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Did the Prophet Know the Unseen?

Question and answer details
Abdul Qadir
2011/12/14
KAssalaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh most respected ‘ulamaa, I humbly request an answer to the following question: Was rasoolulAllah (God’s messenger, pbuh) ‘alimun-lel-ghayb (knowledgeable of the unknown) as some people - including some who profess to be Islamic scholars - claim? Kindly honor my humble self with your most valuable answer, including references to the relevant books of tafseer (explanation of Qur’an), hadith (sayings of the Prophet), fiqh and ‘usool (principles of jurisprudence). Please do remember me in your most pious du’a and the ummah. Wa-salaam
Shahul Hameed
Answer

Hello Abdul Qaadir,

Assalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu.

Thank you very much for your question.

No true scholar of Islam would deviate in this way from the straight path of tawhid (unity) towards the dangerous swamps of shirk (associating partners with Allah). It is a patent fact that the whole foundation of Islam is belief in the One and Only God, Who is the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the whole universe. One of His greatest attributes is that He is All Wise, All Knowing, that He is the One and Only ‘Aalimul-ghayb-wa-shahaadah, the One and Only Knower of the hidden and the manifest. This fact is quite evident from the Holy Qur’an and hadith. For instance, see the following verses:

Say: None in the heavens or on earth, except God, knows what is hidden: nor can they perceive when they shall be raised up (for Judgment).

Surah 27 Verse 65

Say: "I tell you not that with me are the treasures of God, nor do I know what is hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me." Say: "can the blind be held equal to the seeing?" Will ye then consider not?

Surah 6 Verse 50

Say: "I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as God willeth. If I had knowledge of the unseen, I should have multiplied all good, and no evil should have touched me: I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings to those who have faith."

Surah 7 Verse 188

In the first verse, it is clearly stated that only Allah knows ghayb or what is hidden. What this means is, the mysterious world unknown to man, which includes the future. In the second verse quoted, the Prophet is commanded by Allah to tell his followers that he does not know ghayb. In the third verse, the Prophet is also, commanded to say that everything happens as God wills and that the Prophet has no power; nor has he any knowledge of the unseen. He also is asked to make clear what his mission is: "I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings to those who have faith". When such categorical statements are in the Holy Qur’an, it is strange how we can be misled about the Prophet’s role and mission.

In addition to this, please read the following hadiths:

Musa bin Talha reported:

‘I and Allah's messenger (peace be upon him), happened to pass by people near the date-palm trees. The Prophet said: ‘What are these people doing?’ They said: ‘They are grafting, i.e. they combine the male with the female (tree) and thus they yield more fruit.’ Thereupon Allah's messenger (peace be upon him) said: ‘I do not find it to be of any use’.

The people were informed about it and they abandoned this practice. Allah's messenger (peace be upon him) was later informed that the yield had dwindled, whereupon he said:

‘If there is any use of it, then they should do it, for it was just a personal opinion of mine, and do not go after my personal opinion; but when I say to you anything on behalf of Allah, then do accept it, for I do not attribute lie to Allah, the Exalted and Glorious. (Narrated by Muslim)

Here the Prophet spoke about a point related to a future event and his opinion was not correct. He frankly admitted it saying, that his personal opinion was not correct. He also gave his advice: ‘Do not go after my personal opinion.’

This previous hadith proves that the Prophet did not know ghayb. See one more hadith:
Abdullah bin Mas'ud reported:

‘As I was going along with Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) in a cultivable land and he - the Prophet - was walking with the support of a wood, a group of Jews happened to meet him. Some of them said to the others: Ask him about the ‘soul’. They said: ‘What is your doubt about it? There is a possibility that you may ask him about anything (the answer of) which you may not like.’ They said: ‘Ask him.’ So one amongst them asked him about the soul.

Allah's messenger (peace be upon him) kept quiet and he gave no reply and I came to know that revelation was being sent to him, so I stood at my place and thus this revelation descended upon him:

They ask thee concerning the Spirit (of inspiration). Say: "The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)"

Surah 17 Verse 85

(This hadith is reported by Muslim.)

Here too, when the Prophet was asked about the soul, which is part of the mysterious world of the unknown, he did not give any answer, until he received a revelation. In the revelation, he was clearly told by Allah that we, the humans, are given only a little knowledge.

What we should believe about the Prophet therefore, is not that he was ‘alimul ghayb, but that Allah revealed to him just sufficient knowledge of the ghayb that was necessary to fulfill his mission as a Prophet. That is all. It is true that the predictions of the Prophet have come true. But it was not because he was ‘alimul ghayb, but because Allah had revealed to him such knowledge.

Allah knows best.

Useful Links:

Miracles of the Prophet

The Nature of Prophethood

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