The Majestic Qur'an
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Allah, Alone, knows the future

"Verily, Allah knows the hidden things of the heavens and earth and Allah sees whatever you do." {qluetip title=[1]}The verb ta'lamun (you [pl.] do) was read as ya'lamun (they do) by the classical reciter, Ibn Kathir, However, the variation in meaning between the two recitations makes no real difference to the overall meaning of the verse.{/qluetip}

The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is instructed in this verse to inform Banu Asad and all who would consider their acceptance of Islam a favour to others that the true motives and factors behind their actions and statements can not be hidden from Allah, so they should be honest and humble. The verse also contains a general reminder to the wise; nothing escapes Allah's knowledge, therefore, the wise are those who are conscious of His presence at all times and act accordingly. They carefully perform all of their obligatory (fardh) duties, then they piously try to make up for the inevitable deficiencies by doing a host of voluntary acts of worship. These voluntary acts protect the obligatory duties from decay, for if someone who regularly does voluntary worship gets a bit lazy, he might neglect to do some of the voluntary acts but his obligatory acts of worship will remain intact. Whereas, if he did not have a protective shield of voluntary acts around his obligatory duties and he fell into a period of laziness, perhaps his obligatory duties might suffer. The more someone strengthens his fardh by performing extra voluntary acts known as sunnah and nawafil, the more his life comes in conformity with the shari'ah, the will of Almighty Allah.

Allah conveyed this principle through the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) saying:

"The most beloved thing with which my slave may come close to me is what I have made fardh (obligatory) on him. My servant will continue to come close to me by doing voluntary acts of worship until I love him. When I love him, I will become his ears by which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand by which he grasps, and his foot by which he walks. If he asks Me anything I would give it and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will protect him."
Reported by Abu Hurayrah and collected by Al-Bukhari in Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol. 8, pp. 336-7, no. 509

This close friend, wali, of Allah only hears, sees, grasps and walks toward what is halal (permissible) and cautiously avoids the haram (forbidden) as well as that which leads to it or resembles it. This is the only true goal worthy of dedicating one's life. Its attainment is the perfection of the role of Khalifah, governor of the world, to whom Allah commanded the angels to bow. But it cannot be reached except by the route prescribed in Allah's statement mentioned above. First the fardh obligations have to be completely established, then the prescribed voluntary acts of worship have to be performed consistently and according to the correct manner. Allah emphasized this method by telling His Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) to inform the Believer:

"Say, if you all love Allah, follow me (Muhammad) and Allah will love you."
Al-Qur'an 3:31

Therefore, Allah's love can only be attained by strictly following the directives of His Apostle and avoiding all innovations in religious matters. This formula is contained in a previously quoted hadith in which the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was reported by Abu Najih to have said:

"Keep to my sunnah and that of rightly guided Caliphs and bite on to it with your molars. But beware of innovations, for verily, they are all bid'ah (heresy), which themselves are all misguidance leading to the Hellfire." [Collected by Abu Dawud (Sunan Abu Dawud (English Trans.), vol. 3, p. 1294, no. 4590) and At-Tirmidhi, and authenticated by Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud, vol. 3, p. 871, no. 3851]

The Ghayb (Unseen)

This final verse of the Surah begins with the phrase:

"Verily, Allah Knows the Hidden things (ya'lamu ghayb) of the heavens and earth."

This phrase contains in it one of Allah's attributes which is 'Alim al-Ghayb, Knower of the Unseen. The Ghayb, includes information about the distant past, present and future as well as the unseen worlds of the Jinn, the Angels, Heaven and Hell etc. That the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) did not know the Ghayb, with the exception of a few things that Allah revealed to him, is clear from the Qur'an itself where for example, Allah tells the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam):

"Say, 'I am not saying to you that I have Allah's treasures or that I know the unseen (a'lam al-ghayb),'"
Al-Qur'an 6:50
"Say, 'I have no power to bring good to myself nor avert harm, but it is only as Allah wills. If it were that I knew the unseen (a'lam al-ghayb), I would have multiplied the good and no evil would have touched me.'"
Al-Qur'an 7:188

Allah also said:

"No one in the heavens or earth knows the unseen (ya'lam al-ghayb) except Allah."
Al-Qur'an 27:65

Since the unseen (ghayb) includes the future as well as the unrecorded past, fortune telling, in all its forms, is forbidden in Islam whether it be palm reading, tea leaf reading, crystal ball gazing, horoscopes, biorythms, etc. The fortune teller is considered a Kafir (disbeliever) because his claim to knowledge of the future assigns to himself one of Allah's attributes.

The practitioners of the arts of revealing the unseen and predicting the future may be divided into two main categories:

  1. Those who have no real knowledge or secrets but depend on generalities; things which happen to most people. They often go through a series of meaningless rituals, before making their guesses. Due to their generality, many of their predictions may come true. However, most people tend to remember those predictions that come true and quickly forget those that do not because all the predictions become half-forgotten thoughts until something happens which triggers their recall. It has become common practice in North America to publish at the beginning of each year, the various predictions of famous fortune tellers. When a survey was taken of the various predictions for the year 1980, it was found that the most accurate of the prominent fortune tellers was only 24% accurate in her predictions.
  2. The second group are those who have made contact with the Jinn. This group is very important because they often tend to be highly precise and accurate in their information and thus present a real fitnah (temptation) to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Some modern Muslims have attempted to deny the reality of the Jinn, about whom an entire chapter has been devoted to in the Qur'an, Surah Al-Jinn. Some rely on the literal meaning of the word Jinn which comes from the verb janna, yajunnu: "to cover, hide or conceal." They claim that the word Jinn really refers to "clever foreigners." Others have given metaphorical interpretations. For example, Wallace D. Muhammad said, "A Jinn is a person who does not have a true mind in his head but he has a fiery nature."{qluetip title=[2]}Lectures of Emam Muhammad, p. 148{/qluetip} But the reality is that the Jinn represents another creation of Allah which co-exists with man on the Earth. Allah created the Jinn before He created mankind and He also used a different set of elements thank those used to create man. Allah said:

"Verily, We created man from dried clay taken from black putrid mud. And we created Jinn before that from a fiery wind."
Al-Qur'an 15:26-27

They were named Jinn because they are hidden from the eyes of mankind. Iblis (Satan) is from the world of the Jinn, even though he was among the Angels when the command to prostrate to Adam was given. When he refused to prostrate and was asked why, he replied:

"I am better than him. You (Allah) created me from fire and you created him from clay!"
Al-Qur'an 38:76

'A'ishah reported that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:

"Angels were created from light and the Jinn from smokeless fire."
Collected by Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol. 4, p. 1540, no. 7134)

Allah also said:

"And when we told the Angels to prostrate to Adam, they all prostrated except Iblis. He was of the Jinn."
Al-Qur'an 18:50

Therefore, it is incorrect to consider him a fallen Angel or a man.

The Jinn may first be divided into three broad categories in relationship to their modes of existence. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:

"There are three types of Jinn; one type which flies in the air all the time, another type which exists as snakes and dogs and an earth-bound type which resides in one place or wanders about."
Collected by At-Tabarani, Al-Hakim and Al-Bayhaqi in Al-Asma and authenticated by Al-Albani in Sahih al-Jami as-Saghir, vol. 1, p. 597, no. 3114

The Jinn may be further divided into two categories in relationship to their faith; Muslims (believers) and Kuffar (disbelievers). Allah refers to the believing Jinn in Surah Al-Jinn as follows:

"Say: It has been revealed to me that a group of Jinn listened and said, 'Verily, we have heard a marvellous Qur'an. It guides unto righteousness so we have believed in it. And, we will never make partners with our Lord. He, may our Lord's glory be exalted, has not taken a wife nor a son. What the foolish ones among us used to say about Allah is a horrible lie."
Al-Qur'an 72:1-4
"And there are among us Muslims and others who are unjust! Whoever accepts Islam has sought out the right path. As for those who are unjust, they will be fuel for the Hellfire."
Al-Qur'an 72:14-15

The disbelievers among the Jinn are referred to by various names in Arabic 'Ifrit, Shayatin, Qarin etc. In Christian traditions they are mistakenly considered to be evil human souls or fallen angels and are referred to as demons, devils' spirits, ghosts etc. They try to misguide man in various ways. Whoever listens to them and becomes a worker for them is referred to as a human devil.

Allah said:

"Likewise, We have made for every Prophet an enemy, Shayatin (devils) from among mankind and the Jinn."
Al-Qur'an 6:112

Every human has an individual Jinn accompanying him referred to as a Qarin (companion). This is part of man's test in this life. The Jinn encourage man's lower desires and constantly try to divert them from righteousness. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) referred to this relationship as follows: "Everyone of you has been assigned a companion from the Jinn." The Sahabah asked, "Even you, O Messenger of Allah?" And the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) replied, "Even me, except that Allah has helped me against him and he has submitted. Now he only tells me to do good." {qluetip title=[3]Collected by Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol. 4, p. 1472, no. 6759){/qluetip}

Prophet Sulayman (Solomon) was given control over the Jinn as a sign of his prophethood. Allah said:

"And, we gathered for Sulayman his army from the Jinn, mankind and the birds."
Al-Qur'an 27:17

But this power was not given to anyone else. No one else is allowed to control the Jinn and no one can. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:

"Verily, an 'Ifrit from among the Jinn spat on me last night trying to break my salah. However, Allah let me overpower him and I wanted to tie him to one of the columns in the masjid so that you all could see him in the morning. Then, I remembered my brother, Sulayman's prayer: 'O my Lord, forgive me and bestow on me a kingdom not allowed to anyone after me.'" [Collected by Al-Bukhari (Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol. 1, p. 268, no. 75) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol. 1, p. 273, no. 1104). The ayah is 38:35]

Man is forbidden to seek control over the Jinn and the Jinn are forbidden to seek control over man. In fact, man cannot gain over the Jinn as this power was only given to Prophet Sulayman, but man can enter into contract with them. The stage for contact can only be set by the performance of sacrilegious acts.{qluetip title=[4]}In the case of Christians, Jews and polytheists these acts take different forms{/qluetip} Once contact is made, the Jinn inform the medium of certain events in the future and the medium agrees to continue his or her sacrilege and misguidance of others. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) described how the Jinn gather information about the future. He related that the Jinn were able to travel to the lower reaches of the heaven and listen in on some of the information about the future which the Angels pass among themselves. They would then return to the Earth and feed the information to their human contacts.{qluetip title=[5]}Collected by Al-Bukhari (Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol. 9, p. 488, no. 650) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol. 4, p. 1210, no. 5538){/qluetip} This used to happen a lot prior to the prophethood of Muhammad (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), and fortune tellers were very accurate in their information. They were able to gain positions in the royal courts of the major empires and they enjoyed much popularity and even worship in some areas.

After the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) began his mission, the situation changed. Allah had the Angels guard the lower reaches of the heavens carefully and the Jinn were chased away with meteors and shooting stars. Allah described this phenomena in the Qur'an through a statement made by one of the Jinn:

"We (the Jinn) sought out the heavens but found it filled with strong guardians and meteors. We used to sit on high places in order to listen but whoever listens now finds a flame waiting for him."
Al-Qur'an 72:8-9

And Allah also said:

"We have guarded it (the heavens) from every cursed Shaytan, except the one who is able to snatch a hearing and he is pursued by a brightly burning flame."
Al-Qur'an 15:17-18

Ibn 'Abbas said:

"When the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and a group of his companions set out for the 'Ukadh market, the devils were prevented from hearing information in the heavens. Meteors were let loose on them, so they returned to their people. When their people asked what happened, they told them. Some suggested that something must have occurred so they spread out over the Earth seeking the cause. Some of them came across the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his companions while they were in salah and they heard the Qur'an. They said to themselves that this must have been what prevented them from listening. When they returned to their people they told them, 'Verily, we have heard a marvellous Qur'an. It guides unto righteousness so we believed in it. And, we will never make partners with our Lord.'"
Collected by Al-Bukhari (Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol. 6, p. 415), Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol. 1, pp. 243-244, no. 902), At-Tirmidhi and Ahmad. The ayah is 72:1-2

Thus, the Jinn could no longer gather information about the future as they could before the Prophet's mission. Because of that, they now mix their information with many lies. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:

"They (the Jinn) would pass the information back down until it reaches the lips of a magician or fortune teller. Sometimes a meteor would ovetake them before they could pass it on. If they passed it on before being struck, they would add to it a hundred lies."
Collected by Al-Bukhari (Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol. 8, p. 150, no. 232) and At-Tirmidhi

'A'ishah reported that when she asked Allah's Messenger about fortune tellers, he replied that they were nothing. She then mentioned that the fortune tellers sometimes told them things which were true. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "That is a bit of truth which the Jinn steals and cackles in the ear of his friend, but he mixes along with it a hundred lies." [Collected by Al-Bukhari (Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol. 7, p. 439, no. 657) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol. 4, pp. 1209-1210, no. 5536)]

The Jinn are also able to inform their human contact of the relative future. For example, when someone comes to a fortune teller, the fortune teller's Jinn gets information from the man's Qarin of what plans he had prior to his coming and so the fortune teller is able to tell him that he will do this or that or go here or there. By this method, the fortune teller is also able to learn about a stranger's past in vivid detail. He is then able to tell a total stranger about his parents names, his birth place, childhood incidents, etc. The ability to vividly describe the past is one of the marks of a true fortune teller who has made contact with the Jinn. Because the Jinn are able to traverse huge distances instantaneously, they are also able to gather huge stores of information about hidden things, lost articles, unobserved events etc.

Proof of this ability lies in the Qur'an, in the story about Prophet Sulayman and Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba. When Queen Bilqis came to see him, Sulayman asked the Jinn to bring her throne from her land.

"An 'Ifrit from the Jinn said, I will bring it for you before you can get up from your place. Verily, I am strong and trustworthy for the assignment. One who had knowledge of the Book said, 'I will bring it within the twinkling of an eye!'"
Al-Qur'an 27:39-40

Because of the sacrilege and heresy involved in fortune telling, Islam has taken a very strong stance towards it. Islam has opposed any form of association with those who practice fortune telling, except advising them to give up their forbidden practices.

The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) forbade the visitation of those who claim to know the future, even out of curiosity, by saying, "The salah of anyone who approaches a fortune teller and asks him about anything (pertaining to the unseen) will not be accepted for forty days and nights."{qluetip title=[6]}Reported by Hafsah and collected by Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol. 4, p. 1211, no. 5540){/qluetip} The obligatory salah of such an individual simply removes the obligation of Salah from him so he does not have to do them over again after the forty day period ends, but he gets no reward for his fardh prayers during that period. However, he must continue to make his prayers during the period, otherwise he will have fallen into another major sin; that of discarding salah.

The reason for such a severe penalty for the mere visitation of fortune tellers out of curiosity is based on the fact that if one is in doubt about the truth or falsehood of the fortune teller's information, he is in fact in doubt about whether or not others know the future besides Allah, when Allah, Himself, Said:

"No one knows what he will earn tomorrow nor in which land he will die but Allah is all knowing, aware."
Al-Qur'an 31:34

Also, visitation out of curiosity is the first step to disbelief, for all it takes is for one or two of the predictions to come true or seem to come true, and curiosity becomes confirmed belief.

As for one who believes in the ability of others to accurately predict the future, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) has declared them as having left Islam and gone into kufr. Abu Hurayrah and Al-Hasan ibn 'Ali both reported that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "Whoever approaches a fortune teller or an oracle and believes what he says has disbelieved in what was revealed to Muhammad." {qluetip title=[7]}Collected by Abu Dawud (Sunan Abu Dawud (English Trans.), vol. 3, p. 1095, no. 3895), Ahmad and Al-Bayhaqi, and authenticated by Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud, vol. 2, p. 739, no. 3304{/qluetip}

Belief in a fortune teller's predictions gives Allah's attributes to creation which is shirk (associating partners with Allah) as well as kufr (disbelief) because it also involves denying Allaah's unique ability to know the future with certainty. It should be noted that these rulings on visiting a fortune teller out of curiosity and out of belief also include, by analogy, reading of horoscope charts in books, magazines, papers computer programs{qluetip title=[8]}The biorythms computer programs are good examples of 20th century fortune telling{/qluetip}, as these are the main methods used by fortune tellers of the twentieth century to spread their predictions.

Therefore, all the various methods used by oracles, fortune tellers and the like are forbidden to Muslims. Palm reading, I-Ching, fortune cookies, tea leaves, as well as astrology, all claim to inform those who believe in them about the future. However, Allah has stated in no uncertain terms that He Alone knows the future:

"Verily, the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah Alone. It is He sends down the rain and knows the contents of the wombs. No one knows what he will earn tomorrow, nor in which land he will die, but Allah is All-Knowing and Aware."
Al-Qur'an 31:34

Muslims must, therefore, take utmost care in dealing with books, magazines, newspapers as well as individuals who in one way or another claim knowledge of the future or the unseen. Even when a Muslim weatherman, for example, predicts rain, snow or other climatic conditions for tomorrow, he should add "insha'Allah" (if Allah so wills). Likewise, when a Muslim doctor informs a patient that she will deliver a child in nine months or on such and such date, he should take care to add the phrase, "insha'Allah".

The Surah is closed with the phrase "And Allah sees whatever you do," reminding the reader or listener that God's knowledge is complete. Whatever man does with the information he has received in the chapter, in the other chapters of the Qur'an or elsewhere, is observed by Allah and he (man) will have to answer for every wrong choice he has made.

The closing phrase is a call to taqwa, God-consciousness; the key to success in this life and the next.

From Tafseer Soorah Al-Hujurat: A Commentary on The 49th Chapter of The Qur'aan, published by Tawheed Publications, 1988CE/1409H.

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Be Mindful O Mankind!

No man can have anything better after faith (iman) than a woman of righteous character, loving and child-bearing. And no man can have anything worse after unbelief (kufr) than a sharp-tongued woman of bad character.
- 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab (d. 23H), Commander of the Faithful, may Allah be pleased with him