The Meaning of Ilham

The literal meaning of ilham is something that is placed in the heart by Allah. The Mutakallimin have defined it as, “the knowledge inspired in the heart without any effort, learning or deducing by Allah or from the heavens.” lmam Rabbani Mujaddid Alfe Thani RA writes that i1ham is related to things unseen a thought occurs in the heart. Accordingly, ilham is more accurate than kashf (vision).
Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri RA, the famous scholar of hadith, has explained the reason for the view of Mujaddid Alfe Thani as follows: “llham is probably more accurate than kashf because kashf removes the veils from an entity while ilham is the inspiring of a thought in the heart.”

Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi RA, the mujaddid of this century, writes, “The reality of ilham is that a thought is placed in the heart directly without any pondering or deduction or it is the sound of the unseen.”

Shaykhul hadith, Moulana Muhammad Idris Kandhelwi RA states that ilham is the placing of a good thought in the heart by Allah without deducing, Pondering or any external cause. The knowledge obtained by means of the senses is sensual perception while the knowledge obtained without using the senses and which enters the heart without any external factor is ìlham.

llham is a gift from Allah. The intuition of a believer (firasat imani) mentioned in a hadith is in one way earned and in one way divinely granted. This shows that ilham is a divinely given reward. The famous jurist, Ibn Suraij RA asked Junaid Baghdadi RA a question to which he gave several replies. When he asked him to have the answers written, Junaid Baghdadi RA said, “If this was my own fact, I would have dictated it. Whatever I told you was directly from Allah. He is the One who places it in my heart and makes my tongue utter it. This knowledge is not earned from hooks or by the pen. It is merely the grace of Allah who inspires me as a result of which it then flows from mv tongue. 

Whatever is revealed from the unseen to the Ambiya is called wahi while that which occurs in the heart of a non-Nabi is ilham.

The Islamic perspective of inspiration p8-13.

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