Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer

Reading Metaphor of God in the Qur’an (al-Nūr [24]: 36) from Paul Ricoeur’s Theory of Metaphor

  • Nur Ahmad Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


This paper aims to demonstrate how the adoption of the theory of metaphor by Ricoeur to the “Light Verse” in the Quran. One of the most famous verse in the Quran is “the Light verse.” Beside the metaphor of light, the verse includes the metaphors of “the niche”, of “the lamp”, of “the glass”, and others. The metaphor “God is the Light” is the vital feature of the analysis. The next metaphors in the verse are an extension of that metaphor. The “light” metaphor with its principal meaning as “source” will be analyzed using the theory of metaphor as created by Paul Ricoeur in The Rule of Metaphor (1978). The application of this concept will unfold how this metaphor is employed creatively. It makes a parable of the gradation of lights and contains how it is widened to cover a broader aspect of faith, i.e., being the center and open to accept His light. The result of this experiment with metaphors in the Light verse shows fresh analysis that God illuminates on every creation in all realms.

Keywords: metaphor, Paul Ricoeur, the Light Verse, Quranic interpretation


Al-Ḥalīl Ibn Aḥmad, Ibn-ʻAmr, and ʻAbd al-Ḥāmid Hindāwī. Kitāb al-ʻAin. 4 K - y. Al-Ṭabʻa 1. 4 K - y. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʻIlmyya, 2003.
Aristotle, and Samuel Henry Butcher. The Poetics of Aristotle. London: Macmillan, 1922. Accessed October 9, 2016.
Dirven, Rene. “Metaphor as a Basic Means for Extending the Lexicon.” In The Ubiquity of Metaphor: Metaphor in Language and Thought, Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science. Vol. 29. Amsterdam studies in the theory and history of linguistic science. Series 4, Current issues in linguistic theory, 0304-0763. Amsterdam [etc.]: Benjamins, 1985.
al-Ghazālī, Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad, and William Henry Temple Gairdner. Ghazzali’s Mishkāt Al-Anwār (The Niche for Lights). Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1952.
———. The Mishkāt Al-Anwār of Al-Ghazālī. Forgotten Books, 1924.
Guénon, René. The Crisis of the Modern World. Sophia Perennis, 2001.
ʻAbd al-Bāqī, Muḥammad Fuʼād. Al-Muʻjam Al-Mufahras Li Alfāẓ Al-Qurʼān Al-Karīm: Bi Ḥāshīyat Al-Muṣḥaf Al-Sharīf. 1. al-Ṭabʻah. al-Qāhirah: Dār al-Ḥadīth, 1987.
Ibn Kathīr, Ismāʻīl ibn ʻUmar. Tafsīr al-Qurʼān al-ʻAẓīm. Edited by Muḥammad Ḥusayn. Shams al-Dīn. al-Sādis. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʻIlmiyyah, 2006.
Ibn Manẓūr, Muḥammad Ibn Mukarram. Lisān al-ʻArab. Ṭabʻa Ghadīda. 14, al-Mughallad al-Rābiʻ ʻAshar. Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1970.
———. Lisān al-ʻArab. Ṭabʻa Ghadīda. 2 al-Mughallad al-Thānī. Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1970.
———. Lisān al-ʻArab. Ṭabʻa al-awwāl. 10, al-Mugallad al-ʻĀsirah. Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 2000.
Jumhuriyyah Miṣr al-’Arabiyyah. Mu’jam Alfāẓ Al-Qurʼān Al-Karīm. Vol. 2. Majma’ al-Lughoh al-’Arabiyyah, 1409.
Kort, W. A. “Book Review: Review Essay: Paul Ricoeur and the Hermeneutics of Metaphor, the Rule of Metaphor: Multidisciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language.” Christianity & Literature 28, no. 2 (1979): 49–51.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Islamic Philosophy from Its Origin to the Present: Philosophy in the Land of Prophecy. SUNY series in Islam. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man. London (Ruskin House: Mandala Books, 1976.
———. “The Heart of the Faithful Is the Throne of the All-Merciful.” In Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East, by James S. Cutsinger. The Perennial Philosophy Series. Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2002.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, Caner Karacay Dagli, Maria Massi Dakake, Joseph E. B. Lumbard, and Mohammed Rustom. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. Tra edition. New York: HarperOne, 2015.
Ricoeur, Paul. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action and Interpretation. Edited by John B. Thompson. Translated by John B. Thompson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
———. Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1976.
———. The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-Disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language. Translated by Robert Czerny, Kathleen McLaughlin, and John Costello. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.
———. “Toward Hermeneutic of the Idea of Revelation.” Harvard Theological Review 70, no. 1-2 (1977): 1–37.
Shīrāzī, Shīrāzī Ṣadr al-Dīn Muḥammad. Tafsīr al-Qurʼān Al-Karīm. Edited by Muhammad Khwajawi. Vol. 4. Qum: Intisharat-i Bidar, 1987.
Article Metrics
Abstract 200 | PDF 65
Editorial History
Submitted: 2017-11-10
Published: 2017-12-29
How to Cite
Ahmad, N. (2017). Reading Metaphor of God in the Qur’an (al-Nūr [24]: 36) from Paul Ricoeur’s Theory of Metaphor. Ulumuna, 21(2), 211-227.