Can Allah Be Seen?
As a direct result of the above mentioned difference, the Sunnis say that Allāh can be
seen. Some of them, like Imam Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, say that He can be seen in this world,
as well as in the life hereafter. Others say that as well as in the life hereafter.
On the other hand, we, the Ithnā ‘Asharis, say that He cannot be seen anywhere, because He has no body, and because Allāh says in the Qur’an “Sight cannot reach Him” (6:103)
The Sunnis use the following verse as their Proof: “Some faces on that day (of judgment) will be fresh, looking towards their Lord” (75:22-23).
But in Arabic language the word “naẓar” does not imply ‘seeing’. Often it issaid: ‘naẓartu ilal hilāl falam arahu’ (I looked towards the new moon but I did notsee it).Therefore, the verse cannot imply that they will see God. According to our interpretation, it means that they will be looking forward for the blessings of Allāh.
ATTRIBUTES OF ALLĀH
According to the Shi‘ah Ithna ‘Asharis, attributes of Allāh can be put in two distinct
groups: First, those attributes which denote His person; second, those attributes which
denote His actions.
ash-Shaykh as-Ṣadūq says:
“For example, we say that Allāh was forever Hearing, Seeing, Omniscient, Wise, Omnipotent, Having power, Living, Self existent; One and Eternal. And these are His personal attributes.
“And we do not say that He was from ever Creating, Doing, Intending, pleased, displeased, Giving sustenance, Speaking; because these virtues describe His actions; and they are not eternal; it is not allowed to say that Allāh was doing all these actions from eternity. The reason for this distinction is obvious. Actions need an object. If, for example, we say that Allāh was giving sustenance from ever, we will have to admit the existence of sustained things from ever. In other words, we will have to admit that the world was from ever. But it is
against our belief that nothing except God is Eternal.” It appears that the Sunnis have no clear view of this distinction. And they say that all His attributes are Eternal. And that was the actual cause of their belief that the Qur’an, being the kalām (speech) of God, is Eternal, not created. Because they said that He was mutakallim (speaking) from ever. “The Hanbalites so far as said that ‘Not only were the words and sounds of the Qur’an eternal, so that even its recital was uncreated, but its parchment and binding shared the same qualities . . . In the so-called ‘Testament of Abū Ḥanifah’ . . . a more moderate view is expressed: ‘We confess
that the Qur’an is the speech of Allāh, uncreated, His inspiration, and revelation, not He, yet not other than He, but His real quality, written in the copies, recited by the tongues . . . The ink, the paper, the writing are created, for they are the work of man’.” (A. J. Arberry, ‘Revelation and Reason in Islam’, pp. 26 – 27). But as we, the Shi‘ah Ithna ‘Asharis,
distinguish between His personal virtues and His actions, we say:“Our belief about the Qur’an is that it is the Speech of God, and His revelation sent by Him, and His word and His book . . . And that Allāh is its Creator and its Sender and its Guardian.” (al-I‘tiqādāt).
The bitter quarrels among two groups of the Sunnis (Mu‘tazilites and Ash‘arites) on this
subject are well-known, and there is no need to relieve them.