Different religious takes on whether we can see God or not.
By Michelle Kim —
Aman robed in white. A flowing beard. A host of angels in the sky, and a finger extended outward. This is probably the most famous portrait of God, but did Michelangelo get it right when he painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling? How can you paint someone you cannot see? Or can you?
One such individual who claimed to have encountered a spiritual being was Prophet Muhammad, whom Muslims believe to be the last prophet sent to humanity. Appointed by Allah through an angel, there are differing stories that retell this divine meeting. In one such account, Muhammad describes how this angel, by the name of Gabriel, appeared to him in a cave that he would frequently visit to pray and meditate. The only description given was that the angel took the form of a man and that no matter where he looked in the sky, the angel stood with his feet on the horizon. Though this encounter records how a spiritual being can be seen or described in a physical sense, the same cannot be found in various passages within the Quran when it comes to seeing Allah:
“There is nothing like Him, but He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” (Quran 42:11)
“Vision cannot grasp Him, but His Grasp is over all vision.” (Quran 6:103)
According to the Quran, the human eye cannot see Allah because there is nothing on this earth comparable to him, nor is there anyone like him. Yet there are still followers of Islam who claim to have seen a being seated on a throne or covered in light with their own two eyes. Many refute that these personal spiritual experiences are not valid and is not the proper way for Allah to reveal himself as recorded in the Quran. However, these descriptions of the throne can be found all throughout a different set of religious texts, the Bible:
“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19)
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rv 5:13)
It may be a foreign sight for Muslims, but for Christians, the throne of God, is a familiar depiction found within their scriptures. Having visions of what the throne of God looks like may be criticized by some Muslims, but within the Bible, there have been many characters, such as Moses, Ezekiel, and Apostle John, who recorded these visions. Understanding what the throne looks like and consists of, however, does not necessarily equate to seeing God, himself. That is because other verses within the Bible, hold to the following:
“But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Ex 33:20)
“who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Tim 6:16)
Hence, according to the Bible, God is a spiritual being who cannot be sought after with physical eyes or else everyone that attempted to do so, would die. In the religion of Hinduism, however, many believe that there is one true god, Brahman, who is in fact, within every person or appear in the world as avatars. Hindus are encouraged to seek after these many forms of Brahman and believe that God is present within all peoples and creation.
Whether Michelangelo got it right or not–regardless of the form, depiction, or portrayal of God that is claimed by one individual, in order to determine a true encounter with God is to confirm through the religious texts established within each religion. Then seeing with just one’s eyes is not necessarily believing, but seeing with the eyes of one’s mind can provide a more accurate picture of who God is.