Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 1 year ago

A literal reading of Twelver Shi'a hadith indicates that Allah created and appointed the prophet as a Prophet prior to his existence in this world. So it was not due to activities that he chose to do, such as mysticism, that he became a prophet. 

Of course, he had some practices which can be called "mystical" such as spending time alone in the cave of Hira for worship. It is natural that someone who is very close to God would want to choose to do those activities. 

My understanding is that the time "before" this world is outside of chronological time, and therefore Allah did this with full knowledge of what was before and after. So therefore Allah knew the Prophet's merits over all people, rather than just only pre-designing him as the Prophet. That is, it is a combination of the individual merit of the Prophet and the creational will of Allah. This was why he was born with 'ismah; otherwise, it might be unfair for Allah to grant some poeple 'ismah and not others. Other people may have different understandings. But in any case it was not solely due to the Prophet "earning" the prophethood through ascetic or mystical practices.

However, some other people, including some people who are not Muslims but who feel the Prophet was close to God, might see it this way and might agree with your view. 


Zoheir Ali Esmail, Shaykh Zoheir Ali Esmail has a Bsc in Accounting and Finance from the LSE in London, and an MA in Islamic Studies from Middlesex University. He studied Arabic at Damascus University and holds a PhD... Answered 1 year ago


Thank you for your question. The very meaning of unveiling (kashf) is to life the veil of hidden meanings and realities and thereby comprehend them. Unveiling is the primary epistemological tool in irfan.

May you always be successful 


Rebecca Masterton, Dr Rebecca Masterton graduated with a BA in Japanese Language and Literature; an MA in Comparative East Asian and African Literature and a PhD in Islamic literature of West Africa. She has been... Answered 3 years ago

It may be due to the region in which those scholars live and therefore which types of thought have influenced the idea of spirituality in that region. The term 'irfan' began to be used under the Safavids, to distinguish it from 'Sufism', or 'tasawwuf', which came to be associated with many spurious groups adopting various practices that had little basis in Islam. If we use the term 'Islamic mysticism', it covers a wide range of spiritual trends which have been incorporated into the field. The type of 'irfan' that may be found in Khorasan would differ from that found in Baghdad. Generally, 'irfan' as understood today, includes the thought and practice of mystics, be they Sunni or Shi'i and be their mysticism influence by Platonism or Neo-Platonism. This view of 'irfan' takes an inclusive approach to spiritual tendencies among mystics.

With regard to 'philosophy'  - this term in the Muslim world basically means Platonic-Aritotelian influenced philosophy. There are many other kinds of philosophy also - so the condemnation of philosophy does not mean philosophy per se, but this Greek-influenced trend.

Primarily, both these fields have been disapproved of in narrations attributed to the Imams (as), because both side-line or play down the central pillar of walayah. According to traditional Shi'i narrations, the Imam is the gateway to Allah (swt), the Greatest Sign and the Qutb. Ma'rifah of the Imam = Ma'rifah of God's theophany on earth. There is no greater sign than the Imam (Imam 'Ali (as) says this in Usul al-Kafi). 

The are narrations from the Imams that indicate that certain people used to sit in their circles, learn their doctrines, and then go and attribute those doctrines to themselves. This could be one root of the beginnings of Sufism. Hakim Tirmidhi, in his book Sirat al-Awliya' (The Concept of Sainthood) pretty much repackages the Imami concept of walayah, but replaces the Imam with that of the Saint, or Waliyullah (Friend of God). At the same time, he was writing polemical treatises against the Shi'a. Therefore, those who, in time of the Imams, sat in dhikr circles, or passed on the teachings of the Imams, while effectively breaking their allegiance to the Imam and attributing their teachings to themselves, were condemned. Thus, those who say that 'what it matter where these teachings come from? It all leads back to Allah' overlook the fundamental pillar of walayah and loyalty to the Imam. In effect, if you steal someone's teachings, then those teachings are transmitted on a foundation of betrayal. So there is an ethical problem here.

Some argue that the narrations attributed to the Imams that condemn irfan and philosophy are not authentic. This would require more expert investigation to ascertain their status.

With du'as