An American with a PhD in Anthropology called Carlos Castaneda decided to take up the study of Shamanism, not so much of course to practice it, but as much to inform and educate. Shamanism is a primitive religion which is centered around esoteric knowledge, especially related to sorcery, trance, magic, supposed contacts with the spirits of the other world (transcendentalism), psychosomatism, divining, etc. He chose Mexico to learn it from because the country is known as a stronghold of Shamanism, and which produces (or used to) a number of sorcerers and magicians for North America, although Shamanism is spread through every region of the globe where neither Islam is allowed a powerful influence, nor science entered in a forceful way.
Having identified a couple of leading figures of Shamanism there, he went into the country and spent several years learning under the masters. Subsequently, he authored several books which first successfully sold as anthropological or sociological works, but, which are now regarded as fiction e.g. The Teachings of Don Juan, Journey to Ixtlan, etc. Many passages in these books are quite interesting, even fascinating, and sometimes absorbing, but, truly, although they raise the expectations high, they tell little about Shamanism. It is apparent that his Shaman Masters were shams, who made quite a fool of him, teaching him little, confusing him most, and, specifically, allowing him learn magic the least.
Shamanism turned out to be a hoax, which is our main point here.
A man like Imam Razi, with interests in everything under the sun, also learned some of the tricks of the trade of magic, and even wrote a book on the subject, but which he subsequently disowned and which he never republished. He has an interesting discussion on magic in his Tafsir al-Kabeer while discussing verse 102 of Surah al-Baqarah.
Many people have spent time trying to learn magic, but have generally failed for reasons which will prolong our discussion. Muhammad Ali, the boxer, had also tried his hand at it, and used to demonstrate the tricks before the camera.
Our intention in mentioning the above is to impress on the reader, that our condemnation of the so-called ‘black magic’ of our times as, firstly, insubstantial, and secondly, as sleight of hand, should be taken seriously and not considered as an automatic response to a religiously banned art. Much of it is fraudulent, and where genuine, although very rarely, it is not acquirable but through master-magicians who are an extinct species now.
Our use of the word ‘genuine’ may be noted. The great majority of magicians found around, especially in primitive societies (and from a few aspects, quite a few Muslim societies have taken a deflection into primitiveness), are not genuine; and the wide occurrence of magic, as reported by the people, has ignorance, superstition or psychological explanations behind it, rather than true cases of magic.
The primary cause of presence and prevalence of superstitions, magic, evil-eye, and belief in devils, ghouls, ghosts, and Jinn-effects in Muslim societies is their distance away from Islam. When a Muslim society stops living and believing in Islamic instructions and teachings, then, the state in which they enter can be best described as a sick one.
Just as erudition, piety, devotion, da`wah, charity, jihad, service and sincerity are the hallmarks of a Muslim society true in its claims, belief in magic, evil-eye, devils, ghouls, ghosts and Jinn-effects, is the hallmark of a society affected by Jahiliyyah. When a meaningful belief in Allah with all His Qualities is absent, the society falls sick, and belief in Devils and his works has to automatically find place. Said the Qur’an (2: 257): “Allah is the Protector of the believers. He brings them forth from darknesses into Light. As for the unbelievers, their patrons are the evil ones. They bring them forth from Light into darknesses.”
Belief in magic, evil-eye, devils, ghouls, ghosts, and Jinn-effects is then a measure of how much a society has faith in Islam. One may ask, ‘How could it be so blatantly said that today some Muslim societies have little faith in Islam?’ The answer is a simple logical construction from their attitudes in this regard. The Qur’an has said (16: 99): “He (Shaytan) has no power against those who have believed and who place their trust in their Lord.” Why can’t Muslims have faith in this verse? Why do they believe that every fifth house has victim of magical spell? Secondly, the Prophet has taught them several prayer-words to confront magic, evil-eye, Jinn-effects, etc. But few Muslims seem to know them, and fewer recite them regularly as recommended by the Prophet. (We shall present these in the forthcoming issue, Allah willing). Muslims would rather consult an `Aamil as the first thing to do where magic etc. is suspected than prophetic instructions (the greatest `Aamil of all), thus demonstrating that they have little faith in their Prophet, and greater faith in the healers and charmers. This we consider important to state because we do not see how Muslim societies can get rid of these evils. Until their attitude towards Allah and His message undergoes serious alteration, these are bound to remain well-rooted among them.
It may be asked, ‘What about if a Muslim society becomes educated and its people turn scientific? Haven’t scientific societies – e.g., of the West – been able to get rid of them by these means?’ The answer is, firstly, Allah’s Sunan are different for non-Muslims. Secondly, education does not necessarily make a people scientific. One can easily spot well-educated people who believe in all sorts of superstitions, more than they believe in Allah and His Messenger. Thirdly, scientific facts are facts. They embody the truth. But, if those who have received the Message of Islam, but refuse to commit themselves to it then they (educated or not), have turned away from major truths; those in which there can be no doubt. How can such unreasonable people ever become truly scientific, which requires belief in facts? This should explain, partly, why Muslims of our times have, by and large, made no progress in science.
Scientific societies inculcate in their people belief in truth and dislike of the illogical, right from their very early years. In contrast, belief in falsehood and circumventing logic is characteristic of Muslims and ingested into their psyche right from infancy. In Europe, apart from the influence of science, scientific culture, and rationalism since the onset of Renaissance, one reason why magic disappeared from their societies is that in the name of witch-hunt, both the Roman Catholic Church as well as Protestant religious authorities, got tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands burned at the stake between 14th and 18th centuries, allegedly for practicing black arts. Just as Muslim Hadith-experts threw away false reports on the smallest of pretext in order to clean the house and let survive only the Sahih, the Christian authorities dealt death to thousands and thousands of men, women and even children, removing not only those suspected, but also thousands of the innocent – or, perhaps, more of the innocents. We are not condoning the horrible crime, but trying to say that the governing authorities play a strong role in combating this evil.
We use the word ‘genuine’ for describing magic and magicians because true magic, the real one, is so difficult to learn that the most diligent would recoil from giving it a try. Another difficulty is that just as any beneficial discipline, magic too requires the attention of talented people. But today’s talented people find it easier to earn a simpler degree in science and technology and collect their pay packets in an honorable manner rather than take up an art which thrives on tricks, sleight of hand, and destruction of one’s own character.
Yet another difficulty is that, as stated above, genuine magicians are almost extinct to train new ones. This again is because of several problems. Firstly, it needs a culture suitable to it, just as advancement in science requires a scientific culture and environment. There have to be either institutions offering courses in magic, or, a family takes it up as its profession. Education starts from childhood; just as it happens with business communities where business tricks are taught from childhood. The Qur’an said (113 4): “(I seek refuge from) the evil of those women who blow into the knots.” So, women too get involved in order to create the atmosphere suitable for practicing, learning, and teaching magic. When magical spell was cast on the Prophet, it was, as reported by some historians, the daughters of Labid b. al-A`sam, the magician, who had blown on the knots.
In the absence of licensed institutes, the family has to function as an institute. But today’s make-believe magician does all the deceitful things to earn enough and send his children to a convent. Historians report of institutes for magic and occult sciences that were funded by the government and to which talented young men were sent during the time of the Pharaohs. So, no institutes and no families practicing magic, where then are we going to get magicians from?
The above are the reasons why genuine magicians are a rarity in today’s world. All those who claim to be so, or are thought to be so, are tricksters and swindlers, or simply innocent of the blame. They have emerged in good numbers because the people are ready to believe in them rather than in scholars, psychologists, counselors, and the like. They are there to make their livelihood out of the blind, dumb and deaf who consult them.
Without true masters, true magical feats such as, making a man act crazy, isn’t that easy. This is because humans have a natural defense mechanism against magical spells, just as they have a defense mechanism against bacteria and viruses; although, it must also be pointed out that mild effects are not ruled out, just as a million antibodies in the human body do not rule out that a man should catch cold or cough for a while. And, just as these mild disorders do not render a man incapable of normal functioning, an attack by a true magician would at best render a man feel somewhat unwell, for a while. The charm-elements that they use weaken in their effects with the passage of time, just as medicines have an expiry date.
It may also be pointed out in this connection that magical spells cannot be cast on persons healthy of mind and body. It cannot be cast – at all, as commonly believed – on shops, businesses, building, plants, or animals. Magical spells are cast on minds, (weak minds to be precise); therefore, where there is no mind, there can be no magical effect.
A simple conclusion of the above discussion is that the belief prevalent in the Muslim societies, especially in the Indian sub-continent, that magicians hardly have time to breathe comfortably – being so busy casting spells – or that almost every murky looking person is a magician, male or female, or that they are envied by their kin and neighbors who have set a magician on them, has diabolic whisperings as the true reason.
There is, almost no reality behind all the reports of people so widely being affected by magic, and as widely being treated by the `Aamils. In most cases, if not all, it is mental and psychological disturbances that account for a man sick here, a woman behaving weirdly there, or a boy abusing parents – et al, there is no end to varieties of ailments.
How can a person detect magical effect on himself or another? Well, if it is a Muslim, a knowledgeable one, he can feel it, within himself and its effects on others. A talk with the affected reveals further signs. Another difference between magical effect and mental or psychological disturbance is that magical effect does not come and go. It stays with the affected. If he is talking non-sense, he does it all the time. If he has pain in his joints, it is there in morning and in the evening, day in and day out. Magical effects do not show up at regular or irregular times to disappear at regular or irregular intervals. The effect is abiding. If the effects are intermittent, it is not magic, but a sign of physical or psychological disorder. All mental disturbances, psychological, psychic, or any other, come and go. When affected by a psychological disturbance, a man is in dipped mood now, but cheerful a little later. He might be unwell for a number of days, but then recover and be normal for a number of days. His mood changes from depression to animated, gloomy to cheerfulness, pessimistic to optimistic. He will complain of pain in the arms, but feel normal some days later. He might lose sleep a few nights, but sleep soundly at others. These are signs of physical or mental disturbance. A careful scrutiny of the person will reveal that the suspicion of magic is baseless.
What about things and articles people find in their houses that lead them to believe that magical spell has been cast? Things like lemon thrown in the courtyard, a bunch of hair under the bed, pigeon eggs or a number of paper balls found buried in the front yard, and other such weird objects? Aren’t these the objects used by magicians to cast spells, and planted by someone intending evil?
The answer is, in some cases sure they are, that is, objects used for casting magical spells, although in majority of cases, coincidental. However, those that are genuine are ineffective because firstly, a true magician will never hand over such objects to anyone, preferring to handle it himself. Secondly, they are sold at goodly price to the naïve and gullible by the tricksters pretending to be magicians. In actual fact they are not. They are like quacks in the villages who pose as doctors to make their living, or bogus spiritualists in the cities who pretend to be holy with commanding supernatural powers, but in actual fact most of the time on drugs to keep their eyes look dreamy and weird. So, even if they have been planted by a magician, the articles can be thrown into the dustbin without any fear. They are like counterfeit items, made in India, but with USA mark.
Didn’t the Prophet (asws) suffer magical spell? He who does not know anything about the Prophet, sometimes not even where he was born and where he died, knows this from his life and blurts out this question when told that his idea of magical spell on him, is only figment of imagination because there are no true magicians around. (Also, he doesn’t realize that he is not worthy enough for somebody to offer a fat fee to a magician to cast a spell on him). Those who can dis-charm magical effects with the help of Qur’an and Hadith-sanctioned spell-words, feel frustrated when they suggest that the suspicion of magic is wrong, but rather the victim needs to see a good doctor; but the person consulting him insists that he is sure it is magic (this is what his grandmother told him), and, after all, ‘they cast magical spell on the Prophet, so why not on me?’
When you lose your faith, you lose your reason. The Prophet was a special person, high in rank, and, therefore, had to undergo all tests on the one hand, and, on the other experience a bit of every hardship that the Ummah’s individuals would ever experience. He suffered scorpion bite, fell from the horse, tasted fever, underwent assassination attacks, faced disturbing behavior of the wives, had daughters divorced, children dying away, a dear son passing away, losing a battle, married to a woman he didn’t want to, losing his tooth, abused through poetry, an uncle’s heart chewed, stoned hurled at in the streets – you can go on counting all that he had to encounter after being awarded with the responsibility of Apostleship. One another specialty was that magical spell was cast on him. Allah allowed that to happen because, apart from unknown wisdom, it was to try him and try his Ummah. Would they derive the right lesson or use it for committing Kufr by consulting magicians every time they sneezed thrice in the morning.
That the Prophet’s case was special becomes too obvious when history is consulted. It informs us that none of the four Khulafa’, the Companions and their followers, the hundreds of Fuqaha’ and Muhaddithin, the thousands of Sufis, and tens of thousands of scholars were ever affected by magic. But, does the Ummah refer to its history? Were they superior to the Prophet?