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Was Prophet Muhammad Noor (Light)?

Question
There has come to you a Light from Allah, and a Manifest Book. (Quran 5:15) In this verse, the word Light has been explained by a number of classic Quranic exegetes as follows:

Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti: "It is the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)" (Tafsir alJalalayn, 139).

Ibn Jarir al-Tabari: "By Light He means Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), through whom Allah has illuminated the truth, manifested Islam, and obliterated polytheism; since he is a light for whoever seeks illumination from him, which makes plain the truth" (Jami' al-bayan, 6.161).

Fakhr al-Razi: "There are various positions about it, the first being that the Light is Muhammad, and the Book is the Quran " (al-Tafsir al-kabir, 11:194).

al-Baghawi: "It means Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), or, according to a weaker position, Islam" (Ma'alam al-Tanzil, 2.228).

Qurtubi (Ahkam al-Quran , 6.118) and Mawardi (al-Nukat wa al-'uyun, 2.22) mention that interpreting Nur as "Muhammad" (Allah bless him and give him peace) was also the position by [the Imam of Arabic grammar Ibrahim ibn Muhammad] al-Zajjaj (d. 311/923).

All of which shows that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), is a light from Allah, according to the Quran. This is the interpretation of the earliest exegetes, for al-

Tabari was the sheikh of the salaf (early Muslims) in tafsir; while explaining Nur as "Islam" is an interpretation that came later.

As for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) being a bashar or 'human being', there is no doubt of this, because it is Quran and 'aqida. Yet the Quran does not simply state that he is a human being, but rather says,

Say, "I am but a man like you who is divinely inspired that your god is but One God." (Quran 18:10) The important qualificatory phrase in this verse shows us that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was a completely different sort of human being from anyone else, then or now. For none of us can say he is divinely inspired as the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) was. Rather, as is said in a poetic ode to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) which is often sung at gatherings after singing the Qasida al-Burda [Ode of the Prophetic Mantle] by al-Busayri:

Muhammad

is

human

being,

but

not

like

humankind;

He is a ruby, while people are as stones.

Though the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is the Light of Allah, he is of course a created light. Someone who believes otherwise has made the mistake of the Christians with Jesus (upon whom be peace), or the Hindus with their Avatars. We saw in the discussion at the end of question (5) above that an ascriptive (idafa) construction like Nur Allah does not show that this Nur or 'Light' is an attribute of Allah. Rather, the ascriptive construction in this case is a kind called idafa tashrif, or an 'ascription of ennoblement', like the title Bayt Allah 'The House of Allah' for the Kaaba in Mecca, named this for its nobility, not that Allah lives inside, much less that it is divine attribute. Or like the she-camel that was sent to Thamud, which was called in the Quran Naqat Allah 'The She-Camel of Allah' as an ascription of ennoblement; namely, because of its inviolability in the Shari'a of that time.not that it was ridden by Allah, or was a divine attribute.

As for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) being the first of creation, among the Islamic scholars who have compiled works on his characteristics is the hadith master (hafiz) Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti with his two-volume hadith work al-Khasa'is al-kubra [The greater compendium of unique attributes], of which the first chapter is entitled "The Uniqueness of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in Being the First of the Prophets to Be Created, the Priority of His Prophethood, and the Taking of the Covenant with Him." The chapter's first hadith was reported by Ibn Abi Hatim in his Tafsir [Quranic exegesis], and by Abu Nu'aym in Dala'il al-nabuwwa [Proofs of prophethood], from numerous chains of transmission, from Qatada, who related it from Hasan [al-Basri], from Abu Hurayra (Allah be well pleased with him), that of the Quranic verse

And lo, We took from the prophets their covenant, and from you, and Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus son of Mary; and We took from them a momentous covenant. (Quran 33:7) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "I was the first of the Prophets to be created and the last of them to be sent." Suyuti records nine other hadiths indicating that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was the first of the prophets to be created; among them the hadith reported by Bukhari in his Tarikh [History], and by Ahmad, Tabarani, Hakim, and Bayhaqi, that Maysara al-Fajr (Allah be well pleased with him) said, "I asked, 'O Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), when were you a Prophet?' and he said, 'While Adam was between soul and body'" (al-Khasa'is al-kubra, 3-4).

As for "a hadith in Tirmidhi that states that the prophets (upon whom be peace) were created from the Nur of Allah and the first amongst them was the prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)," I find it hard to imagine that it is in Tirmidhi or elsewhere with an acceptable channel of transmission, for Suyuti would hardly have failed to mention it in his Khasa'is, since this is the sort of thing the book is about, and Suyuti is a hadith master (hafiz), yet it is not there. In any case, the Quran is sufficient about the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) being a light from Allah. Finally, in the metaphysic of the Sufis, or at least those whom I have met, the Prophet (Allah bless him

and give him peace) is both the 'Light of Allah' and 'a human being', and the inability to join between the two aspects is a lack of understanding of the greatness of al-Haqiqa alMuhammadiyya, the 'Muhammadan Reality'.

To gain an idea of their point of departure, we may note that the entire universe has been created by Allah in order that His names and attributes might be manifest, that is, in order that He might be known, for He says,

Nor did I create men and jinn, except to worship Me. (Quran 51:56) al-Baghawi: Mujahid [ibn Jabr al-Makki (d. 104/722)], said this means 'except to know Me' which is a sound interpretation, since if He had not created them, they would not have known His existence and His oneness (Ma'alam al-tanzil, 5.230).

Now, the divine names, such as, al-Rahman 'the All-merciful', al-Karim 'the Most Generous', al-Rafi' 'He-Who-Raises', al-Khafid 'He-Who-Lowers', al-Sabur 'the Most Patient' al-Muntaqim 'the Avenger', and the others, entail and comprise the existence of the entire spectrum of human conditions.but particularly, ultimately, eternally, and at their fullest manifestation.the outcomes of paradise and hell.

These outcomes in their turn entail a logos or determining order that governs them, an illuminatory law that renders them and the states of their inhabitants transparent and intelligible, an ultimate standard. This is what we call the Shari'ia or 'Sacred Law', inseparable in principle from its divine origin, for it is one with Allah's speech, the Quran , and the sunna, His act of inspiration to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Part of the Law is that "none of you shall enter paradise by his works" (rather through Allah's mercy), but the levels within it do correspond to works whose qualities and conditions are given in the revelation.

From the point of view of manifesting the divine attributes and names.their ultimate outcomes consisting in the destinies of human beings, without which they would remain unmanifest.the appearance of the Islamic Shari'a, in its final and perfected form at the

end of human history, is the raison d'tre, or 'reason for being', of the whole created universe; and ontologically prior to it in the timelessly preeternal knowledge of Allah Most High.

And the focal point of this light of lights, the head of the whole matter of its appearance, and the site of its manifestation.in a sense the rsum of all created being and occasion for its appearance.is the al-Haqiqa al-Muhammadiyya, or 'Muhammadan Reality' the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), whose consciousness was identical with this Shari'a.

We cannot ever claim to know all of the Prophet's perfections (Allah bless him and give him peace), only that Allah describes him in His book as 'light'; while at the same time, he had to be a human being, in order that the Sacred Law could be manifest, and the imperative of obeying it be binding on every human being. And Allah knows best.

Response
Before looking at the commentaries that you have cited, let us first look at the verse itself and see what exactly does the verse say. Then from there, we will look at the commentaries and see how they apply to the verse under study. The complete verse is quoted:


O people of the book! Indeed Our Messenger has come to you making clear to you most of what you hid of the Book and forgiving much; Indeed, there has come to you a light and a clear Book from God; (Quran 5:15)

If we look at this verse, there are two important issues that need to be understood, first is what does 'light' mean. Secondly what is being done with that 'light'.

As for the first, if we look at parallel verses of the Quran, we see that God has called his scriptures light time and again. In the same very Surah, we see that previous scriptures of God have also been called light:


Surely We revealed the Torah in which was guidance and light; (Quran 5:44)


And We sent after them in their footsteps Jesus, son of Mary, verifying what was before him of the Torah and We gave him the Gospel in which was guidance and light, and verifying what was before it of Torah and a guidance and an admonition for those who guard. (Quran 5:46) In fact, the word 'light' has been used in Quran in many more places to refer to the revelation of God. This word has specifically been used for Quran as well:


And thus have We reveaed to you a spirit by Our command. You did not know what the Book was, nor what the faith was, but We have made it a light with which We guide whoever We wish of Our slaves and you guide to the right path. (Quran 42:52)

Therefore believe in God and His messenger and the light which We have revealed; and God is aware of what you do. (Quran 64:8) In these last two verses, it is easy to see that by light, God is referring to His revelation, particularly Quran. Quran has used the word 'light' in the sense of taking out mankind out of 'darkness' into 'light' once again referring to guidance in general rather than a revelation or a book in particular.

Now let us look at the 15th verse of Al-Maidah again:


O people of the book! Indeed Our Messenger has come to you making clear to you most of what you hid of the Book and forgiving much; Indeed, there has come to you a light and a clear Book from God. (Quran 5:15) Given the use of the word 'light' in Quran, in my opinion, here the word 'light' refers to Quran and it is being said that there is something that is a light and a clear book from God has come to you. In other words, this thing shall lead you out of darkness into light. This is my understanding of what 'light' refers to in this verse.

Let us now move to the second issue which is what is being done with this light. If you look at this verse again, Quran is very clearly saying that light has been 'sent', the actual phrase: there has 'come' to you a light. In other words, Quran itself has not directly addressed the issue of if something has been created out of light.

Now if we look at the commentaries that you have cited, there are two types: those that suggest that this verse refers to Muhammad (pbuh) as light, but do not comment on his creation, the other type is those that actually insist on his having been created from light.

While I believe that the word 'light' refers to Quran in this particular verse, I do concede the possibility of it being interpreted as 'prophet of God'. At the same time, the commentators that suggest that prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was created of light have also not based their interpretation on this verse.

I went through all the commentaries that you have quoted, here are my observations:

Suyuti has not provided a reason for why the word 'light' refers to Muhammad (pbuh).

At-Tabari in his commentary writes:

. :
That is, 'light' refers to 'Muhammad (pbuh)' because people are guided by him as they would be with light, this is according to Qatadah and Al-Zajjaj selected it. And it is also said that it means 'the Quran' as that makes clear truth from falsehood according to Abi Ali Al-Jaba'ee but the first opinion is preferred. As for Fakhr al-Razi's commentary, he has cited three opinions:

: : : . : /
There are these opinions: First is that 'light' symbolizes 'Muhammad (pbuh)' and 'the book' symbolizes 'the Quran'; the second is that 'light' symbolizes 'Islam' and 'the book' symbolizes 'the Quran'; the third is that 'light' and 'the book' both refer to 'the Quran'. He then goes on to conclude that the last opinion, that it refers to Quran, is incorrect and provides reason for that.

Baghawi has not provided any reason for why the verse refers to prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Qurtubi has the following opinion in Ahkam Al-Quran referring to the word 'light' in this verse says,

: . :
That is, 'a radiance'. It is said to be 'Islam' and it is (also) said to be 'Muhammad (pbuh)' according to al-Zajjaaj. Therefore, I think the opinion cited of Qurtubi is incomplete. Similarly, if we look at Mawardi's opinion, it also seems to have not been correctly cited:

: : . : .
There are two interpretations of 'light': One of these is 'Muhammad (pbuh)' and that is the opinion of alZajjaaj. The second is 'the Quran' and that is the opinion of some of the later scholars. Summarizing:

1: Suyuti and Baghawi have not provided a reason for their interpretation.

2: Tabari, Qurtubi and Mawardi have cited the opinion that it is referring to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) based on Al-Zajjaaj with only Tabari having associated it to Qatadah as well. Tabari and Mawardi have each mentioned an additional opinion, which is that 'light' refers to Quran and the latter has not negated that opinion either.

3: Razi has mentioned three opinions regarding this, one of them includes Quran.

If we look at this summary, it seems that all the commentators except Razi have come to this opinion based on their reliance on one or two people. It is also clear from this that multiple opinions regarding the interpretation of the word 'light' have existed even in the earliest days - 'the Quran' being one of them - and as the question seemed to suggest, it is not an undisputed issue. Therefore, the implication in the question that all these commentators believed that in this verse 'light' referred to 'the Prophet (pbuh)' only is questionable.

The reference to the verse that you have provided seems incorrect, it is infact 110th verse of Al-Kahf:


Say, "I am a man like you it has been revealed to me that your god is One God." (Quran 18:110) The same theme has been presented in the following words too:


Say, "Glory be to my Lord; am I not but a mortal messenger? (Quran 17:93)

Al-Mawrid dictionary cites the meaning of word '

' as ' ,' in English: "human ,' in English:

being, human, man". A second meaning is provided as '

"people, human beings, mankind, humankind, human race, humanity". It is for this reason that Pickthall, Abdullah Yousufali, M. H. Shakir, Sher Ali, Abdul Majid Daryabadi, Muhammad Ayub Khan and many other translators of the Quran have either rendered this word into English as 'human or man', or as 'mortal'. Nonetheless, we shall move forward and look at Quranic usage of this word to understand how Quran has employed it.

If we look at the 93rd verse of Bani-Israel and its context, we shall see that prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is really asked to say that he is an ordinary human being like his addressees and does not differ in any way except that he is one of those human beings who had also been selected as a messenger of God messenger meaning someone who is supposed to convey the message of God to the world.

* * * * *
And they say: We will by no means believe in you until you cause a fountain to gush forth from the earth for us. Or you should have a garden of palms and grapes in the midst of which you should cause rivers to flow forth, gushing out. Or you should cause the heaven to come down upon us in pieces as you think, or bring God and the angels face to face (with us). Or you should have a house of gold, or you should ascend into heaven, and we will not believe in your ascending until you bring down to us a book which we may read. Say: Glory be to my Lord; am I not but a mortal messenger? And nothing prevented people from believing when the guidance came to them except that they said: What! Has God raised up a mortal to be a messenger? Say: Had there been in the earth angels walking about as settlers, We would certainly have sent down to them from the heaven an angel as a messenger. (Quran 17:90-95)

If you note in these verses, it is the opponents of the Prophet (pbuh) asking for demands that the Prophet (pbuh) is asked to respond to by saying that these are beyond him because he is just a human being like them. The verses that follow also make a clear rule that had it been angels to whom the message was sent, the messenger would have been from amongst them. In other words, the messenger that is chosen is really the same as those to whom he was sent. This also reinforces the meaning of the word 'bashr' and thus making it clear that the Prophet (pbuh) was no more than an ordinary human being. Since he was an ordinary human being ('

' or ' ,)' it can be concluded that

his creation was also like that of other human beings.

Most importantly, Quran uses the word '

' for the creation of the first man Adam

(pbuh), which further reinforces the meaning of this word, and tells us that his creation was of clay:


And when your Lord said to the angels, "I am making a mortal ('bashr') from dried clay of moulded mud." (Quran 15:28) At another place, Quran has further mentioned that the first man was created from clay and his entire progeny then from fluid:

*
He who made excellent everything that He created, and He began the creation of man ('insaan') from clay, then He made his progeny from an extract of water. (Quran 32:6-7)

Given this, and given the fact that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is '

,' and ''

deriving that his creation is any other would be in conflict with Quranic understanding. The 93rd verse of Bani-Israel can then be understood to mean that the Prophet (pbuh) was an ordinary human being and despite being an ordinary human being, he was chosen as a messenger of God as well.

I am therefore not going to address the second part of your question because that is in direct conflict with the Quranic understanding that I have propounded. After reading through that, I am convinced that their argument is not based on Quran, neither on narratives in some of the more reliable books of hadith. Consequently, I believe there is no reason to accept those arguments, rather, being contradictory to Quran, those who believe that Prophet (pbuh) was created of light and introduce it as a belief must provide an argument directly from Quran since any other source cannot overrule it.

At the same time, I must add that there is no doubt that the Prophet (pbuh) came as a light for mankind, drove people out of ignorance (darkness) and provided them with guidance (light). However, that was his role, his mission and what he achieved, not his nature.