Sunday, 19 July 2020

Mystical Vision of Allah (Part 1)

باسمك اللهم

The Prophets and Saints of Allah have beheld Him in visions and dreams, though in veiled forms. We must understand the Mi’raj of the Prophet Muhammad صلوات الله والسلام عليه as a spiritual ascension and powerful vision in line with the type experienced by the Prophets who preceded him. Here I am particularly referring to Merkabah visions experienced by Prophets and Saints in the Hebrew Bible:

I [Micaiah] saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. (2 Chronicles 18:18)

I [Isaiah] saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple (Isaiah 6:1)

I [Ezekiel] saw visions of God...and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. (Ezekiel 1:1, 26)

I [Daniel] beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. (Daniel 7:9)

These visions of Allah Most High, in this world, are bestowed upon His chosen Prophets and His saintly friends. But they are not visions of His actual Essence, which is impossible to behold in this world, rather, they are visions of Him in a veiled form, usually in the form of a man. Hence, when sayyidina Abi Dharr al-Ghifari رضى الله عنه asked if he had seen his Lord, the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم answered:

نُورٌ أَنَّى أَرَاهُ
(He is) Light, how could I see Him?
(Sahih Muslim)

And in another version, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم answered:

رَأَيْتُ نُورًا
I saw Light

Likewise, when Prophet Moses عليه السلام son of Amram prayed to see his Lord, He answered him:

لَن تَرَانِي
You will not see Me
(Surah 7:143)

And he said, Thou canst not see my face*: for there shall no man see me, and live.
(Exodus 33:20)

*As in the Hebrew Bible, the attribute of God’s Face refers to His actual Essence when spoken of in the holy Quran  (Surah 28:88; 55:27)

This proclamation is regarding beholding the actual Essence of the Almighty in this transient world, but as for Allah being seen in a veiled form, the Torah states that Moses and other elders from Israel beheld the Lord God:

Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. (Exodus 24:9-11)

So Islam categorically denies the possibility of any mortal beholding Allah Most High in His actual Essence in this world, as the Mother of Believers, sayyidatuna A’ishah سلامٌ عليها emphasized:

عَنْ مَسْرُوقٍ، قَالَ قُلْتُ لِعَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ يَا أُمَّتَاهْ هَلْ رَأَى مُحَمَّدٌ صلى الله عليه وسلم رَبَّهُ فَقَالَتْ لَقَدْ قَفَّ شَعَرِي مِمَّا قُلْتَ، أَيْنَ أَنْتَ مِنْ ثَلاَثٍ مَنْ حَدَّثَكَهُنَّ فَقَدْ كَذَبَ، مَنْ حَدَّثَكَ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا صلى الله عليه وسلم رَأَى رَبَّهُ فَقَدْ كَذَبَ‏‏

Narrated Masruq: I said to A’ishah - may Allah be pleased with her - “O mother! Did Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم see his Lord?” She said: “What you have said makes my hair stand on end! Whoever tells you one of the following three things he has lied: Whoever tells you that Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم saw his Lord has lied...” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Then she recited the Ayah:

لَّا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الْأَبْصَارَ
Vision encompasses Him not, but He encompasses all vision
(Surah 6:103)

Yet, I truly believe that the Prophet Muhammad صلوات الله والسلام عليه beheld his Lord in the veiled form (not His actual Essence), as the Prophet صلوات الله والسلام عليه himself said:

أَتَانِي اللَّيْلَةَ رَبِّي تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى فِي أَحْسَنِ صُورَةٍ قَالَ أَحْسَبُهُ قَالَ فِي الْمَنَامِ
“My Lord, Blessed and Exalted, came to me tonight in the best form.” One of the narrators said: “I reckon he said during a dream”
(Jami’ at-Tirmidhi #3233; see also #3234)

Recounting the same vision, the Prophet عليه الصلاة والسلام further stated:

فَوَضَعَ يَدَهُ بَيْنَ كَتِفَىَّ حَتَّى وَجَدْتُ بَرْدَهَا بَيْنَ ثَدْيَىَّ أَوْ قَالَ فِي نَحْرِي
“So He placed His Hand between my shoulders until I sensed coolness between my chest” or he said “in my throat”

Both Albani and Zubair Ali Zai graded this Hadith hasanSayyidina Ibn Abbas رضى الله عنهما is the narrator of this Hadith, and as we shall see, he is the one from whom we shall take our theology regarding the Prophets and Saints of Allah seeing Him in visions in a veiled form.

Imam Abu Bakr al-Aajurri رحمه الله (d. 320 H) relates the following narration:

هَلْ رَأَى مُحَمَّدٌ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ رَبَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ؟ فَبَعَثَ إِلَيْهِ : أَنْ نَعَمْ , قَدْ رَآهُ فَرَدَّ رَسُولَهُ إِلَيْهِ , فَقَالَ : فَكَيْفَ رَآهُ ؟ قَالَ : رَآهُ عَلَى كُرْسِيٍّ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ , تَحْمِلُهُ أَرْبَعَةٌ مِنَ الْمَلَائِكَةِ : مَلَكٌ فِي صُورَةِ رَجُلٍ , وَمَلَكٌ فِي صُورَةِ أَسَدٍ , وَمَلَكٌ فِي صُورَةِ ثَوْرٍ , وَمَلَكٌ فِي صُورَةٍ نَسْرٍ فِي رَوْضَةٍ خَضْرَاءَ دُونَهُ فِرَاشٌ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ
Abdullah bin Umar went to Abdullah bin Abbas and asked him: “Did Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم see his Lord?” He (Ibn Abbas) said “yes, he saw Him”. So he (Ibn Umar) asked: “how did he see Him?” He (Ibn Abbas) said: “He saw Him upon a golden throne, carried by four Angels: an Angel in the form of a man, an Angel in the form of a lion, an Angel in the form of a bull, and an Angel in the form of an eagle, in a green garden beneath a golden platform.” (ash-Shari’ah lil-Aajurri)

Abdullah bin Ahmad bin Hanbal عليهما رحمة الله (d. 290 H) has narrated a similar report in his book as-Sunnah.

To be continued ان شاء الله عز وجل


  1. It is my belief that these mystical visions which various Prophets and Saints of Allah, including our Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم saw of Allah (in veiled form), were visions of the heart. The holy Quran says: مَا كَذَبَ الْفُؤَادُ مَا رَأَىٰ ﴿١١﴾ أَفَتُمَارُونَهُ عَلَىٰ مَا يَرَىٰ ﴿١٢﴾ (Surah 53:11-12) meaning "the heart did not lie in what it saw, so will you dispute with him in what he saw?"
    As for the vision of Allah with the actual eyes of the head, that shall only occur in the Afterlife

  2. The great tabi’, namely Wahb bin Munabbih (d. 114 H) relates:
    إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فَتَحَ السَّماَوَاتِ لِحِزْقِيلَ حَتَّى نَظَرَ إِلَى الْعَرْشِ
    Verily, Allah, mighty and majestic, opened the heavens for Ezekiel, until he beheld the Throne (az-Zuhd li-Ahmad bin Hanbal)


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