Summary of 4.2 "Jinn"
Among God’s creators there are two basic types the seen and the unseen. We said that among the seen creators we have the humans and others. And we said that among humans we have the believers and the unbelievers. Among the unseen creators there are the angels as one category, the subject of our first program in this series, and there are also the Jinn. Jinn is an Arabic term that I could not find an exact English equivalent. We can perhaps best understand it by thinking of Jinn as unseen creators which are different from angels in a sense that they have free choice like humans. In other words they are not created good by definition like angels are but rather they have the same freedom of choice as humans to be either believers or unbelievers.
We mentioned also that the father of unbelieving Jinn is Satan or Ibleese as the Quran calls him is the very first Satan who tempted Adam and Eve in Paradise. And we indicated that Satan or Ibleese was not of the angels because angels by definition can’t disobey God according to the Quran. He was of the Jinn who have the freedom of choice to obey or disobey and he chose to disobey God. We also indicated that the term devil or satan actually refers to the decedents or legion of the father of devils as well as all to human beings who are unbelievers. Both groups operate for evil or corruption.
We indicated last time that as a principle a believer or Muslim should not think in any way that Satan or devils have any control or authority over them. It is up to us to use the freedom of choice that God has given us to decide between right and wrong and to stand in the face of deceptive techniques used by devils or Satan.
4.3 Divination, Astrology and Magic
Host: Do Muslims believe in magic and sorcery?
I think we have to make one distinction when using the term ‘believe.’ When we say a Muslim believes in God, prophets or angels it carries a lot more weight than saying for example a Muslim believes in the existence of magic. I prefer to say that the Muslim believes in the existence of something called magic but not necessarily the belief in magic because it is a different category all together from something a Muslim is required to believe in like God, prophets and angels.
With this observation in mind I would say that there are different meanings to magic and perhaps when we define it in our terms it will be easier to expose the Islamic point of view on this. Usually the word magic or the equivalent in Arabic which is the word sihr can have at least three basic meanings.
One meaning of magic doesn’t necessarily refer to sorcery. It could simply mean enchantment, attraction, or charm. For example when one says ‘he used words that were so effective they were like magic.’ This could be one meaning and in this sense there is no problem. Actually the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) was quoted as saying that some truths if presented properly have the effect of magic.
Sometimes we talk about magic in a sense of having some kind of trick or illusion. If this is used for entertainment of children or adults it is fine. Pulling a rabbit out of a hat and all that if done for the purpose of entertainment is fine and there are actually books that can teach one how to play these tricks. Basically, there is nothing wrong with it.
However, when these same kinds of tricks are used to exploit people or strike terror in their heart or to give the illusion that a human being has some kind of supper power then it is wrong and is condemned. In fact we find reference to this in the Quran about the magicians in the time of Prophet Moses (PBUH) and the Pharaoh. In (7:116) the Quran says that when the magicians challenged Prophet Moses (PBUH) they started demonstrating their magic work to see if he can match them. It says “So when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror into them: for they showed a great (feat of) magic.” So the idea was to impress people or to claim this kind of superpowers. This is something that is condemned. In fact the Quran explains this type of magic as a skill in illusion. For example refereeing to the same situation elsewhere in the Quran (20:66) it says that when the magicians threw “their ropes and their rods-so it seemed to him on account of their magic - began to be in lively motion!” So they threw sticks and ropes and because of certain tricks they used it gave the illusion that they were serpents. This is the Quranic explanation of this particular type of illusion which is superstitious.
However, we find reference in the Quran to a third type of magic which perhaps would be equivalent to the word sorcery. This is magic that is used for a sinister purpose and at times possibly by invoking evil spirits. Like we said earlier among the unseen creators like the Jinn, there are those who are unbelievers, who might cooperate with some unholy people in giving illusions or trying to exploit people. Now there is reference in the Quran to this in chapter 113 where it says that a believer should always seek refuge in God and His power against those who blow on the knots which is part of witchcraft. It doesn’t say that they can harm one out of their own will but it simply says invoke the name God and his protection against these kinds of evil deeds. In fact there is reference in (2:102) which indicates that people who are learning this sometimes through various magical formulas how to “sow discord between a man and wife.” I know some interpreters who interpret this in various ways, not necessarily through magic but through evil deeds or prompting but there are those who believe that it may be possible that with the use of evil spirits some attempt to do harm. Some people know this as black magic.
Host: Leaving aside magic in the form of enchantment what does Islam say about the other forms of magic especially sorcery?
The position of Islam on this is very clear in fact a different part of the same verse in (2:102) it says that “the buyers of (magic) would have no share in the happiness of the Hereafter.” Sorcery is a very strongly condemned type of action. We find that the Prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), has indicated in one Hadith that among the seven greatest sins which destroy a person’s welfare in the hereafter is magic. In fact it comes immediately after associating others with God which the greatest sin. The position of Islam is quite clear on this point and that it is absolutely condemned.
Host: We talked about the use of magic for wrong purposes what about learning magic without necessarily using it?
In fact we find a reference to this in the very same verse. In (2:102) it talks about people who learned magic in the past and that “they learned what harmed them not what profited them.” Obviously when the Quran says that if something is learned it harms, then one better keep away from it. Indeed one can’t really separate learning magic from using magic. Learning magic or sorcery makes it very tempting for the person to use it. When the temptation is there it can be tempting to use it for evil because we are human we might get angry with someone or be envious. In order to cut the evil tree from the roots Islam also prohibited learning the evil of magic.
In fact if I may add to this, people reported to me who have heard of these cases that many of the people who tried to practice sorcery or get into this very slippery road end up going crazy. They go crazy because they get some sort of domination by the evil spirit or by imagination. In the end it is a very dangerous area to get into so it is better stay away from it.
Host: What if someone goes to a magician or sorcerer to ask for a solution to a problem?
It is just as condemned as the position of magic itself. Some evidence of this is in one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about certain the categories that will never enter paradise. On of those categories is a person who believes in magic. Of course when one goes to a sorcerer it means that one believes in him and some power that can profit you or harm you. This is totally against Islamic belief because God alone has the absolute power and that nobody human or unseen creator can inflict any harm unto one against the will of God. In that sense it is a question of methodology in Islamic jurisprudence that when something is forbidden then learning it, believing in it or even resorting to someone who uses it is evil. In that sense an ideal society in the view of Islam is a society that is free of sorcery witchcraft or wizardry.
Host: If we accept the fact that seeking the aid of a magician is forbidden what should a person do when faced with a very serious problem?
I suggest four basic points that one should keep in mind. Whenever one faces a difficult problem Islam says that one should have a very firm unshaken belief that there is nobody who shares in the divine attributes of God, in His power, His authority and His control of this universe. Like I said before nothing can ever happen in this universe against His will. There is no competing power with God He is the sovereign of the universe. So this of course includes human beings, Jinn, diviners, sorcerers, magicians or any other creator there is only one creator and everyone else is a creator of God.
A second point that we should keep in mind is to believe in magic to help one resolve a particular problem carries an implicit hidden assumption that somebody else can benefit you or harm you. This is a kind of shirk as we call it in Islamic terminology which means associating other powers with God which is regarded as blasphemy.
A third point is that Islam provides a more constructive and positive way of dealing with difficult problems in that a person should try to depend on God, this doesn’t mean a fatalistic attitude, one dose what they can and ultimately believe in the final authority of God, one petitions to Him and pray to Him to guide and help in the matter at hand.
Fourthly, this is not necessarily contradictory with doing your best. So whenever one has a problem try to use your God given rationality, your God given mind, this may not be enough so one seeks the help of other human beings and people who are sincere in giving advice. But like I said when problems really get complex one could invoke the name of God and ask for his guidance because the mind and intelligence alone may not necessarily resolve all problems. First one does what they are supposed to do and then they can leave the rest to God.
Host: Could you expand on the issue of divination and fortune tellers?
The term used for the unseen in Quran is ghaib, or something that is absent from us or beyond our knowledge. One could divide the unseen or unknown or things that might fall in the future into three categories.
There is one category of information we only do not have access to. For example if we talk about something that happened during the days of previous prophets or prior to that or about something that has not been documented in history. Then we can say we don’t know what really happened in that particular period of time because we were not there but there were other humans who were there who knew of it.
A second type of unseen is not accessible to any human being. For example what happened on earth before the human being lived on it. No human was there so humans make theories based on whatever facts are available but still it is not that certain.
Thirdly there is other information, which relates more to the question, which is impossible for any human being to know without revelation. This includes knowledge about God, what will happen to us after death and the life hereafter. This is all information that one can’t just go and read about it as it has to be revealed through revelation. It is impossible for any human being to sit down and say in x year y things will happen. So the basic rule according to the Quran is that the knowledge of the all categories lies exclusively with God. One documentation on this is found in the Quran in (27:65) “Say. None in the heavens or on earth, except Allah, knows what is hidden.” Even the messengers of God were instructed not to claim that they had any knowledge of the future. For example in (6:50) it says about Prophet Noah in particular “Say: "I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel.” The same thing also was directed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in (7:188) “Say: ‘I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah willeth. If I had knowledge of the unseen, I should have multiplied all good, and no evil should have touched me: I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings to those who have faith.’” In fact there was a little story that is narrated in Termithi a collection of the Prophet’s sayings in which it is said that some people came to the Prophet (PBUH) and they hid something in their hand and then they asked him to tell them what they had. His answer this was “I am not a diviner and divination and diviners are all in the hell fire.” The message of the prophet was to guide people not to play games. There are other evidences in the Quran for example in (34:14) it is mentioned that the Jinn, spirits, not knowing about the death of Prophet Solomon (PBUH). So there is plenty of evidence in the Quran that shows that the basic rule is that the knowledge of the future is the exclusive domain of God
Host: In our previous discussions about prophets being able to foretell which actually happened at some subsequent time based on what you just said this is not an exception to the rule? Prophets are not able to tell the future.
It is not an exception if we are talking about divination but it could be admissible if we look at it as prophecy. I think the distinction could clarify this point. When we talk about divination we are talking about people who claim that they have certain supernatural powers. Sometimes divination is based on the false claim of contact with supernatural beings or spirits or devils and this is definitely wrong. In that sense there is no exception, divination is wrong for everybody as well as prophets.
When we talk about prophets and the chosen messengers of God whatever they foretold about the future is not divination. I am glad that this issue was raised. What they talked about was prophecy. Prophecy is not a prophet claiming to know the future by himself he simply claims that God has revealed certain information to him. This is why one may not in the last part of my answer to the previous question I said that he basic rule is that the knowledge of the unseen is the exclusive domain of God unless by his explicit will He gives information to a particular prophet. There is one interesting verse about this in the Quran in (72:26-27) “He (alone) knows the Unseen, nor does He make any one acquainted with His Mysteries, except an apostle whom He has chosen.” In fact this could be regarded as one explicit thing that the Quran mentions when specific information is conveyed to the prophet. But of course if a prophet is a true one he would not boast this he would simply humbly admit that this is something that God has blessed him with.
Host: There are three areas I would like to get into if we have time. What about astrology and the starts and people who use them as a source of information about the future?
You’r talking about astrology and palm reading- from a Muslim point of view most of these things are superstition and exploitation of people. At times it is commercialized type of activities, it sells lots of books but it doesn’t necessarily tell a whole lot and some times things might happen by way of coincidence. One opens the paper and reads all kinds of things about the horoscope and one thinks that it tells one exactly what’s going to happen because one was born in that particular month or period of time. But we forget that we are talking about 4 billion people who are in the world today perhaps you will find a few million who are born in the same period. How is it that those people have the same personality and the same events that happened or likely to happen in their lives. It is just incomprehensible.
The Quran does mention something about the stars but not astrology or horoscope. It mentions something about the stars in (15:16) that God created the stars as a sort of beautification of the skies. Beauty, to be observe and awed and remember the bounty and power of God. In (6:97) the Quran mentions something about the stars in terms of their positive benefit as guidance to people in darkness. It guides people traveling in the sea or on land. Thirdly, in (25:61) it talks about God making lanterns in the skies. In an interesting verse in (10:15) it talks about the sun and the moon. The sun is described as shining glory and the moon as light. This is quite interesting because the words used in the Quran is that the sun is a source of light but the moon is regarded as only light or reflection.