Man is able to see physical objects and scenes in the material world using his pair of eyes. The same man also sees objects and scenes spiritually in dreams and visions using his pair of spiritual eyes. The aim of this article is to establish that the scientific laws governing vision in the material and spiritual (ethereal) worlds is the same according to Islam.
Scientifically, the laws governing vision are explained as follows: first, there must be a real object at a distance U (cm) from the eyes lens. Secondly, the eye lens must have a focal length of F (cm). The focal length is the natural distance of the eyes where all light rays from the object pass through.
The result is that an inverted image (Image upside down) is formed on the sensitive retina of the human eye at a distance V (cm) from the lens (See Fig. 1). Through action by the human brain the inverted image is made to stand upright and magnified to the same size as the object. It needs no laborious experiments and hard mathematical proofs to show that the scientific principle underlying vision in the wakeful state (material world) is the same as the principle underlying vision in the vision state (spiritual world). Experiences gained from dreams and visions support this.
An observer sees in a dream a fellow man from a far away distance (U cm) as a small figure (V cm), consistent with the principle of physical vision that the further away an object is from the observer the smaller the object seen. As the man approaches the observer in the dream and wakeful state he begins to magnify till at one point he is able to recognise the man.
These observations are consistent with the scientific principle that as the object distance decreases the size of the image increases. From the above two experiences we can safely conclude that the principle underlying vision in the two states (vision and wakeful) remain the same. This brings to mind a principle in Einstein’s special Theory of Relativity that states that the laws of physics remain the same in both a stationary and moving frames of reference (See Fig. 2).
A frame of reference is the point where experiments or measurements are carried out. If we conduct an experiment in a laboratory sited on the earth’s surface we may assume that to be a stationary or non-moving reference frame. On the other hand if we conduct an experiment in a moving car, aeroplane or space craft then that gives an instance of a non-stationary or moving frame of reference.
According to Relativity the laws of physics remain the same in both the stationary and moving reference frames. If for good reasons we assume that the wakeful state is the stationary reference frame and the dream or vision state is the moving reference frame, then the laws of vision as explained above should remain the same. In effect our arguments are backed by the results of solid science!!!
As a matter of fact the spiritual world (vision, dream) is only a continuation of life in the physical world (wakeful state). We shall express joy or happiness in the spiritual world in accordance with our good or bad deeds committed in this material world. The following verse is an expression of this philosophy: “Whenever they are given a portion of fruit therefore, they will say: This is what was given us before’ and gifts mutually resembling shall be brought to them” (Qur’an 2:26). Meaning that the fruits of paradise which God shall give to the believers shall be the same as the fruits of this world except in the material content. In araplification says the Prophet of Islam: “There is no pomegranate (a kind of fruit) from your pomegranates found in this world except that it is fecundated (produced) by pollens of pomegranates from paradise” (Authentic Hadith). Meaning that pomegranates found in this world are products of the pomegranates found in the spiritual world.
Thus showing that this world is a mirror image of life in the Hereafter, which is Reality. In short the five senses of man that enable him to experience life in this material universe remain the same as in the spiritual realm, except that the latter is keener that the former: “Thou wast heedless of this, now We have removed from thee thy veil, and keen is thy sight this day” (Qur’an 50:23).
Meaning that man is heedless of realities of the spiritual world for the fact that his senses including his eyes and perceptions were all under a veil in this world. At the moment of death, when the veil is removed his senses become keener as a result he begins to see realities of the spiritual world.
While science and religion are agreed that we can fully experience life through the operation of the physical senses, religion at the same time insists that man, equipped with a spiritual body, can also see without the eyes, smell without the nose, taste without the tongue, hear without the ears, etc.
This he is able to do by virtue of the real self called the Nafs in Islam and the Psyche in ancient Greek Philosophy. It has often been reported by medical doctors that patients made completely unconscious by anaesthesia (chloroform), have been able to accurately tell the surgeons what they did to their bodies in all details.
The patients explanation is that when they lost complete consciousness, they saw their real selves floating above their physical bodies in the surgical theatre. Through that ethereal body they were able to observe all that the physicians did to their bodies. After that they re-entered into their bodies to gain consciousness.
With the above introduction let me briefly describe the different kinds of visions taught by Islam. The first kind of vision is astral projection in which the spirit of the recipient is transported to a place in this material or the spiritual world to undergo experiences.
A classic example is when the Holy Prophet Muhammed, on whom be peace, was astrally projected from Macca to Jerusalem and back in the course of one night (The Isra). In the second mode, he was spiritually transported to heaven in the Mi’raj when his spirit went with the Arch-Angel Gabriel into heaven. In these experiences the physical body of the recipient while undergoing the experience is conscious or semi-conscious of the material environment.
The third mode is encountered in dreams when the mind and the body become inactivated leading to the psyche experiencing dreams. In the fourth type the recipient may see objects and scenes from the earth or spiritual world in a state of semi-consciousness characterised by a slight slumber.
Like when Hadrat Ahmad, on whom be peace, saw Allah seated as a Mighty King on His throne. In the fifth mode, the recipient is shown scenes and objects and also made to hear voices, just like the way we watch TV these days with scenes of football from faraway places transported through space through modern technology.
A classic example is when Hadrat Umar saw the war scene of the Muslims thousands of miles away and also shouted instructions to the fighting Muslims who heard him. Similarly, Hadrat Ahmad watched the Hajj scene and heard voices of pilgrims at Macca from far away Qadian in India. In the sixth mode an angel of God manifests physically and interacts palpably with the recipient like the way the Arch-Angel Gabriel manifested as a handsome man to the Prophet and the Muslims.
We read the following comments from our Commentary of the Holy Qur’an on vision (Qur’an 7:108) concerning the rod of Moses turning into a rod and vice versa: “The rod remained a rod, only it appeared to Moses and others as a serpent.
It is a common spiritual phenomenon that in a vision when man rises above the encumbrances of the flesh and becomes transported temporarily to a spiritual sphere, he can see things taking place which are beyond his ken and are quite invisible to his physical eyes. The miracle of the rod turning into a serpent was one such spiritual experience. (Qur’an Commentary, p348).
Meaning that when Moses and others were temporarily transported to the spiritual sphere they saw the rod as a serpent, but on returning to the physical realms they saw the rod as rod. These explanations contradict the laws of vision which we have explained above, namely that they remain the same in both the spiritual and physical realms. If therefore Moses and others saw the rod as a serpent in the spiritual realm, then they would see the rod as a serpent in the physical realm.
Meaning that the rod had turned into a real serpent. In support of this interpretation we quote the spiritual experience of Hadrat Ahmad, on whom be peace, reported in the Tadhkirah when Allah, as a Mighty King, sprinkled on him red ink from the tip of His pen in a vision.
On returning to the physical realm the red ink materialised as red drops in his attire, thus showing that red ink in the spiritual realm remained red ink physically.
Man sees physically and spiritually with his physical and spiritual eyes respectively!!!