What is the light of God?

Category: Articles, Faith, Featured | Topic: allah, angels | Views: 12,447

The Prophet tells us that God created angels out of light. Light is a name of God, and the Koran tells us that “God is the light of the heavens and the earth” (24:35). In order to understand what angels are, we have to understand what light is. It will not help us much to think about light in physical terms. Rather, we have to grasp the signs that are revealed to us when we observe light. 

Normally, we think of light as visible, but in fact, it is invisible. We can only see light when it is mixed with darkness. If there were only light and no darkness, we would be blinded by its intensity. Look at what happens when you gaze at the sun, which is 93 million miles away and is viewed through the earth’s atmosphere. If we moved outside the atmosphere, just few miles closer to the sun, we could not possibly look at it for a moment without losing our eyesight. What we call visible light is pretty pale stuff. It can hardly compare with unfiltered sunlight, much less with the divine light, which illuminates the whole cosmos. Hence, it is said in Islam that God’s light is so bright that people have all been blinded by it. 

God is unseen, angels are unseen, and light is unseen. Thus it should not be surprising that God and angels are light. You might object and say that we see light shining everywhere, but we don’t see angels or God. Don’t we? Tawhid (Unity of God) is telling us that the signs are nothing but God’s radiance, and the creatures are nothing but the outward marks of God’s creative power. “God is the light of the heavens and the earth” (24:35), and the heavens and the earth are the radiance or the reflection of that light. 

Light is invisible, but without light we see nothing. Hence, light can be defined as an invisible something that makes other things visible. So also, God and the angels are invisible, but without them there would be no universe. Hence, God and the angels can be described as invisible somethings that make the universe visible. 

The opposite of light is darkness, and darkness is simply the absence of light. In other words, light is something, but darkness is nothing. We see things because a nothing has mixed with a something. We would not be able to see if there were only light, or if there were only darkness. Light and darkness must come together for vision to occur. 

God is Light. The opposite of light is darkness, which is nothing. In other words, God has no real, existing opposite, since nothing is not really something. If nothing is there, how can we talk about opposites? Of course, we say that nothing is the opposite of something, but this nothing does not exist except as a figure of speech or as an object of supposition for the purpose of discussion and explication. 

Are creatures’ light or darkness? The answer, of course, is that they are neither, or that they are both. If they were light and nothing but light, they would be God, and if they were darkness and nothing but darkness, they would not exist. Hence they live in a never-never land that is neither light nor darkness. 

In respect of tashbih, the creatures are light, but in respect of tanzih they are darkness. In other words, to the extent that things are similar to God, they are luminous, but to the extent that they are incomparable with God, they are dark. They must have some luminosity, or else they could not exist. 

To dwell in darkness (relative darkness, that is, since absolute darkness does not exist) is to dwell in distance from God; it is to be dominated by the divine qualities of majesty and wrath, which keep things far from God. To dwell in light is to live in nearness to God; it is to be dominated by the qualities of beauty and mercy, which bring things close to God. 

There is one light, and that light is God. There are many darknesses, since each creature represents darkness in relation to God. The deeper the darkness, the greater the distance from God. Absolute darkness does not exist, because it would be cut off from God in every respect. How can anything exist if it has no relationship whatsoever to the Real, which is the source of every quality? 

Created things dwell in distance from God, in difference, in otherness. This is to say that they dwell in relative darkness. Relative darkness has many modes and forms, since there are an infinite number of ways in which things can be different from God. “Nothing is like Him,” but each thing is unlike him in its own unique way. 

Dwelling in difference means perceiving God from the perspective of tanzih and hence to be dominated by the attributes of severity, majesty, and wrath. The goal of religion is to bring about a movement from tanzih to tashbih, from distance to nearness, from difference to sameness, from manyness to oneness, from wrath to mercy, from darkness to light. 

The Koran frequently explains that God’s goal in creation is to bring about unity, and often it employs the terms light and darkness to make this point. The broad significance of such verses becomes clear as soon as one grasps the meaning of tawhid. Notice that in the following verses light is one, since light is an attribute of God, but the darknesses are many, since darkness is an attribute that assumes many forms in keeping with the diversity of creation: 

Are the blind and the seeing man equal, or are the darknesses and the light equal? (13:16, 35:20) 

It is He who sends down upon His servant signs, clear explications that He may bring you forth from the darknesses into the light. (57:9) 

Why, is he who was dead, and We gave him life, and appointed for him a light to walk by among the people, as one who is in the darknesses, and comes not forth from them? (6:122) 

It is He who performs the salat over you, and His angels, that He may bring you forth from the darknesses into the light. (33:43) 

This last verse brings us back to the angels, who are created from light and are therefore able to assist God in giving light to the creatures who dwell in the visible world. 


Excerpted from the book "The Vision of Islam" by Sachiko Murata and William C. Chttick


Leave a Reply


  1. The article by Mr. Sachiko Murata and William C. Chttick is pure and

    wild imagination and is absurd. If they have the wisdom to understand

    what is ALLAH or His light it is like a frog explaining the Theory Of

    Relativity or the Theory of Relativity being explained to a frog.

    Allah or His Light are beyond the scope of imagination of its


  2. I thought we can not fathom Allah. Even Prophet Muhammad (S) said that if we think how Allah is we’ll lose sanity. Can you answer? I stopped reading the article in the middle fearing that this article mislead people and kuffar work and shirk. Thuuuu!

  3. …the angels, who are created from light and are therefore able to assist God… angels are therefore able to assist God needs to be corrected as God needs no assistance or help from any creation of His,as He is the Almighty,the All Powerful.Rather the Angels are assisted by the Almighty to provide light.

  4. Allahu Akbar.

    i really like this website. Brothers and sisters of Islam, let us

    make ourselves the ambassadors of the Islamic faith and let the

    world know that Islam is of God and not of terrorism.

    May Allah Almighty bless you.

    Asallam Allaikum…

  5. If they were light and nothing but light,

    they would be God.

    It is not right to say God is nothing but light. God is love. God is spirit. God is grace. Light is only one of the many names of God.

  6. God is the Light of Heavens and Earth should not be translated literally,even if we take it as it is He is the One who is really the Light of both Heavens and Earth.Although He is invisible He is also Visible as the eyes cannot see Him physically in this World yet we would be able to see Him as we see the fourteenth Moon in the Hereafter ie. in Paradise.He is beyond comprehension nobody looks like Him so we cannot describe Him as you are asking what is the light of God? This is beyond our own sheer imagination.When Moses tried to see His vision he was told he could not see Him and was told to look at the mountain when it stayed in the same place where it was then he could see Him.In the end when the mountain crumbled due to the intensity of the vision of God that it could not bear. If the mountains could not take it how can we bear it.So then how do you expect us to explain the meaning of the Light of God.It can only be explained or taken literally not figuratively Allahu a’alam.

  7. We always have to try not to go into areas we dot not understand well oherwise we go into Kufur, the artcle,remember Allah said in the Quran that some verses are clear and others are not, this is by his choice,he gives knowledge to who ever he wishes, our human imagination and knowledge is only to certain limit, lets desist from going into areas we have no knowledge about,remember when the angels were challeged to name things, they said they know only what Allah gave them knowledge of. Do you think God gave Man unlimited knowledge?.

    E you people why do you write out of imagination of which you have no knowledge nor proof about our creator?

  8. What a confused pair, Sachiko Murata and William C. Chttick. I’m wondering whether they have studied the glorious Qur’an or are they muddying thesimple, clear message of Islam with their confused understanding.

    I have studied Light in all it’s fantastic facets. God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth, but this Light shines from a lamp fuelled by an olive, neither of the East nor of the West. The message in all the similitudes used by God is an invitation for mankind to study His Light.

    The Light is God’s standard baerer. Light is the ultimate Messenger of God, Light is the most obediant Muslim. Light never fails to obey God’s Laws of Reflection, Refraction, Diffraction and Interference. Go study Light, and you will see that mankind’s understanding of it has not exhausted the infinite properties of Light.

    Even great scientists like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein could not compass the full magnetude of the properties of Light.

    And what about engieers, have they built a vehicle which can go faster than the speed of Light?

    If anyone wants to know about the ultimate Messenger of God then ask me, for I have a deep understanding of this mighty messenger called Light.

    Sachiko Murata and William C. Chttick are hopelessly confused and only want to make a quick buck from Allah’s artistry.

  9. The approach of this article is not good and so I fully agree with Br.Abdul Hakkim. As perthe islamic principle, the analysis and research of all creations of Allah is encouraged, whereas analysis and research of the Creator Himself is discouraged. All the attributes of Allah, as mentioned in Al-quran and hadeeth should be taken as such and we should not analyse in depth.

  10. I think the phylosophic statements you made about Allah and his light are so baseless in the light of the Quran and Sunnah that we must be careful not to let our desires of trying to explain Quran and Sunnah without the understanding of the companions is as dangerous as the Christians explaining Christianity without the understanding of Jesus and his companions. Do not turn our religion into Christianity, everyone can say and think what they feel!!!

  11. It is human nature or our fitrah to want to understand. Our curiosity, like a child, takes us on this journey of living , and loving a Creator we are meant to never see but learn to comprehend and love through the sacred words we are given and the messenger who leds by words and deeds. i appreciate this short piece for its attempt to digest the sacred words we are given on who and what is ALLAH.

  12. Everything is just the shadows of the existence of the Ultimate Reality. We can’t compare even light with Him. Just nothing is like Him. Even our imaginations. This article is based on just human fantasy. He is beyond the grasp of our imaginations.

  13. To quote,”This last verse brings us back to the angels, who are created from light and are therefore able to assist God in giving light to the creatures who dwell in the visible world.” Here it states that the angels are able to assit GOD….this is not true as God is free of an assistance.We and all things in the universe needs God’s assistance always