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When believers appeal to their private spiritual experiences to argue for their faith, skeptics typically respond by dismissing their stories entirely, conjecturing that these are more likely cases of hallucinations, some form of mental illness, or simply their minds and emotions playing tricks on them.

How do Muslims make sure this is not the case? How do Muslims discern genuine spiritual experiences from hallucinations or 'mind tricks' in general?

Note: this question is inspired by a similar question recently asked on Christianity Stack Exchange.


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  • The simple answer is personal spiritual experiences shouldn't be used in argument against other people. What is trustworthy in argument is miracles observed by plenty of people then reported by many different sources.
    – The Z
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 15:35
  • @TheZ - but even if you keep your experiences to yourself, I think it is still a valid concern to make sure that one's experiences are genuinely spiritual and not just psychological phenomena.
    – user42469
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 15:36
  • If the purpose is simply personal validation, one can simply confirm with what is surely proven (like the Quran and Sunnah). This isn't useful in proving to others because personal miracles aren't meant to prove to others. The miracles of the prophets were meant to do that.
    – The Z
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 15:56

2 Answers 2

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Asalaam Alaikum

Allah the mighty and sublime said in the quran ;

Indeed in that are signs for those who discern [15:75]

and our beloved prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said ;

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, "Beware of the intuition of the believer. Verily, he sees with the light of Allah." Then, the Prophet recited the verse, "Verily, in that are signs for those of discernment." [sunan Al-Tirmidhi]

the fifth word of verse (15:75) is mutawassimeen (translated to discern in english), regarding this word the greatest interpreter of quran said ;

Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA) said that it means "those who watch closely."

another great scholar said ;

Ibn al-Qayyim said, "It is a light that Allah bestows in the heart of his servant, by which he distinguishes between truth and falsehood, advantage and disadvantage, the honest and the liar." [Madarij al-Salikin 2/453]

spiritual experiences are possible in islam but not in the level of miracles as miracles in its true sense are only given to prophets and messengers. and every spiritual experience does not have to be something which manifests outward. as it is something a person experiences to himself the only other witness will be his creator in most of the times.


WHAT IS A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE (opinion based)

what exactly is a spiritual experience and how can it be defined. does the great feeling you have after you have performed a prayer with all the kushoo can be a spiritual experience?. or does the change in your behavior for good after rigorous worship in the month of fasting considered a spiritual experience?. or the feeling you have when you see kaaba'a (masjid al-haram) for the first time?, or the rejuvenated feeling of spending the desired time on the arafat plains on Hajj?. or do we consider those times when the feeling of tranquility over takes us when we recite quran as spiritual experience?. OR are we to consider the creator Himself calling us or sending angels in their true form to us as the only spiritual experinces?. subahaanallah!

in islam, these spiritual experiences are to be felt within. it is only for the person and there is no relevant need to disclose it. it is a form of guidance from Allah azzawajjal. one simple way that i understand is that if such an experience doesn't change anything in your life for good, then it's a 'mind trick'. such acts can be most probably from our greatest enemy, Iblis.(satan)

when you go applying science to everything in religion there will come a point that science will fall behind and that's when they will brand you as hallucinating, bogus and finally define you with mental illness. science does not have a valid explanation for the unseen, what goes beyond their electron microscope just simply dosen't exist for them. thus spiritual experiences cannot be defined by science nor should we try to find reason with science for it. it's just, science is handicapped when it comes to spiritual realms and dimensions. (they might try using the word quantum to explain it all but in the end ot won't make sense)


SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE AND KARAMAH (lit. generosity, high-mindedness)

KARAMAH can be considered as the highest form of spiritual experience outward, as it can be witnessed by others.

karamah is what Allah shows at the hands of a pious, to whom Allah hath paved the path to guidance, goodness, piety, and faith, and avoided him misguidance, disobedience, and heresy, and have guided him of his religious affairs. there are many instances of this in the Quran and the Sunnah, as well as narrations about some righteous people.

[see al-Qasas verses 7-9, al-Kahf verses 8-15 and 65-78, al-Naml verses 38-40, Aal ‘Imran verse 37, and Maryam verse 25.]


SPIRITUAL EXPRIENCE AND FIRASAH

FIRASAH can be considered as the highest form of spiritual experience inward, as it is something harldy witnessed by others than the person who experiences it.

spiritual insight, or firasah, is a faith-based insight that Allah azzawajjal casts into the hearts of His faithful ones, by which peoples' states or deeds are unveiled to them.

note : 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.


CONCLUSION

for a muslim everything has to be spiritual, no matter what he does. in islam we have guidelines for everything. how to live and even how to die. every act is a experience so generally speaking, for a true muslim everything is a spiritual experience. i say this because Allah azzawajjal said in quran ;

They made not a just estimate of Allah such as is due to Him.[39:67]


may Allah the mighty and sublime grant us mercy and guide us to the straight path.

ALLAH KNOWS BEST


REFERENCE :

Tafsir of quran by Ibn Kathir

sahih muslim

sahih bukhari

Al-Fawa'id (Makkah: Dar 'Alam al-Fawa'id, 2008)

Madarij al-Salikin (Riyadh: Dat Taybah, 2008)

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  • Great answer, but I have a doubt here, you said that miracles are only given to the Prophets and Messengers (May Allah bless them all endlessly) but Allah says in the Quran when Sulaiman (AS) ordered the queen of Sheeba's throne to be delivered in front of him an Ifreet (Powerful Jinn) stood and said that he will bring it before the queen reaches here BUT A MAN (who according to most scholars gone by the name Asif Barkhia) who had the knowledge of the scriptures bought the throne in the blink of the eye of Prophet Sulaiman (AS).
    – user44632
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 23:44
  • There is also ijma (consensus/something agreed upon widely) among the scholars that Asif (the man that bought the throne) was not a Prophet nor a Messenger so how can you claim that only Prophets can have miracles as this incident is mentioned in the Quran?
    – user44632
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 23:44
  • @SyedMohammadSannan if you read my answer carefully you can see i have mentioned the verses 38-40 from surah naml under the topic of karamah. mu'jizat and karamah are two different things. Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 0:40
  • @SyedMohammadSannan the never ending supply of food to Maryam (RA) is also mentioned in the quran. (see 3:37) and the incident of 300+ years of sleep of the pious youths are also mentioned in the quran, (see : 18 : 9-2 & 18:17). just a few examples of the difference between the miracles of prophets/messengers and 'karamah' of faithful 'awliya' of Allah azzawajjal. Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 1:50
  • agreed, but stating that other than Prophets can't do miracles would be wrong. There are also some people like this in the Ummah of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) but less obvious and It's a task to distinguish between a real awliya Allah and a magician, one of the ways would be to see if he/she follows the sharia, If they follow the sharia, pray 5 times, etc. and perform a karamah then they are real awliya Allah.
    – user44632
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 11:18
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There are different miracles. Some miracles are public and meant to prove something to the people at large. Some miracles are private and meant to help the believers.

Often, the miracles given to the prophets which are meant to prove their prophethood are clear and undeniable. They aren't private, rather very public.

For example, Allah says about Musa (AS)'s:

So Moses threw his staff, and suddenly it was a serpent, manifest.

And he drew out his hand; thereupon it was white [with radiance] for the observers. (7:107-108)

Notice how Allah mentions it being "manifest" and "for the observers." These miracles were there to prove that Musa (AS) was a truthful prophet, and thus, they were clear to the public.

The greatest of the many miracles given to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the eloquence and divine structure of the Quran. The Quran is a book openly available for everyone to see and read. There is nothing private about it.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also showed the disbelievers the splitting of the moon. This was, again, done in front of a crowd. It was not private.

The other type of miracle is one that isn't meant as proof for disbelievers (although it could sometimes be). The main purpose of it is simply to help and strengthen the faith of the already believers who see it.

This is the one that may normally happen to the believers.

A simple criterion to check whether it truly happened rather than being a hallucination is to check whether it corresponds with the Quran and Sunnah.

For example, we believe that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) can appear in dreams to people and, if his appearance is there, it can only be him.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Whoever sees me (in a dream) then he indeed has seen the truth." (Sahih Bukhari)

To check whether a person truly saw the Prophet or not, we can compare the description of the person he saw in his dream to the description we know from our sources. If they do not match, he didn't see the Prophet.

As Ibn Seereen (one of the great scholars of Islam) commented on the aforementioned hadith:

Ibn Seereen said, 'Only if he sees the Prophet (ﷺ) in his (real) shape.' (Sahih Bukhari)

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  • I think I read a Hadith in which it was said that Shaitan cannot even claim to be the Prophet (PBUH) so in whatever way one sees him he has seen the truth. I am not able to find any references as of right now, have you?
    – user44632
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 23:40
  • @SyedMohammadSannan I have never seen such a hadith. That's probably a cultural claim. And it contradicts the statement of Ibn Sireen
    – The Z
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 23:51
  • I am sorry, but I remember flashbacks of such a Hadeeth in Sahih Muslim I think, I am still finding, will let you know If I find it.
    – user44632
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 23:52

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