Chapter 5: Claiming Knowledge of the Unseen (Ghaib)

Ghaib (unseen) refers to anything of the past, present, or further affairs that are hidden for human minds and sights. Allah alone, and none else, has knowledge of the unseen. Allah says,

“Say, ‘None in the heavens and on the earth knows the unseen except Allah.’” (Q, 27:65)

“He has [knowledge] of the unseen of the heavens and the earth.” (Q, 18:26)

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“He is the One who knows the unseen and the seen, the Most Great, the Most High.” (Q, 13:9)

None but Allah alone knows the unseen, not even an angel nor a Messenger of His, let alone any other inferior creature. Here is what Allah said about Nūḥ that he said,

“I do not tell you that I have the treasures of Allah, nor do I have knowledge of the unseen.” (Q, 11:31)

Allah also relates that Hūd said,

“The knowledge of Allah is with Allah alone, and I convey to you that with which I was sent.” (Q, 46:23)

Allah also commanded His Prophet, Muhammad, with the statement,

“Say, ‘I do not tell you that I have the treasures of Allah, nor do I have knowledge of the unseen.” (Q, 6:50)

Allah also says,

“He taught Adam the names, all of them. He then showed them to the angels and said, ‘Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.’ They said, ‘Glory be to You, we have no knowledge except what you have taught us. Verily, it is You, the All Knower, the All Wise.’” (Q, 2:31-2)

However, Allah may choose to disclose some of the unseen to some of His creation through revelation. He says,

“[He is] knower of the unseen, and He does not disclose His [knowledge of the] unseen to anyone, except to a Messenger whom He has chosen, and then He appoints [angels] as watching guards to march before him and behind him, so that He knows that they have conveyed the messages of their Lord; and He has encompassed whatever is with them and has enumerated all things in number.” (Q, 72:26-8)

What is being referred to in the above verse is the relative rather than the absolute unseen. The former, even though is unseen to some, but not so to other people. Whereas the absolute unseen is known only to Allah, and who would dare claim to have such knowledge when Allah has restricted its possession to Himself alone.

It is therefore incumbent upon every Muslim to be watchful of fraudsters and liars who invent lies against Allah and claim to know the unseen. This includes sorcerers, soothsayers, and the like, who have gone astray and mislead many, and they remain far from the right path.

We will now touch on some of the tools that those people employ to claim to themselves the knowledge of the unseen, by which they mislead the common people and the ignorant from among the Muslim, even undermining their belief.

  1. Siḥr (Sorcery or Magic). Siḥr is an act of disbelief, and so one who practices it is an unbeliever who will have no portion of the benefits given in the hereafter. Allah says,

“They followed what the devils had recited during the reign of Solomon. It was not Sulaymān who disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, teaching people magic and that which was revealed to the two angels at Babylon, Hārūt and Mārūt. But they never taught anyone unless first saying, ‘We are a trial, so do not disbelieve.’ And they learned from them that by which they cause separation between a man and his wife. But they do not harm anyone through it except by the permission of Allah. They learn what harms them and does not benefit them. But they certainly knew that whoever purchased it would not have in the Hereafter any share; wretched is that for which they sold themselves, if they only knew.” (Q, 2:102)

Siḥr also includes blowing upon knows, as Allah says,

“Say, ‘I seek refuge with the Lord of the daybreak from the evil of that which He created, from the evil of darkness when it settles, from the evil of the blowers in knots, and from the evil of an envier when he envies.’” (Q, 113:1-5)

  1. This refers to the study of the movement of the stars or other cosmic bodies as a premise to predict occurrences or certain events on earth. Ibn ‘Abbās relates that the Allah’s Messenger said,

“Whoever learns a branch of astrology has acquired a branch of sorcery. If he goes further in learning it, then he would add to what he has acquired of sorcery.”[1]

  1. Making predictions based on the movement of a bird or manifestation of a sign in drawn lines. Qaṭan b. Qabīṣah narrated on the authority of his father that he heard Allah Messenger say,

“‘Iyāfah, tiyarah (evil omens), and ṭarq are all markings of the devil.”[2]

Iyāfah refers to any restraint or performance of an action done due to a flight or sound of a bird. Ṭarq refers to lines that are drawn on the ground or casting pebbles for the purpose of claiming knowledge of the unseen.

  1. Fortune-telling. This is another form of making undue claims of having knowledge of the unseen. The origin of this practice goes back to what some jinn would eavesdrop from the angles, which they would later pass on to the fortune-teller. Abū Hurayrah related that Allah’s Messenger said,

“Whoever goes to a fortune0teller and believes in what he relates, then he has disbelieved in what was revealed to Muhammad.”[3]

  1. Writing abajad This is another magical practice in which each letter of the alphabet is given a certain digit of numbers. A magician then applies such numbers mathematically on names of humans, places, or time, and then predicts the fortune or misfortune of the concerned person. Concerning the perpetrators of such form of sorcery and those who gaze at stars, ibn ‘Abbās said, “I cannot see how such people can have any share in the sight of Allah.”
  2. Palmistry or cup reading. These as well as similar things are all fraudulent methods employed by some people to claim of knowledge of what will befall a person in the future, such as death or life, poverty or wealth, health or sickness, and so forth.
  3. The practitioner claims that they can bring back the soul of the dead and ask them questions pertaining to the afterlife. This is another form of deceit and Satanic sorcery which is aimed at nothing but distorting the creed of the people and to promote immorality. It is also a ploy to deceive the uninformed people and to unjustly consume their wealth, as well as a means of claiming knowledge of the unseen.
  4. Evil omens. This implies having a premonition of something bad befalling another on account of what he had seen of the movement of birds, animals, etc., either from his right to his left, or vice-versa. Such practice is another form of polytheism. ‘Imrān b. Huṣain related that the Prophet said,

“He is not of us who believes in evil omens, allows such to be introduced to him by another, acts upon what is related by a fortune-teller, has his fortune told by another, employs magic, or asks others to use it for him. Whoever goes to a fortune-teller and believes in what he relates to him, then he has disbelieved in what was revealed to Muhammad.”[4]

[1] Abū Dāwūd no. 3905.

[2] Abū Dāwūd no. 3907.

[3] Abū Dāwūd no. 3904.

[4] Musnad al-Bazzār 4/no. 3578.

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