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Living The Quran

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From Issue: 959 [Read full issue]

Vision of God
Al-Araf (The Heights) Sura 7: Verse 143

"And when Moses came to Our appointed meeting and his Lord spoke unto him, he said, 'My Lord, show me, that I might look upon Thee.' He said, 'Thou shalt not see Me; but look upon the mountain: if it remains firm in its place, then thou wilt see Me.' And when his Lord manifested Himself to the mountain, He made it crumble to dust, and Moses fell down in a swoon. And when he recovered, he said, 'Glory be to Thee! I turn unto Thee in repentance, and I am the first of the believers.'"

Every one of man's faculties has its appropriate function which it delights to fulfill. This holds good of them all, from the lowest bodily appetite to the highest form of intellectual apprehension. But, even a comparatively low form of mental exertion affords greater pleasure than the satisfaction of bodily appetites. Thus, if a man happens to be absorbed in a game of chess, he will not come to his meal, though repeatedly summoned. And the higher the subject-matter of our knowledge, the greater is our delight in it; for instance, we would take more pleasure in knowing the secrets of a king than the secrets of a vizier. Seeing, then, that God is the highest possible object of knowledge, the knowledge of Him must afford more delight than any other.

But, the delight of knowledge still falls short of the delight of vision, just as our pleasure in thinking of those we love is much less than the pleasure afforded by the actual sight of them. Our imprisonment in bodies of clay and water, and entanglement in the things of sense constitute a veil which hides the Vision of God from us, although it does not prevent our attaining to some knowledge of Him. For this reason God said to Moses on Mount Sinai, "Thou shalt not see Me."

The truth of the matter is this that, just as the seed of man becomes a man, and a buried date stone becomes a palm tree, so the knowledge of God acquired on Earth will in the Next World change into the Vision of God, and he who has never learnt the knowledge will never have the Vision. This Vision will not be shared alike by all who know, but their discernment of it will vary exactly as their knowledge. God is one, but He will be seen in many different ways, just as one object is reflected in different ways by different mirrors, some showing it straight, and some distorted, some clearly and some dimly. A mirror may be so crooked as to make even a beautiful form appear misshapen, and a man may carry into the next world a heart so dark and distorted that the sight which will be a source of peace and joy to others will be to him a source of misery. He, in whose heart the love of God has prevailed over all else, will derive more joy from this vision than he in whose heart it has not so prevailed; just as in the case of two men with equally powerful eyesight, gazing on a beautiful face, he who already loves the possessor of that face will rejoice in beholding it more than he who does not.

Compiled From:
"Alchemy of Happiness" - Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali

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