Question and answer details
|Salam aleykum.In verse 7:143, we read:And when Moses came at the time and place appointed by Us, and his Lord spoke to him, he said, "O my Lord, show me (Yourself), that I may look upon You." Allah said, "You cannot see Me, but look upon the mountain if it stands still in its place then you shall see Me." So when his Lord APPEARED TO THE MOUNTAIN, He made it collapse to dust, and Moses fell down unconscious.My question is, was Allah "physically" here on earth on the mountain as it says in the verse above? What I knew was Allah never comes down to earth. I have asked one of my Arab friends (I don't think he is a scholar) and he said, the verse above means "physical," but we are not supposed to ask how, we are supposed to accept it that Allah came to earth and on that mountain. Can you please explain this to me according to the above verse?Another question is: Would you say "Allah can do everything" or, would you say "Allah has power over all things and He only does things that he intends to do"? The reason I ask is because if I say, "Allah can do everything," then people ask, "why can't He take human form?" which is something we know that he does not.Can you explain those two topics, please? Jazaka Allahu khayran for your time. May Allah accept all what you are doing in this website and may He make your intention pure and clean and only for His sake.|
Thank you very much for this nice question that reflects your curiosity to gain knowledge about Islam and to understand the words of Allah. Thank you also for your kind and encouraging words.
Let's first agree that in order for us to understand the Qur'an, we should ask scholars who are specialized in this unique and important branch of knowledge, namely the scholars of Qur'anic exegesis, or tafseer, who are well-versed in Arabic language and the language of the Qur'an (among other things). In this way, we will be able to perceive the beauty of the words of Allah and get the most befitting understanding of them.
The verse you have referred to in Surat Al-A`raf is one of the most beautiful verses that show how truthful and faithful Prophet Moses was to his mission. When he was receiving the revelation from Allah, Moses wanted to strengthen his faith in the impossibility of humans' seeing God and therefore he asked this question.
As Muhammad Asad wrote in the commentary on his translation of the meanings of the Qur'an:
Since Moses was already a believer, his words do not merely allude to belief in God's existence, but rather, belief in the impossibility of man's seeing God as Ibn Kathir narrates on the authority of Ibn `Abbas. (Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Qur'an. England: the Book Foundation, 2003, p. 254)
Again, the understanding of the verse can be achieved only through learning the Arabic language and bearing in mind one important fact: that, due to the limited nature of our human minds and language, Almighty Allah uses words in the Qur'an that are understandable to us to describe an event the exact occurrence of which may be totally indescribable as it falls beyond our perception.
The role of language in a situation like this is simply to make things a bit closer to our understanding, but not identical. Therefore, when we start to imagine — based on account of words — the nature of an event, our imagination will stay as imagination and will, by no means, be identical to the way the incident actually happens.
We may be true in our imagination by 5 or 20 or 90 or 0 percent, based on our ability to link realities with words, and our realization and experience with the venue of the event, the time it happened, the way it happened, as well as similar events that we might have witnessed.
To apply this to normal events, the accuracy of an imagination based on words may be any of the above. The case is different, though, when it comes to an event involving the Divine, simply because it is already out of the question to apply to the Divine anything we are told about.
Therefore, the words used by the Qur'an will be given only to let us know the event without being able to describe it, simply because it is out of the scope of human description. To try to apply the laws of our limited minds to the Divine will surely end up in failure and absurdity.
Therefore, the best solution in such an occasion is to accept with reverence, showing respect to the nature of the event and its significance, and admitting that we are limited human beings who still act and think within the circles of laws established by the Creator to Whom no laws apply because He is the One Who made them.
If we understand the verse that Allah was physically here on earth, we will definitely be mistaken; to further think that He — Glory be to Him — was spiritually here will be equally wrong. Why? Simply because the terms physical and spiritual apply to things, concepts, and people. Spiritual applies to things that have a spirit and physical applies to things that have a material existence.
The terms relate to the five senses or the mind or even the heart, all of which are still chained in their limitedness, and that limitedness is one of the particular qualities of creatures. Therefore, the terms "physical" and "spiritual" do not apply to the Creator because they are themselves created by Him and He is beyond them.
With such a mentality, we can try to investigate some of the sayings of the commentators on this verse, specially the Arabic word tajalla, which is not and cannot be accurately translated into English due to the different natures of both languages.
In his book of tafseer entitled Anwar At-Tanzil wa Asrar At-Ta'wil, Imam Al-Baydawi wrote:
When his [Moses's] Lord showed His greatness to the mountain and revealed His power and command on it, it collapsed.
In another book of tafseer, Bahr Al-`Ulum of As-Samarqandi, we read:
Ad-Dahhaq said, "He [Allah] cast some of His divine light on it and the mountain started shaking out of awe." Al-Qatbi said, "It means that Almighty Allah showed some of His Commands as He willed to the mountain."
In Ma`alim At-Tanzil of Imam Al-Baghawi, we read:
Ibn Abbas commented on this verse saying, "when the light of his Lord was revealed to the mountain … ." Ad-Dahhaq said, "Almighty Allah showed some of the light from behind the veils"
With this in mind, we can see that these commentators have never spoken about any spiritual or physical existence; rather, they all hold the opinion that Almighty Allah cast some of His divine light or His commands on the mountain and therefore it collapsed.
The "how" of this is, of course, beyond our minds and above our perceptions, and therefore the Qur'an did not tell us about it.
One final point to be highlighted here is that normally the Qur'an instructs us to concern ourselves mainly with the wisdom and lessons behind events. In this sense, we should focus on the greatness of Allah as explained in these verses and that even prophets were not able to see Him because He is beyond our limitations.
Whenever we think of Allah, we should bear in mind that anything we think of, He is beyond and far above. All reverence and glory belong to Him in the full sense of the words.
May Allah make all of us surrender to His will and worship Him duly.
I hope this answers your question. Do keep in touch.