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The Qur'an & 'Ilmu 'l-Ghayb

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

According to the Qur'an, the only independent source of 'ilmu 'l-ghayb is Allah.

"And with Him are the keys of ghayb, no one knows it except Him ..." (6:59)

"Say, Those who are in the heavens and the earth do not know the ghayb except Allah."(27:65)

"And to Allah belings the ghayb of the heavens and the earth."(7:49; 18:26)

The import of these verses is that the knowledge of ghayb belongs to Allah, He knows the ghayb by Himself.

Can anyone else have access to ilmu 'l-ghayb?Almighty Allah, out of His infinite grace and wisdom, bestows the ilmu 'l-ghayb upon whomsoever He chooses. The Qur'an says:

"(My Lord) knows the ghayb and He does not expose His ghayb to anyone except to one with whom He is pleased from the messenger ... ." (72:26-27)

... And Allah is not about to inform you about the ghayb, but Allah chooses from His messengers whomsoever He pleases [for the ghayb]." (3: 179)

"He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they cannot comprehend anything of His knowledge except what He pleases." (2: 255)

The import of these verses is that Allah bestwos 'ilmu 'l-ghayb to some created beings.

When you put all the verses about the knowledge of the unseen together, you get the overall conclusion that (1) Allah is the only original and independent possesser of ilumu 'l-ghayb, and that (2) whosoever from the angels, prophets, messengers Imams and other virtuou persons that have ilmu 'l-ghayb is other totally dependent on Allah's discretion and power.1

After comenting on the last verses of surah 72, Allamah at-Tabataba'i reaches the following conclusion:

"the exclusive possession of the ilmu 'l-ghayb by Almighty Allah is in the sense of originality that we have explained, and os He, the Almighty, knows the ghayb by Himself while the others know the ghayb by Him informing them about it. And so it becomes clear that what has been mentioned in His words about others not having the ilmu 'l-ghayb actually means 'not having it by themselves and independently, it does not deny what others know [of the ghayb] through revelation ... ."2

1. for an excellent discussion on the Qur'anic verses on ilmu 'l-ghayb and their relevent ahadith, see Ahmad Mutahhari and Ghulam Raza Kardan, Ilm-e payambar wa Imam dar Qur'an, Qum: Dar Rah-e Haq, 1366 (solar) AH.

1. At-Tabataba'i, al-Mizan, vol.20, p.131-132.

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