An Explanation of a Passage from the Tafsīr of Imām Abū Mansūr al-Māturīdī


A poster commented on the following article:

https://barelwism.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/8th-century-maturidi-imam-imam-al-babarti-to-claim-knowledge-of-hour-for-any-of-creation-is-kufr/

Claiming that Imām Abū Mansūr al-Māturīdī held the view that the Prophet (‘alayhissalām) was given knowledge of the exact timing of the Hour. He quotes him from his tafsīr, Ta’wīlāt Ahl al-Sunnah, as follows:

“فلا یحتمل ابو بکر یعلم ذلک لما القی الیہ، و رسول اللہ ﷺ لا یعلم الساعۃ؟ فانہ لا یطلع علیہ احد”

“So it is not possible that Abu Bakr knows it when it’s (knowledge) is given to him and the Prophet (peace be upon him) doesn’t have the knowledge of the Hour.”

The first thing one who reads the entire passage will notice is the lack of congruence between the first part of this sentence and the second. The first part of the sentence is referring to the knowledge that was put in Abū Bakr’s (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) heart regarding the gender of a foetus. The second part apparently argues: how can it be that Abū Bakr had knowledge of this from what was put into his heart while the Prophet (‘alayhissalām) was unaware of the Hour? As one can see there is no connection between knowledge of the gender of a foetus and knowledge of the timing of the Hour. Hence, the two parts of the sentence do not fit. Moreover, immediately following this, the passage continues to say: “Because no one is aware of it.” This reasoning, again, does not fit with the sentence before it if it is claimed it is arguing the Prophet (‘alayhissalām) was given knowledge of the Hour.

In fact, this passage has been slightly distorted, resulting in the lack of congruence in the sentence. The above sentence is from the Dārul Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah edition. In the Mu’assasat al-Risālah edition, the sentence is presented correctly as follows (vol 4, p 80):

فلا يحتمل أن يكون أبو بكر يعلم ذلك ورسول الله لا يعلم، إلا الساعة فإنه لا يطلع عليها أحدا

http://ia601707.us.archive.org/23/items/abuyaala_tafsir_maturidi/tafsir_maturidi_04.pdf

To understand this sentence, it is necessary to read the entire section leading up to it. Imām al-Māturīdī is discussing verse 31:34 regarding the five things which Allāh has exclusive knowledge of. That is: the knowledge of the Hour, the sending of rain, what is contained in the wombs, a man’s future earnings and where he will die. In its commentary, al-Māturīdī writes:

وقوله تعالى: إن الله عنده علم الساعة وينزل الغيث ويعلم ما فى الأرحام، ذكر في بعض الأخبار عن ابن عمر أنه قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: مفاتيح الغيب خمس لا يعلمها إلا الله. وعد هذه الخمسة التي ذكرت في هذه الآية.

وكذلك روى أبو هريرة عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: خمس لا يعلمهن إلا الله. قوله: إن الله عنده علم الساعة، إلى آخر الآية.

فإن ثبت هذا فهو ما ذكر، ويرجع إلى معرفة حقيقة ما ذكر، وإلا فجائز أن يقال: إنه يعلم بعض هذه الأشياء بأعلام من نحو المطر متى يمطر أو ما فى الأرحام أنه ولد وأنه ذكر أو أنثى وإن لم يعلم ماهية ما فى الأرحام نحو ما يعلم المنجمة بذلك بالحساب وبأعلام يخرج ذلك على الصدق مما أخبروا ربما – ألا ترى أن إبراهيم صلوات الله عليه قال إني سقيم لما نظر فى النجوم أي: سأسقم وروي أن أبا بكر الصديق قال: إني ألقي إلي أن ذا بطن جارية وكان كما ذكر، فلا يحتمل أن يكون أبو بكر يعلم ذلك لما ألقي إليه ورسول الله لا يعلم

إلا الساعة فإنه لا يطلع عليها أحدا، إلا أن يقال: إن رسول الله لم يؤذن له بالتكلم والقول بشيء إلا من جهة الوحي من السماء

“His (Exalted is He) saying: ‘Verily, Allāh, with Him is knowledge of the Hour. And He sends down rain and He knows what is in the wombs…’ It is mentioned in some reports from Ibn ‘Umar that he said: The Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) said: The keys of the unseen are five, none but Allāh knows them, and he counted these five which are mentioned in this verse. Abū Hurayrah narrated likewise from the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) that he said: Five, none but Allāh knows them. His saying: Verily, Allāh with Him is knowledge of the Hour, till the end of the verse.

“If this is established it is what he mentioned. It refers to knowledge of the reality of what is mentioned. Otherwise, it is possible (i.e. correct) to say: He gives knowledge of some of these things via signs, from the like of rain, when it will rain, or what is in the wombs, that it is a child, and that it is a male or a female, although He does not give knowledge of the precise reality of what is in the wombs. [This is] like what He gives the astrologers knowledge of thereby through calculation and through signs that sometimes comes out according to the truth of what they foretold. Do you not see that Ibrāhim (blessings be upon him) said: ‘I am ill’ when he looked at the stars, i.e. I will be sick, and it is narrated from Abū Bakr al-Siddīq he said: ‘Verily, it was delivered to me (through ilhām) that this womb is of a girl,’ and it was as he mentioned? Thus, it is not conceivable that Abū Bakr knows such due to what was delivered to him and the Messenger of Allāh does not know. [This is with] the exception of the Hour, because He does not disclose it to anyone. But it will be said that the Messenger of Allāh was not given permission to speak or discuss anything except through the route of revelation from the sky.”

In short, Imām al-Māturīdī is asserting that knowledge of some aspects of the five things mentioned in the verse can be given to some of Allāh’s creation through signs or other means. An example of this is what was given to Abū Bakr (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) through ilhām about the gender of a foetus. Then al-Māturīdī says that the Prophet (‘alayhissalām) must have received such knowledge through ilhām also but he would not discuss the knowledge that he received from these five things unless it came to him through wahy (a definite means) and not merely ilhām. And in this discussion, al-Māturīdī explains that the knowledge of the Hour is an exception to this general rule that Allāh may disclose certain aspects of the five things, “because He does not disclose it to anyone.” Hence, the “exception” mentioned refers to his earlier statement: “it is possible (i.e. correct) to say: He gives knowledge of some of these things via signs” – i.e. that this is with the exception of knowledge of the Hour.

Hence, this sentence, in fact, shows Imām al-Māturīdī, as with all of the major early scholars of tafsīr and other fields, held that the knowledge of the Hour is kept hidden from all creation until the moment before the commencement of the Hour. This is supported by his statements elsewhere in the book where he says this explicitly. He for example said in the explanation of 7:187:

وأما الساعة فإنها تقوم من غير أن يكون لأحد من الخلائق تدبير فيها أو علم

“As for the Hour, it will commence without there being any influence or knowledge from any of creation.”

And he said:

ثم قال: قل: ما لي بها من علم، إنما علمها عند الله

“Then He said: Say: I (i.e. the Prophet) have no knowledge of it (i.e. the Hour). Its knowledge lies only with Allāh.”

Note:

In the same discussion on the knowledge of the five, al-Māturīdī says:

ويعلم ما فى الأرحام: من انتقال النطفة إلى العلقة وانتقال العلقة إلى المضغة وتحول ما فى الأرحام من حال إلى حال أخرى وقدر زيادة ما فيه في كل وقت وفي كل ساعة ونحو ذلك لا يعلمه إلا الله، وأما العلم بأن فيه ولدا وأنه ذكر أو أنثى فجائز أن يعلم ذلك غيره أيضا

“He knows what is in the wombs, in terms of shifting from a small drop to a blood clot and shifting from a blood clot to a lump of flesh and the transformation of what is in the wombs from one state to another state and the amount to which what is in it increases at every moment and in every period. The like of that is known to none but Allāh. As for the knowledge that there is a child in it and that it is a boy or a girl, it is possible that He gives knowledge of that to other than Him also.”

In other words, complete and total knowledge of these five things rests with Allāh alone. Allāh alone has knowledge of the full details of what is in the womb, and knowledge of full details of when and where it will rain, in what quantity and so on, and knowledge of full details of where, how and when all people will die, and so on. Knowledge of particular details of these things can be acquired by others, but only Allāh has knowledge of the complete details of each of them.

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