Ibn 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.”1‘2
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.