An-Nur (The Light): One of Allaah’s Names

Explaining the Meaning of An-Nur (The Light) – One of Allaah’s Names
Prepared by Dr. Saleh As-Saleh (rahimahullah)

An-Nur (The Light) – Soorat An-Nur (Qur’aan 24:35):

1-An-Nur is one of Allaah’s Names as well one of His Attribute, derived from His Nur (Light) which is an Attribute established with His Thaat (Essence).

Allaah, (Azzawajal), said:

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ
Allaah is the Light (Nur) of the heavens and the earth [#2]
[TMQ;An-Nur (24):35]

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) used to invoke Allaah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) upon starting the night prayers (Tahajjud):

“All Praise is due to You; You are the Light of the heavens and the earth…”[#3]

2- “The texts from the Qur’aan and authentic Sunnah relate An-Nur to Allaah, according to the following angles:

The First Angle:

a. That Allaah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) has a Nur related (gr. conjugated) to Him as an Attribute of His Thaat [Essense], the same as His other Attributes of Life, Sight, Knowledge, Might, and so forth.

Allaah, Most Majestic and Most Magnificent, says:

وَأَشْرَقَتِ الْأَرْضُ بِنُورِ رَبِّهَا
And the earth will shine with the Light of its Rabb (Allaah–when He will come on the Day of Resurrection to judge among men)…[TMQ; Az-Zumar (39): 69].

And if the earth will shine with His Light, then He (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) is a Nur (Light) as stated by His Messenger, Muhammad (Peace be upon him): “You are the Light of the heavens and the earth…”[#4]

b. That An-Nur relates to His most Honorable and Majestic Face.

‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’oud (radhi Allaahu anhu) said:

“The light of the heavens and the earth is from the Light of His Face.” [#5]

c. Allaah’s Nur is also related (mudaaf) to the heavens and the earth as in His (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) saying:

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ
Allaah is the Light (Nur) of the heavens and the earth ..
[TMQ; An-Nur (24): 35].[#6]

d. Light is Allaah’s Hijaab (Veil). The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“Light is His Hijaab, If He uncovers it then the subuhaat (brightness, splendour, majesty, and greatness) of His Face would burn His creation so far as His Sight reaches.” [#7]

The cases of the aforementioned angle represent situations in which the sifah (attribute) of An-Nur has been related to its mawsoof (what is being described) as Imaam Ibnul Qayyim رحمه الله تعالى classified them.[#8]

The Second Angle:

The second angle is the idaafah (relating) of the maf’uool (object) to its faa’il (active subject).

Ibnul Qayyim said: “This is mentioned in the saying of Allaah, Most High:

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ ۖ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ ۖ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَّا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ ۚ نُّورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ ۗ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

The parable of His Light is as (if there were) a niche and within it is a lamp, and the lamp is in glass, the glass as it were a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east [#9] nor of the west [#10], whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself), though no fire touched it. Light upon Light! Allaah guides to His Light whom he wills. And Allaah sets parables for mankind, and Allaah is the All-Knower of everything.” [TMQ; An-Nur (24): 35]

It means: The parable of Allaah’s Light in the heart of his believing slave. The one having the greatest share of this Light is His Messenger Muhammad (Peace be upon him). This Light relates to Allaah تعالى being the One who grants and bestows it upon His slave. It is also related to the slave since he is its place (mahalluhu) and favorable recipient (qaabiluhu).

This light has a:

  • 1-faa’il (active subject),
  • 2-qaabil (recipient),
  • 3-mahal (place),
  • 4-haamil (carrier), and
  • 5-and maadah (substance).

The aayah above comprises all of these mattters in detail:

  • The faa’il (One Who does this) is Allaah, Most High, the One Who makes the lights to abound, Who guides to His Light whom He Wills.
  • The favorable recipient (al-qaabil) is the believing slave.
  • The place of reception (mahal al-qubool) is the believer’s heart.
  • The haamil (carrier) is his motivation, determination, and will.
  • The maadah (substance) is his sayings and actions.”[#11]

“The light which Allaah puts in the heart of the submitting Muslim is faith in Him, knowledge and love of Him, and remembrance of Him. It is His light (the Qur’aan) which He brought down, the origin of which is in the hearts of the Muslims. Its substance strengthens and increases until it appears on their faces, their limbs and their bodies, even on their clothes and in their homes. On the Day of Resurrection, this light emerges and runs forward before them [#12] amidst the darkness of the Bridge (Siraat)[#13] until they cross over it. The (intensity) of their lights on the Bridge will correspond to the intensity (strong or weak) of the repective lights in their hearts in the dunya (this life).

The similitude of this Light and its place, its carrier, and its substance is as the niche which is like the chest [of the believer]. Inside the niche there is a glass, from the most crisp and clear kind. [In the aayah] it is even made to resemble brilliant star in its clarity and purity. This glass resembles the heart [al-mahal]. The similitude to the glass is because it embodies qualities present in the heart of the believer: clearity, smoothness, and firmness. It sees the truth by virtue of its clarity; kindness, mercy and affection originate from it because of its smoothness; it stands firm in holding to the truth and it makes jihaad against the enemies of Allaah, due to the firmness in its structure…

In contrast with this enlightened heart, there are two other opposing and blameworthy hearts. One of them is stone-like, harsh, merciless, it lacks beneficience, reverence, and the clarity by which it can see the truth. In fact it is as an ignorant and a tyrant heart; it is neither aware of Allaah (the Truth) nor it is mercifull to the creation. Opposite to it, is a weak, watery, neither firm nor strong heart,… and everything (good, evil, wicked, etc.) that mixes with it, affects it in its own way.

In the glass there is a lamp and it is the light (an-nur) that is in the wick. The wick in the lamp is the light carrier (al-haamil), and the substance of the light is the olive oil, extracted from the olives of a tree growing in the most suitable place by being exposed to the sun rays all day long. Its oil is from the purest of its kind, clear without turbidity, to the degree that it will almost glow forth of itself. Similar to the olive oil is the substance of the believing heart. It is from the “tree” of Revelation:[#14] it is the greatest blessed thing and most distant from deviation. It is intermediate and, indeed, it is the most just and best of all matters. It did not deviate like the deviation of Christanity and Judaism. In all things it is bound to a medium course between these two blameworthy extremes.

Since the clarity of this oil is so intense such that it almost glows by itself, and then upon mixing with fire its illumination as well as that of the fire’s substance of light intensifes, then this becomes light upon light.

Something similar happens to the believer. His heart is lit such that he almost knows the truth by means of his fitrah and intellect. His heart, however, has no maadah (substance) within itself. But when the maadah of the al-Wahy (Revelation) touches his heart and the latter rejoices in its company, its light [of fitrah] increases by the light of al-Wahy. The light of al-Wahy adds up to that of fitrah and it becomes a light upon light. So, the believer would almost speak the truth even though he may have not heard an evidence. He later   hears of the evidence to be identical to what has been attested to by his fitrah. Thus, it is being a light upon light. This is the status of the believer. He acknowledges the truth, in general, by means of his fitrah. He then hears of the textual proofs and [authentic] traditions presenting what he has acknowledged, but in details. His faith, therefore, stems from the attestation of al-Wahy and fitrah…” [#15]

I ask Allaah, An-Nur, to enlighten my heart and yours, and to fill them with firm Eeemaan. He is the Most Generous, the Most Merciful.

Saleh As-Saleh, 29-1-1426, March 10, 2005


[#1]TMQ: Translation of the meaning of the Qur’aan.

[#2]In this Aayah’s construct, Allaah’s Nur is related (mudaaf) to As-Samaawati wal Ard (the heavens and the earth). Some had interpreted this aayah such that Allaah (Azzawajal), is the One Who illuminates (Munawwir) the heavens and the earth and guides their inhabitants. This is from His Actions, otherwise it does not preclude the fact that the Nur, which is one of His Attributes, is established with Him. It is common for the Salaf رحمهم الله تعالى , may Allaah’s Mercy be upon them, to mention all or some of the meanings of the attributes pertaining to Allaah’s Names. By mentioning some of the meanings they do not negate the other affirmed qualities of such names. As such, one of the meanings signified by Allaah being “An-Nur of the heavens and the earth” is that He has illuminated the heavens and the earth and guided their inhabitants by His Light. The saying that meaning is restricted to His illumination of the heavens and the earth by certain planets (sun, moon, stars), is wrong, because the illumination by their light does not cover the entire universe. [See Ibn Taymeeyah’s al-Fatawaa, 6: 390-393].

[#3]For a full text of the Prophet’s invocation see Saheeh Al-Bukhaari (English/Arabic), V.9, Hadeeth # 482.

[#4] Grammatically, the “Light” which is related (annexed) to Allaah in the construct of the Aayah (which means): “And the earth will shine with the Light of its Rabb…” is not an annexation denoting possession, creation, honor, or preferment as it is the case in many aayaat (Verses) of the Noble Qur’aan including:

  • a. Baytee (My house), mentioned in the aayah (which means): That they (Ibraaheem and Ismaa’eel) may purify Baytee (My house, i.e the Ka’bah) for those who circel it, or stay (in I’tikaaf ), or bow, or prostrate themselves (near it, in prayer).” (TMQ 2:125)
  • b. Naaqatullaah (Allaah’s She-Camel) mentioned in Allaah’s Saying (which means): “This Naaqatullaah (She-Camel of Allaah) is sent to you (Prophet Saalih’s people, Thamood) as a sign. So allow it to graze in Allaah’s earth.”(TMQ 7:73).

[#5] Reported by at-Tabaraani (Mu’jam At-Tabaraani, V.9, # 8886), ad-Daarimiye in ar-Rad ‘alaa Bishr al-Mareesi (p.449), and al-Haythami in Majma’uz- Zawaa’id (V.1, p.85). Amongst its narrators, is Abu ‘Abdis-Salaam Az- Zubayr. Ibn Abee Haatim and Ibn Ma’een did not mention anything regarding the haal (status) of this narrator i.e. whether he is da’eef (weak), or thiqah (trustworthy transmittor), or otherwise. Ibn Hibbaan, however, mentioned him in his book ath-Thiqaat (The Trustworthy (men of Hadeeth). Al-Haythami realted that Abu Haatim (i.e. Ar-Raazi) described Abu ‘Abdis-Salaam Azubayr as majhool (unknown). Shayekhul Islaam Ibn Taymeeyah reported this narration and said: “It is affirmed upon the authority of Ibn Mas’oud (radhi Allaahu Anhu).” (See Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa, V.6, p.391). He also mentioned it in V.2, p.189 of the same reference. And Allaah knows best.

[#6] There is no contradiction between the interpreation that this aayah means that Allaah, Most High, is the Munawwir of the heavens and the earth and between the saying of ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’oud in which the Nur is related to Allaah’s Thaat. The interpretation that Allaah is the Munawwir (The One Who Illuminates) or Haadi (The One Who Guides) the heavens and the earth is true because it relates the act (verb) of Tanweer (Illumination) to the active “subject” i.e. Allaah, the Most Magnificent. There is no contradiction whether one says that Allaah is the Nur of the heavens and the earth bi-Thaatihi (by Himself) or bi-Fi’lihi (by His Act).

Imaam Ibnul Qayyim رحمه الله تعالى said:

“The truth is that Allaah is the Nur of the heavens and the earth taking into consideration all of the interpretations.” Being the Munnawwir and the Haadi, does not negate the fact that He (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala), Himself, is Nur. Those who negate Allaah’s Attribute of An-Nur erred by thinking that if they would affirm the Attribute of An-Nur it would mean that Allaah is the light falling upon walls and gardens, etc.! The fact however is that the created light is an effect of the Attribute of An-Nur. We know that Ar-Rahmah (Mercy) is an Attribute of Allaah established with Him (Azzawajal). The rahmah (mercy) present on earth is an effect of Allaah’s Attribute of Ar-Rahmah separted from Him (Azzawajal). The knowledge of the creature is a distinct and separate effect of Allaah’s Attribute of Knowledge. The saying of ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’oud (radhi Allaahu anhu) does not mean or imply that the light on walls and on the surface of the earth is the essence of the Light of Allaah’s most honourable Face.

[See Ibnul-Qayyim, Mukhtasar as-Sawaa’iq al-Mursalah ‘alal-Jahmiyyah al-Mu’attilah, checked by Ridwaan Shaakir Ridwaan (Makkah and Riyadh: Saudi Arabia, Maktabat Nizaar Al- Baaz), pp. 547-548 and Ijtimaa’ al-Ju-youoshil-Islaamiyyah, ‘Awaad ‘Abdullaah Al-Mi’tiq, ed. (Riyadh: Saudi Arabia, Maktabat Ar-Rushd, 1415/1995], pp.45-46.

[#7]In another narration instead of the word “light” it is fire, due to the doubt of the narrator Abu Musa al-Ash’ari. Reported by Muslim (Saheeh Muslim – English translation, V.1, Hadeeth # 343), Ahmad (4:405) and others. Both narrations stating the “light” and “fire” are in Saheeh Muslim.

The pure “fire” which Allaah mentioned in the Qur’aan when He (Azzawajal) spoke to Musa (peace be upon him) (Qur’aan 27:7-8) is also called a light and it is a light which illuminates without burning. Allaah also called the fire of the lamp a light (Qur’aan 24:35), contrary to the dark fire of Hell which is not called a light. Therefore, the doubt of the narrator between the words “light” and “fire” does not prevent [from affirming] that the “Light” is His Hijaab. [See Shayekhul- Islaam Ibn Taymeeyah’s Fataawaa, V.6, pp.384-386 and Ibnul Qayyim’s Mukhtasar as-Sawaa’iq al-Mursalah, p.551. Shayekhul Islaam said: “There are three kinds of (created light): The first is characterized by Isharaaq bila Ihraaq (illumination but without burning) and this is the “pure” light like that of the moon. The second kind burns without illumination and this is the dark fire (a black burning fire). The third being a light and a fire, like the sun. Also the fire of the lamps in this world is described by being being both (a light and a fire)…” Imaam Ibnul Qayyim added “This is the case with the created and witnessed lights. The Hijaab of ar-Rabb (Allaah), Most Blessed and Most High, is a Nur (Light) and it is a Fire. All of the [three] kinds of the created lights are real relative to their proper classifications…And if the light of His creation, like that of the sun, the moon, and fire, are real, then how could His Light be not real? The Light of His Face is real too [and fits His Majesty] and it is not figurative.” Ibid, pp.551-552 (with a slight adaptation).

[#8] Ibnul Qayyim in Ijtimaa’ al-Juyoushil-Islaamiyyah, pp.45-54.

[#9] It does not get sun-rays only in the morning.

[#10] Nor it gets sun-rays only in the afternoon, but it is exposed to the sun all day long.

[#11] Ibnul Qayyim in Ijtimaa’ al-Ju-yoush al-Islaamiyyah, pp.45-54.

[#12] Allaah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) Says: { نورهم يسعى بين أيديهم } (The believer’s) Light will run forward before them. (Qur’aan 66:8)

[#13] Siraat: The Bridge over the midst of Hell; It is extremely slippery; On it there are hooks, claws, and bars; Over it mankind will pass. The believers, as the Prophet (Peace be upon him) explained, “Will pass like the blink of an eye, like the lightning, like the wind, like the birds, and like the fast horses and camels. Some will be saved, some will be lacerated then set free, and some will be thrown into the Fire…”. See Saheeh Muslim, V.1, Hadeeth # 352.

[#14] What Allah reveals in His Books and (or) inspires to His Messengers. The strength of its “roots” in the heart of the believer depends upon His compliance with its content. That is why there is a variation amongst the degree of faith amongst Muslims. Some are stronger than others in their adherence to the teachings of Islam. There are the obedient and disobedient Muslims. Those who mixed the substance (al-maadah) with ways not condoned by Islam, became corrupt, or were led astray. If they do not repent, and clean their hearts and follow the way of Revelation, they may subject themselves to the punishment of Allah, which may manifest itself in different ways on the individual and (or) the society levels.

When the way of uncontrolled lusts and desires takes over the heart of man, he will turn away from the Revelation and may choose for himself ways of “worship” or “religions” that ascribe best to his desires. The goal becomes the life of this world only, turning man to forget as to what occurs after death. He is overwhelmed by the “developments” taking place around him in all walks of life and wants to keep “on track”! Life turns to “drug stores” asking for “pills” to ease down the “rush”, or to “therapeutic clinics” to “relief” the worry and the sad heart! Or to suicide! Sometimes taking other lives with him.

[#15]Ibnul Qayyim’s al-Waabil as-Sayyib, verified by Saleem al-Hilaali (Ad- Dammaam, Saudi Arabia, Daar Ibnul Jawzi, 1415/1994), pp.100-103.

Source : An-Nur (The Light) – One of Allaah’s Names – Dr Saleh as Saleh– 16 Pages – by Dr. Saleh As-Saleh [PDF]