A sister in one of my Whatsapp groups just sent a photo to us with the caption “SubhanAllah, someone actually did sihr [black magic] to this sister’s baby.” It was a picture of an old photo of a baby, with the face scratched out in red, safety pins stuck through it, a padlock clamped onto one side, and a bunch of writing in Arabic scribbled all over it.
To her, and to many Muslims living in America or Europe, this isn’t something they encounter everyday, and can be quite shocking. I myself didn’t even understand the relevant of all of the different hadith on superstition, black magic, and issues with jinn until I came to stay in the Muslim world a bit.
If you walk down to the beach, not even ten minutes from my house, you will find plenty of rocky, cliff kinds of areas. They are great for sitting and fishing, or just enjoying the view, but the things you find there can be startling. Photos just like the ones of the baby: women, babies, couples, men, all with faces scratched out and writing scribbled all over. Safety pins, padlocks, rips and tears, hair, blood, candles, even a dead chicken are all things I have seen hiding in the rocks.
And all of this because someone is jealous of someone else’s husband, or baby, or nice hair. When I first came to visit over the summer, my mother in law actually wouldn’t even let me eat the food that a certain person sent to me, because she was scared that there may be sihr in it, because this person was known for their jealous tendencies.
Living in America, these were the kinds of things that I thought were real, but didn’t actually happen anymore. I never really took the hadith about them as relevant to my life, and I didn’t really take the time to understand exactly what part these types of things play in Islam. Now that I am seeing it up close and personal though, I have realised how important it is to understand what is going on.
I want to first talk about superstition and the place it has in Islam: in the U.S. it is usually something you say, but don’t really believe, like, for example, opening and umbrella in the house brings you bad luck. But here it is something people say and they truly believe: I remember one time I kissed my husband on the forehead and his mother was mortified, telling me “don’t kiss him by his eyes, that means you will be separated!!”
Not only do I find these kinds of things ridiculous, but since converting to Islam I have actually learned that you are committing a grave sin by holding these beliefs; to say that my kiss has the power to separate my husband and I, is to say that something besides Allah swt is in control of my life. And that is to deviate from monotheism.
The Prophet saws said, “Tiyarah (superstition, belief in evil omens) is shirk (associating partners with Allah).”
Narrated in Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi
The Prophet saws said “There is no ‘adwa (transmission of disease) without the permission of Allah and no tiyarah (superstition, evil omens), but I like optimism.” They said, “What is optimism?” He saws said, “A good word.”
Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim
These two hadith make it quite clear that absolutely no harm can come from “bad omens” such as black cats, owls, broken mirrors, or whatever your culture may assign evil to. I also love the second part of the second hadith about optimism and a good word: It reminds me of the time that I was travelling in the car with my husband, complaining about the awful rainy weather we had been having. Just then, I looked up and saw one of the clearest, most vibrant rainbows I have seen in a long time, and thought, wow, maybe this is Allah’s swt little sign to me that things will be looking up soon in shaa Allah!
That is the difference between a good word and a negative superstition.
This one goes hand in hand with the superstition.
“Whoever goes to a fortune-teller and asks him about something, his prayer will not be accepted for forty nights.”
Narrated in Muslim
This is another one that I really have just never understood, before or after Islam. Horoscopes, fortune-telling, crystal balls and all that have always just been ridiculous bits of amusement for me. I’ve never, ever in my life entertained the serious thought that a deck of cards could tell me anything about myself, or that the general statements of a horoscope like “you are searching for happiness,” were applicable only to me.
But again, in the Muslim majority world, it tends to be a big thing. One of my husband’s family members told him when he brought me home for the first time, “I knew it!” When we asked what she knew, “The fortune lady told me that you would one day have a nice wife and a car!”
Well, yeah. That is a decent bet for just about anyone…
Because that is really all that fortune-telling is: general statements, good understanding of psychology, and good guesses. And at the worst, maybe consorting with jinn to gain some knowledge that only someone who moves in the realm of the unseen can have.
At any rate, the knowledge is not that beneficial, and it is another way of associating partners with Allah swt, so why waste your prayers for forty nights, just to hear that “someday you will be happy,” or “you will be sad soon?”
Sensationalising the Jinn
Yes, I am a Muslim so I do believe that jinn exist (any non-Muslim readers hit me up on the contact form and I can point you in the direction of some resources as to what exactly jinn are). And I do believe that in extreme cases humans can be affected by jinn whether through possession or less severe interactions.
But here in Algeria, it seems like every third person I meet either “has a jinn in their body” or “had a jinn in their body.” I swear, the jinn here are big excuses for bad behaviour and an opportunity for more town drama.
Like I have mentioned before, they even like to call up jinn with special music and dancing at events!It is all a big form of entertainment here, and no one seems to want to address the problem. There are men in town who “have a jinn,” and who will get wayyyyy to close to me when trying to talk to my husband. Instead of trying to fix the problem though (get help from an imam, something), people are offended that I’m offended and tell me, “He can’t help it, he has a jinn.” OK then.
“And verily, there were men among mankind who took shelter with the males among the jinn, but they (jinn) increased them (mankind) in sin and transgression.”
If a person is afflicted with problems from a jinn, it shouldn’t be a talking point, or something of interest to the whole city; s/he needs to figure out what let the jinn into their life in the first place, correct their actions, and seek help. It’s not supposed to be fun, it is a huge issue!
Sihr, Black Magic
I touched on what this looks like above, but I would just like to further note how awful it is and how it truly has no place in a Muslim society.
Firstly, this stems from issues of deep-seated jealousy and pride, which are not only diseases in the hearts of Muslims, but there are so many instances of the idea of brotherhood in Islam, and that every Muslim should want for his brother what he wants for himself, that I fail to see how people think this is a normal part of life.
“Solomon did not disbelieve, but the devils disbelieved teaching men magic.”
Secondly, as is quite evident from not only this ayah, but the hadith as well, it is another act of shirk. No matter what kind of situation you are in (and I can’t imagine not having as nice of teeth as your neighbour is that bad of a situation tbh.) black magic is a desperate act of disbelief that should never be resorted to.
These are just some of the issues that I have been witnessing and researching lately, and I hope some of it could be of interest to you! Like I said, for those in the United States or Europe, this is not a reality that we often understand, but in many Muslim majority countries these are things you come in contact with on an almost daily basis. Because of what I have seen here, I have found it very worth the time to do some research on these topics, even if they are not something that will directly impact me once I am living back in the States.
At any rate, I will quit rambling on! See you Wednesday, in shaa Allah!