Q. Kindly inform me about ‘Farasah’. What is ‘Farasah’? How is it acquired? Is it a natural gift from Allah subhanahu taala from birth or acquired later by certain acts? Kindly quote the salient examples illustrating it from the sirat of Rasullah s.a.s. and the aslaf.
A. With respect to ‘Firasah’, the Prophet (SA) has spoken about it and said, ‘Beware of the Firasah of a believer, for he sees with the light and guidance of Allah’. (Recorded by Imam Tirmizi).
According to the scholars, Firasah is that inspiration which Allah places in the hearts of His beloved servants (the Awliya) through which they are able to recognize and know different states of people. This is based sometimes on a miracle, a correct thought, an insight or a correct assumption.
Firasah also refers to that knowledge which is achieved through the means of experience and experiment, or that which is known by looking at the lives of people and their conduct. (Tuhfatul Ahwazi vol.8 pg 533).
From these explainations, it can be understood that ‘Firasah’ is sometimes a gift from Allah as given in the first explaination, and at times it can be acquired by keen observation of the conduct of others. In both cases, it is not achieved from birth. There are many incidents in the life of the Prophet (SA) which show the great Firasah he had. In fact, throught his life, Allah blessed him with the special gift of Firasah. At times he saw people coming towards him, and would immediately recognize from their faces that they were coming with a good intent or a bad one. At times, he looked at others and would recognize whether they spoke the truth or were liars. While on a journey, he would identify certain places, where he decided to camp for the night. While being questioned, he would give answers to individuals based on what he understood from their state and nature.
On this topic of ‘Firasah’, the great scholar, Hafiz Ibnul Qayyim has written the following explaination in his book Madarij As Saalikeen:-
‘Firasah is a sense of visual acumen, perception and insight’.
“Surely! In this are the signs for the mutawassimeen [those who read the signs].” (15:75]
With regards to the meaning of Mutawassimeen, some of the great interpreters of the Qur’an have stated:-
They are “those who have visual acuity”, as mentioned by Mujahid.
Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas (r) said that it means “those who watch closely.”
Qatadah said that it means “those who learn the lessons.” And Muqatil said that it means “those who reflect”. There is no contradiction or apparent incompatibility amongst these interpretations. For example, one who sees the ruins and houses of those who belied Allah’s Messengers would receive insight, admonition and reflection.
Allah, subhanahu wa ta ala, says the following with the regards to the hypocrites, “Had He willed, We could have shown them to you and you would have known them by their marks, but surely you will know them by the lahn of the speech!” [47:30]
The first thing mentioned is the firasah of the eye and watching, and the second thing noted is the firasah of the ear and hearing. The ‘lahn’ of their speech is namely two varieties. One is proper and the other is wrong.
The proper ‘lahn’ may mean eloquence as stated in the hadith: “And perhaps some of you are more eloquent in their claim than others.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Or it may mean an indirect reference or indication. The wrong ‘lahn’ is the speech that has grammatical mistakes. By using it, people tend to change the meaning to something incorrect, or to a hidden meaning which may not have been intended.
The meaning of the verse is that Allah has confirmed to His Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, that he would know them from the ‘lahn’ of their speech. It is more likely that one may know more about the speaker and what is within his mind from his speech and the tone of his voice than from his physical appearance. The words and the tone of voice can tell much more, than the appearance, about the intention of the speaker. Firasah can be either visual or auditory. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is reported to have said, “Beware of the firasah of the believer, for he sees with the light of Allah,” then he recited the verse, “Surely! In this are the signs for the mutawassimeen.” (Tirmidhi) The firasah of the believer is always truthful.
The Firasah is a light which Allah, subhanahu wa ta ala, deposits in the heart of His servant. By this light, His servant distinguishes between truth and falsehood and between right and wrong.
The reality of firasah is a sharp thought that enters the heart and dominates its opinion. It overwhelms the heart just as the lion does to its prey, ‘fareesah’. Note the similarity between firasah and fareesah in Arabic. However, in their linguistic forms, fareesah is an object whereas firasah is similar in form to wilayah (authority and power), imarah (authority and command) and siyasah (administration and leadership).
The strength of firasah is dependent on the strength of faith. A person with stronger faith has sharper firasah. Amr bin Nujaid said that Shah al-Kermani had sharp firasah and was never wrong. He also used to say that whoever lowers his gaze away from prohibitions, restrains himself from vain desires, constructs his interior according to muraqabah (knowledge that Allah is watching over us), his exterior according to the Sunnah, and accustoms himself to eat only halal, his firasah will never be wrong.
Ibn Mas’ud (r) said:
There are three people with the sharpest firasah. The Egyptian who bought Yusuf (as) and then said to his wife, “Make his stay comfortable, maybe he will profit for us or we shall adopt him as a son.” [12:21].
The other was the daughter of Shuaib, who said to her father with regards to Musa, “Hire him!” [28:26]
And Abu Bakr (r), for he appointed Omar (r) as his successor.”
Another narration includes the wife of Pharaoh who said about Musa, “A comfort of the eye for me and for you. Kill him not, perhaps he may be of benefit to us, or we may adopt him as a son.” [28:9]
Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (r) is considered to be the one with the greatest firasah in the Ummah and ‘Umar (r) was the second. The incidents that prove ‘Umar (r)’s firasah are numerous, familiar and well-known. He never said with regards to anything, “I think this is so,” but it was what he thought. The fact that the Quran approved of his opinions in many incidents is sufficient evidence of his sharp firasah. One of which was his opinion regarding the redemption of the captives from the Battle of Badr.
Once a man named Sawad Bin Qarib passed by, and ‘Umar (r) did not know him. ‘Umar (r) said, “This is either a soothsayer or he was so in the days of jahiliyyah.” Upon sitting before Umar (r), Sawad said, “0 commander of the faithful’ You never received any of your guests the way you did me.” ‘Umar (r) said, “What we used to do in the days of jahiliyyah is worse than this. But tell me about what I have asked you.” Sawad said, “You were true, O commander of the faithful! I was a soothsayer in the days of jahiliyyah, when he told him the story.”
The sahabah, in general, had the most accurate and sharpest firasah. The true firasah is obtained from life and from the light Allah grants to whom He wishes from amongst His true servants. The heart receives life and light and then its firasah will almost never be wrong. Allah says, “Is he who was dead and We gave him life and set for him a light whereby he can walk amongst men, like him who is in the darkness from which he can never come out?” [6:122]
The verse describes the person as “dead” because of the disbelief in his heart and the life of jahiliyyah or ignorance he was leading, but then Allah gave him life through iman or faith of knowledge. Upon his acceptance of these gifts, the Qur’an and faith become the light by which he sees his way out of the darkness (of disbelief and ignorance) and onto the straight path.
Firasah is linked to three human organs: the eye, ear and heart. His eye examines the look and the signs, his ear examines the speech, the over expressions, oblique inferences and hints, content, logic and tone of voice. And his heart analyzes both what is seen and hear to perceive hidden thoughts of others. His analysis and examination of the interior compared to the exterior is like one who examines currency to see if it is counterfeit after examining the outside. It is also similar to scholars who specialize in the knowledge of the hadith, who will read a hadith that has a sound isnad (chain of narrators) but upon examination of the matn (text of the hadith), it is found that it is a fabricated hadith.
There are two factors in firasah. One is the quality of one’s mind, the sharpness of the heart and the intelligence. The second is the appearance of the signs and indications on others. When both factors are present then one’s firasah may not be wrong. Iyaas bin Muawiyah had great firasah and he was well-known because of it, as was Imam Shafi’i who was also reported to have written about it.
None knows the rank of a person in knowledge except he who is his peer and has known him personally, and he only knows him to the extent of what he himself was granted to know.
None of his companions knew al-Shafi’ i like al-Muzani knew him, and al-Muzani knew al-Shafi’ i only to the extent of al-Muzani’s strength.
Nor can anyone estimate the Prophet (Allah bless and greet him) as he deserves except Allah (may He be exalted), and each knows him (Allah bless and greet him) only to the extent of what he himself possesses.
Thus the most knowledgeable in the community about the Prophet’s (Allah bless and greet him) rank is Abu Bakr (Allah be well-pleased with him) because he was the best of the Ummah, and Abu Bakr (r) knows the Prophet (Allah bless and greet him) only according to Abu Bakr (r)’s strength.
(Taken from the Book Madarij As-Salikeen by Ibn uI-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah)
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan