The Vision of Allah in the World and the Hereafter

Al-Qari and al-Haytami reported that the agreement of Ahl al-Sunna is that sight of Allah in the world is possible but that it does not take place (except for the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him), while two contrary opinions on the topic are narrated from al-Ash‘ari in al-Qushayri’s Risala.[5] The proof that His sight is possible in the world was adduced from Musa’s – upon him peace – request to Allah Most High: (My Lord! Show me Your Self, that I may gaze upon You) (7:143) as Prophets do not ask for the impossible.[6] Imam al-Qushayri stated in the Risala that sight of Allah in the world does not take place for anyone except the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – alone, while al-Dhahabi, conceding that sight of Allah in the world is possible, held that it does not take place even for the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him –.[7] The best statement on the issue is that of Shaykh Muhyi al-Din ibn ‘Arabi: “He can be seen with the hearts and the eyes, if He so wills.”[8] Most or all of these views are based on the Prophet’s – Allah bless and greet him – hadith: “Veri­ly, you shall not see Allah until you die.”[9] Ibn Hajar adduced the hadith: “Worship Allah as if you see Him” as further proof that there is no sight of Allah with the eyes of the head in this world but added: “The Prophet’s – Allah bless and greet him – sight of Allah is supported by other evi­dence.”[10]

 

The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – saw Allah before death [GH1] as is the doctrine of the major­ity of Ahl al-Sunna thus related from al-Nawawi by al-Qari.[11] The evidence for this is the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas whereby the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – said: “I saw my Lord” (ra’aytu rabbî).[12] Ibn Kathir cited it in his commentary on Sura al-Najm and declared its chain sound, but considered it part of the hadith of the dream cited below. Ibn al-Qayyim [see excerpt below] relates that Imam Ahmad considered such sight to be in the Prophet’s – Allah bless and greet him – sleep but remains a true sight – as the dreams of Prophets are true – and that some of the Imam’s companions mis­ta­kenly attributed to him the position that the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – saw his Lord “with the eyes of his head.”[13]

 

Al-Bayhaqi also narrated the hadith “I saw my Lord” in al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat with a sound chain but with the addition: “in the form of a curly-haired, beardless young man wearing a green robe,” a condemned, disauthen­ti­cated addition and concatenation with another hadith that refers to Gibrîl u.[14] Hence al-Suyuti interpreted it either as a dream or, quoting his shaykh Ibn al-Humam, as “the veil of form” (hijâb al-sûra).[15]

 

The latter explanation is echoed in al-Qari’s several commentaries of the similar hadith whereby the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – said: “My Lord came to me in the best form” – the narrator said: “I think he said: ‘in my sleep’” –  “and asked me over what did the Higher Assembly (al-mala’ al-a‘lâ)[16] vie; I said I did not know, so He put His hand between my shoulders, and I felt its coolness in my innermost, and knowledge of all things between the East and the West came to me.”[17]

 

Al-Mubarakfuri relates from Ibn Kathir and al-Haytami the position that the above vision took place in the Prophet’s – Allah bless and greet him – sleep. This is also the position of Ibn al-Jawzi based on what he termed the best chains of this hadith.[18] Al-Haytami points out that the words “I woke up and saw my Lord” in Ahmad’s narration from Mu‘adh are actually changed from “I dozed off and saw my Lord” due to a copyist’s corruption of “I dozed off” (istathqaltu) – in al-Tirmidhi’s narration from Mu‘adh – into “I woke up” (istayqaztu).[19] On the whole, the scholars’ interpretations of the Prophet’s – Allah bless and greet him – vision show that whether it took place in his dream or in a wakeful state, “with the eyes of the heart” or “with the eyes of the head,” does not change the fact that he saw Him in the real sense, as the Prophet’s – Allah bless and greet him – dream-vision or heart-vision is by far sharper, more accurate, and more real than the visions of ordinary people.

 

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