Rafed English

Ilmu 'l-Ghayb & Personal Life

Adopted from the Book : "Shi'ism; Imamate and Wilayat" by : "Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi"

So why did not the Prophet or the Imams use the ilmu 'l-ghayb to avert tragedies in their personal lives? This is a very commonly asked question in regard to the ilmu 'l-ghayb. I always use an ecample I had seen in my childhood in East Africa. I remember seeing vehicles assigned to government officials with the sign "For Official Use Only" clearly visible on them. The ilmu 'l-ghayb given to the prophet and Imams is just like that: "For Official Use Only," it is not for use in their personal lives.

Recently, in response to a question from a Philippinese Shi'a, my father wrote: "Allah (s. w. t. ) had given fore-knowledge of many future events to the Prophet and the Imams. But at the same time they were strictly ordered not to use that knowledge in their dealings with the people. In other words, they were to deal with the people as if they did not know what was going to happen to in the future. The had to live with the peole on the level of the common people. They were not to use their super-natural knowledge or power for their own benefit or for averting any harm from themselves. (In fact, it was a very tough test for them to know that a certain man or woman would harm them or their children and then behave with him/her in the normal way.) That is why 'Ali (as) did not punish or imprison Ibn Muljim, although he knew that the latter would assassinate him."1

Shaykh Muhammad Ridha al-Ja'fari explains, "The Prophet and the Imams, it should be well observed, share with the rest fo himamnity the means for obtaining knowledge which Allah has given: the senses, the intellect, etc. They also possess a special power or means which other people do not have.

"In the carrying out of the commands of Allah's shari'ah in which all have a responsibility, and likewise in ordinary behaviour, the Prophets and the Imams only make use of the first way of knowing, the commonly available means: the second means is only made use of by them in duties and works which are connected with their positions of prophethood and Imamate. Thus in matters like knowing the beginning of the month, passing judgement, finding out if something is unclean or pure, etc, they make use of the means, such as the sighting of the moon, and so forth, which everyone else employs.

"Also the knowledge that Prophets or Imams have concerning, for example, the time of their death, cannot be the basis for actions for them. What they volitionally do must be determined by the means available to everyone. Such knowledge thus has a spiritual aspect to it related to the Encounter with Allah, and the reason for it must be sought on this level, but it is not for the purpose of influencing and controlling events on the level of ordinary understading."2

The same applies to the universal wilayat: the Prophet or the Imams do not use it for their personal intrest, it is only used for proving the truth of the faith.
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1. In the forthcoming Your Questions Answered, vol.8.

2. See the explanaroty note of Shaykh Muhammad Ridha al-Ja'fari in al-Kulayni, al-Kafi (Arabic with English translation), vol.1, part Two, Book 4 (iii) p.259. Sayyid Muhammad Ridha al-Jalali has extensively death with this question and its responses by the Imams (as) themselves and the Shi'a ulama" of the last ten centuries. See "Ilmu l-Aimma by 'l-Ghayb wa l-ltiradh alayhi bi l-Ilqai ila t-tuhlika wa l-ijabat anhu ibaru t-tarikh," Turathuna, no.37 (Shawwal, 1414) p.7-107

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