Analysis of the ‘Tradition of Light’ (Hadis-e-Nur)
Hadis-e-Nur i.e. the ‘Tradition of Light’ has been recorded and chronicled extensively and consecutively, with minor variations, by both Sunni and Shia scholars in their reliable books, who have advanced it as evidence of the superiority and excellence of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his infallible progeny (a.s.).Notwithstanding the authenticity and extensive narration of this tradition, the skeptics and antagonists of religion have attempted to cast doubts and aspersions on its content and chain of narrators.
One of the important conclusions of this tradition is that Ameerul Momineen Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) is the Caliph and the Imam of the Muslims immediately after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), a message which the enemies and skeptics have tried to conceal or at the very least cast aspersion on with a view to mask the truth. In order to dispel such baseless doubts and suspicions, we will discuss this tradition in a series of articles and throw light on the following aspects of this tradition:
Hadis-e-Nur – An Introduction
Hadis-e-Nur has been extensively narrated by the scholars of both the sects. We present hereunder its common variants, with a common message underpinning all of them.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said:
I and Ali b. Abi Talib both were a light (Nur) in the presence of Allah fourteen thousand years before the creation of Adam. When Allah created Adam, he deposited this light in Adam’s loins. We remained together as one light until we were separated in Abdul Muttalib’s loin. Thereafter, I was endowed with Prophethood and Ali with Caliphate.
Among others, the following Sunni scholars have documented Hadis-e-Nur:
- Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal in his Musnad
- Mir Sayyed Ali Hamdani in Mawaddah al-Qurbah
- Ibn Maghaazili Shaafe’i in his Manaaqib
- Muhammad b. Talhah Shaafe’i in Mataalib al-So’l fi Manaaqib-e-Aal-e-Rasool
- Ibrahim b. Muhammad Hamweeni Shaafe’ei in Faraaid al-Simtain fi Fazaail al-Murtuza wa al-Batool wa al-Sibtain
- Khaarazmi in his al-Manaaqib
- Abd al-Hameed Ibn Abil Hadeed in Sharh-o-Nahj al-Balaaghah
- Haafiz Sulaimaan Qundoozi in Yanabee al-Mawaddah
The aforementioned as also several other Sunni scholars are unanimous about the authenticity of this tradition, which is a separate topic of discussion.
Shia version of Hadis-e-Nur
While the tradition has been widely reported by both sects, Shia reports are more detailed and hence offer greater insight into the excellence of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his immaculate progeny (a.s.). For the sake of brevity, we have not delved into the Shia sources of the tradition since it is transmitted consecutively through several reliable chains of narrators (tawaatur) and the authenticity of the tradition is not debatable for the Shias.
Abdullah b. Abbas narrates from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.):
Allah created me and Ali from a light (Nur) below the Throne (Arsh) 12,000 years before the creation of Adam. When Allah created Adam, He placed this light in his loin and it transferred from one loin to another till it reached Abdul Muttalib after which it was divided in two parts.
Maaz b. Jabal narrates from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.):
Certainly Allah created me, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain seven thousand years before creating this world. Maaz b. Jabal asked: O Messenger of Allah, where were you then? He (s.a.w.a.) replied:
We were under the throne glorifying, extolling and purifying Allah (from defects). Maaz asked: In what form and shape were you all at that time? He (s.a.w.a.) replied:
We were in the form of lights. When Allah wished to give us a shape, He placed us in the form of a pillar of light in the loin of Adam (a.s.). He then transferred this Nur from the loins to the wombs. He always kept us purified from filth, polytheism and adultery which were widespread in the period of disbelief. In every era, certain groups of people attained felicity on account of believing in us and several others were unfortunate on account of rejecting us. When He brought us in the loin of Abdul Muttalib, He divided it into two parts and placed one half in the loin of Abdullah (a.s.) and the other part in that of Abu Talib (a.s.). Thereafter, my light was transferred to (my mother) Aaminah and the other half to (Ali’s mother) Fatima binte Asad. I was born from Aaminah and Ali was born from Fatima binte Asad. Then, the light reverted to me and my daughter Fatima was born. Likewise, the light was reverted to Ali, and Hasan and Husain were born from both parts of the light i.e. light of Ali and Fatima. Thus, my light found its way in the Imams from the progeny of Husain till the Day of Judgment.
From the above tradition, we understand among other points that
Ameerul Momeneen’s (a.s.) light is from the light of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and in matters of guidance and leadership, he (a.s.) shares the same status as that of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) except that he is the Imam and Caliph, and not a Prophet, which is also the case with the Imams in his progeny. Just like the position and stature of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) cannot be denied and denying it would amount to apostasy, skepticism about the position of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) as the Imam and Caliph of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is apostasy.
Also this tradition redeems all the ancestors of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) of apostasy and hypocrisy. This includes the oft-targeted personalities like Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.), Hazrat Abdullah (a.s.), Hazrat Aaminah (s.a.) who are incessantly and unfairly accused of disbelief while the Tradition of Light proclaims them as the perfect believers untainted even by the shadow of apostasy. Another report states:
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed:
When Adam (a.s.) was created, this light was placed in his loin. When he was in the heavens, he carried this light with him. When Nuh (a.s.) embarked on the ark this light was in his back. When Ibrahim (a.s.) was thrown in the fire, he carried this light inside him. This light was transferred from pure loins to chaste wombs till it reached Hazrat Abdul Muttalib (a.s.). It was then divided into two parts. I was bestowed with Prophethood and Ali with Imamat. Thus, this light was the cause of safety for Divine Prophets and Messengers of Allah (peace be on them all) from various examinations.
There are also several verses in the Holy Quran that point out to the sanctity of this light. We quote one of them.
A man asked the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) about the following verse of Holy Quran:
He said: O Iblis what has prevented you from prostrating before the one whom I created with my hands, are you being proud or have you become of the elevated ones?
(Surah Suad (38): Verse 75)
The man asked – Who are these creatures who are more elevated than the angels? He (s.a.w.a.) replied: They are I, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain. We were extolling and praising Allah. The angels praised and glorified Allah after they heard us praising and glorifying Allah…Then Allah ordered the angels to prostrate before Adam. All of them obeyed His command except Iblis. Then Allah reprimanded him: You have acted with pride with respect to my command of prostration. Have you become one of those elevated people whose names are written on the throne?
(Tafseer -e-Burhaan by Sayyid Haashim Bahraani (r.a.), vol. 4, p. 684 from Fadhaael al-Shiah by Shaikh Sadooq (r.a.) who has recorded on the authority of Abu Saeed Khudri from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.))
It has been narrated from Imam Hasan (a.s.) that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said:
I have been created from the light of Allah and my Ahle Bait (a.s.) have been created from my light and the lovers of Ahle Bait (a.s.) have been created from their light. All people besides them are (created) from the fire of hell.
In summary, the ‘Tradition of Light’ (Hadis-e-Nur) brings to the fore, amongst numerous other excellences, the following virtues of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his infallible progeny (a.s.):
- They were the first creation of Allah i.e. they were created when none other than Allah existed before them.
- Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his progeny belong to a lineage where all ancestors (including Abu Talib (a.s.), Abdullah (a.s.), Hazrat Aaminah (s.a.)) up to Hazrat Adam (a.s.) have been monotheists and have never fallen in the abyss of polytheism and related vices.
- Those who submitted to the leadership of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his progeny (a.s.) attained felicity both in this world and the hereafter while those who opposed them fell in the abyss of disbelief and degradation in this world and the hereafter
- They were the ones exempted from prostrating before Adam (a.s.)
- The angels learnt glorification (Tasbeeh) and praise (Hamd) of Allah from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his progeny (a.s.)
- Only those created from this light will attain salvation while all others are doomed
Interested readers may refer to the famous book Abaqaat al-Anwaar, penned by the great Mir Haamid Husain al-Kinturi al-Hindi (r.a.), which contains a comprehensive list of Sunni scholars who have recorded this tradition. For the information of the readers, the aforementioned book is a rebuttal to Tohfa-e-Isnaa Ashari written by Muhaddis Dehlavi.