Islamic Laws

Sorcery is Punishable by Death

By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
It is clearly stated to be a Greater Sin is sorcery. A tradition from the Holy Prophet (S) has been recorded in Wasa’il ul-Shia in which the Prophet (S) has mentioned that Magic is a Greater Sin. The tradition of Abdul Azīm (r.a.) has also mentioned from Imam Jawad (a.s.) who has related through his fore-fathers from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said to the effect, “Sorcery is a Greater Sin because the Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “And they followed what the shaitans chanted of sorcery in the reign of Sulaiman, and Sulaiman was not an unbeliever, but the shaitans disbelieved, they taught men sorcery and that was sent down to the two angels at Babel, Harut and Marut, Yet these two taught no man until they had said, ‘Surely we are only a trial, therefore do not be a disbeliever.’ Even then men learned from these two, magic by which they might cause a separation between a man and his wife; and they cannot hurt with it anyone except with Allah’s permission, and they learnt what harmed them and did not profit them, and certainly they know that he who brought it should have no share of good in the hereafter and evil was the price for which they sold their souls; had they but known this.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:102)
According to Tafsīr al-Mizan this ayat shows that sorcery was prevalent among the Jews for a long time; and they used to ascribe it to Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.). They believed that Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) had mastered the techniques of controlling the angels, jinns and wild animals through magic, and some of these alleged methods had reached them. They also implicated the two angels Harut and Marut for other magical rites. Therefore, the Holy Qur’an has denounced their belief regarding Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) because sorcery is the method of misusing the power of human spirit in order to perform extraordinary acts. It is against the Divine law because it negates the supremacy of Allah (S.w.T.). Since Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) was a Prophet and undoubtedly infallible, he cannot be blamed for such a violation of Divine Command. Therefore to ascribe sorcery to Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) was absolutely wrong. As the Almighty says, “…and Sulaiman was not an unbeliever, but the shaitans disbelieved, they taught men sorcery…” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:102)
Regarding Harut and Marut the Holy Qur’an says: “…and that was sent down to the angels at Babel, Harut and Marut, yet these two taught no man until they had said, “Surely we are only a trial, therefore do not be a disbeliever.” Even then men learnt from these two, magic by which they might cause a separation between a man and his wife; and they cannot hurt with it anyone except with Allah’s permission, and they learnt what harmed them and did not profit them…” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:102)
We should however know that some of the commentaries of the Holy Qur’an by Ahle-Sunnat have recorded some lewd traditions on this subject; and their lewdness itself proves their forged nature. For example they say that the Jinns stole the ring of Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) and with the help of its power ruled for forty days from his throne and during this period the satans spread the practice of sorcery among the masses. They have also written that Harut and Marut were two angels and when they became seized with sensuality, they drank wine and murdered a man; later they committed adultery with a woman. The woman then ascended to the heavens; and the star Zahra on the sky is that same woman.
This is a false allegation because during his conversation on this subject with Ma’mūn, as mentioned in Uyun al-Akhbar ar-Riďa, Imam Riďa (a.s.) says that Harut and Marut were two angels who had taught people the method of nullifying the magic of the sorcerers so as to enable them to prevent the effect of magical rites practiced by the magicians. They did not teach any magical spell before warning them that this was a Divine test and they must not fall prey to infidelity but some people became disbelievers by misusing the spells to cause discord between husband and wife, though the proper utility of the spell was obstructing black magic.
Even the Shia scholars differ in the explanation of this verse. Tafsīr Majmaul Bayan has also recorded different views. Some thinkers have opined that this is one of the Divine secrets and they further offer the exegesis that Harut and Marut signify the intellect and soul of man. These two entities changed their abstract form and assumed a physical body. Therefore, they were examined in their material life. They became engrossed in satisfying their carnal desires. Consequently they attached themselves solely to the material world and continued to worship their desires. In this way they committed gross injustice upon themselves and deprived themselves from eternal bounties. They also made themselves liable for a terrible punishment. Such traditions are unacceptable according to their wordings and if they are reported to have been uttered by the infallibles they should be understood in the light of their sayings only.
The honourable scholar Shaykh Sadūq says that Zahra and Suhail are two types of marine animals who are referred to in traditions by the name of Harut and Marut. They are not two stars as the Ahle-Sunnat believe. Moreover, the Qur’anic ayat mentioned above is clear that magic is equivalent to disbelief and the sorcerer will not receive any benefit on the Day of Qiyāma.
As the Holy Qur’an says, “And if they had believed and guarded themselves (against evil), reward from Allah would certainly have been better; had they but known (this).” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:103)
The Holy Prophet (S) says, “Three kinds of people will not enter Paradise, habitual alcoholics, habitual sorcerers and those who severe relationships.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) says, “The magician will enter hell like the disbeliever.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Imam (a.s.) also says, “If one learns magic, whether a little bit or more, he has become an infidel. And his end result is that he does not receive Divine Mercy. His punishment is that he be killed except if he repents.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) says that a woman came to the Holy Prophet (S) and said, “My husband is very severe and misbehaves with me, so I have prepared something for him that he may become kind to me.” (i.e. I have prepared a magical potion to change his attitude).
The Holy Prophet (S) said, “Curse be upon you! You have darkened the realms of the seas and the lands, the angels of the earth and the heavens curse you.”
After going from there the woman began to fast during the days and pray during the night and she trimmed her hair and started wearing a leather garment. When the Holy Prophet (S) learnt of this he remarked that her fasting and prayers would not be accepted. (Kitab Faqih)
Muhaddith Faid mentions this hadith and comment that these actions will not save her from death penalty. Sorcery is such a severe crime that her repentance and worship will not bring her near Allah (S.w.T.). She has done an injustice to her husband and unless he forgives her, she cannot be forgiven.
The Holy Prophet (S) says: “If a person goes to a magician, a diviner or a liar and testifies to the truth of whatever he says, he becomes an infidel according to all the books revealed by Allah.” (Safinat’ul-Bihār)
Sorcery is punishable by death
A Muslim who indulges in magic and does not repent is punished by death. An infidel guilty of sorcery must not be killed. He should be punished according to the decree of a just jurist (Qazi) and his penalty is at the discretion of the Qazi.
According to a tradition of Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.): “The sorcerer must be given a single blow of the sword on his head.” (al-Kāfi)
“If two just witnesses testify, it is permissible to kill him.” (Tahzīb)
Imam (a.s.) also said, that the Holy Prophet (S) ordered, “The Muslim sorcerer must be killed and the infidel magician must not be killed.”
Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, why shouldn’t the disbelieving sorcerer be killed too?”
The Messenger of Allah (S) replied, “Because disbelief is a more serious sin than magic; and sorcery and polytheism are the same.”
It means that when a zimmi infidel is not sentenced to death for his infidelity he cannot be killed for the sin of practising magic because infidelity is greater than sorcery. Whereas the Muslim magician is killed because he has committed polytheism.
What is sorcery?
The late Sayyad writes in Wasila an Najāt that magic means the writing and reciting of some special spells and charms and the burning of particular objects so that its smoke can be used for some extraordinary effects. Making a picture and blowing, or tying up knots, or buying special objects in particular places so that the person for whom the magic is intended may be affected physically or mentally. That is if he is reported lost he can be located by it or he can be put to sleep or made unconscious. It can also be used for creating love or discord between two people; like husband and wife etc.
In the exegesis Tafsīr al-Mizan very interesting points are mentioned under the explanation of the 104th verse of Surah al-Baqarah. We shall present them for our readers.
A philosophical discussion
It is common knowledge that many unusual events do take place which are beyond the established natural system. It is difficult to find someone who has not seen, or heard about some abnormal or seemingly supernatural event. But on close scrutiny it turns out that most of them are not enigmatic and mysterious at all. They are the results of normal and natural causes, like intensive practice and training, for example, eating poison, lifting heavy loads, walking or dancing on a tight rope etc. Some are based on natural causes that are not known to the general public, for example, a man walks into flaming fire without coming to any harm, (he applies some chemicals like talc to his body); or sends a sheet of blank paper and the addressee understands the message it contains. (He writes with an invisible ink that becomes visible if heated by fire or treated with some chemicals). A third set depends on the sleight of hand like juggling. All these seemingly abnormal feats actually emanate from normal causes, although the causes are unknown to the common man; they may even be beyond his ability.
Yet there are other strange happenings that cannot be attributed to any normal physical cause. For example, giving information of the unseen, and particularly foretelling future events; the charms for love and hate, the harmful or beneficial spells affecting man’s virility, hypnotism, mesmerism, spiritualism, telekinesis and so on. It is known that such events do take place from time to time. We have seen some demonstrations ourselves, and similar reports were brought to us by reliable sources. At present there are many people in India, Iran and the western countries, who demonstrate such extraordinary feats and their authenticity is beyond doubt.
It appears from close investigation of their methods and regimen that these feats spring from the will power of the doer, and from his unshakable self-confidence. The will power arises from the special knowledge which they have mastered. Sometimes the will acts independently and sometimes it needs some boosting; for example, writing a certain charm with a certain ink in a certain place at a certain time (for the amulets of love or hate); or fixing a mirror before a certain child (in the seances of spiritualism); or chanting a certain incantation a certain number of times, and so on and so forth. When the conditions are fulfilled the will is strengthened to bring the desired effect into being. When the knowledge becomes one with the knower, it influences his senses to such an extent that he sees the end product, that is, the desired effect, with his eyes.
You may verify this statement yourself. Just tell yourself that a certain person is present before you and that you are looking at him; then put your imagination to work to bring his form before your eyes; this should be raised to such a high level of certainty that you become oblivious of all other thoughts and ideas and then you will actually see him standing before you-as you had imagined. Many ancient doctors, acting on this principle, restored to health their incurable patients-simply by creating in them the confidence that they would soon regain their health.
Taking this principle a step further, if someone’s will power is extraordinarily strong, it might influence the psyche of another individual and create the desired impression on him also. That impression might, or might not depend on fulfillment of certain conditions, as indicated earlier.
From the above discourse, we may deduce the following Three principles:
First: The appearance of such extraordinary events depends on the firm “knowledge” and strong conviction of the doer but it is irrelevant whether that “knowledge” is true to the fact or not. That explains why the conjurations of the priests of the sun god and the moon-goddess etc. seemed to work although they believed that the heavenly bodies had souls, which they claimed to bring under by their magic. Probably the same applies to the angels and satans whose names are “discovered” and invoked by many practitioners of the magic art. The same is true for spiritualism and its seance and spirit communication- and the spiritualist belief that the spirits attend their sittings. Utmost that may be claimed regarding those sessions, is that the spirit appears in their imagination or, let us say, before their senses- and this “perception” emanates from their firm belief in their art but it can never be said that the spirit actually presents itself at the sittings- otherwise all the participants in the sitting should have perceived its presence, because everyone of them has the same senses as the medium has.
But accepting this principle, we may solve many problems related to the seance and spirit communication. For example:
1. Sometimes the spirit of a living man is called to present itself at a seance, and supposedly it comes there but at that very moment, that man is busy attending to his affairs and he never feels his spirit leaving him even for an instant. The question is: As a man has only one spirit, how was it possible that his spirit presented itself to that seance without his being aware of it?
2. The spirit is an immaterial essence which has no relation whatsoever with space and time. How can it present itself at a certain place at a certain time?
3. Why is it that often a single spirit appears before different mediums in different forms?
4. Why is it that sometimes when the spirits are called to a seance, they tell lies and give wrong answers? And why do the various spirits sometimes contradict each other?
All these problems will be solved if the principle is accepted that it is not any spirit that presents itself to the seance; it is only the firm belief and conviction of the spiritualists and his medium that is at work, making the medium see, hear and feel the spirit. It is all a play of his imagination and will; and nothing more.
Second: Some of the people, holding the strong and effective will-power, rely on their own power and their own being, in bringing about the desired effect, the intended supernatural events. Such events are bound to be limited in strength, confined in their scope- in their own imagination as well as in reality.
On the other side, there are some persons, like the Prophets and the friends of Allah (S.w.T.) who, in spite of their most effective will power, totally rely on their Lord. They truly worship Him and have full trust in Him. They do not wish anything but from their Lord, and by His permission. Theirs is a pure and clear will, untainted by any personal feeling. It does not depend except on Allah (S.w.T.). This is a Divine Will- not limited in anyway, nor restricted in any manner.
The supernatural events that are brought into being by the first group may be of many kinds; If they are based on enquiry of, or help from, a jinn or a spirit etc. then it is called “al-Kihanah” (divination, sooth-saying, fortune-telling); and if it comes about by means of a charm, amulet, talisman or other such instruments or potions, then it is called magic.
The supernatural events shown by the prophets and saints are also of various kinds. If it is produced as a challenge, in order to prove the truth of the claim of prophethood, then it is called miracle, if it is not offered as a challenge, then it is named “al-Karamah” which literally means nobility, mark of honour; and in Islamic terminology is used for a miraculous event shown without a challenge; and if it happens as a result of the prayer to Allah (S.w.T.), then it is called, “answer to the prayer.”
Third: As the whole thing depends on the will power of the doer, its strength varies according to the strength (or weakness) of the will. That is why some of them may nullify the others, as, for example, the miracle annihilates sorcery. Also, a weak agent fails to impose his will on a stronger psyche, as is often seen at the sessions of mesmerism, hypnotism and seances.
Various Kinds of Magic
There are many fields of study dealing with various awe-striking feats and extraordinary deeds; and it is very difficult to classify them so as not to leave anything out. However, we give here a list of the more commonly used branches of this art.
a) as-Simiya: It deals with the ways of combining the will-power with particular physical and material forces for manipulating the natural order and, thus, producing extraordinary effects. Under this head comes the manipulation of thought, also known as the eye-enchantment.
It is the most deserving candidate for the title of magic
b) al-Limiya: It teaches how one may establish a connection between his psyche and the higher and stronger spirits, in order that one may bring them under one’s control, for example, the spirits of the stars, or the jinn, etc.
It is also called the knowledge of subjugation of the spirits.
c) al-Himiya: It explains how the powers of the higher spiritual world may be combined with the base elements of this world to produce awe-inspiring effects. It is also called talisman. The stars and their configuration have some relation to the material happenings of this world, in the same way as the elements and compounds and their physical qualities affect those phenomena. Supposedly if the heavenly forms, pertaining to a certain event, for example, A’s life or B’s death, could be combined with the relevant material forms, the desired effect would take place without fail.
d) ar-Rimiya: It trains one how to control and manipulate the qualities of various things, to produce seemingly super-natural effects. It is also called “ash-Sha’badhah” (sleight of hand, jugglery, magic).
These four fields of knowledge, together with the fifth, called “al-Kimiya” (alchemy, the forerunner of chemistry, primarily the attempt to transmute base metals into gold or silver) formed what the ancients called the five secrets, mysterious branches of knowledge.
Ash-Shaykh al-Bahai has said: “The best book written on these subjects was the one I saw in Herat, ‘Kulah al-sar’ (the head’s cap) by name. Its name was an acronym, made of the first letters of the five subjects, that is, al-Kimiya, al-Limiya, al-Himiya, al-Simiya and ar-Rimiya.”
The standard books of these subjects are the epitome of the books of Balinas, Rasa’il, al-Khusraw Shahi, adh-Dhakhirah, al-Iskandariyya, as-Sirru’l makhtum (by ar-Razi), at-Taskhirat (by as-Sakkaki) and A’malu’l-kawakib as-Sab’ah (by al-Hakim Tamtam al-Hindi).
Supplementary of the above are the following subjects:
e) The knowledge of numbers (numerology): It shows the relation of numbers and letters with the desired effect. The relevant letters or numbers are filled in a magic square or triangle etc. in a particular sequence.
f) al-Khafiyah (the hidden knowledge): It breaks down the name of the desired effect or other relevant names, and finds out the names of the angels or the satans managing the said effect; and then composes the invocations made of those names.
Divination or Kahanat, Soothsaying
To predict future events is known as divining and when the prediction is made on the knowledge obtained through some groups of Jinns it is known as Kahanat. (However we shall use the word soothsaying as an equivalent of Kahanat). Kahanat pertains to the prediction of future with the help of special knowledge. For example, the soothsayer may be adept at guessing the words of the enquirer or his private affairs etc.
According to the author of Nihaya this kind of soothsayer is known as ‘Ārāf’ but according to the majority of scholars a soothsayer is the one who predicts with the help of Jinns. The Jinns inform him of hidden matters. For example, he might be able to find where a stolen thing is hidden or who is the thief, or who is the murderer of a particular person. All the jurists are unanimous in their opinion that ‘Kahanat’ or soothsaying is Harām. Just as it is Harām to learn, teach, perform magic, in the same way it is Harām to learn soothsaying, to act upon the advice of a soothsayer and even to go for advice from a soothsayer. Some scholars maintain that soothsaying is a kind of magic.
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says: “One who divines or the one who goes to a soothsayer for divination, (both) have renounced the religion of Muhammad (S).” (Khisāl)
Janabe Haitham enquired from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.), “There is a person we know who informs about stolen property etc. Is it permitted for us to seek his advice?”
The Holy Imam (a.s.) said, “The Messenger of Allah (S) has mentioned that one who goes to a sorcerer, a soothsayer or a liar and testifies to what he says has become an infidel in the light of all the divine books revealed on Allah’s Messengers.” (Makasib Muharrama of Shaykh Ansari)
The Shaykh comments that according to this tradition, informing about the hidden matters is Harām; whether through divination or otherwise. However, if someone guesses and conjectures or doubts; it is allowed. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) considers soothsaying a prohibited profession and also considers it earnings Harām. Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) is also recorded to have mentioned a similar tradition.
Ignorance about future is better for the people
We must understand that prohibition of soothsaying is beneficial to us. Allah the Almighty does not wish people to have knowledge of the future. It is possible that a person may come to know of something of tremendous importance which will take place is according to his wishes. But their happening may be dependant on his giving Sadaqah or invoking Allah (S.w.T.). Having this knowledge beforehand may prevent the person from giving Sadaqah and invoking Allah (S.w.T.) with the result he will be deprived of his wishes. Similarly he may come to know of some calamity is to befall and this will cause him great anxiety when in reality this happening may not occur at all because of change in Allah (S.w.T.)’s ordinance (Badā). It is well known that many calamities are warded off by invoking Allah (S.w.T.) or giving Sadaqah or due to some good actions of the person or repentance. We can recall the people of Prophet Yūnus (a.s.), who were to be subjected to a great disaster. But their Du’a and repentance at the eleventh hour changed the course of their destiny. The Qur’an has also mentioned this fact.
A tradition is quoted in the Ihtijaj of Tabarsi from the sixth Imam (a.s.). The gist of the same is as follows: After the birth of the Holy Prophet (S) the shaitans and the Jinns were denied access to the heavens, hence they were unable to give information about the heavenly affairs. Now they could only inform about the evil magical matters. This information is unreliable because among the jinns too there are liars as well as truthful jinns. Therefore the fortune telling of a diviner is unreliable.
Sorcery and soothsaying are evil
To understand the evil of magic and soothsaying it is enough to know the numerous frauds, crimes, thefts and cheating committed through them. The sorcerer discontinues all the good actions and concentrates only on performing satanic rituals. He commits adultery with a married woman, sometimes he kills a person or drinks human blood. He shows disrespect to the things that Allah (S.w.T.) has made respectful. For example, he desecrates the verses of the Holy Qur’an. He performs actions that bring him closer to shaitans and eventually enters their company. Rather he debases himself lower than the shaitans so that they may help him in soothsaying and sorcery.
It is certainly a great pity that a human being who is capable of utmost good and worthy of rising to a position equal to angels or even higher, should so debase himself by his evil deeds that his position is degraded below that of the Shaitan.
Shoabada, illusion
Fast movements of an object can create an optical illusion for the beholder. For example if a ball of fire is moved in circles it seems to be a circle of fire. In the same way a person who is travelling in a car or train feels himself stationary and feels that his surroundings are moving in the opposite direction. Some people are adept at creating illusions of this type which audience perceives as real. To create such an illusion is Shobada. All the fuqaha are unanimous that Shobada is Harām; and that it is a type of magic.
A tradition of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) in Ihtijaj also mentions that creating illusions is a kind of sorcery. Another form of this magic consists of the perceived effect being a reality and not an illusion. The magicians of Fir’on used both the methods with Hazrat Musa (a.s.). First they created an illusion, then they switched over to actual sorcery. Apart from these there are many other kinds of magics and tricks; but we need not go into details.
It has been narrated about Abu Hafs Hadād that when he was a young man he had fallen in love with a lady. He was so enchanted by her that he was prepared to do anything to acquire her. Someone told him that there was a magician Jew in Nishapur and he would be able to fulfill his wishes. He went to the Jew and told him about his desires. The magician told him to abstain from prayers and other good deeds for forty days so that he can make his magic work for him. Abu Hafs returned from there and acted upon the instigation of the sorcerer.
After the forty days had elapsed Abu Hafs went to the Jew again and told him that so far the magic had not worked. The magician was also surprised and he told Abu Hafs that he must have done at least one good deed in those forty days that has nullified the magic. Abu Hafs pondered, and said that as far as he remembered he had not done a single good action except that he had picked up a stone from the path so that it may not hurt a traveller. “That was it!” The magician exclaimed, “Though you disobeyed God these forty days and did not fulfill any obligation, yet He is such a Merciful God that He accepted even such a small deed from you and prevented the magic to work for you. So, it is not appropriate for you to disobey such a generous God.”
The words of the magician had such effect on Abu Hafs that he repented for his misdeeds and became absorbed in worship and sought forgiveness from Allah (S.w.T.). He became so pious that eventually he was bestowed miraculous power by the Almighty.
The powers of the magician are limited
When Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) had described the different varieties of magic to the one who had posed a question, the person asked Imam (a.s.) if it was possible for a magician to transform a human being into a dog or a pig etc.? Imam (a.s.) said, “The magician cannot do this, because if he can transform the creations of Allah he will become a partner of Allah in His creation whereas no one can be a partner to Allah.”
If the magician had such powers he would have got rid of his own senility, difficulties and maladies and would not have allowed his hair to grey and would have removed his own poverty.
Actually the most dangerous kind of magic is that which causes differences between two friends. It creates hatred and malice between those who love each other. Such discord and dissension can also be created by instigating people against each other. The two are closely inter-related.
Taskhirāt (controlling jinns etc.)
Taskhirāt can be defined as the method of controlling Angels, Jinns, souls or various wild animals. This is also Harām and considered a form of sorcery. The Shaykh has also mentioned in Makasib that all the characteristics of magic and sorcery are present in Taskhirāt. Although Shahid al-Awwal and Shahid al-Thani consider magic Harām because it does harm to others, they may have also considered that the fact the process of controlling angels and jinns causes them much sufferings.
Qayafa (Guess)
Qayafa is the art of determining the lineage of an individual. A person practicing Qayafa can decide whether a particular individual is the son or brother of another. But this practice is against the doctrine of Islam for establishing lineage and it is a kind of magic, therefore it is Harām in view of all the jurists. On the other hand it is possible for a knowledgeable and wise person to ascertain certain facts regarding an individual on the basis of his physical characteristics. This practice is not Harām. Many unusual episodes have been narrated on the basis of such knowledge.
An interesting incident is mentioned in al-Kāfi as well as the eleventh volume of Bihār. During the time of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.), ‘Ali bin Huraira was a governor of the Abbasid Caliph. He had a slave named Rafīd. One day he was so angry with Rafīd that he decided to kill him. Rafīd ran away and took refuge with Imam Sadiq (a.s.).
Imam (a.s.) told him to go back to his master and say that Imam (a.s.) has ordered him to spare his life, as he has taken refuge with Imam (a.s.). Rafīd was horrified but Imam (a.s.) insisted that he go back.
So Rafīd obeyed and when he was on his way he met an Arab, who said, “Where are you going? Your face is that of a dead man.” Then he told Rafīd to show his hand. Again he remarked that the hands were of a person who has been killed. He looked at the legs and passed the same judgement. He said that his complete body was that of a person who has been murdered. Then he asked him to show his tongue. Upon seeing the tongue he remarked, “No harm will come to you because your tongue is that of an envoy and it carries such a message that if you were to go to huge mountains they would become soft, and become obedient to you.”
Rafīd says that when he came to his master ‘Ali bin Huraira, he at once gave the orders for his execution. His hands were tied and an executioner moved towards him with a naked sword. Then he told his master that it was not he who had got him arrested, but that he himself had returned to him. He also requested him to listen to what he had to say in privacy.
He agreed to the request and Rafīd told him, “Ja’far bin Muhammad (a.s.) the master of both of us has sent you salām and requested you to spare my life.” When he heard this he could not believe it. Rafīd repeated it to him under oath. He at once freed him and asked his forgiveness. He insisted that his hands be tied in the same way by Rafīd. Rafīd could not make himself do this; but upon insistence he tied his hands and untied them quickly. Then he gave his seal ring to Rafīd and set him free.
Astronomy and Meteorology
Predictions regarding future events; i.e. price fluctuations of grain, its shortage and abundance, the scarcity and intensity of rain and all other types of good and bad happenings; based on the knowledge of the effect of heavenly bodies on earth is known as meteorology. It is permitted if the one who is predicting only considers them a possibility but not a certainty because the final authority for all cause and effect lies with Allah (S.w.T.). Thus there is no harm in predicting the solar and lunar eclipses and the position of stars etc. because such predictions are based on complicated calculations and such predictions are usually true unless there is a mistake in calculation. The movement of the heavenly bodies follows well-defined laws and principles, hence there is hardly any chance of a wrong prediction.
On the other hand to predict future events with a belief that only the stars and heavenly bodies (without any Divine will) govern them is Harām and a kind of magic.
The Shaykh has concluded his discussion in Makasib by stating that predictions are of four types:
1) It is not Harām to predict the future position of heavenly bodies and other phenomena like the solar and the lunar eclipse etc.
2) It is also permitted to predict an occurrence if it is caused by the influence of the movement of stars or by the heavenly bodies coming near the earth but it must not be considered a phenomenon independent of the Divine will. It should be looked upon as the will of Allah (S.w.T.). In other words one should say that ‘when the comet etc. passes near Earth such a thing will happen by the permission of Allah (S.w.T.).’ The stars must not be considered the sole cause of the phenomena. Even if one makes such predictions by experience and without any scientific knowledge; it is allowed. One who has previous experience can predict that it will rain at night when his pet dog comes down from the terrace and comes inside the house, because this had happened before. Hence the past experience enables some to predict a future event.
3) To attribute the future events solely to the influence of heavenly bodies is considered Harām by all the jurists. Numerous traditions denounce these kinds of predictions.
The Holy Prophet (S) says: “One who believes an astrologer and soothsayer has disbelieved in whatever was revealed upon Muhammad (S).”
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says: “Accursed is the astrologer and accursed is the soothsayer and accursed is the magician.”
When Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) was proceeding for the battle of Nahrawan one of his men who was an expert in astrology restrained him saying, “If you go at this time, I fear that you will not succeed in your aim.”
‘Ali (a.s.) told him that if he thought he could predict the auspicious and the inauspicious times of departure with accuracy, he was in error and said, “Whoever believes your prediction has denied the Qur’an.” (Because according to Qur’an success and defeat all are subservient to Divine will). If a person has faith in the astrologer he will not seek Divine help and assistance when the prediction is favourable for him. In this way he will not give Sadqa nor pray for success and will eventually conclude that Allah (S.w.T.) controls nothing; thus he would become a disbeliever.
If an astronomer predicts with the belief that his predictions are subject to the final will of Allah (S.w.T.) then there is no harm for one to pray to the Almighty for success when the prediction is good; and in case of an unfavourable prediction invoke Allah (S.w.T.) for safety.
4) Khwaja Nasiruddin Tusi during one of his journeys stayed for the night at a water mill. The water mill was situated outside the town. Since it was a hot evening the Khwaja decided to sleep in the open. The mill-owner told him that it would rain that night. The Khwaja looked at the sky but could not make out any sign of rain. The mill-owner said, “I have a pet dog who comes down to the house when it is to rain at night.” Khwaja did not heed his advice and spent the rainy night in open but he was much amused by the incident.
Four types of beliefs
1) To believe that stars are the supreme controllers of the world is Harām. A person who has such a belief is a Kafir whether he denies the creator or not. All the jurists are unanimous in this regard.
2) To believe that the heavenly bodies have been bestowed by Allah (S.w.T.) the power to control the world is not Kufr but it is a foolish notion because we have no proof that the inanimate stars have any intelligence or will to influence the world.
3) The third type of belief is when a person admits that the stars have no intelligence and will power but says that Allah (S.w.T.) has decreed that when the position of the stars will be such, the following event will take place. It is the law of causation like when fire is brought near something it burns it. Though such a belief is proved correct most of the time, reason does not accept it to be unchangeable.
4) To predict future events on the basis of heavenly occurrences is not Harām according to most of the scholars. For example if the moon and Saturn come in a line there would be a good rainfall. To interpret such heavenly phenomena is not Harām but such interpretations can be accurately given only by the Infallibles (a.s.). What the meteorologists predict is based on an incomplete part of this knowledge. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) remarks: “The complete knowledge of stars cannot be acquired and incomplete knowledge is of no benefit.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
After enumerating the different types of astrological sciences, Shaykh Ansari says, “All these traditions imply that whatever the astrologers predict is based on deficient knowledge. They only conjecture and guess on the basis of a little knowhow. People who consult them are rarely satisfied by their predictions but it is possible that he may have experience regarding a particular event and may make an accurate prediction. Hence it is better to refrain from consulting such people and if they make a prediction, one should say, ‘It is only a possibility.’”
The prediction did not materialise
The deficiency and inaccuracy of astrological predictions can be gauged from the doubts and wrong predictions of the astrologers. The books of history are replete with such examples. In the second volume of Tatmatal Muntahi it is mentioned that in 582 A.H. seven stars came together in one constellation. Abul Fazl Khwarizmi and other astronomers gave the prediction that the whole world will be destroyed in a cyclone. The people took shelter in the caves and protective spots and also stored their rations to escape the fury of the cyclone. At last the predicted date of 9th of Jamadi ul Ākhar arrived but there was no sign of any cyclone. Not even a soft wind blew. People lit candles and they burnt without even being blown out by a breeze. The poets jumped to the amusing occasion and composed couplets on this incident.
A few years ago there was a similar threat that had the people of the whole world worried. It was predicted that the whole earth would be shaken due to the impact of the collision of a meteor. Some people dived underwater to escape the shock but nothing happened at the appointed time. (The meteor missed the earth by thousands of miles).
Magic and miracles are of two types
If a person is able to perform extraordinary acts due to his extreme piety and abstinence it is known as Karamat but if the said person is a Prophet or an Imam, he is bestowed with this high station by the Almighty and subject to three conditions his act will be construed as a miracle (Mojiza).
1) His claim should be acceptable to reason but if his claim is illogical, whatever action he performs is magic whether one can perceive the mechanics of this act or not. For example it is an accepted fact by every Muslim that prophethood came to an end with Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (S) and that his shariah will be in force till Qiyāma; there will be no prophet after him. Hence if someone claims that he is a prophet; his extraordinary acts to prove his claim will not be believed. He would be a cunning magician. Or a person claims Imamat, when according to the proven belief of Shias there are only twelve Imams. The first being Hazrat ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.), and the last Hazrat Hujjat ibnil Hasan (a.s.), who will remain in occultation till the time of his reappearance. Hence the claimant will be an impostor even if he exhibits some mysterious act. Similarly is the position regarding the special representatives of Imam (a.s.) who were four, the last being ‘Ali ibn Muhammad Saymori. If someone comes and says that he is a special representative (Naib al-Khās) he cannot be believed and whatever ‘miracles’ he shows will be considered magical tricks.
2) The person should possess the necessary qualification for being a prophet or an Imam. For example one of the necessary quality of a Prophet or Imam is infallibility (Ismat). That is, he must not commit either a greater or a lesser sin before his declaration or after it. He must be the most righteous and knowledgeable person of his time. One of the signs of such a character is his indifference to material wealth. Thus if there is a claimant who commits sins and lacks knowledge and covets material wealth, then if he exhibits special acts, they are merely magic.
3) It is necessary that the extraordinary act performed by the incumbent should be through the might and power of the Almighty. If he uses some tools and instruments or if he undertakes training for performing the said acts it is obvious that they are not miracles. Miracles are performed by the power of Allah (S.w.T.) and do not require prior practice and training. This aspect has been analysed in great detail in scholastic theology.
Countering magic
Many jurists are of the opinion that countering one magic spell by another is permitted. If an impostor claims prophethood by performing magical tricks; magic can be used to expose his falsehood. Or if a sorcerer casts a spell on someone or binds him, it is permitted to break this spell and unbind the victim with the help of magic.
It is related that Isa bin Shaqfi came to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) and said, “May my life be sacrificed for you, I am a magician and magic is my occupation. With the earnings of magic I have even performed the Hajj and now the Almighty has honoured me by your meeting but now I am regretful of my deeds; is there any way I can achieve salvation? Imam (a.s.) said, “Untie and do not tie.” The apparent meaning of Imam’s remark is that he can use his powers to counteract the magical spells of others magicians but he must not himself initiate sorcery. Some jurists are of the opinion that magic can be used only under special circumstances when there is no other alternative. Initially invocations and amulets must be tried to nullify magical spells.
Let us look at a couple of such incidents in the book Bihār al-Anwār.
A person came to Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) and complained that a spell has been cast on him. ‘Ali (a.s.) told him to write the following Du’a on the skin of deer and keep it with him so that the spell may not affect him:
In the Name of Allah and by Allah. In the Name of Allah and as Allah willed. In the Name of Allah. There is no power or might except by Allah. Musa (a.s.) said Allah shall soon falsify the magic of those who have come with magic. Indeed Allah does not improve the affairs of transgressors. Then the truth became manifested and falsified what they had done. The truth triumphed and they were disgraced.
Moreover he advised reciting the following Du’a seven times to safeguard against magic and the tyranny of the ruler. The same Du’a can be recited seven times after Salāt al-Shab and before the morning prayers. It will protect one from the evils of magic:
In the Name of Allah and by the help of Allah. Soon We shall strengthen your hand by your brother. And appoint for you a force. By which their mischief would not harm you. Move ahead with our signs. You and your followers shall triumph.
In the book Qasasul Ulama there is an anecdote of the period of Abbas the Safawid. A Christian king sent a messenger to Abbas with the message that he may be given a chance to debate with Muslim scholars and if he defeats the Muslim scholars they must all accept Christianity. Now the person sent by the Christian king had some powers by which he was able to guess accurately what others held in their fists. The scholars were invited to debate with him and they included Mulla Mohsin Faiz. When the debate began Mulla Mohsin remarked that the Christian king has sent an ordinary man instead of a religious scholar for debate. The envoy brushed the remark aside and told him to hide something in his fist so that he can prove his miraculous powers.
Mulla Mohsin kept the tasbih made of dust from Imam Husain (a.s.)’s grave in his fist and challenged him to guess. The man thought for sometime but kept quiet. When Mulla urged him to speak up he said, “According to my knowledge there is a piece of Paradise soil in your hand but I am astonished as to where it was and how it came into your hands.”
Mulla Mohsin said, “You are correct! It is the dust from the grave of Imam Husain (a.s.) who was the grandson of our Prophet (S). Your statement itself proves that the Imam of Muslims was on the right. Hence, you must accept Islam.”
The Christian followed his conscience and became a Muslim. A very suitable method was employed by the late Mulla Faiz to guide the Christian towards salvation. But it must be kept in mind that even under circumstances like the one described, where the person proved superior to the Christians who had extraordinary powers, it is necessary that the person has the Three necessary qualifications described earlier, otherwise he is nothing but a sorcerer.

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