Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
What is the position of Islamic scholarship on seeing Allah in dreams, waking, and the afterlife
Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The position of the mainstream Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah (Asha'ira and Maturidiyya) is that the vision of Allah Most High with the eyes of the head is rationally (aqlan) possible and that the believers will be blessed with this vision in the hereafter.
This vision, however, will be without encompassment (ihata) or delimitation (tahdid) within any given limit (hadd), whether from the front, the back, above, below, right, or left. Allah Most High will be seen (unlike any material being) not in place or in a direction so far as being confronted, nor by the conjunction of the rays of light, nor by a certain definite distance between the one who sees and Allah.
In other words, the believers will see Allah Most High in Paradise without our specifying how and in a manner Allah knows best. It is impossible and wrong to draw analogy for the unseen from the seen. This vision of Allah is certainly unlike the vision of material things in this world, for vision in this world requires the seen to be in a place, direction, at a specific distance, etc, whilst the vision of Allah Most High in the hereafter will be free from such restrictions. Allah Most High will enable the believers to see His esteemed self. (Culled from Mulla Ali al-Qari's Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar P: 245-246, Taftazani's Sharh al-Aqa'id al-Nasafiyya P: 131, Nuh Ali Suleyman's commentary on Jawhara al-Tawhid P: 113 and Bajuri's commentary on the Jawhara P: 114)
The above is the position that the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah scholars have always maintained. The Mu'tazila and some other groups such as the Shi'a held that Allah Most High could not be seen at all, even on the Day of Resurrection or in Paradise. They interpreted certain verses of the Qur'an erroneously, rejected some sound hadiths claiming that such vision necessitated a physical body for Allah and a direction, which He Most High is free from. However, the position of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah is supported by many evidences of the Qur'an and Sunnah, of which some are presented below:
1) Allah Most High says:
"Some faces, that day, will beam (in brightness and beauty), looking towards their Lord."(Surah al-Qiyama, V: 22-23)
2) Allah Most High says regarding the Prophet Sayyiduna Musa (Peace be upon him):
"When Moses came to the place appointed by Us, and his Lord addressed him, He said: "O my Lord! Show (Yourself) to me, that I may look upon You." Allah said: "By no means can you see Me (direct); But look upon the mount; if it abides in its place, then you shall see Me..." (Surah al-A'raf, V: 143)
In the above verse, Sayyiduna Musa (peace be upon him) requested to see Allah Most High. Had the vision of Allah been impossible, the request of Sayyiduna Musa (peace be upon him) would have been out of ignorance or foolishness or he would be making a request for the impossible, whereas all the Prophets of Allah are far removed from such things. Secondly, Allah Most High connected the vision with the abiding of the mountain firm in its place, which is something that is possible in itself. Hence, that which is connected to the possible is also possible. (Taftazani and Nasafi, Sharh al-Aqa'id al-Nasafiyya, P: 127-128)
3) Allah Most High says:
"There will be for them therein (in Paradise) all that they wish, and more besides in Our presence."(Surah Qaf, V: 35)
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) interpreted "more" saying that it referred to the vision of Allah Most High. (Narrated by Muslim and others)
4) Allah Most High says regarding the disbelievers:
"Verily, from their Lord, that Day, will they be veiled."(Surah al-Mutaffifin, V: 15)
This verse explains that the disbelievers will be deprived from the vision of Allah; hence by contrast, it implies that the believers will be blessed with this vision. Thus, Sayyiduna Imam Shafi'i (Allah have mercy on him) said:
"Allah Most High's veiling Himself from a people (disbelievers) due to His displeasure indicates that a group (believers) will see Him due to His pleasure. By Allah, had Muhammad ibn Idrees (Shafi'i himself) not been convinced that he will see his Lord in the hereafter, he would not have worshipped him in this world!" (Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid)
5) Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the people (companions) said: "O Messenger of Allah! Shall we see our Lord on the Day of Resurrection?" He replied: "Do you have any doubt in seeing the full moon on a clear (not cloudy) night?" They replied: "No, O Messenger of Allah" He said: "Do you have any doubt in seeing the sun when there are no clouds?" They replied in the negative. He said: "You will see Allah (your Lord) in the same way...." (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 773)
6) Sayyiduna Jarir ibn Abd Allah (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that we were sitting in the company of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) on a fourteenth night (of the lunar month), and he looked at the (full) moon and said: "You will see your Lord as you see this moon. You have no trouble in looking at it. So, whoever can should not miss the offering of prayers before sunrise (Fajr prayer) and before sunset (Asr prayer)." Then the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) recited: "And celebrate the praises of your Lord, before the rising of the sun and before (its) setting." (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 4570 and others)
7) Moreover, the occurrence of the vision of Allah has been narrated from Sayyiduna Abu Bakr, Sayyiduna Huzayfa ibn al-Yaman, Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud, Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas, Sayyiduna Abu Musa al-Ash'ari and many others (Allah be pleased with them all). No Companion (sahabi) of the Messenger of Allah is reported to have rejected the vision of Allah; hence there is complete consensus of the Companions on this. (Sharh al-Aqa'id al-Nasafiyya, P: 131 & Tuhfat al-Murid Sharh al-Jawhara, P: 115)
As far as the verse "Visions comprehend Him not, but He comprehends (all) vision" (6: 139) is concerned, it refers to encompassing Allah Most High with our vision. Vision and encompassment are two different things, the latter is rejected in this verse, in that the visions of humans will not be able to encompass Allah most High (even in the hereafter), whilst the former (vision) has been proven in many verses of the Qur'an and many Hadiths. (ibid)
The vision of Allah Most High in this world
The above few evidences were relating to the possibility of seeing Allah and the believers seeing Him Most High in the hereafter. As far as seeing Allah Most High in this world is concerned, there are two situations here. Seeing Him whist awake and secondly seeing Him in sleep.
a) Seeing Allah whilst awake
There is, more or less, a consensus amongst the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah scholars that, though logically possible, nobody is able to see Allah Most High in this world in the state of being awake. However, there is a difference of opinion as to whether the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) saw Allah Most High in the night of ascension (me'raj) or not.
The renowned Hadith scholar and Hanafi jurist, Mulla Ali al-Qari (Allah have mercy on him) states:
"There is an agreement among the Muslims (scholars) that no believer will see Allah Most High with his eyes in this world. The scholars only differed with regards to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) seeing Allah during his ascension to the heavens." (Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, P: 354)
Mulla Ali al-Qari then said, there is a consensus on the fact that the vision of Allah cannot take place in this world for other than the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). He quoted Ibn al-Salah and Abu Shama saying that the one who claims to have seen Allah whilst being awake will not be believed, for this (vision of Allah whilst being awake) is something that even Sayyiduna Musa (peace be upon him) was prevented from when Allah Most High said to him: "By no means can you see Me". However, there is a difference of opinion whether this vision occurred for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). (ibid)
Some scholars went to the extent of considering such a person, who claims to have seen Allah whilst awake, a Kafir, although most scholars were precautions and did not consider such a person to be an outright Kafir. However, there is no doubt that this person will be considered to have severely deviated. (ibid) Hence, no individual (besides the Messenger of Allah) is able to see Allah Most High whilst being awake in this mortal world.
As far as the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is concerned, the Companions differed as to whether he (Allah bless him & give him peace) saw Allah in the night of Isra' and Me'raj or not. Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas and others (Allah be pleased with them all) related that he did, whilst Sayyida A'isha, Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud and others (Allah be pleased with them all) were of the opinion that he did not see Allah with the eyes of his head during his ascension to the heavens. As a result, the scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah also have conflicting views on this issue.
Imam al-Bukhari relates that Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) said regarding the statement of Allah: "And We granted the vision (Ascension to the heavens) which We showed you, but as a trial for men..." (17.60): He said: "The sights which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was shown on the night he was taken to Bayt al-Maqdis (i.e. Jerusalem) were actual sights, (not dreams). And the cursed tree (mentioned) in the Qur'an is the tree of Zaqqum." (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 3675)
Imam Tirmidhi has also related some narrations from Abd Allah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) wherein he states that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) did see his Lord in the night of Isra' and Me'raj. (See: Sunan Tirmidhi, chapter on the commentary of the Qur'an, Surah al-Najm)
On the other hand, Sayyida A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) has rigorously denied that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) saw Allah Most High with the eyes of his head. The following is the narration expressing her viewpoint:
Imam al-Bukhari (Allah have mercy on him) narrates from Masruq that the latter said: "I said to A'isha: "O my mother! Did Muhammad (Allah bless him & give him peace) see his Lord?" She replied: "My hair stands on end because of what you said. Have you no idea of three things? Whoever tells them to you is lying. Whosoever tells you that Muhammad (Allah bless him & give him peace) saw his Lord, is lying." She then recited: "Visions comprehend Him not, but He comprehends (all) vision. He is the Subtle, the Aware" and "And it is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil". (Secondly), whosoever tells you that he knows what shall happen tomorrow is lying." She then recited: "No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow" And (thirdly) whosoever tells you that he (Allah bless him & give him peace) concealed something, is lying." She then recited: "O Messenger. Proclaim the (message) which has been sent to you from your Lord" "However, he (Allah bless him & give him peace) did see (the angel) Jibra'il (peace be upon him) in his actual form twice." (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 4574).
Some scholars explained that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had a vision with the eyes of the heart, and not with the eyes of his head. This is elucidated by Ibn Abbas' other narrations in Sahih Muslim and elsewhere where he said: "He saw him with his heart." Hence, in this way, the two opinions may be reconciled. (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 8/430)
Imam al-Bajuri (Allah have mercy on him) said that the preferred position according to the Ulama is that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) did see his Lord in the night of al-Isra' and al-Me'raj with the eyes of his head. The Hadith of Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) will be given preference over the position of Sayyida A'isha (Allah be pleased with her), as the principle states "Affirmation (ithbat) takes precedence over the negation (nafi)". Hence, the position of Ibn Abbas and others (Allah be pleased with them all) will be given preference and it will be said that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was blessed with the vision of his Lord in the night of al-Isra' and al-Me'raj. (Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid, P: 117-118)
The best statement on the issue is of Shaykh Muhyi al-Din ibn Arabi (Allah have mercy on him). He said: This world is that which is below the heavens and anything above the heavens is considered to be part of the next world (akhira). Hence, the vision of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) will not be considered a vision of this world; rather it is a vision of the next world, and there is no disagreement concerning the vision of the hereafter. Hence, this vision of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was also a type of the vision of the hereafter. (See: Ma'arif al-Qur'an, 3/412)
b) Seeing Allah in a dream
As far as the vision of Allah Most High in a dream is concerned, Imam al-Taftazani (Allah have mercy on him) states in his commentary of Imam Nasafi's al-Aqa'id:
"As far as the vision of Allah in sleep is concerned, it is something that has been related from many predecessors (salaf). And there is no doubt that this is a type of observation by the heart rather than the eye." (Sharh al-Aqa'id al-Nasafiyya, P: 135)
Mulla Ali al-Qari (Allah have mercy on him) states in his renowned Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar:
"The majority of the scholars are of the view that the vision of Allah Most High in sleep is possible, without any given description of modality (kayfiyya), direction (jiha) or quiddity (hay'a). It is recorded that Imam Abu Hanifa (Allah have mercy on him) said: "I saw Allah Most High 99 times whilst asleep." Then he saw Him the hundredth time also, the story of which is long and not feasible to be mentioned here. It is recorded that Imam Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him) said: "I saw Allah Most High in a dream, I said: "O Lord! How is it possible to achieve closeness to You?" He replied: "By the recitation of my speech (Qur'an)." I said: "O Lord! Recitation with understanding or (even) without understanding?" He replied: "With or without understanding." It is also narrated from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that he said: "I saw my Lord in my sleep." Hence, the vision of Allah in sleep is recorded from many predecessors (salaf) and it is a type of observation by the heart observed by noble people..." (Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, P: 356-357)
Imam al-Bajuri (Allah have mercy on him) states:
"As far as seeing Allah Most High in sleep, it is narrated from Qadhi Iyadh that there is no difference of opinion regarding its occurrence and truth, for the Satan cannot take the form of Allah Most High like he cannot take the form of the Prophets (peace be upon them)..... (Tuhfat al-Murid, P: 118)
The above-mentioned few texts of the scholars indicate clearly that Allah Most High can be (and has been) seen in a dream. It is something that His noble and pious servants are blessed with, and one cannot deny its occurrence. Indeed some Ulama did deny the possibility of seeing Allah in sleep, but that is a minority position not accepted by the majority of the scholars.
Imam al-Bajuri (Allah have mercy on him) has mentioned some additional notes regarding the vision of Allah in sleep in his commentary of Jawhara al-Tahid.
He states that, if one sees Allah in a manner that is not impossible for Allah, then one has surely seen Him. However, if one sees Him in a form that is impossible for Him such as seeing Him in a form of a specific individual, then that is not Allah rather it is the creation of Allah, and the dream will need to be interpreted by those qualified to do so. Some scholars said that even in such a case, one did actually see Allah, but the form seen is not the reality of Allah; rather, it is reflecting the mind of the one having the vision. (Tuhfat al-Murid Sharh Jawhara al-Tawhid, P: 118)
Imam Ibn Sirin (Allah have mercy on him), a major classical scholar considered to be a master in the science of interpreting dreams, states in his renowned book, The Interpretation of Dreams: (This book incidentally covers over 900 dreams with their meanings explained. It explains what facts are to be taken into account when interpreting a dream, when is a dream regarded as true or false, etc.)
"Sayyiduna Daniyal (peace be upon him) relates that if a believer was to see Allah Most High in his dream unequalled and incomparable, as is related in the verses of the Qur'an and in the Hadiths, he will be blessed with the magnificent sight of Allah Most High (in the hereafter) and his needs will also be fulfilled. If an individual was to see a dream in a manner that he was standing before Allah Most High and that He Most High was watching him, then the dream is a sign of his piety and spiritual well-being. He will be chosen for forgiveness, and if he is sinful he will repent." (Ta'bir al-Ru'ya, P: 67)
Imam Ibn Sirin then goes on to mention many types of dreams in which one sees Allah Most High and gives their interpretations. For example, if one sees that Allah Most High is talking secretly with one, then this means one is close to Allah Most High. If one sees that Allah Most High is advising one and giving one Nasiha, then this alludes to the fact that Allah Most High is not completely happy with one's actions. A glad tiding from Allah is a sign of His pleasure and admonition from Allah is a sign of His wrath and anger (ibid). For more details, one may refer to Imam Ibn Sirin's above-mentioned book, but one should consult a reliable scholar of knowledge, piety and wisdom before coming to any sort of conclusion.
To sum up, the vision of Allah Most High is rationally possible and the believers will be blessed with this vision in the hereafter. However, no one is able to see Allah in this world whilst in a state of being awake besides the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), and regarding the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) too, there is a difference of opinion amongst the Companions (Allah be pleased with them all). As far as seeing Allah in sleep is concerned, this is possible and is related from many pious servants of Allah, saints and scholars.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK
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