Knowledge of the unseen


 An Article on a site speaks about ‘knowledge of the unseen’ for the Prophet (SAS). Can you refer to the site and explain the position of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah on this issue?


 The unanimous position of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah is that Allah alone is ‘Aalimul Ghaib’ (Knower of the unseen) and that this title cannot be given to anyone else.

The Prophet (SAS) was undoubtedly the greatest and most beloved prophet to Allah. He was granted an abundance of knowledge and wisdom, and was given unique abilities. Many miracles occurred from him and all his statements regarding future events were witnessed by many. However, not withstanding these great merits and virtues, and his great status and rank as Allah’s most beloved, the Prophet (SAS) never claimed to have knowledge of the unseen, he simply said that it was from the knowledge of Allah which He (Allah) Has disclosed to him. Allah himself has ordered the Prophet (SAS) to inform the people that he does not possess the knowledge of the unseen.

In Sura Al An’am verse 50 the Prophet (SAS) has been ordered by Allah to say: ‘Say, I do not say to you that with me are the treasures of Allah nor do I know the unseen.

While explaining this verse, Hafiz Ibn Katheer says, ‘Allah is saying to the Prophet to tell the people, ‘I do not say to you that I know the unseen. It is only that which Allah has taught me from his knowledge, and I am not aware of anything of it, except that which he makes me aware of ‘. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol. 2 pg.133-1345-Arabic Print)

In another verse, it states, ‘And with Him (Allah) are the keys of the unseen, none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in the land and in the sea, not a leaf falls but He knows of it. There is not a grain on the darkness of the earth, nor anything fresh or dry, but is written on a clear record.’(Sura Al An’am verse59)

In another verse, the Holy Quran states, ‘None in the heavens and the earth knows the unseen except Allah, nor can they perceive when they shall be resurrected.’ (Sura An Naml ver.65)

In this manner, there are over forty nine verses of the Holy Quran that firmly establishes the fact that Allah alone Has the knowledge of all unseen matters, past, present and future. The Quran has also established the fact that no prophet made any claim that he knew the unseen, or he had knowledge of the future events. Regarding this, we see that the prophet (SAS) was ordered to tell the people, ’I do not tell you that with me are the treasures of Allah and I do not tell you that I possess knowledge of the unseen’. (Sura Al An’am(6) ver.50).

In another verse, the Prophet (SAS) was ordered by Allah to say to the people, ‘ If I had knowledge of the unseen, I would have secured for myself an abundance of good, and no harm would have touched me’(Sura Al A’raf (7) verse 188)

With respect to the Prophet’s information about future events, this was totally based on revealation and inspiration which came from Allah. On his own, the Prophet (SAS) never claimed knowledge of such events.

So, with regards to what have been documented in the article you sent, these all fall into the category of the miracles of the Prophet(SAS) which were given to him by Allah. Allah himself taught the Prophet (SAS) through revealation and inspiration about things that will happen at a future time, and also those things which were not known to him. Seeing that this information was given to the Prophet (SAS) by Allah, (without which, the Prophet could not have known about these events), then, it cannot be stated that the Prophet (S.A) had knowledge of the Unseen. This knowledge is only with Allah, and that which was given to the Prophet (S.A) is considered to be Wahi (revelation) or inspiration.

The miracles which have been narrated as authentic and sound, are all accepted as miracles of the Prophet (S.A). However, through these, the Prophet (S.A) never made a claim of ‘knowing the Unseen’. It is for this reason Aisha (R.A) once said, ‘Whoever asserts that the Prophet (S.A) knows the unseen, has in actual fact made a great slander upon Allah’. (Bukhari)

The same explanation given above, is also evident in the article you have sent. In the beginning of the article, it states, ‘Qadi Yusuf al-Nabahani said, ‘First of all, you should know that knowledge of the unseen is the privilege of Allah Most High, and that its appearance on the tongue of the Messenger of Allah and others comes from Allah (SWT) either through revelation or through inspiration. The Prophet (S.A) said in the hadith, ‘I swear by Allah! Truly I know nothing except what my Lord taught me’. So everything that came to us  from him consisting in news of the unseen is nothing other than the Divine disclosure to him as a proof for the actuality of his Prophethood and its truth’. (End of quote from article)

So, it is clear from this statement that whatever was known to the Prophet (S.A) about matters of the unseen was indeed knowledge which was conveyed to him by Allah. Hence, Allah alone remains the Knower of the Unseen and the Prophet (S.A) received Wahi (revelation) and inspiration. About this, the Prophet (S.A) clearly told his people, ‘I only follow what is revealed to me’. (Sura Al An’am (6) verse 50)

Similarly, in the article, the statement of Qadhi Iyad was mentioned in which it stated, ‘His knowledge of the unseen counts among those miracles of his…’(End quote from article)

Here, Qadhi Iyad makes it clear that the knowledge of the unseen matters which were given to him by Allah, would be counted as ‘Mujizaat’ (miracles). In other words, they cannot be called ‘Ilmul Ghaib’ (Knowledge of the Unseen). Instead, they would be called ‘Mujizaat’ (miracles of the Prophet S.A). It is to be noted that the ability to perform these miracles was given to the Prophet (S.A) by Allah, and the Prophet (S.A) never claimed to have personal and independent knowledge of these unseen matters.

So, to summarize our discussion, we will say that all the incidents that have been quoted and established as authentic, are indeed sound. However, none of these establish the notion that the Prophet (S.A) had ‘Ilmul Ghaib’ (knowledge of the unseen). They were all great miracles performed by the Prophet (S.A) which were given by Allah. Although the Prophet (SAS) was able to inform the companions of so many future events, he never made the claim that he had ‘Ilmul Ghaib’. Instead, he always attributed knowledge to Allah, as he said, ‘Truly I do not know anything except what my Lord taught me’.

As mentioned before, the position of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah is that ‘Knowledge of the Unseen’ is the privilege of Allah alone, and this attribute cannot be given to anyone from among the Prophets or angels. As highlighted above, Allah has himself negated Ilmul Ghaib (Knowledge of the Unseen) from all others and has established it for Himself. In Sura Naml verse 65, Allah commands the Prophet (S.A) to say, ‘Say, ‘None in the heavens and the earth knows the Unseen except Allah, nor can they perceive when they shall be resurrected’.

While discussing the Aqeeda (belief) of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah, the great scholar, Mullah Ali Qaari writes in his well explained book on Aqeeda, Sharh Fiqhul Akbar, ‘Know well, that the Prophets (may blessings of peace be upon them) did not have knowledge of unseen matters except that which Allah had taught them at times. The Hanafi scholars have clearly expressed kufr (disbelief) for that person who holds the belief that the Prophet (S.A) knows the Unseen. This is due to the fact, that in holding this belief, one has opposed the statement of Allah in which He said, ‘Say, ‘None in the heavens and the earth knows the Unseen except Allah’. (Sura An Naml v.65) (Sharh Al Fiqhul Akbar pg.151; Sharh Ash Shifa vol.4 pg.438)

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan