The Vision of Allah the Exalted in the World and the Hereafter

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`la)13 vie, and 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.”14

Al-Mubarakfuri relates from Ibn Kathir and al-Haytami the position that the above vision took place in the Prophet’s sleep — Allah bless and greet him. This is also the position of Ibn al-Jawzi based on what he termed the best chains of this hadith.15 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).16 On the whole, the scholars’ interpretations of the Prophet’s vision — Allah bless and greet him — 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 dream-vision or heart-vision — Allah bless and greet him — is by far sharper, more accurate, and more real than the visions of ordinary people.

Ahl al-Sunna scholars gave many interpretations of the above hadith. For example, al-Razi and, before him, al-Bayhaqi, interpreted the placing of Allah’s Hand as His extreme consideration and attention to the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him –, or as His immense favor to him, while its specific placing between his shoulders refers to the pouring of divine kindness and mercy into his heart, and the coolness refers to the completion and perfection of his knowledge as shown by his words “I knew all things between the East and the West.”17 Al-Qari wrote the following in the chapter on the Prophet’s — Allah bless and greet him — turban in his book Jam` al-Wasa’il fi Sharh al-Shama’il, a commentary on al-Tirmidhi’s Shama’il or “Characteristics of the Prophet”:

Whether the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — saw his Lord in his sleep or whether Allah the Glorious and Exalted manifested Himself to him with a form (bi al-tajalli al-suri), this type of manifestation is known among the masters of spiritual states and stations (arbab al-hal wa al-maqam), and it consists in being reminded of His disposition (hay’atihi) and reflecting upon His vision (ru’yatihi), which is the outcome of the perfection of one’s self-detachment (takhliyatihi) and self-adornment (tahliyatihi). And Allah knows best about the states of His Prophets and Intimate Friends whom He has raised with His most excellent upbringing, and the mirrors of whose hearts He has polished with His most excellent polish, until they witnessed the Station of Divine Presence and Abiding (maqam al-hudur wa al-baqa’), and they rid themselves of the rust of screens and extinction (sada’ al-huzur wa al-fana’). May Allah bestow on us their yearnings, may He make us taste their states and manners, and may He make us die in the condition of loving them and raise us in their group.18

Al-Qari goes on to quote Ibn al-Qayyim’s relation from Ibn Taymiyya that when the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — saw that his Lord put His hand between his shoulders, he honored that place with the extremity of the turban.19 Elsewhere he states:

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