Awliya‘s Knowledge of the Ghayb (Unseen)

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).38

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.39

One of the “Salafis” 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”).40 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?”41 The Shaykh al-Hakim42 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).”43

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