Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s Extremism on the Knowledge of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam)

 Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī writes:

A translation is as follows:

“It is without a doubt that the Almighty has given His Noble Beloved (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) the complete knowledge of earlier and later ones. From the east to the west, from the Throne till the earth, everything was shown to him. He was made witness to the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth. From the very first day till the last day all of the knowledge of what was and what shall be (mā kāna wa mā yakūn) has been told to him. From all of the above, not even an iota is outside the knowledge of the Prophet. The great knowledge of the Noble Beloved (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) encompasses all of these. It is not just of a summary type but what is small and big, every leaf that falls and every grain in the darkness of the earth are in their entirety known to him individually and in detail. Much praise to Allāh. In fact, that which has been discussed is not, never, the complete knowledge of the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace and send peace on his family and companions, all of them); but this is a small part of the Prophet’s knowledge …” (Inbā’ al-Muṣṭafā; in: Fatāwā Riḍawiyyah, Riḍā Foundation, 29:487)

This is an example of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī’s extremism in describing the knowledge of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).

The books of the Ḥanafī school are clear that such a belief is blasphemous. It states in al-Fatāwā al-Bazzāziyyah: “A [man] weds [a woman] without witnesses, saying: ‘I make the Messenger of Allāh and Angels witness’, he has become a Kāfir, because he believes that the Messenger and Angel know the Ghayb, as distinguished from his saying: ‘I make the angel on the left shoulder and the angel on the right shoulder witness’, he would not become Kāfir, because they are aware [of that].” (al-Fatāwā al-Bazzāziyyah, 6:325) In al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī (Idārat al-Qur’ān, 7:407), the same mas’alah is found ending with: “because they are aware of that as they are not absent from him.”

Moreover, according to a mutawātir ḥadīth that is clear in its meaning, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) foretold that on Judgement Day there will be people driven away from him that he will call and he will be told by Allāh/Angels that he has no knowledge of what they did. See here. This is categorical in showing the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) did not have complete and detailed knowledge of all creation in the manner that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī describes.

Furthermore, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) sought protection from knowledge that is of no benefit, as found in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim. That the Prophet made this supplication is reported by several ṣaḥābah including ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Amr, Abū Hurayrah, Anas ibn Mālik and Zayd ibn Arqam with authentic chains – making it close to a categorically established ḥadīth. Knowledge of no benefit would of course include useless knowledge of the world, let alone knowledge of dirty and filthy things which is unbefitting the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). Hence, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) also said: “You are more aware of the matters of your world.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)


3 Responses to Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s Extremism on the Knowledge of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam)

  1. […] “The Prophet is all-knowing, and thus knows the entire cosmos (from the start of creation till the final hour and beyond) in full detail, not even an atom escaping his all-encompassing knowledge. He is all-powerful, and thus has full control over everything in creation including sending people to heaven and hell. He is all-hearing and all-seeing, and thus hears and sees everything in creation. He can be physically present in many places at one time. Thus to call out to him for assistance, at times of distress or at other times, is completely justified (and encouraged), given he hears and knows the petitioner’s plea and has full powers to respond and carry out his request. (Major Barelwi scholars also hold that) He is not physically a man, but only appeared as a man (like the angel Jibril appeared to Maryam); his physical reality is a special light; he is thus, an utterly different form of creation to all that exists. We can name and regard our selves as his slaves (‘abd, ‘ibad).” […]

  2. Imran Khan says:

    It appears that this belief in the expansive knowledge of the prophet alayhis salam is not a solitary opinion of Ahmed Rida but an opinion that is subscribed by some of the Sufis and scholars. Dr Jonathan Brown recently quoted al-Hafiz Abdallah b. al-Siddiq al-Ghumari (d. 1993), in his book Afdal maqul fi manaqib afdal Rasul, wherein al-Ghumari has quoted several ahadith and Ahmed Rida to prove that the prophet knew the 5 unknowns specifically. It would seem that this opinion is extremely strange as it clearly stands at odds with clear ayaat of the Quran but still interesting to know that some Sufis and scholars have subscribed to such a view.

  3. Imran Khan says:

    By the way, in the comments section, Dr. Ovamir Anjum who is professor of Islamic studies at the Univ of Toledo, refutes this belief as follows:

    Ovamir Anjum: Suheil Laher, Yours is a very generous reading, Allah bless you. As I see it, he mentions extremely problematic views on others’ authority, and rather than qualifying or refuting them, tries to substantiate them. All of this shows extremely flimsy if not incompetent reasoning that even the most non-philosophical textualist could detect, because it ignores so much evidence of the things the Prophet a.s. admitted not knowing about till the very end. For instance, in his last Hajj, he did Qiran and said that had he known what he knew then, he would have done tamattu’. There is so much evidence that the Prophet a.s.’s knowledge grows but not qualitatively. All statements to the effect that he was given the knowledge of dunya and akhira is qualified by the teachings he mentions about certain states and portents. The conclusion that he knew everything suddenly at the end of his life, presumably last few months or days, and then inflating this to qualify fairly clear limitations given in the Quran, Sunna and numerous authentic accounts in the Seera, is in my view misguided. And it is misguided not in the sense of a mistaken ijtihad, but a major theological error about who the Prophet a.s. was, and what the function of his knowledge was. If he received infinite knowledge at the end of his life and then passed away, what does that say about his mission? Apparently, we have to then find the few (or the one!) who received this infinite knowledge and effectively set aside the actual knowledge contained in the Qur’an, the Sunna, and the practical seera? It would make sense, on this understanding, to believe as the Batiniyya did that the apparent knowledge in scripture is all misguided or irrelevant. He even cites people like the Barelwi who effectively turned the Prophet into a superhuman who was made of light and so on. The best one can say about this author is that he did not know the implications of what he was writing.

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