ON KASHF AND MUKAASHAFAAT
(Spiritual Unveilings)

Abundant Praise and Thanks to Allah, and Blessings and Peace upon His Beloved, Muhammad, and upon his Family and Companions, and may Allah be well pleased with their Pious Followers, and with the Imams Who Strove for Knowledge, and with the Scholars Who Truly Fear Him, and with the Pious Saints. May Allah bless my Shaykh and the Shaykh of my Shaykh.

Kashf (Unveiling) is a reality which refers to the miraculous knowledge of the awliya (Friends of Allah). Such knowledge attains higher levels than that of any other knowledge of humankind and jinn including in certain cases the knowledge of Prophets, such as Musa (as) with al-Khidr (as), who is described in the Qur'an as "one of Our slaves, unto whom We had given mercy from Us, and had taught him knowledge from Our presence" (18:66). Such knowledge is also described as "the knowledge of the Book" and may take the form of mastery over time and space (27:40). The Qur'an extols the rank of the awliya with the affirmation: "Lo! Verily the friends of Allah are those on whom fear cometh not, nor do they grieve" (10:62).

The Prophet (s) said: "The true vision is one-forty sixth part of prophecy." The Imam of the Sunnah and of Tasawwuf, the Ghawth (Arch- Helper) of Mankind Shaykh Abd al-Qadir Gilani -- may Allah sanctify his secret -- said (Discourse 9 of 'Futuh al-ghayb'): "To awliya and abdal (Substitutes) are disclosed such workings of Allah as in the course of kashf and mushahada (vision) as overwhelm the reasoning power of man and shatter into pieces all habits and customs." These phenomena fall under the category of khawaariq (extraordinary matters) to which belong the karaamaat, the "gifts" or miracles of saints, belief in which is an obligation of each and every person in Islam. (The sect of the Mu`tazila did not believe in the miracles of the saints, and some today even say that the awliya are not known!)

The Companions of the Prophet (s) were familiar with such disclosures, chief among them the two Shaykhs of Islam, our Masters Abu Bakr (r) and `Umar (r). The first announced to his wife that she was pregnant with a boy, and the second miraculously saw Sariya and his army in Persia while he was in Madina, and he cried out to Sariya and Sariya heard him. And the Prophet (s) said: "In the nations before you were people who were inspired other than the Prophets. If there is anyone such as this in my Community, it is `Umar ibn al-Khattab."

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 (r): "The Prophet (s) poured into my breast two large vessels of knowledge": he did not say "taught me," which would suppose the activity of learning on his part, but "poured into me," which indicates a state of passive receptivity.

The reality of kashf is established in the Shari`ah, as is stated in Haythami's fatwa on the subject and Nawawi's before him (Fatawa hadeethiyya 311-313). And Ibn Taymiyya says: "Faqad thabata anna li awliya Allahi mukhaaTabaatun wa mukaashafaat" (al-Furqan p. 52): "It is established that the awliya possess spiritual communications and unveilings."

Many sayings of the Prophet (s) mention the various types and ranks of the saints, as Suyuti has shown in his collection of them in his article: 'al-Khabar al-daall `ala wujood al-qutb wa al-awtaad wa al-nujabaa' wa al-abdaal' or "The Reported Matter That Indicates the Existence of the Pole, the Pillars, the Leaders, and the Substitutes (of the Awliya)." These and other types of perfected individuals form the khawaas or elite of the pious, whom the Qur'an also calls Siddiqin (Most Truthful Ones) and ranks after the Prophets and before the Martyrs. Their position in relation to Allah on the Day of Judgment is described as an object of desire for the Prophets in the hadith.

The exalted status of the knowledge and power of the awliya is referred to in the verse "Those who strive hard in Us, We shall most surely guide them in our Ways" (29:69) and the verse "Ittaqullah yu`allimukumullah" [Be aware of Allah, and Allah Himself will teach you], and "Man ya`malu bima ya`lamu yu`allimuhullahu ma lam ya`lam" [Whoso acts according to what he knows, Allah will teach him what he did not know]. The Shaykh Al-Haakim al-Tirmidhi in Aadaab al-murideen (Ch. 2) describes such striving as a kind of door which leads to nearness to Allah, and Shaykh Abd al-Qadir refers to the knowledge and power that result from it in Discourse 16:

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.

The highest example of such favor is undoubtedly the meeting and true vision of the Prophet (s), which is a reality 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 short treatise "tanweer al-Halak fi imkaan ru'yat al-Nabi wal malak" (The Illumination of Intense Darkness Through the Possibility of Seeing the Prophet and the Angels).

The exalted status of the firaasat (another word for vision) of saints is referred to in the hadith: "Ittaqu firaasat al-mu'min fa innahu yara bi noorillah" [Beware the vision of the believer, for he sees with the light of Allah]. Thus it is related that the firaasat of a pious shaykh was at the origin of Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani's decision to take up the study of fiqh (jurisprudence) rather than devote himself exclusively to hadith: "Ibn Hajar said:

He (Muhibb al-Deen al-WaaHidi al-Maaliki) said to me: "Invest some of that energy of yours into fiqh, for I see by way of firaasat that the scholars of this country 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."" (al-Biqaa`i, "`Unwaan al-zamaan" p. 92.)

The possessor of such gifts and powers of vision is in no way exempted from the obligations of religion. The Shareef of the Prophet's Family, the Siddeeq and Ghawth Abu al-Hasan al-Shaadhili al-Maaliki warned: "If your kashf opposes the Book and the Sunnah, leave kashf and tell yourself: Allah has guaranteed infallibility to the Book and the Sunnah, but He has not guaranteed it for kashf." (al-Taftazani, Madkhalun ila al-tasawwuf p. 240.)

The Shaykh al-Akbar, the Renewer of Religion Muhyiddeen Ibn `Arabi 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." (Quoted in Nabahani, Jaami` karaamaat al-awliya 1:3)

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. (Quoted in Ibn Taymiyya's Fatawi 11:466.)

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 confirmed by the continuation of the hadith of Abu Hurayra: "The Prophet (s) poured into my breast two large vessels of knowledge: the first one I disseminated among the people; as for the second, were I to disseminate it, they would cut my neck." (Bukhari narrates it.)

In conclusion, it is forbidden to deny the reality of kashf, and its content is sound on condition that it not contradict the Qur'an and the Sunnah. It is unfalsifiable and therefore neither obligatorily accepted nor obligatorily rejected, nor can it be obligatory for other than the person directly concerned, i.e. the one disclosed to. He can communicate his disclosure and he may be believed, as many of the pious Imams have done with their contemporaries who benefited from such disclosures. Thus it is related by one of the Imams of hadith whose word lies beyond suspicion, that "it is well-known that he (Imam Nawawi) used to meet with al-Khidr (as)" and converse with him among many other mukaashafaat (al-Sakhaawi, "Tarjimat shaykh al-islam qutb al-awliya Abi Zakariyya al-Nawawi" p. 33). And the Prophet (s) said: "`Alaamat al-mu'min al-tasdeeq" - "The mark of the believer is trust." And Allah knows best.

May Allah grant us the meeting of His Prophet (s) in this life before the next life.