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[al- Ṭaḥawiyyah Pt 31 & 32] Seeing Allāh

(31) The Qur’ān is literally the word of Allāh

Anyone who attributes something human to Allāh is an infidel.  

وَمَنْ وَصَفَ اللَّهَ بِمَعْنًى مِنْ مَعَانِي الْبَشَرِ فَقَدْ كَفَرَ

The very nature of the Qur’ān being from beyond this world, spoken by none other than Allāh, dictates that it be unlike anything created. It was the ultimate proof (burhān) that bore testimony to the veracity of Muhammad’s claim to Prophethood (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam).

Having said that the Qur’ān is literally the word of Allāh, originating from Him, the author thought it proper to mention that Allāh is not like man in any of His attributes. Negation follows affirmation in order to remove the possibility of anthropomorphism. As if to say that although Allāh certainly speaks, His speech does not share the attributes that characterise human speech, for: ‘there is nothing like Allāh and He is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing’[1]. This verse illustrates how best to affirm the attributes of Allāh whilst avoiding both anthropomorphism and negation, or figurative interpretation.

The way in which Allāh, Exalted is He, has described Himself; and the way the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) described Allāh, contain no anthropomorphism. Allāh created the human mind capable of, and in fact inclined to, believing and submitting to a Lord with attributes of real speech, hearing, seeing, and so on, without believing them to be like the attributes they posses. The attributes of the Creator are as it behooves Him. And the attributes of the created are as it behooves them. Hence, to distort such a pure belief or to negate it is to disbelieve. To claim that the Qur’ān is created or that Allāh’s Speech is like that of a human, puts one beyond the pale of Islam. Further clarification on this point on excommunication with follow.

(32) When the Believers See Allāh

The seeing of Allāh by the people of Paradise is true, without their vision being all-encompassing and without the manner of their vision being known. 

وَالرُّؤْيَةُ حَقٌّ لِأَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ بِغَيْرِ إِحَاطَةٍ وَلَا كَيْفِيَّةٍ

 The greatest reward Allāh has reserved for His believers is the seeing of His Majestic Face in Paradise. The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) said: ‘When the inhabitants of Paradise will enter Paradise, Allāh, the Blessed and Exalted, will ask them: ‘Is there anything more you need that I may bestow upon you?’ They will say: ‘Have you not brightened our faces? Have you not entered us into Paradise and delivered us from the Hellfire?’ Allāh will say, ‘Certainly’. The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) then said, ‘Then the veils will be removed and they will see the Countenance of Allāh Most High. They will not have been bestowed anything more beloved to them than the sight of their Lord.’ The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) then recited the Quranic verse, ‘For those who do good is the best (reward) and more’[2].  This was the Prophet’s explanation of the verse [3] and the Companions, such as Abu Bakr, Hudayfah, Abu Mūsā al-Ash‘ari, and Ibn Abbas (RaḍiAllāhu ‘anhum), all interpreted the words ‘and more’ as referring to the Beatific Vision of Allāh in Paradise.

The reward of being able to gaze upon the Majestic Face of Allāh should motivate a believer to tire himself in devotion to His Lord, to hasten to His obedience, and to relentlessly abstain from sinning, hoping for that day. The Companions lived for this day. They once asked the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam): “O Messenger of Allāh, will we see our Lord on the Day of Resurrection?” He said: “Do you have any doubts about seeing the full moon on a cloudless night?” They said: “No.” He said: “Do you have any doubts about seeing the sun on a cloudless day?” They said: “No.” He said: “Then you will see your Lord in the same way”[4]. The Prophet confirmed in clear terms that Allāh, Exalted is He, would be seen by the believers just as they see the moon and sun from above.

A TRUE VISION

The statement of the author serves as a refutation against the Mu’tazilites and the Khawārij, who denied that seeing Allāh in the hereafter was even possible [5]. It also serves as a refutation against the Ash’arites and Mātūridiyya who claim that even though Allāh will be seen, He will not be seen in any particular direction [6]. Though the two opinions may seem divergent, they are in reality the same, as asserting that something cannot be seen from any direction or angle, is, for all intents and purposes, the same as saying something cannot be seen at all.

The seeing of Allāh in Paradise is mentioned explicitly in the Qur’ān wherein Allāh, Exalted is He, says: ‘Faces that Day will be radiant, gazing at their Lord’[7]. In another place in the Qur’ān, the great Imām al-Shāfi’ī inferred that Allāh’s saying: ‘No indeed! Rather that Day they will be veiled from their Lord’[8], indicates that conversely, the believers would be permitted to see Allāh.

More than thirty Companions (mutawātir) have related the belief of seeing (ru’ya) Allāh in Paradise from the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam); such as his blessed statement: ‘Indeed you will see your Lord just as you see the moon on a clear night’[9].  This is why the belief of seeing Allāh in Paradise with ones sight in something that the early Muslims (salaf) were in complete agreement on (ijmā’).

Common sense dictates that the ability to see is intrinsically linked to real entities that can be seen; one cannot see things that are not there, or that are without direction or position. What then be the case of a being that has Perfect and Sublime existence? Does not the One who brought everything into existence out of nothing, and whose existence is necessary for all else to exist, have more right to be seen? The great scholar Ibn al-Qayyim (Raḥimullah) (d. 751H) reasoned in this way that both the Sacred Text and one’s god-given intellect acknowledges the beatific vision of Allāh [10]. The fact that when Allāh speaks, as He spoke to Mūsā (‘alayhis salām), He is heard by His creatures, also points to the fact that it is possible for Him to be seen by them too.

Mūsā (‘alayhis salām), whom Allāh honoured with a direct address and made him His messenger, requested: ‘My Lord, show me Yourself so that I may look at You’, and was told by Allāh: ‘You will not see Me’ [11]. According to the Mu‘tazilites,  Mūsā (‘alayhis salām) had asked for something impossible and was ignorant of His Lord! However, in the Quranic passage, Allāh did not rebuke Mūsā (‘alayhis salām) for asking, nor did He tell him it was impossible for Him to be seen; rather, Allāh said: ‘You will not see Me’. Then Allāh illustrated to Mūsā (‘alayhis salām) why that was the case by commanding him to look at a mountain. Then, when Allāh made Himself manifest to that mountain it crumbled in awe of its Lord. It was then that Mūsā (‘alayhis salām) understood that: ‘Man was created weak’,[12] and in this transient life he is incapable of seeing Him. In a similar way, man’s vision is too weak to gaze directly at the glaring sun, does this therefore imply that the sun cannot be seen? In the Hereafter, Allāh will strengthen the sight of humans such that they will be able to see Him.

As for those who claim that Allāh will be seen by the people of Paradise but stipulate that they will not see Allāh before them, nor behind them, nor above them, nor below them [13], they have introduced a new doctrine into the religion that contradicts both the belief of Ahl Sunnah as well as the belief of the heretical Mu’tazilites. As the great Ḥanafī jurist Ibn Abdi ‘Izz stated: ‘Anyone who says that we will see Allāh but He will not be in any direction should ask himself whether he is not contradicting his reason; otherwise, if he says that Allāh will be seen but not in front, behind, to the right, to the left, above or below the viewer, everyone who has unbiased reasoning will refute him’[14]. The jurist rightly criticised this doctrine for the simple fact that it attempts to reverse reality. Seeing (ru’ya), lexically; in Arabic or otherwise, has no usage or meaning when qualified as seeing without direction. To say that something is seen but without direction is a contradiction in terms. Has anyone seen something in no direction?  If something cannot be seen from any angle, it most probably doesn’t exist! How then can one ascribe such fallacy to the Lord of the Worlds?[15]

The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) taught his Companions: ‘Indeed you will see your Lord just as you see the moon on a clear night’[16]. If the analogy the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) asserted is stripped of direction, the fundamental meaning of his blessed words are lost. In another authentic narration the Companions asked the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) whether they would see their Lord. The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) responded: ‘Do you find any difficulty in looking at the moon on the fourteenth night when there is no cloud over it?’ [17] Again the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) affirmed that Allāh, Exalted is He, would be seen from above, and that the believers would have no difficulty in seeing Him; whether by having their view obscured by those around them or by a hindrance of any kind. Rather they would see Allāh from above and gaze upon His Majesty with ease and serenity. The Prophet’s words (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) were just as much beautiful and inspiring as they were precise and unambiguous.

Those that claim Allāh will not be seen by sight or by His presence before them (muqābalah), did so based on a prior doctrine that Allāh is not above His creation. This was the precursor doctrine and had to be reconciled with the notion of seeing Allāh as mentioned in the Sacred Texts. The matter of seeing Allāh and of Allāh being above His creation were thus reconciled by stating that indeed Allāh would be seen in the Hereafter but without a direction (jihah). They argued that to ascribe a direction to Allāh was to liken Him to the creation, for the dynamics of direction is only associated with a created body or entity (jism). Moreover, to say that one will literally see Allāh would also be likening Him to the creation as such a meeting can only take place between two created bodies or entities. In this manner they sought to affirm the seeing of Allāh (ru’ya) and yet maintain that Allāh was not above His creation (‘uluww).

The reality is that there are none more knowledgeable of the religion than the Prophet’s Companions (RaḍiAllāhu ‘anhum). They did not merely transmit what they heard from the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) but passed on the spirit and meaning behind those narrations. If we were to assume that the claim of the Ash’arites were true; that Allāh cannot be seen in any direction whatsoever; then surely the Companions would have also qualified the seeing of Allāh as they have. However, we do not find such qualification from any of the Early Muslims (salaf). This is something noteworthy, as not only do the Ash’arites claim this doctrine to be true, they also deem the belief of Ahl al-Sunnah as being tantamount to heresy. For them, asserting that Allāh is above His creation, is to ascribe a direction to Him, which in turn is to liken Allāh to the creation. Would not the Companions and Early Muslims (salaf) have warned against such a misinterpretation of the Sacred Texts? It is possible that the added qualification of the Ash’arites can be deemed as acceptable if by Allāh not having a “direction”, it meant that Allāh is not intermingled or contained within His creation. However, the view that Allāh is not above His creation contravenes the Sacred Texts in many ways.

Both the Mu’tazilites and the Ash’arites were deeply affected by a Hellenistic discourse which impacted on how they interpreted the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, and ultimately formulated their religious beliefs.  However, the Ash’arites still affirmed the seeing of Allāh, and are thus closer to truth and Islam in general; unlike the Mu’tazilites who outright denied it.

Points of Benefit

1) The great scholar Ibnul Qayyim (Raḥimullah) gathered together the narrations concerning this phenomenal reward and wrote a poem based on them:

And if you ask about the Day of Increase (in reward) and the visit of the all-Mighty, all-Wise, and the sight of His Face – free from any resemblance or likeness to anything – as you see the Sun in the middle of the day and the full Moon on a cloudless night, then listen on the day that the caller will call: ‘O People of Paradise! Your Lord – Blessed and Exalted – requests you to visit Him, so come to visit Him!’ So they will say: ‘We hear and obey!’

Until, when they finally reach the wide valley where they will all meet – and none of them will turn down the request of the caller – the Lord – Blessed and Exalted – will order His Throne to be brought there. Then, pulpits of light will emerge, as well as pulpits of pearls, gemstone, gold, and silver. The lowest of them in rank will sit on sheets of musk, and will not see what those who are on the seats above them are given. When they are comfortable where they are sitting and are secure in their places, and the caller calls: ‘O People of Paradise! You have an appointment with Allāh in which He wishes to reward you!’ So they will say: ‘And what is that reward? Has He not already made our faces bright, made our scales heavy, entered us into Paradise, and pushed us away from the Fire?’

And when they are like that, all of a sudden a light shines that encompasses all of Paradise. So, they raise their heads, and, behold: the Compeller – Exalted is He, and Holy are His Names – has come to them from above them, embellished them in majesty and shall say: ‘O People of Paradise! Peace be upon you!’ So, this greeting will not be responded to with anything better than: ‘O Allāh! You are Peace, and from You is Peace! Blessed are You, O possessor of Majesty and Honour!’ So the Lord – Blessed and Exalted – will be pleased with them and say: ‘O People of Paradise! Where are those who used to obey Me without having ever seen Me? This is the Day of Increase!’

So, they will all give the same response: ‘We are pleased, so be pleased with us!’ So, He will say: ‘O People of Paradise! If I were not pleased with you, I would not have made you inhabitants of My Paradise! So, ask of Me!’ So, they will all give the same response: ‘Show us your Face so that we may look at it!’ So, the Lord – Mighty and Majestic – will remove his covering and will majestify them and will cover them with His Light, which, if Allāh – the Exalted – had not Willed not to burn them, would have burned them.

And there will not remain a single person in this gathering except that his Lord – the Exalted – will speak to him and say: ‘Do you remember the day that you did this and that?’ and He will remind him of some of his bad deeds in the Worldly life, so he will say: ‘O Lord! Will you not forgive me?’ So, He will say: ‘Of course! You have not reached this position of yours (in Paradise) except by my forgiveness.

So, how sweet is this speech to the ears, and how cooled are the righteous eyes by the glance at His Noble Face in the Afterlife…

2) Some scholars also believe that the believers will see Allāh even before they enter Paradise at the place of gathering (ma’shar).

3) Seeing something does not necessitate encompassing or grasping (idrāk) it completely, and thus there is no contradiction with the verse: ‘No vision can grasp Him’ and the belief in seeing Allāh in the Hereafter, since encompassment is a capacity beyond just sight. Hence, the Lord Most High will be seen but neither knowledge nor sight can completely encompass Him.

Source: www.islam21.com

[1]  Q. Al-Shūrā, 42: 11.

[2] H. Muslim

[3]Q. Yūnus, 10: 26.

[4] H. Bukkhari

[5] See Sharh al-Usul al-Khamsa and al-Mughni under the chapter “al-‘Adl wa al-Tawḥīd”

[6] See Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari’s commentary of al-Fiqh al-Akbar

[7] Q. Al-Qiyāmah, 75: 22-3.

[8] Q. Al-Mutaffifīn, 83: 15.

[9] H. Al-Bukhārī & Muslim.

[10] See Mukhtasar al-Sawā’iq

[11] Q. Al-‘Arāf, 7: 143.

[12] Q. Al-Nisā, 4: 28.

[13] See Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari’s commentary of al-Fiqh al-Akbar. See also the explanation of al-Tahawi’s creed by ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Maydani in which he writes: ‘The vision of the transcendent holy essence of God, the Sublime and Exalted, without encirclement or direction is true and real for the People of Paradise. However, this vision is not with dimensions or limits, due to God’s transcendence beyond finiteness, descriptions, limits, and containment. It is a-modal (bilā kayf) in its nature and has no direction, distance, description, or light rays connecting the seer and the seen, nor any distance between the vision of bodies and substances, and God, the Sublime and Exalted, cannot be likened to gazing upon a body.’ [Damascus: Dār al-Fikr; 1997] [14] See Ibn Abdil Izz’s commentary of al-’Aqīdah al-Ṭaḥāwiyyah

[15] A Māturīdī scholar

[16] H. Al-Bukhārī & Muslim.

[17] H. Muslim

About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad and Asim Khan

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.

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