Answering the Challenge of Munawwar Ateeq Rizwi to True Sunni Muslims

September 30, 2013

Answering the Challenge of Munawwar Ateeq Rizwi to True Sunni Muslims

In this recently uploaded video, Barelwi preacher, Munawwar Ateeq Rizwi, issues a challenge to true Sunni Muslims:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EodNE_g7fV8

Most of the video is the usual nauseating drivel, full of rhetoric, boasts, self-promotion and emotional blackmail, lacking any real substance. However, he issues a couple of challenges to Sunni Muslims, which I felt I should answer.

I will break this response down into two parts, in answer to both challenges of Munawwar. His first challenge was to find any statement from the scholars of Ahlus Sunnah wherein they define ‘ilm al-ghayb or ghayb in such a way that it is exclusive to Allah and inapplicable to creatures. His second challenge was to prove that after the completion of the revelation of the Qur’an, the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) was unaware of any worldly knowledge or event.

Answering Munawwar’s First Challenge

At around the 34 minute mark, he claims so-called non-Sunnis attempt to define ghayb or ‘ilm al-ghayb so as to negate it from the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam). Then at around 42 minutes, he issues the following challenge: “Not a single ‘aalim in the history of Islamic civilisation ever gave that definition of ghayb. This is my challenge. My challenge is: not a single ‘aalim in the history of Islamic civilisation from the Ahlus Sunnah ever gave, never ever gave, such a definition to ghayb in which they secluded it only for Allah Subhaanahoo wa Ta‘aalaa. You can never show me such a definition for ghayb….Nobody can show us a definition from the ‘ulamaa’ of Ahlus Sunnah in which the ‘aalim defines ghayb in a way that is specific to Allah.”

In answer to this challenge, I will first present one comprehensive definition given by an accepted scholar of Ahlus Sunnah, followed by some supporting statements from other accepted scholars of Ahlus Sunnah.

The great Māturīdī Imam of ‘Aqidah, ‘Abd al-‘Azīz ibn Ahmad al-Farhārī (see his biography in Nuzhat al-Khawātir, Dār Ibn Hazm, p. 1018) writes in his famous and accepted text on ‘Aqidah, an-Nibrās (a commentary on Taftāzāni’s Sharh al-‘Aqā’id al-Nasafiyyah), which was authored in the year 1239 H/1823 CE:

واعلم أن للناس في مسألة الغيب كلمات غير منقحة والتحقيق أن الغيب ما غاب عن الحواس والعلم الضروري والعلم الإستدلالي وقد نطق القرآن بنفي علمه عمن سواه تعالى فمن ادعى أنه يعلمه كفر ومن صدق المدعي كفر وأما ما علم بحاسة أو ضرورة أو دليل فليس بغيب ولا كفر في دعواه ولا في تصديقه على الجزم فى اليقيني والظن فى الظني عند المحققين

 وبهذا التحقيق اندفع الإشكال فى الأمور التي يزعم أنها من الغيب وليست منه لكونها مدركة بالسمع أو البصر أو الضرورة أو الدليل

فأحدها إخبار الأنبياء لأنها مستفادة من الوحي ومن خلق العلم الضروري فيهم أو من انكشاف الكوائن على حواسهم

ثانيها خبر الولي لأنه مستفاد من النبي أو من رؤيا صالحة أو من إلهام إلهي أو من النظر فى اللوح المحفوظ وهو ثابت من أهل الكشف وإن منعه بعض الفقهاء

تالثها إخبار المحاسب بالكسوف والخسوف لأنه بدلائل هندسية قطعية

رابعها إخبار المنجم والرمال لأن النجوم والرمل علمان استدلاليان منزلان على بعض الأنبياء ثم اندرسا وخلط الناس فيهما فمن استدل بقاعدة نبوية أصاب فى الخبر

خامسها خبر الكاهن لأنه مما يخبره الجن عن مشاهدة أو سماع من الملائكة الذين عرفوا الكوائن المستقبلة بالوحي

تم نقول قد نطق كثير من الأحاديث وأقوال السلف بكفر المنجم والكاهن ومن يصدقهما وذكر غير واحد من المحققين أن التكفير خاص بمن يدعي علم الغيب أو يزعم النجوم مدبرة بالاستقلال أو يزعم الجن عالمة بالغيب

قلت: ومع هذا ليس الإشتغال بالنجوم والكهانة وتصديقهما من فعل الصالحين ولا شك أن فيهما إخلالا بعقائد ضعفاء المسلمين لزعمهم أن المخبر عالم بالغيب على أن الكاهن يصعب أن يسلم إيمانه لاستمداده من الشياطين

فاحفظ هذا التحقيق فإنه من خواص مؤلفاتنا

النبراس شرح شرح العقائد، مكتبة حقانية، ص ٣٤٣-٤

“Know that the people have unrefined words on the issue of ghaybThe verification is that ghayb is that which is hidden to the senses, necessary knowledge and deductive knowledge. The Qur’an has pronounced its negation from (every) one besides Him, Exalted is He. Thus, whoever claims that he knows it has disbelieved, and whoever assents to (the claim of) a claimant has disbelieved. As for that which is known through sense or necessity or evidence, it is not ghayb, nor has one disbelieved by claiming it, nor by assenting to it with certainty in certain (knowledge) and uncertainty in conjectural (knowledge), according to the verifiers.

By this verification, the difficulty in the issues which are assumed that they are from ghayb and are not (in reality) from them as they are perceived by hearing, seeing, necessity or evidence, is dispelled.

One of them is the report of the prophets, because they are acquired from revelation and from the creation of a necessary knowledge in them or from the exposure of existents to their senses.

“The second of them is the report of a saint because it is acquired from a prophet or a pious dream or divine inspiration or from looking into the Preserved Tablet which is established from the Ahl al-Kashf, although some jurists deny it.

“The third of them is the report of an astronomer of (the time of) the solar and lunar eclipse because it is by decisive mathematical evidences.

“The fourth of them is the report of an astrologer and geomancer because astrology and geomancy are two deductive sciences that were sent down on some of the prophets and then they were lost and the people became confused over them, so whoever draws evidence using a prophetic principle, he will be correct in the report.

“The fifth of them is the report of a soothsayer because it is from that which the jinn inform him from observation or hearing the angels who are aware of future existents by means of revelation.

“Then we say: Many of the hadiths and statements of the Salaf have pronounced kufr on the astrologer and soothsayer and whoever assents to them, and many of the verifiers have stated that the anathematisation is limited to the one who claims knowledge of ghayb or believes the stars manage (the creation) independently or believes the jinn know the ghayb.

“I say: And despite this, occupation in astrology and soothsaying and assenting to them is not from the practice of the righteous people, and there is no doubt that through them there is harm created in the beliefs of the weak Muslims due to their belief that the one giving the information is knower of ghayb; on top it being difficult to accept the īmān of a soothsayer as he seeks help from the devils.

“Preserve this verification as it is from the specialities of our writings.”

An-Nibrās fi Sharh Sharh al-‘Aqā’id, Maktabah Haqqāniyyah, pp. 343-4

The author of an-Nibrās clearly defines ghayb in such a way that the true meaning of ‘ilm al-ghayb belongs exclusively to Allah, which he says is attested to by verses of the Qur’an. Examples of these verses are:

قُل لَّا يَعْلَمُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ

“Say: None in the heavens and the earth knows the ghayb besides Allah.” (27:65)

قُل لاَّ أَقُولُ لَكُمْ عِندِي خَزَآئِنُ اللّهِ وَلا أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ

Say (O Prophet): I do not say to you I have the treasures of Allah, nor do I know the ghayb.” (6:50)

قُل لاَّ أَمْلِكُ لِنَفْسِي نَفْعًا وَلاَ ضَرًّا إِلاَّ مَا شَاء اللّهُ وَلَوْ كُنتُ أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ لاَسْتَكْثَرْتُ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ

“Say: I do not own for myself benefit, nor harm, except what Allah wills; and had I known the ghayb I would have accumulated a lot of good things and no evil would have touched me.” (7:188)

Furthermore, if this wasn’t clear enough, the author of an-Nibrās lists a number of things which people wrongly assume to be ‘ilm al-ghayband he explains why they are not so. The first example he uses is the information given by prophets, as this is received through revelation; and anything to which there is a means or evidence – including revelation – is not classified as true ghayb. In sum, his definition of ghaybentails that it is all knowledge to which creation have absolutely no access.

Many other scholars have said the same. For example, Ibn Hajar al-Haythami (d. 974 H) said in his al-Fatāwā al-Hadīthiyyah:

لا يعلم الغيب إلا هو ومن سواه إن علموا جزئيات منه فهو بإعلامه وإطلاعه لهم وحينئذ لا يطلق أنهم يعلمون الغيب إذ لا صفة لهم يقتدرون بها على الاستقلال بعلمه وأيضا هم ما علموا وإنما علموا وأيضا هم ما علموا غيبا مطلقا لأن من أعلم بشيء منه يشاركه فيه الأنبياء ونظراؤه ممن اطلع

رسائل ابن عابدين، ٢:٣١٣

 

None but He (Allah) knows the ghayb, and those besides Him, although they know particulars of it, it is by His revelation and disclosure to them. Therefore, it is not said without qualification that they know the ghayb, since they have no attribute by which they can independently know it. Moreover, they do not know, but were taught. Moreover, they were not taught the unseen in absolute terms because whoever is informed something from it, the Prophets and their peers who have comprehended [that knowledge] participate with him in it.”

Quoted in Rasā’il Ibn ‘Abidin, 2:313

It is clear from this that al-Haythami considers the true meaning of ghayb as being something that is limited to Allah.

An-Nasafi also defines ghayb in his Tafsir in a way that it is exclusive to Allah:

الغيب هو ما لم يقم عليه دليل ولا أطلع عليه مخلوق

Ghayb is that on which no evidence has been erected, nor was a creature informed of it.”

From amongst recent scholars, ‘Allamah al-Kawthari clearly says in his Maqālāt:

العلم بإعلام الله لا يكون من الغيب في شيء

Knowledge by means of disclosure from Allah is not from (true) ghayb at all.

Ibn ‘Abidin said:

ما اختص به تعالى هو الغيب المطلق على أن ما يدعيه العبد ليس غيبا حقيقة لأنه إنما يكون بإعلام من الله تعالى

رسائل ابن عابدين، ٢:٣١٤

 

“That which is exclusive to Him is unrestricted/unqualified ghayb, while that which the servant (i.e. prophet or saint) claims is notghayb in reality because it only comes about by disclosure from Allah, Exalted is He.”

Rasā’il Ibn Abidīn, 2:314

Since this is the true and original meaning of ‘ilm al-ghayb – i.e. that which creatures have absolutely no access to –, this is why the Hanafis have clearly stated that the one who claims ‘ilm al-ghayb (without qualifying it) has committed kufr.

Ibn ‘Abidin says:

ذكر الحنفية في عدة من كتبهم أن من ادعى لنفسه علم الغيب كفر

رسائل ابن عابدين، ٢:٣١١

The Hanafis have stated in a number of their books that the one who claims ‘ilm al-ghayb for himself has disbelieved.”

Rasā’il Ibn Abidin, 2:311

Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari said:

وذكر الحنفية تصريحا بالتكفير باعتقاد أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يعلم الغيب لمعارضة قوله تعالى قل لا يعلم من في السماوات والأرض الغيب إلا الله كذا في المسايرة

منح الروض الأزهر في شرح الفقه الأكبر، دار البشائر الإسلامية، ص ٤٢٢

“The Hanafis have mentioned clearly that by believing the Prophet (upon him blessing and peace) knew the ghayb one is declared a disbeliever due to conflict with His (Exalted is He) statement: “Say: None in the heavens and earth knows the unseen but Allah.””

Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar fī Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar, Dār al-Bashā’ir al-Islāmiyyah, p. 422

Ibn al-Humam and Ibn Abi Sharif say the same thing in Musamarah/Musayarah. (Kitāb al-Musāmarah bi Sharh al-Musāyarahal-Matba‘ah al-Kubrā al-Amīriyyah, p. 202)

 

If “’ilm al-ghayb” in its original meaning was a quality shared by Allah and His creatures, this verdict makes no sense. The only way it can be made sense of is by acknowledging that ‘ilm al-ghayb in its true and original sense according to the Hanafis means the knowledge which is completely inaccessible to creation (what al-Tahawi calls al-‘ilm al-mafqūd). To claim such knowledge is certainly kufr (as al-Tahawi mentioned), as it is to claim independent knowledge, which is exclusive to Allah. Thus, again, as with other issues, the claim of the Barelwis to Hanafiyyat has been proven to be an empty claim. In reality, their maslak is ‘Nafsaniyyat,’ not ‘Hanafiyyat.’

It is absolutely clear, therefore, that Munawwar’s statement that no scholar of Ahlus Sunnah has defined ‘ilm al-ghayb so as to exclude every being besides Allah from having this quality is a baseless and totally incorrect claim; unless he wishes to exclude all the above scholars from the Ahlus Sunnah and reserve the name only for his imam, Ahmad Rida Khan Barelwi, and his followers (which is what they really mean when they say “Ahlus Sunnah”). In fact, the scholars of ‘Aqidah, Fiqh and Tafsir, particularly those of a Hanafi persuasion, are clear that according to its true and original meaning, ‘ilm al-ghayb is a quality reserved for Allah, Most Exalted, and none share with Him in this quality.

Answering Munawwar’s Second Challenge

After about one hour into the video, Munawwar claims – quoting his imam, Ahmad Rida Khan – that there is not a single decisive proof that after the completion of the Qur’an, the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) displayed unawareness of any matter of the world.

I will present one hadith to refute this claim.

Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrate in several places of their Sahihs on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas:

يُؤْخَذُ بِرِجَالٍ مِنْ أَصْحَابِي ذَاتَ اليَمِينِ وَذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ، فَأَقُولُ: أَصْحَابِي، فَيُقَالُ: إِنَّهُمْ لَمْ يَزَالُوا مُرْتَدِّينَ عَلَى أَعْقَابِهِمْ مُنْذُ فَارَقْتَهُمْ، فَأَقُولُ كَمَا قَالَ العَبْدُ الصَّالِحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ: وَكُنْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ، فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنْتَ أَنْتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ، وَأَنْتَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ، إِنْ تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ، وَإِنْ تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنْتَ العَزِيزُ الحَكِيمُ

 

“Men from my companions will be seized from the right and the left, so I will say: ‘My companions!’ It will be said: ‘They continued turning back on their heels (i.e. apostatising) since you parted from them.’ So I will say as the righteous slave ‘Isa ibn Maryam said: ‘I was witness over them for as long as I was amongst them, and then when You took me, You became the watcher over them…’”

Thus, it is established that on the plains of resurrection, RasulAllah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) will say he was unaware of the actions of some of those who accompanied him after his death.

In another version of the same hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari:

يُجَاءُ بِرِجَالٍ مِنْ أُمَّتِي، فَيُؤْخَذُ بِهِمْ ذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ، فَأَقُولُ: يَا رَبِّ أَصْحَابِي، فَيُقَالُ: لاَ تَدْرِي مَا أَحْدَثُوا بَعْدَكَ، فَأَقُولُ كَمَا قَالَ العَبْدُ الصَّالِحُ: {وَكُنْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا، مَا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ}

In this narration, he is told “You do not know what they innovated after you.”

In another narration from Sahih Muslim it is mentioned that RasulAllah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) will initially say: “They are from me!” attempting to intercede for them. And then when he is told “you do not know what they innovated after you,” he will say: “away (with them), away!” This behaviour clearly shows he will be initially unaware of their actions that they committed after his death.

In another version from Sahih al-Bukhari:

يَرِدُ عَلَى الحَوْضِ رِجَالٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِي، فَيُحَلَّئُونَ عَنْهُ، فَأَقُولُ: يَا رَبِّ أَصْحَابِي، فَيَقُولُ: إِنَّكَ لاَ عِلْمَ لَكَ بِمَا أَحْدَثُوا بَعْدَكَ، إِنَّهُمُ ارْتَدُّوا عَلَى أَدْبَارِهِمْ القَهْقَرَى

In this narration, Allah will say to RasulAllah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam): “You have no knowledge of what they innovated after you.”

Note: Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab narrated this marfoo‘ narration from several “companions” (ashāb) of RasulAllah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam).

Note: This narration (in which certain people who the Prophet – sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam – initially believed to be his true companions are driven away from the Hawd) was narrated with various wordings from a number of the Sahabah, including Ibn ‘Abbas, Abu Hurayrah, Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri, Sahl ibn Sa‘d, ‘A’ishah, Anas ibn Malik, ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud, Asma’ bint Abi Bakr, Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamān and Umm Salamah, all of which are found the Sahih of al-Bukhari, the Sahih of Muslim or both. Hence, this is a mutawātir narration, proving that the Prophet did not have some knowledge of the world even after the revelation of the Qur’an was complete.

In the end, we can safely say Munawwar’s challenge in no way offers any real challenges to correct Sunni doctrine, and in actual fact, merely reveals his own ignorance and fanaticism.