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Tafsir at-Tabari
  Tafsir of Surah An`aam (6) Verse 102
Author: Ibn Jarir at-Tabari
Source: Tafsir at-Tabari
Article ID : TFS030003  


This then is Allaah your Lord. There is no diety but He, the Creator Of everything. So serve Him, for He is Guardian over everything. The vision (of men) reaches Him not, but He reaches the vision (of men). (Quran 6:102)

... The exegetes disagree concerning the meaning of Allaah's words The vision (al-absar) (of men) reaches (tudrikuhu) Him not, but He reaches the vision (of men). Some exegetes maintain that the meaning is as follows: The vision (of men) does not fully grasp (ahata) him, but will be grasped by him. To be cited (as authorities) for this view are (the following):...

Yunus ibn 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abd al-Hakam has related to us on the basis of (a chain of authorities going back to) Khalid ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman and Abu 'Arfaja the following quotation from 'Atiyya al-'Aufi concerning Allaah's words: 'Upon that day (of resurrection) there will be radiant faces, gazing (naziratun) upon their Lord' (Sura 75:22) 'They shall gaze upon Allaah, yet their vision shall not reach him because of his greatness, while his vision shall reach them. This is mentioned in Allaah's words: "The vision (of men) reaches Him not, but He reaches the visionThe proponents of this view give reasons for their interpretation by saying that Allaah has said: 'And We brought the Children of Israel over the sea; and Pharaoh and his hosts followed them insolently and impetuously until when the drowning reached him (adrakahu), he said: "I believe that there is no Allaah but He in whom the Children of Israel believe. I am of those that surrender"' (Sura 10:90).

Here, so they say, Allaah ascribes to the drowning the characteristic that it reached the Pharaoh. There is no doubt, however, that the drowning is not ascribed the characteristic that it saw the Pharaoh, and (there is no doubt) that it belongs among those things of which one cannot ascribe the characteristic that it sees anything. They continue by saying that it is far from one's thoughts that Allaah's words 'the vision (of men) reaches Him not' have the meaning 'does not see him', since one thing may reach something else without seeing it.

Thus, Allaah says in his proclamation concerning the story of Moses and his companions when the people of Pharaoh approached: 'And when the two hosts sighted each other, the companions of Moses said: "We are reached (la-mudrakuna) !"' (Sura 26:61). Allaah had told his prophet Moses that they would not be reached, as it is said: 'Also, We revealed to Moses:"Go with My servants (out of the land of the Pharaoh)! And strike (with your staff) for them a dry path in the sea, fearing not being reached (darak), neither being afraid"' (Sura 20:77/79).The proponents of this view say (further) that since one thing can see something else without reaching it and can reach it without seeing it, then interpreting Allaah's words 'the vision (of men) reaches Him not' to mean 'the vision does not see him' gives an entirely isolated meaning, and that the (actual) meaning of these words is:'the vision apprehends him not', since it is impossible for it to apprehend him. Since the believers and the inhabitants of paradise, so they say, see their Lord with their vision, although their vision does not reach him, this means that it will not apprehend him since it is impossible to ascribe to Allaah the characteristic that anything can apprehend him.

They maintain that since it is permissible to ascribe to Allaah the characteristic that he appears although he cannot be reached, then this is in accordance with the possibility of ascribing to him the characteristic that one knows of him without apprehending his knowledge. Thus, Allaah says: 'And they apprehend nothing of His knowledge except what He wills' (Sura 2:255/256). Allaah, so they say, therefore excludes (the possibility) that his creatures apprehend anything of his knowledge except what he wills. Thus is meant, according to their view of this passage, the knowledge of the contents of (his) knowledge (ma'lum). Although Allaah, so they continue, excludes (the possibility) that his creatures apprehend anything of his knowledge except what he wills, it is not excluded that they know him. (Further) they maintain that since the exclusion of (the possibility of) apprehending anything with regard to his knowledge does not exclude (the possibility) that one may know him, then the exclusion of (the possibility of) reaching Allaah with the vision just as little excludes (the possibility) that the vision sees him. They say that just as it is possible for (Allaah's) creatures to know things without apprehending their knowledge, it is (also) possible for them to see their Lord with their vision without its reaching him, since the (word) 'seeing' (ru'ya) has another meaning than the (word) 'reaching' (idrak), and the (word) 'reaching' has another meaning than the (word) 'seeing'. Therefore (it is possible) that by 'reaching' what is meant is 'apprehending'. ..

They continue: One may ask us: Do you not deny that Allaah's words 'the vision reaches Him not' have the meaning 'the vision sees Him not'? To this we answer: We deny this, since Allaah proclaims in his Book that there will be faces (wujuh) in the resurrection which look upon him, and his Messenger has proclaimed to his community that on the day of resurrection they shall see their Lord, as one sees the moon on a full-moon night and as one sees the sun when it is not obscured by a cloud. Since, so they say, Allaah proclaims this in his Book and since the statements of his Messenger ... confirm that Allaah's words 'upon that day there will be radiant faces (wujuh), gazing upon their Lord' are to be interpreted so that the vision of the eyes will look upon Allaah, and since in the Book of Allaah one (statement) rests upon another within his truth and it is impossible that one of the two statements (of Allaah) discussed here abrogates the other which is simply impossible with the(se two) proclamations..., then one knows that his words 'the vision (of men) reaches Him not' have another meaning than his words 'upon that day there will be radiant faces, gazing upon their Lord'.

Consequently, on the day of resurrection the inhabitants of paradise will look on Allaah with their vision, but will not reach him with it. (One must accept this) in order to agree with Allaah in these two passages, and in order to be able to consider the revelation in the form in which it was delivered in these two suras.Other exegetes maintain that the verse under discussion has the meaning: 'The vision (of men) sees Him not, although He sees the vision (of men).' To be cited (as authorities) for this view are (the following):... Hannad has related to us on the authority of (a chain of witnesses going back to) Waki', Isma'il ibn Abi Khalid, 'Amir (ash-Sha'bi), and Masruq, the following words of 'A'isha: 'If someone reports to you that the Messenger of Allaah has seen his Lord, then he lies.' (Allaah's words however read:) The vision (of men) reaches Him not, but He reaches the vision (of men) as well as: 'It belongs not to any mortal that Allaah should speak to him, except by inspiration, or from behind a veil' (Sura 42 :51/50) On the other hand, Gabriel appeared to Muhammad twice in his (true) form...

The proponents of this view say that the meaning of (the word) 'reaching' (idrak) in this passage is 'seeing' (ru'ya), and they deny that Allaah can be seen by the vision (of men) in this world or in the hereafter. They interpret Allaah's words: 'Upon that day there will be radiant faces, gazing (naziratun) upon their Lord' in the sense that they hope for (intazara)Allaah's goodness and reward.(At-Tabari concludes that) some exegetes place a false interpretation on the statements which are related here from the Messenger of Allaah, by reinterpreting the statement that the inhabitants of paradise will see their Lord on the day of resurrection. Other exegetes (simply) reject such statements of the Messenger of Allaah, disputing them on (the basis of) their reason ('aql). They maintain that (reason) eliminates the possibility that one could see Allaah with the vision, and they put forward all sorts of falsifications, using various derivations of many words.

The most important argument by which they, so they say, know about the correctness of this assertion of theirs is the following: They find that their vision can see only something that is removed from them spatially and not something that has direct contact with it, for the vision cannot see anything that has direct contact with it. Thus, so they say, whatever is removed spatially from one's vision belongs to the category of things that can be seen with one's own eyes, since empty spaces and a gap lie between the object and the eyes. Now, so they continue, if the vision should see their Lord on the day of resurrection in the same manner as it sees shapes today, then the Creator would have to be (spatially) limited (mahdud). But, so they say, whoever ascribes this characteristic to (Allaah), (thereby) ascribes to him the characteristic of corporeality, which also includes increase and decrease (which is absurd).They say that the ability to 'reach' (adraka) colours is given to the vision just as (the ability to reach) tones is given to hearing and (the ability to reach) smells is given to the respiratory organ.

Then they continue that in the same manner as it is invalid for the hearing to give an opinion without reaching the tones and for the respiratory organ (to give an opinion) without reaching smells, so also is it invalid for the vision to give an opinion without reaching colours. They maintain that in the same way as it is impossible to characterize Allaah as possessing colour, it is (also) correct to say that it is impossible to characterize him as something visible.(Still) other exegetes maintain that the verse under discussion has the meaning: The vision of (Allaah's) creatures cannot reach him in this world but can in the hereafter. The proponents of this view say that the (word) 'reaching' (idrak) in this place means 'seeing' (ru'ya).

As a basis for their view they cite the following: Although the (word) 'reaching' has in some contexts another meaning than the (word) 'seeing', 'to see' is still one of its meanings. Thus it is impossible for the vision of men to see and contact something without this (object) being reached when it is observed and viewed, even when it is not apprehended as something seen in all its parts. Therefore, so they continue, if someone sees something he has looked at, then this means that he has reached it, that is, except for what he did not see. They say that Allaah has proclaimed that on the day of resurrection there will be faces which will look upon him.

Now according to their view, it is absurd (to conclude) that the faces should look upon him without reaching him as something that is visible. They say that because of this and because it is impossible that one could find any contradiction or disagreement in what Allaah proclaims, then it is necessary and correct that Allaah's words 'the vision (of men) reaches Him not' be interpreted in a special and not general sense, and mean: The vision (of men) does not reach him in this world, but he reaches the vision (of men) in this world and in the hereafter. That is, with his words: 'Upon that day there will be radiant faces, gazing upon their Lord' (Sura 75 :22),

Allaah has made an exception, so that (seeing Allaah in this world) is excluded.Other proponents of this point of view maintain that the verse under discussion is meant in a special sense, but that it may be possible that it has the following meaning: The vision of the evildoer does not reach him in this world or in the hereafter, while the vision of the believers and those who trust in Allaah does reach him. They say (further) that the verse may possibly have the meaning: The vision does not reach him until the end and until (there is complete) comprehension (ihata), and indeed until (there is actual) vision. (Further) according to their view, the verse could mean that the vision (of men) does not reach him in this world, but indeed in the hereafter. (Also) the verse could have the meaning: The vision of the one who sees him does not reach him in the (same) way that the Eternal one reaches the vision of his creatures. The one (i.e., Allaah) who has excluded (the possibility) that the vision of his creatures may reach him is the one who has acknowledged this himself, since their vision is weak and can penetrate only that to which their Allaah has given the power. On the other hand, they stand there completely open before his vision, and to his vision nothing of them remains hidden.

There is no doubt, so they maintain, that Allaah's words: 'the vision (of men) reaches Him not' are meant in a special sense, and that those who trust in Allaah will reach him with their vision on the day of resurrection. Only we do not know which of the four special meanings (which have been mentioned) is intended in the verse (under discussion). As an argument for the truth of the assertion that Allaah will be seen in the hereafter they cite reasons corresponding to those mentioned above.(Still) other exegetes maintain that the verse is meant in the general sense and that no-one's vision will reach Allaah in this world or in the hereafter. Rather Allaah will create a sixth sense for his companions on the day of resurrection, which will be different from their five senses. With this they will see Allaah. As a basis for this view, they cite the following: Allaah has excluded (the possibility) that the vision of men should reach him except that in this or one other verse an indication is given that this is meant in a special sense. The same Allaah has, so they say, proclaimed in another verse that on the day of resurrection there will be faces which will look upon him.

Now, so they continue, since the proclamations of Allaah do not annul each other reciprocally and cannot contradict each other, then the meanings of both proclamations are correct just as revelation brought them down. (Also) they present an argument based on reason (aql) in that they say: If it is possible for us to see him in the hereafter with our vision, then, under the assumption that (at that time) this (same vision) will be increased, we must also be able to see him in the world, although the power of sight weak. For all of the senses were created for the (purpose of) 'reaching’ (idrak) specific-sense objects (ma’an, sing. ma’na). Even if it is weak, in spite of its weakness it reaches what it is intended to reach according to its specific purpose-that is, as long as it does not cease to exist. They say (further): Were it ascribed to the vision that it reaches its creator and sees him in a certain situation and time, it must (also) reach and see him in this world, although it would reach him only weakly.

They continue: Accordingly, if there were nothing of that kind for our vision in this world, there could be nothing of that kind in the hereafter, because (our vision) is created as it is in this world so that it can reach only what is to be reached in this world. Thus, this is now the case, they say, and Allaah has proclaimed that in the hereafter there will be faces which look upon him, (although) one knows that they will see him with another sense than the sense of sight, since what Allaah proclaims can be nothing other than true.(At-Tabari concludes:) What is correct concerning this, in our opinion, is what the accounts of the Prophet often bear witness to, namely that he said: 'You will see your Lord on the day of resurrection, as one sees the moon on a full-moon night and the sun when it is not obscured by a cloud.' Thus, the believers will see him, while the unbelievers will be veiled from him on that day, for Allaah says:

'No, indeed! Upon that day they shall be veiled from their Lord, then they shall roast in hell!' (Sura 83:15/l6)


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