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Islam and Spiritualism ( 17 Jun 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Knowledge of Unseen for the Prophets: It Should Not Be Made an Apple of Discord within Islam



By Misbahul Huda, New Age Islam

18 June 2014

The Arabic word “Ghayb” means “concealed” and this word is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an many a time with this meaning. It implies just opposite to "Hadhir” (present to the senses).

Since the knowledge of unseen for other than God Almighty is a very sensitive issue, and it has been an apple of discord for centuries, among different schools of thought within Islam, possibility of the knowledge of unseen for other than God Almighty, or otherwise, should be crystal clear in the light of Qur’an.

If we delve into the verses of Qur’an, we find scores of such verses, affirming the knowledge of unseen not just for the Prophets, but even for ordinary individuals including infants and animals.

Justification of knowledge of unseen for the creatures and ordinary people as well, from the Qur’an:

1.   Fish of Hazrat Yunus (a.s.)

‘Then the fish swallowed him, while he was blameworthy. And had he not been of those who exalt Allah. He would have remained inside its belly until the Day they are resurrected.’ (Surah Saaffaat (37): Verses 142-144)

These verses tell that the fish was inspired with instructions to swallow Hazrat Yunus (a.s.) and keep him inside until he becomes among the glorifying people proving that knowledge of unseen was bestowed.

2.   Infant in Zulekha’s room

‘…and a witness of her own family bore witness…’ (Sûrah Yusuf (12): verse 26)

The infant who was present in Zulekha’s room was inspired with the knowledge of unseen and passed a verdict based on divine wisdom that proved Hazrat Yusuf’s (a.s) innocence in that matter, and safeguarded his infallibility.

3.   Hazrat Moosa’s (a.s.) Mother

‘And We inspired to the mother of Moses, "Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him [one] of the messengers." (Surah Quisas (28): Verse 7)

Qur’anic verses proving the knowledge of unseen for the chosen prophets:

Hazrat Adam (pbuh)

‘Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord, so He turned to him mercifully; surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.’ (Surah Baquarah (2): Verse 37)

Hazrat Nuh (pbuh)

‘And make the ark before Our eyes and (according to) Our revelation, and do not speak to Me in respect of those who are unjust; surely they shall be drowned.’ (Surah Hud (11): Verse 37)

Hazrat Nuh (pbuh) was informed who would be saved and who would be drowned, even he knew the destination of his own son.

Hazrat Khizr (pbuh)

In Surah Kahf (18): Verses 65-82, three incidents are highlighted where Hazrat Khizr was bestowed with the knowledge of unseen which was not granted even to Hazrat Moosa (pbuh).

Hazrat Moosa (pbuh)

God Almighty informed Hazrat Moosa (pbuh) that he would be saved from drowning:

‘So when the two hosts saw each other, the companions of Moosa cried out: Most surely we are being overtaken. He said: By no means; surely my Lord is with me: He will show me a way out.’ (Surah Shoara (26): Verses 61-62)

Hazrat Isa (pbuh)

There are numerous verses which are quite enough to establish the divine wisdom and knowledge of unseen for prophet Isa (pbuh) right from the time when he was a mere infant in the lap of his mother:

‘He said: Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and poor-rate so long as I live. And dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me insolent, unblessed. And peace on me on the day I was born, and on the day I die, and on the day I am raised to life. Such is Isa, son of Maryam; (this is) the saying of truth about which they dispute.’ (Surah Maryam (19): Verses 30-34)

In these verses prophet Isa (pbuh) defends his mother against false accusations and identifies himself and informs his people who he was and what he was going to be.

The obvious verses (Ayat-e-Mubayyenat), affirming the knowledge of unseen for the prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

God Almighty says in the Qur’an:

“These are the tidings of Unseen that We reveal to you in secret”. (Surah-Ale-Imran, verse 44)

“Nor will He disclose to you the secrets of the Unseen. But He chooses of His Apostles (For the purpose)” (Surah-Ale-Imran, verse 179)

“The Knower of Unseen reveals not His secret to anyone. Except to His chosen Messengers”. (Surah-Al-Jinn, verse 26)

“…Allah has sent down to you the Book and Wisdom and has taught to you what you did not know, and great is the grace of Allah upon you.” (Surah Al-Nisa, Verse 113)

In addition to all these verses, there are some verses in the Qur’an, seemingly, in contradiction with the above mentioned verses.

Say [O the Prophet]: I have no power to benefit myself nor to harm it, except that which Allah wills. Had I knowledge of the Unseen, I would have acquired much good, and adversity would not have touched me... (7:188)

Say: I am but a man (or: a mortal) like yourselves (18:110, 41:6)

And they say: We will not put faith in thee till thou cause a spring to gush forth... Or thou have a garden... and cause rivers to gush forth... Or thou cause the heaven to fall... or bring God and the angels... have a house of gold; ascend up into heaven... bring down for us a book... Say: My Lord be glorified! Am I naught save a mortal messenger?" (17:90-93) etc

The "Salafis" and “Wahhabis” are used to producing deliberately above mentioned verses in their pursue to reject the knowledge of unseen for other than God outrightly.

Especially in the case of the verse {Say: I am but a mortal like yourselves, but I receive revelation (18:110)} they quote first portion of the verse (Say: I am but a mortal like yourselves) and set aside the second part of the verse: “but I receive revelation”.

Coming back to the above verses, Islamic scholars' and exegetes are of the opinion that these verses were not revealed to reject the knowledge of unseen for other than God outrightly, rather these verses are meant to wipe out any claim of inhuman nature i.e. God or angel, that might be attributed to them by some superstitious people.

Also, these verses were revealed in answer to some people who insisted the Prophet (pbuh) on signs in the spirit of disbelief and mockery.  For instance, there was a group who asserted that they would submit to his prophethood and Oneness of God (Tawheed) only if he performed certain miracles for them, while it is established by the scholars expert in Asbab an-Nuzul (Context for Revelation) that the Prophet disliked being asked for the miracles repeatedly by unbelievers.

Besides, there were high chances for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) of being assumed as God, as it happened with some of the earlier prophets. The reason why, God revealed such verses in the Qur’an. Although, outward appearance and features of all Prophets is like an ordinary man, but their inward and souls have the highest possible human qualities, with the Highest divine companionship of God, which are similar to angelic attributes, free of any possibility of alteration or evil. Had it not been the case, the prophets would not have received any divine revelation, as God Almighty declares in the Qur’an:

“If We had sent down this Qur'an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah. And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought.” (Surah Al-Ĥashr: 21)

To conclude, there is a huge misconception in this regard; believing in the knowledge of unseen for the prophets is being equated with setting up partners with God almighty in terms of knowledge by some scholars, and thus they declare a large section of Muslims as Mushrik (unbeliever), while defining God’s unlimited, ultimate, eternal and everlasting knowledge, which is beyond the time and space, on the basis of knowledge of prophets which is, although, extraordinary and more than an ordinary man could possess, but it is absolutely limited, is a kind of great injustice. One should remember that God’s knowledge is like a sea with no bound and limit, and all the knowledge and sciences, known to the world and the entire humanity, is less than a drop of water, as compared to the God’s knowledge.

One thing that Muslim community should learn is that, the only pivot and soul of faith is in believing in the oneness of God Almighty and has deep love and enormous affection for Prophet (pbuh), and the rest of the things are object of devotion, and not the matter of Kufr and Imaan.

Related Article:

Prophets and Ilm ul Ghaib (Knowledge of the Unseen)

A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Misbahul Huda is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background. He has completed the classical Islamic sciences (Alimiat) from a renowned Sufi Islamic seminary Jamia Amjadia Rizvia Mau, (U.P) and holds degree of Fazilat (master) in Tafseer, Hadith, theology and Islamic jurisprudence from Jamia Manzar- e- Islam, Bareilly, U.P. He is currently pursuing graduation in Arabic (Hons) from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.