The meaning of “the knowledge of the unseen”, is having knowledge about the matters that gaining knowledge about them is impossible for human through natural means, like knowledge of the past events that have not been narrated, and the present events that are hidden from human’s eyes and ears, and the future events that their prerequisites are not clear at the moment; not like the knowledge of tomorrow’s sunrise or the weather condition in next few days or harvesting the products in a season of year which their prerequisites are clear at the moment and therefore, they are not considered as the knowledge of the unseen.
With this description, it is clear that the knowledge of the unseen only belongs to God; because only He is perfect and due to His perfection, He knows everything, and only He is eternal and immortal, and He is the creator of prerequisites and events and accordingly, He has domination over His own creations in the past, present and future, and nothing happens outside His creation to be hidden from Him, as He has said: ﴿فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا الْغَيْبُ لِلَّهِ﴾; “So say that the knowledge of the unseen belongs only to God” and has said: ﴿وَعِنْدَهُ مَفَاتِحُ الْغَيْبِ لَا يَعْلَمُهَا إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ ۚ وَمَا تَسْقُطُ مِنْ وَرَقَةٍ إِلَّا يَعْلَمُهَا وَلَا حَبَّةٍ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْأَرْضِ وَلَا رَطْبٍ وَلَا يَابِسٍ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ﴾; “And the occult keys are for Him that no one but Him is aware of that and He is aware of whatever is on the land and in the sea and no leaf falls from the trees, unless He is aware of it and no grain is in the darkness of earth and no wet and dry exists unless it is in the enlightening book” and has said: ﴿قُلْ لَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۚ﴾; “Say: No one in the heavens or earth knows the Unseen except God” and therefore, it is natural that human is not aware of the unseen and can not be; because his intellect and senses are not capable to understand the past events that are not narrated for him or understand the present events that are hidden from his eyes and ears or understand the future events that their prerequisites are not clear for him at the moment, and this is the requirement of his nature that he has been created based on, and this is why God, in regards to denial and improbability has said: ﴿أَعِنْدَهُ عِلْمُ الْغَيْبِ فَهُوَ يَرَىٰ﴾; “Does he have the knowledge of the unseen, so that he sees?!” and has said: ﴿أَمْ عِنْدَهُمُ الْغَيْبُ فَهُمْ يَكْتُبُونَ﴾; “Do they have access to the unseen, so they write down?!” and accordingly, there is no difference between the prophets and the others in this regard; because not having the knowledge of the unseen is the requirement of their humanity and the limitation of human powers, which is common between the prophets and the others; as God has said: ﴿قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ﴾; “Say: I am just a human being like you” and has said: ﴿قُلْ لَا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ عِنْدِي خَزَائِنُ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ وَلَا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ إِنِّي مَلَكٌ ۖ﴾; “Say: I do not tell you that God’s treasures are at my hand and I do not know the unseen and I do not tell you that I am an angel” and has said: ﴿قُلْ لَا أَمْلِكُ لِنَفْسِي نَفْعًا وَلَا ضَرًّا إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَلَوْ كُنْتُ أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ لَاسْتَكْثَرْتُ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ وَمَا مَسَّنِيَ السُّوءُ ۚ﴾; “Say: I do not own any profit and loss for myself unless what God wills and if I knew the secrets, I would increase the Good and would not be harmed” and therefore, with stronger reason the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt do not have the knowledge of the unseen either; since they are also humans similar to other people, and the human because of humanity, does not have the capacity for the knowledge of the unseen.
Yes, it is possible that God informs the human whom He reveals to about a past event that has not been narrated for him or a present event that is hidden from his eyes and ears or a future event that its prerequisites are not clear for him; as He has said: ﴿وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُطْلِعَكُمْ عَلَى الْغَيْبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَجْتَبِي مِنْ رُسُلِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ﴾; “God will not inform you about the unseen, but He chooses from His prophets whomever He wishes” and has said: ﴿عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ فَلَا يُظْهِرُ عَلَىٰ غَيْبِهِ أَحَدًا إِلَّا مَنِ ارْتَضَىٰ مِنْ رَسُولٍ فَإِنَّهُ يَسْلُكُ مِنْ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ رَصَدًا﴾; “He is the knower of the unseen, so He does not disclose His unseen to anyone; except someone of the prophets whom He approves, then He dispatches a sentinel before and behind him”; except that, on the one hand, God informing the Prophet of the unseen, is not a common and expected work, but it is special for the time of necessity or expediency that God knows best; as there are many examples of prophets’ unawareness of the unseen; such as Adam’s peace be upon him unawareness of Satan’s intention, when he invited him to eat from the forbidden tree, and unawareness of Noah peace be upon him of his child’s unsuccessfulness until he was drowned, and unawareness of Ibrahim peace be upon him and Lot peace be upon him of the identity of the angels, until they introduced themselves, and unawareness of Jacob peace be upon him of Yusuf’s peace be upon him story and his place until he introduced himself to his brothers, and unawareness of Moses peace be upon him of the business of the two ladies of Midian, to the extent that he asked them: ﴿مَا خَطْبُكُمَا ۖ﴾; “What is your business?” and unawareness of Ayyub peace be upon him that his wife has not committed prostitution, to the extent that he swore he would whip her a hundred times, and unawareness of Yunus peace be upon him that his people are going to become believers, to the extent that he left them with anger, and on the other hand, God informing the Prophet of the unseen, is not considered as the knowledge of the unseen for the prophet, rather it is in fact a knowledge of the unseen for God; because God has informed the Prophet about it; as if the Prophet informs others about it, it would not be considered as the knowledge of the unseen for others; because the Prophet has informed them about it, and “the knower of the unseen” does not apply on someone who was informed of a hidden event by someone else; as the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet peace be upon him and his household, similar to some of his companions, became aware of some of the future events through him, but they never claimed to know the knowledge of the unseen because of that, but rather they explicitly denied it.
For example, Abu Amru Muhammad bin Omar ibn Abdul Aziz Keshi who was from the narrators of the third century AH, has narrated with correct document from Abdullah ibn Muqirah in his Rijal book, summarized by Abu Ja’far Tusi (died 460 AH), who said that: «كنتُ عندَ أبي الحسنِ عليه السلام أنا و يحيى بنُ عبدِ اللهِ بنِ الحسنِ عليه السلام، فقال يحيى: جُعلتُ فداكَ إنّهم يَزعُمونَ أنّك تَعلمُ الغيب؟ فقال: سبحان الله! سبحان الله! ضَع يَدَكَ على رأسي، فواللهِ ما بَقِيَتْ في جسدي شعرةٌ و لا في رأسي الا قامَتْ! ثمّ قال: لا واللهِ ما هي الا وراثةٌ عن رسولِ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وآله»; meaning: “Yahya bin Abdullah bin Hassan (bin Ali) peace be upon him and I were with Abu al-Hasan (Musa ibn Ja’far) peace be upon him, so Yahya said: may I be your sacrifice, they think you have the knowledge of the unseen! He replied: SubhanAllah! SubhanAllah! Hold my head! I got goose bumps all over my head and body! Then he said: No, I swear to God, it is nothing except an inheritance from the Messenger of God peace be upon him and his household”.
Moreover, he has narrated from Abu-Basir with correct document that he has said: «قلتُ لأبي عبدِ اللهِ عليه السلام: إنّهم يقولون! قال: و ما يقولون؟ قلتُ: يقولون تَعلَمُ قَطْرَ المطرِ و عددَ النّجومِ و وَرقَ الشّجرِ و وزنَ ما في البحرِ و عددَ التّراب! فَرفَعَ يدَهُ إلى السّماءِ و قال: سبحان الله! سبحان الله! لا واللهِ ما يَعلَمُ هٰذا الّا الله!!»; meaning: “I told Abu Abdillah (Ja’far ibn Muhammad) peace be upon him: they say (something)! He said: what do they say? I said: they say you know the number of the rain drops, and the number of the stars, and the number of tree leaves, and the weight of the things in the sea, and the number of brushwood! So his Excellency raised his hand to the sky and said: SubhanAllah! SubhanAllah! No, I swear to God, nobody knows it except God”!
Furthermore, Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Yaqub Kuleini (died 328 AH), in the famous book “Alkafi”, has narrated from Sodair Sirfi with his own documentation that he has said: «كنتُ أنا و أبو بصير و يحيى البزّازِ و داودُ بنُ كثيرٍ في مجلسِ أبي عبدِ اللهِ عليه السلام إذ خرجَ إلينا و هو مُغْضَبٌ، فلمّا أَخَذَ مجلسَهُ قال: يا عَجَباً لِأقوامٍ يَزعمونَ أنّا نَعلَمُ الغيبَ، ما يَعلَمُ الغيبَ إلّا اللهُ عزّوجلّ، لَقَدْ هَمَمْتُ بِضَربِ جاريتي فلانةٍ، فَهَرَبَتْ منّي فما عَلِمْتُ في أيِّ بُيوتِ الدّارِ هي»; meaning: “Abu Basir and Yahya Bazzaz and Dawoud bin Kathir and I were in the session of Abu Abdillah (Ja’far ibn Muhammad) peace be upon him, suddenly he came toward to us while he was angry, and when he sat in his place, he said: I am amazed by those who think that we know the unseen! Nobody knows the unseen except Almighty God! Indeed, I wanted to hit my maidservant, so she ran away from me, and I did not know in which room she was hidden”!
These are examples of narrations which their meaning have been narrated in a Mutewatir manner from Ahl al-Bayt, and they are in accordance with the Book of God and common sense and for this reason, even the great scholars of the Shiite have admitted it, and have considered believing that Ahl al-Bayt had the knowledge of the unseen as an example of exaggeration about them, and even disbelief and polytheism; as for example, Muhammad ibn Ali bin Babawayh, known as Shaykh Saduq (died 381 AH) who is from the great scholars of the Shiite, has said in the book “Kamal al-Din wa Tamam al-Niʻmah”: «مَن يَنحَلُ لِلأئمةِ علمَ الغَيبِ، فهٰذا كفرٌ بِاللهِ و خروجٌ عَنِ الإسلامِ عندَنا»; meaning: “Whoever attributes the knowledge of the unseen to the Imams, it is disbelief in God, and in our opinion, it is considered as quitting Islam” and in another part of the same book has said: «و الغيبُ لا يَعلَمُهُ إلّا اللهُ و ما ٱدّعاهُ لِبشرٍ إلّا مشركٌ كافر»; meaning: “And nobody knows the unseen except God, and no one claims it for a human except a polytheist disbeliever”. Also, Muhammad ibn Muhammad bin Nu’man, known as Shaykh Mufid (died 413 AH) who was from the great scholars of the Shiite, has said in the book Awail al Maqalat: «فأمّا إطلاقُ القَولِ عليهم بأنّهم يَعلمونَ الغَيبَ فهو مُنْكَرٌ بيّنُ الفَسادِ، لأنَّ الوَصفَ بذلكَ إنّما يَسْتَحِقُّهُ مَن عَلِمَ الأشياءَ بِنَفسِهِ لا بِعلمٍ مُستَفادٍ وهٰذا لا يكونُ إلّا اللهُ عزّوجل وعلىٰ قولي هٰذا جماعةُ أهلِ الإمامةِ إلّا مَن شَذَّ عنهم مِنَ المُفوِّضَةِ ومَنِ انتَمىٰ إليهم مِنَ الغُلاة»; meaning: “But saying this about the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt that they have the knowledge of the unseen, is incorrect and clearly invalid; because this description only suits someone who himself knows things intrinsically, not with the knowledge that he has used (from another person), and this description does not suit anybody except Almighty God, and all believers in the Imamate (Ahl al-Bayt), with the exception of a few number of the Mufawwizah and the Qulat who return to them, believe in this opinion of mine”.
It is hereby understood that the knowledge of the unseen only belongs to God, and it is not attributed to anyone except Him, and this is the consensus of Muslims from all Islamic sects, except for a number of Shiite Qulat and Sunni Sufis, and its basis is the Book of God and the Mutawatir Sunnah under the light of common sense, not this illusion that if God’s Caliph on earth has the knowledge of the unseen, then the obliged person does not have the free will; because such illusion is baseless; given that the knowledge of the Caliph of God about the unseen, is not greater than God’s knowledge of that and therefore, when God’s knowledge of that does not conflict with the free will of the obliged person, then with stronger reason His Caliph’s knowledge of that does not conflict with the free will of the obliged person either, and of course God’s knowledge of the unseen is sufficient for the obliged person to avoid committing sins; as He has said: ﴿وَكَفَىٰ بِرَبِّكَ بِذُنُوبِ عِبَادِهِ خَبِيرًا بَصِيرًا﴾; “And your Lord suffices as one well aware and percipient of His servants’ sins” and if someone does not fear from God’s knowledge, then his fear from others’ knowledge does not benefit him; as God has said: ﴿يَسْتَخْفُونَ مِنَ النَّاسِ وَلَا يَسْتَخْفُونَ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَهُوَ مَعَهُمْ إِذْ يُبَيِّتُونَ مَا لَا يَرْضَىٰ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ مُحِيطًا﴾; “They hide from the people, but they do not hide from God, though He is with them when they say something overnight that He does not approve of, and God comprehends whatever they do”!
This is the pure Islam which has been forgotten throughout centuries, and Mansoor Hashemi Khorasani reminds of it, hoping that Muslims remember it, and the future belongs to the pious people.