I gave a presentation in the year 1427 AH (AD 2005) in Leeds regarding the basis of Salvation as well as the fruits of salvation. It was a very fruitful time in addition to the fact that I had brought my oldest son with me for the trip. He was three years old, drank a litre of orange juice and then apple juice and left such a mess in his diaper thereafter that he had to have all of his clothes changed.
After that fiasco, I was again queried about the fruits of salvation. Upon giving the answer to a crowd of believers and non-believers, I was approached not long after by an Arab man from Iraq who was very cordial.
He spoke very polished Arabic and explained to me in Arabic why he found what I said very good but there was just one issue. I had blasphemed Allah. In a sweet and loving manner, he explained that Allah will not be seen in the Hereafter ever (which I had mentioned to the crowd earlier, along with the fact that it is mentioned in the Qur’an explicitly and implicitly about nine times).
When I heard this, I immediately calmly asked him, “So are you Ithna `Ashari or Isma`ili.” He grinned widely and said in reply, “I’m Ithna `Ashari.” Very well then. He was a Twelver Shi`ii. Whenever I hear this style of argumentation, I always know that it is based the theology of the Mu`tazilah.
And as the Shi`ah borrowed the great bulk of their theology from the Mu`tazilah, it should be of no surprise that they have many of the same doctrines, such as believing that Allah will not be seen in the Hereafter, deeds have a connection to salvation, the Qu’ran is created, the punishment of the grave is not established, it is possible for people to universally gather together and believe in a lie (denial of mutawatir reports) and a number of other things.
Upon completion of conversation, which was only slightly heated, he agreed to send me an e-mail, to set me straight.
The following below is the e-mail and my response (e-mail dated 4 October 2005; 11:19pm):
As far as believing that Allah will be seen in the Hereafter, such a concept is flawed. It is flawed with the basic concepts revolving around the Qur’an. As we are aware, the direct or decisive verses are the Umm ul-Kitab (mother of the Book). Ummul is the term used to refer to the originator. Whenever one is confused on a matter, one is to refer to the originator. Thus the direct verses are to be approached on matters when there is confusion. With the above logic, we shall explain the query, Allah willing.
First and foremost, we observe, the term used for looking onto their Lord is naadhirah. The problem with is this term is taken out of context. This term itself means, ‘looking/waiting/expecting.’ Unfortunately, in the verse where Allah, Glorified and Exalted, is mentioned, it is ill comprehended by some. We observe in the verse it is mentioned,
Faces on that day will be radiant, looking (naadhiratun) at their Lord. Surat ul-Qiyamah (75), ayaat 22-23
The same term was used in other verses of the Qur’an such as Surat un-Naml (27), ayah 35:
And surely I am going to send a present to them, and shall wait to see (fa-naadhiratun) what answer do the messengers bring back.
With this we observe, the Lord of Might is evidently referring to a matter of expectation. On the Day of Judgement, the good and the evil shall wait in expectation of the reward promised, looking forward to their Lord’s Mercy. Imam Rida was asked, “What does the verse ’Faces that day will be radiant, looking at their Lord,’mean?”
Imam Rida replied, ‘It means that their faces are radiant and they are looking forward to the reward of their Lord.’ Al-Bihaar, vol. 4, p, 28, statement #3.
Furthermore, using the direct verses, due to the shortage of time, we will explain briefly, Allah Willing.
No vision can comprehend Him, but He comprehends all vision. And He is the Most Subtle, the All Informed. Surat ul-An`am (6), ayah 103
Vision evidently encompasses Him not. Surely, if one were to claim that He can be seen, one is claiming Him to have some sort of physical appearance. Such a physical appearance leads to the limitation of the Lord. Anything limited is not the Lord. Such a confined character is not infinite, but it is known for sure that our Lord is infinite. Also, another verse is used, which will be explained through common sense and logic, Allah Willing.
By no means! When the earth is made to crumble to pieces and your Lord comes and also the angels in ranks. Surat ul-Fajr (89), ayaat 21-22
The above is also used to claim that Allah, Glorified and Exalted, will be seen on the Day of Judgement. I would like to pose a question towards such deviant beliefs. Where was He before if He is going to come? And if it is claimed, He was on the Throne after creating the Earth, where was He before He was on the Throne that He created? Did He have no place to stay? Where was He before all Creation? Was He homeless? Surely such silly descriptions of seeing Allah are not befitting of the Lord of Might.
My response is what follows. Keep in mind that as he is a laymen in this particular cult, I do not assume that he is immediately not a believer. So based upon this principle, I have given him all the greetings and considerations as the rest of the Muslims:
As-Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah,
Thank you for your e-mail after our discussion. You really did get back to me quite quickly. I appreciate the quotes that you have given me. However, there are a few things that I would like to state at the outset.
Firstly, I try to follow the Orthodox Muslims, that first three generations of Islam, I know that they are the ones that knew the faith of Islam perfectly well and that there is no way that all of the first three generations could be wrong, for the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, left clear guidance.
Secondly, am I to understand from the quotes that you have given below that you are taking from the Imams and scholars of tafsir with regards to an issue of the essentials of Islamic Faith? As far as I know, we Muslims are not to follow anyone in regards to what we believe about Allah and our relationship with Him. But rather, we are to each come to have a relationship with Him, as he has said,
So know, there is no god but Allah. Then ask forgiveness for your sin. Surah Muhammad (47), ayah 19
Thirdly, I believe that arguing over the ahaadith in this matter will not bring much fruit. In fact, what it will lead to is my bringing one hadith and then you will bring one, without any beneficial dialogue taking place that causes us to both think. It will just become a quoting match. Therefore, here is what I would propose. What I am going to do is just stick to the Qur’an, as it is the Word of Allah without doubt.
Then, I will quote what I think is essential Orthodox faith, that being the Seeing of Allah in the Hereafter. I will only quote the Qur’an and cross-reference and substantiate my positions with the Qur’an, nothing else. I ask that you do the same, for I think if I quote scholars that I follow, you could rightly disagree and quote scholars that you follow.
And due to the fact that this is essential faith and that whoever is wrong could be punished by Allah for understanding Him wrongly, I believe it is up to us to speak to each other with just the evidence. I hope you will agree. I will not try to give a response to what you have said and maybe you will consider it and we will both benefit, insha’allah.
I think I understand the point that is being given, but there are a number of problems here, those being,
a. The context and use the word naadhirah is completely different. If you look at the two passages mentioned, they are using two completely different contexts. And although the word could be taken to mean that in one context, how has the ayah on looking towards Allah been taken to mean waiting for something or reward?
b. To take the ayah in Surat ul-Qiyamah (75), ayaat 22-23 to mean that the believers, rather than looking at Allah and seeing Him, will be receiving or expecting a reward is problematic, for the ayah before it already mentions them having the reward. Look carefully,
That day, faces will be radiant. Surat ul-Qiyamah (75), ayah 22
Thus, they already have their reward, brother. So why would they be awaiting reward when their faces have been brightened and it has been given to them?
c. If we take the argument that you have used by taking Surat un-Naml (27), ayah 35 and saying that the context and use of the word are the same, then what of the ayah in Surat ul-A`raf (7), ayah 143:
He said, Lord, let me see you (unzur ilaik). He said, you cannot see Me, but look at the mountain (unzur ilaal Jabal). If it should stay established in its’ place, then you will see Me.
You had explained to me at the lecture in Leeds that the expression used is referring to receiving the reward from Allah or expecting it. If this is the case, the ayah would mean that the Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, asked Allah for a reward. Then Allah told him to look at the mountain for his reward, but if the mountain could stay in its’ place, then he would receive the reward from Allah.
But this obviously could not be the meaning of the actual ayah, could it? In fact, the Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, asked to see Allah. He was not rebuked harshly for this at all. Had it been limiting the Lord or thinking the Lord not able, he would have been denounced, just as the Children of Israel were denounced for asking to make Allah manifest in front of them right that instant when they were speaking.
Again, my question is how this ayah could be referring to expectation of reward or mercy when the people being addressed are already in the Paradise. Consider another ayah that you could cross-reference with the one in Surat ul-Qiyamah (75), ayah 26:
Those who did Ihsan will have goodness and something extra. Their faces will not be humiliated nor will they be laid low. They are the companions of the Paradise and they are to be therein forever.
How could they be expecting the mercy of Allah when if one reads this ayah, they have clearly been referred to as being in the Paradise and forever therein? So what mercy would they be waiting for when they have already been given the mercy of entering the Paradise?
I believe you will need to investigate this point. As far as the two quotes from the Imams, again I take my understanding from the plain meaning of the Words of Allah as well as cross-referencing. Any aspect of essential creed that Allah wants me to know can be known and understood by the plain meaning of the text and without the need of a scholar to believe it.
The ayah that was mentioned is indeed correct, but I believe that the understanding is distorted. The Lord Almighty has said that vision comprehends Him not, but it does not state, ‘Vision can never reach him,’ or ‘He will never be seen,’ or ‘He cannot be seen.’ I understand the point that vision cannot encompass Him. I would not be claiming that someone would have to encompass Allah in vision by seeing Him.
This is not at all necessary. But I do not think that the ayah that you have quoted satisfactorily proves that Allah will not be seen or will never be seen. In fact, I believe that this ayah is actually an evidence in my favour, for it is stating that He cannot be encompassed, which is my position, while at the same time I believe, as He has said in His Revelation, that He will be seen,
Allah has told us,
Those who spend their wealth so that they might be purified and do not expect a favour in return for what they have done, will only desire to seek the face of their Lord, Most High. And they will have complete pleasure and satisfaction. Surat ul-Lail (92), ayaat 18-21
There is also another ayah that is particularly troublesome as well as for whoever would deny seeing the Lord Almighty. Allah has said the following, All Hail Him with Praise and Glory!
Indeed that day, they will be veiled (mahjubun) from their Lord. They will be burned in the Great Fire. Then it will be said, ‘This is that which you were denying!’ Surat ul-Mutaffifin (83), ayaat 15-17
Please notice that it says that they will be veiled from their Lord. What are they being veiled from? I would say that they are veiled from their Lord. But you would say His Reward or Mercy. But please read on,
Indeed the Book of the Righteous Ones is in the Illiyin. What is the Illiyun? It is a register kept. Those near will be witness of it. Indeed the righteous shall have their bounty, on thrones looking. Surat ul-Mutaffifin (83), ayaat 18-23
The same statement for the believers is repeated again in the same surah quoted above, ayah 35. There are a number of points to keep in mind,
a. The ayah mentions the kuffar being veiled. You explained to me that the meaning is that they are veiled from the mercy of their Lord or His Bounty.
b. The passage above states that the believers have received their rewards, then they are on the thrones looking. Therefore, what you stated of Surat ul-Qiyamah could not be correct as Allah made a difference between the reward, which came first and the looking, which came second.
c. Allah repeated it again in ayah 35 of the same surah, which is very important, for the reward was not mentioned. Rather the sighting was mentioned. IF one should read the passage with other ones, they can see that this is due to the fact that they are already in the Paradise. They have received their reward. The question I would then have, my brother, is if they are already in the Paradise, after receiving the bounty and gift of being able to go into there, then what are they looking at? And if you believe the expression, yanzurun means ‘expecting/waiting’ what are they waiting for?
d. I do not believe that seeing Allah would mean that one is limiting Him, for the Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, asked to see Allah and was not rebuked for it. Allah has clearly said,
There is no thing like Him. And He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. Surat ush-Shura (42), ayah 11
I would not say that due to the fact that He is All-Seeing that He would need an eye anymore than I would say that because He is All-Hearing, He needs an eardrum or earlobe. Not at all! All Hail the One who is Unique and has no Rival! Praise be to Him! Likewise, seeing Him I would not assume that He would have to be a physical being or that I would have to have special lights or sunlight, for there will be no sun or moon in the Paradise (please see Surat ul-Insan (76), ayah 13 ), thus He is not in need of being seen with this apparatus nor is He subject to it or bounded by space and time.
Nor would be think for a moment that the one vision would be all encompassing. We would have the rest of eternity to gaze at His Glory and notice new aspects of His Majesty and unbelievable and glorious Essence. The Lord we serve is great enough to keep His Promise, one which He has made in the Qur’an numerous times.
I would not see the verses that you quoted as evidence for seeing the Lord, for if one took that as evidence, the Lord was coming in the clouds, this would mean that everyone would see Him. Allah has clearly negated that the kuffar will ever see Him. But rather, as an Orthodox Muslim, by reading the context of the passage as well as the surah in context, I would understand that it is referring to the Day of Resurrection. If one reads the ayaat that you have quoted all the way to the end, you can see that this is the case. Therefore, the unbelievers will not be able to see Him, Glorified and Exalted is He for eternity!
Another ayah that is also important is that which is contained in Surah Qaf (50), ayaat 33-35, where the Lord of power states,
Whoever fears the Most Merciful in the unseen and comes with a pure heart it will be said, Enter the Paradise. That is the Day of Eternity. They will have in it what they will and from Us will be something extra.
Now by examining this ayah, brother, you can see that they are already in Paradise and receiving something additional. So what would they be hoping for and what had Allah promised them or said to give them in addition to that? What is greater than the Paradise and the rewards and what you will in the Paradise? Brother, it is the most splendid vision, the most awesome thing we could ever receive. To see Allah, all Hail His Majesty! And this is the position that I have adopted and understood from these and other texts. I hope that we can speak again soon, insha’allah.
I am praying for you and I ask that you read these ayaat as they are and ask Allah to show you the truth. Pray for that and continue to read and I hope that this will help. Remember, if one of us is wrong, then we certainly want to find out before we are at the Day of Resurrection, for punishment is the promise for whoever has claimed something about Allah that is not the case.
Abu Ja`far al-Hanbali