There are three verses in the Qur'an which mention the Prophet as a light.
Allah said: "From Allah has come to you a Light and a Book manifest." (5:15)
Qadi `Iyad said: "He [the Prophet] was named a Light because of the clarity of his case and the fact that his Prophecy was made manifest, and also because of the illumination of the hearts of the believers and the knowers of Allah with what he brought."
Suyuti in Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Fayruzabadi in the Tafsir Ibn `Abbas entitled Tanwir al-miqbas (p. 72), Shaykh al-Islam, Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, the Mujaddid of the sixth century, in his Tafsir al-kabir (11:189), Qadi Baydawi in his Tafsir entitled Anwar al-tanzil, al-Baghawi in his Tafsir entitled Ma`alim al- tanzil (2:23), Imam al-Shirbini in his Tafsir entitled al-Siraj al- munir (p. 360), the author of Tafsir Abi Sa`ud (4:36), and Thana'ullah Pani Patti in his Tafsir al-mazhari, (3:67) said: "What is meant by a Light is: Muhammad, Blessings and peace upon him."
Ibn Jarir al-Tabari in his Tafsir jami` al-bayan (6:92) said: "There has come to you a Light from Allah: He means by the Light: Muhammad, Blessings and peace upon him, by means of whom Allah has illuminated the truth, brought forth Islam, and obliterated idolatry. Therefore he (the Prophet) is a light for those who have been enlightened by him and by his exposition of truth."
Al-Khazin in his Tafsir (2:28) similarly says: "There has come to you a Light from Allah means: Muhammad, Blessings and peace upon him. Allah called him a light for no other reason than that one is guided by him (Muhammad) in the same way that one is guided by light in darkness."
Al-Nasafi in his commentary entitled Tafsir al-Madarik (1:276) and al-Qasimi in his Mahasin al-ta'wil (6:1921) similarly say: "There has come to you a Light from Allah: this is the light of Muhammad, Blessings and peace upon him, because one is guided by him. Similarly he has been called a lamp (siraj)."
Imam Ahmad al-Sawi similarly said in his supercommentary on Tafsir al-Jalalayn (1:258): "There has come to you a Light from Allah: that Light is the Prophet, Blessings and peace upon him. He was named a light because he enlightens the sight and guides it to the correct path; and also because he is the root of every light whether material or spiritual." We will return to the latter statement below insha Allah.
Sayyid Mahmud al-Alusi in his commentary entitled Tafsir Ruh al-Ma`ani (6:97) similarly says: "There has come to you a Light from Allah: that is, an immense light which is the Light of Lights and the Elect among all Prophets, Blessings and peace upon him."
Isma`il al-Haqqi in his supercommentary on Alusi entitled Tafsir ruh al-bayan (2:370) similarly said: "There has come to you a Light from Allah and a Book that makes all things manifest: It is said that the meaning of the former is the Messenger, Blessings and peace upon him, and the latter is the Qur'an... The Messenger is called a Light because the first thing which Allah brought forth from the darkness of oblivion with the light of His power was the light of Muhammad, Blessings and peace upon him, as he (the Prophet) said: The first thing Allah created is my light." This narration is addressed below.
Of particular note is the fact that the Mu`tazilis insisted that the Light in verse 5:15 referred only to the Qur'an and not to the Prophet. Alusi said in the continuation of the passage quoted above: "Abu `Ali al-Jubba'i said that the light concerns the Qur'an because the Qur'an discloses and brings forth the paths of guidance and certitude. Al-Zamakhshari [in Al-Kashshaf 1:601] also contented himself with this explanation." Further elaboration on these two sources is given by Shah `Abd al-`Aziz al-Multani in his al-Nabras (p. 28-29): "al-Kashshaf proclaims itself Father of the Mu`tazila... Abu `Ali al-Jubba'i is the Muhammad ibn `Abd al- Wahhab of the Mu`tazila of Basra." The similarity of the Mu`tazila with the Wahhabis and "Salafis" of modern times is pointed out by Imam Kawthari in many places in his Maqalat, where he shows that as in the case of the Mu`tazila, the Wahhabis' denial of the characteristics of the awliya' camouflages a denial of those of the Prophets.
There is a notable explanation among Ahl al-Sunna which ascribes the meaning of the Prophet to both the Light and the Book. al-Sayyid al-Alusi said in Ruh al-ma`ani (6:97): "I do not consider it far-fetched that what is meant by both the Light and the Manifest Book is the Prophet, the conjunction being in the same way as what was said by al-Jubba'i [in that that both the Light and the Book were the Qur'an]. There is no doubt that all can be said to refer to the Prophet. Perhaps you will be reluctant to accept this from the viewpoint of expression (`ibara); then let it be from the viewpoint of subtle allusion (ishara)."
Al-Qari said in Sharh al-shifa' (1:505, Mecca ed.): "It has also been said that both the Light and the Book refer to Muhammad, because just as he is a tremendous light and the source of all lights, he is also a book that gathers up and makes clear all the secrets." He also said (1:114, Madina ed.): "And what objection is there to predicate both nouns to the Prophet, since he is in truth an immense Light due to the perfection of his appearance among all light, and he is a Manifest Book since he gathers up the totality of secrets and he makes evident all laws, situations, and alternatives."
Allah said: "The likeness of His light is as a niche wherein is a Lamp (the lamp in a glass, the glass as it were a glittering star) kindled from a Blessed Tree, an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil wellnigh would shine, even if no fire touched it; Light upon Light." (24:35)
Suyuti said in al-Riyad al-aniqa: Ibn Jubayr and Ka`b al- Ahbar said: "What is meant by the second light is the Prophet because he is the Messenger and the Expositor and the Conveyor from Allah of what is enlightening and manifest." Ka`b said: "Its oil wellnigh would shine because the Prophet wellnigh would be known to the people even if he did not say that he was a Prophet, just as that oil would send forth light without a fire."
Ibn Kathir comments on this verse in his Tafsir by citing the report through Ibn `Atiyya whereby Ka`b al-Ahbar explained Allah's words: yakadu zaytuha yudi'u wa law lam tamsashu nar as meaning: "Muhammad is nearly manifest as a Prophet to people, even if he did not declare it."
Qadi `Iyad said in al-Shifa' (English p. 135): Niftawayh said regarding the words of Allah: "Its oil almost gives light when no fire has touched it" (24:35): "This is the likeness that Allah has made of His Prophet. He said that the meaning of the ayat was that this face almost indicated his Prophethood even before he had received the Qur'an, as Ibn Rawaha said:
Even if there had not been clear signs among us,
His face would have told you the news."
Among those who said that the meaning of mathalu nurihi -- the likeness of His Light -- is the Prophet Muhammad, upon him blessings and peace: Ibn Jarir al-Tabari in his Tafsir (18:95), Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa', al-Baghawi in Ma`alim al-Tanzil (5:63) in the margin of al-Khazin, from Sa`id ibn Hubayr and al-Dahhak, al- Khazin in his Tafsir (5:63) Suyuti in al-Durr al-manthur (5:49), Zarqani in Sharh al-mawahib (3:171), al-Khafaji in Nasim al-riyad (1:110, 2:449).
Al-Nisaburi in Ghara'ib al-Qur'an (18:93) said: "The Prophet is a light and a light-giving lamp."
Al-Qari in Sharh al-shifa' said: "The most apparent meaning is to say that what is meant by the light is Muhammad."
Allah said: "O Prophet! Truly We have sent you as a Witness, a Bearer of glad tidings, and a Warner, and as one who invites to Allah by His leave, and as a Lamp spreading Light." (33:45- 46)
Qadi al-Baydawi said in his Tafsir: "It is the sun due to His saying: We have made the sun a lamp; or, it could be a lamp."
Ibn Kathir states in his Tafsir: "His saying: and a light- giving lamp, that is: your status shows in the truth you have brought just as the sun shows in its rising and illuminating, which none denies except the obdurate."
Raghib al-Asfahani in al-Mufradat (1:147) said: "The word [lamp] is used for everything that illumines."
Al-Zarqani in Sharh al-mawahib (3:171) said: "He was named lamp because from the one lamp take the many lamps, and its light is no wise diminished."
`Abd Allah ibn Rawaha al-Ansari -- the great-grandson of the poet Imru' al-Qays -- said of the Prophet:
law lam takun fihi ayatun mubina
lakana manzaruhu yunabbi'uka bi al-khabari
Even if there were not, concerning him, clear and evident signs, yet the sight of him would have told you the news.
Ibn Hajar narrated it in al-Isaba (2:299) and said: "This is the most beautiful verse of poetry by which the Prophet was ever praised." Ibn Sayyid al-Nas said of him in Minah al-madh (p. 166):
He was killed as a martyr on the day of Mu'ta in Jumada 8 before the conquest of Mecca. On that day he was one of the commanders. He was one of the poets who did good and who used to fend off harm from Allah's Messenger. It was concerning him and his two friends Hassan (ibn Thabit) and Ka`b (ibn Zuhayr) that was revealed the verse: "Except those who believe and do good deeds and remember Allah abundantly." (The Poets 26:227).
Hisham ibn `Urwa narrated from his father that the latter said: I never saw anyone more aggressive or faster in his poetry than `Abd Allah ibn Rawaha. I heard Allah's Messenger say to him one day: "Recite some poetry appropriate to the moment, while I look at you." He rose up then and there and said:
inni tafarrastu fika al-khayra a`rifuhu
wallahu ya`lamu anna ma khanani al-basaru
anta al-nabiyyu wa man yuhramu shafa`atahu
yawma al-hisabi laqad azra bihi al-qadaru
fa thabbat allahu ma ataka min hasanin
tathbita musa wa nasran kalladhi nusiru
I foresee for you immense good, of this I am certain.
Allah knows that my sight never betrayed me.
You are the Prophet, and whoever is deprived of your intercession
On the Day of Reckoning, his destiny is disgrace.
May Allah make firm all the good that He gave you,
With a firmness like Musa's and the same victory.
Upon hearing this the Prophet said to him: "And you also, may Allah make you firm, O Ibn Rawaha." Hisham ibn `Urwa continued: Allah indeed made him firm with the staunchest firmness. he died as a martyr, and Paradise was opened for him and he entered it.
As an attribute of Allah it is Dhu al-Nur which means the Creator of light and the Illuminator of the heavens and the earth with His lights, as well as the illuminator of the hearts of the believers with guidance. Nawawi said in Sharh Sahih Muslim, in his commentary on the Prophet's du`a which begins: "O Allah, you are the light of the heavens and the earth and yours is all praise..." (Book of Salat al-musafirin #199):
The scholars said that the meaning of "You are the light of the heavens and the earth" is: You are the One who illuminates them and the Creator of their light. Abu `Ubayda said: "Its meaning is that by Your light the dwellers of the heavens and the earth obtain guidance." al- Khattabi said in his commentary on Allah's name al-Nur: "It means the One by Whose light the blind can see and the lost can be guided, whence Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth, and it is possible that the meaning of al-Nur is: Dhu al-nur, and it is incorrect that al-Nur be an attribute of Allah's Essence, for it is only an attribute of action (sifatu fi`l), that is: He is the Creator of light." Others said: "The meaning of the light of the heavens and the earth is: The disposer of their sun and moon and stars."
Ibn `Umar narrated that the Prophet said: "Allah the Exalted created creation in a darkness (fi zulmatin); then He cast upon them from His Light. Whoever was touched by that Light, he is guided, and whoever was missed by it is misguided. Therefore I say that the Pen is dry (and all is) in Allah's foreknowledge."
Narrated by Tirmidhi with a good chain in the Sunan (hasan), Ahmad in two places in his Musnad, Tabarani, al-Hakim in his Mustadrak, and Bayhaqi in the Sunan al-kubra. Ibn `Arabi al-Maliki in his commentary on Tirmidhi entitled `Aridat al- ahwadhi (10:108) confirmed the latter's grading and comments on the hadith: "It is clear from it that each one receives of that Light to the extent of what he has been granted out of the general and the specific... in the heart and in the limbs."
The above hadith and its explanation by Qadi Ibn al-`Arabi show that the characteristic of Believers is light, and the Prophet is the first of the Believers and the one who can be more than anybody else characterized as light -- including the angels who are formed of light -- and only someone deficient in their belief would deny that he was assuredly the first and the foremost of all creation to be touched by Allah's light when He cast it, to an extent in which no angel, no Prophet, and no jinn rivals him.
The above brings to light the pitfalls of the literalism of Ibn Taymiyya when he claimed in his essay on tasawwuf in Majmu`at al-fatawa (11:94, 18:366) that the Prophet could not possibly be made of light on the grounds that human beings are created from earth into which the spirit is blown, while angels alone are created from light. To support his view, he cites the hadith from `A'isha in Muslim whereby the Prophet said:
"The angels were created from light, the jinn from smokeless fire, and Adam from what was described to you (i.e. in the Qur'an)."
However, to deduce from the above that a human being can never be characterized as a light is precisely what Iblis presumed when he disobeyed Allah on the pretense that smokeless fire is a nobler and higher element than earth. Furthermore, it contradicts the authentic hadith of Ibn `Umar narrated by Tirmidhi instead of elucidating it as would be required for a correct and comprehensive understanding of the subject.
The correct view is that Prophets are a brand of human beings superior to the angels with respect to the light and the other gifts bestowed on them by Allah, whether general or particular, in their hearts or in their limbs, to use Ibn al-`Arabi al-Maliki's language. This is explicited by Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa' (English p. 277-278) with regard to the Prophets' angelic inward qualities:
Prophets and Messengers are intermediaries between Allah and His creation. They convey His commands and prohibitions, His warning and threat to His creatures and they acquaint them with things they did not know regarding His command, creation, majesty, power and His Malakut. Their outward form, bodies and structure are characterized by the qualities of men as far as non-essential matters such as illnesses, death and passing away are concerned and they have human traits.
But their souls and inward parts have the highest possible human qualities, associated with the Highest Assembly, which are similar to angelic attributes, free of any possibility of alteration or evil. Generally speaking the incapacity and weakness connected with being human cannot be associated with them. If their inward parts had been human in the same way as their outward, they would not have been able to receive revelation from the angels, see them, mix and sit with them in the way other mortals are unable to do.
If their bodies and outward parts had been marked by angelic attributes as opposed to human attributes, the mortals to whom they were sent would not have been able to speak with them as Allah has already said. Thus they have the aspect of men as far as their bodies and outward parts are concerned, and that of angels in respect of their souls and inward parts.
It is doubtful that Ibn Taymiyya did not understand the aspects of the question elaborated by Qadi `Iyad. In fact, after denying that Prophets are made of light like the angels, Ibn Taymiyya goes to state the known position of Ahl al-Sunna that Prophets -- chief among them the Seal of Prophets -- manifest a rank not reached by the angels:
Allah manifests some of His Power and Wisdom through righteous human beings, saints and prophets, which He does not manifest through the angels, for He combines in the former group qualities which are scattered among other creation. Thus He creates the man's body from the Earth and his spirit from the Highest Company, and this is why it is said, "Man is a microcosm, and a copy of the greater Universe."
Muhammad is the Chief of the Children of Adam, the Best of Creation, the noblest of them in the sight of Allah. This is why some have said that "Allah created the Universe due to him," or that "Were it not for him, He would have neither created a Throne, nor a Footstool, nor a heaven, earth, sun or moon." However, this is not a hadith on the authority of the Prophet... but it may be explained from a correct aspect.
Ibn Taymiyya goes on to elaborate his proofs for the truth of the saying that Allah created the Universe due to the Prophet, and we have quoted the continuation of his discourse above, in the chapter on the names Muhammad and Ahmad (#1-2).
The Companion `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf recited the following poetry about the Prophet:
ala anna khayra al-nasi fi al-ardi kullihimi
nabiyyun jala `anna shukuka al-tarajjumi
nabiyyun ata wa al-nasu fi `unjuhiyyatin
wa fi sadafin fi zulmati al-kufri mu`timi
fa aqsha`a bi al-nuri al-mudi'i zalamahu
wa sa`adahu fi amrihi kullu muslimi
Verily, the best of all humankind on the earth is a Prophet
who removed from us the doubts of skepticism,
A Prophet who came while people were wrapped in haughtiness
and in the pitch-black darkness of the night of disbelief:
Whereupon he dispelled this darkness with abundant light
and in this matter he was helped by each of those who submitted.
Ibn Sayyid al-Nas narrated it in Minah al-madh (p. 176).
The Prophet's uncle al-`Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib said to him: "O Messenger of Allah, I wish to praise you." The Prophet replied: "Go ahead -- nay, may Allah adorn your mouth with silver!" He said:
Before you came to this world you were blessed in the shadows and in the repository (i.e. loins) in the time when they (Adam and Eve) covered themselves with leaves. Then you descended to the earth, neither as a human being, nor as a piece of flesh, nor as a clot, But as a drop that boarded the ark when the flood destroyed the eagle and the rest of the idols: A drop that progressed from the loins to the wombs in the succession of the worlds and the heavens Until the Preserver of All made your immense honor issue in the highest summit of the line of Khindif. And then, when you were born, a light rose over the earth until it illuminated the horizon with its radiance. We are in that illumination and that original light and those paths of guidance -- and thanks to them pierce through.
Ibn Sayyid al-Nas narrated it with his isnad through al- Tabarani and al-Bazzar in Minah al-madh (p. 192-193), also Ibn Kathir in al-Sira al-nabawiyya (ed. Mustafa `Abd al-Wahid 4:51), and `Ali al-Qari in his Sharh al-Shifa' (1:364) says it is narrated by Abu Bakr al-Shafi`i and Tabarani, and cited by Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Isti`ab and Ibn al-Qayyim in Zad al-ma`ad.
The Companions many times compared the Prophet to a light or a harbinger of light, particularly a sun and a moon, chief among them his poet, Hassan ibn Thabit al-Ansari:
tarahhala `an qawmin faddalat `uqulahum
wa halla `ala qawmin bi nurin mujaddadi
He left a people who preferred their minds over him and he dawned on a people with a light made new.
mata yabdu fi al-daji al-bahimi jabinuhu
yaluhu mithla misbahi al-duja al-mutawaqqidi
Whenever his forehead emerged in pitch-black darkness
it would shine like the blazing luminary of dark night.
Bayhaqi narrated the two verses in Dala'il al-nubuwwa (1:280, 302). The latter verse is also narrated Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Isti`ab (1:341) and al-Zarqani in Sharh al-mawahib (1:91).
Abu `Ubayda ibn Muhammad ibn `Ammar ibn Yasir said: I said to al-Rubayyi` bint Mu`awwadh: "Describe for me Allah's Messenger." She replied: "If you saw him you would say: The sun is rising."
Bayhaqi narrates it with his isnad in Dala'il al-nubuwwa (1:200), and Haythami in Majma` al-zawa'id (8:280) says that Tabarani narrates it in al-Mu`jam al-kabir and al-Awsat and that its narrators have been declared trustworthy.
Ka`b ibn Malik said: "I greeted the Prophet and there was lightning in his face. Whenever the Prophet was happy, his face would be illuminated as if it were a piece of the moon."
Bukhari and Muslim narrated it, as well as Ahmad in his Musnad. Bayhaqi in Dala'il al-nubuwwa (1:301) relates these descriptions of the Prophet by the Companions and others:
When the Prophet left Mecca and emigrated to Madina his aunt, `Atika bint `Abd al-Muttalib, recited the following -- although, Bayhaqi said, she still followed the religion of the Quraysh:
`aynayya juda bi al-dumu`i al-sawajimi
`ala al-murtada kal-badri min ali Hashimi
My eyes have overflowed with streaming tears shed
for the Uniquely Chosen One, the Full Moon
of the House of Hashim.
Abu Bakr al-Siddiq described the Prophet thus:
aminun mustafa li al-khayri yad`u
ka daw'i al-badri zayalahu al-zalamu
A trustworthy one, chosen, calling to goodness,
Resembling the light of the full moon set off from darkness.
While `Umar would recite the following:
law kunta min shay'in siwa basharin
kunta al-mudi'a li laylat al-badri
If you were anything other than a human being
You would be the light in the night of a full moon.
Bayhaqi narrated the above in Dala'il al-nubuwwa (1:301- 302) and relates that `Umar added after saying the above: "The Prophet was like this, and no one other than he was like this." See the complete text of `Atika bint `Abd al-Muttalib's praise below (#545-550).
Jami` ibn Shaddad said: One of our men was called Tariq. [al- Qari: "This is Ibn Shihab Abu `Abd Allah al-Muharibi, a Companion who narrated from the Prophet.] He related that he had seen the Prophet at Madina and the Prophet had asked: "Do you have anything with you to sell?" We replied: "This camel." The Prophet said: "How much?" We said: "So many wasqs [about 240 double-handed scoops] of date." He took its rein and went to Madina. Tariq and his companion said: "We have sold to a man and we do not even know who he is!" One of the women with us said: "I will guarantee the price of the camel. I saw the face of a man like the full moon. He will not cheat you." In the morning, a man brought us the dates and said: "I am the messenger of the Messenger of Allah. He bids you eat of these dates and weigh until you have full weight." We did so.
Qadi `Iyad narrates it in al-Shifa' (English p. 135). Suyuti in Manahil al-safa (p. 114 #515) and al-Qari in Sharh al-shifa' (1:525) refer it to al-Bayhaqi.
Ibn `Abbas related that the Prophet said while in prostration:
"O Allah, place light in my heart, light in my hearing, light in my sight, light on my right, light on my left, light in front of me, light behind me, light above me, light below me, and make light for me," or he said: "Make me light." Salama said: I met Kurayb and he reported Ibn Abbas as saying: "I was with my mother's sister Maymuna when the Messenger of Allah came there, and then he narrated the rest of the hadith as was narrated by Ghundar and said the words: "Make me light," beyond any doubt.
Muslim narrates it in his Sahih, book of Salat al- musafirin. Imam Ahmad in his Musnad also narrates it with a strong chain, but with the reverse order of the first narration cited above, resulting in the wording: "... and make me light," or he said: "Make light for me." Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (1989 ed. 11:142) mentions a narration in Ibn Abi `Asim's Kitab al-du`a which states: "And grant me light upon light" (wa hab li nuran `ala nur). There are many sound narrations of this hadith mentioning other parts of the Prophet's person. Ibn Hajar states that Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi numbered the items for which the Prophet supplicated for light in himself at twenty-five in the totality of the sound narrations of that hadith. Among them are:
Light in the Prophet's heart
Light in the Prophet's tongue
Light in the Prophet's hearing
Light in the Prophet's eyesight
Light in the Prophet's six directions: right, left,
front, back, above, and below
Light in the Prophet's soul
Light in the Prophet's chest
Light in the Prophet's sinew
Light in the Prophet's flesh
Light in the Prophet's blood
Light in the Prophet's hair
Light in the Prophet's skin
Light in the Prophet's bones
Light in the Prophet's grave
"Enhance light for me."
"Give me abundant light."
"Give me light upon light."
"Make me light."
The Prophet first appeared to his mother in the form of a light that lit the world for her until she could see the palaces of Syria from her place in Mecca:
`Irbad ibn Sariya and Abu Imama said that the Prophet said: " I am the supplication of my father Ibrahim, and the good tidings of my brother `Isa. The night I was delivered my mother saw a light that lit the castles of Damascus so that she could see them."
It is narrated by al-Hakim in his Mustadrak (2:616-617), Ahmad in his Musnad (4:184), and Bayhaqi in Dala'il al-nubuwwa (1:110, 2:8). Ibn al-Jawzi cites it in al-Wafa' (p. 91, ch. 21 of Bidayat nabiyyina sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), and Ibn Kathir in Mawlid rasul Allah and his Tafsir (4:360). Haythami cites it in Majma` al-zawa'id (8:221) and said Tabarani and Ahmad narrated it, and Ahmad's chain is fair (hasan). See for Ahmad's complete text Bisharatu `Isa (#454).
Ibn Ishaq in his history of the early Muslims narrates something similar in a longer form as related in Ibn Hisham's epitome entitled Sirat Rasul Allah (Dar al-wifaq ed. 1/2:166):
Ibn Ishaq said: Thawr ibn Yazid related to me from one of the scholars, and I do not reckon it is other than Khalid ibn Ma`dan al-Kala`i, that a small group of the Prophet's Companions said to him: "O Messenger of Allah, tell us about yourself." He replied: "Yes. I am the supplication of my father Ibrahim, and the good tidings of my brother `Isa, and my mother saw, when she delivered me, that a great light issued from her and lit the castles of Syria for her. I was nursed by the Banu Sa`d ibn Bakr. While I was with a brother of mine besides our dwellings, feeding the sheep, two men came to me wearing very white clothes and carrying a contained of gold filled with snow. Then they took me and they opened my chest, removed my heart, opened it, and removed from it a black clot which they threw away. Then they washed my heartand my chestwith the snow until they purified them. Then one of them said to the other: Weigh him against ten of his Community. He did, and I outweighed them. Then he said: Weigh him against a hundred of his Community. He did, and I outweighed them. Then he said: Weigh him against a thousand of his Community. He did, and I outweighed them. Then he said: Leave him, for by Allah if you weighed him against all of his Community he would outweigh them. [Tabari added:] Then they hugged me close to their chests and kissed my head between the eyes and said: O Beloved, do not fear, verily if you knew the good that is to take place through you, you would be pleased.
It is also related by Tabari in his History. Thawr ibn Yazid and Khalid ibn Ma`dan are trustworthy narrators from whom Bukhari and many others took hadith.
Qadi `Iyad said in his book al-Shifa', in the chapter on the nobility of the Prophet's lineage:
Ibn `Abbas said that the spirit of the Prophet was a light in front of Allah two thousand years before he created Adam. That light glorified Him and the angels glorified by his glorification. When Allah created Adam, he cast that light into his loins.
Suyuti said in Manahil al-safa (p. 53 #128): "Ibn Abi `Umar al-`Adani relates it in his Musnad." In Takhrij ahadith sharh al-mawaqif (p. 32 #12) Suyuti cites it with the wording: "The Quraysh were a light in front of Allah." Ibn al-Qattan in his Ahkam (1:12) narrates it in the following form, although `Abd Allah al-Ghimari in Irshad al-talib rejects the latter as a forgery:
`Ali ibn al-Husayn from his father from his grandfather said that the Prophet said: "I was a light in front of my Lord for fourteen thousand years before He created Adam."
Something similar is narrated by Imam Ahmad in his Fada'il al-sahaba (2:663 #1130), Dhahabi in Mizan al-i`tidal (1:235), and al-Tabari in al-Riyad al-nadira (2:164, 3:154). Related to the above are the following reports:
`Amr ibn `Abasa said that the Prophet said: "Verily, Allah created the spirits of His servants two thousand years before He created His servants. Then whichever among them recognized each other came close, and whichever did not, stayed apart."
Suyuti in Takhrij ahadith sharh al-mawaqif (p. 31 #10) says that Ibn Mandah narrated it, while Haytami in his Fatawa hadithiyya says that it is extremely weak.
Ibn `Abbas explained taqallubak -- "your translation" -- in the verses "[Your Lord] Who sees you when you stand, and your translation among those who prostrate themselves" (26:218- 219), as "your descent through the loins of your ancestors." It is narrated from Ibn `Abbas by al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (2:338) and is the explanation retained by Ibn Mardawayh, al- Razi, Suyuti, and others.
Al-Shahrastani in his Kitab al-milal wa al-nihal (2:238) said: "The light of Muhammad went from Ibrahim to Isma`il. Then that light passed through all his children, until it arrived at `Abd al- Muttalib... and with the blessing of this light Allah repelled Abraha's harm" (wa bibarakati dhalik al-nur dafa` allahu ta`alaa sharra Abraha).
Suyuti cites the above in several of his books, such as Masalik al-hunafa' (p. 40-41) which we translated below under the attribute Karim al-tarafayn (#485), also his al-Duruj al-munifa (p. 16) and his al-Ta`zim wa al-minna (p. 55), all three of which were written to show the bases on which the Prophet's two parents are considered to be in Paradise by the majority of the scholars.
Al-Zuhri narrated: `Abd Allah ibn `Abd al-Muttalib was the most handsome man that had ever been seen among the Quraysh. One day he went out and was seen by an assembly of the women of Quraysh. One of them said: "O women of the Quraysh, which among you will marry this youth and catch thereby the light that is between his eyes?" For verily there was a light between his eyes. Thereafter Amina bint Wahb ibn `Abd Manaf ibn Zuhra married him, and after he joined her she carried Allah's Messenger.
Al-Bayhaqi narrated it in Dala'il al-nubuwwa (1:87). Tabari in his Tarikh (2:243), Ibn al-Jawzi in al-Wafa' (p. 82-83, ch. 16 of Abwab bidayati nabiyyina), and Ibn Hisham narrated something similar but on the authenticity of which they raise doubt (cf. Guillaume trans. p. 68-69):
It is alleged a woman of Banu Asad who was the sister of Waraqa ibn Nawfal proposed to `Abd Allah, but he married Amina bint Wahb instead and consummated his marriage. Then he left her presence and met the woman who had proposed to him. He asked her why she did not make the proposal that she made to him the day before; to which she replied that the light that was in him the day before had left him, and she no longer had need of him... She said: "When you passed me there was a white blaze between your eyes and when I invited you you refused me and went to Amina, and she has taken it away."
It is related that Jabir ibn `Abd Allah said to the Prophet: "O Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you, tell me of the first thing Allah created before all things." He said: "O Jabir, the first thing Allah created was the light of your Prophet from His light, and that light remained (lit. "turned") in the midst of His Power for as long as He wished, and there was not, at that time, a Tablet or a Pen or a Paradise or a Fire or an angel or a heaven or an earth. And when Allah wished to create creation, he divided that Light into four parts and from the first made the Pen, from the second the Tablet, from the third the Throne, [and from the fourth everything else]."
The judgments on this narration vary greatly among the scholars. Their words are listed below under the alphabetical listing of their names.
`Abd al-Haqq al-Dihlawi (d. 1052) the Indian hadith scholar cites it as evidence in Madarij al-nubuwwa (in Persian, 2:2 of the Maktaba al-nuriyya edition in Sakhore) and says it is is sahih (sound and authentic).
`Abd al-Hayy al-Lucknawi (d. 1304) the Indian hadith scholar cites it in his al-Athar al-marfu`a fi al-akhbar al-mawdu`a (p. 33-34 of the Lahore edition) and says: "The primacy (awwaliyya) of the Muhammadan light (al-nur al-muhammadi) is established from the narration of `Abd al-Razzaq, as well as its definite priority over all created things."
`Abd al-Razzaq (d. 211) narrates it in his Musannaf according to Qastallani in al-Mawahib al-laduniyya (1:55) and Zarqani in his Sharh al-mawahib (1:56 of the Matba`a al-`amira edition in Cairo). There is no doubt as to the reliability of `Abd al- Razzaq as a narrator. Bukhari took 120 narrations from him, Muslim 400.
`Abidin (Ahmad al-Shami d. 1320), the son of the Hanafi scholar Ibn `Abidin, cites the hadith as evidence in his commentary on Ibn Hajar al-Haytami's poem al-Ni`mat al-kubra `ala al- `alamin. Nabahani cites it in his Jawahir al-bihar (3:354).
`Ajluni (Isma`il ibn Muhammad d. 1162) in his Kashf al- khafa' (1:265 of the Maktabat al-Ghazali edition in Beirut) narrates the hadith in its entirety from Qastallani in his Mawahib.
Alusi (al-Sayyid Mahmud) in his commentary of Qur'an entitled Ruh al-ma`ani (17:105 of the Beirut edition) said: "The Prophet's being a mercy to all is linked to the fact that he is the intermediary of the divine outpouring over all contingencies [i.e. all created things without exception], from the very beginnings (wasitat al-fayd al-ilahi `ala al-mumkinat `ala hasab al-qawabil), and that is why his light was the first of all things created, as stated in the report that "The first thing Allah created was the light of your Prophet, O Jabir," and also cited is: "Allah is the Giver and I am the Distributor." [See al-Qasim #261.] The Sufis -- may Allah sanctify their secrets -- have more to say on that chapter." Alusi also cites the hadith of Jabir as evidence in another passage of Ruh al-ma`ani (8:71).
Bakri (Sayyid Abu al-Hasan Ahmad ibn `Abd Allah, d. 3rd c.) in his book al-Anwar fi mawlid al-nabi Muhammad `alayhi al- salat wa al-salam (p. 5 of the Najaf edition) cites the following hadith from `Ali: "Allah was and there was nothing with Him, and the first thing which He created was the light of His Beloved, before He created water, or the Throne, or the Footstool, or the Tablet, or the Pen, or Paradise, or the Fire, or the Veils and the Clouds, or Adam and Eve, by four thousand years."
Bayhaqi (d. 458) narrates it with a different wording in Dala'il al-nubuwwa according to Zarqani in his Sharh al-mawahib (1:56 of the Matba`a al-`amira in Cairo) and Diyarbakri in Tarikh al-khamis (1:20).
Diyarbakri (Husayn ibn Muhammad d. 966): He begins his 1,000-page history entitled Tarikh al-khamis fi ahwal anfasi nafis with the words: "Praise be to Allah Who created the Light of His Prophet before everything else," which is enough to disprove al- Ghumari's exaggerated claim that "anyone who reads it will be convinced that the hadith is a lie." Then Diyarbakri cites the hadith as evidence (1:19 of the Mu'assasat Sha`ban edition in Beirut).
Fasi (Muhammad ibn Ahmad d. 1052) cites it as evidence in Matali` al-masarrat (p. 210, 221 of the Matba`a al-taziyya edition) and says: "These narrations indicate his primacy (awwaliyya) and priority over all other creations, and also the fact that he is their cause (sabab)."
Ghumari (`Abd Allah) in his Irshad al-talib al-najib ila ma fi al-mawlid al-nabawi min al-akadhib (p. 9-12 of the Dar al- furqan edition), commenting on Suyuti's words (quoted below) whereby the hadith has no reliable chain: "This shows great laxity on the part of Suyuti, which I thought him to be above. First, the hadith is not present in `Abd al-Razzaq's Musannaf, nor in any of the books of hadith. Secondly : the hadith has no chain of transmission to begin with. Thirdly: he has not mentioned the rest of the hadith. It is mentioned in Diyarbakri's Tarikh, and anyone who reads it will be convinced that the hadith is a lie about the Messenger of Allah." This exaggerated conclusion is disproved by the fact that Diyarbarkri himself does not consider it a lie since he cites the hadith in the first words of his book.
Gilani (Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir, d. 561) in his book Sirr al- asrar fi ma yahtaju ilayh al-abrar (p. 12-14 of the Lahore edition) said:
Halabi (`Ali ibn Burhan al-Din, d. 1044) cites it as evidence in his Sira (1:31 of the Maktaba Islamiyya edition in Beirut) and then states: "It provides evidence that he is the root of everything that exists (in creation) and Allah knows best."
Haqqi (Isma`il, d. 1137) cites it as evidence in his Tafsir entitled Ruh al-bayan and says: "Know, O person of understanding, that the first thing Allah created is the light of your Prophet... and he is the cause for the existence of everything that was brought to existence, and the mercy from Allah upon all creatures... and without him the higher and the lower worlds would not have been created." Yusuf al-Nabahani mentions it in his Jawahir al-bihar (p. 1125).
Haytami (Ahmad ibn Hajar d. 974) states in his Fatawa hadithiyya (p. 247 of the Baba edition in Cairo) that `Abd al- Razzaq narrated it, and cites it in his poem on the Prophet's birth entitled al-Ni`mat al-kubra `ala al-`alamin (p. 3).
Ibn al-Hajj al-Abdari (Muhammad ibn Muhammad d. 736) in his book al-Madkhal (2:34 of the Dar al-kitab al-`arabi in Beirut) cites it from al-Khatib Abu al-Rabi` Muhammad ibn al- Layth's book Shifa' al-sudur in which the latter says: "The first thing Allah created is the light of Muhammad, blessings and peace upon him, and that light came and prostrated before Allah. Allah divided it into four parts and created from the first part the Throne, from the second the Pen, from the third the Tablet, and then similarly He subdivided the fourth part into parts and created the rest of creation. Therefore the light of the Throne is from the light of Muhammad ﷺ, the light of the Pen is from the light of Muhammad ﷺ, the light of the Tablet is from the light of Muhammad ﷺ, the light of day, the light of knowledge, the light of the sun and the moon, and the light of vision and sight are all from the light of Muhammad ﷺ."
Isma`il al-Dihlawi (Shah Muhammad, d. 1246), one of the leaders of the Wahhabi-influenced Deobandi school in the Indo- Pakistani Subcontinent in one of his booklets entitled Yek rawzah (p. 11 of the Maltan edition) says: "As indicated by the narration: The first thing Allah created was my Light."
Jamal (Sulayman d. 1204) cites it as evidence in his commentary on Busiri entitled al-Futuhat al-ahmadiyya bi al- minah al-muhammadiyya (p. 6 of the Hijazi edition in Cairo).
Janijawhi (Rashid Ahmad) a leader of the Wahhabi- influenced Deobandi school of India and Pakistan in his Fatawa rashidiyya (p. 157 of the Karachi edition) said that the hadith was "not found in the authentic collections, but Shaykh `Abd al-Haqq (al-Dihlawi) cited it on the basis that it had some grounding of authenticity." Actually Shaykh `Abd al-Haqq not only cited it but he said it was sound (sahih).
Jili (`Abd al-Karim) in his Namus al-a`zam wa al-qamus al-aqdam fi ma`rifat qadar al-bani sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam cites it as evidence. Nabahani relates it in his Jawahir al-bihar (see below).
Kharputi (`Umar ibn Ahmad, d. 1299) in his commentary on Busiri entitled Sharh qasidat al-burda (p. 73 of the Karachi edition).
Maliki al-Hasani (Muhammad ibn `Alawi) in his commentary on `Ali al-Qari's book of the Mawlid entitled Hashiyat al-Mawrid al-rawi fi al-mawlid al-nabawi (p. 40) said: "The chain of Jabir is sound without contest, but the scholars have differed concerning the text of the hadith due to its peculiarity. Bayhaqi also narrated the hadith with some differences." Then he quoted several narrations establishing the light of the Prophet.
Nabahani (Yusuf ibn Isma`il) cites it as evidence in al- Anwar al-muhammadiyya (p. 13), in his Jawahir al-bihar (p. 1125 or 4:220 of the Baba edition in Cairo), and in his Hujjat Allah `ala al-`alamin (p. 28).
Nabulusi (`Abd al-Ghani d. 1143) says in his Hadiqa al- nadiyya (2:375 of the Maktaba al-nuriyya edition in Faysalabad): "The Prophet is the universal leader of all, and how could he not be when all things were created out of his light as has been stated in the sound hadith."
Nisaburi (Nizamuddin ibn Hasan, d. 728) cites it as evidence in elucidation of the verse: "And I was ordered to be the first of the Muslims" (39:12) in his Tafsir entitled Ghara'ib al- Qur'an (8:66 of the Baba edition in Cairo).
Qari (Mulla `Ali ibn Sultan, d. 1014) cites it in full in his book al-Mawlid al-rawi fi al-mawlid al-nabawi (p. 40), edited by Sayyid Muhammad `Alawi al-Maliki.
Qastallani (Ahmad ibn Muhammad, d. 923) narrates it in his al-Mawahib al-laduniyya (1:55 of the edition accompanied by Zarqani's commentary).
Rifa`i (Yusuf al-Sayyid Hashim) cites it as evidence in Adillat ahl al-sunna wa al-jama`a al-musamma al-radd al- muhkam al-mani` (p. 22): `Abd al-Razzaq narrated it.
Suyuti in al-Hawi li al-fatawi, in the explanation of Surat al-Muddaththir: "It has no reliable chain"; and in Takhrij ahadith sharh al-mawaqif: "I did not find it in that wording."
Thanwi (Ashraf `Ali), a leader of the Wahhabi-influenced Deobandi school in the Indian Subcontinent, in his book Nashr al- tayyib (in Urdu, p. 6 and 215 of the Lahore edition) cites it as evidence on the authority of `Abd al-Razzaq, and relies upon it.
Zarqani in Sharh al-mawahib cites it (1:56 of the Matba`a al-`amira edition in Cairo) and refers it to `Abd al-Razzaq's narration in his Musannaf.
Zahir (Ihsan Ilahi), a leader of the Wahhabi-influenced Deobandi school and declared enemy of the Barelwi school of Ahl al-Sunna in Lahore, India, in his book Hadiyyat al-mahdi (p. 56 of the Sialkut edition) says: "Allah began His creation with the Muhammadan light (al-nur al-muhammadi), then He created the Throne over the water, then He created the wind, then He created the Nun and the Pen and the Tablet, then He created the Intellect. The Muhammadan Light is therefore a primary substance for the creation of the heavens and the earth and what is in them... As for what has come to us in the hadith: The first thing which Allah created is the Pen; and: The first thing which Allah created is the Intellect: what is meant by it is a relative primacy."
Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions.
G Fouad Haddad