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Question 393: I wanat to know about the holy Prophet’s (pbuh) knowledge of the unseen (Gheyb)? Did Prophet Muhammad S.a.w.w have the knowledge of the unseen? If yes, then what does Allah mean about the following verse? How to reply back the wahabis on such verses which says “We pray to you and from you we seek help”

Answer 393: Gheyb or unseen, means for something to be concealed from the senses.  It is defined as: الغیب: کل ما غاب عنک; meaning that anything that is hidden from you is considered gheyb and unseen.[1]  This is why when the sun sets, Arabs say: “غابت الشمس”; meaning that the sun became hidden and unseen.[2] (Seyyid Ali Akbar Qureyshi, Qamuse Quran, vol. 5, pg. 133;  Ibn Fares, Mu’jam Maqayisil-Lughah, root word “غیب”.)

In the Holy Quran the atheists say: When will this threat come about, if you a are truthful? Allah (SWT) says to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to say: I do not control for myself any harm, or any benefit except what Allah pleases Every nation has a term When their term comes, they shall not then remain behind for an hour Nor can they go before (their time). [3]

The messengers of Allah (SWT) have never wanted peoples to accept the idea that we have the power to do anything for you, whereas the tyrants telling people such lies in order to mislead them from the right path. The holy Prophet (PBUH) introduced himself as only a mortal like them; it is revealed to Him that their god is One God and say I have no power except what Allah may wish.[4]

Since, polytheists’ were mocking the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and trying to say that your God is unable to do anything as the next verse of the holy Quran says: “Tell me if His punishment overtakes you by night or by day! What then is there of it that the guilty would hasten on?  And when it comes to pass, will you believe in it What! Now (you believe), and already you wished to have it hastened on.”[5]

The reason why the holy Prophet (PBUH) has not determined the time of punishment is because it is considered as Gheyb that no one but Allah knows about it. Because, in the Holy Quran Allah (SWT) says: “And they say: Why is not a sign sent to him) PM (from his Lord?” Say: The unseen is only for Allah; therefore wait surely I too, with you, am of those who wait”[6]

What the explanation of gheyb given above entails, is that knowledge of the gheyb and being aware of the unseen, is something that only Allah (swt) completely possesses, because He is the only one who has total dominion and awareness of the entire universe and everything it encompasses; nothing lays outside His existential boundaries, and nothing can conceal itself from Him.  This subject has been pointed to in different ways by the Holy Quran:

“Allah is the Knower of the Unseen and The Visible; and He is the Supreme Exalted Great”[7]

“They say:” Why was not a Miracle Sent down upon him from his Creator and Nurturer?” Say [O, Messenger!]:” The knowledge of the Unseen is only For Allah”[8]

“Say,” No one in the heavens or the earth knows the Unseen except Allah”[9]

The first thing one understands from such verses is that no one other than Allah (swt) is completely aware of the unseen, nevertheless, there are verses that state that there are others of those who are apostles of Allah (swt) who also know some things regarding it:

“Allah will not acquaint you with the Unseen, but Allah chooses from His apostles whomever He wishes [to inform of the unseen]”[10]

“Knower of the Unseen, He does not disclose His Unseen to anyone, except to an apostle He approves of”[11]

When speaking of Prophet Isa’s (pbuh) miracles, the Quran says:

“And I will tell you what you have eaten and what you have stored in your houses”[12]

In addition to these verses, there are also many hadiths that show that the prophet (pbuh) and imams (as) have some knowledge of the unseen; this knowledge being in two forms:

The first form being when the prophet (pbuh) would inform of revelation being revealed; this itself is a form of the unseen which he had.

The second form: The precise prophecies they made, like when the prophet (pbuh) informed of the battle of Mutah (موته) and of the martyrdom of Jafar and other commanders of the Islamic army while he was in Medinah with the people, right when it all happened.[13] (11) In many hadiths, the knowledge of the imams regarding the unseen has been emphasized.[14] One can claim that these hadiths even reach the degree of tawatur.[15]

As for how the hadiths and the second group of verses mentioned (that imply that others other than Allah (swt) are also aware of the unseen) aren’t in contradiction with the first (that imply it is only Allah (swt) who has knowledge of the unseen), one can say the following:

1- Knowledge of the gheyb originally and primarily belongs to Allah (swt).  He independently possesses it without anyone else having given it to Him, but others who might possess some of it, never independently obtain it, it is always bestowed upon them by Allah (swt), making them dependant on Him for it.

2- Allah (swt) is the only one to know every single detail of the unseen, while others only have a general overview.

3- Allah (swt) knows of all secrets of the unseen at the very moment and others aren’t, yet only if Allah (swt) wills, they can be informed as well, or if they will, given that their will is backed by Allah’s (swt).  Imam Sadiq (as) has been reported saying: “Whenever the imam wishes to know something, Allah (swt) teaches him.”[16]

In addition to this, there are verses that speak of a specific type of knowledge that is obtained through self-building and practicing religion and spirituality and movement towards the truth.  Verses like: “O you who have faith! If you are wary of Allah, He shall appoint a criterion for you [enabling you to distinguish between right and wrong], and absolve you of your misdeeds, and forgive you, for Allah is dispenser of a great grace”.[17]

Also, when Imam Ali (as) would recite the verse: “…by men whom neither trading nor bargaining distracts from the remembrance of Allah…”[18], he would say: “Certainly, Allah (swt), the Glorified, the Sublime, has made His remembrance the light for hearts which hear with its help despite deafness, see with its help despite blindness and become submissive with its help despite unruliness.  In all the periods and times when there were no prophets, there have been persons with whom Alláh, precious are His bounties, whispered through their wits and spoke through their minds”.[19]

For further information on this matter, please read the following answers:

Index: Masoom / True Meaning of Infallibility, answer 007.

Index: Kunya Abul Qasim referring to the Holy Prophet (pbuh), answer 075.

Index: Titles of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) mentioned in the Holy Quran and Traditions, answer 025.

Index: The daughters of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), answer 291.

[1] Seyyid Ali Akbar Qureyshi, Qamuse Quran, vol. 5, pg. 133.

[2] Ibn Fares, Mu’jam Maqayisil-Lughah, root word “غیب”.

[3] . Surah Yunus, verses 48-49.

[4] . Tafsir Ahsan al-Hadith, Vol. 4, Pg. 394.

[5] . Surah Yunus, verse 50.

[6] . Surah Yunus, verse 20;  Tafsir al-Mizan, Vol. 10, Pgs. 105-106.

[7] Rad:9.

[8] Yunus:20.

[9] Nahl:65.

[10] Ale-Imran:179  This verse implies that Allah (swt) his messengers of the unseen.

[11] Jinn:26-27.

[12] Ale-Imran:49.

[13] Ibn Athir, Al-Kamel fil-Tarikh, vol. 2, pg. 237.

[14] See: Kuleini, Usul Kafi, vol. 1, there are different chapters on this subject; Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, Biharul-Anwar, vol. 26.

[15] Tawatur is a hadithic term referring to a certain concept or story being repeated many times in different hadiths, to the extent that one becomes sure that it isn’t possible for all narrators of the hadiths to have been mistaken or lying.

[16] See: Usul-Kafi, vol. 1, chapter “ان الائمة اذا شاؤوا ان یعلموا علموا”, hadith 3.

[17] Anfal:29.

[18] Nur:37.

[19] Nahjul-Balaghah, sermon 220.

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