The spirit issues forth from the world of unconditioned existence, where Divine commands are carried out instantly and directly. However, like energy requiring cords or bulbs to function, the spirit needs matter to function in this world, although matter restricts its activity. So, to make the spirit more active and less confined within time and space, we can follow one of three ways:
The way of the Prophets and saints
Every person has the innate ability to give the spirit more room in which to act. This goal is accomplished by firm religious belief and spiritual development through regular worship and asceticism. The more refined matter is, the freer and more active the spirit. Eating less food, frequent fasting, sleeping less, refraining from sin, and regular and more frequent worship help you reach this goal. If you use your innate ability to develop your spiritual faculties, you can transcend the limits of this world, travel in the spirit in other dimensions of existence, and, to some degree, establish contact with the past and future.
Consider the following analogy: When you are in a room, you see that which is confined by the four walls. When you go outside, your viewing range expands and includes your immediate surroundings. You can see even more from the top of a hill. The higher you ascend, the more you see. It is the same with time. The freer the spirit is from the prison of matter and the body, the broader the realm of its activity with respect to time and space.
This way is usually the way of the Prophets and saints. Either through traveling in spirit in time and space or through being taught by God, the Knower of the Seen and Unseen, they penetrate into the depths of time and space. Just as sunlight is in innumerable places simultaneously, although it is a material body, so a Prophet’s or a saint’s spirit, especially one of the “substitutes” (abdal), can be present in many places at once in his or her body’s immaterial or energetic form. The Qur’an points to this: She (Mary, the mother of Jesus) placed a screen to seclude herself from them. Then We sent to her Our spirit, and he appeared before her as a man without fault (19:17). Many interpreters of the Qur’an say that this spirit was the Archangel Gabriel. Such accounts also are reported in many authentic narrations.
A saint’s spirit, if it has acquired sufficient enlightenment or luminosity, encounters symbols or signs of past or future events while traveling in time. Saints interpret these visions and tell us of certain past or future events. This is comparable to dream interpretation. Saints may sometimes err in their interpretation. However, a Prophet, since he receives Revelation and is directly taught by God Almighty, the Knower of the Unseen, cannot err in his interpretations and predictions. Whatever Prophets predicted always came true. For example, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, predicted numerous future events, among them the martyrdom of ‘Uthman and ‘Ali, the Battle of Jamal (Elephant) between ‘Ali and such leading Companions as Talha and Zubayr, and the Muslims’ conquest of Damascus, Iran, and Istanbul. Most of his predictions have already come true; others are waiting for their time to come true.
Muhyi al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi, a Muslim saint who died about 50 years before the founding of the Ottoman State at the beginning of the fourteenth century, predicted numerous important events of Ottoman history. His Shajarat al-Nu‘maniya, manuscripts of which are available in libraries in Edirne and Istanbul, is like a symbolic history of the Ottoman State. For example, he predicted that his grave would be discovered when Selim entered Damascus (it was), that despite 9 months of siege Hafiz Ahmad Pasha would not capture Baghdad (he did not), that Sultan Murad would conquer it in 40 days (he did), and that Sultan ‘Abd al-‘Aziz would be dethroned and killed (he was).
Similarly, Mushtaq Dada of Bitlis, who lived in the first half of the eighteenth century, predicted that after a war someone named Kamal would make Ankara the capital of Turkey (all of which happened). His Diwan, a book of his poems that contains this prediction, is still available.
Such beloved servants of God, whether Prophets or saints, make predictions only if He allows them to do so through His permission and power. He declares:
My servant can draw near unto Me in no safer and better way than performing his obligatory religious duties. He becomes nearer to me through supererogatory prayers. Once he becomes near to Me, I become his eyes with which he sees, his ears with which he hears, and his hands with which he holds.
Following the guidance of the relevant Divine Name or Names
The second way to travel in spirit in time and space, or to penetrate into further and deeper dimensions of time and space, is to follow the guidance of the relevant Divine Name or Names. All existence depends on the manifestations of the Divine Names. We can see only because the manifestation of His Name the All-Seeing enables us to see. We continue to exist because of the manifestation of His Names the Self-Subsistent and the One-Causing-to-Subsist allows us to do so. If He no longer manifested His Name the One-Causing-to-Subsist in connection with existence, the universe would cease to exist instantly.
Similarly, this practice also allows angels and jinn to assume animal and human forms, provided that God allows them to do so. Especially jinn can enter an animal’s body and govern its actions. They can also control people. So, by discovering the Divine Name that allows one to penetrate such dimensions and then following Its guidance in a particular affair, we can travel in time and space, and see and hear certain things that others cannot.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.