Magic and its Reality

Vol 3- Issue 4 Magic and It's reality

The mere mention of magic opens a Pandora’s Box of superstitions and hocus-pocus of all shapes and sizes. Because we do not understand the phenomenon, we apply our wildest imagination in an effort to comprehend it. Horror flicks, images of witches on broomsticks, and tales of Malang Babas further warp reality and feed a deviant human craving for the spooky.

Our ignorance has resulted in the establishment of a flourishing industry of unscrupulous profiteers, claiming to rid us of Kala Jadoo, Siflee Amals, evil spirits – you name it, they have it covered. For a hefty price, of course! They take advantage of hapless people, who are or think they are under the influence of magic, and are desperate, because they do not know how to deal with it. This business is lucrative. No wonder that we see professor so-and-so’s or Amil so-and-so’s ‘shops’ in most localities, ads in newspapers, and business cards distributed at traffic signals, claiming Roohani Ilaaj (spiritual healing). Seriously misguided people use magic to harm others, not caring for the consequences.

But we cannot conveniently act as victims. The reason this vicious cycle of fake exorcists, Taweez, Ganday, and other Shirk exists is because we allow it to. The rational way is to understand what magic is and how we can deal with it, without compromising our Iman.

Oxford dictionary defines magic as “the supposed art influencing the course of events by the occult control of nature or of spirits.”

The Quran and the Sunnah give us certain facts.

Fact: Al-Baqarah 2:102

They followed what Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulaiman (Solomon). Sulaiman did not disbelieve, but the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they said: “We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).” And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife, but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s Leave. And they learn that which harms them and profits them not.

Fact: Al-Baqarah 2:255 (Ayat Al-Kursi)

Allah! La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows what happens to them (His creatures) in this world, and what will happen to them in the Hereafter. And they will never encompass anything of His knowledge except that which He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.

Fact: The Prophet (sa) was also afflicted with black magic. It has been related by Bukhari, Muslim, Nasai, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Baihaqi, Tabarani, Hakim, and others on the authority of Aisha (rta), Zaid bin Arqam (rta) and Abdullah bin Abbas (rta).

When we analyze these facts together and consider them in the light of the Prophet’s (sa) experience and teachings, we can see a comprehensible picture.

Ayat Al-Kursi makes it clear that Allah (swt) is the Creator of all cosmos. Al-Khaliq. Each of His creations has particular characteristics. For example, fire burns; however, what we need to realize is that it burns, when Allah (swt) wills it so. Al-Qahhar. When Ibrahim (as) was thrown in it, Allah (swt) seized fire’s ability to burn.

Similarly, amongst Allah’s (swt) creation are human beings, animals, Jinns, and Shayatin. He has chosen to give different faculties and capabilities to each of them, and their power is relative to each other. An elephant is stronger than us, a snake bite can be fatal for us, and tiny bacteria can cause havoc in our bodies. Since there is a scientific rationale for these, we are not threatened and stay firmly on top of the food chain.

On the other hand, Jinns and Shayatin are not from our dimension, and Allah (swt) has given them abilities that seem supernatural to us. For example, some of them can transcend the time and space we are familiar with. The Shayatin take advantage of their peculiar powers to misguide some people into practices of total Shirk and the occult. When we are oblivious to the light and guidance of the Quran, the vacuum gets filled by Shaitan. That is what we call magic, Sihr in Arabic. It is not an autonomous force or a power beyond Allah’s (swt) Supreme authority. Read Ayat Al-Kursi again.

Magic is a psychological phenomenon, which can affect the body through the mind just as physical things affect the mind through the body. Fear, for instance, is a psychological phenomenon, but it affects the body: the hair stands up and the body shudders. Magic does not change reality, but under its influence our mind and senses feel, as if reality has changed. The staffs and cords thrown by the magicians at Moses (as) did not actually become snakes – the eyes of people and Moses (as) were so bewitched that they felt, as if they were snakes. (Al-Araf 7:116)

There is nothing spiritual or religious about it either. It is a practice used to harm and exploit and nothing else. The distinction between ‘black magic’ and ‘white magic a la Harry Potter’ is simply fiction. A dangerous one, in fact, because it glamorizes a great sin. It is clear from Al-Baqarah 2:102 that practicing magic is strongly condemned and is called Kufr (disbelief).

According to Abu Hurairah (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “Avoid the seven most grievous sins.” (The hearers) asked: “What are they?” He replied: “Shirk, magic, killing without just cause, consuming the property of an orphan, devouring usury, fleeing on the day of fighting, and slandering chaste believing women.” (Muslim)

Magic exists. However, we should be wary of quickly jumping to the conclusion that all misfortunes happening to us are connected with magic. Scholars and many Muslim experts in the field of exorcism believe that in over 95 % of cases, where magic is suspected, there is no such problem. It is mostly suspicion or some other physical or psychological problem that is attributed to magic. Having said that, we should remember the age old thumb rule – prevention is better than cure. Our Prophet (sa) has prescribed several defenses against magic and all other evils that may harm us.

When the Prophet (sa) felt the effects of magic, Allah (swt) revealed to him the Mu’awwidhatayn (Al-Falaq and  an-Nas), in which refuge with Allah (swt) has been sought from all evil. A Jew, Labid ibn Asim, took a hair of the Prophet (sa), made eleven knots, and placed it under a rock in a well. The effect of this was that it created uncertainty in the mind of the Prophet (sa), as to whether or not he had done something. This was confined to his person. No change occurred in the performance of his duties as a Prophet (sa). There is no tradition indicating that he forgot verses of the Quran in those days, or a change occurred in his counsels or sermons, or he presented a discourse as a revelation, which may not have been revealed to him, or he missed a prayer and thought that he had performed it.

Jibrail (as) informed the Prophet (sa) about what had happened and came down with the Muawwidhatayn (Al-Falaq and an-Nas), in which refuge with Allah (swt) has been sought from all evil. The Prophet (sa) went to the well with his Companions, retrieved the knotted hair, and untied the knots, while reciting each verse. At the eleventh knot, the effects of this magic were gone.

Every night at the time of going to bed (especially during illness), the Prophet (sa) used to recite the Muawwidhatayn (or according to another Hadeeth, the Muawwidhat, i.e.,  Ikhlas and the Muawwidhatayn) thrice, blow in his hands, and rub them on his body from head to foot, as far as his hands could reach.

Other authentic Ahadeeth recommend the recitation of Al-Fatiha, Ayat Al-Kursi, and last two verses of Al-Baqarah. The Prophet (sa) said that Al-Fatiha has a cure for all illnesses.

According to Abu Hurairah (rta), when one recites Ayat Al-Kursi before sleeping, Allah (swt) sends an angel to protect that person till dawn, and Shaitan does not come near him. (Bukhari) Another tradition says – he, who recites Ayat Al-Kursi in the morning, is protected till evening, and he, who recites it in the evening, is protected till morning from the evil of Jinns. (Hakim) For the one, who recites the last two Ayats of Al-Baqarah at night, they will suffice him. (Bukhari and Muslim)

The morning and evening invocations of the Prophet (sa) include recitation of the above Surahs and comprehensive Duas, seeking Allah’s (swt) protection from evil and His help for getting through the day and night. We must try to form the habit of reciting them after Fajr prayers and in the evening. It doesn’t take much time or effort, and the result is tremendous – the protection of Al-Hafiz.

Ultimately, we must remember the Prophet’s (sa) advice: “If you are mindful about Allah, He will be mindful of you, and if you are mindful of Allah, you will find Him before you. When you ask for anything, ask it from Allah, and if you seek help, seek in Allah. Know that if the people were to unite to do you some benefit, they could benefit you only with what Allah had recorded for you, and that if they were to unite to do you some injury, they could injure you only with what Allah had recorded for you. The pens are withdrawn, and the pages are dry.” (Ahmad and Tirmidhi)

Response to Magic

role modelA bearded face and turbaned head with its tip ignited, passing for an ignited bomb; a scary-looking, long-bearded man dressed in white, waving a sharp sword. The world witnessed a chain reaction to these depictions and an outcry condemning this distorted imagery of a man, who was sent by Allah (swt) as a mercy to the mankind.

On the contrary, Prophet Muhammad (sa) was an exemplary human being, who returned the nasty actions carried out against him with lofty kindness. Today, he is alleged to having enforced barbaric punishments, such as having thieves’ hands amputated or adulterers flogged. How could it be that he forgave his personal enemies time and again, yet punished others publicly? The answer is twofold: as a Prophet, he had to enforce Islam’s judicial and legal system, as revealed to him by Allah (swt). When people transgressed Divine laws and limits, it was his duty to execute Divine justice. No legal system in the world lets off criminals, who commit heinous crimes. Once convicted, they have to pay the price. The same was true for establishing Islamic law enforcement in society.

Conversely, when dealing with his personal enemies, who constantly plotted vindictive actions against him, our Prophet (sa) never exacted revenge. He chose to forgive unconditionally. A total of seventeen attacks were made on his life, yet, in spite of knowing the perpetrators’ identities, he never took revenge against them although was able to.

It was narrated that Aisha (rta) said: “A spell was put on the Prophet (sa), until he imagined that he had done a thing, when he had not done it. One day, he made Dua and then said: “Do you know that Allah has shown me in what lays my cure? Two men came to me, and one of them sat at my head and the other at my feet. One of them said to the other: ‘What is ailing the man?’ The other replied: ‘He has been bewitched.’ ‘Who has bewitched him?’ asked the other. To this, the other responded: ‘Labeed ibn Al-Asam.’ ‘With what?’ continued the inquirer. To which came the response: ‘With a comb, the hair that is stuck to it, and the skin of pollen of a male date palm.’ Again the other asked: ‘Where is it?’ And the other revealed the place saying: ‘In the well of Dharwaan.’

The Prophet (sa) then went out to the well, came back, and said to Aisha (rta): ‘Its date palms are like the heads of devils.’ I said: ‘Did you take it out?’ He said: ‘No. Allah has healed me, and I feared that it might bring evil upon the people.’ Then the well was filled in.”(Bukhari and Muslim)

This Hadeeth indicates that the Prophet (sa) clearly knew, who had practiced magic upon him; yet, he turned only to Allah (swt) for cure and sought no revenge. Also, out of concern for the people, he did not extract the items used to execute the magic, lest their evil could affect others.

“Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow…” (Al-Ahzab 33:21).

In Taif, the Prophet (sa) first met the chiefs, whom he invited to accept Islam. They responded insolently, sending gangs to harass him. These youths followed the Prophet (sa) and ganged up on him. They proceeded to abuse him and throw stones at him, until his feet were covered in blood. They continued, until he was compelled to take refuge in an orchard. Downhearted, he turned to Allah (swt) in earnest Dua. Allah (swt) sent the angel of mountains, who sought the Prophet’s (sa) permission to fuse the two hills, between which Taif was located. The Messenger of Allah (sa) replied: “No, I hope Allah will bring forth from their loins a people, who will worship Allah alone, associating nothing with Him.” (Muslim)

“And verily, you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted (standard of) character” (Al-Qalam 68:4).

Anas (rta) reported that a Jewess came to Allah’s Messenger (sa) with poisoned mutton, and he ate from it. When he felt the effect of poison, he called for her and asked her about it, whereupon she said: “I had intended to kill you.” Thereupon, he said: “Allah will never give you the power to do it.” He (the narrator) said that they (the Companions of the Prophet (sa)) said: “Should we not kill her?” Thereupon, he said: “No.” He (Anas (rta)) said: “I felt (the effects of this poison) on the uvula of Allah’s Messenger.” (Muslim)

Despite the pain in his throat, as a result of her lethal action, and the subsequent confession of the Jewess herself, the Prophet (sa) did not have her executed for her crime.

These incidents are eye-openers for us. When our relatives do us even the slight of mischief out of enmity or jealousy, such as public insulting, backbiting, slandering, or cutting us off, we harbor a permanent grudge against them. More often than not, we return their actions with the same, if not ruder and more antagonistic behavior.

If a passerby gives us an involuntary shove, we turn around with glaring eyes and sharp rebuke ready to fight it out. Cursing and abusing others has become the norm in the face of any damage done unto us by fellow Muslims.

As a role model, Allah’s Messenger (sa) is a guiding light for us, despite the fact that mirroring his lofty conduct is unthinkable. It takes superhuman effort to extinguish the pain and anger, which flame in our heart after being wronged; to nip the Nafs that push us for  ‘sweet’ revenge; to forgive and to meet the wrongdoer the next time, as if nothing happened. This is the lesson that our benign Prophet (sa) left behind for us. He proved that it really is possible to forgive bloodthirsty archenemies in the blink of an eye.

“And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) not but as a mercy for the ‘Alamin (mankind, Jinn and all that exists).” (Al-Anbiya 21:107)

A scary face wearing a turban, pictured as a ticking bomb meant to kill innocents? I don’t think so.