Dr Wan Zakiah Wan Ismail
Dr Wan Zakiah Wan IsmailFaculty of Engineering & Built Environment (FKAB)

What is light in Islam perspective?
The definition of light is broad and subjective. Light can be considered as guidance or ‘An-Nur’ in Arabic. Light is mentioned many times in Quran, such as in the 35th verse of the 24th Sura of the Quran, Surah An-Nur.

“Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not – light upon light – Allah guides to His light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth parables for men, and Allah is Cognizant of all things.” [Surah An-Nur, 35/24]

From my point of view, this verse shows that Allah S. W. T is an ultimate guidance for us. His light (guidance) is bright (clear) that can shine (guide) our heart from being astray from the right path or direction. If we follow his light, we are safe in ‘dunya’ and ‘akhirah’.

What is light in Science perspective?
In Science, light can be defined as electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, consists of visible and invisible light. The ability of our eyes to respond to the light with wavelength ranges from 400-700 nm defines the visible light. The visible light is important for us to be able to see things. Sun supplies energy to the plants for photosynthesis and moon or star provides direction during night time. Can we imagine if we live in a dark world, without sun and moon light? Definitely, we and all other beings cannot survive in that world. Thus, we should be grateful that Allah S. W. T provides us the ‘nature’ light which persists until the doomsday. The importance of light in our life leads to a scientific study on characteristics of light known as optics.

Who are Scientists in Optics?
We are familiar with western scientists in optics such as Issac Newton (1643-1727) who investigated the refraction of light and demonstrated that the white light can be recomposed by the multicoloured spectrum produced using a lens and a prism1 and Thomas Young (1773–1829) who came out with wave theory of light. He demonstrated that interference based on light as a wave through a double-slit experiment2.

Do you know that we also have Muslim Scientists in Optics? We have Al-Kindi (801-873 AD)3 and Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040 AD)4 who influenced the western scientist after their era. Ibn al-Haytham is considered as the father of optics who firstly explained that vision occurs when light bounces on an object and then is directed to our eyes. He was born in 965 AD to an Arab family and was a well-known scientist and philosopher4. His famous work which was referred by the western scientists was his seven-volume treatise on optics, Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics), written from 1011 to 1021 AD5. Perhaps their works are hardly to be found nowadays but the history shows that Muslim also can conquer Science world as long as the science theory does not contradict with the Quran.

In optics, properties of light are comprised of reflection, refraction, scattering, emission, diffraction and interference which will be discussed in the next article.

O. Darrigol (2012). A History of Optics from Greek Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century. Oxford University Press, 81.
T. Young (1804). Bakerian Lecture: Experiments and calculations relative to physical optics. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 94, 1–16.
3 S. H. Nasr and O. Leaman (2001). History of Islamic Philosophy. London: Routledge, 165.
4 A. I. Sabra, (2008). Ibn Al-Haytham, Abū ʿAlī Al-Ḥasan Ibn Al-Ḥasan, Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons.
5 J. Al-Khalili (2015). In retrospect: Book of Optics, Nature, 518, 164–165.