Black Magic, Evil Eye - Islamic Perspective
Jihad Turk, October 28, 2007

Muslims recite this chapter quite often in their daily prayers but it is rather unfortunate that some of them still believe in witchcraft and black magic. There are few fabricated hadiths (traditions) in circulation that claim that once Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was under a magic spell or bewitched. During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there was a solar eclipse on the day that his son Ibrahim died. Some superstitious people said that the sun eclipsed because of the young child's death and the Prophet's sadness on that day. The Prophet corrected their understanding:

Narrated Al-Mughira bin Shu'ba: On the day of Ibrahim's death, the sun eclipsed and the people said that the eclipse was due to the death of Ibrahim (the son of the Prophet). Allah's Apostle said, "The sun and the moon are two signs amongst the signs of Allah. They do not eclipse because of someone's death or life. So when you see them, invoke Allah and pray till the eclipse is clear."

Hence Muslims should refrain from such superstitious beliefs.

Surah 113. The Raising Dawn (From Muhammad Asad's translation)

(1) SAY: "I seek refuge with the Sustainer of the rising dawn, 1

(2) "from the evil of aught that He has created,

(3) "and from the evil of the black darkness whenever it descends, 2

(4) "and from the evil of all human beings bent on occult endeavours, 3

(5) "and from the evil of the envious when he envies." 4

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Footnotes:

1 The term al-falaq ("the light of dawn" or "the rising dawn") is often used tropically to describe "the emergence of the truth after [a period of] uncertainty" (Taj al-Arus): hence, the appellation "Sustainer of the rising dawn" implies that God is the source of all cognition of truth, and that one's "seeking refuge" with Him is synonymous with striving after truth.

2 i.e., the darkness of despair, or of approaching death. In all these four verses (2-5), the term "evil" (sharr) has not only an objective but also a subjective connotation - namely, fear of evil.

3 Lit., "of those that blow (an-naffathat) upon knots": an idiomatic phrase current in pre-Islamic Arabia and, hence, employed in classical Arabic to designate all supposedly occult endeavours; it was probably derived from the practice of "witches" and "sorcerers" who used to tie a string into a number of knots while blowing upon them and murmuring magic incantations. The feminine gender of naffathat does not, as Zamakhshari and Razi point out, necessarily indicate "women", but may well relate to "human beings" (anfus, sing. nafs, a noun that is grammatically feminine). In his explanation of the above verse, Zamakhshari categorically rejects all belief in the reality and effectiveness of such practices, as well as of the concept of "magic" as such. Similar views have been expressed - albeit in a much more elaborate manner, on the basis of established psychological findings - by Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida (see Manar I, 398 ff.). The reason why the believer is enjoined to "seek refuge with God" from such practices despite their palpable irrationality is - according to Zamakhshari- to be found in the inherent sinfulness of such endeavours (see surah 2, note 84), and in the mental danger in which they may involve their author.

4 i.e., from the effects - moral and social- which another person's envy may have on one's life, as well as from succumbing oneself to the evil of envy. In this connection, Zamakhshari quotes a saying of the Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (called "the Second Umar" on account of his piety and integrity): "I cannot think of any wrongdoer (zalim) who is more likely to be the wronged one (mazlum) than he who envies another."


Excerpts from 'Reconnecting to the Quran' series by Jihad Turk, Religious Director, Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles.