Slandering Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh), the Barelvis claim that Hadhrat Thanvi had likened the knowledge of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to the knowledge of beasts and insane persons. They brazenly assert that Hadhrat Thanvi stated this in his treatise, Hifzul Imaan.
Refuting this slanderous accusation levelled against him, Hadhrat Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh) says in his booklet, Bastul Bunaan:
“I have never ever written this evil statement in any kitaab—this statement which is attributed to me in Hussamul Haramain, Tamheed, etc., that I have claimed that just as Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has knowledge of the things of the ghaib, so too, in the same way do every child, every insane person and every animal and beast have the same knowledge of the ghaib. Never did such a thought ever cross my heart. I believe a person who holds such a belief or who makes such a statement explicitly or implies such a belief even though he does not believe it, to be outside the pale of Islam because he is rejecting the Nusoos-e-Qat’iyyah, and he is belittling Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).”
The context in which Hadhrat Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh) made his statement was a discussion on Ilmul Ghaib which the Barelvis claim for Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
Ghaib in terms of Islam refers to such knowledge which is not acquired from an external source nor can any proof be cited for it. For its comprehension there exists no method of acquisition. Such zaati (inherent) knowledge is exclusive with Allah Ta’ala. He does not acquire knowledge. Knowledge of every atom in creation is His Eternal Attribute. This is the Shar’i meaning of Knowledge of the Ghaib. No being other than Allah Ta’ala possesses such Knowledge.
Acquired knowledge or knowledge bestowed to a person by Allah Ta’ala is not the zaati knowledge conveyed by the concept of Ghaib. Whatever knowledge Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) possesses of the unseen realms has been bestowed to him by Allah Ta’ala. This is an irrefutable fact which only ignoramuses will deny. Thus, the knowledge which Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) possessed was not the Knowledge of Ghaib, which is exclusive with Allah Azza Wa Jal, but was knowledge gifted to him by Allah Ta’ala.
It is an undeniable fact of Islamic belief that the Knowledge of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is the most superior in all creation. He had the greatest knowledge and the highest degree of knowledge. Notwithstanding the excellence and abundance of Rasulullah’s knowledge, the fact remains that it was knowledge awarded to him by Allah Azza Wa Jal. Such bestowed knowledge is not termed Ilmul Ghaib. Regarding Ilmul Ghaib, the Qur’aan is emphatic that it belongs exclusively to Allah Ta’ala. Thus the Qur’aan Majeed says:
“Say (O Muhammad!): None in the heavens and the earth knows the Ghaib, but Allah.” (Surah Naml)
“Thus, say: Verily, the Ghaib belongs only to Allah.” (Surah Yunus)
“(HE—Allah is) Aalimul Ghaib wash-Shahaadah (The Knower of the Ghaib and the Shahaadah (what can be seen).”
“…And, by Him are the keys of the Ghaib. None, but He knows it” (Surah An’aam)
Besides these Qur’aanic verses, there are other aayaat as well as ahaadith which conclusively and explicitly proclaim that the Knowledge of the Ghaib is only with Allah Ta’ala. Only He is Aalimul Ghaib.
As far as Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is concerned, he is ordered in the Qur’aan to say:
“I do not know what will be done with me nor with you. I merely follow that which is being revealed to me…” (Surah Ahqaaf) “
If I had known the Ghaib, I would have derived goodness in abundance and no harm would have befallen me.” (Surah A ‘raaf)
Numerous episodes in the ahaadith prove beyond doubt that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was not Aalimul Ghaib. He awaited direction and knowledge to come to him via the agency of Wahi. The Jews once posed three questions to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) regarding Khidhr, Zul Qarnain and the soul. Since Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wasallam) was not aware of the answers, he told them to come tomorrow when Jibraeel (alayhis salaam) would arrive with the answers. This is but just one example of the many which prove conclusively that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was not Aalimul Ghaib. He relied solely on the bestowal of knowledge by Allah Ta’ala.
Nothing is unseen and hidden from Allah Ta’ala. Thus, ghaib meaning ‘unseen’ and ‘hidden’ does not apply to Allah Ta’ala. In this meaning it is related to created beings. Knowledge of unseen and hidden things such as Jannat, Jahannum, Barzakh, the Malaaikah, etc., is bestowed to man by Allah Ta’ala, directly to the Ambiya by the agency of Wahi and to other people via the agency of the Ambiya.
Knowledge of unseen and hidden things is acquired by man in different ways. By means of information given by the Ambiya, by kashf and ilhaam (inspiration) of the Auliya, by jinn overhearing discussions of the Angels and by the creation of natural propensities in men and animals by Allah Ta’ala. A fortune-teller acquires some truth via the agency of the shayaateen and he passes this on in diluted and debased form to others by mingling numerous lies with one truth he had acquired from the jinn of the unseen things.
A duck possesses the natural ability and knowledge of swimming. The bird, Hud-Hud had gained knowledge of Queen Bilquis about whom Nabi Sulaiman (alayhis salaam) had no knowledge. In short, Allah Ta’ala has bestowed knowledge in varying degrees to all creatures—to man and animals. Thus, every created being has some degree of bestowed knowledge. Even though the knowledge of the Ambiya is of the highest category, it still remains knowledge bestowed to them by Allah Ta’ala. It is acquired knowledge. It is this bestowed knowledge which Hadhrat Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh) and all Ulama of Islam deny being Ilmul Ghaib since it is not the uncreated, eternal attribute of any created being. Bestowed knowledge is thus common to all creation. Human beings, jinn, animals, etc. all have some degree of knowledge which they acquired from Allah Ta’ala in different ways.
The Ambiya too possess this bestowed knowledge although in the highest degree in relation to other created beings. If, therefore, we have to say that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is Aalimul Ghaib on account of his bestowed knowledge, then other human beings, jinn and animals too could be termed ‘aalimul ghaib’, albeit in lesser degree since they too have been bestowed with some knowledge by Allah Ta’ala in different ways. This is exactly the argument of Hadhrat Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh). The actual argument of Hadhrat Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh) as it appears in Hifzul Imaan is as follows:
“If according to Zaid, it is correct to assert Ilmul Ghaib for the Holy Personage (of Rasulullah—sallallahu alayhi wasallam), then it is asked: By this Ilmul Ghaib is some ghaib or total ghaib intended? (Total ghaib is the knowledge of every atom in the universe such as the Knowledge of Allah Ta’ala). If some knowledge of ghaib is meant, then what is the speciality which is for Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)? (In the event of only some ilmul ghaib being known to Rasulullah— sallallahu alayhi wasallam—it will not be any distinguishing feature because such ilmul ghaib as Zaid is contending for Rasulullah—sallallahu alayhi wasallam– is common to Zaid and Amr, in fact to every child, insane person and all animals since every person knows something which another person is unaware of. Thus, according to this (interpretation of Zaid) everyone should be called aalimul ghaib.”
Every sensible and unbiased person will understand that in this statement a comparison with Rasulullah’s knowledge is not made, nor intended nor implied. The argument is simply in refutation of the claim of Zaid that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is Aalimul Ghaib.
It is quite manifest that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) cannot be Aalimul Ghaib in the same way as Allah Ta’ala because such a belief violently militates against the Nusoos of the Shariah while at the same time it is illogic and irrational since Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is not an eternal being. He is a creation of Allah Ta’ala. When everyone is constrained to accept that total and all-encompassing Ilmul Ghaib cannot be attributed to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), then it will mean that those who believe him to be Aalimul Ghaib, must necessarily believe that his Ilmul Ghaib is partial or that he has knowledge of some ghaib regardless of how abundant that “some” is. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has been given the Knowledge of the Awwaleen and Aakhireen (of earlier and later times). But, no matter how vast such knowledge is, it will be limited and finite and it was bestowed to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) by Allah Ta’ala.
Knowledge which has been bestowed is common to all creatures although there are great variations in the degrees of the knowledge bestowed to different people and different creatures. But, the irrefutable and obvious fact remains that everyone possesses some share of bestowed knowledge which according to Zaid is Ilmul Ghaib. If this has to be accepted, the logical conclusion will be that everyone and every creature is aalimul ghaib to some extent because all share in bestowed knowledge. Thus on the basis of Zaid’s claim and conception of Ilmul Ghaib, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is not being awarded any distinguishing characteristic by calling him Aalimul Ghaib. In fact, Zaid’s conception of ilmul ghaib extends to all creatures.
This is the fallacy which Hadhrat Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh) points out in his statement. It should now be quite clear that the words “such ilm of ghaib” refers to the type of knowledge which Zaid (i.e. the Barelvi claimant of ilmul Ghaib) has claimed for Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Hence, there is absolutely no comparison between the vast knowledge which Allah Ta’ala bestowed to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the knowledge which He had bestowed to others in varying degrees.