There is a debate regards to fadail Amaal (Benefits of Deed) about stories narrated about visualising elements of the Unseen. Some have taken these stories to constitute as Shirk (ascribing partners onto Allah), these further would state in the opinion of these individuals that acceptance of these narrations would classify you as a Mushrik (Polytheist).
The debate regarding what is Unseen in its totality or what constitutes Shirk is a wide subject area and beyond the scope of this topic, however here we want to clarity in regards to these particular narrations and how they are not shirk; InshAllah (Allah willing).
Firstly we want to cite one of these narrations:
Moulana Zakariyah mentions in Fazaail-e-Aamaal, Shaikh Abu Yazeed Qurtabi heard from someone that whoever recited it (the Kalimah: La-ilaha ill-Allah-ho) seventy thousand times he or she would be immune from the fire of the Hell. He completed a course accordingly for his wife and many other courses for himself. There lived a youth nearby who, it was said was ‘a man of Kashf’ and had the foreknowledge of the events of Paradise and Hell. One day it so happened that while sharing a meal with him he suddenly made a loud cry and began to gasp, and exclaimed that his mother had been cast into Hell (burning into the fire of Hell). Shaikh Qurtabi keenly observed the condition of the youth and decided to offer a course for his mother secretly so that the fact that the youth possessed a foreknowledge of the Unseen and the truth of his mother’s sad plight in Hell would be ascertained. The Shaikh said that he did it so secretly that nobody could know it, except the Almighty, Allah. But the youth soon expressed his gratitude and said that now his mother had got rid of the Fire of Hell.
[See, Fazaail-e-Aamaal, (Eng. Trans.), Virtues of Dhikr, Chapter.3 (Part - 3), p.59 (Edt. 1985, Published by Dini Book Depot - Delhi).]
The portion of this narration in discussion is about ‘youth nearby who, it was said was ‘a man of Kashf’ and had the foreknowledge of the events of Paradise and Hell’, regards to this matter is the complainants disagreement and that this act of foreknowledge of the events of paradise and Hell is an act of shirk.
In defense we want to look at a term Probability. Probability is the likelihood or chance that something is the case or will happen or can happen, this is a scientific term and also has a term know as Probability theory.
What is attempted therefore to be explained here is if there is a probability that ‘foreknowledge of the events of Paradise and Hell’ can be achieved.
Let’s look at an incident from Quran;
- And the heart of Musa's mother was free (from anxiety) she would have almost disclosed it had We not strengthened her heart so that she might be of the believers. - Quran 28:10
Here is what Tafsir Ibn Kathir states on the situation.
Allah tells us how, when her child was lost in the river, the heart of Musa's mother became empty, i.e., she could not think of any matter in this world except Musa. This was the view of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Abu `Ubaydah, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Qatadah and others.
﴿إِن كَادَتْ لَتُبْدِى بِهِ﴾
(She was very near to disclose his (case),) means, because of the intensity of her grief, she almost told people that she had lost a son. She would have disclosed her situation, if Allah had not given her strength and patience. Allah says:
﴿لَوْلا أَن رَّبَطْنَا عَلَى قَلْبِهَا لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَوَقَالَتْ لأُخْتِهِ قُصِّيهِ﴾
(Had We not strengthened her heart, so that she might remain as one of the believers. And she said to his sister: "Follow him.'') means, she told her daughter, who was older and was of an age to understand things,
﴿فَرَدَدْنَـهُ إِلَى أُمِّهِ كَىْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا﴾
(So We restored him to his mother, that her eye might be comforted,) means, by him,
(And that she might not grieve,) means, for him.
What is deduced here is that a woman, although a mother of a prophet; nevertheless a woman received divine inspiration from Allah. Let’s take a look at a hypothetical situation here, if other members of the family were to ask her why she was putting her child in the river and this is dangerous to the life of the child; she could respond stating that they should not worry and that the child will live. She could make this statement with boldness and absolute conviction since she has received divine inspiration from Allah.
The ability to affirm whether a person will live or die in the future tense lies only with Allah; however the Quran explains that it can be knowledge given to someone who is not a prophet if Allah wills it.
- ….The Prophet said, "This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?" And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."
Bukhari - Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:
Here we assess that it is possible for a person who is not a Prophet, the mother of a Prophet (i.e. having a blood connection) but an ordinary person to hear and see an entity that is not of this world. It appears in numerous authentic hadith that angels dwell within the realms of the unseen and have actually seen heaven and hell. During the tour undertaken by the Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him) whence making the ascension, the arch angel Gabriel was present during his interactions with the inhabitants of heaven.
….'Open the gate.' The gatekeeper asked, 'Who is it?' He said, 'Gabriel.' The gate-keeper,' Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel said, 'Muhammad.' The gate-keeper said, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel said, 'Yes.' Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!' Then I met Adam and greeted him and he said, 'You are welcomed O son and a Prophet.' Then we ascended to the second heaven. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel said, 'Gabriel.' It was said, 'Who is with you?' He said, 'Muhammad' It was asked, 'Has he been sent for?' He said, 'Yes.' It was said, 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!" Then I met Jesus and Yahya (John) who said, 'You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet.' Then we ascended to the third heaven. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel said, 'Gabriel.' It was asked, 'Who is with you? Gabriel said, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been sent for?' 'Yes,' said Gabriel. 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!' (The Prophet added). There I met Joseph and greeted him, and he replied, 'You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet!' Then we ascended to the 4th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met Idris and greeted him. He said, 'You are welcomed O brother and Prophet.' ….
Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 54, Number 429.
Here the attempt is to clarify whether there is a difference between seeing or hearing an inhabitant/frequent visitor of heaven and heaven/hell itself? The fact of the matter is that if an entity that dwells in the unseen i.e. heaven, and that person is heard or visible in the realms of the seen i.e. this life or whilst alive in this life of the world is it difficult to comprehend that Allah can also give the ability to visual the Heaven and/or hell?
- Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Abbaas (Radhiallaahu Anhu) narrates that once a Sahaabi (Radhiallaahu Anhu) pitched up his tent on top of a grave, not realising that it was a grave. All of a sudden, this Sahaabi (Radhiallaahu Anhu) began to hear the voice of an inhabitant of that grave reading Suratul Mulk until he completed the entire Surah. Thereupon, Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) replied ‘Suratul Mulk is a barrier; it is a protector from the punishment of the grave.’
Tirmidhi vol.2 pg.117; HM Saeed
Here we have an incident of a person although a Sahabi (companion of the Prophet of Allah Peace be upon him), nevertheless an ordinary human being, hearing the inhabitants of the grave speak out.
- Ahmad relates in his Musnad (4:217) that at the time of the greatest fitna of the Dajjal, when the Muslims will be at their weakest point and just before `Isa ibn Maryam descends at the time of salat al-fajr, people will hear a caller calling out three times: "O people, al-ghawth (the helper) has come to you!"
Here again we have authentic source proofing that inhabitants of this life of the world will have an opening of the unseen and hear a voice calling out to them. This is a reference to a person whom is not a prophet, the mother of a Prophet, any form of relationship to a Prophet or even a Sahabi but an ordinary person.
It is proven from Quran and the hadith text that an ordinary human being can hear and see entities that belong in the unseen.
The facts underlined here are that dwellers of the grave, which is no doubt considered the realm of the unseen and not part of the life of this world, have been heard. The angels that are not part of the life of this world and dwellers of the unseen have been seen and heard.
Therefore why it is difficult to comprehend that paradise or hell itself can be visualised. One can complain that this story is far-fetched, strange, difficult to comprehend or even exaggerated, it may well be; however the scope of that factor is not explored here. The point of the matter here is whether there is probability of visualising heaven or hell by a person within the life of this world, and that is clearly possible!
Of course anyone who doubts that this can be done without the will of Allah or attributes this ability to anyone other than Allah would constitute as shirk.
n argument was presented that anything that is against the Shariah (Islamic Law) is not possible and would be wrong, not sure why that argument was presented in light of this incident and that these incidents are against the Shariah, since the Shariah is reference to the law of Islam.
Anyway, if someone was to approach me in the street and say that they see paradise or hell as they walk, talk, eat, etc i.e. 24 hours a day; I could certainly express my doubts of the occurrence to that individual but in light of the above Quran verses and hadith narrations could not deny the possibilities that this occurred to that particular person. My doubt could based on a numerous factors, the individual may have qualities of Back-biting, not praying their obligatory prayers, not paying zakah, etc; but I could not deny the possibility of the actual unnatural phenomenon occurring as a probability since it has been proven to be probable.