Friday, December 19, 2014

Brief Survey: Part 2: Was Prophet (sal Allau alayhi wasallam) given the Knowledge of Unseen?

From the Layman’s Desk: Islamic Article No.18:

Part 2: A Brief Survey: Was Prophet (sal Allau alayhi wasallam) given the Knowledge of Unseen?

In the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, and blessings and peace of Allah upon His Prophet and Messenger Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam), his Family and all his Companions.


There can be no doubt that Allah (swt) has bestowed the knowledge of Unseen to his beloved Messenger Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) to a degree that is vaster than the entire creation.  The night of Isra and Me’raj Shareef is a glowing testimony to this fact.  This is attested to in in Surah Bani Isra’il verse 1, “The Unity of Allah (swt) is pure, who took His Servant (Muhammad Rasulullah –sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) in one night from the honored mosque (Masjid-e-Haraam) to the furtherest mosque (Al Aqsa mosque) around which We have given abundance of virtue, so that We (Allah - swt) show him our signs and traces of Omnipotence (which were unseen by anyone in the cosmos).  Without doubt He is the (only) one who sees and listens.’  Although this verse states that the start of the journey was from Masjid al-Haram and ended at Masjid al Aqsa, this does not contradict the fact that the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) in addition to this trip, also had other trips towards the higher world, since another part of the journey of Ascension of the Prophet is explained in verses of Surah an-Najm.  Again, the journey of Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) was both in body and spirit and not just in spirit.  The usage of the word “His Servant” in the first verse of Surah Bani Israel implies that the journey was in body and spirit.  If it were not so, then Allah (swt) would have just said “Soul”. 

In Surah al-Najm, the event of the Me'raj is explained in more details:
Verse (7): While he was in the highest part of the horizon. (8): Then he approached and came closer (9): And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer. (10): So did (Allah) convey the inspiration to His Servant- (conveyed) what He (meant) to convey. (11): The (Prophet's) (mind and) heart in no way falsified that which he saw. Under this verse, there is a Marfu'Hadith i.e. a Hadith which is traced back to Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam directly.  Imam Tabri proves from Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) himself as:  From Ata (rah) who narrated from Ibn Abbas ® who said that Prophet (Salallaho alaihi wasalam) said: I saw Allah in his best of form (which Allah and Apostle know best) [Tafsir at Tabari under 53:11]   (Verse 12): Will ye then dispute with him concerning what he saw? [Al Qur'an, Chapter 53, Verse 7-12]  In the 12th verse our Lord Almighty is challenging the whole world:  “WILL YE THEN DISPUTE WITH HIM CONCERNING WHAT HE SAW”!  Clearly, it was not Gabriel (as Wahhabis say) but Allah (swt) that the Holy Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) saw on that occasion.  It is not that Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) had not seen Gabriel before.  So there was no point in stating that he (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) saw Gabriel.  Besides, seeing only Gabriel then would not have been a great challenge because previous Prophets like Musa Kaleem-Ullah (Peace be upon him) had the privilege to talk “DIRECTLY WITH ALLAH” and Ibrahim (alaih salam) was shown the kingdom of Heaven which was a far superior thing than seeing Gabriel.  Hence from Nass of Qur'an it now becomes established that vision of Allah was finally reserved for Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) as hadith of Ibn Abbas (RA) and many others prove it. 

As regards the 8th and the 9th verses of Surah Najam mentioned above, we need to remember that Imam Ibn Jawzi has pointed out the variant interpretations in his Zad al Maseer fi Ilm at Tafsir, (Volume No. 8, Page No. 65-66):   According to one version it is Allah Azza wajjal,  as is evident from the hadith in the Sahihayn from Sharik bin Abi Numayr who heard from Anas bin Malik (ra) who said: The Irresistible, the Lord of Honor and Majesty approached and came closer till He was about two bow lengths or (even) nearer [Sahih Bukhari Hadith # 7518, Sahih Muslim Hadith # 162]  Again, it is narrated by Abu Salama from Ibn Abbas ® that {He approached} refers to Allah coming near, this is adopted by Maqatil (rah) who said: Allah came near to Muhammad (Peace be upon him) on the night of Isra And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer.  However, it is written in the book Al Mughni that this coming nearer does not refer to coming closer in sense of bodies nor distance as that is the case with bodily creations and Allah is beyond such thing being attributed to him. 

According to the second interpretation, it was Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) who went near Allah as stated by Ibn Abbas ® and Qurzi ® too.  The third interpretation states that it was Angel Gibril, and there is Kalaam in this Qawl.   We have Qawl of Ummul Momineen (Mother of All Believers) Hadrat Ayesha Saddiqa ®  and verdict of leading authority over Tafsir of Qur’an amongst Sahaba i.e. Ibn Abbas ®  who differed with Sayyidah Ayesha ® in this regard.  This difference has been wrongly understood by Salafis whereas in reality the rejection of Sayyidah Aisha ® is of “IDRAAK (COMPLETE COMPREHENSION OF ALLAH)” which we Ahlus Sunnah also reject, but rejection of Idraak does not mean Prophet did not see Allah at all.

Suffice it to say that from the Holy Qur'an and Sahih hadiths of Bukhari and Muslim which give best commentary (Sharh) of 8th and 9th verses it is proven that Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) saw Allah.  [Anas bin Malik ® who is claimed to have rejected sight of Allah, is proving in these ahadith that Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) did see Allah.  According to Islamic scholars, it is a fundamental principle (Usool) of Hadith that if the same sahabi says two contrary things then the “Masbat (proof)” takes precedence over “Nafi “ (i.e. rejection).  Therefore, in accordance with this Usool itself it is soundly established that the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) did indeed see Allah and the Nafi of this has to be rejected.  

Imam an-Nawawi (rah) the leading commentator of Sahih Muslim sheds more light on this, as he explains: Translation: When it is proven from Sahih hadiths of Ibn Abbas ® then we cannot assume that he said it according to his own assumption, definitely he said this after hearing it from Prophet (Peace be upon him).  Ma’mar bin Rashid (rah) said regarding the difference between Aisha ® and Ibn Abbas ® that Aisha ® was not aware about this (completely) whereas Ibn Abbas ® was.  So when Ibn Abbas ® is proving it while some others are doing Nafi of it then it is a Principle that Masbat (Proof) takes over Nafi (rejection).   [Reference: Sharh Sahih Muslim, Kitab al Iman, Chapter in meaning of: He saw him at the second descent].   

Additionally, during the journey of Isra,  Gabriel stopped the BURRAQ at a place and asked Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) to offer Salat (prayer) and when Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) had finished his Salat (prayer), Gabriel said: O' Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) this is the city of Madinah Al-Tayyib. This will be the place where you will be migrating. (Note: Within two years Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) had to leave Makkah and migrate to Madinah Munawwara).  Therefore, looking to the fact that the incident of Isra and Me’raj took place before the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) migrated to Madina Munawwara, the evidence of the senior Sahaba will have to be given the due  weightage while appreciating the above evidence, since  Aisha ® was a minor and had not even attained maidenhood at that time.  

Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) is considered the most authoritative Companion on the commentary of the Qur’an. Regarding the verse The Prophet’s eye did not wander, nor it  trespassed the limit of respect. Certainly he saw the great signs of his Lord from Surah Najam, Ibn ‘Abbas said, ‘The Prophet saw Allah with his heart twice.’ (Cited in Zia al-Nabi. Pir Muhammad Karam Shah al-Azhari. (p. 532) (vol. II; 4th ed.) Zia al-Quran Publications, Lahore,1420 A.H.)

Al-Tabrani writes in al-Awsat with an authentic chain from Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) that ‘verily Muhammad saw his Lord twice: once with his eyes and once with his heart.’ (Cited in al-Isra wa al-Miraj, Dr. ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud. (p. 48) Dar al-Ma’arif, Cairo, Egypt. 9th edition, n.d. on publication. See also, p. 362, al-Sharh al-Qawim fi Hill Alfaz al-Sirat al-Mustaqim. ‘Abd Allah al-Harawi. Dar al-Masami’; Beirut, Lebanon, 2004.)

Imam Badr ud din Ayni (Rahimuhullah) the commentator of Bukhari said: Translation: Ibn Khuazaima (rah) narrated with “strong chain” from Anas bin Malik ®  that he said: Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) saw his Lord.  The same is narrated from Ibn Abbas ® and his disciples like K’ab al Ahbar ®, Zuhiri (rah) and Ma’mar (rah).   Imam Abdur Razzaq (rah) narrates from Ma’mar who quotes Imam Hassan Basri (rah) who used to say: I take an oath that Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wassalam) saw his Lord.  Ibn Khuzaima (rah) has also proven it (sight of Allah) from Urwa bin Zubayr ® [Umdat al Qari, Sharah Sahih al Bukhari, Volume No. 19, Page No. 198].  Taking of an oath by Imam Hasan al-Basri (rah) is not a minor thing. Those who do not know the standing of Imam Hasan al-Basri (rah) in narrating hadiths do not understand even the basics.

Again, Imam Ibn Hajr al Asqalani (Rahimuhullah) says in his magnificent Fath ul Bari Sharh Sahih ul Bukhari:  Translation: Maruzi (rah) asked Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (rah): People say that Aisha ® used to exclaim that whosoever says the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) saw his Lord has attributed a lie to Allah, so how shall this be answered? (Imam Ahmed) replied: From the saying of Prophet (Peace be upon him) [himself] when he said: “I saw my Lord”, this will be an answer to Aisha’s ® Qawl because the saying of Prophet (Peace be upon him) is far superior than saying of her (i.e. Aisha ® ). [Fath ul Bari, Sharh Sahih ul Bukhari, Volume No. 8, Page No. 494]   

On another occasion, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was asked if the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saw his Lord. He said, ‘he saw him, he saw him’ until he became breathless. (p. 537 Zia al-Nabi. Pir Muhammad Karam Shah al-Azhari. (p. 532) (vol. II; 4th ed.) Zia al-Quran Publications, Lahore,1420 A.H.)

Another hadith from Tirmidhi which has been authenticated as hasan sahih by both Imam Bukhari and Imam Tirmidhi: … Lo I found myself in the presence of my Lord, the Blessed and the Glorious, in the best form. He said: Muhammad! I said: At Thy service… [Sunnan Tirimdhi, Volume No. 5, Page No. 966, Published by Maktabba al Asriyyah, Beirut, Lebanon]

Then, that Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) saw Allah (swt) is also clear from the hadiths in Sahih Muslim, the Matn of which reads as: Narated by Abu Dhar ®: I asked the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him): Did you see your Lord? The Prophet (Peace be upon him) replied: He is Nur  I Saw Him. [Sahih Muslim, Hadith # 351, Hadith number from Sharh Sahih Muslim by Alama Ghulam Rasool Sa’eedi – Damat Barkatahum Alia].  This is the perfect translation which actualy proves that Prophet (Peace be upon him) did indeed see Allah (swt).

This Hadith is in essence sufficient on the issue; the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself clearly stated here that he did see his Lord.

Shaikh Abdul-Haqq Muhaddith Dehlvi writes, “On the night of Me’raj, Allahعزوجل revealed to the Holy Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) all branches of knowledge, wisdoms, glad-tidings, secrets, information, distinctions and excellences.  All of these are included in the ambiguity of the verse and have been concealed due to their greatness and splendour. That is why they have not been elaborated upon.  It also gestures towards the fact that this knowledge of the unseen cannot be encompassed by anyone except Allahعزوجل and His beloved Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam).  Yes, whatever is explained by Rasoolullah (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) becomes known.” – Madaarijun-­Nubuwwah, Vol. 1, Section on Divine Vision.  

This ayat ‘and extract prove that on the night of Me’raj, the Holy Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) was granted those branches of knowledge which cannot be explained and envisaged by people. Maa Kaan wa Maa Yakoon (What has occurred and what will) is used for expression, though he was blessed with much more than that.  

Sheikh Muhadith Haq Dehlvi (rahimuhullah) writes: Ibn Umar(ra) turned to Ibn Abbas (ra) regarding this matter and asked whether the Prophet (saw) has seen his Lord, Ibn Abbas replied in affirmative, Ibn Umar (ra) accepted this and did not reject it [Ashaat ul Lamaat, Volume No. 4, Page No. 431]

Imam Nasai’i (Rahimuhullah) and Hakim (Rahimuhullah) narrate with Sahih Isnad:  Ibn Abbas ® narrates: Are you surprised at friendship of Ibrahim (a.s) [with Allah], The Speech of Musa (directly with Allah) and Sight of Muhammad (Salallaho alaihi wasalam)? [Sunnan Nasai’I al Kubra in Amal al Yawm wal Laylah , Volume No.6, Hadith No.11539, Mustadrak ala Sahihayn, Volume No. 1, Hadith No. 216]   Imam Hakim (rah) after narrating it said:  This Hadith is Sahih on the criteria of Bukhari. [Ibid, Hadith No. 216]  Imam Ibn Hajr al Asqalani (Rahimuhullah) said:  It is narrated by Nasai’i with “Sahih Isnad” and Hakim also declared it “Sahih” the narration with the chain from Ikrama (rah) who heard Ibn Abbas ®  say (and he quoted the above hadith) [Fath ul Bari, Sharah Sahih al Bukhari, Volume No. 8, Page No 493] 
Incidentally, this hadith has also been mentioned in Kashful Mahjub,  written by Hazrat Ali bin Uthman al-Hujweri (rah) some thousand years ago.  According to him, the difference in understanding whether Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) saw his Lord or not arose because Ibne Abbas ® was a Spiritualist (Ahle Ma’ani) and Aisha ® was a Formalist (Ahle Rusoom).

In his Article, The Spiritual Significance of the Miraculous Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani writes: 

"Allah revealed to His servant what he revealed. The Prophet’s heart in no way falsified what it saw. Will you then dispute with him about what he saw? And he saw Him again another time at the Lote-tree of the utmost boundary, at the Garden of Abode. Behold the Lote-tree was shrouded with what shrouds. His sight did not swerve or waiver. Indeed he saw of the Signs of his Lord, the Greatest." [53: 10-19]

"Imam Nawawi and the late Imam Mutwalli Sha`rawi concur with the major ity of scholars in interpreting these verses to mean that the Prophet saw his Lord another time, not that he saw Gabriel u another time, as some assert. Imam Nawawi relates in his commentary on Sahih Muslim, “Most of the scholars say that the Prophet saw his Lord with the eyes of his head - ra’a rabbahu bi ‘aynay raasi hi. The Prophet came all the way to the Divine Throne (`arsh), reached qaba qawsayni (the distance of two bow’s length), and reached the Paradise of Jannat al-Ma’wa near the Furthermost Lote-Tree (sidrat al-muntaha).

"After all this Imam Sha`rawi asks, “What would make the Prophet’s sight swerve? Some say it was Gabriel (as), but the Prophet (s) had seen Gabriel (as) many times and Gabriel was with him for the duration of the Night Journey and Ascension. It is irrelevant to say at this juncture that the Prophet’s sight did not swerve or waiver, because if this was in reference to Gabriel the Prophet had many opportunities to see him already. Allah doesn’t say anything irrelevant which is why I side with the majority of scholars (including Imam Nawawi) in say ing that with his physical eyes the Prophet saw Allah (swt).”

“Indeed he saw of the Signs of his Lord, the Greatest.” [53:18]

What then could the Greatest Sign be for the Prophet (s) other than the vision of his Lord? For the Prophet (s) saw all seven levels of Paradise, then ascended further than any creation before or after, to “two bows-length”. It is stated in hadith that the greatest reward for believers in the next life will not be the pleasures of Paradise, but the vision of their Lord every Friday. If the believers, the common and the special, are going to see their Lord in the afterlife, then clearly nothing less than that could be “the Greatest Sign” for His Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam).

At times it is usual for the opponents to cite verse 143 of Suratul Araaf in a bid to prove that Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) could not see Allah since Allah says: Thou wilt not see me.
This verse is 007.143:  And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and his Lord had spoken unto him, he said: My Lord! Show me (Thy Self), that I may gaze upon Thee. He said: Thou wilt not see Me, but gaze upon the mountain! If it stand still in its place, then thou wilt see Me. And when his Lord revealed (His) glory to the mountain He sent it crashing down. And Moses fell down senseless. And when he woke he said: Glory unto Thee! I turn unto Thee repentant, and I am the first of (true) believers.

From the above verse it emerges clearly that the contrary of what the opponents say is proved: this verse actually proves that Allah’s sight is possible. Tafsir Al Jalalayn and Al Qurtubi shed more light on this:  Imam Jalal ud din Suyuti (rah) said: Translation: {You shall not see Me}, which means you do not have the capability to see me THE USE OF THE WORDING (LAN TARANI) RATHER THAN LAN URA (I.E. I SHALL NOT BE SEEN) IMPLIES THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO SEE ALLAH {But gaze at the mountain} which is stronger than you are, {And if it stands still in its place} then you shall see Me’, that is, [then] you shall remain fixed [able] to see Me, otherwise, you will not have the capacity [for it]. {And when his Lord revealed (His) glory to the mountain} i.e. When he manifested his light, equivalent to half a nail of little finger as this is mentioned in the sahih hadith of Hakim [Tafsir al Jalalyn, Page No. 167, Published by Dar IIbn Kathir, Damascus]  As for Imam Qurtubi, he  explained as follows: The Anbiya never ask for Impossible! The Imams are unanimous that (Musa a.s) asking for Tawba does not refer to sins because the Anbiya are infallible/Masoom, and in the opinion of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah the Sight of (Allah) is possible [Tafsir al Qurtubi, Under 7:143]

Hence it is decisively proven from Quran itself that Anbiya never ask for something Impossible, had sight of Allah not been possible then Musa (a.s) would not have asked for it and nor would have Allah linked it to the condition of mountain staying at its place (because Allah does not do illogical things either .. Naudhobillah).  The fact of the matter is that Musa (a.s) was not capable of seeing Him but Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) was, and the vision was only reserved for him. (SubhanAllah).

“And We granted the vision which We showed you (O Muhammad) but as a trial for mankind.” [17:60]

Regarding this verse, Ibn `Abbas said, “Allah’s Messenger (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) actually saw with his own eyes the vision (of all which was shown to him) on the night of his Night Journey to Jerusalem (and then to the heavens)...” That is the greatness of Prophet Muhammad. No one saw his Lord other than Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam), making him (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) the only true monotheist (muwahhid). No one except Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) achieved a perfect grasp of Divine Unity – tawhid - everyone else’s under standing of tawhid remains imitated (taqleed).

So O Muslims do not be surprised after knowing this reality because the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasalamm) indeed saw his Lord and this is one of the major differences between us Ahlus Sunnah and misguided Mutazila sect who used to reject it.

Continued in Part 3….