Did the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) know about the future?

Details of the Question
Did the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) know about the future?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Hz. Prophet is a human being like us in terms of humanity. He eats, drinks and is affected by heat and cold. He does not know what will happen tomorrow and in the future. As a matter of fact, the Prophet intervened when female slaves recited the following line during a wedding and prohibited them from reciting things like that: “There is someone among us; he knows what will happen tomorrow.” (Bukhari, Maghazi, 12) The following reminder of Hz. Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, is important:

A person who says, ‘the Prophet informs people about what will happen tomorrow’ will be regarded to have slandered Allah.” (Bukhari, Tawhid, 4)

As a matter of fact, the following sentence of the Prophet mentioned in the Quran expresses this issue clearly: “…Nor do I know what is hidden.” (al-An’am, 50) The following is also uttered by him to confirm the issue:

If I had knowledge of the unseen, I should have multiplied all good, and no evil should have touched me.” (al-Araf, 188)

The tragedies of Bi’r Mauna and Raji prove it. When the Prophet fulfilled the wish of the tribes who said, "Send us some people to teach us Islam", he did not know that many estimable Companions would be killed in those two incidents. (Bukhari, Maghazi, 28)

Acting upon the verse, "I tell you not that with me are the Treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden." (al-Anam, 50), some people claim "Hz. Prophet did not inform people about the unknown. Sentences like 'this and that will happen in the future' claimed to be uttered by him were made up by others in the course of time. However, if they had read the Quran carefully, they would not have claimed something like that. Hz. Prophet himself does not know the unknown but Allah informs him about it and he informs his umma about it.

Qadi Baydawi, whose tafsir was read in religious schools as a textbook for centuries, interpreted the verse, "nor do I know what is hidden" as "nor do I know what is hidden unless I am sent revelation and given some evidence." (Baydawi, I, 380)

We find it useful to attract attention to the two different personalities of Hz. Prophet, which are different from each other.

1. Human aspect
2. Prophetic aspect

Hz. Prophet is a human being like us in terms of human aspect. He eats, drinks and is affected by heat and cold. He does not know what will happen tomorrow and in the future. In terms of his prophetic aspect, he receives revelation. He is like a receiver for the messages coming from Allah. Although he makes small mistakes called "dhalla", he is directed by revelation.

For instance, the Prophet gave permission to the hypocrites (munafiqs) who did not want to take part in the Battle of Tabuk. He is addressed as follows in the verses: "Allah give thee grace! Why didst thou grant them exemption..." (at-Tawba, 43)

Abdullah B. Maktum is a blind person. Once, he heard the Messenger of Allah informing the leading polytheists of Makkah about Islam; he went over to the Messenger of Allah and said to him, "O Messenger of Allah! Teach me some of what Allah taught you." The Prophet did not want to talk to him at that time. He grimaced and turned his face away from Abdullah B. Maktum. He found it more appropriate to talk to the polytheists. Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah was informed that what he did was wrong and was warned not to behave like that again by the first verses of the chapter of "Abasa".  

One of the most distinct examples of the human aspect of the Prophet is seen in the following incident:

When Hz. Prophet arrived in Madinah, he saw that the people of Madinah were cross-pollinating the date palms. He said, "In my opinion, you should not do like that." Thereupon, they stopped pollinating but the yield decreased. When the Messenger of Allah was informed about the situation, he said, "I am only a human being. When I command you with something regarding your religion, accept it. When I command you with something from my own opinion, know that I am only a human being. You know worldly affairs better than me." (Muslim, Fadail, 140-141)

By the way, it is necessary to state the following: Being a human is not a deficiency for the Prophet; on the contrary, it is perfection. If he had been an angel and not a human being, he could not have been a leader or a guide for human beings.

For instance, if the Prophet had made a judgment regarding the defendant and the plaintiff that came to him based on his knowledge about the unknown, he would not have set an example for us. However, he stated the following: "You come to meas a plaintiff and a defendant. One of you might explain his cause better and I might make a judgment in favor of him. If I make a judgment in favor of a person like that, he should know that I will give him a piece of fire.” (Bukhari, Shahadat, 27)

The Companions were able to differentiate between the human and prophetic aspect of the Prophet. For instance, before the Battle of Badr, the Messenger of Allah was positioning the army somewhere; Hubab B. Mundhir said, "O Messenger of Allah! Instead of positioning the army here, it would more advantageous to block the waters, if it is not something that has been revealed to you." Hz. Prophet regarded what Hubab said as appropriate and acted accordingly. (Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, II, 272)

As it is seen, both the Messenger of Allah and his Companions were able to differentiate between his human and prophetic aspects.

The Prophetic Aspect of Hz. Prophet

The Messenger of Allah receives some secrets about the unknown in terms of his prophetic aspect. The greatest evidence about it is the Quran. We see many examples of it in the Quran. For instance, the Prophet was informed while returning from Hudaybiya what kinds of excuses the hypocrites who did not take part in the Hudaybiya would make up in the chapter of al-Fath: 

"The desert Arabs who lagged behind will say to thee: "We were engaged in (looking after) our flocks and herds, and our families; do thou then ask forgiveness for us." They say with their tongues what is not in their hearts." (al-Fath, 11).

A similar case is seen regarding those who did not take part in the Expedition of Tabuk: "(They will present their excuses to you when ye return to them. Say thou: "Present no excuses: we shall not believe you: Allah hath already informed us of the true state of matters concerning you." (at-Tawba, 94).

Similarly, the Prophet is informed about some states of the hypocrites through revelation: 

"They have "Obedience" on their lips; but when they leave thee, a section of them meditate all night on things very different from what thou tellest them." (an-Nisa, 81).

"There is the type of man whose speech about this world's life may dazzle thee and he calls Allah to witness about what is in his heart; yet is he the most contentious of enemies. When he turns his back his aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and destroy crops and cattle." (al-Baqara, 204-205).

The following event, which is called the incident of Masjid Dirar, confirms the knowledge about the unknown sent to the Prophet:

Abu Amir, was a clergyman who chose Christianity as his religion before the Prophet came to Madinah. When the Messenger of Allah came to Madinah, his leadership and sovereignty ended; so, he became an enemy of the Prophet. He acted together with the polytheists. After the defeat of Hunayn, he fled to Damascus. Then, he sent a message to the hypocrites of Madinah: "Bear arms as much as you can. Build a temple for me. I am going to the Byzantine Kaiser. I will return with a big army and I will drive away Muhammad and his friends." The hypocrites built a mosque and invited the Prophet to open it. While the Messenger of Allah was getting ready to go, the following verses informed the Messenger of Allah about the situation:

"And there are those who put up a mosque by way of mischief and infidelity― to disunite the Believers and in preparation for one who warred against Allah and His Messenger aforetime. They will indeed swear that their intention is nothing but good; but Allah doth declare that they are certainly liars. Never stand thou forth therein.!..." (at-Tawba, 107-108)

The following verse is the clearest evidence that the Prophet receives some unknown knowledge through divine revelation:

"When the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his consorts, and she then divulged it (to another) and Allah made it known to him, he confirmed part thereof and repudiated a part. Then when he told her thereof, she said, "Who told thee this?" He said "He told me who knows and is well-acquainted (with all things)." (at-Tahrim, 3)

We understand from the narration mentioned in Bukhari that these two wives of the Messenger of Allah are Hz. Hafsa and Hz.Aisha. (Bukhari, Tafsir, 66/3)

The reason why the chapter of al-Mumtahina was sent down is an example of an instruction the Messenger of Allah received about the unknown.  

The chapter that starts with the verse "O ye who believe! Take not My enemies and yours as friends (or protectors)" was sent down due to Hatib B. Abi Baltaa:

Hatib, who was one of the warriors at the Battle of Badr, gave a letter to a woman called  Sara, who came from Madinah to Makkah. It is written in the letter that the Prophet is preparing to conquer Makkah. While the woman was going to Makkah, Hz. Jibril (Gabriel) informed the Messenger of Allah about the situation. The Messenger of Allah called some of his Companions and said to them, "You will find a woman going to Makkah in such and such a place. She has the letter of Hatib on her. Take the letter from her and bring it to me; let the woman go on." They went and found the woman. The woman denied having a letter at first but she had to give the letter she had hidden among her hair.

The Messenger of Allah summoned Hatib and asked him why he had done it. Hatib said, "O Messenger of Allah! I did not exit my religion after I became a Muslim. All of the Makkan muhajirs have some people to protect their families in Makkah but I have nobody. My family is among them. I wanted to help my family. I know that Allah will punish the Makkans. My letter will not eliminate this punishment." (Bukhari, Tafsir, 60/1)

Hz. Prophet informs about things that happen at his time

The Messenger of Allah informed about some unknown events like "the creation of the world, stories of the previous ummas and the future of Islam and Muslims" through the Quran. In addition, he mentioned the events that will take place both during his time and after him.

-During a battle, a person called Quzman was fighting bravely among Muslims. When the Messenger of Allah was told about his courage, he said, "This man is a person of Hell." The Companions were astonished to hear it. When the battle ended, Quzman was seriously injured. They said to him, "It is time to rejoin Allah." Quzman said, "I have not fought for Allah."  After a while, he committed suicide because he could not put up with the pains of his wounds. Thus, the sentence of the Messenger of Allah, "This man is a person of Hell" was understood. (Bukhari, Maghazi, 38)

-Huzayfa's mother rebuked her son because he did not invite the Prophet. Her son apologized. He said he would go to the Messenger of Allah and ask for forgiveness. Huzayfa stayed with the Prophet from the evening prayer to the night prayer. He followed the Prophet, who left the mosque after the prayer. When the Messenger of Allah saw Huzayfa, he said, "O Huzayfa! May Allah forgive you and your mother." (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 31)

-One day before the Battle of Badr, Hz. Prophet told his Companions which leader of the unbelievers would die in which place one by one. (Muslim, Jannah, 76)

-When the Negus, the Abyssinian king, died, the Prophet said to his Companions, "One of your brothers died today. Let us perform his prayer." They stood up and performed his janazah prayer. (Bukhari, Janaiz, 55)

-Hz. Prophet told his Companions in Madinah about the battle in a place called Muta between 3000 Companions and the Byzantine army, which consisted of more than one hundred thousand soldiers. The Prophet told his friends in tears that Hz.Zayd, Hz. Jafar, and Hz. Abdullah B. Rawaha were martyred and that Hz. Khalid b. Walid took the standard. (Bukhari, Janaiz,4)

When today's means are considered, it is easier to understand how the Prophet informed about something that happened in another part of the world. An incident that happens in a remote part of the world is broadcast through radios and televisions live. It is not strange that the heart of a great person is informed about these incidents with the permission of Allah. 

The Messenger of Allah attracts attention to his difference through the following words:

"I can see what you cannot see and hear what you do not hear." (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 19)

 Hz. Prophet informs about what will happen in the future

There are many incidents about which Hz. Prophet mentions related to the future. We will mention some of them especially those that are related to today with short interpretations:

-Hz.Huzayfa narrates: "Once the Messenger of Allah stood up and told us about the things that would happen until Doomsday. Some of our friends memorized them and some of them forgot. I remember the things that I forgot when they happen. It is just like not remembering someone when he is absent and recognizing him when he appears..." (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 23)

-Another narration from Hz. Huzayfa: The Messenger of Allah said, "...There will not be almost anybody left to fulfill the duty. People will say, "There is one reliable person in such and such a tribe." They will say for a person who does not have even the slightest degree of faith, "He is such a clever and graceful person." (Bukhari, Fitan, 13)

Hz. Huzayfa, who narrated the hadiths above, said: "I did not use tocare about whom I did business with because if the person I did business with was a Muslim, I regarded him as reliable. If he was a Christian, his administrator would give me my right. However, today I do business with such and such people only."

-In a hadith, Hz. Prophet attracts attention to the following five things:

1- When prostitution is committed openly in a community, plague (epidemics) and unprecedented diseases will occur.   

2- When they measure and weigh wrongly, they will suffer from famine and financial difficulties; they will be governed by cruel administrators.

3- They will be deprived of rain because they do not pay zakah. If there were no animals, they would not be sent any rain.

4- Allah will send them enemies from outside because they do not fulfill the duty given to them by Allah and His Messenger. Those enemies will capture some of their property.  

5- Allah will cause mischief among them because their administrator do not judge by and prefer what Allah sent down.” (Ibn Majah, Fitan, Hadith No: 4259)

We can see in the first item that diseases like AIDS, which is seen in the Western communities where prostitution is committed openly, will emerge and in the fifth item that our community has internal mischief and troubles for years.

-"Before Doomsday, there will be mischief like the darkness of the night. During the mischief, a person will wake up as a believer but will go to bed as an unbeliever or will go to bed as a believer and wake up as an unbeliever." (Abu Dawud, Malahim, Hadith No:4297) "A person will sell his religion in return for worldly interests." (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 23)

-Once the Messenger of Allah said to the people around him, "The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their dish." A Companion asked: "Will that be because of our small numbers at that time?" The Messenger of Allah replied: "No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and Allah will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and last enervation into your hearts." A Companion asked: What is wahn (enervation)?" The Messenger of Allah answered: "Love of the world and dislike of death." (Abu Dawud, Malahim, Hadith No: 4297)

Today, the Islamic world with a population of more than one billion is experiencing the state mentioned in the hadith above. The Europeans who were very scared in the past when someone said, "the Ottomans are coming" can direct us as they wish today. 

The following hadith informs us that there will be some people among this umma who will follow the way of non-Muslims and imitate them:

"You will follow and imitate those who lived before you in every detail. Even if they enter a lizard hole, you will enter, too." The Companions asked, "O Messenger of Allah! Will we follow Jews and Christians?" The Prophet said, "Who else will you follow? (You will definitely follow them)." (Ibn Majah, Fitan, Hadith No: 3994)

"The firstsign of Doomsday is a fire that drags people from the east to the west." (Bukhari, Fitan, 24)

This hadith seems to indicate imitating the West. When we say the WEST, we understand Europe and America; similarly, when they say the EAST, they understand the Islamic world. Our nation has not been able to get rid of the admiration and love of the West that started in the last period of the Ottoman State with the Edict of Gülhane yet. There are some people among us who say, "Down with America" but actually shout, "Long live America" with the American jeans and shoes they wear and the American Marlboro they smoke.

As Badiuzzaman Said Nursi said at the beginning of the 20th century, "We do not act on our own; we act indirectly. Europe plays and we sing." This state is still valid. We do not do things on our own; others make us act. Europe directs us as it wishes.

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