The Qur’an has explicitly stated that no mind can comprehend the being of God. The reason for this is that the being who has created these means of comprehension can certainly comprehend human beings however these means can in no way be able to comprehend Him who comprehends these means. It must also remain in consideration that our comprehension of God is passive. The most important faculty of a human being is the faculty of sight. For this he has been given eyes; however, eyes too cannot see a thing unless they reflect light. The Qur’an says:
لاَّ تُدْرِكُهُ الأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الأَبْصَارَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ
No eyes can comprehend Him, though He comprehends all eyes. He is subtle and all-knowing. (6:103)
The account of Moses (sws) in which he audaciously requested the Almighty to show Himself to him has been related by the Qur’an so that man should always remain aware of his limits and limitations and should always remember that even if the messenger with whom the Almighty spoke was not able to see Him, what to speak of others. The Qur’an says:
وَلَمَّا جَاء مُوسَى لِمِيقَاتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُ رَبُّهُ قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِي أَنظُرْ إِلَيْكَ قَالَ لَن تَرَانِي وَلَـكِنِ انظُرْ إِلَى الْجَبَلِ فَإِنِ اسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُ فَسَوْفَ تَرَانِي فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّى رَبُّهُ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُ دَكًّا وَخَرَّ موسَى صَعِقًا فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَأَنَاْ أَوَّلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
And when Moses came at the appointed time and His Lord communicated with him, he [gaining confidence as a result] said: “Lord, reveal Yourself to me that I may see You.” He replied: “You shall never see Me; but look upon the mountain in front of you; if it remains intact in its place, then only shall you see Me.” And when his Lord revealed Himself to the mountain, He razed it to dust and Moses fell down unconscious. When he recovered, he said: “Glory be to You! I turn to You, and I am the first of the believers.” (7:143)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
The Almighty revealed Himself in this manner to assure Moses (sws) that even mountains are not able to bear the vision of God – mountains which are the most solid and firm structures of this earth; so how can man who is so feeble a structure before these mountains can bear this vision. Man has a limited power of tolerance. His eyes can see light; however, if the intensity of this light exceeds a certain limit his eyes are dazed by it and at times he even loses his sight. Similarly, his ears are able to hear sounds; however, his ears can only hear to a certain extent. If the roar of thunder, for example, exceeds a limit it can shatter his ear-drums. The sun is an essential requirement of man; however, its light and heat are only beneficial to him if the sun remains at a certain distance from him and passes on its light and warmth through many many layers and sieves of the atmosphere. If some day, the sun comes a little near to the earth, all life forms would be burnt down. So when man is such a feeble entity how can he have the strength and ability to see the pure and untainted being of the Almighty who is absolute light and is beyond and above this universe and what is going on in it.
No doubt, believers would be able to see the Almighty on the Day of Judgement. This is evident from the verse: كَلَّا إِنَّهُمْ عَنْ رَبِّهِمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ لَمَحْجُوبُونَ (Certainly not! On that Day, they shall certainly be held away from their Lord, (83:15)). However, there are various levels of seeing the Almighty, and this seeing the Almighty is not tantamount to fully comprehending him. Probably, the nature of this seeing would be that all barriers and impediments shall be withdrawn and people would be able to see the Almighty the way they see the sun, the moon and the stars and in reality this seeing is nothing but observing light reflected from these heavenly bodies. This is the example the Prophet (sws) gave people when they inquired from him about the nature of this observation and said: “You will see Your God in a manner that there will be no obstruction between Him and you except His cloak of greatness.”
After this, what remains is observing God through similes and parables. The Qur’an has used these literary devices to describe Paradise and Hell. A person’s inner-self also adopts a similar method in dreams and in spiritual observations seen while being awake. However, in case of God’s being, even this means is not possible. The reason is that this means can only be employed if the thing which is compared and likened to is found in some form or the other in a person’s imagination or in the world around him. Man has no such data within or outside him regarding God’s being. Thus, this means too can be of no use in this regard. Consequently, the Qur’an says:
فَلاَ تَضْرِبُواْ لله الأَمْثَالَ إِنَّ اللّهَ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
Thus do not compare God because God knows [Himself] and you know not. (16:74)
(Translated by Mr Shehzad Saleem)
. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 5th ed., vol. 3 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1994), 360.
. The Qur’an has stated this regarding the rejecters of the truth. It is evident that the believers will not be deprived of this observation and all obstacles and hindrances to see the Almighty will be withdrawn there.
. Bukhari, No: 7437; Muslim, No: 451.
. Bukhari, No: 4878; Muslim, No: 448.