Awliya‘s Knowledge of the Ghayb (Unseen)

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.32

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-forty-sixth part of prophecy.33

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).34

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”:35 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.36

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).37

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.

Page 2 of 10 | Previous page | Next page