Some people cite the verses of the Holy Qur’an which they translate to mean that Allah commands the Prophet to tell the companions that he has no knowledge of the unseen. I was surprised at hearing this and decided to write to you for your view. The stand of the real Ahl al-Sunna with respect to Rasulullah’s knowledge of the unseen will be appreciated. Also, what is the belief of Ahl al-Sunna regarding the awliya’s knowledge of the unseen?
Al-hamdu lillah wa al-salat wa al-salam `ala rasulillah: Knowledge of the Unseen is one of Allah’s prerogatives, exclusive to Him except insofar as He discloses it to His elect servants:
“He discloses not His unseen (ghayb) to anyone, except only to such a Messenger as He is well-pleased with.” (72:26)
Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani explained this verse thus:
It follows from this verse that Prophets can see some of the Unseen, and so do the saints (wali, pl. awliya’) that follow each particular Prophet also, as each takes from his Prophet and is gifted (yukram) with his knowledge. The difference between the two is that the Prophet looks at this knowledge through all kinds of revelation, while the saint does not look upon it except in dreams or through inspiration, and Allah knows best.
Ibn Hajar quotes al-Qurtubi’s words confirming this:
The truthful, righteous Muslim (al-muslim al-sadiq al-salih) is he whose state matches that of Prophets and thereby is bestowed (ukrima) some of the same kind of gift they were, and that is to behold the unseen (wa huwa al-ittila` `ala al-ghayb). As for the disbeliever (al-kafir), the corrupt person (al-fasiq), and the contentious one who confuses matters for the listeners (al-mikhlat)— then no.
It is incorrect and improper, therefore, to say that the Prophet did not know the Unseen except if such a statement is qualified, such as saying: “He did not know that of the Unseen which only Allah knows.” Otherwise it is untrue that the Prophet did not know the Unseen. How could such a claim be true of any truthful Prophet who brings news from His Lord, especially one who ascended above the seven heavens and the eight Paradises to His Lord’s presence, one who told of the events that attended creation, one who saw the events after resurrection, and one to whom was revealed the inimitable Qur’an? And Allah said to him:
And We granted you knowledge of what you knew not, and the bounty of Allah for you has been infinite. (4:113)
This is of the tidings of the Unseen which we reveal to you. You did not know it before this, nor your people. (11:49)
Say: … Allah has already informed us of the true state of matters concerning you: It is your actions that Allah and His Apostle will observe… (9:94)
And some of them hurt the Prophet and say, “He is all ear!” (i.e. gullible). Say: An ear of good for you: he believes in Allah, and believes the Believers, and is a Mercy to those of you who believe… (9:61) Imam al-Baydawi commented: “This verse is a warning that It is not due to his ignorance of your true position that the Prophet accepts what you say but out of leniency and mercy for you.”
However, the Prophet did not like to boast and he always stressed that certain matters of the Unseen were Allah’s exclusive domain, especially knowledge of the Last Hour, and “the five things” mentioned at the end of Surat Luqman (31:34). This is confirmed by the hadiths:
1. Utiytu mafatihu kulli shay’in illa al-khams. “I have received the keys to everything (unseen) except the Five (which Allah alone knows).”
Ibn Mas`ud similarly narrates: Utiya mafatihu kulli shay’in ghayr al-khams. “He has received the keys to everything (unseen) except the Five (which Allah alone knows).”
Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani also cites, without weakening them, two very similar hadiths in Fath al-Bari:
Utiya nabiyyukum `ilmu kulli shay’in siwa hadhihi al-khams.
Utiytu mafatih al-ghayb.
“Your Prophet has received everything except these Five.”
“I have received the keys of the Unseen.”
These five things are:
- Knowledge of what is in the wombs
- Knowledge of when the Hour will rise
- Knowledge of what one will gain tomorrow
- Knowledge of the land in which one will die
- Knowledge of the time Allah will send rain
(Hadith of Ibn `Umar in Ahmad and Bukhari.)
2. A man from Banu `Amir, after asking the Prophet certain questions, said: “Is there any knowledge left which you do not know?” whereupon the Prophet said: “Allah has taught me a great good, and there is a kind of Unseen knowledge which Allah alone knows: He has knowledge of the Hour, He sends down the rain, He knows what lies in the womb, no one (but He) knows what one will gain tomorrow, and no one (but He) knows in what land one shall die.”
3. It is confirmed by Ibn Mardawayh’s narration from `Ali cited in the chaper of Surat Luqman in Kanz al-`ummal, as a commentary for the verse 28:66 in Surat al-Qasas, “On that day tidings will be darkened for them,” whereby `Ali said: “Nothing was darkened for your Prophet except five matters from the secrets of the Unseen.” (lam yu`ma `ala nabiyyikum shay’un illa khamsun min sara’ir al-ghayb.)
4. In Tirmidhi (hasan sahih) and Baghawi in Sharh al-Sunna on the authority of Mu`adh ibn Jabal:
The Prophet said: “My Lord came to me in the best image and asked me over what did the angels of the higher heaven vie, and I said I did not know, so He put His hand between my shoulders, and I felt its coolness in my innermost, and the knowledge of all things between the East and the West came to me.”
`Ali al-Qari wrote about this hadith in the chapter on the Prophet’s turban in his book Jam` al-wasa’il fi sharh al-shama’il, a commentary on Tirmidhi’s Shama’il or Characteristics of the Prophet:
Whether the Prophet saw his Lord during his sleep or whether Allah the Glorious and Exalted manifested Himself to him with a form (bi al-tajalli al-suwari), this type of manifestation is known among the masters of spiritual states and stations (arbab al-hal wa al-maqam), and it consists in being reminded of His qualities (hay’atihi) and reflecting upon His vision (ru’yatihi), which is the outcome of the perfection of one’s inner detachment (takhliyatihi) and self-adornment (tahliyatihi).
And Allah knows best about the states of His Prophets and Intimate Friends whom He has raised with His most excellent upbringing, and the mirrors of whose hearts He has polished with His most excellent polish, until they witnessed the Station of Divine Presence and Abiding (maqam al-hudur wa al-baqa’), and they rid themselves of the rust of screens and extinction (sada’ al-huzur wa al-fana’).
May Allah bestow on us their yearnings, may He make us taste their states and manners, and may He make us die in the condition of loving them and raise us in their group.
al-Qari also said in al-Asrar al-marfu`a:
Ibn Sadaqa said that Ibn Zar`a said: “The hadith of Ibn `Abbas [about the Prophet seeing His Lord] is sound (sahih), and no-one denies it except a Mu`tazili” [!]… Ibn al-Humam answered that “this (representation) is the veil of form (hijab al-sura).” It seems that he meant by this that the entire goal can be visualized if it is interpreted as a formal manifestation (tajalli suwari), as it is incontrovertibly absurd to interpret it as a real or literal manifestation (tajalli haqiqi)… for Allah is exalted from possessing a body, a form (sura), and directions with regard to His essence… And if the hadith is shown to have something in its chain that indicates forgery, then fine; otherwise: the door of figurative interpretation is wide and imposes itself (bab al-ta’wil wasi`un muhattam).
5. The Prophet’s “knowledge of all things between the East and the West” is confirmed by the famous narration with a grade of hasan (fair) from al-Bara’ ibn `Azib whereby:
At the time of the Battle of Ahzab or the battle of the Trench, the Prophet went down to hit a rock with his pick, whereupon he said: “Bismillah” and shattered one third of the rock. Then he exclaimed: “Allahu akbar! I have been given the keys of Syria. By Allah, verily I can see her red palaces right from where I stand.” Then he said: “Bismillah,” and shattered another third and exclaimed: “Allahu akbar! I have been given the keys of Persia. By Allah, I can see her cities and her white palace right from where I stand.” Then he said: “Bismillah” and shattered the remainder of the rock and exclaimed: “Allahu akbar! I have been given the keys of Yemen. By Allah, I can see the gates of San`a’ right from where I stand.”
6. Another version of the above is related from Salman al-Farisi. Ibn Hisham relates it in his Sira through Ibn Ishaq thus:
Salman al-Farisi said: “I was digging in one corner of the trench at which time one rock gave me difficulty. Allah’s Messenger came near me and saw my difficulty as I was digging. He came down and took the pick from my hands. Then he struck and a great spark flashed under the pick. He struck again and another spark flashed. He struck a third time and a third spark flashed. I said to him: My father and mother (be ransomed) for you, O Messenger of Allah! What is that I saw flashing under the pick as you were striking? He said: Did you see this, O Salman? I said: Yes! He said: The first time, Allah opened Yemen [in the South] for me; the second time, He opened the North (al-Sham) and the West (al-Maghrib) for me; and the third time, he opened the East (al-Mashriq).”
7. The above two narrations are confirmed by Abu Hurayra’s words related by Ibn Hisham in his Sira directly after the above narration:
Ibn Ishaq said: A reliable source narrated to me that Abu Hurayra used to say, when these countries were conquered in the time of `Umar and in the time of `Uthman and after `Uthman: “Conquer what comes within your sight. By the One in Whose hand lies Abu Hurayra’s soul, you do not conquer any city nor will you conquer any city until the Day of resurrection except that Allah the Exalted gave Muhammad its keys beforehand.”
8. A further confirmation of the above is the hadith in Muslim:
The earth was collected together for me so that I was shown its Easts and Wests. And the kingdom of my Community will reach to the extent that it was brought together for me.
9. A further confirmation is the hadith in Bukhari:
Narrated Asma’ bint Abu Bakr: I came to ‘Aisha during the solar eclipse. The people were standing (offering prayer) and she too, was standing and offering prayer. I asked, “What is wrong with the people?” She pointed towards the sky with her hand and said, Subhan Allah!” I asked her, “Is there a sign?” She nodded with her head meaning, yes. When Allah’s Apostle finished (the prayer), he glorified and praised Allah and said, “There is not anything that I have not seen before but I have seen now at this place of mine, even Paradise and Hell. It has been revealed to me that you people will be put to trial nearly like the trial of Ad-Dajjal, in your graves. As for the true believer or a Muslim (the sub-narrator is not sure as to which of the two (words Asma’ had said) he will say, ‘Muhammad came with clear signs from Allah, and we responded to him (accepted his teachings) and believed (what he said)’ It will be said (to him) ‘Sleep in peace; we have known that you were a true believer who believed with certainty.’ As for a hypocrite or a doubtful person, (the sub-narrator is not sure as to which word Asma’ said) he will say, ‘I do not know, but I heard the people saying something and so I said the same.'” (Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 92, Number 390)
10. A further confirmation of the above is the hadith of Hudhayfa in Bukhari and Muslim:
The Messenger of Allah gave us an address in which he did not leave out anything that would happen until the Last Hour came. Whoever remembered it remembered it and whoever forgot it forgot it. Many companions of mine have known it. When any of it came to pass, I would recognize it and remember it as a man remembers the face of a man who has gone away and which he recognizes when he sees him again.” Then Hudhayfa said: “I do not know whether my companions may have forgotten or pretended to forget [i.e. to prevent fitna], but Allah’s Messenger did not leave out the instigator of a single disaster that was going to happen until the end of the world. There were more than three hundred of them. He named them for us, each with his own name, the name of this father and his tribe.
11. A further confirmation is the hadith in Bukhari:
…Then Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hand my life is, Paradise and Hell were displayed before me across this wall while I was praying, and I never saw such good and evil as I have seen today.” (Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 92, Number 397)
12. A further confirmation is the hadith of Abu al-Darda’ in Tabarani and Ahmad, which is sound (sahih) according to Haythami in Majma` al-zawa’id:
When the Messenger of Allah left us there was not a bird that flies in the sky but that he had given us some knowledge about it.
And all this profusion of knowledge of the Unseen on the part of the Prophet has been characterized by Allah as perspicuity and ability to reveal knowledge of the Unseen in the two verses:
His sight swerved not, nor swept astray. (53:17)
He is not stingy of (his knowledge of) the Unseen. (81:24)
13. Nor is the Prophet’s knowledge after his life in dunya in any way lessened. Rather, the contrary is true, as established in the following hadith:
My life is a great good for you, you will relate about me and it will be related to you, and my death is a great good for you, your actions will be presented to me (in my grave) and if I see goodness I will praise Allah, and if see other than that I will ask forgiveness of Him for you.
Qadi` Iyad in his al-Shifa’ fi ma`rifat huquq al-mustafa (The Healing Concerning the Knowledge of the Rights of the Elect One), al-Qastallani in his al-Mawahib al-laduniyya bi al-minah al-muhammadiyya (The Gifts from Allah: the Muhammadan Dispensations), and other scholars of Ahl al-Sunna included in their excellent books on the Prophet extensive chapters establishing his knowledge of the unseen and future events.
In the light of the above evidence, such statements as that of Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab at the end of his leaflet paradoxically entitled “The Three Principles of Oneness” are false whereby:
One who claims to know something from knowledge of the Unseen is a taghut or false deity (Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, Three Principles of Oneness)!
This is utterly rejected as false and gross falsehood spoken against the Prophet by those who would deny his status and the prerogatives of his rank established by Allah in His speech and by the sound hadith of the Prophet. We seek refuge in Allah from such statements as signify extreme ignorance, indeed enmity to the Prophet and to Allah’s Pure Religion. And Allah knows best.
FROM SOUTUL ISLAM PUBLICATIONS (PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA)
ON THE SIGHT OF THE PROPHET
The eyes of the Holy Prophet were matchless in their outward beauty as well as in their vision and sight. Ibn Abbas in describing his beauteous eyesight states:
The Holy Prophet could see equally well during the darkness of the night and the brightness of the day. (Bukhari)
Anas narrates: The Holy Prophet himself said:
O people! I am your Imam.Do not precede me in ruku` and sajda because in addition to seeing what is in front of me I also see what is behind me. (Muslim)
Abu Huraira similarly narrates the Prophet’s words:
I swear on Allah Almighty, neither your ruku` is hidden from me nor your sajda because I can see you behind my back as well. (Muslim and Bukhari)
The gist of the commentary which the great scholar Sheikh `Abd al- Haqq Muhaddith Dehlvi has written on these traditions is as follows:”Only Allah Almighty exactly knows the truth [i.e. the extent] of his vision. In addition, every blessed limb too falls in this category [of piercing sight], because no one can fully understand what they were.” They are without doubt beyond one’s imagination and intellect. Any assumption falls short of their virtuosity. Allah Almighty has full Power to bestow vision to every part of the body, or grant this unique sight as His Favour and Grace on His beloved Messenger.
If by this sight is meant vision of the heart, then it is that knowledge which was bestowed upon him by Allah Almighty.
Some people tend to incorrectly rely on the inauthentic tradition whereby the Holy Prophet said: “I do not know what is behind the wall.” No origin is known (la asl) for such a hadith. Even if such an improbable saying were attributable to the Prophet, then its purpose would to show personal humility and not to negate such knowledge. The meaning would then be: “I do not know that on my own, nor do I have such knowledge on my own,” but as far as Bestowed Knowledge is concerned, i.e knowledge given by Allah Almighty, the Holy Prophet was fully equipped with it by his Creator.
The Holy Qur’an bears the testimony to this:
And We granted you knowledge of what you knew not, and the bounty of Allah for you has been infinite. (4:113)
THE PROPHET KNOWS AND CAN BUT HE IS HUMBLE AND DOES NOT BOAST
the following verses in support of their view that the Prophet is no more than an ordinary individual:
Say [O the Prophet]: I have no power to benefit myself nor to harm it, except that which Allah wills. Had I knowledge of the Unseen, I would have acquired much good, and adversity would not have touched me… (7:188)
Say: I am but a man (or: a mortal) like yourselves (18:110, 41:6)
And they say: We will not put faith in thee till thou cause a spring to gush forth… Or thou have a garden… and cause rivers to gush forth… Or thou cause the heaven to fall… or bring God and the angels… have a house of gold; ascend up into heaven… bring down for us a book… Say: My Lord be glorified! Am I naught save a mortal messenger?” (17:90-93) etc.
You will see them quoting such verses continually to try to prove that the Prophet was an ordinary person. They never remember the last part of the verse that states:
Say: I am but a mortal like yourselves, but I receive revelation.
To go back to the above verses, the scholars’ explanation for them is not that the Prophets declare their mortality as an expression of their ordinariness, but rather of their dignity and humbleness on the one hand, and on the other hand to destroy any claim of a nature other than human — e.g. god or angel — that might be attributed to them.
These verses also came in answer to some people who asked the Prophet for signs in a spirit of disbelief and mockery, such as a group who claimed that they would attest to his prophethood only if he performed for them certain miracles, while it is established by the scholars of asbab an-nuzul (Context for Revelation) that the Prophet disliked being asked for miracles by unbelievers. To quote these verses in an attempt to prove the supposed ordinariness of the Prophet is an aberrant practice and a true under-estimation of his rights and of Allah’s generosity towards Him. The Prophet certainly was not limited in the reductive sense that disbelievers claimed about prophets in the verse: “They said: Ye are but mortals like unto us” (36:15).
Finally another reason for the disclaimers concerning the Prophet was his humbleness. The explanation of Ibn ‘Abbas quoted by Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa’ and al-Khazin in his Commentary (18:110) suffices for anyone who looks at the Prophet with the eyes of belief rather than those of skepticism: “Allah has taught modesty to His Prophet Muhammad, lest he boast before His creation. He has therefore ordered him to be dignified and say: I am but a mortal man like you, except that I was chosen for Revelation.”
We close this section with an excerpt from Qadi `Iyad’s al-Shifa’ on the angelic nature of Prophets:
Allah says: “Muhammad is only a Messenger, and Messengers have passed away before him. Why, if he should die or be killed…” (3:144) and “The Masih (Christ), son of Maryam, is only a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him and his mother was a truthful woman. They used to eat food” (5:75) and “We only sent Messengers before that are food and walked in the markets” (25:20) and “Say: I am a mortal like you to whom revelation has been given” (18:10).
Muhammad and all the Prophets of mankind were sent to men. If it had not been for that, people would not have been able to meet them face-to-face, to have accepted from them and spoken with them.
Allah says, “If We had made him an angel, We would have made him a man” (6:9). That is to say, the angel would have taken the form of a man to whom they could speak since they would not be able to face an angel and speak with it if they saw it in its true form.
Allah says, “Say: if there had been angels on the earth walking at peace, We would have sent down upon them an angel as a Messenger from heaven” (17:95). That is to say, it is not possible in the Sunna of Allah to send an angel except to one who is the same as it or one to whom Allah gives a special gift, choses and makes strong enough to be able to face it, such as the Prophets and Messengers.
Prophets and Messengers are intermediaries between Allah and His creation. They convey His commands and prohibitions, His warning and threat to His creatures and they acquaint them with things they did not know regarding His command, creation, majesty, power and His Malakut. Their outward form, bodies and structure are characterised by the qualities of men as far as non-essential matters such as illnesses, death and passing away are concerned and they have human traits.
But their souls and inward parts have the highest possible human qualities, associated with the Highest Assembly, which are similar to angelic attributes, free of any possibility of alteration or evil. Generally speaking the incapacity and weakness connected with being human cannot be associated with them. If their inward parts had been human in the same way as their outward, they would not have been able to receive revelation from the angels, see them, mix and sit with them in the way other mortals are unable to do.
If their bodies and outward parts had been marked by angelic attributes as opposed to human attributes, the mortals to whom they were sent would not have been able to speak with them as Allah has already said. Thus they have the aspect of men as far as their bodies and outward parts are concerned, and that of angels in respect of their souls and inward parts.
It is in this way that the Prophet said, “If I had taken a close friend from my Community, I would have taken Abu Bakr as a friend, but it is the brotherhood of Islam. Rather your companion is the close friend of the Merciful.”
He said, “My eyes sleep and my heart does not sleep.”
He said, “I am not made the same as you but my Lord gives me food and drink.”
Their inward parts are disconnected from evil and free from imperfection and weakness.
This summary will certainly not benough for all those who are concerned with this subject…
And Allah knows best.
Kashf or unveiling consists, according to al-Sharif al-Jurjani’s definition in his Kitab al-ta`rifat, in “apprehending beyond the veil of ordinary phenomena, whether by vision or experience, the meanings and realities that pertain to the unseen.” It is a kind of intuitive knowledge or discovery that typifies Allah’s Friends, whose rank Allah extols with the affirmation:
Lo! Verily the friends of Allah are those on whom fear comes not, nor do they grieve (10:62).
Many sayings of the Prophet mention the various types and ranks of the saints, as Suyuti has shown in his collection of these sayings in his fatwa already mentioned entitled: al-Khabar al-dall `ala wujud al-qutb wa al-awtad wa al-nujaba’ wa al-abdal or “The reports that indicate the existence of the Pole, the Pillars, the Leaders, and the Substitutes” in his Hawi li al-fatawi. These and other types of perfected individuals form the khawass or elite of the pious, whom Allah also calls the siddiqin (saints, literally “Most Truthful Ones”) and ranks directly after the Prophets and before the Martyrs in the verse:
Whoso obey Allah and the Messenger, they are with those unto whom Allas has shown favor, of the Prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they! (4:69)
Their position in relation to Allah on the Day of Judgment is even described as an object of desire for the Prophets in the following sound hadith of the Prophet related by `Umar and others. This is the narration of Abu Malik al-Ash`ari from the Musnad of Imam Ahmad:
When the Prophet finished his prayer he turned to face the people and said: “O people! Listen to this, understand it, and know it. Allah has servants who are neither Prophets nor martyrs and whom the Prophets and martyrs yearn to be like, due to their seat and proximity in relation to Allah.”
One of the beduin Arabs who came from among the most isolated of people twisted his hand at the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah! People from humankind who are neither Prophets nor martyrs and yet the Prophets and the martyrs yearn to be like them due to their seat and proximity in relation to Allah?! Describe them for us!”
The Prophet’s face showed delight at the Beduin’s question and he said:
“They are of the strangers from this and that place. They frequent this or that tribe without belonging to them. They do not have family connections among themselves. They love one another for Allah’s sake. They are of pure intent towards one another. On the Day of Resurrection Allah will place for them pedestals of light upon which He will make them sit, and He will turn their faces and clothes into light. On the Day of Resurrection the people will be terrified but not those. They are Allah’s Friends upon whom fear comes not, nor do they grieve.”
Another famous description of the characteristics of awliya was given by Sayyidina `Ali, as related by Ibn al-Jawzi in the chapter devoted to him in Sifat al-safwa:
They are the fewest in number, but the greatest in rank before Allah. Through them Allah preserves His proofs until they bequeath it to those like them (before passing on) and plant it firmly in their hearts. By them knowledge has taken by assault the reality of things, so that they found easy what those given to comfort found hard, and found intimacy in what the ignorant found desolate. They accompanied the world with bodies whose spirits were attached to the highest regard (al-mahall al-a`la). Ah, ah! how one yearns to see them!
The knowledge of the awliya’ may attain higher levels than that of any other knowledge of humankind and jinn including in certain cases even the knowledge of Prophets. The preternatural knowledge or powers which Allah bestows on some of His friends (awliya’) who are not Prophets have a firm basis in the Qur’an: for example, the wali who was with Prophet Sulayman and brought him the throne of Balqis faster than the blink of an eye. He was characterized as “one who had knowledge of the Book” as Allah stated:
One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture said: I will bring it thee (O Sulayman) before thy gaze returneth unto thee… (27:40)
and this is Prophet Sulayman’s scribe Asif ibn Barkhya according to the Tafsir Ibn `Abbas and the majority of the scholars, i.e. a non-Prophet human being:
“One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture”: i.e. an angel… or Jibril… or al-Khidr or Asif ibn Barkhya Sulayman’s scribe, which is the most correct, and the jumhur (majority) agrees upon it…
Similarly, al-Khidr — although considered by many to be a Prophet — possessed knowledge which Prophet Musa did not have and he is characterized as “one of Our slaves, unto whom We had given mercy from Us, and had taught knowledge from Our presence” (18:66).
However, the greatest of Allah’s Friends are those of the Community of the Seal of Prophets, and it is in this sense that Abu Yazid al-Bistami’s declaration must be understood whereby “We have crossed an ocean on the shores of which stood the Prophets.” That is: the awliya’ of the Community of the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace upon him, have inherited from him a knowledge and a position which the Prophets of Banu Isra’il yearned to attain. This is established by the hadith of Abu Malik al-Ash`ari we have just cited, and yet this does not contradict the fact that the Prophets are by far Allah’s elect in creation, as Imam Tahawi’s article of faith makes clear:
We do not prefer any of the saintly men of the Community over any of the Prophets but rather we say that any one of the Prophets is better than all the awliya’ put together.
The word for both vision and true dream is ru’ya, which Allah mentions in the Qur’an thus: “Allah has fulfilled the vision (ru’ya) for his Messenger in very truth” (48:27). The Prophet said:
The vision or dream (al-ru’ya) is one-fortysixth part of prophecy.
When the Time draws near, almost no vision or dream of the believer will be false. The believer’s dream is one-fortysixth part of prophecy, and prophecy never lies.
Whoever sees me in vision or dream sees me (truly), for Satan cannot take on my form, and the believer’s dream is one-forty-sixth part of prophecy.
Among the greatest of lies is to ascribe to one’s eyes the sight in a vision or dream of what one did not see.
Nothing remains of prophecy except the glad tidings (mubashshirat). They asked him: What are they? He said: The good vision or dream. (al-ru’ya al-saliha).
That kashf is an opening granted by Allah that is completely independent of one’s own exertion or capacity for learning is clear from the saying of Abu Hurayra: “I have retained from the Prophet two large vessels of knowledge”:he used the term “vessels” to preclude the connotation of learning on his part, since liquid is not taught to the vessel, but poured in it. This indicates a state of passive receptivity, independent of exertion or skill. Another hadith, also in Bukhari, confirms that the Prophet was literally pouring knowledge into Abu Hurayra rather than teaching it:
Narrated Abu Huraira: I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I hear many narrations from you but I forget them.” The Prophet said, “Spread your covering sheet.” I spread my sheet and he moved both his hands as if scooping something and emptied them in the sheet and said, “Wrap it around you.” I wrapped it round my body, and I have never since forgotten a single Hadith.
Just as the true dream is a characteristic of the believer, so is kashf a characteristic of belief according to the following hadith:
From al-Harith ibn Malik al-Ansari (some chains have: al-Haritha ibn al-Na`man al-Ansari): He passed by the Prophet who asked him: “How are you this morning O Haritha [sic]?” He replied: “This morning I am a real believer.” The Prophet said: “Take care of what you say: what is the reality of your belief?” He said: “I have turned myself away from this world by keeping awake at night and by keeping myself thirsty by day; and I can almost see the Throne of my Lord in full sight; and I can see the people of the Garden of Paradise visiting each other; and I can almost see the people of the Fire wailing to each other in it.” The Prophet said: “O Haritha, you do know: therefore cleave to it.” Some versions add: “This is a believer, Allah has illumined his heart” (mu’minun nawwara Allahu qalbah).
The Prophet highlighted `Umar’s gift in this respect in particular:
In the nations before you were people who were spoken to (muhaddathun) though they were not prophets. If there is anyone in my Community, it is `Umar ibn Khattab.
It is related by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, and Ahmad. It is elucidated by the two hadiths in Tirmidhi (which he graded hasan) whereby “Allah has engraved truth on the tongue of `Umar and his heart” and “If there were a prophet after me verily it would be `Umar.” Tirmidhi adds to the muhaddath narration that according to Ibn `Uyayna “spoken to” means “made to understand” (mufahhamun), while in his narration Muslim adds: “Ibn Wahb explained “spoken to” as meaning “inspired” (mulhamun),” and this is the majority’s opinion according to Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (7:62:#3689) who adds “spoken to” means “by the angels.” Nawawi and Ibn Hajar said respectively in Sharh Sahih Muslim and Fath al-Bari:
The scholars have differed concerning “spoken to.” Ibn Wahb said it meant: “inspired” (mulhamun). It was said also: “Those on the right, and when they give an opinion it is as if they were spoken to, and then they give their opinion. It was said also: the angels speak to them… Bukhari said: “Truth comes from their tongue.” There is in this a confirmation of the miracles of saints (wa fihi ithbatu karamat al-awliya).
The one among [Muslims] who is “spoken to,” if his existence is ascertained, what befalls him is not used as basis for a legal judgment, rather he is obliged to evaluate it with the Qur’an, and if it conforms to it or to the Sunna, he acts upon it, otherwise he leaves it.
One of the “” claimed that since the hadith states “If there is anyone in my Ummah, it is `Umar,” it must follow that at most the number of such inspired people is one. However, it is wrong to think that other Communities had many but this Community only one, as Ibn Hajar also stated in his commentary on that hadith. What is meant by the hadith is the perfection of the quality of ilham (inspiration) in `Umar, not its total lack in other Muslims, and Allah knows best.
The exalted status of the knowledge and power of the awliya’ is referred to in the verses “Those who strive hard in Us, We shall most surely guide them in our Ways” (29:69) and ittaqullah wa yu`allimukumullah (“Be aware of Allah, and Allah Himself will teach you” 2:282), and the hadith man `amila bi ma `alima warrathahullahu `ilma ma lam ya`lam (“Whoso acts upon what he knows, Allah will make him inherit a knowledge that he did not have”). Our master Bayazid al-Bistami cited this hadith in response to some “Salafi” types in his time who were asking him: “From where and from whom did you get this knowledge which you claim to have?” The Shaykh al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi in the second chapter of his Adab al-muridin describes such striving as a kind of door which leads to nearness to Allah, and Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani refers to the knowledge and power that result from it in Discourse 16 of Futuh al-ghayb:
And fear Allah and He will teach you, then He will invest you with the power of controlling the universe with a clear permission which will have no obscurity in it… and He has done this with many of His Prophets and awliya and people especially favored from among the children of Adam.
To receive such knowledge is called a karama [gift] for the saint and a mu`jiza [act that disables opposition] for the Prophet. The process of receiving it is similarly differentiated: as wahy [revelation] for the latter and ilham [inspiration], ru’ya [vision], kashf [disclosure], firasa [piercing sight], mubashshira [glad tidings from Allah], mukashafa [disclosure], mushahada [mutual vision], or mukhataba [divine conversation] for the former. Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani said in Discourse 9 of his Futuh al-ghayb:
To awliya’ and abdal (Substitute-saints) are disclosed such workings of Allah in the course of kashf and mushahada as overwhelm the reasoning power of man and shatter into pieces all habits and customs.
al-Siraj al-Tusi in his famous book al-Luma` (The lights), a compilation of the sayings of the Sufis, mentions the following two definitions of the conditions of kashf:
Abu Muhammad al-Jurayri said: “Whoever does not work to fulfill what lies between him and Allah the Exalted by way of godfear and vigilance, will never reach unveiling and contemplation.” al-Nuri said: “The uncoverings of the eyes are through eyesight, and the uncoverings of the hearts are through connection (ittisal).”
One of the highest examples of such favor is undoubtedly the meeting and true vision of the Prophet, which is a reality established in the hadith of seeing the Prophet in dream, and documented through the relations of the trustworthy from the Companions to the Successors and their Successors down to our day. Some of these relations have been recorded in Suyuti’s fatwa Tanwir al-halak fi imkan ru’yat al-nabi wal malak (The illumination of intense darkness through the possibility of seeing the prophet and the angels) in his Hawi li al-fatawi. We have already mentioned in the section discussing the evidence that the Prophet hears and sees us al-Haytami’s answer in his Fatawa hadithiyya whereby it is possible for Allah’s Friends to meet the Prophet while awake in our time.They can also meet al-Khidr, as Sakhawi relates about Imam Nawawi:
It is well-known that he (Imam Nawawi) used to meet with al-Khidr and converse with him among many other mukashafat.
The exalted status of the saints’ firasa is mentioned in the hadith whereby the Prophet said: ittaqu firasat al-mu’min fa innahu yara bi nurillah “Beware the vision of the believer, for he sees with the light of Allah,” then he recited the verse: “Therein lie portents for those who read the signs” (al-mutawassimin) (15:75).Tirmidhi narrated this authentic hadith in the Book of the Commentary of Qur’an in his Sunan and said that some of the commentators have explained “Those who read the signs” as meaning: those who possess vision (al-mutafarrisin).” al-Sakhawi in al-Maqasid al-hasana (#23) mentions another authentic hadith whereby the Prophet said: “Allah has servants who know (the truth about people) through reading the signs” (tawassum).
It is established in the sound hadith that at the end of time every Muslim will be endowed with this ability to “ready the signs,” so that he will be able to recognize the dajjal or antichrist as a disbeliever by reading the letters K-F-R over his forehead.
It is related that the firasat of a pious shaykh was at the origin of Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani’s decision to take up the study of jurisprudence rather than devote himself exclusively to hadith:
Ibn Hajar said: “He (Muhibb al-Din al-Wahidi al-Maliki) said to me: “Invest some of that energy of yours into fiqh, for I see by way of firasat that the scholars of this country (Egypt) are going to be depleted, and there will be need of you, so don’t indulge yourself.” And his word to me helped me greatly, and I still pray for him for that reason, may Allah have mercy on him.”
The following account of firasa is related about Imam al-Junayd al-Baghdadi:
Abu `Amr ibn `Alwan relates: I went out one day to the market of al-Ruhba for something I needed. I saw a funeral procession and I followed it in order to pray with the others. I stood among the people until they buried the dead man. My eyes unwittingly fell on a woman who was unveiled. I lingered looking at her, then I held back and began to beg forgiveness of Allah the Exalted.
On my way home an old woman told me: “My lord, why do I see your face all darkened?” I took a mirror and behold, my face had turned dark. I examined my conscience and searched: In what did calamity befall me? I remembered the look I cast. Then I sat alone somewhere andI began to ask Allah’s forgiveness assiduously, and I asked to do with little for forty days. (During that time,) the thought came to my heart: “Visit your shaykh al-Junayd.” I travelled to Baghdad. When I reached the room where he lived, I knocked at his door and heard him say: “Enter, O Aba `Amr, you sin in al-Ruhba and we ask forgiveness for you here in Baghdad.”
The possessor of such gifts and powers of vision is of course in no way exempted from the obligations of religion. Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili warned:
If your kashf opposes the Book and the Sunna, leave kashf and tell yourself: Allah has guaranteed infallibility to the Book and the Sunna, but He has not guaranteed it for kashf.
Ibn `Arabi similarly said:
Someone in this Community who claims to be able to guide others to Allah, but is remiss in but one rule of the Sacred Law — even if he manifests miracles that stagger the mind: … we do not even turn to look at him, for such a person is not a shaykh, nor is he speaking the truth, for no-one is entrusted with the secrets of Allah Most High save one in whom the ordinances of the Sacred Law are preserved.
Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir Gilani says the same thing in the Futuh. And their leader in this is the Sultan of the Knowers of Allah Bayazid al-Bistami who said:
If you see him fly in the air and walk on water do not be deluded by him, but see how he stands on the orders and the prohibitions.
It is evident from the definition of the term kashf that it refers to a hidden knowledge of a tremendous nature, and that is what Ibn `Arabi meant by saying “the secrets of Allah Most High,” as is alluded by continuation of the hadith of Abu Hurayra mentioned above:
I have stored up from the Prophet two large vessels of knowledge. One I have disseminated among the people; if I were to disseminate the other, they would cut my throat.
Imam Bukhari said: “The Knowers (al-`ulama’) are the inheritors of the Prophets, that is: they have inherited (their) knowledge.” The first part of his statement is actually an authentic hadith of the Prophet. Thus it is beyond anyone’s reach to put limitations on the gifts Allah bestows on His Friends, except that we give such gifts different names — mu`jiza or karama — depending whether the recipient is a Prophet or a saint. Nor is it impossible that some saints of the Prophet’s Community, like the Prophet himself, do know the Unseen except for what Allah hides from them and reserves to others of His creatures — such as angels — or exclusively to Himself, according to His will.
The inheritorship of the Prophet’s knowledge by the great scholars is illustrated by al-Khatib’s relation from al-hafiz Abu Nu`aym already mentioned, whereby Abu Nu`aym considered it incumbent upon all Muslims to invoke Allah for Abu Hanifa in their prayer due to his preservation of the Prophet’s Sunan and fiqh for them. Another example is the following account about Imam Malik related by Ibn al-Jawzi in the chapter entitled “Layer 6 of the People of Madina” of his book Sifat al-Safwa:
Abu Mus`ab said: I went in to see Malik ibn Anas. He said to me: Look under my place of prayer or prayer-mat and see what is there. I looked and I found a certain writing. He said: Read it. (I saw that) it contained (the account of) a dream which one of his brothers had seen and which concerned him. He said (reciting what was written): “I saw the Prophet in my sleep. He was in his mosque and the people were gathered around him, and he said: I have hidden for you under my pulpit (minbar) something good — or: knowledge –and I have ordered Malik to distribute it to the people.” Then Malik wept, so I got up and left.
Observe the attitude of the awliya towards the meeting with the Prophet in dream and their strong belief both in the absolute credibility of such dreams and their particular contents. This one explicitly states that the Prophet has kept something good hidden for his Umma, and that he continues to give it through one of the greatly learned `ulama after his time.
Similarly Imam Ahmad cited in Kitab al-zuhd, also Ibn Abi al-Dunya, Abu Nu`aym, Bayhaqi, and Ibn `Asakir from Julays from Wahb ibn Munabbih who said: I saw the Prophet in my sleep, so I said: “Ya Rasulallah, where are the Substitutes (budala’) of your Community?” So he gestured with his hand towards Syria. I said: “Ya Rasulallah, aren’t there any in Iraq?” He said: “Yes, Muhammad ibn Wasi`, Hassan ibn Abi Sinan, and Malik ibn Dinar, who walks among the people similarly to Abu Dharr in his time.”
The “Salafis” have claimed in their ignorance that the principles of kashf and of the inheritorship of the Prophet in any sense other than memorization or bookish learning contradict Allah’s saying: “Today I have perfected your religion, completed my favor upon you, and accepted for you Islam as religion” (5:3) and the Prophet’s status as having conveyed the Message to the people perfectly. They also direct the same false claims to ijtihad (qualified independent reasoning), ijma` (consensus of the scholars), and qiyas (analogy) themselves, as al-Zahawi showed in his refutation of the Wahhabi heresy:
They (Wahhabis) denounce [the `ulama] by saying that the Imams believe that the religion of Islam is deficient and that they complete it by “reasoning” like ijma’ and qiyas. For this, they cite the Qur’anic verse: “Today I have completed your religion.” (3:5) They say we find whatever is necessary for life clearly stated in the Qur’an. So what need do we have for qiyas. The texts take in the whole of life’s eventualities without need of derivation (istinbat) and analogy (qiyas)…
The sect of the Mu`tazila did not believe in the miracles of the saints, and some today even claim: “The awliya are not known except to Allah, and there is no such thing as kashf in the shari`a” and “We only trust a person whom Allah or His Messenger ordered us to trust, but as for those claimed awliya’, there is no specific evidence about them from Allah or His Messenger” as a way to withhold their respect from the pious or pay it out stingily and reluctantly.
Observe how he contradicted himself in his haste to cast blame upon a figment of his imagination: on the one hand he makes his concocted “sufi-doctrine” claim control over the elements, yet on the other he makes those who hold that doctrine (“they“) say: “By Allah’s will,” which eradicates any claim of autonomous control! Observe also how they ascribe belief in karamat, which is obligatory in Islam, to the Shi`a.
In all of the above the “Salafis are roundly refuted by no less than Ibn Taymiyya, the most learned among the authorities they claim to follow and a self-proclaimed disciple of al-Gilani whom he calls “my shaykh” and “my master”:
It is established that the awliya’ possess spiritual communications (mukhatabat) and unveilings (mukashafat).
Another of the principles of Ahl al-Sunna is the faith in the karamat of the awliya, and in whatever Allah causes to happen at their hands of the suspension of the laws of nature in all kinds of knowledge and spiritual unveilings (fi anwa` al-`ulum wa al-mukashafat), and all kinds of powers and influences (wa anwa` al-qudra wa al-ta’thirat) such as reported concerning the ancient Communities, (for example) in al-kahf and others, and as reported from the early beginnings of this Community regarding the Companions and the Followers and from every generation of Muslims after that, and these miracles will not cease to take place in this community until the Day of Resurrection (wa hiya mawjudatun fiha ila yawm al-qiyama).”
The miracles of saints (karamat al-awliya’) are absolutely true and correct, by the acceptance of all Muslim scholars and Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a [i.e. as opposed to the Mu`tazila]. The Qur’an has pointed to them in different places as well as the authentic hof the Prophet and the reports transmitted from the Companions and the Successors through a large number of sources. Only the innovators such as the Mu`tazila and the Jahmiyya and their followers deny them.
What is considered as a miracle related to knowledge is that sometimes the servant might hear something that others do not hear and see something that others do not see, whether in a wakeful or sleeping state of vision. And he can know something that others cannot know, through revelation or inspiration, or the dawning of necessary knowledge upon him, or truthful piercing sight (firasa sadiqa), and such is called kashf, mushahadat, mukashafat, and mukhatabat.
The hafiz al-Harawi al-Ansari who is the model of “” in their fight against Ash`aris, spoke the following words about kashf in his books Manazil al-Sa’irin (Stations of the Wayfarers) and `Ilal al-maqamat (The Flaws in the Stages):
Regarding the word “finding” in the verses:
“He will find Allah forgiving, merciful” (4:110)
“They would have found Allah forgiving, merciful” (4:64)
“… and he finds Allah” (24:39)…
It has three meanings: first, it is the finding of knowledge emanating from the divine Presence; it cuts off knowledge based on observations with the soundness of disclosure (mukashafat) from Allah to you.
The renunciation (zuhd) of the privileged is to keep their aspiration (himmat) away from the world, because Allah has kept them from depending on circumstances thanks to the light of unveiling (nur al-kashf).
We would like to hear from the “” opponents of Ahl al-Sunna which one, of Ibn Taymiyya or al-Harawi, they consider the greatest innovator for stating the above views. Are they placing Ibn Taymiyya among those who hold the beliefs of “the sect of the shi`a”? Or do they still claim that belief in the miracles of saints is a “sufi-doctrine”? Or do you still say that the “claims that the awliya’ have control over it. Of course they say by Allah’s will” is what the Shi`a believe but not the Sunni? Or is Ibn Taymiyya and al-Harawi using kashf to attain the above conclusions? And if they accept what Ibn Taymiyya and al-Harawi say, why don’t they accept the same from others if not because of partisanship and/or blind-following?
As for their claim that the awliya’ are not known, it shows ignorance of the Religion, whose sources are replete with their descriptions. We have already quoted from the Qur’an, the hadith, and the sayings of the Companions concerning their characteristics. Allah said: “O those who have believed! Be God-wary and stay with the truthful!” (9:119) and “Who comes against one of my walis, I declare war upon him!” (Bukhari). The Prophet said: “There are some among Allah’s servants who, when they swear by Allah, He vindicates them” (Bukhari and Muslim). Is all this referring to unidentifiable beings known to Allah alone? Ibn al-Jawzi in his Sifat al-safwa went so far as to call the saints “the very purpose of existent beings,” and if this is true how can they not be known or trusted?
The Friends of Allah and the Righteous are the very purpose of all that exists (al-awliya wa al-salihun hum al-maqsud min al-kawn), they are those who learnt and practiced with the reality of knowledge… Those who practice what they know, do with little in the world, seek the next world, remain ready to leave from one to the other with wakeful eyes and good provision, as opposed to those renowned purely for their knowledge but not for shunning the world and practicing devotion.
The “Salafis” also object to the title of Ghawth or Arch-helper given to Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani and label it with innovation and shirk, claiming that it belongs only to Allah. When confronted with evidence to the contrary from the sound hadith, they remain speechless:
1. Bukhari narrates in his Sahih that our mother Hajar, when she was running in search of water between Safa and Marwa, heard a voice and said: “O you whose voice you have made me hear! If there is a ghawth (help/helper) with you (then help me)!” and an angel appeared at the spot of the spring of Zamzam.
2. Abu Ya`la, Ibn al-Sani, and Tabarani in al-Mu`jam al-kabir narrated that the Prophet said: “If one of you loses something or seeks help or a helper (ghawth), and he is in a land where there is no-one to befriend, let him say: “O servants of Allah, help me! (ya `ibad Allah, aghithuni), for verily Allah has servants whom he does not see.” Haythami said in Majma` al-zawa’id (10:132): “The men in its chain of transmission have been declared reliable despite weakness in one of them.”
3. Ahmad relates in his Musnad (4:217) that at the time of the greatest fitna of the Dajjal, when the Muslims will be at their weakest point and just before `Isa ibn Maryam descends at the time of salat al-fajr, people will hear a caller calling out three times: “O people, al-ghawth (the helper) has come to you!”
The “,” ignoring the authorities that fail to support them and relying instead on what they can use wherever they find it, turn with glee to Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab’s aberrant statement in his Three Principles of Oneness already cited: “One who claims to know something from knowledge of the Unseen is a taghut or false deity.” They apply this falsehood to saints but some of them fall short, in their selective logic, of applying it to Prophets, and by so doing desert Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab: for his statement evidently does not preclude anyone — prophet, angel, jinn, or any human being — from falling within its scope.
Yet even with respect to saints the false bases of their thinking had long since been exposed by one of the scholars of the Community, Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami. Would that they had only acquainted themselves with his fatwa on the matter and reflected upon it, instead of giving precedence to a lesser scholar on the basis of their whim. This fatwa is translated in full in The Reliance of the Traveller, from where we quote it.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE UNSEEN
(Ibn Hajar Haytami:)
(Question) “Is someone who says, ‘A believer knows the unseen (al-ghayb),’ thereby considered an unbeliever, because of Allah Most High having said:
“No one in the heavens or earth knows the unseen except Allah’ (Koran 27:65),
“‘[He is] the Knower of the Unseen, and discloses not His unseen to anyone…’ (Koran 72:26),
“or is such a person asked to further explain himself, in view of the possibility of knowing some details of the unseen?”
(Answer:) “He is not unconditionally considered an unbeliever, because of the possibility of otherwise construing his words, for it is obligatory to ask whomever says something interpretable as either being or not being unbelief for further clarification, as has been stated [n: in Nawawi’s al-Rawda and elsewhere]….
“If asked to explain and such a person answers: ‘By saying, “A believer knows the unseen,” I meant that Allah could impart certain details of the unseen to some of the friends of Allah (awliya’)‘–this is accepted from him, since it is something logically possible and its occurrence has been documented, it being among the countless miracles [karamat] that have taken place over the ages. The possibility of such knowledge is amply attested to by what the Koran informs us about Khidr (Allah bless him and give him peace), and the account related of Abu Bakr Siddiq (Allah Most High be well pleased with him) that he told of his wife being pregnant with a boy, and thus it proved; or of ‘Umar (Allah Most High be well pleased with him), who miraculously perceived [n: the Muslim commander] Sariya and his army who were in Persia, and while on the pulpit in Medina giving the Friday sermon, he said, ‘O Sariya, the mountain!’ warning them of the enemy ambush intending to exterminate the Muslims. [Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi said of this incident: “It constitutes a tremendous rank and an evident gift from Allah, and it is present in all of the righteous incessantly until the Day of Resurrection.”] Or the rigorously authenticated hathat the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said of ‘Umar (Allah Most High be well pleased with him),
” ‘He is of those who are spoken to [i.e. preternaturally inspired].’
“….What we have mentioned about the above Koranic verse [N: on the unseen] has been explicitly stated by Nawawi in his Fatawa, where he says: ‘It means that no one except Allah knows this independently and with full cognizance of all things knowable. As for [n: knowledge imparted through ] inimitable prophetic miracles (mu’jizat) and divine favors (karamat) it is through Allah’s giving them to know it that it is known; as is also the case with what is known through ordinary means’ ” (al-Fatawa al-hadithiyya, 311-13).
w60.2 (Muhammad Hamid:) Allah Most Glorious is the All-knower of things unseen and their inmost secrets, with primal, intrinsic, supernatural knowledge whose basis no one else has a share in. If any besides Him has awareness or knowledge, it is through their being made aware or given knowledge by Him Magnificent and Exalted. They are unable — being servants without capacity — to transcend their sphere or go beyond their limit to draw aside the veils from things unseen, and if not for His pouring something of the knowledge of these things upon their hearts, they would know nothing of it, little or much. Yet this knowledge is disparate in degree, and some of it higher than other of it and more certainly established.
The divine inspiration of it to prophet messengers is beyond doubt and above question, like the rising sun in its certitude and clarity, of which the Koran says,
“[He is] the Knower of the Unseen, and discloses not His unseen to anyone, save a messenger He approves: for him He places protectors before and behind” (Koran 72:26-27),
protectors meaning guards from among the angels, so that nothing of it is leaked to devils when it is being delivered to the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), to safeguard its inimitability and it remain a unique prophetic sign (mu’jiza).
The miraculous perceptions (kashf) of the friends of Allah
(awliya’) are a truth we do not deny, for Bukhari relates in his Sahih from Abu Hurayra (Allah Most High be well pleased with him) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
“In the nations before you were people who were spoken to [i.e. inspired] though they were not prophets. If there is anyone in my Community, it is `Umar ibn Khattab.”
and Muslim relates in his Sahih from `A’isha (Allah Most High be well pleased with her) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
“There used to be in the nations before you those who were spoken to. If there are any in my Community, `Umar ibn Khattab is one of them.”
But this intuition (ilham) does not equal the divine inspiration (wahy) of the prophets in strength (n: of certainty), because of the possibility that what is apprehended by the friend of Allah (wali) is merely the thoughts of his own mind. As it is sometimes admixed, and other things are mistaken for it, the possibility of error exists in it, and it cannot be a basis for establishing legal rulings or a criterion for works.
As for what astrologers and fortune-tellers say, there is no way it can be accepted, for sooth-saying was annulled when the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was sent and the heavens were safeguarded by stars, after which heavens were safeguarded by stars, after which devils no longer had access to the heavens as they had had before, to eavesdrop on what angels were saying about the events on earth that Allah Most Glorious informed the angels of before they happened (n: Koran 15:17-18 and 72:8-10). The Holy Koran is explicit that “they [the devils] are prevented from hearing” (Koran 26:212), and in a hadith,
“Whoever goes to a ‘psychic’ (‘arraf) or fortune-teller and believes what he says has disbelieved in what has been revealed to Muhammad [Allah bless him and give him peace].”
The things that such people inform of that actually come to pass belong to the category of coincidence, which is not given the slightest value in Islam. All of which is on the topic of the unseen generally. As for the Final Hour, Allah Most High has veiled the knowledge of the time it will occur from all creatures entirely, and no one, archangel or prophetic messenger, knows when it will be, the Koranic verses and hadiths being intersubstantiative and in full agreement on this. Were I to list them it would be a lengthy matter, and what I have mentioned is adequate and sufficient for whomever the divine assistance reaches (Rudud ‘ala abatil wa rasa’il al-Shaykh Muhammad al-Hamid, 2.61-63).
As for those that have a disease in their hearts, they are not able to accept the above because it has never happened to them. Their ego does not allow them other than to judge everything according to their own standard, always justifying themselves and never once suspecting that they may in fact be at the lowest level. Wa al-`iyadhu billah. As Ghazali advised those who hear about karamat: “Think good thoughts and do not harbor doubts in your heart”. And Haythami warned in a context identical to the story of Ghazali’s brother: “Bad thoughts about them (sufis or those who have karamat) is the death of the heart.” And Allah knows best.