Contents > Chapter 9: Knowledge of the Ghayb (Unseen) > Ilham (Inspiration of the heart)


Ilham (Inspiration of the heart)

Allah, the Most Merciful, inspires guidance to the hearts of some believers. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Amongst the nation of Bani Israel who lived before you, there were men who used to be inspired with guidance though they were not Prophets, and if there is any such person amongst my followers, it is Umar.”[1]


Commenting on this Hadeeth, Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) says, ‘Thus, it is established that the allies of Allah may receive inspirations or intuitions. The best of these in the entire Muslim nation after Abu Bakr (radhi allahu anhu), is Umar Ibn Khattab (radhi allahu anhu). The best of this nation after its Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) is Abu Bakr and then Umar.[2]


It has been established in the Saheeh that Umar is a muhaddath of this nation. For any muhaddath, or receiver of inspirations and which we assume to exist in this nation, Umar is better than him. And yet, Umar always did that which was obligatory upon him; to measure anything that occurred to him against that with which the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) was sent. Sometimes, they would be in agreement, and this would be evidence of the high rank of Umar and his piety. In this way, the Qur’aan was revealed ratifying the opinion of Umar, which he had expressed before its revelation on several occasions.[3] Other times, what occurred to Umar would be at variance with the message of Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), and Umar would retract his original position as soon as he realized this, as in his retraction his opinion at the treaty of Hudaibiyah when at first he was determined that the Muslims should engage the associationists in battle. This was after a consultation between Umar and the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam). This Hadeeth is well known and is found in the collection of Bukharee and others.”


“Another example is when after the death of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), some people refused to pay Zakaat to Abu Bakr (radhi allahu anhu). Abu Bakr declared war against them, to which Umar reproached but after discussing the issue with Abu Bakr, he backed from his view. Umar then said: “By Allah, it was nothing other than that I saw that Allah had inspired in his heart fighting them and I knew that it was the truth.”


“This and other examples like them show the higher rank of Abu Bakr over Umar, even though, as we have seen, Umar was muhaddath, one who is inspired with the truth. This is because Abu Bakr was As-Siddeeq (i.e. ever-truthful, ever believing) and who is Siddeeq takes from the Prophet, the protected from falling into error everything which he says and does. On the other hand, one who is muhaddath takes things from his own heart and intuitions, and these are not protected from falling into error, and so he needed always to measure them against that which has been brought by the Prophet, the protected from falling into error.”


“Thus, Umar used to consult with the companions (radhi allahu anhu) and to discuss with them, seeking their counsel in various affairs. Furthermore, they used to disagree with him on something and so they would present their arguments from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Umar then accepted from them this disagreement and discussion, and never said to them: ‘I am muhaddath, I receive inspirations and visions, and so you should accept that which I say and not oppose me therein.’ So, anyone who claims that he is an ally of Allah, or his companions claim for him that he is ‘enlightened’, or receives inspirations such that the early scholars of Islam have unanimously agreed that the opinions of any man can be accepted and can be rejected (i.e. open to question) except for the statements of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam).”[4]


This discussion by Shaikh al-Islam, Ibn Taymiyyah greatly clarifies the issue of inspirations granted to those who are not Prophets. From the examples of Umar (radhi allahu anhu), who was the best of those inspired, we learn that…


(a) Inspirations are not an independent source of information from Allah, and thus must be compared with the Sunnah. If inspirations contradict the Sunnah they must be rejected altogether.


(b) Not every opinion of an inspired person is sound and correct as we have seen from the example of Umar Ibn Khattab (radhi allahu anhu). Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said: “The previous nations used to be in need of muhaddatheen (those who are addressed), unlike the nation of Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam). Allah has made them free of this need. They are in no need after Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) of any other Prophet nor any muhaddath, since Allah has collected in to one Prophethood all of the good qualities, knowledge and righteous actions which He had spread out and divided among the previous Prophets.”[5]

[1] Saheeh al-Bukharee, vol.5, no.38.

[2] See, Saheeh al-Bukharee, vol.5, no.20.

[3] Narrated by Abdullah Ibn Umar, “Umar said: ‘My lord concorded with (my judgments) on three occasions. In case of the Station of Ibrahim, in case of the observance of veil and in case of the prisoners of Badr.” [Saheeh  Muslim, no. 5903.]

[4] See, ‘Criterion between the Allies of the Merciful and the Allies of the Devil’, by Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, p.61-64.

[5] See ‘Criterion between the Allies of the Merciful and the Allies of the devil’, by Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, p.83.