Why can’t we see God?

Some people ask or have doubts about why we cannot directly see God. Why does He have to be a mystery? Even though you may not have asked this to yourself in this way, it is an innate puzzle to many of us. In fact, when one ponders the question for just a little bit, the answer reveals itself quickly. Have you ever pondered how our direct vision is limited so that we cannot see X-rays or UV radiation? But we know they exist through their consequences (a bad burn or an X-ray of our arm). Aside from seeing God, we cannot even see many of the things around us. Thus, our limited sight could never be an appropriate way of seeking the Unlimited Creator.

 

In comparing ourselves to God, we could use very effective analogies. For instance, there are billions of bacteria in the human body. Can these bacteria perceivably imagine or understand the human body in which they exist? Imagine we take them out of our body and by using artificial tools like microscopes or telescopes show them the human body. Only through such an unimaginable effort could the bacteria become aware of the human body. And this weak awareness can hardly be called understanding.

Though on a very different scale, the sense-awareness of human beings is similarly limited. It may indeed be that we can ‘see’ across distances of millions of light years with the assistance of telescopes and other instruments. But all that we ‘see’ is insignificant compared to the dimensions of the whole universe. In fact, allowing for the difference in scale, what human beings can ‘see’ is as insignificant as what the bacteria can ‘see’.

In fact, our ‘seeing’ is conditional upon our understanding. We need to have some general idea of what we ‘see’ in order to distinguish it and recognize it. If we do not have some idea of what a tree is, we are unable to make sense of the object before our eyes. If our ‘seeing’ is this limited for objects within creation, then we must determine how absurd a demand it is to ask why we cannot directly ‘see’ or ‘know’ the Creator.

We are created beings with finite capacities. Only the Creator, God, is Infinite. By His Mercy, the Creation is available to us as the environment within which we exist and perish, strive for understanding and virtue, and seek our salvation. How can we even begin to conceive of God Himself when we cannot even conceive the vast universe that He created?

However, this is not to say that God is completely inconceivable to us. He indeed implores us to get to know Him. After all, that is why He gave human beings superior intelligence. And the universe serves this purpose. Everything around us has an essential role to play in addition to providing for and serving humanity. Nature is a divine revelation reflecting and manifesting the Creator. In other words, the most important trait of the cosmos is its theophany (reflecting or being of God). God has also designed it to be a ‘book of signs’ for humankind. Human beings may recognize God’s majesty and comprehend His Divine Names by contemplating nature. Thus, if we properly view nature, it becomes a revealed book of individual signs and miracles. In the verse below, God tells us this very principle by urging us to open our eyes and hearts and see: “Do they not look at the sky above them? How We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it?” (The Qur’an, 50: 6).

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