Superstitions and Bad Omen


Superstitions and Bad Omen

Learning From the Past, Living For the Future
Community Organizations: Need for Introspection
Confused Man

My driver brought the vehicle to a screeching halt and switched off the ignition. Jerked out of half-slumber, I asked him, “What happened?” He replied with apprehension writ large over his face that a black cat crossed the path. After a few seconds, he started the vehicle and carried on, muttering to himself that this is a bad omen. Curiously, there is colour racism even in superstitions: black cat is a bad omen. We also insist on a black hen for giving sadaqah! The poor crow is nobody’s favourite just because he is black. Owls are also believed to bring bad luck. These are a few of the innumerable superstitions that are blindly believed even by educated people and are not restricted to one region or one religion.

That reminded me of my school days and Kaka’s grocery shop near our house in Mysore which I frequented. All the bananas in the shop used to be sold out except the twin bananas, which had no takers. When I offered to buy the twin banana at the cost of a single one, the shopkeeper always seemed rather amused but pleased to dispose of a non-saleable item. The superstition is that those who eat twin bananas will get twin children. I have eaten plenty of twin bananas, but I didn’t have twin children!

In Government offices, it is a common practice that a transferred official seldom hands over charge of the post held by him or takes over charge of the new post on a Tuesday. Although I was never successful in handing over the charge on a Tuesday to the new one, I was able to persuade some officers to hand over the charge to me on Tuesday. They agreed after being told that the risk is entirely mine since I am joining the new post. “What would you do if your child was born on a Tuesday?” I would ask, but never got an answer to this.

Another superstition that never fails to astonish me is the instruction to the eldest son of the family not to stand at the doorstep when there is lightning all over the sky. I never believed that lightning would be so selective as to strike at the eldest son if he was standing at the doorstep but would alter its course if it finds his younger brother standing there instead! Then, there was my grandmother who used to warn me not to eat both fish and curds together in a meal fearing that this could afflict me with a skin disease. When she was not around, I would eat both the fish and the curds together, but it did not lead to skin problems.

In India giving cash as a gift on occasions like birthdays or marriage is a common practice. The superstition which is widely prevalent is to add a one-rupee coin to whatever amount is being gifted. It is believed that adding one rupee is a wish that the person who receives it should continue to get wealthy and it should not signify an end. Many of the gift envelopes sold in the shops have a one-rupee coin embedded. The evil eye is of course a reality, but Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has given guidelines as to how it can be warded off. Instead, it is believed that applying a black spot with kaajal on the forehead or the cheeks of an infant can ward off evil.

Another superstition is that the itching of the right palm brings good fortune or even guests. The itching of the left hand is a bad omen. Throughout the world, the number 13 is considered an unlucky number. Some hotels go to the extent of not labeling the 13th floor at all since most customers will not prefer rooms on the 13th floor. Friday, the 13th is feared the most. Thankfully, the Muslim community does not appear to give much credence to this superstition. Indians don’t just say “I am going”, but will say: “I will go and come back”, fearing that merely saying “going” may become a bad omen. But while going out of a hospital we are careful not to say “I will go and come back”! There is also the case of the broken mirror. No, it is not an Agatha Christie mystery, but a bad omen with a belief that breaking a mirror will result in seven years of bad luck and suffering. If a photo frame breaks, it is usually taken as a sign of a bad omen that something bad will happen to the person in the picture. Pregnant ladies are also warned not to eat rotis which get blackened.

Superstitions have been the bane of nations throughout the ages. These involve false beliefs in things that have no real power. Superstitions will create unnecessary apprehension and fear in a person’s mind and destroy his/her peace of mind. They are known to cause anxiety and guilt. There are many more superstitions and only a few are listed here. Moreover, I have only written about the social superstitions and have carefully excluded the superstitions with religious overtones, especially those relating to marriage, childbirth and death rites. An aalim or a mufti is the competent person to talk about these. However, as a general rule, superstitions can be dealt with effectively by following these guidelines:

1) Putting unwavering and full faith and trust in Allah. Everything happens from Him and not even a leaf can fall without his command.

2) Not to get affected by doubts created because of superstitions. Do not get influenced by superstitious thoughts and do not allow them to affect your behaviour, attitude, and actions. You have to consider that such things never existed.

3) Say the du’a’s mentioned in the ahadees and call upon Allah and Allah will protect you from all superstitions and bad omens and guide you on the right path.

The Qur’an and ahadees encourage men and women to study, reason, think rationally, and gain knowledge. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always placed emphasis on faith, determination, perseverance, patience, and hard work, rather than following superstitious beliefs.