Regarding Knowledge of the Unseen Possessed by Awliya
Kashf refers to divine manifestation whilst Ilhaam means a divine inspiration. These are two powers given by Allah Ta’ala to whosoever he desires. This is not within the capacity, ability or choice of any individual. A deviant group of people have trounced the belief of Kashf and Ilhaam claiming that knowledge of the unseen and of future events is something that can only be attributed to Allah Ta’ala Alone, not acknowledging the fact that sometimes, Allah Ta’ala can give certain of his special servants the power of foretelling and foreseeing some future events.
Hereunder, we will not only prove that the belief of Kash and Ilhaam and incidents of such nature appear in various renowned books of Ahlus Sunnah, but we shall also manifest that such incidents were experienced by many great people of the past proving it to be a reality that cannot be denied, but we will first establish the fact that this concept has been expounded clearly in Qur’aan and Hadith.
Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’aan, ‘(Allah Ta’ala is) the All-Knower of the unseen and he reveals not to anybody of his unseen. Except to a messenger whom he has chosen, then he makes a band of watching guards (angels) to march before him and behind him.’ (Surah Jinn Aayat27)
We will now look at a brief study of how this verse has been interpreted by the vast majority of renown Mufassireen. Almost all commentators of Qur’aan have supported, included and explained the belief of Kashf and Ilhaam under this verse.
1) Shaykh Allaamah Muhammad Fakhruddeen al-Raazi (RA), a renown scholar and commentator of the 6th century states in his famous ‘Tafseer Kabeer’ that this verse has a special and specific meaning. However, he does not deny the belief of Ilhaam. In fact, he openly promotes it where he states, ‘It must be carefully known that this verse does not mean that nobody else besides the prophet (Alayhis salaam) are given knowledge of the unseen. This can be supported from various realities (from amongst these realities, one of them as quoted by him is) we see this in the true Ilhaam of the Awliyaa (RA).’ (Tafseer Kabeer vol.15 pg.170; Darul Fikr)
Yet, under another verse of the Qur’aan, this very same great Mufassir clearly explains that ‘the meaning of angels befriending the believers is this that the angels cause Ta’seeraat (inspirations) in the souls of these (chosen) believers through Ilhaam and Kashf.’ Thereafter, he explicitly mentions that ‘this is a well known fact experienced by people of Kashf and Mushaahadaat.’ (Tafseer Kabeer vol.14 pg.124)
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
2) Allaamah Alauddin Ali ibn Muhammad Baghdaadiy (RA), yet another known commentator of the seventh century openly declares in his Tafseer Khaazin under the above mentioned verse: ‘It is the belief of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa that the miracles of Awliyaa (RA) are an established reality as opposed to by the Mu’tazila and that this is Jaaiz and possible. It is permissible and possible for Allah Ta’ala to give Ilhaam (inspire) to some of his Awliyaa about some future events.’ (Khaazin vol.4 pg.319; Fikr)
3) Shaykh Abul Hasan Ibraahim ibn Umar al-Biqaa’ee, a scholar and commentator of the eighth century and a student of Hafiz ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani (RA) interprets the relevant verse in his ‘Tafseer Nazmud-Durar’ as follows: ‘(knowledge of the unseen) is taken by an angel and given to whomsoever the angel has been permitted (to by Allah Ta’ala). Sometimes, in the form of Wahy (divine revelation) to the prophets (Alayhis salaam) and sometimes in the form of inspiration and Ilhaam to the Awliyaa.’ (Nazmud-Durar vol.8 pg.199; Ilmiya)
4) In the Tafseer of Muhyuddin Shaikhzaada which is an explanation to the famous and reknown ‘Tafseer Baydhaawi’. Allaamah Muhammad ibn Muslihuddeen Hanafi, a scholar of the ninth century writes, ‘The fact that this verse refers to Allah Ta’ala informing his chosen prophets (Alayhis salaam) of some of the unseen without the intervening of any angel does not deny Allah Ta’ala’s inspiring to the Awliyaa with regards to some of the unseen by means of Ilhaam.’ (Haashiya Shaykh Zadah vol.8 pg.371; Ilmiyah)
5) Allaamah Ahmad ibn Muhammad Saawi Maaliki, a commentator of the twelfth century, states in his famous and most widely accept Tafseer ‘Haashiyatus-Saawi’, an explanation to the great Tafseer Jalaalayn, ‘This verse does not defy the miracles performed by the Awliyaa through the power of Kashf. This verse relates to Allah Ta’ala’s informing the prophets through Wahy. This in turn (Wahy) is far more stronger than Allah Ta’ala’s informing his Awliyaa through Ilhaam.’ (Haashiyatus Saawi vol.6 pg.185; Ilmiyah)
6) And, if per chance the above mentioned commentaries happen to coincidentally seem ‘strange’, rare and unknown then who can deny the popularity of ‘Roohul Ma’aani’? Allaamah Sayyid Mahmood Aaloosi Baghdaadi (RA) renown Mufassir of the twelfth century clearly states that ‘this verse does not contradict miracles of the Awliyaa (RA) which take place by an angel inspiring knowledge of the unseen into the heart of the person.’ (Roohul Ma’ani vol.15 pg.108; Ilmiyah)
7) Qaadhi Shihaabuddin al-Khafaaji (RA), a commentator of the tenth century writes in his explanatory of Tafseer Baydhaawi named, ‘Hashiyatus-Shihaab’ under the verse wherein Allah Ta’ala says, ‘Allah will not disclose to you the secrets of the ghayb (unseen), but Allah chooses of his messengers whom he wishes.’ (Surah 3 Verse179)
He states, ‘Allah Ta’ala does not inform everyone but he chooses whomsoever he wishes and gives him knowledge of the unseen. This is one of the signs which can be achieved through Firaasat (keen and minute observation) and through divine inspiration (Ilhaam) for some people of Kashf.’ (Haashiyat-us-shihaab vol.3 pg.168; Ilmiyah)
These are 7 widely known and accepted commentaries of the Qur’aan written by great researchers and scholars. All of them unanimously support and establish the belief of Kashf and Ilhaam as can be clearly seen. We will now take a brief look at some Ahaadith of Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) that support this belief.
1) This Hadith appears in Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Tirmidhi and Nasaaie, hence, nobody may dare question its authenticity.
Hadhrat Abu Hurayra (Radhiallaahu Anhu) reports that Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, ‘Most certainly there existed amongst nations of the past such people who were Muhaddathoon’ (spoken to), if there had to be any such person in my nation, it certainly is Umar ibn Khattaab (Radhiallaahu Anhu).’ (Bukhari vol.1 pg.521 Qadeemi; Muslim vol.2 pg.276 Qadeemi; Tirmidhi vol.2 pg.210 Qadeemi)
Allaamah Hafiz ibn Hajar al-Asqalaaniy (RA), in his commentary ‘Fathul Baari’ while explaining the above Hadith and in particular the word ‘Muhaddathoon’, writes,
‘There is a difference of opinion with regards to the interpretation of this word. Most scholars say it refers to Ilhaam. They further explain that it refers to such a person who is gifted with true and real thoughts. This means that such a person is inspired via the angels …’ (Fathul Bari vol.7 pg.62; Qadeemi)
In his commentary of Sahih Muslim, Imaam Nawawiy (RA) a world renown scholar of the past and present, states under the above mentioned Hadith:
‘There are different interpretations of this word ‘Muhaddathoon’. Ibn Wahb said it refers to Ilhaam. Some say it refers to such a person whose thinking is always correct. This means that when such a person thinks, it is as though somebody spoke to him, therefore, he thinks accordingly. Some say it means angels speak to them…’ (al-Minhaaj Sharh Nawawiy vol.15 pg.162; Hadith6154)
Imaam Tirmidhi (RA) after narrating the abovementioned Hadith quotes Sufyaan ibn Uyayna (RA) explaining the word ‘Muhaddathoon’ to mean ‘Mufahhamoon’ i.e. one who is made to understand. (Tirmidhi vol.2 pg.210; HM Saeed)
The author of the famous Tuhfatul Ahwazi, a commentary on Tirmidhi states under the abovementioned Hadith, ‘After concurring with the interpretation by Hafiz ibn Hajar (RA) as quoted earlier on’, he adds on further, ‘Some say it means that angels speak to such people. This can well be supported from a Hadith narrated by Abu Sa’eed Khudriy (Radhiallaahu Anhu) that Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) was asked, ‘How will such people (Muhaddathoon) be spoken to?’ he (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) replied, ‘Angels will speak from his tongue.’
It is clear from the abovementioned Hadith, looking at the various interpretations by worldly renown scholars that the belief of Kashf and Ilhaam is well established and that in particular, Hadhrat Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu), was bestowed with the power of Ilhaam by Allah Ta’ala.
We will now look at a few incidents during the glorious era of Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) and the Sahaaba (Radhiallaahu Anhum). These incidents bear ample testimony to the fact that the belief of Kashf and Ilhaam is not only well established, but more so it is a reality and that some Sahaaba (Radhiallaahu Anhum) were given these powers.
1) Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Abbaas (Radhiallaahu Anhu) narrates that once a Sahaabi (Radhiallaahu Anhu) pitched up his tent on top of a grave, not realising that it was a grave. All of a sudden, this Sahaabi (Radhiallaahu Anhu) began to hear the voice of an inhabitant of that grave reading Suratul Mulk until he completed the entire Surah. Thereupon, Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) replied ‘Suratul Mulk is a barrier, it is a protector from the punishment of the grave.’ (Tirmidhi vol.2 pg.117; HM Saeed)
The apparent meaning of this Hadith is that this Sahaabi (Radhiallaahu Anhu) was blessed by Allah Ta’ala with the power of Kashf through which he was able to hear the inhabitant of the grave.
2) Abdullah ibn Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) narrates that once on the day of Jumu’ah, whilst Hadhrat Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) was delivering the Khutbah, he (swerved off the topic and) suddenly said, ‘O Saariya! Hasten towards the mountain.’ He said this three times and then continued with the Khutbah. The people were confused and astonished at this. Later on, when he was asked as to what had transpired, he said, ‘I could see that the Muslim army was about to be defeated and at that time, they were walking past a mountain. If they had passed the mountain, the enemy would have defeated them but if they took to the mountain, they would have had one side covered and only one way to fight. So, I called out to the Ameer (leader) of the army (Saaiya) that they should take the mountain. After one month, the army returned victorious explaining that they had heard the words of Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) on that very same day clearly. In other narrations, Hadhrat Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) is reported to have said, ‘I saw the army fighting near the mountain…’ Another narration mentioned that the distance between Hadhrat Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) and the army was the distance of one month’s journey.’ (Dalaailun nubuwwah of Abu Nu’aym vol.2 pg.579; Darun-Nafaais)
Hafiz ibn Hajar (RA) and Hafiz ibn Katheer (RA) have regarded these narrations as authentic refer al-Isaabah vol.3 pg.5 and Hayaatus-Sahaabah vol.3 pg.562-564
The abovementioned incident is a clear proof of Kashf. It explicitly shows that Allah Ta’ala had blessed Hadhrat Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) with the power of Kashf through which he was able to see and visualise the battlefield from a distance as far as a month’s journey.
3) Hadhrat Abu Dawood Maazni (RA), who was a Sahabi, that participated in Badr says, ‘On the day of Badr, I was chasing one of the enemy to kill him when all of a sudden, his head fell off even before I could reach him. I then realised that someone else (angels) killed him.’ (Dalaailun-Nubuwwah of Abu Nu’aym vol.2 pg.472; Darun Nafaais)
4) Hadhrat Sahl ibn Sa’ad (Radhiallaahu Anhu) narrates that Abu Usayd (Radhiallaahu Anhu) said to him after he had lost his eyesight, ‘Had you been with me now at Badr, and Allah Ta’ala restored my sight, I will certainly show you the mountain pass from where the angels came out so clearly without any doubt.’ (Majmauz-zawaid vol.6 pg.84; Maktaba Qudsi)
5) Hadhrat Irbaadh ibn Saariya was an elderly Sahaabi and he reached a stage where he yearned for death. He used to make the following Du’aa, ‘O Allah, I am old, my bones are weak so take my soul away.’ Thereafter, one day whilst sitting in the Masjid in Damascus (he says) a very handsome young man appeared wearing green robes. He asked me why are you making such a Du’aa? I replied, ‘how should I make Du’aa?’ he said, ‘Say, O Allah, make me do good (and continue to do good) until the appointed time comes.’ I asked him, ‘Who are you?’ he replied, ‘I am Ribaa’eel (the angel) who removes grief from the hearts of the believers.’ (Majmauz-zawaid vol.10 pg.184; Maktaba Qudsi)
The above are just a few of the various incidents from the lives of the Sahaaba (Radhiallaahu Anhu) from which we can see clearly that they too, at times were blessed with the power of Kashf which enabled them to see the angels, which are a part of the unseen as well. In fact, the books of Hadith are full of such incidents where the Sahaaba (Radhiallaahu Anhum) saw angels fighting and capturing the enemy in Badr and helping them in Uhud and Khandaq. Hadhrat Aaisha (Radhiallaahu Anha) and Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Abbaas (Radhiallaahu Anhu) saw Jibraaeel (Alayhis salaam). Angels used to make salaam to Hadhrat Imraan ibn Husain (Radhiallaahu Anhu). All these are clear indications that the belief of Kashf is a well established belief that is apparent not only in the Qur’aan and Hadith but in the lives of various Sahaaba (Radhiallaahu Anhu) a reality that nobody can deny.
Finally, we will take a look at what the Ulama of the past have to say about this belief.
1) Hafiz Ahmad ibn Taymiyah. In his famous ‘Fataawa ibn Taymiyah’ he states, ‘miracles (of the Awliyaa) sometimes occur by a person hearing something that others can’t, sometimes a person sees something that others don’t whilst awake or in a dream, sometimes a person is given knowledge of something which others don’t know about through Wahy (revelation) or Ilhaam (inspiration)… this this is called Kashf and Mushahadaat..’ (Fataawa ibn Taymiyah vol.11 pg.173; Darul Wafaa)
2) Mulla Ali Qari (RA), a great scholar of the 10th century, who needs no introduction, writes in his famous commentary on ‘al-Fiqhul Akbar’, ‘There are 3 types of Firaasat (insight). The first type is ‘Imaani Firaasat’, this is a noor (special light) that Allah Ta’ala places in the heart of his chosen slave. (thereafter quoting Allaamah Abu Sulaiman Daaraani he says – this type of Firaasat is visualising of the unseen. This is a special status of Imaan.’) (Sharh Fiqhul Akbar pg.80; Qadeemi)
3) Hafiz Allaamah Jalaaluddin Suyyuti (RA) in his famous al-Haawi lil fataawa quotes many examples from the lives of the Sahaaba (Radhiallaahu Anhum), one of which was quoted earlier on, i.e. the story of Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) calling out to Hadhrat Saariyah (Radhiallaahu Anhu) and how Allah Ta’ala had blessed him with the power of Kashf. (al-Haawi vol.2 pg.482; Quds)
The above are 3 world renown scholars that have made in depth research and authored great works in almost every branch of knowledge. Suffice to take note of the fact here, that all 3 of them have openly and explicitly supported and promoted the belief of Kashf and Ilhaam.
The abovementioned facts bear ample testimony to this fact that the belief of Kashf and Ilhaam is something that has been clearly explained by and established in Qur’aan, Hadith and by the great Ulama and Muhadditheen of the past.