(lawn, alwān, ṣibgha)

Muzaffar Iqbal and Csaba Okvath

Visible frequencies of the light spectrum as seen by the human eye. The Qurʾān uses the noun lawn (pl. alwān), from the root l-w-n, as the general term for colors; it also mentions six specific colors: black, blue, green, red, white, and yellow. As aesthetic elements (see Beauty), colors appear in the panorama of Divine Creation—from the mountain paths white and red of varying shades and raven-black (Q 35:27) to crops of different colors (Q 39:21), and whatsoever He has created for you on the earth of diverse hues (Q 16:13), including fruits, trees, and plants and vegetation (q.v.), which adorn the earth after rain waters turn the earth green (Q 22:63). Six specific colors mentioned in the Qurʾān have literal as well as symbolic significance (see below).

Definitions and Usage

The noun lawn appears twice (Q 2:69x2) in singular form and seven times in its plural form, alwān (Q 16:13,69; 30:22; 35:27x2,28; 39:21), always referring to the color of some specific thing; in four instances (Q 16:13, 69; 30:22; 39:21) the mention of color is followed by an invitation to reflect—in this is a sign or reminder for people of understanding and remembrance (see Contemplation). As a general term, lawn can be used for all colors, “ranging from white to black and all other colors between these two” (Rāghib, Mufradāt; Fayrūzābādī, Baṣāʾir, sub l-w-n); it is also used to denote types (ḍurūb) and species (nawʿ) (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ, bāb al-nūn, faṣl al-lām; Rāghib, Mufradāt; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān.

Another term often translated as “color” is ṣibgha, from the root ṣ-b-gh (“to color, dye, imbue, paint”). It is used twice in Q 2:138: The ṣibgha of Allah—who is better than Allah in ṣibgha? We are His worshippers. Although linguistic meaning of ṣibgha allude to colors, the phrase ṣibghatu-Llāh is explained by the exegetes as “the religion of Allah” (dīnu-Llāh), as per Qatāda (d. 117/735), or the primordial nature (khilqa) upon which Allah Most High created humans as per Mujāhid (d. 102/720 or 104/722) (Māwardī, Nukat; al-Qurṭubī, Tafsīr; Ibn Qutayba, Mushkil; Wāḥidī, Wajīz, sub Q 2:138)—and thus the fiṭra (see Innate Nature), namely the original disposition of creation upon which every child is born and that is the religion of Islam (Fayrūzābādī, Baṣāʾir). Ṣibgha also refers to the intellect that differentiates humans from animals, as does fiṭra (Rāghib, Mufradāt). It is a synonym for “the way (millat) of Ibrāhīm” (al-Farrāʾ, Maʿānī; al-Zajjāj, Maʿānī), namely surrender to Allah, islām (cf. Q 3:95; and Ibn ʿAjība, Baḥr).

Six Colors Mentioned in the Qurʾān

White (abyaḍ, from the root b-y-ḍ) is associated with the events of the Day of Reckoning (Q 3:106-107), purity (Q 37:49), the drink of the people in Paradise (Q 37:46), the variety and beauty of creation (Q 35:27), miraculous nature of the hand of Mūsā, upon him peace (Q 7:108; 20:22; 27:12; 28:32), and, in one usage, with grief (Q 12:84). It is the most frequently mentioned color in the Qurʾān, appearing eleven times: thrice (Q 3:106-107; 12:87) as the Form IX verb ifʿalla (to become white); five times (Q 7:108; 20:22; 26:33; 27:12; 28:32) as the feminine noun (bayḍāʾ); and three times (Q 2:18; 35:27; 37:46) as adjective. A man not afflicted by disgrace (maʿāb) is called “abyaḍ al-lawn, he is white-colored” (Rāghib, Mufradāt, kitāb al-bāʾ, sub b-y-ḍ). A related noun from the same root, bayḍ (“egg”), appears once (Q 37:49); where it represents moral and physical purity. Bayḍ is used here as a simile, comparing women of Paradise with the whiteness of the ostrich’s egg (bayḍ al-naʿām), which has the most beautiful color (Samarqandī, Baḥr; Samʿānī, Baghawī, Tafsīrs), they are not yet touched by the human hand (Ṭabarī, Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Baghawī, Tafsīrs). Such symbolic usage also appears in a Prophetic supplication, where it represents the well-protected innermost part of the Muslim Community: “…then I asked my Lord on behalf of my Community (Umma) that He not cause it to perish through widespread famine nor let prevail over it an enemy who is not from amongst them and who would destroy the inner most part of them (bayḍatahum)…” (Muslim, kitāb al-fitan wa ashrāṭ al-sāʿa, bāb halāk hādhihi-l-umma baʿḍihim bi-baʿḍ; Aḥmad, Tatma musnad al-Anṣār, wa min ḥadīth Thawbān, § 22395; Tirmidhī, kitab ikhbārihi ṣallā Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallama ʿan manāqib al-ṣaḥāba, dhikr suʿāl al-Muṣṭafā ṣallā Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallama Rabbahu jalla wa ʿalā li-ummatihi bi-an lā yusalliṭ ʿalayhim ʿaduwwan min ghayrihim). Al-Nawawī (631-676/1234-1277) explains “bayḍatahum” as their congregation, their unity (jamāʿatuhum), their inherent origin (aṣluhum) (Sharḥ Muslim). Ibrāhīm b. Yūsuf b. Adham al-Wahrānī Ibn Qurqur (505-569/1111-1174) traces back the meaning to the egg of a bird (bayḍat al-ṭāʾir) for it is the origin of the next generation (Maṭāliʿ al-anwār, 1:561; see also: ʿIyāḍ, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 8:427). The term describes their united society (mujtamaʿahum), the place of the administrative power, and the headquarter of their call (ʿAlī al-Qārī, Mirqāt al-mafātīḥ, 9:3677).

In Q 3:106-107, white is contrasted with black in a usage that is both literal and figurative: On the Day when faces lighten (lit. whiten) and faces darken (lit. blacken). As for those whose faces darken, ‘Did you disbelieve after having believed? Then taste the punishment for having disbelieved.’ And as for those whose faces lighten, they will be in the Mercy of Allah, abiding therein. Those whose faces will lighten are the “people of obedience to Allah, who fulfilled their Covenant  with Him” (Tabarī, Tafsīr). “The whiteness comes from light (al-bayāḍ min al-nūr) and the blackness from darkness (ẓulma); so whosoever is from the folk of the light of truth (ahl nūr al-ḥaqq) is described by (wusima bi) the white color and its growing brilliance (isfārihi) and brightness (ishrāqihi); that is skin of his face will become white (wa ibyaḍḍat) and emanate shining light (wa ashraqat) and light will surround him. And whosoever is of the people of the darkness of falsehood (min ahl ẓulmat al-bāṭil) is characterized by the black color and its capacity to block the light (kusūfuhu) and its gloominess (kamaduhu); and man’s skin on his face will darken (iswaddat ṣaḥīfatuhu) and will be tenebrous (wa aẓlamat), darkness will encircle him from all directions” (Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf). Their faces will shine and radiate because of their pleasure and due to the reward bestowed upon them by Allah Most High (Baghawī, Tafsīr; see Reward and Punishment). “They are believers who will be in the Mercy of Allah, which is His Paradise” (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād). As it is said, “whose heart is white today, his face will be white tomorrow [upon Resurrection]; and whoever has the opposite, his condition will be the inverse (man kāna bil-ḍidd fa-ḥāluhu al-ʿaks)” (Qushayrī, Tafsīr);

It is the color of the paradisiacal wine (Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt; Rāzī; Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīrs, sub Q 37:46), which is “extremely pure and transparent” (Thaʿlabī, Kashf)—“whiter than milk” (Baghawī; Rāzī, Tafsīrs)— or that of its brimming cup (kāʾs, Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf) by which it is offered to the sincere servants of Allah, who will be honored in gardens of bliss, upon couches facing one another, with a cup from a [fast running] river [or a flowing spring], brought round, white, delicious to those who drink thereof. No headiness lies therein; nor are they intoxicated by it (Q 37:40-47). The phrase “with a cup from a [fast running] river [or a flowing spring], brought round, white” uses the feminine form of the adjective bayḍāʾ (white), which qualifies the feminine noun kaʾs (“cup”), which according to al-Ḍaḥḥāk (d. ca. 102/721) is one of the Qurʾānic semantic invariables, that is, it always means wine (al-khamr) (Ṭabarī; Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīrs, Thaʿlabī, Kashf, Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf, sub Q 37:45-46). In the reading of ʿAbd Allāh b. Masʿūd, it is “ṣafrāʾ—yellowish white” (ʿUmar and ʿAbd al-ʿĀl, Muʿjam al-qirāʾāt; Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, Suyūṭī, Durr, sub Q 37:45; see Canonical Readings).

The related noun bayd describes the maidens of Paradise, who are as if they were eggs, well-protected (Q 37:49); which is glossed as “the [hard-boiled] albumen as yet untouched by hands” as per Qatāda (Makkī, Hidāya), or the inner white membrane under the egg shell (Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīr),  or a pearl, all indicating their purity (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr) and their shining brightness (Wāḥidī, Wajīz);

White also highlights the variety and beauty of creation, wherein are mountains with white, red, and raven-black paths, which demonstrates the Will, Knowledge, and Perfection of the actions (itqān al-fiʿl) of the Creator (Qushayrī, Tafsīr; sub Q 35:27) (see section below, “Plenitude of Creation”). Among other occurrences of the color white in creation is the mention of the “white thread of the dawn” (al-khayṭ al-abyaḍ min al-fajr, Q 2:187) described by the Prophet—upon him blessings and peace—as the “whiteness of the day” (Bukhārī, Tafsīr, bāb qawlihi wa kulū wa-shrabū…; Muslim Ṣiyām, bayān ann al-dukhūl fī-l-ṣawm yaḥṣulu bi-ṭulūʿ al-fajr…), and defined in the Sacred Law as the marker for the commencement of time of fasting. Abū ʿUbayda (d. 209/824) counted it as a metaphorical marker of true dawn (Abū ʿUbayda, Majāz al-Qurʾān).

The hand of Prophet Mūsā, upon him peace, miraculously appeared shining white for the observers (Q 7:108). Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688) said “white” here stands for “bright as sunshine” (Baghawī; Samʿānī, Tafsīrs). In three other verses, the shining hand of Mūsā, upon him peace, is described as being “without any blemish” (min ghayri sūʾin, Q 20:22; 27:12; 28:32), meaning that he was free from leprosy (baraṣ) or any other disease (Wāḥidī, Wajīz; Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād). Q 20:22 states that Mūsā’s white hand is another sign from Allah; this miracle was preceded by the miraculous transformation of his staff (al-ʿaṣā), which became as if it were a snake (cf. Q 27:10; 28:31) (Muqātil, Tafsīr). His shining healthy hand is a Divine proof of his Messengership (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr); elsewhere, the white hand is counted among the nine signs brought by Prophet Mūsā, upon him peace, to Firʿawn and his nation.  “and indeed We gave Mūsā nine clear signs” (Q 17:101; cf. 7:133; 27:12). These nine signs were the hand (al-yad), his staff (al-ʿaṣā), the flood (al-ṭūfān), the locusts (al-jarād), the lice (al-qummal), the frogs (al-ḍafādiʿ), blood (al-dam) obliteration (al-ṭams; cf. Q 10:88), years of famine and deficiency in fruits (cf. Q 7:130) (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 17:101); they were the decisive proofs (al-dalāʾil al-qāṭiʿa) of the authenticity of his Messengership and of his trustworthiness regarding Who had sent him to Firʿawn and his nation (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 17:101).

Q 12:84 is the only instance of use of white where it stands for sorrow in the description of the intense grief of Prophet Yaʿqūb, upon him peace, who said, ‘O my sorrow (yā asafā) for Yūsuf!’ and his eyes whitened with the sorrow that he was suppressing (Q 12:84). This indicates that he wept so much that the tears wore off the pupils of his eyes (Māwardī, Nuka; Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf) and he lost his eyesight (Baghawī, Tafsīr).

Black (aswad), from the root s-w-d, appears seven times: twice (Q 3:106 x2) as the Form IX verb (iswaddat—to turn black); once (Q 35:27) in the plural adjectival form (sūd); once (Q 39:60) in the adjectival form (muswaddatun—blackened); twice (Q 16:58; 43:17) as the active participle (muswaddan—dark); and once (Q 2:187) metaphorically as the “black thread” of the horizon (see above). Five of its seven occurrences are associated with sadness, distress, doom, and perdition: Some faces will become black on the Day of Reckoning as in the above-cited verse under ‘white’—when faces will lighten (lit. whiten) and faces will darken (lit. blacken); these three instances of the usage of black (Q 3:106 x2; 39:60) refer to those who denied the Truth. They include those who deny the Oneness of Allah (Muqātil, Tafsīr, sub Q 39:60), like the disbelievers, the hypocrites, the apostates, the Khawārij (Thaʿlabī, Kashf, Qujawī, Ḥāshiya, sub Q 3:104-115; Rāzī, Tafsīr, Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar, sub Q 39:60), a now-extinct sect called al-ḥarūriyya (Ashʿarī, Maqālāt, maqālāt al-khawārij), and the innovators in religion, including those whom the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, saw being driven away from the heavenly spring called Kawthar although they were considered Muslims in his time (Bukhārī, Riqāq, fī-l-ḥawḍ). They also include those who have gone astray, those who tell lies against Allah Most High (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād, sub Q 39:60) and those who associate partners with Allah (Samarqandī, Baḥr, sub Q 39:60). The darkening of the faces of the disbelievers is here antithetically contrasted with the lightening of the countenance of the believers (Suyūṭī, Itqān, Type 58, 3:325, ṭibāq). Faces also “darken” in this life, as of the pagan who is distressed (Q 16:58) upon hearing that his newborn child is a girl: his face darkens (Q 43:17)—although the pagans had no qualms about attributing daughters to God (Q 16:57) (Wāḥidī, Wajīz cf. Zajjāj, Maʿānī). The metonym (kināya) “his face blackened” (iswadda wajhuh) is used for anyone who faces a disliked and hateful (makrūh) thing; it is an expression of sadness (ghamm) and sorrow (ḥuzn) (Māwardī, Nukat; Qurṭubī, Tafsīr; sub Q 16:58).

Black, like white, also describes the beauty of creation, especially mountains and mountain trails in the emphatic expression gharābību sūdun (“raven-black, intensely deep black”) (Q 35:27), which Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm b. Muḥammad al-Zajjāj (d. 311/923) explains as mountains of volcanic origin with deep black rocks (dhāt ṣukhūr sūd; ghirbīb, deep black) (Maʿānī; Ibn Qutayba, Gharīb al-Qurʾān). Among this creation, a “black thread” (al-khayṭ al-aswad, Q 2:187) figuratively (istiʿāra and tashbīh) denotes the distinction between the darkness of night and true dawn which marks the beginning of the fast (Thaʿālibī, Jawāhir; Suyūṭī, Itqān, Type 36, maʿrifat gharībihi; Wāḥidī, Wajīzī; Baghawī, Tafsīr): And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread.

Green (akhḍar), from the root kh-ḍ-r, is used eight times in four derived forms: five times (Q 12:43, 46; 18:31; 55:76; 76:21) in the plural nominal form “khuḍr”; once (Q 6:99) in the indefinite accusative “khaḍiran”—the first sprout of any plant (Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt); once (Q 22:63) as the Form IX active participle “mukhḍarra”; and once (Q 36:80) as the masculine adjective  “al-akhḍar” in the context of the infinite power of Allah Most High Who is able to create fire from the wet green wood (Qushayrī, Tafsīr). Green is the color of Paradise. It is associated with fertility, abundance, bliss, heavenly gardens, and the mercy and inimitable power and majesty of Allah Most High. Its usage extends from the lush vegetation on earth, brought forth by abundant rain that falls on fertile land so that the earth becomes green (fa-tuṣbiḥu mukhḍarran) (Q 22:63), to the two verdant gardens of paradise (mud-hāmmatān) (Q 55:64) wherein the dwellers wearing green garments made of fine silk, and brocade (thiyābu sundusin khuḍrun wa-istabraq) (Q 76:21) will be reclining on green cushions (ʿalā rafrafin khuḍrin) (Q 55:76).

The beauty of this verdant landscape also reflects the blissful life of its denizens, which the Sufi master and exegete Abū al-Qāsim al-Qushayrī (376-465/986-1072) describes as

the dwellers of gardens (aṣḥāb al-jinān), living in the opulence of [eternal] life (fī raghad al-ʿaysh), in the happiness of prosperity (saʿādat al-jadd), [enjoying] perfect hospitality; they will wear cloaks of intimacy and crowns of nearness; they will be carried on carpets extending in all directions. They will be reclining on couches (cf. Q 18:31; 36:56; 76:13; 83:23, 35), smelling the sweet basil-like fragrance of intimacy, and residing in [divine] nearness; they will be given the drink of love (sharāb al-maḥabba) and Allah Most High will bestow upon them a helping hand of His nearness without any mediator (min ghayri wāsiṭa) and He will give them a pure drink that will free their hearts of the love of all creation (ʿan maḥabbati kulli makhlūq). (Tafsīr, sub Q 18:31)

Commenting on this same verse, the Ottoman jurist and exegete Abū al-Suʿūd b. Muḥammad al-ʿImād (d. 982/1574), popularly known as Khoja Çelebi  (Hoca Çelebi, Khwāja Shalabī in Arabic), calls green the most beautiful (aḥsan al-alwān) and moist (aktharuhā ṭarāwatan) of all colors (Irshād).

On this earth, green denotes Divine mercy, in the form of sustenance granted to living beings, as green stalks of vegetation yield all manner of fruit and bounty, each similar yet different, like the many shades of the color green, united in the mercy of growth and plenty: And He it is Who sends down water from the sky and with it We bring forth vegetation of all kinds, and out of it We bring forth green stalks, from which We bring forth thick clustered grain. And out of the date­-palm and its spathe come forth clusters of dates hanging low and near, and gardens of grapes, olives and pomegranates, each similar yet different. Look at their fruits when they begin to bear, and the ripeness thereof. Verily! In that are signs for people who believe (Q 6:99). After refreshing rain, the earth becomes green (fa-tuṣbiḥu mukhḍarra) (Q 22:63), where the use of the aorist verbal form (tuṣbiḥu, not aṣbaḥat) indicates that this manifestation of Allah’s creation occurs whenever rain falls upon the earth (Rāzī, Tafsīr), a sign of mercy for His slaves (Baghawī, Tafsīr, Samarqandī, Baḥr).

In two verses (Q 12:43, 46) green appears in the dream of the king of Egypt in the form of seven green spikes of grain (sabʿ sunbulāt khuḍr). The Prophet Yūsuf, upon him peace, interprets these as an allusion to seven fertile years that will give abundant harvest (Baghawī, Tafsīr). Green here too expresses fertility and abundance (khiṣb)—denoted by the lush, verdant earth bearing luxuriant vegetation (Māwardī, Nukat).

In Q 36:80, Allah Most High is mentioned as the One Who made for you fire from the green tree, and, behold, you kindle [fire] from it. The verse indicates the inimitable power and majesty of Allah Most High, who brings forth flame from a wet (raṭb) tree, even though water and fire are opposing elements—thus He is surely able to revive the dead (Māwardī, Nukat). A symbolic explanation of the verse likens the green tree to Prophet Ibrāhīm, upon him peace, and the fire to the Muḥammadan Light, upon him blessings and peace, whereby the phrase you kindle [fire] from it refers to the roots of Islam being the religion of Ibrāhīm (Māwardī, Nukat). In his abridgement of Māwardī’s Nukat, ʿIzz b. ʿAbd al-Salām (577-660/1181-1262) likens the green tree to Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace, and the fire to Divine guidance (al-hudā) and light he brought (Tafsīr).

The unnamed teacher of Mūsā, upon him peace, described as servant from among Our servants in the Qurʾān (Q 18:65) is identified in the commentary tradition as al-Khaḍir (“the Green One”) based on the Prophetic tradition: “al-Khaḍir was named so because he sat on a barren white land (ʿalā farwa bayḍāʾ), it turned green [with vegetation] after his sitting over it” (Bukhārī, Aḥādīth al-anbiyāʾ, bāb ḥadīth al-Khaḍir maʿa Mūsā ʿalayhimā al-salām; Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 17:7; Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīr, sub Q 18:65; Makkī, Hidāya, sub Q 18:71). 

Yellow (aṣfar) appears five times: once (Q 77:33) as a plural noun; once (Q 2:69) as the feminine adjectival form describing the color of the cow which was to be slaughtered by the Children of Isrāʾīl; and three times (Q 30:51; 39:21; 57:20) as the participial form of the Form IX verb.

Only one mention of yellow in the Qurʾān has positive connotations, describing the cow which the Children of Isrāʾīl were asked to sacrifice: a yellow cow of intensely bright color, pleasing to the onlookers (Q 2:69). The color here is qualified with the adjective “fāqiʿ” (“intense yellowness”)—an adjective used principally with yellow (Nasafī, Tafsīr). Nāṣir al-Dīn Abū Saʿīd ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUmar al-Bayḍāwī (d. 685/1286) says this adjective denotes the purity of the yellow color, and hence reinforces it, just as one says aswadun ḥālik (“jet black”); hence it is as if it is being said, “yellow, with an intensely yellow yellowness”. Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (21-110/642-728), however, glossed the yellow color of the cow “intense black” (Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī; Ibn Abī Ḥātim; Bayḍāwī)—a gloss both Ṭabarī and Bayḍāwī call into question, because yellowness in this sense is never reinforced with the adjective fuqūʿ (Tafsīrs).

All other occurrences of yellow are associated with loss and destruction, the end of life, as of vegetation when it withers and grows brittle (e.g., Q 39:21; 57:20). In this sense, it is the counterpart of the green whose connotations are elaborated above, and bears the corresponding semantic range: Have you not considered that Allah sends down water from the sky, conducts it as springs in the earth, then brings forth crops of diverse colors. Then they wither and you see them yellowing. Then He turns them to chaff. Truly in that is a reminder for those who possess intellect (Q 39:21). “It is a simile for the worldly life, for just as green vegetation (al-nabt al akhḍar) turns yellow, so does the earthly life after its splendor (bahjatihā)” (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 39:21). Thus none should be dazzled by this life, for it is ephemeral. Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (543-606/1148-1209) likens the phases of life of the vegetation manifested through their colors to the life of the humans:

Whosoever observes the phases of vegetation is reminded of the same fate of his own life; regardless of its length, it comes to an inevitable end—a yellow colored body of shattered parts, with death as its final end…Observing this causes great aversion to worldly life and its trappings (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 39:21)

In Q 30:51, a destructive wind turns vegetation dry and yellow, causing disbelievers to despair and forget their previous blessings (Baghawī and Bayḍāwī, Tafsīrs). In Q 77:33, “ṣufr camels” (lit. yellow camels) are understood as black camels, which is lexically warranted (Ṭabarī, Samarqandī, Tafsīrs, Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar, sub Q 2:69; Makkī, Hidāya; Wāhidī, Wajīz; Ibn Qutayba, Mushkil; Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub ṣ-f-r). In this verse, the yellow camels describe the sparks of Hellfire as though they were yellow camels, which may refer to both their great size and color (Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf).

Red (aḥmar) appears once in the plural form wa-ḥumrun (Q 35:27), describing mountain paths (see Mountains); it is also alluded to in the phrase rosy-red, like oil (Q 55:37). The mountain paths are white and red (Q 35:27), denoting the diversity and beauty of creation. Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā b. Ziyād al-Farrāʾ (d. 207/822) likens these paths to veins (Maʿānī-l-Qurʾān), while Abū al-Faḍl Muḥammad b. Mukarram Ibn Manẓūr (630-711/1232-1311) explains that their hue is different from the color of the mountain itself (Lisān).

Red also appears in a simile related to the Resurrection—“the most terrifying moment for men and jinn and all created beings” (Rāzī, Tafsīr): when the sky is rent asunder (inshaqqat) and becomes rosy-red, like oil (wardatan ka-l-dihān) (Q 55:37). On that day, the sky will appear like a surface covered with doors due to the descent of the angels, similar to the rose (warda) with its various colors (Wāḥidī, Wajīz); or similar to a red horse (al-faras al-warid), whose color is red at the beginning of spring but changes to dust-color (aghbar) in a long winter (Baghawī, Tafsīr). The second part of the simile, in which heaven is compared to “oil” (al-dihān, sing. duhn), is variously explained by the commentators as an oil that changes its color when it is poured—from green to red to yellow (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr); or it is pure rose oil (duhn al-ward al-ṣāfī) and heaven will be like the color of poured oil (ka-l-duhn al-sāʾib), especially when the heat of Hellfire will reach it (Baghawī, Qurṭubī, Tafsīrs); or it is like red tanned skin (al-adīm al-aḥmar) (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād).

Blue (zurqan) is mentioned once (Q 20:102) as the participial state (ḥāl) of the condemned (al-mujrimūn) on the Day of Reckoning; it is the only word from the root z-r-q to appear in the Qurʾān: The Day when the Trumpet will be blown and We shall gather the criminals on that Day, blue-eyed. The guilty are the disbelievers and the wrongdoers (Rāzī, Tafsīr) and “blue-eyed” is glossed as “blind” (Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf), as it is said in Q 20:124, We shall raise him blind on the Day of Resurrection. It is the negative opposite of the whitening of the eyes of Yaʿqūb, upon him peace, in Q 12:84 (Ibn al-Qaṭṭāʿ, Kitāb al-afʿāl, 2:94).

Colors in the Plenitude of Creation

The entire order of creation is permeated with dynamic colors of manifold hues: And of humankind, beasts, and cattle there are, likewise, those of diverse colors (Q 35:28). In this diversity of colors is a proof of the existence of an Excellent Creator (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr). And whatsoever He has created for you on earth of varying colorsverily, in this is a sign for people who remember (Q 16:13), just as diverse languages are signs for people of knowledge: And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors; indeed, in this are signs for those of knowledge (Q 30:22). Embedded in the rhythm of life as well as appearing within the goodly provisions (Q 16:67), which Allah Most High creates for the sustenance of all living beings, colors are present in everything—in the pure white milk produced in the bellies of the cattle, between refuse and blood (Q 16:66), as well as in flowers, fruits, and vegetation, and in a drink of diverse colors which comes forth from the bellies of bees, to whom the Lord has instructed to take up dwellings among the mountains and the trees and among that which they build, then eat of every kind of fruit, and follow the ways of your Lord made easy (Q 16:65-69; see Contemplation)—all of these are manifest bounties of Allah, bearing gratitude (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 16:13).


Abū al-Suʿūd. Irshād.

Abū ʿUbayda, Maʿmar b. al-Muthannā al-Tamīmī. Majāz al-Qurʾān. Ed. Muḥammad Fuʾād Sazgīn. 2 vols. Cairo: Muḥammad Sāmī Amīn al-Khānjī, 1374/1954. Repr. Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 1401/1981.

Aḥmad b. Yūsuf b. ʿAbd al-Dāʾim Abū al-ʿAbbās, Shihāb al-Dīn, commonly known as al-Samīn al-Ḥalabī. ʿUmdat al-Ḥuffāẓ fī Tafsīr ashraf al-alfāẓ. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya. 1417/1996.

al-Ashʿarī, Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Ismāʿīl b. Isḥāq. Maqālāt al-islāmiyyīn wa-khtilāf al-muṣallīn. 2 vols., ed. Muḥammad Muḥyī al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd, Ṣaydā-Beirut: al-Maktabat al-ʿAṣriyya, 1411/1990.

Baghawī. Tafsīr.

Bayḍāwī. Tafsīr.

Bukhārī. Ṣaḥīḥ.

Farāhīdī. ʿAyn.

Farrāʾ. Maʿanī al-Qurʾān.

Fayrūzābādī. Baṣāʾir.

Ḥākim. Mustadrak.

Ibn Abī Ḥātim. Tafsīr.

Ibn ʿAjība. Baḥr.

Ibn Abī Shayba. Muṣannaf.

Ibn ʿĀshūr. Tafsīr.

Ibn ʿAṭiyya. Muḥarrar.

Ibn al-Jawzī. Zād.

Ibn Kathīr. Tafsīr.

Ibn Mājah. Sunan.

Ibn Manẓūr. Lisān.

Ibn al-Qaṭṭāʿ, ʿAlī b. Jaʿfar b. ʿAlī. Kitāb al-Afʿāl. Beirut: ʿĀlam al-Kutub, 1403/1983.

Ibn Qutayba. Mushkil.

___. Gharīb.

ʿIyāḍ. Shifā.

ʿIzz al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Salām b. Abī al-Qāsim b. al-Ḥasan al-Dimashqī, Abū Muḥammad. Tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 1416/1996.

Jawharī. Ṣiḥāḥ.

Makkī. Hidāya.

Māturīdī. Taʾwīlāt.

Māwardī. Nukat.


Muslim. Ṣaḥīḥ.

Nasafī. Tafsīr.

ʿAlī al-Qārī b. Sulṭān Muḥammad. Mirqāt al-mafātīḥ sharh Mishkāt al-Masābīḥ. Ed. Jamāl ʿAytānī. 12 vols. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1422/2001.

al-Qūjawī, Shaykh Zādah, Muḥammad b. Muṣliḥ al-Dīn Muṣṭafā, Muḥyī al-Dīn. Ḥāshiya Muḥyī al-Dīn Shaykh Zādah ʿalā tafsīr al-qāḍī al-Bayḍāwī. Beirut: 1st ed., Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1419/1999.

Qurṭubī. Tafsīr.

Qushayrī. Tafsīr.

Rāghib. Mufradāt.

Rāzī. Tafsīr.

Samʿānī. Tafsīr.

Samarqandī. Baḥr.

Suyūṭī. Itqān.

Ṭabarī. Tafsīr.

Thaʿālibī. Jawāhir.

ʿUmar, Aḥmad Mukhtār, and ʿAbd al-ʿĀl Sālim. Muʿjam al-qirāʾāt al-Qurʾāniyya. 2nd ed. 8 vols. Kuwait: Jāmiʿat Kuwayt, 1408/1988.

Wāḥidī. Wajīz.

Zajjāj. Maʿānī.

Zamakhsharī. Kashshāf.

See also

© 2023 CIS. All Rights Reserved