Why is the future veiled?
To know the unknown, to see the unseen, to grasp the secrets of the ghaib (unseen, unknown) are things that are desired by almost everyone. Especially the desire to understand the secrets of the ghaib about the future is one of the weaknesses of human beings. Throughout history many people like soothsayers, astrologers and magicians have taken advantage of this weakness of human beings. Nowadays all kinds of astrology and fortune–telling are common. Especially recently people called mediums claim they receive some ghaib news.
However, the future is veiled. Under normal circumstances human beings cannot know what will happen in a second let alone tomorrow and the future. There are several reasons why the future is veiled and why human beings are not informed about it.
1-First of all, the fact that the future is not informed is a necessity of Allahs mercy and compassion. If what will happen is known beforehand life will be a torture. There are a lot of events that grieve people in this world. To know about them before they happen will put men into great distress. It will inflict continuous agony on people like the agony a person condemned to death suffers. For instance, if the parents of a child knew that their beloved child would die when he became ten years old, they would undergo a psychological breakdown.
2- Another reason why the future is veiled is to ensure that human beings live in a balance between fear and hope. A person can lead a righteous life only by holding these two states in balance. A believer who sees that he will deserve to go to paradise through his worshipping can take pride in himself. If a person who commits a lot of sins sees that he will go to hell, he can give up hope and indulge in sins completely. The fact that the future is veiled protects the former from pride and the latter from hopelessness. If a person who worships regularly takes pride in himself, he may suffer a great harm as a person who indulges in sins may save himself in the last day of his life through a sincere repentance. The following verse in the Quran has a fine detail: be righteous, that ye may receive mercy (Al-Anaam,155). In verses like these the word (laalla) expresses hope. That is, it teaches a lesson: you may hope to get divine mercy if you do that, but do not be sure!
3- Furthermore, everybody cannot bear the burden of the knowledge about the future. Mawlana relates the following story in the Mathnawi:
A person living during the time of Hazrat Moses wants to learn the languages of the animals and the birds. He asks Hazrat Moses to pray to Allah to realize his wish. Hazrat Moses does not agree at first but he cannot put up with the mans insistence and prays for him. The man learns the languages of the cocks and the dogs. One day the servant drops a hard piece of bread onto the ground when he shakes off the tablecloth. The cock acts before the dog to take it. When the dog objects to it, the cock says:
Dont worry. Tomorrow the land owners horse will be injured. When it dies, there will be a feast for the dogs. When the man hears it, he sells his horse. Next day the dog that expects a feast is deprived of it but the cock says:
Tomorrow the mans slave will die. His relatives will give away food to the poor and the dogs. When the man hears it, he sells his slave too. When the dog suffers from starvation, the cock says:
Dont worry. Tomorrow the man will die. When he dies you will have a feast. The man saved his belongings but he caused the death of himself. If one of the living things he sold had died here, he would have saved himself.
Parts of Ghaib
The future is included in the ghaib. Ghaib is considered in two parts:
1. Absolute ghaib
2. Relative ghaib
The former is used to express the ghaib that only Allah knows. It is impossible for a person to know the ghaib unless Allah informs him. For instance the date of the Day of Judgment is included in this category.
Relative ghaib is used to express situations that some people know and others do not. That is, something may be ghaib for a person but not ghaib for another. For instance, the meanings inside a persons heart are known by that person but unknown by others, thus ghaib.
We regard it as useful to mention the following points about relative ghaib:
1. There is no ghaib for Allah. Everything is ready and witnessed in His knowledge. As He stated in the Quran: He knoweth the Unseen as well as that which is open. (Al-Anaam, 73)
2. As we will further see with the examples, prophets are acquainted with ghaib more than others. For instance, for a person at the foot of a mountain what is behind the mountain is ghaib. However for a person looking down from a plane no part of the mountain is ghaib. Prophets who had divine spirits had seen what others could not see and had heard what others could not hear thanks to their spiritual advancement.
3. Human beings are different from each other in terms of ghaib. For instance for a blind man the colours and for a deaf man the sounds are like ghaib. The reason why some people can be acquainted with some secrets like true dreams and inspirations is that they are able to see in comparison with the blind and able to hear in comparison with the deaf.
4. Some things that are ghaib for us are witnessed for some animals. For instance human ear can hear sound vibrations ranging from 16000 to 22000 hertz. Whereas animals like dogs, rats, etc are more sensitive than human beings regarding this aspect.
In terms of sight, many animals are more sensitive than human beings. For instance insects and bees can perceive the ultraviolet rays that human beings cannot see. Vulture can discern whether a gazelle lying on the ground is death or asleep from a distance more than 4000 meters away, which a human being cannot discern with double mirror binoculars.
As for smelling, some wild animals are 100 000 times or one million times more sensitive than human beings. Some animals can feel disasters like earthquakes and storms before they happen.
5. As the late Hamdi Yazır says,ghaib is not what cannot be seen but what is not seen. What is reasonable today may be witnessed tomorrow. (Yazır, I, 174). Something that is ghaib today can be seen tomorrow. For instance the Day of Judgment is ghaib today, but it will be seen when the time comes.
Can the future be known by foresight?
Human beings have some abilities regarding the ghaib and the future along with senses like sight and sound. One of them is foresight which was also called extrasensory perception in the past.
We can reach the things in front of us by using our hand, which is material, but we can watch the places that our hand cannot reach with our eye, which is half luminous and transparent. With foresight we may reach what is behind the wall or even beyond time and somewhat foresee the events that are about to happen.
Animals also have foresight. For instance, it is known by experience that animals utter strange sounds before earthquakes and some animals like cats and dogs that live in the neighborhood run away from the cities to the country.
A person can feel someone coming towards himself by foresight; he may even talk about him without noticing. When he comes, he says Talk of the devil, we were talking about you.
Similarly a person can feel some sorrowful or joyful events before they happen with foresight; they are reflected in his heart as sorrow joy.
Before the rain, its signs appear, people feel that it is going to rain by looking at its signs. Similarly before some important things happen to a person, its signs affect that him. People with strong foresight find themselves in the scope of the events and somewhat feel what will happen as people with rheumatism feel the coming rain.
The smoke we see on the sea is a sign of a ship we do not see, the vibration on the rails is a sign of a train coming. Similarly the waves of sorrow or joy that are reflected in the heart or soul are the harbingers of sorrowful or joyful events. People with sensitive souls can foresee some events and say this or that will happen.
However, these things that are felt by foresight may not be very clear. A person can feel something but cannot know every detail. The foresight of a person cannot always have the same sensitivity. Sometimes he can feel things that will happen in a few days time, sometimes he cannot feel things that will happen in a moment.
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