On Kashf & Mukashafat

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Kashf, unveiling, is a reality which refers to the miraculous knowledge of the awliya’.  Such knowledge is of a higher level than that of any other knowledge of humankind and jinn.  This includes, in certain cases, the knowledge of prophets such as Musa (a.s.) with Khidhr (a.s.), who is described in the Qur'an as:

…one of Our servants on whom We had Bestowed Mercy from Ourselves and whom We had Taught Knowledge from Our Own Presence. (Surah al-Kahf:65)

Such knowledge is also described as:

…knowledge of the Book… (Surah an-Naml:40)

This may take the form of mastery over time and space.  The Qur'an extols the rank of the awliya’ with the affirmation:

Behold!  Verily on the friends of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve; (Surah Yunus:62)

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, "The true vision is one-forty sixth part of prophecy."

The Imam of the Sunnah and of Taswawwuf, the Ghawts, Arch-Helper, of Mankind, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) was recorded in Futuh al-Ghayb to have said, "To awliya’ and abdal are disclosed such Workings of Allah as in the course of kashf and mushahadah as to overwhelm the reasoning power of man and shatter into pieces all habits and customs."

These phenomena fall under the category of khawariq, extraordinary matters, to which belong the karamah, the gifts or miracles of awliya’.  The belief in this is an obligation of each and every Muslim.  The Mu`tazila did not believe in the miracles of the awliya’ and some today even say that the awliya’ are unknown.

The swahabah of the Prophet (s.a.w.) were familiar with such disclosures, chief among them the two shuyukh of Islam, Abu Bakr (r.a.) and `Umar (r.a.).  The first announced to his wife that she was pregnant with a boy.  The second miraculously saw Sariya (r.a.) and his army in Persia while he was in Madina, and he cried out to Sariya (r.a.) and Sariya (r.a.) heard him.  And the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, "In the nations before you were people who were inspired other than the prophets.  If there is anyone such as this in my community, it is `Umar ibn al-Khaththab."

That kashf is an opening Granted by Allah (s.w.t.) that is completely independent of one's own exertion or capacity for learning.  This is clear from the saying of Abu Hurayrah (r.a.), "The Prophet (s.a.w.) poured into my breast two large vessels of knowledge."  He did not say, "taught me," which would suppose the activity of learning on his part, but "poured into me," which indicates a state of passive receptivity.

The reality of kashf is established in the shari`ah, as is stated in Imam ibn al-Haytsami's (r.a.) fatwa on the subject and Imam an-Nawawi's (r.a.) before him in Fatawa al-Haditsiyyah. ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) said in al-Furqan, "It is established that the awliya’ possess spiritual communications and unveilings."

Many sayings of the Prophet (s.a.w.) mention the various types and ranks of the saints, as Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.) has shown in his collection of them in his article, al-Khabar ad-Dalal `ala Wujud al-Quthb wa al-Awtad wa an-Nujaba' wa al-Abdal, The Reported Matter That Indicates the Existence of the Pole, the Pillars, the Leaders, and the Substitutes (of the Awliya’): "These and other types of perfected individuals form the khawasw or elite of the pious, whom the Qur'an also calls Swiddiqin and ranks after the prophets and before the martyrs.  Their position in relation to Allah on the Day of Judgment is described as an object of desire for the prophets in the hadits.”

The exalted status of the knowledge and power of the awliya’ is referred to in the verse:

And those who strive in Our (Cause) ― We will Certainly Guide them to Our Paths... (Surah al-'Ankabut:69)

and the verse:

…So fear Allah; for it is Allah that Teaches you... (Surah al-Baqarah:282)

The Shaykh al-Hakim, Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.) in Adab al-Muridin describes such striving as a kind of door which leads to Nearness to Allah (s.w.t.).  Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir (q.s.) refers to the knowledge and power that result from it in Futuh al-Ghayb, Discourse 16: “And fear Allah and He will Teach you, then He will Invest you with the power of controlling the universe with a Clear Permission which will have no obscurity in it... and He has Done this with many of His prophets and awliya’ and people especially favoured from among the children of Adam.”

The highest example of such favour is undoubtedly the meeting and true vision of the Prophet (s.a.w.), which is a reality documented through the relations of the trustworthy from the companions to the successors and their successors down to our day.  Some of these relations have been recorded in Imam as-Suyuthi's (r.a.) short treatise Tanwir al-Halak fi Imkan Ru'yat an-Nabi wa al-Malak, The Illumination of Intense Darkness through the Possibility of Seeing the Prophet and the Angels.

The exalted status of the firasat, vision, of awliya’ is referred to in the hadits, " Beware the vision of the believer, for he sees with the Light of Allah.”  Thus, it is related that the firasat of a pious shaykh was at the origin of ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani's (r.a.) decision to take up the study of fiqh rather than devote himself exclusively to hadits.  ibn Hajar (r.a.) said, “He (Muhib ad-Din al-Wahidi al-Maliki said to me, ‘Invest some of that energy of yours into fiqh, for I see by way of firasat that the scholars of this country are going to be depleted, and there will be need of you, so do not indulge yourself.’  And his word to me helped me greatly, and I still pray for him for that reason, may Allah have Mercy on him.’” This is recorded by Imam al-Biqa`i (r.a.) in `Unwan az-Zaman.

The possessor of such gifts and powers of vision is in no way exempted from the obligations of religion.  The Sharif of the Prophet's (s.a.w.) Family, the Swiddiq and Ghawth, Imam Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadzili al-Maliki (q.s.) warned, "If your kashf opposes the Book and the Sunnah, leave kashf and tell yourself: Allah has Guaranteed infallibility to the Book and the Sunnah, but He has not guaranteed it for kashf."  This is recorded by Shaykh at- Taftazani (r.a.) in Madkhalun ila at-Taswawwuf.

The Shaykh al-Akbar, the Renewer of Religion, Muhyi ad-Din ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.) said, “Someone in this ummah who claims to be able to guide others to Allah, but is remiss in but one rule of the shari’ah - even if he manifests miracles that stagger the mind - ...we do not even turn to look at him, for such a person is not a shaykh, nor is he speaking the truth, for no-one is entrusted with the secrets of Allah Most High save one in whom the ordinances of the shari’ah are preserved."  This is quoted by Imam an-Nabhani (r.a.) in Jami` Karamat al-Awliya’.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) says the same thing in Futuh al-Ghayb: "And their leader in this is the Sulthan of the Knowers of Allah, Bayazid al-Bistami who said, ‘If you see him fly in the air and walk on water do not be deluded by him, but see how he stands on the orders and the prohibitions.’” This was also quoted in Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah's (r.a.) Fatawi.

It is evident from the definition of the term kashf that it refers to a hidden knowledge of a tremendous nature, and that is what Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.) meant by saying, "The secrets of Allah Most High," as is confirmed by the continuation of the hadits of Abu Hurayrah (r.a.): "The Prophet (s.a.w.) poured into my breast two large vessels of knowledge: the first one I disseminated among the people; as for the second, were I to disseminate it, they would cut my neck."  Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) narrates it.

In conclusion, it is forbidden to deny the reality of kashf and its content is sound on condition that it not contradict the Qur'an and the Sunnah.  It is unfalsifiable and therefore neither obligatorily accepted nor obligatorily rejected, nor can it be obligatory for other than the person directly concerned, the one disclosed to.  He can communicate his disclosure and he may be believed, as many of the pious a’immah have done with their contemporaries who benefited from such disclosures.  Thus it is related by one of the a’immah of hadits whose word lies beyond suspicion, that "It is well-known that he (Imam an-Nawawi) used to meet with Khidhr (a.s.)" and converse with him among many other mukashafat.  Imam as-Sakhawi (r.a.) relates this is Tarjimah Shaykh al-Islam Quthb al-Awliya’ Abi Zakariyya an-Nawawi.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, "The mark of the believer is trust."  And Allah Knows best.


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