It is narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr: I asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him): Did you see thy Lord? He said: He is a Light;. how could I see Him?These are two very different responses, but both of them deny any viewing by the Prophet (S). It is quite obvious that the first report is more inaccurate than the latter, in light of the Quran and other hadeeth. The reason for this is the Quran clearly states that Allah only speaks to his Prophets behind a veil. From the quote of ibn Qayyim, there is another hadeeth attributed to Abu Dharr from Sahih Muslim which states that the Prophet (S) denied that he could have seen Allah, by stating that his veil was light. As far as the issue of the veil, there are other hadeeth in Saheeh Muslim which refer to it:Abdullah b. Shaqiq reported: I said to Abu Dharr: Had I seen the Messenger of Allah, I would have asked him. He (Abu Dharr) said: What is that thing that you wanted to inquire of him? He said: I wanted to ask him whether he had seen his Lord. Abu Dharr said: I, in fact, inquired of him, and he replied: I saw Light.
Abu Musa reported: The Messenger ofallah (may peace be upon him) was standing amongst us and he told us five things. He said: Verily the Exalted and Mighty God does not sleep, and it does not befit Him to sleep. He lowers the scale and lifts it. The deeds in the night are taken up to Him before the deeds of the day. and the deeds of the day before the deeds of the night. His veil is the light. In the hadith narrated by Abu Bakr (instead of the word" light" ) it is fire. If he withdraws it (the veil), the splendour of His countenance would consume His creation so far as His sight reaches.This hadeeth clearly states that their is a veil between God and his creation and that it is light. Other additions are included in some of the hadeeth, as is obvious. Among such additions are the attributed hadeeth to Abu Bakr (R) that, if the veil is removed, all of creation would be consumed by his brilliant countenance.A'mash has narrated this hadith on the same authority and said: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) was standing amongst us and he told us four things. He then narrated the hadith like the one reported by Abu Mua'wiya, but did not mention the words" His creation" and said: His veil is the light.
The idea that ibn Abbass (R) would make such a statement baffles the mind, considering the very surah states about the Prophet (S) during these experiences:It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “ ‘The (Prophet’s) heart belied not what he saw, and indeed he saw Him at a second descent.’ [al-Najm 53:11-12] (This means that) he saw Him twice with his heart.” (Narrated by Muslim, al-Eemaan, 258).
The Quran is stating that the heart of the Prophet (S) had no doubts in what the Prophet (S) saw with his own eyes. There was no chance of what the Prophet (S) was seeing was his own imagination. Further, the claim that ibn Abbass (R) believed the Prophet (S) saw God Almighty from Surah Najm makes no sense, considering the Surah itself is clearly referring to Gabriel (AS), not God Almighty. Before even describing Gabriel in similar terms thatthe Quran does in other places, Allah starts off this description with:The (Prophet's) (mind and) heart in no way falsified that which he saw.
Will ye then dispute with him concerning what he saw?
The teaching is attributed to the person who is bringing the inspiration down to him. Even the hadeeth attributed to Aisha (R) states that the Mother of the Faithful asked who that being was in SUrah Najm:It is no less than inspiration sent down to him:
He was taught by one Mighty in Power,
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 (kunya 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. I was reclining but then sat up and said: Mother of the Faithful, wait a bit and do not be in a haste. Has not Allah (Mighty and Majestic) said:" And truly he saw him on the clear horizon" (al-Qur'an, lxxxi. 23) and" he saw Him in another descent" (al-Qur'an, iiii. 13)? She said: I am the first of this Ummah who asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) about it, and he said: Verily he is Gabriel. I have never seen him in his original form in which he was created except on those two occasions (to which these verses refer) ; I saw him descending from the heaven and filling (the space) from the sky to the earth with the greatness of his bodily structure. She said: Have you not heard Allah saying." Eyes comprehend Him not, but He comprehends (all) vision. and He is Subtle, and All-Aware" (al-Qur'an, v. 104)? (She, i. e. 'A'isha, further said): Have you not heard that, verily, Allah says:" And it is not vouchsafed to a human being that Allah should speak unto him otherwise than by revelation, or from behind a veil, or that He sendeth a messenger (angel), so that he revealth whatsoever He wills. Verily He is Exalted. Wise" (al. Qur'an, xii. 51) She said: He who presumes that the Messengerof Allah (may peace be upon him) concealed anything, from the Book, of Allah fabricates the greatest lie against Allah. Allah says:" O Messenger! deliver that which has been revealed to thee from thy Lord, and if thou do (it) not, thou hast not delivered His message" (al-Qur'an, v. 67). She said: He who presumes that he would inform about what was going to happen tomorrow fabricates the greatest lie against Allah. And Allah says" Say thou (Muhammad): None in the heavens and the earth knoweth the unseen save Allah" (al-Qur'an, xxvii 65).
As a side note, Bukhari has this same hadeeth, but in a different variation, with a lot of information lacking.
It actually tells you a lot about the 'perfection' of the hadeeth books.Narrated Masruq:
'Aisha said, "If anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen his Lord, he is a liar, for Allah says: 'No vision can grasp Him.' (6.103) And if anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen the Unseen, he is a liar, for Allah says: "None has the knowledge of the Unseen but Allah."