(Please read the notice concerning our draft articles and works)
By a member of the MuslimAnswers.net Team
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم
First of all, it has been some time since I personally wrote any new work on this site. There may still be some time before I get back to writing new articles, but I might add on to some of the existing works from time to time.
Now, the main issue I wanted to discuss in here is that the question comes up every once in a while, sometimes from non-Muslims and sometimes from deviants, that how can we as Muslims say that the angels and some of the Prophets [such as Musa and Muhammad (Alayhima Salaam)] heard Allah (or more precisely heard Allah’s uncreated Speech), and also how can we say that Allah will be seen by the people of Paradise. This, when the contention is that hearing and seeing are only applicable for those entities which exists at a distance and are in physical opposition to one another.
There is one article that is uploaded at our companion site (at this link), and it does answer some of the issues to a certain extent. There was also a small discussion I did about this matter in the article about Athanasius’ book ‘On the Incarnation’ (my commentary on this book can be found on this link). But there was something in addition to this that came to my mind, and I thought it would be good to share it, and perhaps expand upon it as necessary in the future:
In order to understand the matter of seeing and hearing Allah either in this world and/or in the Hereafter, let us take the case of ‘affirming’ as an action attributed to the human being. All the time, we are affirming the existence of things around us. For example, I affirm (and am convinced) of the existence of the table in front of me, of the chair I am sitting on, and many other objects that I know of.
But I also affirm the Existence of Allah, even though I do not and cannot possibly know the true reality of Allah, and must affirm Allah’s Existence without Kayfiyya (modality) whatsoever. So in this world, the affirmation with the heart and the mind sometimes occurs with regards to contingent and passing events and objects, such as tables, chairs, and the like. Allah creates this affirmation in the hearts and minds of people, and it is a true affirmation. That is, the ‘affirmation’ and ‘conviction’ are not metaphorical usages of this word.
But also, Allah creates in the hearts of many an affirmation of His Existence, even though Allah exists without any modality, is not contingent, is not an object or an event, and so on and so forth. And it is clear in here as well that the affirmation (in the true sense of the word) has been created by Allah within the heart and the mind of the person.
So, once we know this truth, it is not difficult to understand that hearing Allah’s uncreated Speech and seeing Allah either in this world or the Hereafter are not from among the impossibilities. Yes, for the one who can only discern materialistic things, he may fall either into the error of gross anthropomorphism by saying that Allah is a body from among the bodies, or he may fall into utter denial of the truth of hearing and seeing Allah – in this later case, the error being that of assuming that all actions of the human being through which he experiences reality necessarily lead to the realization of contingent and delimited entities.
However, for the one who can understand the difference between Allah and the Creation, they can see that in this world, the norm is for Allah to create in us the ability to see and to hear that which is at a distance, that which becomes visible and hearable through the medium of rays of light and sound waves, etc., but that it is within the realm of possibilities that Allah may create within us a seeing and a hearing which is not associated with contingent things existing at a distance from us; again, this is just as he has granted the believers in this world the ability and the blessing of affirming His Existence in addition to their normal ability to affirm the existence of ordinary delimited objects.
As an additional point, if someone says that affirmation is unlike hearing and seeing, since these later two require the active participation of the limited and weak organs of the human being, we say that the affirmation of the existence of any being is through a brain, a heart, basically through the delimited organs [both on the physical and spiritual planes] that Allah has bestowed on His servants, by means of Allah creating this affirmation and making it attributable to him.
Even if someone were to say that these can only be attributed to the soul and not to the ‘heavy’ organs of the human being, we reply that the soul and the inner heart are still delimited and created entities, the difference being that their true existence is in another realm and dimension currently hidden from us, so from this sense this objection is not very strong.
This was just a very quick jotting down of one potential response or consideration that has to be taken into account when answering questions of this order, and there may be scope for more things to be added as required. I pray that Allah will grant us the honor and the blessing of following and dying upon His Revealed religion. And may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon his final Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, his family and his Companions.
[Addition: There was an explanation brought up that I will mention in here, which says that the impression is created by a connection between that which is to be perceived and that which perceives, and we always acknowledge this in the case of “material sensory objects”. In this case, the object of perception itself is the driving force which creates our vision.
In truth, of course, this is an arena that is beyond our understanding, and in many ways we can only explain it based on what we are to deny of this seeing and hearing.]
 Before I move ahead, it must be made clear that the reason why the Sunnis accept that believers will have or have had the vision and hearing of Allah is due to the many texts that appear in this regard as seen in the Qur’an and the Ahaadeeth. The discussion is in effect based on the objection of the non-Muslims or of the deviants who say that these texts are flat-out wrong since they point to a rational impossibility.
 The discussion for this matter is the one beginning with the sentence: “At this point, some people may ask: Well then, what about the Muslim belief that Musa (Alayhi Salaam) heard the actual speech of Allah?