وسلَّم – “Nūr refers to the noble Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم .”
Al- Ṣāwī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه writes:
وَسُمِّیَ نُوْرًا لِاَنَّہٗ یُنَوِّرُ الْبَصَائِرَ وَ یَھْدِیْھَا لِلرَّشَادِ وَ لِاَنَّہٗ اَصْلُ کُلِّ نُوْرٍ حِسِّیٍّ وَ مَعْنَوِیٍّ
“The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is called nūr in this verse because he illuminates the eyes and grants them guidance, and because he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is the source of every physical and figurative nūr.”
The Muhammadan light was created by
اَللّہُ نُوۡرُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ ؕ
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth;”
in such a way that He fashioned the nūr of the noble Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم from the splendour of His own nūr before any other creation. Then He brought the rest of creation into existence through the means of this nūr.
It is narrated:
عن جابر قال: سألت رسول الله صلی الله علیه وسلم عن اول شئی خلقه الله تعالٰی؟ فقال: ھو نور نبیک یا جابر خلقه الله
Sayyidunā Jābir b. ʿAbd Allah رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهُمَا asked the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم , “Dear Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم , what was the first thing which Allah Almighty created?” The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم replied, “Before the entire creation, Allah Almighty created the nūr of your Prophet.”
After this, the hadith extensively explains how this nūr was split into four parts, from which the Divine Tablet, Divine Pen, and Divine Throne were created, and then the fourth portion was further split into four parts, and like this, it continued to be divided until the entire universe came into being.
The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is nūr in the literal, physical and figurative senses. Despite being nūr from head-to-toe, the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would ask for an increase in his nūr, just as he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would make du’a to be guided further on the Straight Path in every salah, despite the fact that he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was already on guidance, and, in fact, the essence of guidance. Just as it has been related in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri:
اللهم اجعل في قلبي نورا، وفي بصري نورا، وفي سمعي نورا، وعن يميني نورا، وعن يساري نورا، وفوقي نورا، وتحتي نورا، وامامي نورا، وخلفي نورا، واجعل لي نورا –
“Dear Allah! Fill my heart with nūr, place nūr in my eyes, nūr in my ears, nūr on my right, nūr on my left, nūr above me, nūr below me, nūr in front of me, nūr behind me, and make me nūr ˹from head to toe˺.”
The example of the Muhammadan Light: Our beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is nūr, and Allah Almighty mentioned the example of his nūr like this in the Quran:
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth; the example of His light is like a niche in which there is a lamp; the lamp is within a glass vessel; the glass vessel is as if it were a star shining like a pearl, kindled by the blessed olive tree, which is neither of the East nor of the West. It is close that its oil lights up, although the fire does not touch it; light is upon light. Allah guides towards His light whomsoever He wills, and Allah illustrates examples for people, and Allah knows everything.
Sayyidunā Kaʿb al-Aḥbār رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ stated in the presence of Sayyidunā ʿAbd Allah b. ʿAbbās رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهُمَا : “This example is that of the noble Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم .”
Not only is the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم himself nūr, but he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is a shining, glowing sun through whose light the entire universe is illuminated.
وَّ دَاعِیًا اِلَی اللہِ بِاِذۡنِہٖ وَ سِرَاجًا مُّنِیۡرًا (۴۶)
“And as a caller towards Allah by His command, and as an illuminating sun.”
The luminous book: Allah Almighty granted the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم the Book which is also nūr, and through its light, it shows the ways of attaining proximity to Allah Almighty. Allah Almighty states:
وَ اَنۡزَلۡنَاۤ اِلَیۡکُمۡ نُوۡرًا مُّبِیۡنًا (۱۷۴)
“and We have sent down to you a shining light (the Quran)”.
Thus, it is by following this nūr granted to him that one can attain success, salvation, greatness and felicity. Hence, Allah Almighty stated:
فَالَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا بِہٖ وَ عَزَّرُوۡہُ وَ نَصَرُوۡہُ وَ اتَّبَعُوا النُّوۡرَ الَّذِیۡۤ اُنۡزِلَ مَعَہٗۤ ۙ اُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الۡمُفۡلِحُوۡنَ (۱۵۷)
“So, those who believe in him, and honour him, and give him assistance, and follow the light (the Quran) which was sent down with him; it is they who became successful.”
The luminous religion: Allah Almighty granted our beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم a religion which is nūr, for his religion, i.e., Islam, clarifies the ways of drawing closer to Allah Almighty and entering His presence. The nūr of Islam cannot be extinguished:
یُرِیْدُوْنَ اَنْ یُّطْفِـٴُـوْا نُوْرَ اللّٰهِ بِاَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَ یَاْبَى اللّٰهُ اِلَّاۤ اَنْ یُّتِمَّ نُوْرَهٗ وَ لَوْ كَرِهَ الْكٰفِرُوْنَ(۳۲)
“They wish to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths; and Allah will not agree, but to bring His light to completion, even though the disbelievers may dislike it.”
The one who accepts this nūr of Islam will receive openings and insight from Allah Almighty:
اَفَمَنۡ شَرَحَ اللہُ صَدۡرَہٗ لِلۡاِسۡلَامِ فَہُوَ عَلٰی نُوۡرٍ مِّنۡ رَّبِّہٖ ؕ
“Thus, will the one whose chest Allah has opened for Islam; so, he is upon a light from his Lord.”
Nūr for the one who follows nūr: The one who imitates the noble Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم , follows the nūr that was revealed to him, i.e. the Quran, accepts the nūr that he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم came with, i.e. Islam, and observes his illuminating teachings, will be granted light upon light on the Day of Judgement.
Allah Almighty declares:
نُوْرُهُمْ یَسْعٰى بَیْنَ اَیْدِیْهِمْ وَ بِاَیْمَانِهِمْ یَقُوْلُوْنَ رَبَّنَاۤ اَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُوْرَنَا وَ اغْفِرْ لَنَاۚ
“˹On the Judgement day˺, their light will be running ahead of them and (running) on their right; they will submit, 'O our Lord, complete our light for us, and forgive us.’”
یٰۤاَیُّهَا الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ وَ اٰمِنُوْا بِرَسُوْلِهٖ یُؤْتِكُمْ كِفْلَیْنِ مِنْ رَّحْمَتِهٖ وَ یَجْعَلْ لَّكُمْ نُوْرًا تَمْشُوْنَ بِهٖ وَ یَغْفِرْ لَكُمْؕ-وَ اللّٰهُ غَفُوْرٌ رَّحِیْمٌۚۙ(۲۸)
“Dear believers, fear Allah and believe in His Messenger, He will give you two portions of His Mercy and ˹on the Day of Judgment˺, will create a light for you to walk therein (on the bridge of Sirat), and will forgive you; and Allah is Most Forgiving, the Merciful.”
Dear Allah! For the sake of your beloved Prophet’s nūr, allow us to adopt the illuminating teachings of the Quran and Islam, and the nūr of the Prophetic sunnah, and illuminate our outer and inner with the nūr of piety and the sunnah, then illuminate our graves with the Prophetic nūr and grant us a portion of the nūr that will be granted to the believers on the Day of Judgement.
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ خاتَمِ النَّبِیّیْن صلَّی اللہ علیہ واٰلہٖ وسلَّم
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 6, Surah Al-Mai’dah, verse 15)
 Tafsīr Jala al-Din, Surah Al-Mai’dah, Ayat 15, vol. 2, p. 33
 Tafsīr Saawi, Surah Al-Mai’dah, Ayat 15, vol. 2, p. 486
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 18, Surah Al-Noor, verse 35)
 Musannaf Abdur Razzaq, p. 63, Hadith 18
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri, vol. 4, p. 193, Hadith 6316
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 18, Surah Al-Noor, verse 35)
 Tafsīr al-Khāzin, Surah Al-Noor, Ayat 35, vol. 3, p. 354
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 22, Surah Al-Ahzaab, verse 46)
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 6, Surah Al-Nisa, verse 174)
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 9, Surah Al-A’raaf, verse 157)
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 10, Surah Al-Tawbah, verse 32)
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 23, Surah Al-Zumar, verse 22)
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 28, Surah Al-Tahreem, verse 8)
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 27, Surah Al-Hadeed, verse 28)