Do not delve deeply into the affairs of the Unseen: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

Abu’l-Faraj Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, in his magnum opus Jaami’ al-‘Uloom w’al-Hikam writes the following warning against delving too deeply into the affairs of the Unseen (al-Ghaib):

ومما يدخل في النهي عن التعمق والبحث عنه أمور الغيب الخبرية التي أمر بالإيمان بها ، ولم يبين كيفيتها ، وبعضها قد لا يكون له شاهد في هذا العالم المحسوس ، فالبحث عن كيفية ذلك هو مما لا يعني ، وهو مما ينهى عنه ، وقد يوجب الحيرة والشك ، ويرتقي إلى التكذيب .

And of those things for which it is prohibited to go deeply and investigate are the affairs of the Unseen (umoor al-ghaib) of which we have been informed and which we are commanded to have eemaan in them, and whose ‘how’ has not been made clear, and some of which do not have supporting evidence in this sensory world. So investigating into the ‘how’ of these thing is something which does not concern us, and which we have been prohibited from doing, and it would entail confusion and doubt, and would lead to denial.

وفي ” صحيح مسلم ” عن أبي هريرة عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ، قال : لا يزال الناس يسألون حتى يقال : هذا خلق الله ، فمن خلق الله ؟ فمن وجد من ذلك شيئا ، فليقل آمنت بالله وفي رواية له : لا يزال الناس يسألونكم عن العلم ، حتى يقولوا : هذا الله خلقنا ، فمن خلق الله ؟ وفي رواية له أيضا : ليسألنكم الناس عن كل شيء ، حتى يقولوا : الله خلق كل شيء ، فمن خلقه ؟ وخرجه البخاري ، ولفظه : يأتي الشيطان أحدكم فيقول : من خلق كذا ؟ من خلق كذا ؟ حتى يقول : من خلق ربك ؟ فإذا بلغه فليستعذ بالله ولينته

And there is in Saheeh Muslim from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

Man will continue to question to the extent that some one will say, “Allah created all things, but who created Allah?” So whoever experiences any of that, then let him, “I have eemaan in Allah.” [Muslim #134]

And in another narration of his:

Man will continue to question to the extent that some one will say, “Allah created all things, but who created Allah?” [Muslim #135]

And in another narration of his:

Man will certainly ask you about everything, to the extent that they will say, “Allah created every thing, but who created Allah?” [Muslim #135d]

And al-Bukhari reported it with the following wording:

The Shaytaan will come to one of you and say, “Who created This? who created this?” until he says, “Who has created your Lord?” So, when he reaches that, one should seek refuge with Allah, and stop.” [al-Bukhari #3276]

وفي ” صحيح مسلم ” عن أنس عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : قال الله عز وجل : إن أمتك لا يزالون يقولون : ما كذا ما كذا ، حتى يقولوا : هذا الله خلق الخلق ، فمن خلق الله ؟ . وخرجه البخاري ، ولفظه : لن يبرح الناس يتساءلون : هذا الله خالق كل شيء ، فمن خلق الله ؟ .

And there is in Saheeh Muslim from Anas that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – said: Verily your ummah will continue asking, ‘what is this? what is this?’ until they would say, ‘It is Allah who created everything, but who created Allah?’ [Muslim #136]

قال إسحاق بن راهويه : لا يجوز التفكر في الخالق ، ويجوز للعباد أن يتفكروا في المخلوقين بما سمعوا فيهم ، ولا يزيدون على ذلك ، لأنهم إن فعلوا تاهوا ، قال : وقد قال الله : وإن من شيء إلا يسبح بحمده [ الإسراء : 44 ] ، فلا يجوز أن يقال : كيف تسبح القصاع ، والأخونة ، والخبز المخبوز ، والثياب المنسوجة ؟ وكل هذا قد صح العلم فيهم أنهم يسبحون ، فذلك إلى الله أن يجعل تسبيحهم كيف شاء وكما شاء ، وليس للناس أن يخوضوا في ذلك إلا بما علموا ، ولا يتكلموا في هذا وشبهه إلا بما أخبر الله ، ولا يزيدوا على ذلك ، فاتقوا الله ، ولا تخوضوا في هذه الأشياء المتشابهة ، فإنه يرديكم الخوض فيه عن سنن الحق . نقل ذلك كله حرب عن إسحاق رحمه الله .

Ishaaq ibn Raahawayh said: making al-tafakkir about the Creator is not permitted, but it is permitted for the slave to reflect and think deeply about the created beings according to what they know about them, but not to increase beyond that, because if they do, they will go astray. He said: And Allah has said, “and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise” [17:44], so it is not permitted to say, ‘how do bowls, tables, baked bread, and woven clothing make tasbeeh?’ And there is authentic knowledge that they make tasbeeh (glorification) for all of this, so it is up to Allah to make their tasbeeh however He wishes and as He wishes. And it is for for mankind to dive deeply into that, except concerning that for which they have knowledge, nor to converse about it [i.e. about the ‘how’ of it all] nor to make comparisons except with that which Allah has informed us, and not increase beyond that. So have taqwa of Allah, and do not become engrossed in these uncertain matters, for verily plunging deeply into them will you to perish away from the sunan (pl. of sunnah) of truth. Harb transmitted all of that from Ishaaq (rahimahullaah).

[Jaami’ al-‘Uloom w’al-Hikam 2/172-3]

See also: Ibn al-Qayyim on the Wisdom and Benefits of the Creation of the Shayaateen

See also: Dealing with the human shayaateen and the jinn shayaateen: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: The Shaytaan and his tribe see you from where you do not see them: ibn Taymiyah

See also: A Note on Differing Reports in Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah

3 thoughts on “Do not delve deeply into the affairs of the Unseen: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

  1. Pingback: “There is no one who does not have a Qareen from the Jinn”: Sharḥ al-Nawawi | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Shaytaan and his tribe see you from where you do not see them: ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: A Note on Differing Reports in Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

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