[Latest edit 15 May 2008]
This is the Second Chapter of my book “Searching for God, and Finding Allah”. I am still writing and hope to be finished in the next few months. It is already available on my Blog in Indonesian language with the title: Mencari Tuhan, Menemukan Allah.
SEARCHING FOR GOD AND FINDING Allah:
The Spirtual Journey Of A Convert To Islam, Who Compared Christianity And Islam In A Search For Truth
1. ABOUT ME
2. WANTING TO SEE GOD
3. A CHAIN OF PROPHETS
4. A SIGN FROM GOD
5. FOLLOWERS OF JESUS
6. FOLLOWERS OF JESUS, FOLLOWERS OF MUHAMMAD
7. THE TRUTH OF ISLAM
8. THIS IS WHAT ALLAH SAYS ABOUT THE QUR’AN
9. A LOGICAL RELIGION
10. OUR SPIRITUAL NEEDS AND ALLAH’S SOLUTION
11. YOU DECIDE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
2. WANTING TO SEE GOD
When I was younger, I was convinced that God did not exist because I could not see Him, but in fact, I was also willing to keep an open mind and accept any proof of God if I could find any. I asked a lot of questions about the only religion that I knew, namely Catholicism. My questions about religion were not answered well, which made me even more confused. And because there was no proof that I found convincing, I felt that I was forced to not believe in God.
I often noticed that after a certain event occurred, for example, the death of a child or someone getting cancer, I would often hear adults talking and they would say that we had to just accept the situation. They would accept it by saying “God works in mysterious ways!” This meant that they could not understand why God did something, and for us to ask questions about it would be a waste of time. God was mysterious and we could not understand Him.
But if God is so mysterious, then what did He give us brains and logic for? If God gave us brains, intelligence and the power of logical thought, then it is entirely logical for us to use logic to think about God. This suggested to me that there should be a strong logical foundation to God’s religion. If God really existed, and gave us religious teachings, then what would be the purpose of making those teachings incomprehensible to ordinary people?
Does God have to be “mysterious” if He does not want to be? Is God not capable of accepting and answering questions from His own Creation if He wishes to do so? What if God desires us to know Him (within the limits of our understanding) so that we can become closer to Him? What if He does not want us to consider Him “mysterious”?
God is obviously not visible to us, and so I believe that if we analyze this situation carefully, then it is quite possible that we can find a logical reason for why God chooses not to reveal Himself. And perhaps if we understand the reason for why God is not visible, then we may be able to understand that this happens for our own benefit and not for “mysterious” reasons.
In this chapter, I would like to give one possible logical explanation for why God may chose to remain hidden from us, and how that fact is actually a blessing for us from Allah. To discuss this, we need to look at and compare the story of the Prophet Adam AS, the first human created by Allah, the story of Iblis (the Devil), and also the story of a murderer. Before that, it is important that we review the history of the Prophet Musa AS (Moses) who also wanted to see God.
2.1. Moses Wanted To See Allah Too
In speeches given by Muslim clerics, I have often heard the story of the Prophet Musa AS (Moses) who asked for permission to see Allah. According to the story, Allah simply explained that Musa AS was not capable of seeing Him. Allah might have stopped the event there but, instead, He continued by giving “proof” to Musa AS that he was not capable of seeing his Lord. Allah began to appear behind a mountain, which then exploded, knocking Nabi Musa AS unconscious. This event is described in the Qur'an:
143. And when Mûsâ (Moses) came at the time and place appointed by Us, and his Lord (Allah) spoke to him; he said: "O my Lord! Show me (Yourself), that I may look upon You." Allâh 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 Mûsâ (Moses) fell down unconscious. Then when he recovered his senses he said: "Glory be to You, I turn to You in repentance and I am the first of the believers."
(QS. Al A’raf 7:143)
This verse gives us the understanding that human beings, including Prophets, are simply not allowed to see Almighty God. If a mighty Prophet of God such as Musa AS (Moses) is not capable of seeing Allah, then there is no hope for ordinary people like us. What we do know is that Musa AS was able to have a dialogue with Allah, even though he could not see his Lord. Another character who also has a dialogue with Allah is the Devil, and in the Qur’an, he is called Iblis.
2.2. The Curse Of Allah On Iblis (The Devil)
11. And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being); then We told the angels, "Prostrate yourselves to Adam", and they prostrated themselves, except Iblîs (Satan), he refused to be of those who prostrated themselves.
12. (Allâh) said: "What prevented you (O Iblîs) that you did not prostrate yourself, when I commanded you?" Iblîs said: "I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay."
13. (Allâh) said: "(O Iblîs) get down from this (Paradise), it is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out, for you are of those humiliated and disgraced."
(Surah Al A’raf, QS. 7:11-13) [Emphasis Added]
In these verses, we are introduced to the creature that refused to bow down to Adam AS. This creature is named Iblis or Shaitân in the Qur'an and is known in English as the Devil, Satan, Lucifer, and so on. In the verses above, we can see a situation where Iblis is arguing with Allah and refusing His Direct Command to bow down and show respect to Nabi Adam AS. This refusal by Iblis to obey the Will of Almighty God was an act of extreme arrogance towards Him, and this is the reason why he was punished.
34. (Allâh) said: "Then, get out from here, for verily, you are Rajîm (an outcast or a cursed one)." [Tafsîr At-Tabarî]
35. "And verily, the curse shall be upon you till the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)."
(Surah Al Hijr, QS. 15:34-35)
Iblis (the Devil) then became the first creature to be cursed by Allah until Judgement Day. This event is very exceptional because it is the first time (as far as we know) that a creature created by Allah was cursed until the end of time. And this event is also special because (as far as we know) it is also the last time this happened. There is no mention in the Qur'an of any other creature being cursed by Allah for all time. The verse above only mentions the Curse of Allah until the Day of Resurrection, but after that, Iblis will be thrown into Hell along with anyone who follows him, so Allah’s Curse and His Punishment will be eternal.
A relevant question for us to ask now is why does Iblis receive the Curse of Allah? When Allah pronounces Iblis to be a cursed creature, it is very interesting that Iblis does not protest. He does not accuse Allah of being unjust. He does not try to argue his innocence or protest the severity of his sentence. If we were to receive such a harsh sentence from Allah, then I am sure we would definitely protest and would try to obtain some mercy. On the contrary, Iblis immediately accepts his fate but asks Allah to delay the implementation of his punishment until the Day of Resurrection so that he will have plenty of time to lead humans astray and prove that he is better.
14. (Iblîs) said: "Allow me respite till the Day they are raised up (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)."
15. (Allâh) said: "You are of those respited."
16. (Iblîs) said: "Because You have sent me astray, surely I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your Straight Path.
17. "Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them as thankful ones (i.e. they will not be dutiful to You)."
18. (Allâh) said (to Iblîs): "Get out from this (Paradise), disgraced and expelled. Whoever of them (mankind) will follow you, then surely I will fill Hell with you all."
(Surah Al A’raf, QS. 7:14-18)
What is obvious from this is that Iblis (the Devil) now has the intention of doing everything he can to get all of the descendents of Adam AS to join him in Hell. This is being done merely to prove to Allah that he is better than a human being. So, now we have an interesting situation. Allah has cursed Iblis but instead of immediately throwing him into Hell, Allah actually gives Iblis a lot of extra time so that he can attempt to lead mankind astray.
If we accept that Allah knows everything that will ever happen in advance of the actual event, then He must have known that Iblis would show such arrogance, then be cursed and subsequently be given time to lead mankind astray. If that is the case, then we must logically accept that the existence of the Devil and his followers, and their affect on mankind, is something which Allah knew about in advance and He allowed it to happen. (Allah did not cause Iblis to rebel, but only allowed him to rebel). The reason we have to accept Allah’s implicit Permission for this event is that we must believe that all things can only occur with Allah’s Permission. If Allah does not give His Permission for something to happen, then how is it possible for that event to occur? If something can occur against Allah’s Wishes, then that would mean Allah is not all-powerful, but we know that He is.
29. Say (O Muhammad): "Whether you hide what is in your breasts or reveal it, Allâh knows it, and He knows what is in the heavens and what is in the earth. And Allâh is Able to do all things."
(Surah Ali Imran, QS. 3:29)
So now, in Heaven, we have Adam AS, together with Hawa (Eve), and also Iblis (the Devil). Iblis (who after being cursed is now referred to as Shaitan in the Qur'an) no longer has any other purpose in his very long life except to lead mankind astray so that as many descendants of Adam AS as possible will accompany him into Hell. With Allah’s Permission (because he could not be there without Allah’s Permission), Iblis is allowed into the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam AS and Hawa. And he succeeds, because he convinces them to eat the forbidden fruit, which causes them to be removed from Paradise and placed on Earth.
35. And We said: "O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight, of things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zâlimûn (wrong-doers)."
36. Then the Shaitân (Satan) made them slip therefrom (the Paradise), and got them out from that in which they were. We said: "Get you down, all, with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be a dwelling place for you and an enjoyment for a time."
(Surah Al Baqarah, QS. 2:35-36)
In the case of Iblis (the Devil), he made one mistake, was cast out of Paradise and was cursed for all time. Adam AS and Hawa (Eve) also made one mistake, were cast out of Paradise because of their actions, but they were not cursed for all time! Why were they treated differently?
Perhaps one thing that influenced Allah’s Decision is the fact that only Iblis argued with Allah. He did not repent and did not beg for mercy. However, when Adam AS and Hawa were told that they had sinned, they repented and begged for forgiveness:
37. Then Adam received from his Lord Words. And his Lord pardoned him (accepted his repentance). Verily, He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the Most Merciful.
 (V.2:37): These words are mentioned in the Qur’ân; (Verse 7:23): They are: "Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers."
(Surah Al Baqarah, QS. 2:37)
So, now we can see two clear cases where Adam AS and Iblis made one mistake each and they were punished for those mistakes, although Iblis was punished more severely. In order to understand how this relates to the topic, namely that Allah is not visible to us for a logical reason, then we also need to examine one final case; the case of the murderer who killed 100 people and yet was forgiven for his sins.
2.3. Iblis (the Devil), Nabi Adam AS and the Killer of 100 People
There is a hadith (oral tradition of the Prophet Muhammad SAW) that tells the story of a killer who had murdered 100 people, but before he died, he had already decided to repent and so all of his sins were forgiven.
Narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri:
The Prophet said, "Amongst the men of Bani Israel [the Jews] there was a man who had murdered ninety-nine persons. Then he set out asking (whether his repentance could be accepted or not). He came upon a monk and asked him if his repentance could be accepted. The monk replied in the negative and so the man killed him. He kept on asking till a man advised to go to such and such a village. (So he left for it) but death overtook him on the way. While dying, he turned his chest towards that village (where he had hoped his repentance would be accepted), and so the angel of mercy and the angel of punishment quarreled amongst themselves regarding him. Allah ordered the village (towards which he was going) to come closer to him, and ordered the village (whence he had come), to go far away, and then He ordered the angels to measure the distances between his body and the two villages. So he was found to be one span closer to the village (he was going to). So he was forgiven."
(Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 676)
An important question to ask here is why can a murderer who has killed 100 people obtain forgiveness for his sins? Being forgiven by Allah means that his repentance was accepted, and forgiveness usually means that a person will not be punished for his sins. But on the other hand, Nabi Adam AS who only “ate a piece of fruit” was forgiven, but was also punished. And Iblis (the Devil) who only “argued” with Allah was not forgiven at all and was also punished very severely. It is clear that the murderer had not formally repented (by performing a formal act of worship). He was still in the process of finding the place where he would learn how to repent in a formal way. Nevertheless, he still received forgiveness from Allah and was not punished. Nabi Adam AS also repented and his repentance was accepted, but he was punished by being cast out of Paradise. Iblis did not repent and did not want to repent. He received the harshest punishment of all three cases mentioned.
These three separate cases now fall into two different categories. On one hand, we have the murderer whose sins were forgiven and he received no punishment at all. On the other hand, we have Nabi Adam AS and Iblis who both received punishment for committing one sin each, even though their “sins” might not seem as severe as murder.
If we want to find one logical reason for why we cannot see Allah, then I believe that such a reason can be found by comparing these two groups. We need to find a reason for why a murderer can escape punishment after killing 100 people, yet Adam AS and Iblis who only committed one sin each were still punished by Allah.
2.4. The Benefit For Us If God is Not Visible
Nabi Adam AS was punished, Iblis (the Devil) was punished, but a murderer who killed 100 people was not punished, and there seems to be only one real difference between them: the murderer had no absolute proof that Allah existed! He never saw Allah and never spoke with Him, which is the opposite of Adam AS and Iblis who did have a dialogue with Allah. That killer believed in Almighty God based on faith alone, which means that he believed even though he never saw Allah and never spoke to Him.
Did Adam AS and Iblis believe in Allah because they saw Him? Theoretically, we could make an argument that perhaps they did see Him directly with their eyes and therefore knew that Allah was real. But this theory is doubtful because of the verse mentioned above which says emphatically that Nabi Musa AS (Moses) was not able to see Allah, and that the slightest appearance of Allah was enough to make a mountain explode (QS. Al A’raf 7:143). If Nabi Musa AS was not able to see Allah, then perhaps we can assume that Adam AS and Iblis were also not able to see Him.
The theory that they saw Allah can also be doubted because there is a hadith (oral tradition of the Prophet Muhammad SAW) which states that Nabi Muhammad SAW also never saw Allah with his eyes:
It is narrated on the authority of Masruq that he said: I was resting at (the house of) 'A'isha that she said: O Abu 'A'isha [the honorific name of Masruq], there are three things, and he who affirmed even one of them fabricated the greatest lie against Allah. I asked that they were. She said: He who presumed that Muhammad (may peace be upon him) saw his Lord (with his ocular vision) fabricated the greatest lie against Allah. […].
(Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0337) [Emphasis Added]
If Nabi Musa AS and Nabi Muhammad SAW never saw Allah, then we can assume that the possibility of Nabi Adam AS and Iblis (the Devil) seeing Allah is quite small. It is however very certain that both Nabi Adam AS and Iblis had a dialogue with Allah, as did Nabi Musa AS and Nabi Muhammad SAW. In Surah Al A’raf (QS. 7:22-23), Nabi Adam AS speaks directly with Allah after he is admonished for eating the forbidden fruit. Also, in Surah Al A’raf (QS. 7:11-16) there is a dialogue between Allah and Iblis.
From the fact that both Nabi Adam AS and the Devil spoke with Allah, we can presume that there was no doubt in their minds that Allah was real. They were aware of God, spoke with Him and were also conscious of their creation by Him. They were not acting on faith but rather acting on knowledge. That knowledge actually places them in a privileged position, one of which many of us may be envious. However, we should examine the consequences! Both Nabi Adam AS and Iblis were aware of God and both of them disobeyed Him. Adam AS admitted his fault but was still cast out of Heaven as punishment, whereas Iblis did not admit his fault, did not beg for forgiveness and was cursed until Judgment Day.
By comparison, the man who had murdered 100 people was apparently in a far better position to receive forgiveness from Allah. The killer had to believe in Allah’s Forgiveness based on faith alone, and it seems that this fact gave him a much bigger opportunity to be forgiven and not receive any punishment at all. For most of his life, he had acted without God, possibly not believing in God and had committed many crimes because he was not conscious of his Creator or what his Creator wanted him to do. When he was finally able to repent, he was acting out of faith, believing that there was an Almighty God who would accept his repentance and forgive him for his sins. He did not see God, nor did he speak with God. Perhaps as a result of that “faith”, he found Allah to be the Most Merciful!
If we could see Allah, would we definitely agree to worship Him and obey Him? Seeing Him and knowing that He is real does not automatically mean that we would be faithful. We might believe in Allah now, but that belief alone will not guarantee us entry into Heaven free from sin. For example, Iblis (the Devil) also believes in Allah (meaning that he does not doubt the existence of Allah) but he is not faithful and does not obey Him. If we could see Allah, then it is possible that we might end up arguing with Allah, just like Iblis, and so that would make it difficult or impossible for us to obtain forgiveness.
Do you really want to see Allah? Or hear His voice and have a dialogue with Him? I do not want to, not anymore! Not if seeing Him means that I could get into serious trouble for committing just one sin.
When I was a child, I wanted to see God so that I would have proof He was real and it seems that I was not the only one who wanted to see Him face-to face. The disbelievers who rejected the Prophet Muhammad SAW demanded the same thing:
90. And they say: "We shall not believe in you (O Muhammad SAW), until you cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us;
91. "Or you have a garden of date-palms and grapes, and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst abundantly;
92. "Or you cause the heaven to fall upon us in pieces, as you have pretended, or you bring Allâh and the angels before (us) face to face;
93. "Or you have a house of Zukhruf (like silver and pure gold), or you ascend up into the sky, and even then we will put no faith in your ascension until you bring down for us a Book that we would read." Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Glorified (and Exalted) be my Lord [(Allâh) above all that evil they (polytheists) associate with Him]! Am I anything but a man, sent as a Messenger?"
(QS. Al-Isra 17:90-93) [Emphasis Added]
If my desire from childhood had come true and I had seen God, or perhaps just heard His Voice and spoken to Him, then I would have been placed in the same category as Nabi Adam AS. And being in that category has a very clear meaning: disobey Allah one time and receive immediate punishment for one sin. As a normal human being, I commit sins all the time, and it is so easy for my sins to increase daily without being noticed. If I was in the same category as Nabi Adam AS then I doubt I would have survived this long without getting into very serious trouble with Allah.
Then, there is a second problem. If I was in the same category as Nabi Adam AS and if Allah got angry with me for the first one of my sins, would I be like Adam AS and instantly repent and beg for forgiveness? Or would I be more like Iblis and protest? What if I did protest? Would I end up with the same punishment as Iblis – cursed for all time?
All of us collect sins every day, but how many of us repent every day? Just imagine one lie, one broken promise, one small theft, or any single action of which Allah disapproves. Would that be enough to get us into serious trouble? And if we could always see Allah or hear His Voice, we would have no way of protesting our innocence. Would you really want to see Allah if that meant that you would receive immediate punishment for only one sin?
If we examine the different cases of Adam AS, Iblis and the murderer, then what can we conclude? It seems that if we cannot see Allah and cannot speak directly with Him then we are in a much better position than those people who can see Him or speak with Him. When it comes to forgiveness, Allah is far more merciful to those of us who merely believe in Him than those who actually know He exists It would seem from this that if you know Allah is real because you have had a dialogue with Him, then you no longer have any excuses for why you choose to disobey Him and subsequently, you will earn greater wrath and punishment than those who simply believe in Him.
If we believe in Allah based only on faith, because we have never seen Him or heard His Voice, then we are still able to give Allah all of our excuses for why our behaviour is not good enough: I forgot; I was busy; I didn’t have enough money; I couldn’t do it; it was raining; I’ll do it tonight; and so on. And we find Allah is the Most Benevolent, the Most Merciful for those of us who continue to believe.
53. Say: "O ‘Ibâdî (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allâh: verily, Allâh forgives all sins. Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
(QS. Az Zumar 39:53) [Emphasis Added]
The fact that we cannot see Allah is a blessing from Him for all of us who have lives full of sin. If we could see Allah and talk directly to Him, then the penalty for disobedience would probably be too severe for us to cope with. Perhaps we would only get one opportunity to commit one sin, and then we would face the Wrath of Allah. But to protect us from that, and as a sign of His Love for us, He never makes Himself visible to us and never speaks directly to us. We cannot see Him and so we must believe. And we continue to sin. And He continues to forgive us, and gives us yet another chance to be better. As long as we still believe!
21. And those who expect not a Meeting with Us (i.e. those who deny the Day of Resurrection and the life of the Hereafter) said: "Why are not the angels sent down to us, or why do we not see our Lord?" Indeed they think too highly of themselves, and are scornful with great pride.
(QS. Al Furqan 25:21) [Emphasis Added]
 (V.7:143) The appearance of Allâh to the mountain was very little of Him. It was approximately equal to the tip of one’s little finger as explained by the Prophet Muhammad SAW when he recited this Verse. (This hadîth is quoted by Tirmidhi).