Knowledge of Unseen

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful


The knowledge of unseen is part of Islamic creed. It is an important knowledge that every Muslim should learn about. It has been discussed in many places in the Qurʾān, in quite a few different contexts. We will try to cover some of those in this article.

This is a matter that should not be taken lightly. Having incorrect beliefs around this can lead to shirk in tawheed al-asmaa was-sifaat. It is attribute of Allāh Glory be to Him that He alone knows the unseen. He has called himself “‘allamu alghuyoobi” meaning “the Knower of the unseen” 1

We will cover the following points in this article:

  1. Prophet ﷺ did not have unconditional knowledge of unseen
  2. Jinn do not have the knowledge of unseen
  3. Scope of knowledge of unseen that angels have
  4. Knowledge of the Hour – i.e, when would the Day of Judgement will occur
  5. Knowledge of the future comes under the heading of Knowledge of unseen

Qurʾānic Proof

Let us look at what Allāh Glory be to Him said regarding this matter.

قُل لَّا يَعْلَمُ مَن فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ ٱلْغَيْبَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ

Say, “None in the heavens and earth knows the unseen except Allāh” – Surah an-Naml 27:65 2

This is the first ayah that we will look at. In this ayah, Allāh Glory be to Him has negated every clamant of the knowledge of unseen. As Imam Ibn Katheer pointed out in his tafseer of this ayah

استثناء منقطع أي لا يعلم أحد ذلك إلا الله عز وجل فإنه المنفرد بذلك وحده لا شريك له

This is an absolute exception, meaning that no one knows this besides Allāh, He is alone in that regard, having no partner in that knowledge.

Tafseer Ibn Katheer 3

Allāh Glory be to Him said

قُل لَّآ أَقُولُ لَكُمْ عِندِى خَزَآئِنُ ٱللَّهِ وَلَآ أَعْلَمُ ٱلْغَيْبَ وَلَآ أَقُولُ لَكُمْ إِنِّى مَلَكٌ ۖ إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلَّا مَا يُوحَىٰٓ إِلَىَّ ۚ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِى ٱلْأَعْمَىٰ وَٱلْبَصِيرُ ۚ أَفَلَا تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

Say, [O Muḥammad], “I do not tell you that I have the depositories [containing the provision] of Allāh or that I know the unseen, nor do I tell you that I am an angel. I only follow what is revealed to me.” Say, “Is the blind equivalent to the seeing? Then will you not give thought?”

Surah al-An’am 6:50 4

In one place, Allāh Glory be to Him is addressing Prophet ﷺ to say

قُل لَّآ أَمْلِكُ لِنَفْسِى نَفْعًا وَلَا ضَرًّا إِلَّا مَا شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ ۚ وَلَوْ كُنتُ أَعْلَمُ ٱلْغَيْبَ لَٱسْتَكْثَرْتُ مِنَ ٱلْخَيْرِ وَمَا مَسَّنِىَ ٱلسُّوٓءُ

Say, "I hold not for myself [the power of] benefit or harm, except what Allāh has willed. And if I knew the unseen, I could have acquired much wealth, and no harm would have touched me.

Surah al-A'raaf 7:188 5

In another place, Allāh Glory be to Him said

وَعِندَهُۥ مَفَاتِحُ ٱلْغَيْبِ لَا يَعْلَمُهَآ إِلَّا هُوَ

And with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him. …

Surah al-An’am 6:59 6

Regarding the knowledge of Hour, Allāh Glory be to Him said

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عِندَهُۥ عِلْمُ ٱلسَّاعَةِ

Indeed, Allāh [alone] has knowledge of the Hour …

Surah Luqmaan 31:34 7

We have said previously, Prophet ﷺ didn’t know unseen “unconditionally”, this means He ﷺ knew of unseen what Allāh Glory be to Him told him, as mentioned in the following ayah

عَٰلِمُ ٱلْغَيْبِ فَلَا يُظْهِرُ عَلَىٰ غَيْبِهِۦٓ أَحَدًا. إِلَّا مَنِ ٱرْتَضَىٰ مِن رَّسُولٍ

[He is] Knower of the unseen, and He does not disclose His [knowledge of the] unseen to anyone. Except whom He has approved of messengers …

Surah al-Jinn 72:26-27 8

Allāh Glory be to Him mentioned the story of death of Prophet Suleiman ﷺ – he was the Prophet that used to have control over jinn.

فَلَمَّا قَضَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ ٱلْمَوْتَ مَا دَلَّهُمْ عَلَىٰ مَوْتِهِۦٓ إِلَّا دَآبَّةُ ٱلْأَرْضِ تَأْكُلُ مِنسَأَتَهُۥ ۖ فَلَمَّا خَرَّ تَبَيَّنَتِ ٱلْجِنُّ أَن لَّوْ كَانُوا۟ يَعْلَمُونَ ٱلْغَيْبَ مَا لَبِثُوا۟ فِى ٱلْعَذَابِ ٱلْمُهِينِ

And when We decreed for Solomon death, nothing indicated to the jinn his death except a creature of the earth eating his staff. But when he fell, it became clear to the jinn that if they had known the unseen, they would not have remained in humiliating punishment.

Surah Saba 34:14 9

From this ayah, we have established that the jinn do not know the unseen. Topic of jinn is covered in much detail in a separate article.

Qurʾān is clear and evident against people who follow their desires.

Ḥadīthic Proof

If Prophet ﷺ knew absolutely everything, including knowledge of the Hour (Day of resurrection), [as this person said in the video], why did Prophet ﷺ say to Jibreel ﷺ

مَا الْمَسْئُولُ عَنْهَا بِأَعْلَمَ مِنَ السَّائِلِ

One who is asked [about the Hour] knows no more than the one who is inquiring

Sahih Muslim 10

Similar concept is also mentioned in a ḥadīth

Allāh’s Apostle ﷺ said, “Keys of the unseen knowledge are five which nobody knows but Allāh;

  • nobody knows what will happen tomorrow;
  • nobody knows what is in the womb;
  • nobody knows what he will gain tomorrow;
  • nobody knows at what place he will die;
  • and nobody knows when it will rain.”

Sahih al-Bukhari 11

This matter of Prophet's ﷺ knowledge of unseen has been mentioned by `Ayesha may Allāh be pleased with her

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ قَالَتْ مَنْ حَدَّثَكَ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا ﷺ رَأَى رَبَّهُ فَقَدْ كَذَبَ وَهْوَ يَقُولُ {لاَ تُدْرِكُهُ الأَبْصَارُ} وَمَنْ حَدَّثَكَ أَنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ فَقَدْ كَذَبَ، وَهْوَ يَقُولُ لاَ يَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ

‘Aisha may Allāh be pleased with her said, “If anyone tells you that Muḥammad ﷺ has seen his Lord, he is a liar, for Allāh says: ‘No vision can grasp Him.’ 12 And if anyone tells you that Muḥammad has seen the Unseen, he is a liar, for Allāh says: “None has the knowledge of the Unseen but Allāh.” 13

Sahih al-Bukhari 14

Notice what we said in the beginning [Believing in such a belief is shirk in tawheed asmaa was-sifaat]. Imam al-Bukhari has put this ḥadīth in Book of Oneness of Allāh of his Sahih al-Bukhari. And the title of chapter/book usually refers to contents.

May Allāh Glory be to Him grant us tawfeeq to understand, accept and follow the truth.

  1. ^   Surah at-Tawba 9:78
  2. ^   Surah an-Naml 27:65
  3. ^   Tafseer of Surah an-Naml 27:65 by Ibn Katheer
  4. ^   Surah al-An’am 6:50
  5. ^   Surah al-A'raaf 7:188
  6. ^   Surah al-An’am 6:59
  7. ^   Surah Luqmaan 31:34
  8. ^   Surah al-Jinn 72:26-27
  9. ^   Surah Saba 34:14
  10. ^   Sahih Muslim 8a
  11. ^   Sahih al-Bukhari 1039
  12. ^   Surah al-An’am 6:103
  13. ^   Surah an-Naml 27:65
  14. ^   Sahih al-Bukhari 7380