Shaking Off Superstitions

Vol 3- Issue 4 Shaking off superstitionsIn the days before the mankind turned to the science for explaining and predicting incidents of life, superstitions thrived. A broken mirror, spilt milk, and flying birds all foretold destruction and misfortune. Although today we are seemingly more ‘enlightened,’ we still are not completely free from the urge to wear ‘the lucky shirt’ or follow ‘harmless rituals,’ in order to attain good luck before important events.

What makes man turn to such objects in hope of good fortune? 18th century naturalist Gilbert White observes: “It is the hardest thing in the world to shake off superstitious prejudices; they are sucked in as it were with our mother’s milk; and, growing up with us at a time, when they take the fastest hold and make the most lasting impressions, become so interwoven with our very constitutions that the strongest sense is required to disengage ourselves from them. No wonder, therefore, that the lower people retain them their whole lives through, since their minds are not invigorated by a liberal education, and, therefore, not enabled to make any efforts adequate to the occasion.” Yet many of the liberally educated carry a charm, including the famous J. D. Rockefeller, an American icon of American capitalism, who was known to treasure a hollow stone (called an ‘eagle stone’) believed to protect one from shipwrecks and other disasters.

Fear of misfortune and ignorance about the cause of calamities still allows superstitions to thrive, just as they did during the Age of Ignorance. With the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, kindled by Islam, Prophet Muhammad (sa) refuted superstitions, stating: “Whoever lets Tiyarah (superstition) stop him from doing something is guilty of Shirk.” His companions asked: “What is the Kafaarah (expiation) for that?” He said: “To say: ‘Allaahumma la khayra illaa khayruka wa laa tayra illaa tayruka wa laa ilaaha ghayruka (O Allah, there is no good except Your good, no portent except Yours, and there is no God beside You).'” (Ahmad)

Why does a harmless action, such as knocking on wood, fall into the sin of Shirk? Simply because it ‘innocently’ claims to protect us from harm, which, in truth, can be averted only by Allah’s (swt) Decree. Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “Tiyarah (superstition) is a kind of Shirk and a way, in which the Shaitan influences and scares a person. It is very serious for the one, who takes it to heart and pays too much attention to it, but it is insignificant for the one, who pays no attention to it and is not concerned about it.”

Nowadays, superstitions take on a ‘religious colour’ – charms have Allah’s (swt) names or Ayats from the Quran on them. No heed is paid to the extreme dislike of the Prophet (sa) towards charms (Taweez) of any kind. He would even refuse to take the hand of those, who wore a charm and wished to pledge allegiance to him, saying: “Whoever wears an amulet has associated others with Allah (Shirk).”(Ahmad)

How can one overcome the desire to perform the traditional rituals of predicting good luck?

Entrust yourself to Allah (swt): “And put your trust (o Muhammad) in the Ever-Living One, Who dies not, and glorify His Praises, and Sufficient is He as the All-Knower of the sins of His slaves” (Al-Furqan 25:58). There is nothing wrong in having a bad feeling and it is advised that one should take precautions, in order to avoid foreseeable disasters. The Prophet (sa) clarified this, when he explained: “That (bad feelings) is something that any of you may feel in himself, but it should not stop you from doing anything.” (Muslim)

Know that everything happens by the will of Allah (swt): “No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al-Lawh Al-Mahfooz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah.” (Al-Hadid 57:22) Thus, neither walking under the copy of the Quran nor staying indoors during an eclipse can alter your destiny.

Sheikh Munajjid prescribes Istikharah: “This is one of the greatest forms of worship and is complete Tawakkul or dependence on Allah (swt). It is the alternative to Tatayyur and Tiyarah (superstitions). The Prophet (sa) used to teach his companions to make Istikharah for all their affairs, just as he used to teach them the Surahs of the Quran.” Furthermore, one can find many Duas to be said during the morning and night, asking Allah (swt) to protect us and sort our affairs.

Avoiding things associated with good or bad luck. When an incident occurs, it is difficult to shake off the nagging thoughts (often Shaitan’s whispering) connecting the situation with superstitions. A person once related, how he moved to a house, where his wealth and the family numbers diminished; our Prophet (sa) suggested they move away from it. (Abu Dawood) Al-Baghawi explains: “They did not like it and did not feel comfortable; if they moved, the things they were feeling would go away. (He did not tell them to move, because the house was the cause of the problems).”

Remember that “no fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Bukhari) Free yourself from the hold of superstitions and Shaitan’s teasing and rest assured that your destiny is in Allah’s (swt) hands.

The Evil Eye – Fact not Fiction

Vol 3- Issue 4 The Evil eyeThe venomous glance, not alien to our society, is the evil eye (Nazr). It is centered on the belief that jealousy or praise can inflict misfortune. It is this very fear that causes many of us to go to great lengths for shielding ourselves and our children from its wrath. But how real is the threat of the evil eye? Is it an old wives’ tale? Superstition?

Belief in the evil eye is ancient. Reference to the evil eye is found on Babylonian clay tablets, the writings of Greeks and Romans, and in the Bible and Talmud. In Arabic, the evil eye is known as Al Ayn or Ayn Hasooda, but in Turkish – Nazar. In the United States and England, the evil eye is usually referred to as ‘overlooking.’

The concept of the evil eye is an established fact in Islam, thus, one should neither reject it nor consider it to be an erroneous impression or figment of imagination.

Abd Allah ibn Abbas (rta) reports that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The influence of an evil eye is a fact. If anything would precede the destiny, it would be the influence of an evil eye. And when you are asked to take a bath (for curing purposes), then you should take a bath.” (Muslim)

The concept and reality of the evil eye (Nazar) in Islam can also be understood from the advice given by Prophet Yaqub (as) to his sons, when they intended to enter Egypt: “O my sons! Do not enter by one gate, but enter by different gates, and I cannot avail you against Allah at all. Verily, the decision rests only with Allah. In Him, I put my trust and let all those that trust, put their trust in Him.” (Yusuf 12:67)
The majority of commentators of the Holy Quran explain that the reason, why Prophet Yaqub (as) advised his sons to enter by different gates and not one, was that they were all young, handsome, and healthy. He feared that when people would come to know that they all were brothers and sons of one father, they may become jealous; hence, there was the possibility of them being affected by Nazar.
The reality of Nazar is such that when one looks at something beautiful and is envious, Allah (swt) creates some sort of harm in that particular thing.

Measures to ward off the evil eye vary from culture to culture. For protecting the offspring, common in our society is the lining of black Kohl around the child’s eyes or putting a black spot on the child’s body. Peasant mothers spit in the faces of their children or dirty them with soil, in order to diminish the effects of the evil eye or flattery.  Popular, however, is making the children wear black threads, beads, amulets, talismans, and charms.

The use of protective amulets and charms is forbidden in Islam, because it is considered a form of Shirk (idolatry). As long as one, who wears a charm, believes that it will avert evil and bring good fortune, he has given this charm the power to cancel what Allah (swt) has already destined. Eventually, he will depend on it instead of Allah (swt).

Instead, Islam teaches Muslims to seek refuge and protection with Allah (swt) from the evils of envy. Besides the phrase Masha’aAllah wa la Kuwata illa Billah (whatever Allah wishes, and there is no power except with Allah), which protects from the envy of others, there are various supplications for warding off the effects of the evil eye.
Abu Said Al-Khudri (rta) said: “The Messenger of Allah used to seek refuge from the devil-Jins and the evil eye of the human being until the Muawwadhatayn (Al-Falaq and Al-Naas) were revealed. When they were revealed, he took them and left the other forms of supplications.” (Tirmidhi)

It has been reported by Ibn Sunni on the authority of Sahl ibn Hunayf who said: “The Messenger of Allah, when he used to fear of anything being afflicted with his eye, he used to say ‘Allah uma Barik fihi,’ and it did not harm anything.” (Nawawi)

Ibn Abbaas (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) used to seek refuge with Allah for Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn (rta). He said: ‘Your father [i.e., Ibrahim (as)] used to seek refuge with Allah (swt) for Ismail and Ishaq (rta) with these words: Aodhu bi kalimat Allah Al-tammah min kulli shaytanin wa hammah wa min kulli ‘aynin lammah (I seek refuge in the perfect words of Allah from every devil and every poisonous reptile, and from every bad eye).'”(Bukhari)

In the event of affliction by the evil eye, one should use the treatments recommended in Shariah. One of them is Ruqyah (spiritual healing). It consists of words said or written in the form of Dua or Dhikr for the purpose of protection or cure. It is sometimes accompanied with other actions, such as blowing or wiping over the thing to which it is applied.

The Prophet (sa) said: “There is no Ruqyah except in the case of the evil eye or fever.” (Tirmidhi) Jibreel used to do Ruqyah for the Prophet (sa) and say: “Bismillahi arqeeka min kulli shayin yudheeka, min sharri kulli nafsin aw aynin hasid Allah u yashfeek, bismillahi arqeek (in the name of Allah I perform Ruqyah for you, from everything that is harming you, from the evil of every soul or envious eye; may Allah heal you, in the name of Allah I perform Ruqyah for you).”

Secondly, if it is known or suspected that a person has been afflicted by the evil eye; it was narrated that Aisha (rta) said: “The man, who casts the evil eye, would be commanded to do Wudhu, and then the man, who was affected, would wash himself with (the water).” (Abu Dawood)

Prevention is better than cure. The evil eye is like an arrow, which comes from the soul of the one, who feels envy, towards the one, who is envied – sometimes it hits him and sometimes not. If the target is exposed and unprotected, it will be affected, but if the target is cautious and armed, the arrow will have no effect and may even come back on the one, who struck it. These are some of the Duas and treatments, which offer protection – by Allah’s (swt) leave – from the evil eye and from destructive envy (Hasad). We ask Allah (swt) for His protection. Allah (swt) knows best.