اَللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالاَرْضِ
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
(Surat al-Nur, No.24, Āyat 35)
This is one of the most descriptive verses of the holy Quran. In this reflection, we focus on its opening sentence: Allah is the illumination of the heavens and the earth, and inshāAllah in a future Reflection, we will look at the latter part of the verse.
Some commentators have interpreted the word ‘Nūr’ here as guide and leader; and some of them as illumination and others as beautifying.
A better understanding of why Allah ‘azza wajall chose to describe himself in this way can be achieved by examining some of the characteristics of nūr. Not only is light the most beautiful and delicate entity amongst all of Allah’s creations, but it is also the source of all beauty and delicacy. In addition, light has the highest velocity in the world, so fast that we use “the speed of light” to speak of pace that is incomparable.
If there was no light in this world, we would be unable to see anything. Light is both visible and allows others visibility too. The light of the sun is essential for the survival of all living creatures as well as the movement of winds, rain, and waterfalls. Similarly, He is the same Lord Who is the Creator of all the universes. He is the One who lit the world of creation. All living creatures are alive because of His command, and He is the sustainer of all the creatures. If even for a second, He stops His merciful looking at creatures, all will cease to exist.
Describing this verse, Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī writes: “Nothing is more apparent than Allah and everything is visible and apparent due to his existence.” (Al-Amthāl, 11:105). However, he cautions: “This is one of the characteristics of the divine nūr, but it cannot be limited to this, therefore everything that has been mentioned is an interpretation of one of the dimensions of this incomparable nūr”.
It is interesting that as much as any being is related to Him, it acquires luminousness with respect to it. Whether it is the Holy Quran, the religion of Islam, the Prophets (a) and infallible Imams (a), they are divine lights because of being attributed to the Divine. Faith is light because it is the secret of relationship with Him. Knowledge is light because it is the source of His recognition. It is thus that: Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
A person asked Imām Ali b. Mūsā al-Ridā (a) about this verse, and he replied:
Allah is the illumination of the heavens and the earth because He guides all the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth… (al-Sadūq, al-Tawhīd p. 155)
Another explanation that has been mentioned by Al-Shaykh al-Tabarsī is that Allah adorned the heavens with the sun, the moon, and the stars and this is why He is the illumination of the heavens. A third interpretation states that He has illuminated the heavens by creating the angels and illuminated the earth with His Prophets and people of knowledge. (Majma‘ al-Bayān, 7:247)
A beautiful description of nūr is given in Du‘ā Jawshan al-Kabīr:
يَا نُورَ النُّورِ, يَا مُنَوِّرَ النُّورِ, يَا خَاِلقَ النُّور, يَا مُدَبِّرَ النُّورِ, يَا مُقَدِّرَ النُّورِ, يَا نُورَ كُلِّ نُورٍ, يَّا نُوراً قَبْلَ كُلِّ نُورٍ, يَّا نُوراً بَعْدَ كُلِّ نُورٍ, يَّا نُوراً فَوْقَ كُلِّ نُورٍ, يَّا نُوراً لَّيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ نُورٌ
O Light of lights, O Illuminator of light, O Creator of light, O Planner of light, O Estimator of light, O Light of all lights, O Light that precedes in existence every light, O Light that will survive all lights, O Light that is above every light, O Light like of which there is no light (passage 47).
As we commemorate the month of the Lady of Light, Fatima al-Zahrā (a), let us try to illuminate ourselves with her teachings especially in the sermon of Fadak where she highlights the important matters of faith, practice, and justice.
In these trying times, we pray to Allah to remove all the spiritual and physical darkness from our souls through His divine light. We also pray for the victory of Muslims worldwide, especially the resilient people of Palestine.
Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī, Al-Amthāl fī Tafsīr al-Quran.