[By Shaykh Muhammad Shareef bin Farid]
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful, may Allah send blessing upon our master Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) his family and Companions and grant them abundant peace.
Among the most pervasive evils which Satan has caused to emerge on the tongues of those associated with Sufism in this post-modernist era is the false claim that a person can see Allah with the physical eyes. This pernicious claim is a denial of the Infallible Book of Allah and the Sunna of His infallible Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. It is also a denial of the consensus opinion of the scholars of Islam from the earliest times to the present.
You hear on the tongue of rank amateurs in the Path to Allah, and by those who have not even smelt the scent of the sound faith and knowledge, that Allah is the Manifest (Dhaahir) and the Hidden (Baatin) and that everything you see is none other than Him. We seek refuge with Allah Ta`ala from inventing lies against Him without authority (sultan) and from compounded ignorance.
These are ideas which these novices misread and extracted from the pages of the spiritually unveiled sages and incorrectly repeated them without having the least understanding of the true import of their words and wisdom. It is for this reason that prior to the age of the European Christians (zaman ‘n-nasaara), it was forbidden to induct into the Tareeqa anyone who had no completed the mastery of their individual obligations in knowledge (fard’l-ayyaan fee ‘l-`ilm).
Today, charlatan murshids & shaykhs and their charlatan mureeds induct any ignoramus into the Sufi path and expose them to advanced ideas on Divine Unity; who then speak on things about Allah which they have no true knowledge or guidance.
This false idea that claims that a person can see Allah Ta`ala with physical sight is categorically denied by the Book and the Sunna. Allah Ta`ala says:
ﻻَّ ﺗُﺪْﺭِﻛُﻪُ ﺍﻷَﺑْﺼَﺎﺭُ ﻭَﻫُﻮَ ﻳُﺪْﺭِﻙُ ﺍﻷَﺑْﺼَﺎﺭَ ﻭَﻫُﻮَ ﺍﻟﻠَّﻄِﻴﻒُ ﺍﻟْﺨَﺒِﻴﺮُ * ﻗَﺪْ ﺟَﺎﺀَﻛُﻢْ ﺑَﺼَﺎﺋِﺮٌ ﻣِﻦْ ﺭَّﺑِّﻜُﻢْ ﻓَﻤَﻦْ ﺃَﺑْﺼَﺮَ ﻓَﻠِﻨَﻔْﺴِﻪِ ﻭَﻣَﻦْ ﻋَﻤِﻲَ ﻓَﻌَﻠَﻴْﻬَﺎ ﻭَﻣَﺎ ﺃَﻧَﺎ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻜُﻢْ ﺑِﺤَﻔِﻴْﻆٍ
“He cannot be seen by vision, and He sees (all) vision; and He is the Subtlety Kind, the Aware. Indeed there have come to you clear insight from your Lord; whoever will therefore have insight, it will be for their own souls and whoever will be blind, it shall be against themselves; for I am not over you as a protector.” [6:103-104]
Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio said in his Diya ‘t-Ta`weel fee Ma`ana ‘t-Tanzeel about the meaning of the above two verses: “He cannot be seen by vision’, means you cannot encompass Him in vision. This is the interpolation of the large majority of the scholars of the exegesis of the Quran (tafsir ‘l-jamhuur).
Or a second interpolation is that it means, that you cannot physically see Him in this life, because seeing Him is specific for the visions which the believers will have of Him in the Hereafter. This is based upon His words:
ﻭُﺟُﻮﻩٌ ﻳَﻮْﻣَﺌِﺬٍ ﻧَﺎﺿِﺮَﺓٌ ﺇَﻟَﻰ ﺭَﺑِّﻬِﺎَ ﻧَﺎﻇِﺮَﺓً
‘Faces on that Day will be gazing on their Lord in amazement’.
It has been related by the two Shaykhs, al-Bukhari and Muslim, that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said:
ﺇِﻧَّﻜُﻢْ ﺳَﺘَﺮَﻭْﻥَ ﺭَﺑَّﻜُﻢْ ﻛَﻤَﺎ ﺗَﺮَﻭْﻥَ ﺍَﻟْﻘَﻤَﺮَ ﻟَﻴْﻠَﺔَ ﺍَﻟْﺒَﺪْﺭِ
“Indeed you will see your Lord, just as you see the moon on the night of the full moon.”
The phrase vision (absaar) is plural for sight (basar); which is a light lodged in the organ with which things are seen.
The concept of vision is applied unrestrictedly to the eyes, since it is the locus of sight.
The first interpolation is foremost and is what is intended based upon His words: ‘and He sees (all) vision‘; and means that His knowledge encompasses all visions, since He is the One who singled them out with vision. This means that He encompasses and sees the vision of the eyes; and not just the organ of sight.
This is explicit denial of anything besides Allah seeing or comprehending Him with physical or sensory vision.
Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio said that the meaning of His words: ‘and He is the Subtle the Kind’, i.e., the Intimately Compassionate to His awliyya. This Divine Name ‘Lateef’ is from the etymological root ‘lutf’ (kindness) and follows the conjugation of the word ‘nusr’ (assistance).
The meaning of His words: ‘the Aware’, is that He is acutely aware of them. That is to say, that He, Allah cannot be seen by ocular vision because He is the Subtle the Kind; and yet He sees and encompasses all visions because He is the Acutely Aware.
The One who is Subtle, Kind (Lateef) is an indication that He can only be comprehended through spiritual unveiling (kashif), since He cannot be comprehended via sensory perception because there is no likeness to Him in the sensory. The sensory creation is not Allah Ta`ala.
It is other than Him and everything other than Him is in a constant state of fluctuation and annihilation. However, creation’s state of atrophy is an indication of its Creator who is Ever Living, Pre-Eternal and Eternally Continuous. This means that while creation cannot comprehend or see Allah via sensory perception, He can be comprehended through the inner vision and insight of the heart.
That is what the exalted Creator meant when He said on the tongue of our beloved Prophet: “Neither My heavens or My earth can encompass Me, but I am encompassed in the heart of the true believer.”
This truth was confirmed by Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio when he said continuing his exegesis of the verses: “Then Allah Ta`ala: ‘say to them: ‘Indeed there have come to you clear insight from your Lord’, where the phrase ‘clear insight’ (basaa’ir) is plural for ‘baseera’, which is the vision given to the heart (qalb), like the sensory sight (basar) is given to the eyes (`ayn).
What this means is that Allah has made decisive evidences (dalaa’l qaati`a) as insight to the hearts giving evidence of the utmost extent of His Self-disclosure (jalaa’).”
His words: ‘whoever will therefore have insight’, means whoever will have inner insight of these evidences of His Self-disclosure, will come to truly believe in Him.
His words: ‘it will be for their own souls’, means that this Divine insight will increase them in insight, since its reward is increased insight of Him.
His words: ‘and whoever will be blind’, in his heart from comprehending the evidences in creation which indicate His existence; then ‘it shall be against themselves’, meaning that their error will return to them.
His words: ‘for I am not over you as a protector’, means that the Prophet, upon him be peace was not sent as a guardian of your deeds and actions. He is merely a warner. It is Allah who is the Protector (Hafeedh) of you through His preservation of your actions and deeds, and His sanctioning of them. Or it means that he, the Prophet, is unable to defend you from what Allah desires with you.”
The gnostic sage Imam al-Alusi, may Allah be merciful to him, said in his monumental exegesis of the Quran regarding His words:
“He cannot be seen by vision’ where the phrase ‘absaar’ is plural for ‘basar’ (sight); and is used unrestrictedly to refer to the organ of sight (jaarihat naadhira) and refers to the strength of vision that is in the eyes; as well inner vision itself, since it is the strength of comprehension of the heart (quwwat ‘l-qalb). Comprehension (idraak) of a thing means attaining understanding of its fullest extent and having encompassment of that thing.
The majority of the scholars of scholastic theology assert that the meaning of sight (basar) in this Quranic verse refers to the sensory organ of sight since it is the locus for the strength of vision. It is said that this reference is an indication of that and of the illusions and understanding; as Amir ‘l-Mu’mineen Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah ennoble his face said:
“Genuine Divine Unity is that you not have any false illusions about Him.” He also said: “Everything that can be comprehended and understood, by the senses, He is other than that.”
It has been related by Ibn Jareer on the authority of Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him who said that the words of Allah:
“He cannot be seen by vision” means that the sensory vision of nothing or no-one can encompass Allah Ta`ala.”
Some of the scholars assert that even in the Hereafter, Allah will not be seen by sensory perception but through a new form of ‘seeing’ which Allah Ta`ala will create as a sense perception for the believers in the hereafter.
This is confirmed by what, the Imam of the Taabi`, Daraar ibn `Amr al-Kufi said: “Indeed Allah will not be seen with the sensory eyes, but He will be seen by a sixth sense which He Subhannahu will create for them on the Day of Judgement.”
These are the illuminated ideas regarding this subject from the words of the best of early communities of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. This is evidence that any Muslim, especially, a Sufi who claims that Allah can be seen by the eyes in the outward and that Allah is everything witnessed in existence, has strayed far from the Straight Path.
This is the same for those who claim that Allah is “all-in-all”, or that Allah is all Black people; and other than these from fallacious ideas which emerge from this central falsehood of the sensory vision of Allah in this existence.
As for the ideas of the masters of the Sufis regarding the sensory vision of Allah in this life and in apparent existence; they too, categorically deny this claim in the most eloquent elucidations after whose words nothing else need be said.
The SULTAN of the AWLIYYA our spiritual master, Muyh’d-Deen Abd’l-Qaadir al-Jaylani said about the meaning of these words of Allah:
“He cannot be seen by vision, and He sees (all) vision; and He is the Subtlety Kind, the Aware. Indeed there have come to you clear insight from your Lord; whoever will therefore have insight, it will be for their own souls and whoever will be blind, it shall be against themselves; for I am not over you as a protector.”
“Indeed it is so, that ‘He cannot be seen,’ due to the extreme degree of His Self-manifestation (dhuhuur) and the Self disclosure (jalaa’). He cannot be seen: ‘by vision’, due solely to the deficiency in ocular sensory vision perceiving His Immense Light; ‘and’, further, how can physical sensory vision see Him; when, ‘He, with His Essence, ‘sees’, i.e. perceives. ‘(all) vision’?
For the One that sees all vision cannot be seen by physical ocular vision; ‘and’, even further, how can He be seen, when ‘He is the Subtlety Kind’, Imperceptibly Transcendent above all forms of imagery (mujaazaat), semblance (muqaabila), natural simulation (inttibaa`) or likeness (muhaaka).”
This is emphatic denial of any false claimant who declares that Allah Ta`ala can be seen outwardly in creation; or those who fall into to open disbelief by claiming that the apparent creation that we witness (mushaahadaat) is none other than Allah because He is the Manifest (Dhaahir).
Or that Allah infuses Himself in creation; or that He impersonates Creation; or that He incarnates or “comes in the person” or locus of some created being, such as Jesus, the son of Mary, Fard Muhammad, Ogun, Horus, or any other physical incarnation inspired by Satan into the hearts of his friends.
This false ideology leads to open shirk and association of Allah with His creation; and identifying creation as a deity. We seek refuge with Allah from open disbelief after being guided!
Shaykh Muyh’d-Deen Abd’l-Qaadir al-Jaylani continues:
“Since He, Allah is: ‘the Aware”, so how can anything besides Himself be truly aware of Him? In summation, nothing sees Allah except Allah, nothing is innately aware of Allah except Him; for everything is in an innate state of atrophy and destruction except His countenance. To Him belongs the judgment, and it is to Him that you all will return, just as a shadow returns back to what caste the shadow.”
Our master, Abu Bakr as-Sideeq, may Allah be pleased with him said corroborating the above principle: “The acknowledgement of the inability to comprehend (`adamu’l-istidraak) Him is comprehension of Him.”
However, Allah Ta`ala does disclose Himself, His Names and Attributes as well as His Actions in creation to His close intimate friends (awliyya) when He says: ‘Indeed there have come to you clear insight from your Lord.’
Shaykh Abdl-Qaadir al-Jaylani said about these words:
‘Indeed there have come to you’, i.e., there has occurred among some of you, who have a propensity (majbuul) for the original lucid state of Divine Unity (fitra ‘t-tawheed), ‘clear insight’, that is to say, there has come to you clear evidences (shawaahid) and dialectical moments of spiritual unveiling (kawaashif), ‘from your Lord’, who brought you into existence and disclosed these to you.
‘Whoever will therefore have insight’, that is to say, the one who actually witnesses these evidences of His Self-disclosure and those who experience genuine unveiling with them, ‘it will be for their own souls’.
This means that the advantage will naturally recur to them; ‘and whoever will be blind’, i.e., veiled from it; ‘it shall be against themselves’. This means that the harm of being blinded and veiled to these realities returns back to them.
‘For I am not over you as a protector’; that is to say, I am not your overseer responsible for managing you. I am only a deliverer of prophetic news. Your preservation and that of all things besides Him is in the Hand of Allah. For, management is by His omnipotent power. He alone guides whom he wills and leads astray whomever He wills.”
How did this pernicious idea permeate some of those who claim association with the Path of the Sufis? It came from a prevalent heretical innovation which emerged with those charlatan Sufi shaykhs who were more concerned with garnering large numbers of mureeds, so out of lust for this world’s life and its rubble; these business tycoons posing as shaykhs; threw away the basic principle in inducting people into the Tareeqa.
The basic rule for inducting a person, man, or woman, into the Path of the Sufis was that the person had to, as a prerequisite, have completed the attainment, and understanding of the rules (ahkaam) of the individual obligations (`ilm fard al-`ayyaan).
However, with the emergence of the Hour of the European Christian imperial control of globe, there also emerged avaricious marabous, shaykhs, murshids whose only aim was to increase in followers, fame and to assure a constant flow of wealth into their coffers.
Thus, the doors of the spiritual guilds were flung open to every kind of wanton spirit, desirous for power, rank, and wealth. In the past a student of knowledge who had exerted themselves in the pursuit of sacred knowledge by completion of the sciences which are obligatory upon every Muslim to know and act upon; would then seek out a Shaykh murrabi (a teaching guide) who could then instruct them in the deeper aspects of faith, and gnosis of Allah.
Or, sometimes the Shaykh murrabi would have students of knowledge studying the basic usuul whose characters, enthusiasm, uprightness and resolve were signals for the teacher to introduce them to the ancient Way or Tareeqa of direct gnosis of Allah ta`ala based upon sound sanad (corroborated chain) going back to the Beloved Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
Alas, those days are long gone! It has become like Imam Ibn Mubaarak said: “The chains of authority are from the deen. If there are no chains of authority, then whoever likes can say whatever he likes.”
Today, everyone is a shaykh! Every knows the asraar! Everyone has an opinion and most of what they say about Allah and His Path is pure nonsense!
Today, people whose nafs is like that of donkeys have put on the glorious saddle of stallions (maqarrabuun) of the Path and without the bridal of taqwa to reign them in or a general of the path guide them; they now trample over the Garden of the Knowers Allah, utilizing the language of the People; whose Path, they have never truly followed nor have they a sound chain of authority connecting them.
These people claim to have reached the Pleiades of gnosis of Allah when they have never left the suffocating bowels of their own souls which command to evil (nafs al-amaara bi’s-suu).
Imam Ibn al-Mubarak said about them: “The likeness of one who seeks an issue of his deen without a chain of authority is like the one who desires to climb to the roof without a ladder.”
Many of these charlatans, peruse the books of the People of spiritual insight and unveiling (tabassur wa inkishaaf) and with lack of training or discipline repeat what they misread and misunderstand from these noble texts. They end up deceiving themselves and deceiving whoever had the misfortune of listening to them.
It is about these kinds of spiritual charlatans this reason that the Imam of the Sufis, Shaykh Abu’l-Qaasim Junayd al-Baghdadi:
“There is nothing worse than the ignorant sufi!”
Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio said in his renown Ihya as-Sunna:
“Among the heretical innovations in the Path of the Sufis is searching in the books of the people of spiritual unveiling (ahl’l-kashf) by those who cannot tell the difference between a gnat and an elephant in knowledge. This is a forbidden innovation.
Searching and examining the books of the people of spiritual unveiling is not permissible except for the scholar who knows the Book of Allah and the Sunna of His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. He should take from these books that which clarify guidance for him and he should leave what it is not clear. He should accept the validity of what is not clear, but not act in accordance with it.
This should be done not because of any deficiency in its words, but because his own knowledge has not reached to the level of comprehending it. This is because no person is held responsible for that which his knowledge does not encompass. On the contrary, it is not permissible for him to follow it,
ﻭَﻻَ ﺗَﻘْﻒُ ﻣَﺎ ﻟَﻴْﺲَ ﻟَﻚَ ﺑِﻪِ ﻋِﻠْﻢٌ
“Do not follow that which you have no knowledge.” [17:36]
So, people who lack the training to understand the immense depth of the wisdom of the sages; will swear that the falsehoods that they espouse were the words of their Shaykh, who is the Qutb of this and the Qutb of that; without knowing the import of their Shaykhs words and how their words spring from the Two Sacred Infallible sources, the Quran, Sunna and the fundamental principles of the early community (as-salaf).
Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio said in his Diya’u ‘s-Siyaasa:
“When the Knower of Allah speaks from knowledge, his words should be viewed from the perspective of its source from the Book of Allah, the Sunna of His Messenger and the traditions of the Salaf; because knowledge is interpreted based upon its foundation.
When the Knower of Allah speaks from his spiritual states (ahwaal), its meaning should be surrendered to the understanding of the one who has had the same experience. However, he is not to be followed because of the lack of universal application of his judgment except by the one who has attained the same spiritual experience. The one who possesses spiritual states (ahwaal) is not to be followed in that.”
Similarly words uttered by the shuyuukh and the sages of this sacred Path should not be repeated just because they sound profound, deep and makes a person appear wise. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said: “Address people according to their intelligence.” Not every word of wisdom should be spoken. There are certain spiritual states, spiritual ideas and knowledge which should be experienced and tasted…and not talked about.
Allah is a Witness for what I say.