Sunday, 19 July 2020

Mystical Vision of Allah (Part 2)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على اشرف الانبياء والمرسلين

Allah, Holy and Exalted is He, says:

وَمَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَن يُكَلِّمَهُ اللَّـهُ إِلَّا وَحْيًا أَوْ مِن وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ أَوْ يُرْسِلَ رَسُولًا فَيُوحِيَ بِإِذْنِهِ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلِيٌّ حَكِيمٌ
And it is not for any mortal human that Allah should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a curtain or that He sends a messenger to reveal, by His permission, what He wills. Indeed, He is Most High, Wise
(Surah 42:51)

What is the reality of Allah speaking to mortal humans من وراء حجاب “from behind a veil”? A clear example of this phenomenon is when Allah Most High called upon Moses son of Amram and spoke to him directly at the “burning bush”:

فَلَمَّا أَتَاهَا نُودِيَ مِن شَاطِئِ الْوَادِ الْأَيْمَنِ فِي الْبُقْعَةِ الْمُبَارَكَةِ مِنَ الشَّجَرَةِ أَن يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنِّي أَنَا اللَّـهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ
But when he came to it, he was called from the right side of the valley in a blessed spot - from the tree, “O Moses, indeed I am Allah, Lord of the worlds”
(Surah 28:30)

It may be said that the specific tree or the object that was engulfed in flames but extraordinarily was not consumed by the fire was an example of the actual veil or curtain that is spoken of in the prior verse (42:51). That the curtain behind which Allah, Blessed and Exalted, spoke to Moses was associated with fire is explained in the following Hadith:

حِجَابُهُ النُّورُ - وَفِي رِوَايَةِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ النَّارُ - لَوْ كَشَفَهُ لأَحْرَقَتْ سُبُحَاتُ وَجْهِهِ مَا انْتَهَى إِلَيْهِ بَصَرُهُ مِنْ خَلْقِهِ
His Veil is Light - and in the narration of Abi Bakr (Ibn Abi Shaybah) it is Fire - were He to remove it, the glory of His Face would consume everything of His creation within the extent of His vision (Sahih Muslim)

After narrating this Hadith from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم via sayyidina Abi Musa al-Ashari رضى الله عنه, the narrator Abi Ubaidah connected the following Ayah to the reality of this fiery veil (Sunan Ibn Majah #196):

فَلَمَّا جَاءَهَا نُودِيَ أَن بُورِكَ مَن فِي النَّارِ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
But when he came to it, he was called, “Blessed is whoever is at the fire and whoever is around it. And exalted is Allah, Lord of the worlds”
(Surah 27:8)

In other words, the fire that Prophet Moses عليه الصلاة والسلام perceived through which Allah spoke to him direct and audibly was itself the veil of Allah behind which He is concealed spoken of in Surah 42:51 and in the Hadith of Sahih Muslim when the Prophet Muhammad عليه الصلاة والسلام said “His veil is fire”. Likewise, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم perceived this fiery veil of light during his Mi’raj or spiritual ascension, as he said: “Light, how could I see Him?” and “I saw light” (Sahih Muslim)

But there is also the possibility that the veil spoken of in Surah 42:51 is referring to the “veil of form” in which a Prophet or Saint of Allah beholds Him in a vision, usually in the form of a man. The so-called “orthodoxy” of the Muslim mainstream (Asharis, Maturidis and others) deny the possibility of beholding Allah in this world including through visions and dreams. They reject the concept of the “veil of form”. Apart from them, the Mu’tazilah and those sects under their influence - the Shi’ah and the Ibadis - reject the possibility of seeing Allah even in the Afterlife, let alone in visions and dreams. These Muslims obviously disregard the instances in the Hebrew Bible where the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel beheld the Lord God in the likeness of a man.

In the first part of this series, I cited two narrations, one in Tirmidhi in which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said his Lord came to him (in sleep) in the best form, and placed His Palm between his shoulders making him sense a coolness, and another narration in which sayyidina Ibn Abbas رضى الله عنهما narrates that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم beheld Allah upon a golden throne carried by the four Angels known as the Cherubim. The latter is quite similar to the prophet Ezekiel’s famous vision of the throne and the four hayyot (living creatures) in the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel.

But thus far I haven’t cited any Islamic text in which the “veil of form” through which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم beheld Allah جل جلاله is actually described. There are, in fact, several such Ahadith, though it must be acknowledged that they do not reach the level of indisputable authenticity and so many if not most Muslims reject altogether the concept of the “veil of form”. But I strongly believe in it, and shall cite some narrations now to justify my position:

Ibn Taymiyah رحمه الله relates a Hadith which he declared sahih and marfu from Qatadah, from Ikrimah, from Ibn Abbas رضى الله عنهما that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

رأيتُ ربِّي في صورةِ شابٍّ أمرَدَ له وَفرةٌ جعدٌ قططُ في روضةٍ خضراءَ
I saw my Lord in the form of a beardless boy, who had shoulder-length curly hair in a green garden
(Bayan Talbis al-Jahmiyyah; v.7 p.290)

Here I should mention that when Allah is beheld in a vision in the “veil of form”, it is of course in a beautiful and glorious form that is befitting His majesty and holiness. Therefore, I do believe that the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم beheld Allah Most High in a vision in the form of a handsome youth with curly hair. Incidentally, the 2014 blockbuster Exodus: Gods and Kings depicts Moses meeting and speaking with the Lord God in the form of a young boy. While this is quite speculative as an interpretation of the Biblical Exodus account, it is not necessarily contrary to the Islamic theology I subscribe to.

To be continued إن شاء الله

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