Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra
Did the Messenger of Allah behold Allah with his eyes?
Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,
Wa alaikum as salam,
Thank you for your query. According to Imam al-Bajuri, most of the scholars of Ahl us Sunnah opined that the Messenger of Allah [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] beheld Allah Most High with his own two eyes during his intimate colloquy with his Lord on the night of his Journey to Jerusalem (al-Isra), during the climax of his Ascension beyond the heavens (al-Mi’raj).
Is it Possible for Allah Most High to Be Seen by the Eyes of a Created Being?
Imam al-Bajuri, in his authoritative marginal gloss on the versified primer on Islamic belief and theology by Imam al-Laqqani called “Jawharat at-Tawhid” [The Jewel of Divine Oneness], cites the position of mainstream Sunni scholarship that it is in the realm of rational possibility [ja’iz aqlan] that Allah Ta’ala be visually seen by His creation through His will, both in this world and the next.
“However,” says the next half of the relevant verse, “[He is seen] without modality nor encompassment.” This means that seeing Allah with the eyes will not resemble the conventional vision of physical bodies in any way [with respect to distance, direction, dimension, etc.] because Allah Most High is completely dissimilar to created beings. The limited intellect is not able to grasp the nature of this vision, but it is something Allah can create in the eyes of the servant.
Also, while Qur’anic text decisively establishes the Beatific Vision for all the believers in the Hereafter [Quran 75:23], the scholars mention that the literal vision during the life of this world was only experienced by the Messenger of Allah Most High [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] and no one else. [al-Bajuri, Tuhfa al-Murid ‘ala Jawhara al-Tawhid]
Establishing the Beholding of Allah by the Messenger, Peace and Blessings be Upon Him
Imam al-Bajuri says,
“The preponderant opinion in the eyes of most of the scholars is that [the Messenger, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] saw his Lord [Glorified and Most High] with the two eyes of his head while they were fixed in their place- as opposed to those who claimed that [his two eyes] were moved to his heart – by the [affirmative] report of Ibn Abbas and other Companions [may Allah be pleased with them all].
Lady Aisha [on the other hand, Allah be pleased with her] did indeed deny the occurrence [of an actual sighting to be ascribed] to him, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him…” ].” [ibid.]
Interpretive Rule: Affirmation is Given Precedence Over Negation
Imam al-Bajuri continues,
“However, Ibn Abbas is given precedence here over [Aisha,in this issue], since he is affirming something [that he only would have said if he had sure knowledge of it], and the principle [of establishing the existence or occurrence of something] states that ‘the affirming party is given precedence over the negating party’ [AM: since a truthful, reliable person denying something does not mean that that thing never happened, since it could have occurred outside of their knowledge, whereas a truthful, reliable person who affirms something would only do so after having direct knowledge that it occurred, not through their own speculation, and even more so for a Companion reporting on the Unseen]”.
Mu’ammar ibn Rashid went further to say, ‘To us, Aisha is [not necessarily] more knowledgeable than Ibn Abbas [despite those who might claim that in order to establish their view].” [ibid.]
Recognizing and Respecting Valid Differences of Opinion
That being said, this is a matter on which even the greatest of the Companions differed, let alone the later scholars, many of whom tried to reconcile in different ways between the many differing reports and their variations that exist in the vast corpus of hadith literature, as well as in the interpretations of the relevant Quranic verses. They came to many different explanations, and some settled on refraining from assigning a conclusive position on the question.
Hence, while we have presented above what we have learned as the most authoritative position, there is room for valid difference of opinion on the question and it should not be made into a controversy, as the ultimate knowledge of the truth rests with Allah Most High.
For further reading, please see: The Beatific Vision
Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked and Approved by Faraz Rabbani