Prophets and saints are seen in multiple places through a likeness of their souls
‘Allamah Sarfraz Khan Safdar writes in Itmam al-Burhan fi Radd Tawdih al-Bayan that being able to see the prophets and saints in multiple places and in a waking state falls under the concept of [seeing a] mithal (likeness). Allah creates a mithal of the souls and this is what people witness.
Shaykh Abu Muhammad Tahir ibn Ahmad al-Qazwini (d.756 AH) quotes Imam al-Ghazali as mentioned by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhab Sha‘rani (d.772 AH) in Al-Yawaqit wa ‘l-Jawahir, 1:132: “Imam Ghazali would say: ‘Whoever saw the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), he did not see his real form preserved in the blessed tomb of Madinah. He saw only his image (mithal), not his form.”
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhab Sha‘rani also quotes Shaykh Muhammad al-Shadhili al-Maghribi (d.656 AH) in Al-Yawaqit wa ‘l-Jawahir, 1:93: “Thereupon, he does not see him (Allah bless him and give him peace) but through his soul which assumes the representation of forms without the preoccupation of his blessed essence and its advent from the intermediary realm (barzakh) to the place of the viewer. This is due to its [i.e. the essence's] nobility and purity from the obligation of advent. This is the manifest truth.”
‘Allamah Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani (d. 1369 AH) quotes ‘Allamah Ibn Munayyar al-Iskandari al-Maliki (d.735 AH), the famous commentator of Sahih al-Bukhari, as follows: “Allah creates a mithal of his soul so it is seen in wakefulness as it is seen in sleep.” (Fath al-Mulhim, 1:330)
‘Allamah Shihab al-Din Qastallani al-Shafi’i (d.923 AH) writes, “So the figure he saw is neither the soul of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) nor his form, rather it is a mithal of him upon verification.” (Al-Mawahib al-Laduniyyah, 5:293)
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Haq al-Muhaddith al-Dahlawi (d.1052AH) explains further, “And seeing the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) after his demise is through a mithal, so he is seen in dreams and appears in a wakeful state too. The holy essence that is living and rests in the grave in Madinah can take the form of an image and appear simultaneously in various places to the masses in dreams and to the elite in a wakeful state.” (Madarij al-Nabuwwah from Barahin al-Qati’ah, p.204)
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Haq writes in the explanation of the following hadith – ‘Whoever saw me in a dream indeed he saw the truth’ – “So what is seen is neither his soul nor his blessed body [that is] preserved in Madinah. The presence of an individual at a particular place at one time with several qualities and various forms is unimaginable except for transformation into a mithal. So what is seen in dreams is the mithal (likeness) of his holy soul, which is the truth, and there is no room for denial.” (Ashi’ath al-Lam’at, p.683)
Shaykh Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Ahad al-Sirhindi (d.1024 AH) – famously known as Mujaddid al-Alf al-Thani – explains, “At times it happens that people report an extraordinary event (khawariq) from a saint (wali) when he himself is not aware at all of this event. And those saints who are favored with knowledge and inspiration (kashf), it is possible that they are not aware of some of their own extraordinary feats (khawariq). Instead, a likeness of their image appears at various locations, having crossed long distances, and exhibits wonderful acts and unusual conditions; while the owners of those forms remain wholly unaware of their resemblances
The act is only from Him and [everything] else is a locus of manifestation.
My revered master and direction [Khawaja Baqi Billah – may his secret be sanctified] mentioned that a certain saint used to say that how strange it is that people from all around visit and some say they saw me in Makkah during the Hajj season and performed Hajj along with me. And some say they saw me in Baghdad and they express their friendship with me; when I had not left my house at all, nor had I seen such people before. What a great accusation they falsely lay against me!” (Maktubat Imam Rabbani, 1:468)
Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi (d.1362 AH) mentions in Nashr al-Tib (p.50) that the blessed body stays in inside the grave and what is seen in other places is a mithal (likeness) of the soul. Shaykh Muhammad bin Sayyid Darwaysh (d.1276 AH), a student of ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abidin (d.1252 AH), has also mentioned the same in Isna al-Matalib (p.299). ((Itmam al-Burhan fi Radd Tawdih al-Bayan, 4:46-50))