Dispelling Doubt about Knowledge of the Unseen

December 8, 2011 An original Deoband.org article By 'Allamah Mufti Muhammad Shafi' Translated by Zameelur Rahman [Translator’s Note: The following is the translation of a treatise by Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ called Kashf al-Rayb ‘an ‘Ilm al-Ghayb (Dispelling Doubt about Knowledge of the Unseen) on the topic of the knowledge of the unseen (ghayb). It is a work written as a commentary of two verses from the Noble Qur’an from Surah al-Naml and Surah Luqman, as part of his contribution to the monumental legal exegesis of the Noble Qur’an called Ahkam alQur’an, compiled upon the instruction of Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali al-Thanawi by four leading Hanafi jurists of India from the last century. This section of the commentary was completed on Safar of 1363 H (January 1944 CE) as mentioned by the author at the end of his commentary of Surah Luqman. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah said about the work Ahkam al-Qur’an: “It is a book that is fitting to be said of it in the language of the jurists and scholars: ‘Studying it is a lasting bliss, and attaining the like of it is a great victory.’” (Qawa‘id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith, p. 9) For more details on the book see Mufti Taqi Usmani’s introduction here.] Say, “None in the heavens and the earth has the knowledge of the unseen except Allah.” And they do not know when they will be raised again. (Qur’an 27:65) The Exclusiveness of the Knowledge of the Ghayb (Unseen) to Him (Exalted is He) apart from all Creation This verse proves the exclusiveness of the knowledge of the ghayb to Him (Great and Glorious is He), and its negation from all besides him, whoever he may be. This is an undisputed verdict, pronounced by clear texts of the Book and Sunnah. The ummah have agreed upon it, and the four schools and all the jurists of the towns have reached consensus on it, and the one who denies it, turns apostate. However, some of the children of our time have with respect to this [matter] fallen into straitness and difficulty, so much so that some fools and commoners have almost fallen into a grave affair – and protection is from Allah (Exalted is He)! Therefore, I wished to expand the discussion on this [topic] with some detail, in which the harmony between the verses, hadiths and reports of the Salaf will be studied and the import [of their speech] will be determined. Then the doubts of those who have strayed from the straight path will be dispelled – and Allah is the Guide to the Straight Path. Determining the Meaning of the Ghayb that is Exclusive to Him (Exalted is He) Know, firstly, that those who have become obsessed in this matter with figurative interpretation or denial, it is only the affirmation of knowledge of ghayb for the Chief of the Prophets and Messengers, the collector of the sciences of the earlier and later peoples, our master and our Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), that drives them to this, due to their belief that its negation from him (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is a blemish within the sanctity of his prophethood and messengership, or a reduction in his rank. Hence, they got into [the dilemma] which they got into without determining the meaning of the ghayb that is exclusive to His (Exalted is He) essence, which is negated from him (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and the rest of creation; and they began to derive proof for their conclusion from all that is transmitted about his knowledge or his (Allah bless him and grant him peace)

reports about the unknown, yet they do not know that what is established by these proofs is not negated from him (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in the Shari‘ah according to any of the Muslims, and what is negated from him is not established by these verses. Therefore, you must firstly determine the meaning of ghayb which is exclusive to His (Glorious and High is He) essence, that is negated from all besides Him, so it becomes clear to you that the ghayb which is specific to His (Glorified and Exalted is He) essence cannot possibly be acquired by any of the creation. Just as the negation of divinity and exclusive divine attributes from our Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and all prophets and messengers is not a blemish or a reduction in their ranks at all, similarly negating this ghayb from him (Allah bless him and grant him peace) does not infringe on his rank or on a merit from his merits at all. The objective of this negation is not that he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) knows nothing of the unknown. How [can this be the objective], when the texts of the Book and Sunnah regarding his (upon him blessing and peace) comprehension of many things from the unknown have been recurrently transmitted such that the scope of this subject is too small to contain them? The Meaning of Ghayb Linguistically and in the Shari‘ah Verifying the meaning of ghayb, Imam al-Raghib al-Asfahani said in Mufradat al-Qur’an: Ghayb is a verbal noun of [ghaba in the sentence]: “The sun – and other than it – went out of sight (ghabat)” when it is concealed from the eye. It is said: “Such-and-such was hidden (ghaba) from me.” He (Exalted is He) said [quoting Sulayman (peace be upon him)]: “Or is he [i.e. Hudhud] from the absentees (gha’ibin)?” (27:20). It [i.e. ghayb] is used for everything hidden from the senses and all that is hidden from the knowledge of people in the sense of [being] absent. He said: “There is nothing hidden in the heavens and the earth that is not in a manifest book.” (27:75) A thing is called “unseen” (ghayb) and “hidden” (gha’ib) by consideration of it with respect to people, not with Allah (Exalted is He), for nothing is hidden from Him, as not even the measure of an atom in the heavens and earth is hidden from Him (Qur’an 34:2, 10:61). His statement: “Knower of the unseen and seen” (6:73) refers to what is hidden from you and what you see. The “unseen” (ghayb) in His statement: “They believe in the unseen” (2:3) [refers to] that which does not fall below the senses (hawass) and the immediate intuition of the intellects does not necessitate it, and it is only known from the report of the prophets (upon them peace), and by its rejection the term “apostasy” (ilhad) applies to a person. … Based on these [meanings] are His statements: “Those who fear their Lord unseen” (21:49), “To Allah belong the secrets of the heavens and the earth” (11:123), “Has he peeped into the unseen?” (19:78), “He does not disclose His unseen to anyone” (72:26), “None in the heavens and the earth has the knowledge of the unseen except Allah” (27:65), “This is from the news of the unseen” (3:44, 11:49, 12:102), “Allah is not one to acquaint you with the unseen,” (3:179) and, “Surely You alone have the full knowledge of all that is unseen” (5:109). The outcome of this is that “unseen” (ghayb) and “hidden” (gha’ib) in the Mighty Qur’an are used for a number of meanings. Hence, in His (Exalted is He) statement: “Or is he from the absentees (gha’ibin)?” (27:20) by “absentee” is meant the recognised linguistic meaning, that is, something hidden from

the senses. And in His (Exalted is He) statement, “None in the heavens and the earth has the knowledge of the unseen (ghayb) except Allah” (27:65) and its equivalents, which concern us [here], the intent of “unseen” is that which does not fall below the senses, and is not comprehensible by rational, experiential or mathematical proofs. Thus, whatever can be comprehended by the senses or rational, experiential or mathematical proof or by any normal or natural means, it is not ghayb based on this definition, and is exclusive to His essence (Exalted is He). It says in al-Nibras, the marginalia to Sharh al-‘Aqa’id al-Nasafiyyah: In conclusion, ghayb is all that is hidden from the senses and [from] immediate and theoretical knowledge. The Qur’an has pronounced the negation of its knowledge from all besides Him (Exalted is He). Therefore, whoever claims he knows it, he has disbelieved, and whoever assents to the [claim of the] claimant has disbelieved. As for that which is known by sense-perception or by immediate knowledge or any proof, it is not ghayb, and there is no disbelief in claiming [knowledge of] it, and nor is its assent with certainty in definitive [proof] and with uncertainty in conjectural [proof] [disbelief] according to the verifiers. By this conclusion, the doubt about matters which are assumed to be from the ghayb, and [in reality] are not from it due to being comprehensible by hearing, sight or any other proof, is dispelled. One of them [i.e. those matters assumed to be from the ghayb but are in reality not from them] is the reports of the prophets (upon them peace), because that was acquired through revelation or the creation of an immediate knowledge in them, or through exposing the [created] existents to their senses. A second of them is the report of a saint because that is acquired from a prophet or from a true dream or from inspiration or from peeping into the Preserved Tablet which is affirmable according to the people of unveiling, although some jurists disallow it. A third of them is the report of the one who calculates the sonar and lunar eclipse because it is by the means of definitive astronomical proofs. A fourth of them is the reports of an astrologer and geomancer because astrology and geomancy are two theoretical sciences revealed to some of the prophets, and then they were taken away and people became confused about them, so whoever draws proof using a prophetic principle he will deliver in [his] report. A fifth of them is the report of a soothsayer because it is from that which the jinni informs him after seeing or hearing the angels who know future occurrences by revelation. The equivalent of this is stated in Ruh al-Ma‘ani with more clarity and detail. It is mentioned in it after this that: The unqualified usage of “knowledge of the ghayb” for these things after this is unjustified, yet if you refuse but to call these things “ghayb,” then knowledge of it – because it is through the medium of means – is not from the knowledge of ghayb that is negated from other than Him (Exalted is He) at all. Similar is all knowledge of the unknown acquired through the medium of a means from the means like our knowledge of Allah (Exalted is He) and His lofty attributes and our knowledge of Paradise and Hell and the like of this. However, if you were to be fair

you would recognise that what the astronomer and his ilk possess is not real knowledge but is merely suspicion and guesswork, and is premised on what is weaker than the house of a spider. In sum, knowledge of the ghayb without a medium, completely or partially, is exclusive to Allah (Glorious and High is He), which none of creation know at all. (Ruh al-Ma‘ani) I say: By this the answer to what some doctors report of what is in the wombs whether male or female according to experience, procedures and medical means, and what the modern scientists report of the time of the rain coming down, its place and the quantity of rain by means of what they observe from the vapours rising from the oceans and then their movement to a region from the regions, and the quality of their movement and their density, and similarly what those who possess a powerful imaginative faculty called the mesmerists claim from the knowledge of the ghayb, will become clear to you, because it is not from the aforementioned ghayb at all, nor is their knowledge of these things a real certain knowledge, rather they are merely guessing, “and guesswork avails nothing against truth” (Qur’an 53:28), because all that they report of from the unknown, it is by the indication of experience and norms and through the medium of the imaginative faculty, so it is not ghayb according to the aforementioned meaning. Moreover, the knowledge acquired by these [means] is also not real knowledge; rather most of what they claim are errors and misjudgements which they use as a trap to catch the ignorant people while they are themselves wavering in doubt. Whatever is accurate from them, in spite of its rarity and uncommonness, it also does not offer knowledge – it is ultimately probability and guesswork, while [our] discussion is only about knowledge and certainty. Once the meaning of the ghayb that is exclusive to His (Glorious and High is He) essence is clear to you from what we have relayed to you, most of the doubts of the laypeople will be dispelled thereby, because many of the things which they call ghayb and then identify that [some] people know it and thus they deem it a contradiction of this undisputed verdict, that is the exclusiveness of knowledge of the ghayb to Him (Exalted is He), then after this definition you are aware that all of what they know by effort and experiment is not ghayb in reality and is not exclusive to His (Exalted is He) essence and is not impossible for creation; rather, that which is exclusive to His (Exalted is He) essence is not acquirable by anyone. The Distinction between Knowledge of the Ghayb and Reports of the Ghayb Similarly, the foolishness of those who claim that the opinion of the exclusiveness of the knowledge of ghayb to His (Glorified and High is He) essence entails that our Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and all the prophets (upon them peace) do not know anything of the unseen and this contradicts recurrently transmitted texts, is exposed thereby, as you are aware from what we mentioned that this fallacy only arises due to not having defined the ghayb that is exclusive to His (Exalted is He) essence. After defining it, the true state of affairs, that His (Exalted is He) exclusive knowledge of the ghayb does not negate our Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and all prophets (upon them peace) being aware of millions of secrets by His (Glorified and Exalted is He) sending revelation to them, becomes clear, and indeed the texts of the Qur’an have stated this where He (Exalted is He) said in a number of verses: “These are from the reports (anba’) of the ghayb which we revealed to you.” (3:44, 11:49, 12:102) Hence, it is apparent that the reports of the ghayb are given to prophets, but this is not knowledge of the ghayb which is exclusive to Him (Exalted is He). Yes, total encompassing knowledge of all of the secrets of what was and will be, such that their knowledge becomes equal to the knowledge of Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) quantitatively [i.e. with respect to created things], will not be attained by them, and this is because the texts indicate that total encompassing knowledge such that not even the measure of an atom is hidden from it in the world and in the sky is exclusive to Him (Exalted is He), in just the same way the exclusiveness of intrinsic knowledge of the ghayb to Him (Exalted is He) has been established. Now, there remains only the establishment of these two exclusive attributes by the texts of the Qur’an and hadith.

The Proofs for the Exclusiveness of Knowledge of the Ghayb to Him (Exalted is He) That is, the exclusiveness of intrinsic knowledge of the ghayb to Him (Glorified is His Eminence) and the exclusiveness of encompassing knowledge of all that was and will be to Him, so we say, and Allah grants success: As for the exclusiveness of intrinsic knowledge of the ghayb to Him, the texts of the Book proclaim it in such a way that there is no room for a doubter to doubt. There are many verses stating this, stemming from three basic principles: First, those in which are mentioned the exclusiveness of knowledge of the ghayb absolutely, without exception, to Him (Exalted is He). Second, those in which the exception of those who are from the messengers are mentioned. Third, those in which are mentioned the exclusiveness of the five keys of the ghayb or a particular part of it to Him (Glorified and High is He). All of these are in agreement, some of them explaining the other, as is the nature of the Qur’an. So beware of thinking that they contradict one another such that you cancel out some of them by means of others, as is the practice of the heretics. The exclusiveness of ghayb to His (Exalted is He) essence absolutely does not negate in any way the exception of those approved from the messengers, and likewise specifically mentioning the keys to the ghayb or some of them, due to their position as the core elements of the ghayb, does not negate the establishment of the exclusiveness of ghayb to His (Exalted is He) essence absolutely as is not hidden to one who has a grasp of knowledge. The verses which stem from the first principle are, for example, His (Exalted is He) statement: “Say, ‘No one in the heavens and the earth has the knowledge of the ghayb except Allah.’” (27:65) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “To Allah belongs the ghayb of the heavens and the earth, and to Him the entire matter shall be returned” (11:123) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “To Allah belongs the ghayb of the heavens and the earth; and the matter of the Hour is but as a twinkling of the eye, or it is nearer” (16:77) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “To Him belongs the ghayb of the heavens and the earth” (18:26) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “The day when Allah will assemble the messengers and will say to them, ‘How were you responded to?’ They will say, ‘We have no knowledge. Surely You alone have the full knowledge of all that is ghayb.’” (5:109) and His (Exalted is He) statement [commanding the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to say]: “If I had the knowledge of the ghayb, I would have accumulated a lot of good things, and no evil would have ever touched me” (7:188) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “And they say, ‘Why is it that no sign has been sent down to him from his Lord?’ Say, ‘The ghayb is only for Allah. So, wait. I am waiting with you.’” (10:20) and His (Exalted is He) statement [commanding the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him to say]: “And I do not say to you that I have the treasures of Allah, nor that I have the knowledge of the ghayb, nor do I say that I am an angel” (11:31). The verses which stem from the second principle are, for example, His (Exalted is He) statement: “Knower of the ghayb. So He does not let anyone know His ghayb, except a messenger whom He chooses [to inform through revelation], and then He appoints [angels as] watching guards before him and behind him, so that He knows that they have conveyed the messages of their Lord. And He has encompassed all that is with them, and has comprehensive knowledge of everything by numbers.” (72:26-8) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “Allah is not to inform you of the ghayb, but Allah selects from His messengers whom He wills.” (3:179) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “These are from the reports of the ghayb, which We reveal to you.” (11:49) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “That is from the reports of the ghayb, which We reveal to you. You were not with them when they determined their target, and when they were planning.” (12:102)

The verses which stem from the third principle are, for example, His (Exalted is He) statement: “With Him are the keys of the ghayb. No one knows them but He.” (6:59) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “Verily with Allah is knowledge of the Hour. He sends down the rain, and He knows that which is in the wombs. No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die. Verily, Allah is Knower, Aware.” (31:34) Ibn Kathir said in its commentary: These are the keys of the ghayb, which correspond with His (Exalted is He) statement: “With Him are the keys of the ghayb. No one knows them but He.” (6:59) It is reported in the Sunnah that these five are called the keys of the ghayb. It is thus acknowledged that the verse of Surah Luqman (31:34) is an explanation of the verse from Surah An‘am (6:59). And for example, His (Exalted is He) statement: “They ask you about the Hour, ‘When is it due to happen?’ Say, ‘Its knowledge is only with my Lord. No one can unfold it except He at its time.’” (7:187) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “To Him alone the knowledge of the Hour is to be referred” (41:47) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “They ask you about the Hour as to when it will take place. In which capacity are you to tell this?” (79:43-4) and other such examples in which are mentioned the restriction of the knowledge of the Hour to His (Glorified and High is He) essence; and His (Exalted is He) statement: “Nor does a female conceive a baby, nor does she deliver it, but with His knowledge.” (41:47) You are aware that the specific mention of some particulars for a reason and a wisdom does not negate the establishment of another part. Do you not see that He (Exalted is He) said: “To Allah belongs the ghayb of the heavens and the earth” and His (Exalted is He) statement: “Knower of the ghayb” in which only the unseen (ghayb) is mentioned, but this does not contradict His (Blessed and Exalted is He) statement in Surah al-Mu’minun: “Knower of the unseen (ghayb) and the seen (shahadah), Exalted is He above that which they associate!” (23:92)? Similar to this is His (Exalted is He) statement in describing those conscious [of Allah]: “Those who believe in the unseen, and are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided them” (2:3), since He specifically chose to mention faith in the unseen, prayer and charity, and He did not mention in this [verse] fasting and Hajj or other obligations which are incumbent on believers, as the specification of the aforementioned three [things] in the verse does not negate the establishment of the remainder also by indication of other texts. Hence, the specific mention of the Hour or what is conceived in a female or all the five keys does not negate the exclusiveness of knowledge of other ghayb to Him (Glorified and Exalted is He). As for the purpose of specification, it is because these five are the core elements of the ghayb and are its foundations, and because the exception mentioned in His (Exalted is He) statement: “Except a messenger whom He chooses” (72:26) does not apply to these five since He (Exalted is He) does not reveal them to any of the prophets (upon them peace) with complete identification such that it creates absolute certainty as is the outward of the Qur’an. More verification of this will come in Surah Luqman if Allah (Exalted is He) wills. Hence, these verses stemming from those three principles all pronounce the exclusiveness of intrinsic knowledge of the ghayb to His (Exalted is He) essence, while excluding what He (Exalted is He) taught His prophets and His close friends of some of the unknown. Similarly, the texts of the hadith pronouncing this are more than can be counted. From them is what al-Bukhari narrated from ‘A’ishah (Allah Almighty be pleased with her) in a long hadith, she said: “Whoever tells you that Muhammad (Allah bless him and gtrant him peace) knows the ghayb, he has lied, as He [i.e. Allah] has said none knows the ghayb besides Allah.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tawhid). From them is what Ibn Jarir narrated from ‘A’ishah

(Allah be pleased with her), “Whoever claims that he [i.e. the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)] tells people of what will happen tomorrow, he has produced a great slander against Allah, for Allah says: ‘None in the heavens and the earth has the knowledge of the unseen except Allah’ (27:65)” (Tafsir Ibn Jarir, Surah al-Naml). After citing these clear texts of the Book and Sunnah, there is no need to mention the reports and statements of the Salaf and the Imams. However, a nice selection of them will come shortly. The Exclusiveness of Encompassing Knowledge to Him (Exalted is He) As for the exclusiveness of total encompassing knowledge to Him (Exalted is He) and its absolute impossibility for other than Him (Glorified and Exalted is He), intrinsically or extrinsically, the texts of the Book and Sunnah pronounce this too. As for the Book, for example His (Exalted is He) statement: “He knows what is in the land and the sea. No leaf ever falls but that He knows about it, and there is no grain in the dark layers of the earth, or anything fresh or dry that is not recorded in a manifest book.” (6:59) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “My dear son, in fact, if there be anything to the measure of a grain of rye, and it be [hidden] in a rock or in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Surely, Allah is All-Fine, All-Aware.” (31:16) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “He knows what is before them and what is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge, except what He wills.” (2:255) It says in Ruh al-Ma‘ani: Knowledge of what is before them and what is behind them is an allusion to His (Glorified and Exalted is He) encompassing knowledge, and its meaning is none of them know the true nature of any part from the contents of His (Exalted is He) knowledge except what He wishes for them to know. He said: “Hidden from your Lord is nothing even to the measure of an atom on the earth or in the heavens.” (10:61) and He (Exalted is He) said: “So that you may know that Allah is powerful over everything, and that Allah has encompassed everything in knowledge.” (65:12) and He (Glorified and Exalted is He) said: “He has encompassed all that is with them, and has comprehensive knowledge of everything by numbers.” (72:28) and Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) said: “Allah has full knowledge of everything.” (4:176) These verses and their equivalents which are difficult to enumerate pronounce that total encompassing knowledge, such that even the measure of an atom is not hidden from it, is from the attributes of Allah which are exclusive to Him and impossible for creation, as revealed by the context of all these verses, while such knowledge is negated from other than Allah (Exalted is He) explicitly in some of them[1]. The outcome of this discussion is that, that which is exclusive to His (Glorified and High is He) essence is intrinsic knowledge of the ghayb, as well as total encompassing knowledge from which the measure of an atom is not hidden of all that was and will be. Everything besides this is attainable by the prophets and the chosen servants by His (Glorious and Exalted is He) bestowal. Thus, there is no confusion in the hadiths in which reporting of the unseen is established from our Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). This was stated by the verifying scholars. Imam al-Nawawi (d. 676 H) said in his Fatawi: The meaning of this is none knows this independently and with encompassing knowledge of all knowable things besides Allah (Exalted is He). As far as miracles and charismata are concerned, it is by means of Allah’s (Exalted is He) revelation to them that it is known, and

likewise what is known by extrapolating from the norm. (al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyyah) ‘Allamah Ibn Hajar al-Makki (d. 974 H) in al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyyah (p. 223) said [something] similar to this. ‘Allamah Mufti Abu al-Su‘ud (d. 982 H) said in the commentary of His (Exalted is He) statement: “Knower of the ghayb, so He does not reveal His ghayb to anyone” (72:26): The fa’ (so) is for the progression (tartib) from His (Exalted is He) exclusiveness in having knowledge of ghayb absolutely to not revealing the ghayb. This means: He does not enclose to any of His creation His ghayb with complete enclosure whereby the true state of affairs is completely uncovered resulting in absolute certainty (‘ayn al-yaqin). “Except a messenger whom He chooses,” meaning, except a messenger to whom He chooses to reveal some of His ghayb which have a complete connection to his messengership since the identification of the one who was chosen is expressed as a “messenger,” either because [this knowledge] is from the foundations of his message in that it is a miracle proving its genuineness or because it is from its pillars and its rules like all the obligations of Shari‘ah which all accountable people are commanded towards, and [like] the conditions of their works, their rewards as a consequence of them in the afterlife; and what it [i.e. the messengership] depends on from the conditions of the afterlife, explaining which is from the functions of messengership. As for that ghayb which has no connection to it [i.e. messengership] in either of these two manners, from the totality of which is the time the Hour will be established, He never shows it to anyone. Moreover, revealing its timing infringes on the divine wisdom around which that message revolves. This does not contain proof of the negation of the miracles of the saints related to unveiling (kashf), as none of the saints claim to be at the level of the messengers (upon them be peace) in complete unveiling which is acquired through precise revelation. ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami (d. 1252 H) said after quoting this in his treatise Sall al-Husam al-Hindi, the upshot of which is: Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) alone has absolute knowledge of ghayb related to all knowable things. He only discloses to His messengers partial ghayb related to the message, a disclosure through precise revelation that is manifest and clear containing no doubt. This does not negate that some saints comprehend some of this [ghayb], a comprehension that is less than it in rank. Therefore, whoever claims knowledge of some events of the ghayb through revelation from its recipients [i.e. prophets] or through unveiling from the workers of miracles [i.e. saints], he is truthful and his claim is valid because what is exclusive to Him (Exalted is He) is absolute ghayb. Moreover, whatever the servant claims [to know of the unseen] is not real ghayb because it is by the disclosure of Allah (Exalted is He). Al-Nasafi (d. 710 H) said in the commentary of His (Exalted is He) statement: “Except a messenger whom He chooses”: “Meaning, a messenger He chooses to [give] knowledge of some ghayb.” (Madarik) Ibn Rashad said: The statement of a man: “The sun will eclipse tomorrow” based on astronomy is not the same as the statement: “So-and-so will arrive tomorrow” in all respects because the claim of eclipse is not from the knowledge of ghayb because it is arrived at by astronomy so there is no heresy and no disbelief in it. However, occupation in it is disliked because it is from that which is of no concern and because when the

ignorant person hears it he thinks it is knowledge of ghayb, so its practitioner will be reprimanded and disciplined. (From Rasa’il Ibn ‘Abidin, 2:315) ‘Allamah ‘Ali al-Qari (Allah have mercy on him) (d. 1014 H) said in al-Mirqat: Ghayb has foundations and appendages. An angel brought near or a messenger sent will never comprehend its foundations. As for the appendages, it is that which Allah (Exalted is He) reveals to some of His beloveds from the tablet of His knowledge, and this is then excluded from absolute ghayb and becomes relative ghayb. Imam Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d. 310 H) said in the commentary of His (Exalted is He) statement: “No one can unfold it [i.e. the knowledge of the Hour] except He at its time.” (7:187): This is a command from Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) to His Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) to answer those who question him about the Hour that none knows the time of its establishment except Allah Who [alone] knows the ghayb, and He will not reveal its time and He (Glorious and Great is His Mention) will not make it known to [any] other than Him. (Tafsir Ibn Jarir, 9:88) Imam Hafiz ‘Imad al-Din Ibn Kathir (d. 774 H) said in the commentary of His (Exalted is He) statement: “People ask you about the Hour (i.e. the Day of Judgment). Say, ‘Its knowledge is only with Allah.’” (33:63): He (Exalted is He) says in communicating with His Messenger (the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) that he has no knowledge of the Hour, although people are asking him about it, and He instructed him to refer its knowledge to Allah (Great and Glorious is He) as He stated in Surah al-A‘raf (7:187) which is Meccan and this (i.e. 33:63) is Medinan, so the situation remained on referring its knowledge to the One Who will establish it. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir) The majority of the exegetes clearly stated the like of this. ‘Allamah ‘Ali al-Qari said in Sharh al-Shifa’: The upshot is that the prophets do not know the secrets of things except what Allah (Exalted is He) told them from time to time. Our Hanafi ‘ulama have stated explicitly the one who believes that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) knows the ghayb is regarded as a disbeliever because of the clash with His (Exalted is He) statement: “Say, ‘None in the heavens and the earth has the knowledge of the unseen except Allah.’” (27:65). This was mentioned in al-Musamarah by Ibn al-Humam. (Sharh al-Shifa’, p. 469) Al-Baghawi (d. 516 H) said in the commentary of His (Exalted is He) statement: “But Allah chooses from His messengers whom He wills” (3:179): “Thus, He discloses to him some of the knowledge of ghayb.” Al-Baydawi said in the commentary of this verse: “But Allah selected for His message whoever He wishes to reveal to him and inform him of some of the unseen.” It says al-Mawdu‘at al-Kabir by Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari: “Whoever believes in the equality of the knowledge of Allah (Exalted is He) and His messengers, he is a disbeliever by consensus.”

In al-Rawdah it says as part of a long discussion on this issue: The conclusion of this is that it is possible for the elite to know the ghayb in one matter or many matters as has occurred and is well-known from many of them, and that which is exclusive [to Allah] is complete knowledge and [complete] knowledge of the keys of the ghayb. (From Rasa’il Ibn ‘Abidin, 2:315). This is a nice collection containing clear statements of the scholars in this chapter, sufficient for [our] purpose. It is Impossible for all Creation to have Knowledge Equal to Allah Almighty Qualitatively and Quantitatively That is, it is impossible for all creation to have knowledge equal to Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He), qualitatively and quantitatively. By “quality” is meant its acquisition without the medium of a means and proof like His (Glorified and Exalted is He) knowledge; and by “quantity” [is meant] its encompassment of all that was and will be without even the measure of an atom being hidden from it. So whoever claims such knowledge that is equal to Allah (Glorious is His Majesty) for any of creation whoever he may be, he has disbelieved, due to opposition to the Qur’an and appointing a partner with Allah in an attribute exclusive to Allah (Exalted is He). Everything besides this is rationally possible. Hence, whatever is established from it for any of the messengers by authentic transmission, we accept it wholeheartedly, and whatever the Book and Sunnah is silent about, we remain silent about it, and whatever the Book and Sunnah negate for other than Allah, we negate it. This is the straight path and the upright way of all the predecessors and successors of this ummah. It is not permissible to unqualifiedly use “knower of the ghayb” for any of the messengers, and likewise [it is not permissible to] unqualifiedly use “ignorance” for any of them. It is not hidden to you that the acquisition of some of the unknown by one of the servants is one thing, and calling him because of that “knower of the ghayb” is another thing, as the first is permissible and established as has preceded while the second is absolutely impermissible. The outcome of this is that the messengers and saints who know some of the unknown by being given the knowledge from Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He), it is not permissible to call any of them “knower of the ghayb” and [say] that he has knowledge of the ghayb. This is because firstly, that which is known by them after Allah (Exalted is He) informed [them] no longer remains absolute ghayb, rather relative to other than them of creation. Secondly, if it were conceded that it is ghayb, it may be established as an attribute of somebody in accordance with the literal meaning, but despite this, it is not permissible to unqualifiedly use its derivative for him due a wisdom of the Shari‘ah. Do you not see that nurturing (tarbiyah) amongst the creatures from one of them to another is widespread, and despite this it is not permissible to unqualifiedly use “lord” (rabb) for one who has taken the responsibility of nurturing, besides His (Glorified and Exalted is He) essence. Similarly, Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) gives His kingdom to whoever He wills, and yet it is not permissible to call the one He gives it to “king of kings” in order to purify the words [used in everyday conversations] from any inkling of shirk. This is as is narrated by Muslim that he (upon him blessing and peace) forbade the master to call his slave: “O my slave!” or the slave [to call] his master: “O my Lord!” There are other such divine names whose meanings are shared between Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) and His servants and even the [cognates of] the words are shared, but it is not permissible to unqualifiedly use its derivative for other than Allah (Exalted is He) like the AllMerciful (rahman), the Holy (quddus), the Sustainer (razzaq), the Self-Subsisting (qayyum) etc. since although from the perspective of their general meanings it entails that it is permissible to unqualifiedly use them for a servant, however, the Shari‘ah has restricted them to His (Exalted is He) essence, and it has not permitted its usage for other than Him, in order to elevate His glory and to block the means to shirk for the ummah. This was mentioned by

al-Alusi in Ruh al-Ma‘ani. Similarly, the keys to the ghayb and the knowledge of things which have not been established for the messengers, it is not permissible to unqualifiedly use the word “ignorance” of them with respect to them since due to its repulsiveness, it is bad manners with respect to them (Allah’s blessings and peace be on them all) as Qadi ‘Iyad stated in his Shifa’ (1:469) where he said: When he speaks of knowledge, he should say whether it is possible he does not know or did not know, and he should not say “he is ignorant” due to the ugliness and repulsiveness of the word. The upshot is that Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) bestowed on His messengers knowledge of some of the ghayb and He prevented some others [of it], and just as the brilliant Shari‘ah gives due consideration to the matter of realities and truths, likewise it gives due consideration to the purification of [the usage of] words to caution from bad manners with respect to Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) or with respect to His messengers, so it does not allow the usage of the word ignorance with respect to the dignity of the prophets (upon them peace), rather it is expressed as: “Their knowledge and their awareness of a certain thing is not established in the Shari‘ah.” As for finding those who establish knowledge of the ghayb for other than Allah (Exalted is He) guilty of disbelief, there is some detail to this, which is that whoever claims knowledge of ghayb without a medium for other than Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) or [claims] total encompassing knowledge of all that was and will be such that the measure of an atom is not hidden from it, a knowledge equal to the Real (Glorified is His Majesty) in quality or in quantity [i.e. with respect to created things], and his speech does not bear any possibility of a favourable interpretation, he is a disbeliever by consensus due to his making a partner with Allah (Exalted is He) in an attribute from His (Exalted is He) exclusive attributes, and due to his opposition to verses proving the exclusiveness of ghayb to Him (Exalted is He). Whoever claims knowledge of some ghayb by means of Allah’s (Exalted is He) disclosure to one of His messengers or close servants, and he calls him because of this “knower of the ghayb” or he says that “he knows the ghayb,” he is a sinful innovator, because he has acted disrespectfully with respect to Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) in this designation, just as if a master were to say to his slave: “My slave” or a slave to his master: “My lord,” or as if some creatures were to be named “the All-Merciful” (rahman) or “Sustainer” (razzaq) and their equivalents from those names which are exclusive to His (Exalted and Glorified is He) essence and the Shari‘ah has not allowed its unqualified usage for other than Allah (Exalted is He) like kind (ra’uf) and compassionate (rahim) [which have been used for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in the Qur’an (9:128)] and their equivalents. This is as is mentioned in al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyyah by Ibn Amir al-Hajj al-Maliki regarding the one who says, “The stars indicate to such-and-such [an event] but it is [only] by the act of Allah (Exalted is He) the matter will take place on the earth,” that it is a forbidden and innovated speech, so [the one who says this] will be disciplined but not found guilty of disbelief. Similar to this is what has preceded from Ibn Rashad that when the ignorant person hears it he thinks it is knowledge of ghayb, so its practitioner will be reprimanded and disciplined for it. (From Rasa’il Ibn ‘Abidin, 2:315). Thus, whatever appears in the books of the Hanafis and others, of the verdict of apostasy for one who affirms ghayb for anyone, it is understood to be in the first scenario and not the second. ‘Allamah al-Shami said in his treatise Sall al-Husam al-Hindi: The [opinion] which we have endorsed, of the possibility of comprehending some matters of the ghayb by miracles or charismata or a natural

sign by the preordainment of Allah (Exalted is He), has become clear to you. But if one were to claim it of himself independently or by means of a jinni reporting that to him with the belief of their knowledge of the ghayb or by means of reliance on the effect of stars, he is a disbeliever. This is the intent of what is mentioned in al-Bazaziyyah that if one were to say, “I know the stolen items” he disbelieves, and whoever claims knowledge of ghayb for himself, he disbelieves. It says in al-I‘lam bi Qawati‘ al-Islam: Al-Rafi‘i said, transmitting from the Hanafi imams, if one were to read [Qur’an] while striking the drum or playing the reed, or he was asked, “Do you know the ghayb?” and he said, “Yes,” he has disbelieved, and they differed over one who leaves for a journey whereupon a magpie caws and then he turns back, whether he disbelieves [or not]. It adds in al-Rawdah: “I say: The truth is that he does not disbelieve in the three instances.” His assessing the second [instance not being disbelief] as true was criticised because in saying “yes” there is a rejection of the text which is His (Exalted is He) statement: “With Him are the keys of the ghayb. No one knows them but He.” (6:59) and His (Great and Glorious is He) statement: “Knower of the ghayb. So He does not let anyone know His ghayb, except a messenger whom He chooses” (72:26) where He (Exalted is He) did not exempt [anybody] besides a messenger. This is answered by [explaining] that his statement [“Yes” in response to “Do you know the ghayb?”] does not negate the text and does not incorporate a rejection [of it], due to [the possibility of] his truthfulness in having knowledge of the ghayb in a [particular] matter; and this is not specific to the messengers, rather it is can be found in other than them from the truthful saints, so it is possible for the elite to know the ghayb in one matter or multiple matters as has happened to many of them and is famous. That which is exclusive to Him is only knowledge of everything and knowledge of the keys of the ghayb referred to in His (Exalted is He) statement: “Verily with Allah is knowledge of the Hour. He sends down the rain, and He knows that which is in the wombs. No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die. Verily, Allah is Knower, Aware.” (31:34) [Allamah Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami said after quoting this:] The conclusion of this account is that whoever claims knowledge of the ghayb in one matter or multiple matters, he does not disbelieve, and this is the context of what is found in al-Rawdah, while whoever claims its knowledge in all matters he disbelieves, and this is the context of what is found in its original reference. (Rasa’il Ibn ‘Abidin 2:311) ‘Allamah al-Qari (Allah have mercy on him) said: “Whoever believes in the equality of the knowledge of Allah (Exalted is He) and His messengers, he is a disbeliever by consensus.” I only spoke at length on this subject although the issue is agreed-upon and not in need of much detail and explanation because of what has occurred in our lands of excessiveness and negligence in this subject. Hence, some of them claimed knowledge of ghayb for our Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and gave him the title “knower of ghayb” with [the justification] that he knows the ghayb, while some ‘ulama attempted to declare them disbelievers absolutely. The rightful truth from which you should not deviate is the aforementioned distinction, that whoever claims knowledge of ghayb without medium or total

and comprehensive knowledge of all that was and will be such that it becomes equal to the knowledge of Allah (Glorified and High is His station), he is undoubtedly a disbeliever. However, those who affirm knowledge of ghayb for the messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) through the medium of revelation and Allah’s (Glorified and Exalted is He) disclosure, and then they do not claim him having comprehension of all that was and will be and the keys of the ghayb, rather [only] some of the unseen, it is not permissible to declare them disbelievers, rather they have innovated in their naming and have acted disrespectfully with respect to Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He). This is when the knowledge of those hidden things which they claim the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) knew is established by sound transmission. If it is not established by sound and reliable transmission according to the scholars of this science, then they have combined between two sins: the sin of innovation in calling him (Allah bless him and grant him peace) knower of the ghayb and the sin of fabricating about the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and he (upon him blessing and peace) said: “Whoever lies upon me intentionally let him prepare his seat in the Fire.” Despite this, they are sinful Muslims and it is impermissible to regard them as disbelievers. Most of the innovators who subscribe to [the doctrine of] knowledge of the ghayb for Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in our lands, those of them who are affiliated to knowledge, all of them are on this belief, so it is not permissible to consider them disbelievers. Yes, some of the ignorant of them state clearly he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) has encompassing knowledge of all that was and will be and even the five keys so there is no doubt in their disbelief if their speech does not contain the possibility of a favourable interpretation. In sum, it is necessary to not be hasty in the ruling of disbelief with respect to them so long as their speech has not been investigated nor their objective defined, as the ruling of disbelief for a Muslim is a difficult affair in which there is no room for carelessness. In Jami‘ al-Fusulayn [it says]: “Al-Tahawi narrated from our [Hanafi] scholars: ‘Nothing takes a man out of faith except denial of what admitted him into it.’ Thereafter, that in which there is certainty that it is apostasy, it will be determined as such, and in whatever there is doubt that it is apostasy, it will not be determined as such, since [their] Islam is positively established so will not be negated by a doubt, while Islam is also dominant. When this is raised to a scholar, he should not be hasty in [anathematising] the people of Islam, while he should also pass judgement on the soundness of the Islam of one forced [to leave Islam].” In al-Fatawa al-Sughra [it says]: “Disbelief is a grave affair, so I do not consider a Muslim a disbeliever whenever I find a report that he has not disbelieved.” In al-Khulasah and others [it says]: “When in an issue there are [a number of] possible angles necessitating the ruling of disbelief [on an individual] and one possible angle preventing the ruling of disbelief, the mufti must tend towards the angle which prevents disbelief, in order to maintain a good opinion of the Muslim.” In al-Bazaziyyah it adds: “Unless he clarifies an intention that necessitates disbelief.” In al-Tatarkhaniyyah [it says]: “One is not ruled a disbeliever by [an act or statement] that holds [multiple interpretations], because disbelief [represents] the utmost consequence, so [only] the utmost crime will be apposite [to it], and with the possibility [of a favourable interpretation], the utmost [crime] does not [exist].” (This is mentioned in Sall al-Husam by Ibn ‘Abidin in Majmu‘at al-Rasa’il, 2:316) Dispelling Doubts:

Some extremist ignorant people draw evidence for our Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) knowing all the ghayb of what was and what will be, such that the measure of an atom is not hidden from him, from His (Exalted is He) statement: “He taught you what you did not know, and the grace of Allah on you has always been great” (4:113) based on their claim that the word “what” (ma) is general (‘amm) entailing the inclusiveness of all that was and will be. This is ignorance of the style of the Qur’an. Do they not see His (Exalted is He) statement: “He taught man what he did not know” (96:5) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “And he [i.e. the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)] teaches you what you did not know” (2:151) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “You [i.e. the Jews] were taught what you did not know, neither you nor your fathers,” (6:91) because if it was as these ignorant people believed it would be necessary for every person to have knowledge that is comprehensive of all that was and will be, and this is as you see, repugnant to every sound nature? They also draw proof from His (Exalted is He) statement: “We have revealed to you the Book, an exposition of everything,” (16:89) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “We have not missed anything in the Book.” (6:38) and His (Exalted is He) statement: “A confirmation of what has been before it, and an elaboration of everything.” (12:111) This is also ignorance of the style of the Qur’an, rather even the common vernacular in every place. Do they not see His (Exalted is He) statement about the queen of Sheba: “She has been given of all things” (27:23)? Did Bilqis therefore have all the animals of the sea and land, and all the insects of the earth, and all things that were invented after her like aeroplanes, steamships, radios, telephones and other such things? Similar to this is His (Exalted is He) statement: “We gave Musa the Book, perfect for the one who does good, and explaining everything in detail” (6:154) and “We wrote for him on the Tablets advice of every kind, and explanations of all things” (7:145) for it entails according to this belief that Musa (upon him peace) also knew all that was and will be despite the incident with him and Khidr (upon him peace) totally rejecting this. Thus it is apparent that the intent is all things that are apposite to it. In the same way, the Mighty Qur’an is revealed as an explanation for all things which must be known and which are apposite to its function, not that in such-and-such a day a certain fly will be born and from mosquitoes such-and-such and such-and-such will die. Even if we were to accept the generality of “all things,” its meaning would be that the Qur’an was revealed as an explanation of all things, and then this knowledge would not be exclusive to the Noble Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), rather it would extend to all who recite the Qur’an and will know it, whether a believer or not – and this is as you see [i.e. absurd]! Some of them adhere to what al-Qastallani mentioned in al-Mawahib that “Allah (Exalted is He) raised the world to me so I was looking at it and what will happen therein to the Day of Resurrection.” He narrated it from Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him). And [they adhere] to what is narrated in alMishkat from Mu‘adh ibn Jabal (Allah be pleased with him) regarding the vision of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in which he said: “When suddenly I was with my Lord (Blessed and High is He) in the best form, so he said: ‘O Muhammad!’ I said: ‘I am here, my Lord!’ He said: ‘Regarding what, are the Highest Company arguing?’ I said: ‘I don’t know.’” He said this thrice. He said: “Then I saw Him place His palm between my shoulders until I felt the coolness of His fingertips between my breasts, and then everything became manifest to me and I knew. Then He said: ‘O Muhammad!’ I said: ‘I am here, my Lord!’ He said: ‘Regarding what, are the Highest Company arguing?’ I said: ‘About atonement.’” (Mishkat, Adab alMasajid) I say: Firstly, these narrations are weak and such [reports] cannot be adduced as proof against the clear texts of the Qur’an and authentic hadiths, since it says in Kanz al-‘Ummal about the first hadith narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with them) that its chain is weak, and similarly, al-Bayhaqi weakened

the second hadith – he said: “It was narrated from [different] routes, all of which are weak, and its authenticity is questionable.” Secondly, after conceding the authenticity, they are from solitary reports which cannot override the Book. Thirdly, the intent of “all things” are things apposite to that context, not all creation such that nothing is excluded from it, as is corroborated by the hadith about the vision, since the discussion was concerning what the Highest Company were arguing about and regarding this, he (upon him peace) said: “I don’t know.” Then after the placing of His (Exalted is He) palm, everything became manifest to him of this, until he knew that their dispute was over atonement. Fourthly, after conceding [the literality of] “all,” the manifestation of all things to someone does not entail its encompassment in complete detail, and his knowledge of what is in the insides of things or their outsides, since the meaning of “manifestation” is “appearance,” so it may be that a large city in its entirety appears to someone when he ascends a lighthouse or a mountain and the entire city is in his field of view and it is acceptable for him to say, “I saw the entire city,” but this does not entail his encompassing knowledge of what is within it, especially of what is in the insides of houses and the different heights of the earth. Fifthly, even if his encompassment of everything is accepted at the moment of the manifestation, this does not entail that it always remains. How [can it remain], when the texts and hadith-transmissions of things he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was unaware of [at the time of] his death, rather even at the resurrection also, are mass-transmitted? Consider His (Blessed and Exalted is He) statement: “The day when Allah will assemble the messengers and will say to them, ‘How were you responded to?’ They will say, ‘We have no knowledge.’” (5:109) How [can this be upheld] when all the messengers (Allah’s blessings be on them all) will come out to the plain of resurrection without knowing the details of the deeds of their nations? Al-Bukhari has narrated from Sahl ibn Sa‘d (Allah be pleased with him), Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri and Abu Hurayrah (Allah be pleased with them) through various chains, and the wording of Abu Hurayrah is that he would narrate that Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “A group of my companions will come to me on the Day of Resurrection, and they will be driven away from the Pond, so I will say: ‘O my Lord! My companions!’ So He will say: ‘Verily you have no knowledge of what they invented after you.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Hawd, 2:974) It was narrated from him (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in the Battle of Ahzab that “he wanted to know the conditions of the confederates on a cold rainy night, so he began to call again and again: ‘Who will go to the confederates and inform me of what they are doing?’ until Hudhayfah (Allah be pleased with him) was appointed, so he went and brought [news of] their conditions.” Similarly, al-Bukhari and others narrated that he (upon him blessing and peace) would send spies to know the conditions of the disbelievers. Likewise, in the Battle of Hudaybiyyah, “when the news of the murder of ‘Uthman (Allah be pleased with him) became widespread, this hurt him (upon him blessing and peace), so he took the pledge of death from the believers, and later, it became clear that he was alive.” He (upon him blessing and peace) was in constant sorrow and grief during the incident of slander [of his wife, ‘A’ishah], and he did not know the reality of the situation except after revelation came and her innocence was sent down [from Allah]. And he (upon him blessing and peace) was in [a state of] worry when Quraysh asked him about the companions of the cave until revelation came down. Similarly, when Quraysh harassed him with questions about the description of Bayt al-Maqdis, he became worried until Allah (Exalted is He) unveiled it for him as a miracle. There are many examples of this from the events recorded in authentic narrations, and there is no need to cover all of them. Had he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) known all of what was and what will be, such that the measure of an atom was not hidden from him in the earth and in the sky, how did these events occur which

clearly state he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was unaware of [certain] things? [It is reported] in Sahih al-Bukhari (2:568) regarding the Battle of Badr in the incident of ten Sahabah: “Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) sent them as spies and he put ‘Asim ibn Thabit al-Ansari (Allah be pleased with him) as a commander over them, and it happened that they were surrounded, so when ‘Asim ibn Thabit sensed death, he said: ‘O Allah! Inform Your Prophet about us.’” You must contemplate on this. If it were that the Sahabah believed that he (upon him blessing and peace) knows the ghayb absolutely, ‘Asim would not have needed [to say] such a supplication. Benefit: I say: In this is also proof that seeking help (istighathah) from absentees of the pious people and prophets was not from the practices and norms of the Sahabah even at the time of hardship and difficulty, since if it was from their norms, ‘Asim would have said: “O Messenger of Allah! O Prophet of Allah!” seeking his help. In this is a warning to the ignorant people of our time who make seeking help from the dead a custom and religion. The upshot is that the narrations which these people adhere to [for proof of their position], they have no basis in them, firstly, because they do not prove encompassing knowledge of all that was and will be such that nothing is excluded from it, and that which was reported with the wording “all things,” it is according to the common vernacular in all languages, inclusive of all that is apposite to that context, not all things in complete detail; and secondly, because after accepting this meaning, they are all solitary reports with weakness in their chains, so how is it proper to adduce proof from them against the texts of the Qur’an and authentic and clear narrations of hadith, especially in what relates to beliefs where only [texts that are] decisive in meaning and establishment are used as proof? [Having said] this, Allah has charge of guidance, and He is worthy of it. An addendum will come at the end of Surah Luqman, on the discussion of the keys to the unseen, if Allah (Exalted is He) wills, so whoever is distributing this [treatise] independently should add that to it. Ahkam al-Qur’an, Idarat al-Qur’an wa al-‘Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Karachi:Pakistan, Third Edition, 3:44-64 Addendum: Dispelling Doubt about the Keys to the Unseen “Verily with Allah is knowledge of the Hour. He sends down the rain, and He knows that which is in the wombs. No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die. Verily, Allah is Knower, Aware.” (31:34) Ibn al-Mundhir transmitted from ‘Ikrimah that a man called al-Warith ibn ‘Amr came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and he said: “O Muhammad! When will the Hour be established? Our lands have become infertile, so [tell me] when will they become fertile? I have left my wife pregnant, so [tell me] what will she give birth to? I know what I have earned today, so [tell me] what will I earn tomorrow? I know in what land I was born, so [tell me] in what land I will die?” Thereupon, this verse was revealed. Muhyi al-Sunnah al-Baghawi, al-Wahidi and al-Tha‘labi narrated the equivalent of it. This was mentioned in Ruh al-Ma‘ani. Ibn Kathir referenced the equivalent of it to Ibn Najih from Mujahid. And the equivalent of it was narrated from Ibn Jarir (Allah have mercy on him). Hence, this verse proves the exclusiveness of the knowledge of these five things to Him (Glorified and Exalted is He), that is: 1. The exact time of the Hour 2. The sending of rain qualitatively, quantitatively, temporally and spatially

3. Specification of what is in the wombs, whether male or female 4. What a man will earn in the future 5. The death of a person, when and where it will be These are the five things which Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) called in Surah al-An‘am, “The keys of the ghayb” where He (Majestic and High is He) said: “And with Him are the keys of the ghayb; none knows them but He” (6:59) as transmitted by Ibn Jarir and Ibn al-Mundhir from Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with them) that he said: “The keys to the ghayb are five, and he recited: ‘Verily with Allah is knowledge of the Hour’ to the end of the verse.” Its equivalent was narrated from Ibn Mas‘ud. Ahmad and al-Bukhari and others transmitted it from Ibn ‘Umar, raised to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Mafatih [translated as “keys” above] is either the plural of maftah which is a treasure chest as Ibn Jarir and Ibn Abi Hatim transmitted from al-Suddi; or it is the plural of miftah which is the instrument of opening [i.e. a key]. The speech is therefore based on a metaphor where the ghayb is compared to items secured by locks and imaginative keys have been assigned to it. Thereafter, there are important matters here which must be realised: The Specification of these Five is not for Restriction Firstly, the reason for specifying these five, for Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) alone possesses knowledge of all ghayb, which we discussed in detail in Surah al-Naml, so what is the reason for specifying these five? Know that the majority of the exegetes and the verifiers from the people of knowledge hold that this is not a specification (takhsis), rather it is from the perspective of exemplification (tamthil), and its intent is knowledge of ghayb absolutely. It says in Ruh al-Ma‘ani in [the verse] of Surah al-An‘am: Perhaps, interpreting it as total encompassment is preferred, and what is in the reports, i.e. of specifying the five, it is understood as explaining some important part, not as a declaration of restriction [to these five], since there is no doubt that what is besides these five, of the unknown, none besides Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) also knows them. [He] also [said] in it in [the verse of Surah] Luqman: That which ought to be known is that all ghayb is known only to Allah (Great and Glorious is He) and the unknown is not restricted to these five. They were specifically mentioned due to the question arising on them, or because frequently the souls desire to known them. AlQastallani said: “He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) mentioned five, although ghayb is unlimited, because a number does not negate addition to it, and because these five were what they [i.e. the soothsayers etc.] claim to have knowledge of.” In al-Tafsir al-Ahmadi [it says]: If you say: “What is the purpose of mentioning these five, because the entirety of the unknown is the same?” I say: Its purpose is that these five are the bulk of hidden things because they are their keys. A similar [explanation] to this was taught by our teacher, the noblest of teachers, [Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali al-Thanawi], in Bayan al-Qur’an, and our teacher,

[Shabbir Ahmad] al-‘Uthmani, inclined to it in his marginalia to the Mighty Qur’an, and it is what the heart finds satisfaction in. That which Ibn Kathir narrated from Qatadah that “they are things which Allah has taken exclusive possession of, so He does not reveal them to an angel brought near or a prophet sent,” to the end of the hadith; and that which Imam Ahmad narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with them) from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), he said: “I was given the keys to all things besides the five,” and similarly Ahmad narrated from Ibn Mas‘ud (Allah be pleased with him), ‘Abd Allah [ibn Mas‘ud] said: “Your prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was given the keys of all things besides five” to the end of the hadith (as mentioned in Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 3:454), all of this is interpreted to mean Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) does not give any of the angels and messengers complete, comprehensive and certain knowledge of these five just like other than them from the ghayb. The specific mention of these five in the hadith is like their specification in the verse, since if it were not interpreted in this [way], it would be contradicted by many narrations reported from the prophets and saints in which they reported of these five just as they reported of other than them from the unseen. Note: It is thus known that the specific mention in this verse and its equivalent in the aforementioned hadiths is not for restriction and limitation to them. Rather, the ruling is general and inclusive of all hidden things. The Purpose of Specifically Mentioning these Five The purpose of specifically mentioning [these five] is either because the question occurred on these five, so the answer was given in accordance with the question, or because these five are the important matters which the hearts desire to know and there is great need to know them; or because they are what they [i.e. the soothsayers, astrologers etc.] would claim to have knowledge of by means of the stars or fortunetelling etc.; or because these five are the foundations of all hidden things and most of the unseen is included in them as mentioned in some detail by our teacher [‘Allamah Shabbir Ahmad] al-‘Uthmani in his marginalia [to the Qur’an]; and this is supported by their designation in the Qur’an as “the keys to the unseen” and the like of it [being found] on the tongue of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) as has preceded in the hadiths. The Answer to what was Narrated from some Saints and what was Related from Doctors and Astrologers regarding the Reports on this Matter Secondly, the matter is confusing to a non-verifier because of what is related from some of the saints regarding the reports of rain coming down or specifying what is in the wombs or about someone’s future earning or the death of someone in a particular time or a particular land, and then the reality appears according to what he said. Similar to this is what was related from some astrologers and doctors and what is seen today in all the lands from the scientists and philosophers of the age foretelling the coming down of rain in a certain city with a certain quantity, and sometimes the accuracy of their [prediction] becomes manifest exactly, or approximately, so the one who has no knowledge thinks that these contradict this text. The detailed answer to this has passed in the discussion on knowledge of the ghayb in Surah al-Naml, that most of these reports are not from the technical [definition of] ghayb since most of them are premised on natural or astronomical or similar signs, so they are deductive knowledge not knowledge of the ghayb, and some of them are premised on information given by Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) via revelation with respect to the prophets (upon them peace) and via inspiration with respect to the saints (Allah be pleased with them), so it is a taught knowledge not knowledge of ghayb, and what is negated in the verse is knowledge of the ghayb of these things, not mere knowledge, although mere knowledge is also negated in the matter of the Hour by other evidences. This is mentioned in Bayan al-Qur’an. Furthermore, all of this, with the exception of what has come down via revelation, is speculation and guesswork, and is not technically called

“knowledge.” Moreover, all the reports that are narrated or the events that are related, they are particulars of these five, and that which is exclusive to His (Glorious and High is He) essence is total, lasting, encompassing and certain knowledge of these five and everything besides them of the unknown, so Allah’s (Glorified and Exalted is He) disclosure to some of His friends some of their particulars, or His (Exalted is He) disclosure to the experts of the arts of astronomy, medicine etc. through what He created for them from the signs and means to the particulars of these five and everything besides them, does not contradict the contents of this verse at all. Thirdly, regarding the style of the speech, for the import of the speech according to what has preceded from its exegesis in the hadith is the exclusiveness of the knowledge of these five to Him (Glorified and Exalted is He) and its negation from other than Him, but there appears a variation in the style of the speech [i.e. in verse 31:34]: thus, in the matter of the Hour, He sufficed with affirming its knowledge for Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) alone without explicitly stating [its] negation from those besides Him; and with respect to rain, He sufficed with attributing its performance to Him (Great and Glorious is He) without explicitly stating knowledge or exclusiveness or negation from those besides Him; and with respect to what is in the wombs, He mentioned His knowledge without explicitly stating [its exclusiveness to Him] using the article of restriction and limitation, or negation from those besides Him; and with respect to future earnings, He mentioned its negation from those besides Him and likewise with respect to the place where one will die – what is the wisdom in this change from one style to another style? Our teacher, the noblest of teachers [Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali al-Thanawi], excelled in explaining this in Bayan al-Qur’an so we will suffice with translating it from Urdu to Arabic, where he said after discussing what we just discussed in the first, second and third discussions: Regarding His (Exalted is He) statement: “He sends down the rain,” it is an attribution of sending down rain to Him (Exalted is He), not its knowledge, and that is because it is known by the indication of the context that the objective of it is to attribute the knowledge [of it] to Him, and the wisdom behind this phrasing is that innumerable benefits for the servants are related to the sending down of rain, and if it were said: “He knows the sending of rain,” there would be no reference to this. Fourthly, how is evidence drawn from knowledge of what is in the wombs or of rain of its exclusiveness to Him (Glorified and Exalted is He)? The answer is that it is by the indication of the context that the meaning of exclusiveness is achieved. Fifthly, what is the wisdom for expressing the matter of the Hour using a nominal sentence, while “He sends down the rain” and “He knows that which is in the wombs” [are expressed] using verbal sentences? The answer is that the Hour is a particularised affair, while the sending of rain and the formation [of a baby] in the wombs are emergent affairs, and the verbal sentence points to this emergence. Sixthly, in affirming knowledge for Him (Glorified is He), a cognate of “‘ilm” is used, whereas in negating it from those besides Him, a cognate of “dirayah” is used, thus He said: “No soul knows (tadri) what it will earn tomorrow” – what is the wisdom in this? The answer is that dirayah is used for knowledge acquired by a degree of effort and planning, so in this is an indication that knowledge of ghayb is not even possible through planning and thinking. Seventhly, specification of one’s personal earning in His (Exalted is He) statement: “No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow,” is an

indication to the negation of knowledge of another’s earning by greater priority. Eighthly, in His (Exalted is He) statement: “No soul knows in what land it will die” is mentioned a negation of one’s knowledge of the place of his death only, although the time of his death is also not known to him, and the answer is that the place may be from that which he resided in and looked at, and is not less than it being existent at the present time, while the future time is not so, as it is not seen and is not existent in the present time, so negation of its knowledge is more apparent. Ninthly, the objective of this statement is to explain the exclusiveness of the five things to Him (Exalted is He), but this exclusiveness is mentioned in three sentences; the first by affirming His (Exalted is He) knowledge if it, and in the other two sentences by negating it from creation, so what is the wisdom in this? The answer is that earning and death are from the acts and states of servants, so their knowledge is closer to them, as opposed to the first three as they are the conditions of things outside of them, so their knowledge is farther from them; thus, He explicitly negated [knowledge] of that which is more likely to be known, so negation in what is more unlikely is far more apparent, and thus He sufficed with its affirmation for the Real (Glorious and High is He). Tenthly, it is mentioned in the hadith: “The keys of the ghayb are five,” the purpose of which is to exemplify, and thus it does not contradict what we mentioned, that the meaning is inclusive [of all ghayb]. Benefit: Our teacher [‘Allamah Shabbir Ahmad] al-‘Uthmani taught in his marginalia to the Glorious Qur’an that: Ghayb divides into two types: hidden injunctions (ahkam ghaybiyyah) and hidden existents (akwan ghaybiyyah). Moreover, from the existents of them, there are their universals and from them are their particulars. Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) discloses the hidden injunctions to His prophets and messengers, and He referred to this in His statement: “He does not let anyone know His ghayb, except a messenger whom He chooses” (72:26). Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) discloses from the particulars of the hidden existents whatever of them He wishes to whoever He wishes of His creation, while the universals of them He does not disclose to any of His creation. Thus all ghayb is exclusive to Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) in the sense that it is not attainable by anyone except through His disclosure, and ghayb in the sense of total encompassing knowledge is exclusive to Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He), such that it is not possible for the creation to acquire it, whoever he may be and however and wherever he may be. Furthermore, His (Exalted is He) statement, “And He knows that which is in the wombs” indicates, as al-Jassas mentioned, that the reality of the existence of conception is not known to us even if its existence dominates the mind, and this entails that the one who negates the conception of his wife from himself is not accusing her of adultery. Ahkam al-Qur’an, 3:272-278 _____________________________ 1. For example, “He knows that which is before them and that which is behind them, and they shall not encompass it with their knowledge.” (Qur’an

20:110) http://www.deoband.org/2011/12/aqida/deviant-beliefs/dispelling-doubt-about-knowledge-of-the-unseen/