The Humble I

Knowing, Doing, Becoming

Ibn Taymiyyah’s Firasah

bigger-smaller-picture-1014x570Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah remarked: ‘O you who are defenceless! Beware the spiritual insight of the godly one, for he sees your hidden deeds from behind a veil: “Beware the spiritual insight of a believer, for he sees with the light of God.”12

Spiritual insight, or firasah, is a faith-based insight that God casts into the hearts of His faithful ones, by which peoples’ states or deeds are unveiled to them. They are from those saintly miracles (karamat al-awliya) gifted to them by God; the inner workings of which are the very opposite of magic and sorcery. Sorcerers claim power, for themselves or for others besides God. Saints (and more so, Prophets) claim only helplessness before their Lord, accepting they have no share whatsoever in the miracles which issues forth from them. Such spiritual intuitions or epiphanies that arise in the heart are seldom wrong if the heart is pure. Which is to say, the accuracy of a person’s firasah will depend upon their nearness to God and their strength of faith. For, as masters of the inward life say, when souls approach the presence of the Truth (al-Haqq), it is usually the epiphanies of the Truth that come to it.

In his magesterial Madarij al-Salikin, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah discusses the reality of firasah, its cause, the sayings of the early masters concerning it, and its types. He also relates some wondrous accounts about the firasah of his shaykh and mentor, Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah. He writes:

“I have witnessed incredible things from the firasah of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may God have mercy upon him; and what I have not seen are even greater – accounts that would need a large volume to document:

He informed his companions how the Tartars would invade the Levant (sham), in the year 699H, how the Muslim armies would be vanquished, and how there would be no indiscriminate killing or the taking of captives in Damascus, and how the army’s sole craving would be for wealth. All of this was before the Tartars had even decided to set-out. He then informed the public and the rulers, in the year 702H, as the Tartars were advancing on the Levant, of how they would be routed and defeated, and how triumph and victory would be for Muslims. He swore an oath about this over seventy times. So the people insisted, say ‘God-willing (insha’Llah),’ to which he replied: ‘God-willing; in the sense it will happen, not in the sense it could happen!’ I heard him say this. He said: ‘When they kept urging me, I said: Do not do so. For God, Exalted is He, has written it in the Preserved Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfuz), that on this occasion they will be defeated and that victory shall be for the armies of Islam.’ …

He once remarked: ‘My companions and others come to me, and I see on their faces, and in their eyes, things I do not mention to them.’ So I, or someone else, said to him: What if you just tell them? He replied: ‘Do you wish that I become a fortune-teller like those [in the courts] of the rulers?’

I once said to him: If you treat us according to what you see, it will help make us more steadfast and upright. He replied: ‘You would not be able to put up with me for even a Friday, or a month!’

He informed me on several occasions about certain private matters I intended to do, but which I had not spoken of to anyone. He told me of major events that would take place in the future, without specifying dates. I have seen some of them happen; I await the others. What his senior companions have witnessed of this is far more than what I have seen. And God knows best.”3

1. A hadith related by al-Tirmidhi, no.3127, saying the hadith is gharib. It has a support in the following hadith: ‘Indeed, God has servants who know about people by reading the signs.’ [Al-Tabarani, Mu‘jam al-Awsat, no.3086, and its chain is hasan].

2. Al-Fawa’id (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 2008), 106.

3. Madarij al-Salikin (Riyadh: Dat Taybah, 2008), 3:368-70.

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18 thoughts on “Ibn Taymiyyah’s Firasah

  1. Mashallah, i really enjoyed this. I never knew such mystical esoteric accounts were recorded about Ibn Tamiyah (R). I wonder how this will go down in certain circles today. JZK for sharing a real gem.

    • I wonder too. My experience is that most of those who do come across this or its like, tend to downplay the matter, or simply brush it under the carpet. The larger tragedy is that had someone else said the likes of what Ibn Taymiyyah said above, charges of disbelief (kufr) or deviancy would be hurled at such a person. And yet, “What’s good for the goose …”

      On a more upbeat note, there is much more like this in the various biographies of Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullah, penned by his students and close associates.

      • Muhammad Saleem Anwar on said:

        Though a gift and special favour from Allaah, these karaamaat are never sought for by the pious as they are the veils from among the veils for yearning souls that bar them from meeting their Beloved in the purest and most sublime way.

      • Umm Yusuf on said:

        “What’s good for the goose..” Lol- so true!

        Is it possible at some stage to translate some more on what is penned by his students and various associates?

        The topic of firasah is really intriguing. As a person doesnt flaunt his firasah (as one would hope and expect) , how does a lay person recognize it in another and that it is something more than piety and super-intelligence?

        Barak’Allahu feek.

      • Umm Yusuf: There are snippets of his biography penned by some of his students, on the net. Al-Bazzar’s biography of him has been posted on the net; one link is here:

        As for how to recognise someone’s firasah: if a person is known for his/her piety and adherence to the shari’ah, and has the knack of knowing affairs that are hidden and concealed (whether about people or about situations), then this is likely to be a sign of that person possessing firasah or kashf.

  2. Thank you for this post…. MashaAllah!

    My understanding is that Firasah is a sense of visual acumen, perception and a spiritual insight. Would you kindly elaborate and explain:
    1. the linguistic meaning of Firasah, and
    2. whether Firasah is resticted only to beleivers . Can non beleivers have Firasah?

    Jazak Allah Khair

    • Lexically, firasah stems from the word faris, which originally meant “a Persian,” but later took on the meaning of “a skilled horseman” – as Persians were known for this skill. Gradually it came to mean ‘someone who examines something carefully, and then acts.”

      Religiously, firasah is defined as a light or a though that God casts into the heart by which truths are unveiled, the strength and soundness of which is linked to the strength of iman and ma’rifah of the person.

      In this sense firasah is different to those experienced in reading the body language of others, and thus finding out “secrets” about others or second guessing their behaviour. For this has nothing to do with iman and taqwa. This type of discernment is open to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

      Some non-Muslims, like certain Buddhist monks,, through arduous “mortification of the flesh” and prolonged and harsh spiritual discipline, may find that their”spiritual senses” are heightened, and thus they may sometimes be able to discern disclosed matters. Again, this is not firasah, since it is not based upon faith and obedience to God; one cannot rule out the possibility of their experience being whispers of the devil or jinn-related.

      Non-Muslims (or even sinful Muslims) who exhibit “miraculous feats” that are not borne of faith and obedience to God, their feats are not looked upon as saintly miracles or karamat, but rather devil/jinn inspired and initiated, or else, just the natural consequences of one’s spiritual senses being greatly heightened when one mortifies the flesh and denies it its physical pleasures and cravings.

      And Allah knows best.

  3. Mashallah this last comment has definetly cleared up some ideas that have bugged me for years, I am a bit of a sucker for esoteric knowledge and all that is mystical within our islamic branches of knowledge. I always wondered how is it the hindu swami or turbo charged evangelical can have such experiences or peform what appears to be things that are not of the odinary.

    Id always associated the openings of the saintly righteous muslims as a divine gift that Allah bestows to those that are close to him…

    • The openings and karamat of the awliyah ARE indeed divine gifts that Allah favours them with.

      As for what occurs to other than them, then often they are of the jinns and the devils, and at other times they are the product of denying the nafs its material pleasures. But the reason why they are not considered praiseworthy, and nor are they sought after, is because we were not created to merely “heighten our spiritual senses”, but rather to adore and worship Allah. Such feats are of no value in the sight of Allah if they are accompanied by a lack of faith, obedience and worship of Him. They are not from His special gifts; they are just things He gives to some, as He gives wealth, power and material abundance to non-Muslims too (especially when they use the right worldly means or asbab to acquire such things).

      An “ordinary” obedient believer from whom no miracles pour forth is more extraordinary in the sight of Allah that any non-Muslim or sinful Muslim who can levitate, walk on water, or turn mud into gold.

  4. zahid sheikh on said:

    Mashallah such lofty position for the Sheikh-ul-Islam.

  5. Abu Hamza on said:

    Jazakallah again for a thought-provoking article.

    I personally don’t find the blessing of firasah particularly mystical or esoteric.

    Esoteric implies an inner power or something gained form within whereas we clearly believe that the blessing of firasah is externally gifted from the endless bounties of Allah swt.

    I find the mystery far greater when I reflect on the blessing of the laws of physics and how our atomic structure is constantly maintained or how the universe remains a stable environment – planets moving like clockwork – subhanallah. The mysticism behind certain small truths being cast into receiving hearts pales into insignificance when I reflect on the fact that indeed Allah swt is all powerful. There is no mystery behind a good person receiving blessings from his Creator – it is simply what we have been promised should we choose it.

    On a side note, Br Abu Aaliyah, given that it is very difficult to externally determine the true status of anyone’s heart – is there any Islamic advice on how to differentiate between ‘miracles’ of firasah and ‘miracles’ inspired by other than the blessing of Allah swt (be it jinn or any other source)?


  6. Assalamualaikum wr wb

    Are there people like Ib-Taimiyyah (RA) present these days?

  7. This is personality worshipping……..and nothing else.
    A momin is wise because he reads, knows and follows Al Quran….but how can he know other people’s affairs, states and deeds without witnessing personally.
    Yes, he can analyze after seeing and knowing a person’s belief and deeds.

    • An odd response. Alhamdulillah, I worship One God: Allah, and believe that none has the right to be worshipped except Him.

      The article mentions the hadith about firasah – a type of miracle or karamah that God gives to some non-prophets. This is how one who is possessed of it can know some things about others.

      Your view about it being personality worshiping, or doubting its veracity – what authority or knowledge do you base this on? And how do you explain the actual hadith? And are you saying miracles of the righteous are not true?

  8. Assalamu Aleykum, can you do a general article on karamat?

    who receives it
    what the limits are
    how it differs from that of a prophet
    when one displays it at all (an Awliya usually hides it, yet there are many wounds made in front of people)
    Where there Sahaba who had Karamat?

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