Q:1. After a family dispute, a relative of ours threatened to place a charm to prevent the marriage of my younger sister. Several years have passed since then and she is still not married. What is worse, my mother has been going to an astrologer to try to break the spell she claims to have been placed on my sister. My brother and I have tried hard to persuade my mother that this is not acceptable in Islam, but she would not listen to our advice. This has delayed our own marriages. We have tried to take some action and threatened to stop writing home, but our mother is still continuing to see the astrologer and says that she will not stop until our sister gets married. What advice do you have for us? How should we deal with our relative?
Q: 2. A few months back, some members of my family died in a car accident. Investigation of the accident has proven that there was no mechanical fault, nor was there any carelessness or negligence on the part of the driver. It seemed that the driver could not turn the steering wheel and the gearbox was jammed and the brakes failed, leading to the accident. A later check up on the vehicle showed none of these faults. Some people suggest that this is the work of evil spirits or black magic. How does this explanation fit in the Islamic teachings? If it is true that such a spell or evil spirit could cause such an event, how can these be countered?
A: Allah has mentioned black magic in the Qur’an more than once. He mentions that two angels were sent down at the time of Prophet Sulaiman and taught black magic to some people who asked to learn it. The angels warned them that such learning will lead them to disbelieving in Allah. What they taught those people could achieve the results of bringing about an estrangement between a man and his wife. But Allah says in the Qur’an that those who learned black magic could not harm anyone with it “unless Allah so wills.”
Allah also mentions black magic in the story of Prophet Moses and his encounter with Pharaoh. When Prophet Moses called on Pharaoh to relinquish his claim to being the lord of mankind and to believe in Allah as the only God in the universe, Pharaoh challenged him with his magicians. Moses accepted the challenge and people were gathered to see the combat; Moses invited them to demonstrate their powers and they threw their ropes and staffs, which appeared by magic as if they were snakes. Moses told them that all that they could master was magic, which had no reality. He threw his staff and by Allah’s will it was transformed into a real giant snake, which swallowed what the magicians had produced. At that moment, the magicians realized that Moses had the backing of much superior power than theirs. They declared their belief in the Oneness of Allah, prostrating themselves in submission to His will.
Some people suggest that black magic could be brought about by charms, spells and certain invocations using hair or old bones and the like. I very much doubt that this is so. If a charm of any sort could bring about such bad effects as black magic is said to produce, then it should be possible to counter one charm with another. It would have been permissible in Islam to resort to wearing some charms in order to dispel the effect of others. But the Prophet (Pbuh) has categorically forbidden wearing any charm of any sort and for any purpose. I am, therefore, more inclined to say that black magic does not operate with anything that has real substance. This is not a mere personal opinion. I am guided by the Qur’anic statement describing what Pharaoh’s magicians produced. When Moses invited them to produce their trick, their ropes and staffs, as Allah says: “So appeared to him as if they were moving.” In other words, it was all a mental trick. The staffs and ropes did not move, but Moses and all those who had gathered to witness the challenge thought so. Similarly, the magic taught by the two angels in the story of Solomon produced estrangement between man and his wife. This could easily be the result of a mental trick.
In his well-known book “In the Shade of the Qur’an”, the late Sayyid Qutb writes: “Magic is the production of illusions, subject to a magician’s desires. It does not offer any kind of new facts or alter the nature of things. Through it, one is capable of influencing other people’s minds, causing them to think and act according to one’s suggestions.” I do not think that the marriage of a woman can be delayed through black magic, especially when the magician does not even know who would propose to her. It is more likely that prospective suitors would think twice before making a proposal to this young woman, if it is rumored in her locality that she is under the spell of black magic.
Nor could the car accident mentioned by the second reader be caused by black magic, since magic may affect the mind of a human being, but could not jam the brakes of a car or its steering wheel. I wonder whether the investigations of the car accident had looked into the possibility of the driver dying a natural death before the accident occurred. It may be that he lost the ability to move his hands and legs as he was in the throes of death, and thus lost control of the car and the accident happened.
Whatever the case may be in these two incidents, I am extremely reluctant to accept that they are the result of magic. Perhaps I should add that magic can be countered only by reading the Qur’an and seeking Allah’s help and protection. Nothing else need or could be done to counter the effects of magic, if it happens at all. It is forbidden for a Muslim to learn or practice magic. Indeed, when a person has learned magic, he is deemed to disbelieve in Allah. Similarly, it is forbidden to go to an astrologer or fortune-teller or indeed anyone who claims to be able to talk to the jinn or influence their actions or put a magic spell on someone else or break a spell to release a person from its effects.
On the basis of the above, my advice to the brothers who have written the first letter, is that they must make it clear to their mother and sister that they cannot in any way sanction or approve the mother’s trips to the astrologer. She must stop and trust Allah to bring about what is best for her daughter. Most probably, the mother will not listen to words of sense. Therefore, they should exert whatever pressure they can without offending their mother. For example, if they contribute to the finances of the family, they should obtain a promise by the mother not to go to the astrologer again if she wants their contributions to be continued. If that is taken very badly by the mother, then at least she should promise not to spend a single unit of what they pay into the family budget in order to pay the astrologer. Moreover, they should practically demonstrate that they do not believe that it is magic that has caused their sister not to get married. I strongly advise them to go ahead and marry themselves, without waiting for their sister. If this will create a problem within the family, then they should make it clear to their parents that their sister will not be the first girl to remain single and that they believe that the publicity that has surrounded her case is preventing her marriage. They should not suffer as a result. As for the writer of the second letter, I strongly advise him not to pay any attention to hearsay. He should accept the accident as something that has happened by Allah’s will. No one dies before his time. Let him remove from his mind any thought of magic being the cause of the accident.