Awliya‘s Knowledge of the Ghayb (Unseen)

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad

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w60.1 (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.”]66 Or the rigorously authenticated that 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”.67 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.”68And Allah knows best.

© As-Sunna Foundation of America


30 Haythami in Majma` al-zawa’id says: “Ahmad relates it, and Tabrani relates something similar, and the men in its chain of transmission has been declared trustworthy.” Also related through several chains by Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Baghawi in Sharh al-Sunna, al-Hakim in the Mustadrak, Ibn `Asakir, Ibn Abi al-Dunya in Kitab al-ikhwan, Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Mardawayh, and others.

31 Nasafi, Madarik al-tanzil 27:40.

32 al-Tahawi, `Aqida tahawiyya 98.

33 Bukhari and Muslim.

34 All four in Bukhari, Book of the interpretation of dreams.

35 Bukhari narrates it in the book of knowledge of his Sahih.

36 English Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 841.

37 Narrated by Tabarani in his Mu`jam al-Kabir, al-Bazzar, Suyuti in his Jami` al-saghir, al-Haythami in Majma` al-zawa’id in the “Chapter on the Reality of Belief and its Perfection” (bab haqiqat al-iman wa kamalih), al-`Askari, Ibn al-Mubarak in Kitab al-zuhd, `Abd al-Razzaq through two chains, Ibn Mindah, Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-iman, Ibn Asram in Kitab al-istiqama, Ibn Sa`id, and Ibn Abi Shayba in his Musannaf. Abu Hanifa mentions it in his al-Fiqh al-akbar. Ibn Hajar in his Isaba lists its many chains and says that this is a hadith mu`dal (i.e. its chain is missing two or more sub-narrators) and mawsul (or: muttasil; i.e. it is linked back to a Companion through the authority of a Tabi`i.

38 Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim Kitab 44 Bab 2 #2398.

39 Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (1989 ed.) 7:62-63 #3689.

40 Narrated from Anas by Abu Nu`aym, Hilyat al-awliya‘ 10:15. Cited in the Commentaries of Suyuti, al-Durr al-manthur (1:372) and Qurtubi (13:364), also by al-Hafiz al-Zabidi in his Ithaf al-sada al-muttaqin 1:403. Shawkani included it in his collection of inauthentic hadiths (al-Fawa’id p. 289), however, al-Qari considers it authentic in his similar collection al-Asrar al-marfu`a p. 325.

41 Sha`rani, al-Tabaqat al-kubra (1343/1925) 1:66.

42 Pronounced hakEEm. This is not the author of al-Mustadrak `ala al-sahihayn whose name is pronounced hAAkim.

43 al-Siraj, al-Luma` p. 422.

44 al-Haytami, Fatawa hadithiyya p. 297.

45 al-Sakhawi, Tarjimat shaykh al-islam qutb al-awliya Abi Zakariyya al-Nawawi, p. 33.

46 Tirmidhi (gharib) from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, and Tabarani from Abu Imama with a fair (hasan) chain according to al-Haythami in the chapter on firasa of Majma` al-zawa’id.

47 Related from Anas with a fair chain by al-Bazzar, Tabarani, Abu Nu`aym in al-Tibb al-nabawi, and from Ibn Sa`id by Bukhari in his Tarikh, al-`Askari in al-Amthal, Ibn Jarir al-Tabari in his Tafsir for 15:75, Ibn Abi Hatim, and Ibn Mardawayh.

48 Muslim, Book of Fitan (English vol. 4 p. 1515 #7009).

49 Related by al-Biqa`i, Unwan al-zaman p. 92.

50 Narrated by Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifat al-safwa (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-`ilmiyya, 1409/1989) 1(2):271, in the chapter on al-Junayd (#296).

51 al-Taftazani, Madkhal ila al-tasawwuf p. 240.

52 Quoted in Nabahani, Jami` karamat al-awliya 1:3.

53 Quoted in al-Qushayri, Risala (Cairo, 1319 ed.) p. 14, and in Ibn Taymiyya’s Fatawa 11:466.

54 Sahih Bukhari, Book of Knowledge (`ilm), Tarjimat al-bab 11 (translation 1:59).

55 Ahmad (5:196), Tirmidhi, Darimi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Hibban, Ibn Majah, Bayhaqi in the Shu`ab and others.

56 al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Tarikh Baghdad 13:344.

57 Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifat al-Safwa (Beirut, 1989) 1:2:120.

58 al-Zahawi, The Doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna, trans. Sh. Hisham Kabbani (Mountain View: ASFA, 1996) p. 51.

59 Ibn Taymiyya, al-Furqan bayna awliya’ al-shaytan wa awliya’ al-rahman, 2nd ed. (Beirut: al-maktab al-islami, 1390/1970) p. 52.

60 Ibn Taymiyya, al-`Aqida al-wasitiyya (Cairo: al-matba`a al-salafiyya, 1346) p. 33-34.

61 Ibn Taymiyya, Mukhtasar al-Fatawa al-Misriyya (al?Madani Publishing House, 1400/1980) p. 603.

62 Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu’a al-fatawa al-kubra (1398 ed.) 11:313.

63 al-Harawi al-Ansari, Manazil al-Sa’irin, Station 96.

64 al-Harawi al-Ansari, `Ilal al-maqamat, Section 11 entitled: Tariq al-khassa (The way of the privileged).

65 Ibn al-Jawzi, introduction to his Sifat al-safwa (Beirut ed. 1989/1409) p. 13, 17.

66 Ibn al-`Arabi, Tuhfat al-ahwadhi 13:150.

67 al-Ghazali, al-Munqidh min al-dalal, Damascus 1956, p. 40.

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