It is interesting to see some names coming in pairs and some in strings, all having some association with each other or having similar meanings i.e. الْخَالِقُ، الْبَارِئُ، الْمُصَوِّرُ while السَّمِيعُ and الْبَصِيرُ have some association as they are to do with the senses.
الْبَصِيرُ is translated as The All-Seeing and The All-Perceiving.
The One Who sees all human matters and nothing is removed or distant from Him, not even under the earth. Ibnul Qayyim (Rahimahullah) gives an example of an ant hidden on a black stone on the darkest of nights which Allah ta’ala can see.
Allah ta’ala can see even the most hidden matters which human beings with their science and microscopes cannot see. Allah ta’ala knows and can see all the actions and conditions of all the Makhlooq and not just human beings.
In the Qur’an
It is mentioned 42 times in the Qur’an in different ways.
Allah ta’ala can see everything and it is not limited or exclusive.
وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
Fear Allah and beware that Allah observes your actions. [Surah Baqarah: last part 233]
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
and He is with you wherever you are. Allah is aware of all your actions. [Surah Hadeed: 4]
Allah ta’ala has given all of Makhlooq some type of vision and it is a very great Ni’mah. Allah ta’ala says in the Qur’an,
أَلَمْ نَجْعَلْ لَهُ عَيْنَيْنِ - Have We not given him two eyes to observe?
وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ - One tongue and two lips to control it? [Surah Balad: 8-9]
It is mentioned in a Hadith,
“Allah said, ‘If I deprive my slave of his two beloved things (his eyes) and he remains patient, I will let him enter Paradise in compensation for them.’” [Bukhari]
Of all the senses we are blessed with, sight is the most important, so important that Allah ta’ala made them so that they are protected by eyelids, eyelashes and eyebrows, all fitted in the face between hard bones to protect the soft, delicate eyes. With them Allah ta’ala gave us the means to see different colours and creation.
Concept of Perception
The concept of perception i.e. some types of dolphins and other animals which are almost blind rely on other senses such as hearing through sound which bounce off objects by which they perceive what the objects are. Blind people also have some type of ability to perceive through other senses and body parts.
Two words come from Baseer
• Baseerah – to see spiritually i.e. when a person has Taqwa and Qalbi Saleem they have the Noor of ‘Ilm in their hearts and they perceive things differently.
• Basaarah – to see with the physical eyes
Therefore the concept of perception is not just to do with seeing with the eyes but also through other senses and in other forms.
Vision of Allah ta’ala
One of the points which come up in the discussion of this name is that we can perceive so many things of the Dunya and we can look at the sky and see the stars which are so many light years away with our naked eyes without telescopes but we cannot see Allah ta’ala while He can see us.
Musa AS asked to see Allah ta’ala and he fainted when Allah ta’ala made apparent to him just a glimpse of something from behind many curtains,
وَلَمَّا جَاءَ مُوسَىٰ لِمِيقَاتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُ رَبُّهُ قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِي أَنْظُرْ إِلَيْكَ ۚ قَالَ لَنْ تَرَانِي وَلَٰكِنِ انْظُرْ إِلَى الْجَبَلِ فَإِنِ اسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُ فَسَوْفَ تَرَانِي ۚ فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّىٰ رَبُّهُ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُ دَكًّا وَخَرَّ مُوسَىٰ صَعِقًا ۚ فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
When Musa came to Our appointed place and his Rabb spoke to him, he asked: "O my Rabb! Give me power of sight to see You." He answered: "You cannot see Me. Look at the mountain; if it remains firm in its place then soon you might be able to see Me". When his Rabb manifested His glory on the mountain, it turned into small pieces of fine dust and Musa fell down unconscious. When Musa recovered he said: "Glory be to You! Accept my repentance and I am the first of the believers." [Surah Al-A’araaf: 143]
In Surah Al-An’aam (verse 103) Allah ta’ala says,
لَا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الْأَبْصَارَ ۖ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ
No vision can grasp Him while He grasps all visions. He is the Subtle, the Aware.
Allah ta’ala’s sight is beyond all of Makhlooq’s ability to see. Our eyes can see many things, near and far, but Allah ta’ala has kept Himself hidden and only in the Aakhirah will we be able to see Him and even then to what extent is a different matter.
Some Scholars says لَا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ means, we cannot only not see Him visually and physically, but also we cannot understand or comprehend Him. He is above and beyond everything and He cannot be perceived even through our intelligence, however Allah ta’ala is meant to be perceived and felt in the heart.
A rough translation of a Persian poem says,
“You come into the heart, I do not understand and this is Your recognition.”
Philosophers, intellectuals and spiritual people spent their whole lives reaching this conclusion that we cannot understand the reality of Allah ta’ala, neither in His Dhaat nor in His Sifaat. We can however experience it even though it is in a very limited way.
Mawlana Rumi (Rahimahullah) said in a theoretical dialogue, “O Allah, You are so immense, bigger than the universe. How can You come into my heart? How can I fill you in my heart as You are so Big and my heart is so small?” Allah ta’ala’s response comes, “Your eyes are so small but you can perceive the world, so can you not feel Allah in your small heart?”
Therefore we are limited however at the same time Allah ta’ala has given us the ability to feel and realise that we cannot understand and that is the recognition (as was mentioned in the introduction) – To realise you cannot recognise Allah ta’ala, that is actually recognising Him.
Allah ta’ala owns our ability to hear and see
Allah ta’ala says in the Qur’an,
أَمَّنْ يَمْلِكُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ - or Who owneth hearing and sight; [Surah Yunus: part of verse 31]
Allah ta’ala gave us these faculties of hearing and seeing and He can also take them away. It is human nature to behave differently when being watched or observed i.e. a teacher being observed how she teaches or knowing there is a camera in a store. Therefore when we know this trait of Allah ta’ala and have the awareness that Allah ta’ala is watching us and it becomes part of our psyche then it will be a deterrent to His disobedience and improve the quality of our good deeds.
Story: Someone is watching
A thief left his son as guard while he climbed a tree to pick some fruit. As soon as he climbed up, the son said, “Someone is watching” so he climbed down only to find no one there. He climbed up again and the same thing happened. After a few times he asked his son who was watching and the son said “Allah is watching.”
Story: 'Umar RA & the milk seller
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab RA used to patrol the streets of Madeenah at night. One night while on patrol he overheard a conversation between a woman who sold milk and her daughter. The mother told her daughter to mix that milk with some water and she replied that the Ameerul Mu’mineen had prohibited people from doing this.
The mother then told her that Ameerul Mu’mineen was not there to see so to go ahead and mix some water in the milk. The girl told her mother that even if ‘Umar RA was not there, Allah ta’ala was watching. ‘Umar RA left and thereafter sent a proposal for the girl’s hand in marriage to his son and she became the grandmother of the great leader, ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul ‘Azeez (Rahimahullah).
Another story was regarding Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Rahimahullah) who was once travelling on a train with extra baggage and therefore needed an extra seat. The guard told him not to worry about paying for the extra seat however the Shaykh said the train did not belong to the guard and so he cannot take that decision and one day Allah ta’ala will question them about it.
Mufti Shafi’ (Rahimahullaah) was once travelling on a train and had to sit in a higher class cabin due to no seats being available. He thought he would pay the extra fare to the conductor when he arrived however the conductor never came. Upon reaching his destination he found out how much extra he had to pay, then bought a ticket for that amount and then tore it up. The ticket officer was surprised at this and asked why. Mufti Shafi’ (Rahimahullah) explained and he was told he shouldn’t have bothered as no one would have known. At this Mufti Shafi’ (Rahimahullah) said no human knew but Allah ta’ala knew.
We should have certainty that Allah ta’ala is الْبَصِيرُ and is watching. This will protect our hearts, thoughts and actions. Contemplate on the verse,
أَلَمْ يَعْلَمْ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ يَرَىٰ - Does he not know that Allah is observing all things? [Surah Alaq: 14]
We should also inculcate this concept in our children.