The Light of the Prophet (s)

The “Salafis” object to the verses (of al-Burda by Imam al-Busiri):

52. wa kullu ayin ata al-rusulu al-kiramu biha / fa innama ittasalat min nurihi bihimi

And every single sign brought by the noble Prophets was theirs only in connection to his light,

53. fa innahu shamsu fadlin hum kawakibuha / yuzhirna anwaraha li al-nasi fi al-zulami

For verily he is a sun of perfection of which they are the moons bringing its light to people in the midst of darkness.

Their objection is based on their known abhorrence of referring to the Prophet as “Light,” although Allah Himself refers to him as “light” three times in His Glorious Book:

  • “From Allah has come to you a Light and a Book manifest.” (5:15)
  • “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 well nigh would shine, even if no fire touched it; Light upon Light.” (24:35)
  • “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)

Thus Allah Himself calls the Prophet explicitly: a Lamp, a Lamp inside a niche, a Light, and again a Lamp spreading light (sirajan muniran). This specific knowledge that the Prophet is the spring-well of all other light in the world is by no means new, rather it is inherited from the Companions themselves as established by the following lines of his poet, Hassan ibn Thabit, as quoted by Ibn Hisham on the last page of his Sirat Rasulillah:

He was the light and the brilliance we followed.

He was sight and hearing second only to Allah.

By Allah, no woman has conceived and given birth

To one like the Apostle,

the Prophet and guide of his people.

Nor has Allah created among his creatures

One more faithful to his sojourner or his promise

Than he who was the source of our light.[95]

`Ali al-Qari said in his Sharh al-Shifa (1:505) in commen-ting upon the Prophet’s title “as a Lamp spreading Light” (33: 46):

Muhammad… is a tremendous light and the source of all lights, he is also a book that gathers up and makes clear all the secrets… sirajan muniran means a luminous sun, because of His saying: “He hath placed therein a great lamp and a moon giving light” (25:61).  There is in this verse an indication that the sun is the highest of the material lights and that other lights are outpourings from it: similarly the Prophet is the highest of the spiritual lights and other lights are derived from him by virtue of his mediating connection and pivotal rank in the overall sphere of creation. This is also inferred from the tradition: “The first thing Allah created is my light.”

Commenting upon the same verse al-Khazin says in his Tafsir: “Allah extended [amadda] the light of discernment [basira] through the light of Muhammad’s prophethood just as He extends the light of eyesight [basar] through the light of the sun; Allah called him a lamp and not a sun, because it is impossible to take anything directly from the light of the sun, but it is possible to take many lights from the lamp.” Allah therefore caused this madad or light of discernment to issue from the Prophet and extend to all.

al-Qastallani (d. 923) in his al-Mawahib al-laduniyya (ed. al-Shami, 2:583), quoted Ibn Marzuq commenting on Busiri’s lines:

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