Advanced search
Last Updated: 2011/06/21
Summary of question
What is meant when it is said that Awliya’ullah have the knowledge of the past, present and the future?
What is meant when it is said that Awliya’ullah have the knowledge of the past, present and the future?
Concise answer

The knowledge we possess is accumulated from many different ways. One of these ways is one’s connection with Unseen which is also done in many forms and can differ depending on the individual’s emotional, spiritual and mental capacity and can increase or decrease depending on his connection with the source of grace, Allah Almighty.

Most people confine themselves within the conventional and natural channels of possessing knowledge. Therefore, their knowledge is usually limited to the “present”; their knowledge of the past is dependant on historical sources and archeological research, and their knowledge of the future solely relies on predictions that are somewhat relevant to the present. But people that have been liberated from the limitations of nature and material, have increased their spiritual capacity and are connected with the non-materialistic worlds can possess a greater amount of true and precise knowledge in regard to the past, present and the future. Awliya’ullah are a group of these people and their knowledge is given to them in many ways, namely, prophetic revelation, inspiration, saadiqah dreams (dreams that are in accord with reality), visions and travel to higher worlds.

However, sometimes this knowledge is transmitted to specific individuals through heredity or a special connection they may have, or a form of transcription, like Jafre Jame’.

Detailed Answer

Man has been created in a way that allows him to gain knowledge through many channels such as:

1- Desires, instinct and inner cravings that make him aware of his natural needs, like his knowledge to hunger, thirst, pain, fatigue, etc.

2- The fitrah makes man aware of his spiritual needs and guides him towards fulfilling them; feelings such as dependence, longing for the perfect being (a religious feeling or need for worshipping), seeking the truth, perfection and beauty.

3- The sound mind: Simple logic which makes him aware of fundamental laws such as the principle of contradiction, being smaller, bigger and equality and similarity. Man employs this fundamental knowledge to create arguments, draw conclusions and gain new knowledge.

4- The five physical senses which are man’s way of communicating with his body and the world around him with or without the help of other scientific instruments.  Most of man’s information and knowledge is gained through this channel to the extent that some people have denied the existence of any other ways of gaining knowledge and only believe in this channel; they have come to be known as the “Hissiyyun” (Materialists).

5- Heredity: Some information is gained through heredity and passed down through certain genes and remain hidden, and when there is a need for them, they are revealed, such as some feelings and features of individuals.

6- Gaining information through seeing the future, the movement of stars, magic, witchcraft or communicating with Jinns. Other ways can be through hypnotism and interpretation of dreams. Even though these ways are somewhat spiritual and unconventional, but most of the times they are employed for worldly affairs and evil intentions.

The abovementioned channels are common between most people and can be passed on to other individuals through teaching and learning. The scholars of “‘Ilm al-nafs” (Science of the Spirit), Philosophy and Epistemology have divided these channels into the general categories of Kulli and Husuli and have explained them in detail in their books. However, this article is not the appropriate place for them to be explained.

7- “Elahiyyun” (people who believe in God), however, also believe in another channel of gaining knowledge referred to as “Connection with the Unseen”. But materialistic individuals that do not believe in the unseen and non-materialistic worlds sharply deny and negate the existence of such a channel of information and accuse those who believe in it of insanity, using magic and witchcraft. The debate about accepting or denying the existence of such a channel is not limited to the era of technology and science, and has always been the most crucial matter of dispute between the prophets on one hand and their adversaries and enemies on the other.[1]

From the viewpoint of Islamic scholars, employing this channel can be done in the following ways:

1- Intuitive inspiration, such as the inspiration received by Prophet Musa’s mother to put him in a basket, place it in the Nile and rely on Allah so that he would return Musa to her and later on choose him as a prophet.[2]

2- Saadiqah dreams: As Prophet Ibrahim mentions in regard to sacrificing his son Prophet Ismail: “He (Prophet Ibrahim) said," My son! I see in a dream that I am sacrificing you. See what you think." He said," Father! Do whatever you have been commanded. If Allah wishes, you will find me to be patient!"[3]  Also, the Holy Prophet of Islam was informed of conquering Mecca through a dream in advance.[4]

3- Revelations, which are divided into four categories: A: Divine speech is directly conveyed to the heart or ears of the addressee B: An angel appears in his true form and conveys the revelation C: The addressee only hears the voice of the angel and receives the message, but cannot see him D: The angel takes on the form of a human and conveys the revelation.[5]

It is noteworthy that having such connection does not require the addressee to be an Imam or Prophet. However, no prophet or imam can exist without this connection. In other words, all prophets and vicegerents have had such a connection in some way, even some, like the Prophet of Islam, experienced all of the abovementioned ways in different times, but this does not mean that anyone who experiences this connection is a prophet or vicegerent. Therefore, the prophethood or imamate of a person should be proved through other ways such as performing miracles along with claiming imamate or prophethood, the promising of the previous prophets or the appointing of a vicegerent by a prophet and the other signs that indicate one’s imamate or prophethood.[6] It is on this basis that individuals like Lady Fatimah and Lady Mary are not considered imams or prophets despite the fact that they were addressed by Jibra’il.

4- Traveling the metaphysical worlds, through having visions or while being awake such as the Mi’raj (Ascension) of the prophet.[7]

5- Referring to certain material by those well-versed in them, such as knowing the Bawaten (hidden meanings) of the Quran and its interpretations and explanations by the infallibles and Jafre Jame’ being passed down from Imam Ali to the next Imams.

6- Passing knowledge to other individuals through saliva or the leftovers of a Waliyyollah (close servant of Allah) or through one being in the intimate presence of a Waliyyollah, such as the miracle that took place for Karbalayi Kazem Sarughi that lead to him knowing the whole Quran by heart in one night.[8]

The details of the abovementioned material have been explained in most books of Aqa’id, under the section of “Revelation and Prophethood”. Also, the true stories of the visions and miracles that took place for some Awliya’ullah and Ulama can be found in the books of history and Sirah (history of the lives and lifestyles of others). Nevertheless, we will briefly explain the knowledge of Jafre Jame’ below:

As Imam Ali explains in the nine-third sermon of Nahjul-Balagha, he accompanied the prophet since he was a child and would never leave the prophet - with the exception of the missions that he was assigned to carry out - and was constantly taught and trained by the prophet. In regard to his knowledge of the Unseen, the Imam says: “The prophet hugged me hard and then placed his tongue in my mouth and a thousand doors of knowledge were opened to me from his saliva, and from every door another thousand doors opened.”[9]

Abu Hamed Ghazzali writes that: “The Imam of the pious (Imam Ali) has a book named Jafr Jame’oddonya wal Akherah that consists of all sciences, truths, secrets, the effects of different material and objects in this world and the effects of words and letters that no one knows about other than him and his eleven children that were directly assigned as Imams by the prophet of Islam. This book has been passed down to the other Imams.[10]

Ghazzali continues that: “Everything that has taken place and will take place is recorded in this book, even the names of children, friends and enemies and the events that will take place for them until the Day of Judgment... This book is written with secret words and only the Imams have received the key to understanding this book through inheritance and no one else can understand it... Most of the important events and incidents that the Imams would speak of were from that book.  They were informed of even the details of incidents that would take place and they knew about the hardships and calamities that would fall upon them, their families and their followers from that book. This fact is explicitly explained in the hadith books...”[11]

This Jafr was the skin of a goat that was slaughtered by the command of Jibra’il and was separated from the goat and tanned.[12] The prophet was informed of the messages of the unseen (the past, present and future) by Jibra’il and he would dictate them to Imam Ali. Imam Ali wrote so much that all of the skin including the hands and feet were full and all events of the past and future were recorded in it and it was passed to the next Imams through inheritance. However, the knowledge of the Imams is not confined to this skin and every one of them also experienced spiritual inspirations (Ilham), visions and special connections with the realm of Malakut, as it is famous that during Imam Hussein’s journey to Karbala and at different points, including Karbala itself, he would be informed of the upcoming incidents before they took place and would describe the events of the future in a very clear and precise way.

At the same time, knowing the unseen does not contradict the verses that exclusively attribute it to Allah, or deny the prophet’s knowledge of the unseen;[13] because these verses are interpreted along with the other verses indicating that Allah does inform some of his servants of the unseen to a certain extent.[14]

In other words, Allah’s knowledge of the unseen (the past, present and the future) is direct and essential while the knowledge of Awliya’ullah is an indirect and gained (from Allah) knowledge and relies on Allah’s will and is limited to the extent that Allah informs them of it.

On the other hand, possessing this knowledge does not mean that nothing is hidden and unconcealed to them. For example, on the way to Tabuk, the prophet’s camel was lost and no one knew where it was; one person tried to criticize and scold the prophet saying: “What kind of a prophet are you when you do not know of the whereabouts of your own camel?!” The prophet responded: “By Allah, I do not know other than what Allah teaches me, and at this moment Allah has informed me of it (the camel), the camel is in that certain place because its halter is stuck to a tree.  Go and bring it to me.”[15] A similar incident took place for Imam Sadiq in regard to his maid.[16]

Therefore, in short, the knowledge of Awliya’ullah of the past, present and future is gained through their connection with the world of the unseen (metaphysical worlds) and is deeper and more sophisticated than normal ways of gaining knowledge. However, this connection with the unseen can be experienced in different ways. Some individuals experience all of them and employ them in different places and times, while others may only experience one of them. The reason to this is that these experiences directly rely on one’s spiritual capacity and piety.

It is also noteworthy that the incidents and events of this world have been shaped before taking place and have an effect on the whole world, including humans. However, this does not contradict man’s free will. Even after the world is destroyed, these incidents still remain recorded in detail and the acts and deeds of each person are reported to him in the form of a letter on the Day of Judgment. This is how knowing about the past, present and future in such a precise manner is possible.[17]

[1] Qasas:7; Taha:37-40.

[2] Dhariyat:52; Hijr:10-15.

[3] Saffaat102-105.

[4] Fat’h:27.

[5] Shura:51-52.

[6] See: Sobhani, Jafar, Al-Ilahiyyat, vol. 3, pp. 65 and 218.

[7] Israa:1-2; Please refer to different commentaries on this verse.

[8] See: Muhammadi Rey Shahri, Mohammad, Karbaliye Kazem, Dar Rahe Haqq Institute.

[9] See: Shirazi, Soltan al-Wa’edhin, Shabhaye Pishavar, pp. 861-927.

[10] Ibid, pp. 927-931.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid, pp. 931-936.

[13] An’aam:50 and 59; Kahf:110; A’raaf:188; Hud:33; Naml:66; Aal Imraan:174 etc.

[14] Kahf:64; Jinn:26; Aal Imraan:43 and 174; Hud: 51; Shura:53.

[15] Sobhani, Jafar, Tarikhe Payambare Islam, pg.480.

[16] Usul Kafi, vol. 1, pg. 257; See: Amuzesh Aqa’ed, lesson 39, pp. 374-368.

[17] See: The Ratb and Yaabis and the Kitab Mubin in the Quran, Question 187.

Question translations in other languages
Number of comments 0
Please enter the value
Example : Yourname@YourDomane.ext
Please enter the value
Please enter the value

Thematic Category

Random questions