Surah Baqarah >> Currently viewing Surah Baqarah Ayat 102 (2:102)
Surah Baqarah Ayah 102 in Arabic:
وَاتَّبَعُوا مَا تَتْلُو الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَىٰ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ ۖ وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَٰكِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ كَفَرُوا يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ ۚ وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلَا تَكْفُرْ ۖ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ ۚ وَمَا هُمْ بِضَارِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۚ وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنْفَعُهُمْ ۚ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُوا لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِي
Transliteration: Wattaba’oo maa tatlush Shayaateenu ‘alaa mulki Sulaimaana wa maa kafara Sulaimaanu wa laakinnash Shayatteena kafaroo yu’al limoonan naasas sihra wa maaa unzila ‘alal malakaini bi Baabila Haaroota wa Maaroot; wa maa yu’allimaani min ahadin hattaa yaqoolaaa innamaa nahnu fitnatun falaa takfur fayata’al lamoona minhumaa maa yufarriqoona bihee bainal mar’i wa zawjih; wa maa hum bidaaarreena bihee min ahadin illaa bi-iznillah; wa yata’allamoona maa yadurruhum wa laa yanfa’uhum; wa laqad ‘alimoo lamanish taraahu maa lahoo fil Aakhirati min khalaaq; wa labi’sa maa sharaw biheee anfusahum; law kaanoo ya’lamoon
DR. GHALI And they closely followed what the Ash-Shayatin (the all-vicious (ones), i.e., the devils) recited over Sulayman’s (Soloman’s) kingdom. And in no way did Sulayman (Solomon) disbelieve but Ash- Shayatin (The all-vicious (ones), i.e., the devils) disbelieved, teaching mankind sorcery, and that which was sent down upon the two Angels in Babil, (Babylon) Harut and Marut; and in no way did they teach anyone till they said, “Surely we are only a temptation, so, do not disbelieve.” Then from them (The two angels) they learned that by which they could cause separation between a person and his spouse. And in no way are they harming anyone except by the permission of Allah ; and they learned what harmed them and did not profit them. And indeed they already knew that indeed whoever trades it, in no way should he have any apportioning (of Grace) in the Hereafter; and miserable indeed was (that) for which they bartered themselves, if they had known (the Truth).
MUHSIN KHAN They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulaiman (Solomon). Sulaiman did not disbelieve, but the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, “We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).” And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife, but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s Leave. And they learn that which harms them and profits them not. And indeed they knew that the buyers of it (magic) would have no share in the Hereafter. And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their ownselves, if they but knew.
PICKTHALL And follow that which the devils falsely related against the kingdom of Solomon. Solomon disbelieved not; but the devils disbelieved, teaching mankind magic and that which was revealed to the two angels in Babel, Harut and Marut. Nor did they (the two angels) teach it to anyone till they had said: We are only a temptation, therefore disbelieve not (in the guidance of Allah). And from these two (angles) people learn that by which they cause division between man and wife; but they injure thereby no-one save by Allah’s leave. And they learn that which harmeth them and profiteth them not. And surely they do know that he who trafficketh therein will have no (happy) portion in the Hereafter; and surely evil is the price for which they sell their souls, if they but knew.
SAHIH INTERNATIONAL And they followed [instead] what the devils had recited during the reign of Solomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, teaching people magic and that which was revealed to the two angels at Babylon, Harut and Marut. But the two angels do not teach anyone unless they say, “We are a trial, so do not disbelieve [by practicing magic].” And [yet] they learn from them that by which they cause separation between a man and his wife. But they do not harm anyone through it except by permission of Allah . And the people learn what harms them and does not benefit them. But the Children of Israel certainly knew that whoever purchased the magic would not have in the Hereafter any share. And wretched is that for which they sold themselves, if they only knew.
MUFTI TAQI USMANI They followed what the devils used to recite in the reign of Sulaimān (Solomon); and it was not Sulaimān who became an infidel, but the devils did become infidels, teaching people magic, and what had been sent down to the two angels, Hārūt and Mārūt, in Babylon. And these two did not teach anyone without first having said (to him), “We are but a trial, so do not go infidel.” Then, they used to learn from them that with which they could cause separation between a man and his wife. But they were not to bring harm through it to anyone without the will of Allah.They used to learn what harmed them and did no good to them; and they certainly knew that he who buys it has no share in the Hereafter. And, indeed, vile is the thing for which they sold themselves away. If only they knew!
ABDUL HALEEM and followed what the evil ones had fabricated about the Kingdom of Solomon instead. Not that Solomon himself was a disbeliever; it was the evil ones who were disbelievers. They taught people witchcraft and what was revealed in Babylon to the two angels Harut and Marut. Yet these two never taught anyone without first warning him, ‘We are sent only to tempt- do not disbelieve.’ From these two, they learned what can cause discord between man and wife, although they harm no one with it except by God’s leave. They learned what harmed them, not what benefited them, knowing full well that whoever gained [this knowledge] would lose any share in the Hereafter. Evil indeed is the [price] for which they sold their souls, if only they knew.
ABUL ALA MAUDUDI (2:102) and then followed what the evil ones falsely attributed to the Kingdom of Solomon even though Solomon had never disbelieved; it is the evil ones who disbelieved, teaching people magic. And they followed what had been revealed to the two angels in Babylon – Harut and Marut – although these two (angels) never taught it to anyone without first declaring: “We are merely a means of testing people; so, do not engage in unbelief.” And yet they learned from them what might cause division between a man and his wife. They could not cause harm to anyone except by the leave of Allah, and still they learned what harmed rather than profited them, knowing well that he who bought it will have no share in the World to Come. Evil indeed is what they sold themselves for. Had they but known!
DR. MUSTAFA KHATTAB They ˹instead˺ followed the magic promoted by the devils during the reign of Solomon. Never did Solomon disbelieve, rather the devils disbelieved. They taught magic to the people, along with what had been revealed to the two angels, Harut and Marut, in Babylon. The two angels never taught anyone without saying, “We are only a test ˹for you˺, so do not abandon ˹your˺ faith.” Yet people learned ˹magic˺ that caused a rift ˹even˺ between husband and wife; although their magic could not harm anyone except by Allah’s Will. They learned what harmed them and did not benefit them—although they already knew that whoever buys into magic would have no share in the Hereafter. Miserable indeed was the price for which they sold their souls, if only they knew!
Surah Baqarah Ayat 102 Tafseer
Here you can expand your knowledge on ayah 102 of Surah Baqarah by reading a detailed explanation from various tafseer and Qur’an commentators.
Imam Abu Ja`far bin Jarir said that Allah’s statement,
(And indeed We have sent down to you manifest Ayat) means, “We have sent to you, O Muhammad, clear signs that testify to your prophethood.” These Ayat are contained in the Book of Allah (Qur’an) which narrates the secrets of the knowledge that the Jews possess, which they hid, and the stories of their earlier generations. The Book of Allah also mentions the texts in the Books of the Jews that are known to only the rabbis and scholars, and the sections where they altered and distorted the rulings of the Tawrah. Since Allah mentioned all of this in His Book revealed to His Prophet Muhammad , then this fact alone should be enough evidence for those who are truthful with themselves and who wish to avoid bringing themselves to destruction due to envy and transgression. Further human instict testifies to the truth that Muhammad was sent with and the clear signs that he brought which he did not learn or acquire from mankind. Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said that,
(And indeed We have sent down to you manifest Ayat) means, “You recite and convey this Book to them day and night, although you are an Ummi (unlettered) who never read a book. Yet, you inform them of what they have (in their own Books). Allah stated that this fact should serve as an example, a clear sign and a proof against them, if they but knew.”
When the Messenger of Allah was sent and Allah reminded the Jews of the covenant that they had with Him, especially concerning Muhammad , Malik bin As-Sayf said, “By Allah! Allah never made a covenant with us about Muhammad, nor did He take a pledge from us at all.” Allah then revealed,
(Is it not (the case) that every time they make a covenant, some party among them throw it aside) Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that Allah’s statement,
(Nay! (the truth is:) most of them believe not) means, “There is not a promise that they make, but they break it and abandon it. They make a promise today and break it tomorrow.”
As-Suddi commented on,
(And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah (i.e. Muhammad ) confirming what was with them), “When Muhammad came to them, they wanted to contradict and dispute with him using the Tawrah. However, the Tawrah and the Qur’an affirmed each other. So the Jews gave up on using the Torah, and took to the Book of Asaf, and the magic of Harut and Marut, which indeed did not conform to the Qur’an. Hence Allah’s statement,
(As if they did not know!).”
Also, Qatadah said that Allah’s statement,
(As if they did not know!) means, “They knew the truth but abandoned it, hid it and denied the fact that they even had it.”
As-Suddi said that Allah’s statement,
(They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulayman) means, “`During the time of Prophet Solomon.’ Beforehand, the devils used to ascend to heaven and eavesdrop on the conversations of the angels about what will occur on the earth regarding death, other incidents or unseen matters. They would convey this news to the soothsayers, and the soothsayers would in turn convey the news to the people. The people would believe what the soothsayers told them as being true. When the soothsayers trusted the devils, the devils started to lie to them and added other words to the true news that they heard, to the extent of adding seventy false words to each true word. The people recorded these words in some books. Soon after, the Children of Israel said that the Jinns know matters of the Unseen. When Solomon was sent as a Prophet, he collected these books in a box and buried it under his throne; any devil that dared get near the box was burned. Solomon said, `I will not hear of anyone who says that the devils know the Unseen, but I will cut off his head.’ When Solomon died and the scholars who knew the truth about Solomon perished, there came another generation. To them, the devil materialized in the shape of a human and said to some of the Children of Israel, `Should I lead you to a treasure that you will never be able to use up’ They said. `Yes.’ He said, `Dig under this throne,’ and he went with them and showed them Solomon’s throne. They said to him, `Come closer.’ He said, `No. I will wait for you here, and if you do not find the treasure then kill me. ‘ They dug and found the buried books, and Satan said to them, `Solomon only controlled the humans, devils and birds with this magic.’ Thereafter, the news that Solomon was a sorcerer spread among the people, and the Children of Israel adopted these books. When Muhammad came, they disputed with him relying on these books. Hence Allah’s statement,
(Sulayman did not disbelieve, but the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved).
(And such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, “We are for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).” And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife).
There is a difference of opinion regarding this story. It was said that this Ayah denies that anything was sent down to the two angels, as Al-Qurtubi stated and then referred to the Ayah,
(Sulayman did not disbelieve) saying, “The negation applies in both cases. Allah then said,
(But the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels).
The Jews claimed that Gabriel and Michael brought magic down to the two angels, but Allah refuted this false claim.”
Also, Ibn Jarir reported, that Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas said about Allah’s statement,
(And such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels)
“Allah did not send magic down.”
Also, Ibn Jarir narrated that Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said about,
(And such things that came down to the two angels), “Allah did not send magic down to the them.” Ibn Jarir commented, “This is the correct explanation for this Ayah.
(They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely) in the lifetime of Sulayman.) meaning, magic. However, neither did Solomon disbelieve nor did Allah send magic with the two angels. The devils, on the other hand, disbelieved and taught magic to the people of the Babylon of Harut and Marut.”
Ibn Jarir continued; “If someone asks about explaining this Ayah in this manner, we say that,
(They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely) in the lifetime of Sulayman.) means, magic. Solomon neither disbelieved nor did Allah send magic with the two angels. However, the devils disbelieved and taught magic to the people in the Babylon of Harut and Marut, meaning Gabriel and Michael, for Jewish sorcerers claimed that Allah sent magic by the words of Gabriel and Michael to Solomon, son of David. Allah denied this false claim and stated to His Prophet Muhammad that Gabriel and Michael were not sent with magic. Allah also exonerated Solomon from practicing magic, which the devils taught to the people of Babylon by the hands of two men, Harut and Marut. Hence, Harut and Marut were two ordinary men (not angels or Gabriel or Michael).” These were the words of At-Tabari, and this explanation is not plausible.
Many among the Salaf, said that Harut and Marut were angels who came down from heaven to earth and did what they did as the Ayah stated. To conform this opinion with the fact that the angels are immune from error, we say that Allah had eternal knowledge what these angels would do, just as He had eternal knowledge that Iblis would do as he did, while Allah refered to him being among the angels,
(And (remember) when We said to the angels: “Prostrate yourselves before Adam.” And they prostrated except Iblis (Satan), he refused) (20:116) and so forth. However, what Harut and Marut did was less evil than what Iblis, may Allah curse him, did. Al-Qurtubi reported this opinion from `Ali, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Ibn `Umar, Ka`b Al-Ahbar, As-Suddi and Al-Kalbi.
(But neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, “We are for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).)
Abu Ja`far Ar-Razi said that Ar-Rabi’ bin Anas said that Qays bin `Abbad said that Ibn `Abbas said, “When someone came to the angels to learn magic, they would discourage him and say to him, `We are only a test, so do not fall into disbelief.’ They had knowledge of what is good and evil and what constitutes belief or disbelief, and they thus knew that magic is a form of disbelief. When the person who came to learn magic still insisted on learning it, they commanded him to go to such and such place, where if he went, Satan would meet him and teach him magic. When this man would learn magic, the light (of faith) would depart him, and he would see it shining (and flying away) in the sky. He would then proclaim, `O my sorrow! Woe unto me! What should I do.” Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that this Ayah means, “The angels were sent with magic, so that the people whom Allah willed would be tried and tested. Allah made them promise that they would not teach anyone until first proclaiming, `We are a test for you, do not fall into disbelief.”’ It was recorded by Ibn Abi Hatim. Also, Qatadah said, “Allah took their covenant to not teach anyone magic until they said, `We are a test. Therefore, do not fall in disbelief.”’
Also, As-Suddi said, “When a man would come to the two angels they would advise him, `Do not fall into disbelief. We are a test. ‘ When the man would ignore their advice, they would say, `Go to that pile of ashes and urinate on it.’ When he would urinate on the ashes, a light, meaning the light of faith, would depart from him and would shine until it entered heaven. Then something black that appeared to be smoke would descend and enter his ears and the rest of his body, and this is Allah’s anger. When he told the angels what happened, they would teach him magic. So Allah’s statement,
(But neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, “We are for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).)
Sunayd said that Hajjaj said that Ibn Jurayj commented on this Ayah (2:102), “No one dares practice magic except a disbeliever. As for the Fitnah, it involves trials and freedom of choice.”The scholars who stated that learning magic is disbelief relied on this Ayah for evidence. They also mentioned the Hadith that Abu Bakr Al-Bazzar recorded from `Abdullah, which states,
(Whoever came to a soothsayer or a sorcerer and believed in what he said, will have disbelieved in what Allah revealed to Muhammad .)
This Hadith has an authentic chain of narration and there are other Hadiths which support it.
(And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife,) This means, “The people learned magic from Harut and Marut and indulged in evil acts that included separating spouses, even though spouses are close to, and intimately associate with each other. This is the devil’s work.” Muslim recorded that Jabir bin `Abdullah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Satan erects his throne on water and sends his emissaries among the people. The closest person to him is the person who causes the most Fitnah. One of them (a devil) would come to him and would say, `I kept inciting so-and-so, until he said such and such words.’ Iblis says, `No, by Allah, you have not done much.’ Another devil would come to him and would say, `I kept inciting so-and-so, until I separated between him and his wife.’ Satan would draw him closer and embrace him, saying, `Yes, you did well.’)
Separation between a man and his wife occurs here because each spouse imagines that the other spouse is ugly or ill-mannered, etc.
(But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s leave). Sufyan Ath-Thawri commented, “Except by Allah’s appointed term.” Further, Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that,
(But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s leave) means, “Allah allows magicians to adversely affect whomever He wills and saves whomever He wills from them. Sorcerers never bring harm to anyone except by Allah’s leave.” Allah’s statement,
(And they learn that which harms them and profits them not.) means, it harms their religion and does not have a benefit compared to its harm.
(And indeed they knew that the buyers of it (magic) would have no (Khalaq) share in the Hereafter.) meaning, “The Jews who preferred magic over following the Messenger of Allah knew that those who commit the same error shall have no Khalaq in the Hereafter.” Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and As-Suddi stated that `no Khalaq’ means, `no share.’
Allah then said,
(And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their own selves, if they but knew. And if they had believed and guarded themselves from evil and kept their duty to Allah, far better would have been the reward from their Lord, if they but knew!). Allah stated, o
(And how bad) meaning, what they preferred, magic, instead of faith and following the Messenger, if they but comprehend the advice.
(And if they had believed and guarded themselves from evil and kept their duty to Allah, far better would have been the reward from their Lord,) meaning, “Had they believed in Allah and His Messenger and avoided the prohibitions, then Allah’s reward for these good deeds would have been better for them than what they chose and preferred for themselves.” Similarly, Allah said,
(But those who had been given (religious) knowledge said: “Woe to you! The reward of Allah (in the Hereafter) is better for those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and this none shall attain except As-Sabirun (the patient in following the truth).”) (28:80).
Tafseer Ayats 102-103
Magic and Psychic Phenomena
Would that be the end of their transgression? Would they, having rejected the revelations sent down to Muhammad, hold fast to the revelations given to their forefathers and show faith and loyalty to its laws and teachings? Definitely not. They cast God’s revelations behind their backs and went in search of myths and superstitions: “They follow what the devils relate of Solomon’s kingdom. Solomon never disbelieved, but the devils did. They instruct people in witchcraft which was certainly not revealed to the two angels, Hārūt and Mārūt, at Babylon. Yet these two [angels] never taught anyone without first declaring, ‘We are but a temptation to evil, so do not renounce your faith.’ From these two, people learned what they would use to cause discord between a man and his wife. However, with that knowledge they can harm no one except by God’s leave. Indeed, they learn what harms them and brings them no profit. They knew full well that whoever contracted such a deal would have no share in the life to come. Vile indeed is what they had sold their souls for, if they but knew it! Had they embraced the faith and been God- fearing, God’s reward would have been far better for them, if they but knew it.” (Verses 102-103)
They abandoned Divine revelations which had come to confirm their Scriptures and gave credence to myths and legends from the time of Solomon, which falsely asserted that he practised sorcery and witchcraft and owed all his extraordinary powers to them.
The Qur’an refutes this allegation completely and talks of sorcery and deliberate rejection of the divine faith, in the same vein. Thus, the Qur’an treats sorcery as disbelief, and attributes it to devils: “Solomon never disbelieved, but the devils did. They instruct people in witchcraft.” (Verse 102) It further refutes the allegation that the two angels of Babylon, Harut and Marut, were sorcerers. It confirms that witchcraft “was certainly not revealed to the two angels, Harut and Marut, at Babylon.” (Verse 102) The Qur’an makes the truth about these two angels clear. They were testing people’s, for a purpose that has not been identified. Again associating sorcery, black magic and witchcraft with disbelief in God, the Qur’an exonerates the two angels, confirming that they had explained the nature of their work to the people and given them fair warning: “Yet these two [angels] never taught anyone without first declaring, ‘We are but a temptation to evil, so do not renounce your faith.’“ (Verse 102)
Nevertheless, some people persisted with learning and practising sorcery, thus falling to temptation and causing harm: “From these two, people learned what they would use to cause discord between a man and his wife.’’ (Verse 102)
At this point, the Qur’an establishes another fundamental Islamic principle of faith: nothing happens in this world without God’s authority. “However, with that knowledge they can harm no one except by God’s leave.” (Verse 102) Cause and effect are only valid by the will of God. When you put your hand in the fire it is burnt, but the burning itself only occurs with God’s leave; for it is He who gave fire the property to incinerate and gave human skin susceptibility to burn. This means that God is also capable at any moment of cancelling this property and rendering fire completely harmless, as was the case with the Prophet Abraham, when his people threw him into a blazing fire and he came out of it unscathed. (21: 69)
The same is true for such practices as sorcery and witchcraft: they can only work with God’s will, as must all conventional physical and metaphysical phenomena of cause and effect.
The surah states clearly that what people learnt of practices that could bring discord between man and wife could only bring them harm: “Indeed, they learn what harms them and brings them no profit.” (Verse 102) Since this thing that they learnt is described as disbelief in God, this is reason enough to make it pure evil that can bring no profit whatsoever. “They knew full well that whoever contracted such a deal would have no share in the life to come.” When anyone makes such a deal, he realizes that he is assigning away every good share he could have in the life to come. That makes their deal a massive loss indeed: “Vile indeed is what they had sold their souls for, if they but knew it! Had they embraced the faith and been God fearing, God’s reward would have been far better for them, if they but knew it.” (Verses 102-103)
This condemnation applies to those who took to practising sorcery and witchcraft at Babylon, and to those Israelites who gave credence to tales about Solomon and his kingdom and abandoned God’s authentic revelations.
The Nature of Magic
Black magic, sorcery and witchcraft still hold deep fascination for many people today, while many others are taken in by the seemingly extraordinary powers of their practitioners. It is true that some individuals are seen to possess special powers or abilities not explained by scientific evidence. Science has not been able to go farther than giving a description of some of these phenomena such as telepathy, the supposed communication of thoughts or ideas other than by the known senses; and hypnosis, artificially produced sleep or the sleep-like state in which the subject acts only on external suggestion.
While recognizing these powers and acknowledging their existence and effects, science has not been able to offer any satisfactory explanations as to what they are or how they come about.
This, of course, applies to numerous other psychic phenomena over which scientists are in dispute and which science is still unable to understand, either through lack of scientific evidence or because such phenomena cannot be verified by empirical methods. One such method is premonitory or “prospective” dreams which foretell the future and which Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern psychoanalysis who was well known for his rejection of spiritual powers, was not able to dismiss or deny. How is it possible that some people are able to sense and identify future events long before they actually occur?
It is presumptuous and native to dismiss these powers of extrasensory perception simply because science has not been able to understand or explain them.
This does not, however, give credence to myths or fairy tales. It is important that we should take an objective and open-minded attitude towards such experiences. While science cannot deny them completely, it should nevertheless continue to probe these phenomena and try to decipher their mystery. We have, therefore, to accept the fact that certain matters in the physical as well as the spiritual world will remain beyond human comprehension and that they must be taken into account when trying to understand life.
One of these matters is black magic, and all other feats and activities related to it, and the possibility of Satanic invasion of the human mind. The evident power possessed by some people to convey suggestions, and to psychologically influence and inspire others, mentally and physically, is quite striking. And, although the Qur’an speaks of the sorcery performed by Pharaoh’s magicians in their challenge to Moses as delusion (20: 66), we cannot dismiss the possibility that this type of trickery could be used to create discord and dissension between friends or husbands and wives. Naturally, people’s emotions and feelings are determined by all kinds of influences and causes that are ultimately controlled by the will of God, as discussed earlier.
As to the identity of the two angels referred to here, Hārūt and Mārūt, and their location in Babylon, the story was well known in Jewish religious literature. The Jews of Madinah did not question the Qur’ānic account of their story. Qur’ānic accounts of this type, however, are often brief and general, since the aim is not to give detailed chronological or historic information, but rather to draw lessons and highlight the morals behind the events.
It is not our intention in this work to pursue the myths and legends woven around the events and personalities we come across in our study of the Qur’ān, not least because of lack of authentic historical information.
Human history is vastly rich in accounts of human endeavour, and the tests and tribulations people of different ages and generations encountered. The personalities and the details of those events that are cited may change in accordance with the circumstances and stage of cultural development of each human group or society, but the messages remain valid and valuable.
From this story we learn of the Israelites’ misguided pursuit of myths and their preference for superstition and such-like activities, and we come to know that sorcery, black magic and witchcraft are works of the devil that undermine man’s belief in God, negate his good deeds and deprive him of all favour and privilege in the hereafter.
In connection with these two verses, some commentators have reported certain Judaic traditions, which have given rise to a number of doubts, especially in the minds of Muslims with a Western orientation. Maulana Ashraf Thanavi has provided very simple and clear solutions to these exegetical problems, and we shall reproduce them here:
(1) The Jews were impertinent and senseless enough to attribute magic and sorcery to a prophet — namely, Sayyidna Sulayman (علیہ السلام) (Solomon). So, in saying that they used to learn the black arts of the devils (Shayatin شیاطین), the Holy Qur’an takes care to deny, as a parenthesis, such a vile allegation against Sayyidna Sulayman (علیہ السلام) .
(2) These verses condemn the Jews for indulging in black magic. In connection with the verses, some commentators have reported a long and well-known story about a woman called Zuhrah زُہرہ ، which is not based on any authentic Islamic tradition. Those scholars who have found the story to be infringing the regulations of the Shari` ah, have rejected it as mere fiction; but those who believe that it can be interpreted so as to come in line with the Shari` ah, have not dismissed it totally. For the moment we are not concerned with the question whether the story is true or false. But what we would like to insist upon is the fact that a proper understanding does in no way depend on this story.
(3) The Jews knew very well that their indulgence in black magic was not only a sin, but also involved infidelity (Kufr کفر ). They could also see that such activities would do them no good even in this world, for their sorcery could not harm anyone except when Allah willed it so. Thus their practice went against their knowledge, and they made no use of their understanding to see this discrepancy. That is why the Holy Qur’an, to begin with, states that they “knew”, and then goes on to negate this ‘knowledge’ by saying, “Only if they knew!” For, if one does neither act upon what one knows nor tries to understand it properly, one’s knowledge is no better than ignorance.
(4) There was a time when black magic had grown very popular in the world, particularly in Babylon. Seeing its astonishing efficacy, ignorant people began to confuse its effects with the miracles of prophets, and to suppose that the two were identical in nature. Some even looked upon magicians as being holy men, and worthy of being obeyed; still others actually started learning and practising black magic as if it were a good deed bearing a divine sanction.25
25. Just as there has been a sudden outburst of enthusiasm for the occult sciences in the West since the middle of the sixties in this century, particularly in America where even the universities have been inundated by it.
In short, this extraordinary veneration for magic and magicians had become a potent source of misguidance. In order to eradicate this misunderstanding, Allah sent down to Babylon two angels, Harut and Marut, for informing the people as to the true nature of magic and as to its different forms, so that they should distinguish it from the miracles of prophets, and keep away from obeying magicians and practising magic themselves. Just as the prophethood of prophets is divinely confirmed through miracles, signs and rational or other arguments, in the same way the angelical nature of Harut and Marut was confirmed on the basis of different signs and arguments, so that people should listen attentively to them and follow their guidance.
This particular function was not assigned to the prophets for two reasons. Firstly, the need of the hour was to establish a distinction between the prophets and the magicians, and, the prophets being in a way a party to the dispute, it was proper that a third party should be the arbitrator. Secondly, the necessary distinction between the two could not, in a normal course, be defined without citing and reporting the verbal formulas employed in magic. Merely to report heretical speech is not in itself a heresy – this is a logical and rational principle, and the Shari’ah too accepts it. So, the prophets could have been allowed to cite these formulas; but, they being a manifestation of divine guidance, Allah did not ask them to perform such a function, and chose two angels for the purpose. For, Allah’s commandments are of two kinds — those pertaining to Takwin تکوین (creation and the cosmic order), and those pertaining to Tashri تشریع ‘ (legislation) -, and it is quite possible that sometimes the two may not seem to accord with each other. The order of creation is made up of good and evil both, and it is the angels through whom divine commandments are enforced. in this sphere. So, the angels are made to do things which, in the perspective of the cosmic order, always lead to general good, but which, in so far as they necessarily involve some kind of partial disorder, are seen to be evil — for example, the growth and upkeep of a human tyrant, or of a harmful beast, each of which is right in the context of the order of creation, but wrong from the point of view of the order of legislation. On the other hand, the prophets are entrusted only with the functions of the legislative order, which are, in their general as well as particular applications, nothing but good.
Although, in view of the ultimate purpose, this reporting of the formulas of magic too was related to the legislative order, yet there was probability — which even materialized — that a reporting of such formulas could give an incentive to the practice of black magic. So, Allah preferred not to make the prophets even an indirect means of such reprehensible activities. All the same, the prophets too were made to serve the main purpose by announcing the basic regulations of the Shari’ah with regard to magic, though not the details pertaining to the minor rules derived from them, for that could have possibly given rise to temptation. We shall explain it through an analogy. The prophets have, for example, told us that it is forbidden to accept a bribe, and have also explained the nature of bribery, but have not given us the details as to how a bribe is given or taken, for a delineation of such minute details would have served only to teach men the different methods of giving or taking a bribe. Or, take an example from different branches of magic. If one utters a certain formula, one would, on getting up from the bed in the morning, find money under his pillow or in his pocket. The Shari` ah makes it quite clear that such a practice is not, in principle, legitimate, but does not specify what that formula is.
In short, the two angels came down to Babylon, and started the work assigned to them — that is to say, they used to explain the basic principles of magic, its different forms and the specific formulas, and then used to dissuade the people from getting themselves involved in these activities or with the magicians. Their work was exactly like that of a scholar who, finding that illiterate people sometime fall into uttering heretical words or phrases on account of their ignorance, should collect in his speeches or writings all such phrases that have gained currency, and inform them as to what they must carefully avoid.
Now, all sorts of people started coming to the angels for seeking information about the nature and the specific formulas of a magic lest ignorance should lead them into error, in the matter of doctrines or that of deeds. In order to provide the correct teaching on this subject and to protect the people from error, the angels were scrupulous enough to make it a point to warn them of possible dangers in giving them the information. They insisted on making it quite clear that in allowing them to provide this kind of information to the people in general, Allah intended to put His servants through a trial, for He would see who uses this knowledge for protecting his ‘Iman ایمان (faith) by recognizing evil and avoiding it, and who falls into misguidance by adopting evil that he has come to recognize as evil — a choice which can easily lead one into Kufr کفر (infidelity) in the matter of deeds or in that of doctrines. The angels repeatedly advised them to seek this dangerous information only with a good intent and to remain steadfast in this good intent, and not to misuse the knowledge so as to earn perpetual damnation.
The angels could not be more honest and forthright. So, they explained the basic principles of magic and even the subsidiary details to all those who were ready to take the pledge to remain steadfast in their faith. Of course, if anyone broke the pledge and fell into transgression or infidelity, it was his own business, and the angels could not be held responsible for it. Some were true to their promise, while many did not fulfil the pledge, and made their knowledge of magic a means of doing harm to people — this in itself is sin and transgression, while some modes of magic actually involve infidelity (Kufr کفر). Thus, through a misuse of their knowledge of magic, some turned into sinners and others into infidels.
Let us repeat that the angels had taught magic for the purpose of reforming the people and helping them to keep to the straight path, but those who misused this teaching did so out of their own perversity. An example would make the situation still more clear. Let us suppose that a man goes to a master of the Islamic sciences, who is an expert in the traditional branches of learning and in philosophy as well, and who also acts upon his knowledge, and this man requests the master to teach him philosophy, ancient or modern, so that he may protect himself against the doubts raised by the philosophers with regard to Islamic doctrines, and may also be able to give a satisfactory reply to those who raise such doubts. Apprehending that he might turn out to be insincere, and might finally bring the knowledge of philosophy to the aid of false and anti-Islamic ideas, the master warns him against such an eventuality, and the man takes a pledge that he would not misuse his knowledge. Having satisfied himself, the master gives him a thorough training in philosophy. But the man, contrary to his promise, begins to accept the anti-Islamic and false theorizing of philosophers as the truth. Obviously, in such a case, the teacher can in no way be held responsible for the way the pupil behaves. Similarly, there can be no room for doubting the integrity of these two angels.
Although Allah Himself knows how things were, yet one can suppose that once the angels had done the work assigned to them, they must have been recalled to the Heavens. (Bay an al-Qur’an)
What is Magic ? Definition and effects
Since the study of magic has been enjoying a weird currency in the Western countries since 1968, and has sometimes been accepted as a part of academic research, we had better consider the subject at some length from the Islamic point of view. According to the authoritative Arabic dictionary “Al-Qamus القاموس “, the word Sihr سحر (Magic) signifies an effect the cause of which is not apparent, whether the cause may actually lie in something which possesses a luminous quality (as the effect of certain phrases), or in things with an extra-sensory reality (as the effect produced by jinns and devils), or in the power of imagination (as the effect of hypnotism), or in things which are sensory yet hidden (as a magnet drawing to itself a piece of iron, when the magnet is concealed from the onlookers; or the effect of drugs, when they have been furtively administered; or the influence of stars and planets). The causes at work being numerous, the forms of magic too are numerous.
Magic and Charms
In everyday language, magic signifies those practices which involve the cooperation of jinns and devils, or the exercise of the power of imagination, or the use of certain words or phrases. It is a rationally established proposition, accepted by ancient philosophers and by some of the modern ones as well, and equally confirmed by observation and experiment, that words and phrases in themselves possess a certain efficacy, and that when certain letters, words or phrases are recited or written down for a specified number of times, they pro-duce certain specific results. Similar results are obtained by employing human hair or nails or the clothes worn by the person concerned, etc. – a practice which is usually described as the preparation of “Charms”. All such things are commonly known as magic.
Sihr سحر or Magic جادو : The Islamic view
But in the terminology of the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith, Sihr سحر (magic جادو) refers to all those usual happenings which have been brought about with the active help of the devils (Shayatin شیاطین ), won over through certain practices likely to please them. There are several ways of pleasing the devils. Sometimes one sings the praises of the devils, and sometimes recites formulas of a heretical nature which deny Allah or associate others with Him.
The worship of stars and planets too gladdens their heart, as do certain evil deeds – for example, preparing a charm with the blood of a person killed unlawfully, or refusing to adopt the prescribed modes of purifying one’s body, or living constantly and deliberately in a state of uncleanliness and impurity. Just as the aid of the angels can be won only through those modes of speech and action which they like (for example, remembrance of Allah, fear of Him and obedience to His commandments, cleanliness and purity, avoidance of all kinds of dirtiness, physical or otherwise, and good deeds in general), similarly the co-operation of the devils can be obtained through those modes of speech and action which are pleasant to them. That is why only those are successful in the practice of black magic who are habitually unclean and impure, avoid required purification and remembrance of Allah, and are given to all kinds of evil deeds – for example, it is usually during the period of menstruation that women become effective in the practice of black magic. So much for black magic or sorcery in the exact sense of the term. As for sleights of hand, mesmerism, hypnotism, or the tricks of jugglers, they are sometimes described as magic only by an extension of the meaning of the word, or metaphorically. (Ruh al-Ma’ani)
Kinds of Magic
In his “Mufradat al-Qur’an مفردات “, Imam Raghib al-Isfahani (رح) says that there are several kinds of magic. Firstly, there are sleights of hand, like those of jugglers, which deceive the eyes of the onlookers, but have no further substance. Then, there are ways of influencing the imagination of others through the concentration of one’s own powers of thought so that they begin to see or feel things which do not really exist as happens in mesmerism or hypnotism. Such a result is sometimes obtained with the help of the devils (Shayatin) too. In speaking of the magicians of the Pharaoh فرعون ، the Holy Qur’an says: سَحَرُوا أَعْيُنَ النَّاسِ They cast a spell on the eyes of the people” (7:116). Or, in another place: يُخَيَّلُ إِلَيْهِ مِن سِحْرِهِمْ أَنَّهَا تَسْعَ “Through their magic Moses came to think that they (ropes turned into serpents) were running about” (20:66). Obviously, this piece of magic had to do with influencing of the imagination. The second of these verses employs a verb which has the same root as the noun Khayal خیال (thought), and hence clearly states that the ropes and the wands cast down by the magicians had neither turned serpents nor made any movement, but the imagination of Sayyidna Musa (Moses علیہ السلام) had been affected so as to see them running about in the shape of serpents. The Holy Qur’an also indicates the other way of influencing men’s imaginations which involves the help of the devils (Shayatin شیاطین):”
هَلْ أُنَبِّئُكُمْ عَلَىٰ مَن تَنَزَّلُ الشَّيَاطِينُ ﴿٢٢١﴾ تَنَزَّلُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ أَفَّاكٍ أَثِيمٍ ﴿٢٢٢﴾
Shall I tell you on whom the devils descend? They descend on all those who are slanderers and sinners.” (26:221-222)
Still another kind of magic is that which can change the very nature of a thing – for example, turning a man into a beast or into a stone. Scholars like Imam Raghib al-Isfahani and Abu Bakr al-Jasas رحمۃ اللہ علیہما deny that magic can totally change the nature of a thing, but confine the efficacy of magic only to influencing the imagination and to deceiving the eyes of the onlookers. This is also what the Mu’tazilah thought of the matter. But most of the scholars hold that neither the Shari` ah nor any rational argument forbids the possibility of trans-substantiation or the changing of one thing into another, like a living body turning into a stone. As for the well-known principle of the classical philosophers that the change of the “essences” (Haqa`’iq حقأیق) is not possible, it concerns the “essences” of the three categories – the Impossible, the Possible and the Necessary –, for, rationally speaking, it just cannot be that something impossible should become possible, or that something possible should become impossible. And as to the Holy Qur’an putting down the magic of the Egyptian sorcerers as only an impact on the imagination, it does not necessarily mean that all the forms of magic should be no more than an influencing of the imagination. Moreover, certain scholars have seen an argument in favour of the possibility of trans-substantiation through magic in a saying of Ka` b al-Ahbar, reported by Imam Malik (رح) in his Muwatta’ مؤطاء on the authority of Qa’qa’ ibn Hakim: “Were it not for these phrases which I recite regularly, the Jews would have changed me into a donkey.” “A donkey” is, no doubt, a usual metaphor for “a fool.” But it is not proper to turn away, unnecessarily, from the literal meaning to a metaphorical one. So, the sentence means just what it says – that if the recitation of the phrases had not protected him, the Jewish sorcerers would have changed him into a donkey. The saying, thus, establishes two things. Firstly, it is possible to change a man into a donkey; secondly, the phrases he used to recite had the property of making the magic of the sorcerers lose its efficacy. On being asked what these phrases were, the scholar Ka’b al-Ahbar taught his listeners the following words of prayer:
اعوذ باللہ العظیم الذی لیس شیٔ اعظم منہ و بکلمات التامات التی لا یجاورھن بَرّولا فاجرو باسماء اللہ الحسنٰی کلھا ما علمت منھا ومالم اعلم من شرّماخلق وبرّوذرء (اخرجہ فی المؤطا، باب التعوذعند النوم)
“I seek the protection of Allah the Great, greater than whom there is none; and I seek the protection of the perfect words of Allah which no man, virtuous or wicked, can even transcend; and I seek the protection of all the Beautiful Names of Allah, those of them which I know and those which I do not know, from the evil of everything which Allah has created, to which He has given existence, and which He has spread (over the earth or the universe).”
To sum up, all the three forms of magic are possible, and can manifest themselves in actual fact.
Now, let us turn to another important aspect of the question. Through prophets and saints certain events come into manifestation which normally and habitually never happen, and are hence designated as Kharq al-Adah خرق العادہ (contrary to the habitual). The Islamic term for the miracles of prophets is Mu’ jizat معجزات ، and for those of saints, Karamat کرامات . The effects produced by such miracles are in appearance sometimes similar to those produced by magic. This external resemblance leads some ignorant people to confuse the one with the other, and they begin to have a reverence for magicians which is totally out of place. So, one must understand the difference between the two clearly.26
26. Editorial Note on; معجزہ :Mu` jizah or Miracle: For all the unusual
events and unprecendented happenings the English language has but one word, ‘Miracle’ which makes it impossible for the reader in that language to mark the subtle difference in various forms of miracles. Briefly, therefore, the different forms of miracles with their distinct objections are explained here. It is hoped that this will help the readers have a clearer conception of Mu’ jizah.
These terms are used in Arabic language to define and differentiate the unprecendented happenings and here each of them is explained, so as to clearly differentiate them. Qualitatively, there is, apparently no difference in all of them.
Mu’ jizah is the unusual event which occurs at ‘the hands of a prophet. It is purely an act of Allah. A prophet’s own volition has no part in the working of it. For those who witness a Mu’ jizah it is compulsory to believe in it.
Karamah (کرامۃ) — another mode of unusual happenings > is also an act of Allah; it appears at the hands of a Man of Allah (ولیُ اللہ ،). The basic difference in Mu’ jizah and Karamah is that one who performs Mu’ jizah, addresses himself as a prophet, a Man of. Allah has no such claim. In both Mu jizah and Karamah the usual cause and effect link is absent. Things happen but without any cause; and there is usually a total transformation of the nature and behaviour of objects in Mu’ jizah and Karamah. at is required is a generalized belief in them. Allah chooses whoever He wills for Mu’ jizah and Karamah. No degree of stringent discipline can give the power to make the unusual happen.
Irhas ارھ اس) ) is also a kind of Karamah. It heralds the coming of a prophet. It usually occurs at the hands of the one who is closely related to the prophet: the unprecedented happenings in the the life of Mariam (علیہا السلام) ، mother of prophet ` Isa (علیہ السلام) or the various unusual events that began occurring to and around Aminah — the blessed mother of our Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) ; for instance, she had no pangs of birth, towards the close of the birth period she used to hear stranger voices greeting her, although she saw no one. It is compulsory to believe in such events of Irhas as have been mentioned in the Qur’an and believe in a general manner, that Irhas is usually associated with the coming of a prophet.
The Difference between Miracle and Magic
The miracles of prophets and saints are different from magic, firstly, in their respective natures, and, secondly, with regard to the signs and indications attendant upon each. As for the difference in their natures, it lies in the fact that the results produced through magic depend on the law of causality as much as do the ordinary and usual events in the physical world, the only distinction being that the causes are in the latter case quite clear or easily observable, while in the former they are different for a common man to detect. Where the causes are evident, the effects are immediately referred back to them, and the events thus produced are not considered to be astonishing, but where the causes are hidden or obscure, the events produced by them arouse wonder and amazement, and those who are ignorant of the causes readily come to believe that the things have happened in contravention of the habitual laws of the physical universe.27 What these people do not realize is that such happenings are as much due to certain causes as the habitual events – the cause in the case of extraordinary happenings often being the activity of a jinn or a devil (Shaytan). For example, a letter suddenly falls in front of a man, and on reading it he finds that the letter has been written just this day and is coming from a distance of ten thousand miles. Now, the onlookers would call it a “supernatural” event, for they do not know that Allah has given the power of doing such things to jinns and devils. Once one comes to understand the means through which things of this nature take place, one would no longer see them as “supernatural”, or even as being contrary to “habit”. In short, all the results obtained through magical practices are, in fact, due to the operation of physical causes, but in the eyes of common people they acquire the illusory appearance of “supernatural” events, simply because the operative causes are hidden from them.
27. In the West, they describe such events as being “supernatural”, although the Latin word Natura, which is the equivalent of the Greek word Phusis, does, at least in its original sense, cover all that has been created, whether it lies in the domain studied by empirical science or beyond it.
On the other hand, miracles happen directly under divine command without the intervention of physical causes. For example, the Holy Qur’an tells us how the tyrant Namrud نمرود (Nimrod) threw Sayyidna Ibrahim (Abraham علیہ السلام) into a blazing fire, and how Allah commanded the fire to grow cold for him, but not so cold as to do him harm — and the fire obeyed the command, and, instead of scorching him, provided a place of safety.
This was a direct divine act, and hence a miracle. Now, we sometimes hear of men who, having applied certain chemicals to their body, can enter a fire without being scorched. This is not a miracle, for the operative cause is of a physical nature – that is, the chemicals. These chemicals are not known to people in general, and they are deluded into believing such a performance to be a °°supernatural” event going beyond the realm of “the habitual”. The Holy Qur’an itself leaves no doubt as to a miracle being directly an act of Allah Himself. In the Battle of Badr بدر ، the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) took up a handful of pebbles, and threw them at the army of the infidels, which blinded their eyes. Referring to this miracle, the Holy Qur’an says: مَا رَمَيْتَ إِذْ رَمَيْتَ وَلَـٰكِنَّ اللَّـهَ رَمَىٰ ۚ:”When you threw (the pebbles), it was not you who threw, but Allah who threw (them) ” (8:17). The statement is explicit enough, and means that the miraculous result produced by a handful of pebbles was not the work of the Holy Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم ، but the act of Allah Himself.
Miracle and Magic: How to distinguish between them?
Having explained the difference between the nature of a miracle and that of magic, we must now turn to another important question –the results produced by each of them being in appearance the same, how is the common man to know the difference between the two? In fact, Allah has given to each certain characteristic features which can help the common man to distinguish miracles from magic. Firstly, miracles are manifested through those whom everyone knows to be clean in body, pure in deeds and God-fearing. On the contrary, magic shows its effectiveness through those who are unclean in body, dirty in deeds, shunning the worship of Allah and His remembrance. This is a distinction which everyone can observe with his own eyes. Secondly, Allah has so ordained things that if a man pretends to be a prophet and claims to perform miracles, and yet tries to practise magic, his magic is never effective, but he can be effective in magic so long as he does not lay a claim to prophethood.
Magic جادو and Prophets (علیہم السلام)
As to the question whether magic can have an effect on prophets, we shall say that it can. As we have explained above, magic operates through physical causes, and prophets are not immune to the influence of physical causes. Just as they feel the effects of hunger and thirst, fall ill and get healed through the operation of apparent physical causes, in the same way they can be affected by the hidden operations of magic, which are no less physical. Let us add that being affected by magic does in no way go against the dignity of the station of prophethood — no more than would thirst or hunger. Authentic ahadith report that the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) was affected by the magic spell cast by the Jews, that he came to know of it through revelation, and that he took certain measures to free himself of its effects. The Holy Qur’an too tells us how Sayyidna Musa (علیہ السلام) (Moses) experienced the effects of magic when the sorcerers cast a spell on his eyes, and the ropes and the sticks thrown by them began to look like running serpents, so that he was really frightened (20:66, 67).
Injunctions of the Shari’ah with regard to Magic
As we have already said, Sihr جادو (magic), in the terminology of the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith, refers only to those practices in which one seeks the help of jinns and devils (Shayatin شیاطین ) by gaining their pleasure through the adoption of certain phrases or actions that involve infidelity (Kufr کفر ) and association (Shirk شرک ) or sin and transgression, and thus brings about certain extraordinary and unusual events. The magic of Babylon, mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, was just this, and it is this form of magic which it condemns as infidelity or Kufr (Jassa). According to Abu Mansur, the most valid and correct view in this respect is that each and every form of magic does not, unconditionally and absolutely, constitute infidelity, but only that form which employs actions or speech contrary to the tenets of faith (‘Iman ایمان ). (Ruh al-Ma’ani)
As everyone knows, the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith repeatedly enjoin upon the Muslims to consider the Shayatin شیطان as one’s enemies, to hate them and to curse them. Seeking to please them and to win their friendship, in contravention of such clear commandments, is in itself a sin. Moreover, they are pleased only when one indulges in Kufr کفر (infidelity) or Shirk شرک (association), and thus forfeits one’s faith (‘Iman ایمان ) altogether, or at least in disobedience and transgression, displeasing Allah and His angels by wallowing in dirt and impurity — which becomes an additional sin. And if one makes use of magic for doing some harm to a human being unlawfully, it is still one more sin.
Thus, what the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith call Sihr جادو can never be free either of infidelity in the matter of faith, or at least of infidelity in the matter of actions. If, in order to please the Shayatin شیطان ، one adopts actions or speech involving infidelity or association, one would be committing an act’ of real infidelity in the matter of faith; and even if one manages to avoid infidelity and association in speech or action, but indulges in other sinful activities, one would not remain free from infidelity in the matter of actions. This is what the Holy Qur’an means when, in the present verses, it designates magic as Kufr کفر .
To sum up, when magic employs actions or speech involving infidelity (such as seeking the help of Shayatin شیاطین ، or believing the stars and the planets to be effective in themselves, or claiming prophethood by presenting the results of magical procedures as miracles, etc), such a magic, according to the consensus, constitutes infidelity; and when magic does not involve acts of infidelity but only the commission of sinful acts, such a magic is a major sin.
Now, let us add some subsidiary injunctions with regard to magic.
(1) Since magic is not usually free from infidelity in the matter of faith or in that of action, it necessarily follows that it is forbidden to learn or teach or practice it. Some jurists, however, allow one to learn magic for the purpose of protecting Muslims from harm, but one must not try to learn more than is necessary.
(2) If in preparing charms and amulets the help of Jinns and Shayatin شیاطین has been sought, they too come under the category of Sihr جادو ، and are thus forbidden. If the words employed in the charms are vague, and one does not exactly know what they mean but suspects that they are invocations addressed to idols or Shayatin شیاطین ، even such charms are forbidden.
(3) As for the other forms of magic beside the Sihr جادو ، like that of Babylon, condemned by the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith, if they involve Kufr and Shirk in some way, they too are forbidden.
(4) If there is a form of magic which employs words or actions or other elements to which the Shari` ah does not object, then it is permissible on condition that it is not used for a purpose which the Shari’ah forbids.
(5) It is permissible to use the verses of the Holy Qur’an, or the Divine Names or the words of the Hadith in preparing charms and amulets, or as a recitation or invocation for gaining divine help in order to attain a desired end. But if such a use of the sacred texts or words is made for a reprehensible purpose, like doing harm to someone without an excuse, even that is forbidden. (Shami, Fatawa Qadi Khan)
A doctrinal point
Verse 102 says: “They could not thus do any harm to anyone, except with the permission of Allah”. This shows that causes in themselves and by themselves cannot produce the effects one usually associates with them, and it is Allah who creates the effects as much as the causes. (Bayan al-Qur’an)
104. ‘Evil ones’ embraces all evil beings, whether they belong to the human species or to the jinn. Here the reference seems to be to both.
When moral and material decline set in among the Israelites, they were overwhelmed with slavery and ignorance, with misery and poverty, and with humiliation and decadence. They were thus drained of all high ambitions and increasingly turned to magic, sorcery, witchcraft, charms and amulets. They began to search for facile means such as spells that would spare them hard work and yet ensure the achievement of their desired ends. At this stage they were misled by the evil ones, who made them believe that the mighty kingdom and astonishing power of Solomon were merely due to occult sciences and magical formulae, and that by revealing those they would pass on to them the keys to success. People were so engrossed in such practices that they ignored both the Book of God and anyone who summoned them to truth and righteousness.
105. There are various opinions on the interpretation of this verse. My own conclusion is that at the time when the whole Israelite nation was chained in slavery and captivity in Babylonia God sent two angels in human form in order to test the Jews. In the same way as angels were sent to the people of Lot in the form of handsome youths see (Quran 11: 69 ff. – Ed.), they were presumably sent to Israel in the form of divines who could work magic and sorcery. These angels at once began working their magical wonders but they warned the people that their presence among them was designed to test their faith, and that they ought not to jeopardize their After-life by the practice of magic. Despite the warning it seems that the Israelites had become so fond of their magical artifices that they continued to resort to talismans and sorcery.
It should not surprise anyone that angels came down to earth in human form; angels are dutiful servants of God’s kingdom, and are capable of assuming the form appropriate to the specific task they are required to perform at any particular time. Who knows how many angels may be busy performing their duties in our midst even today!
One might also wonder why angels should teach people magic, which is after all intrinsically evil. In order to understand this we must remember that the nature of their task was no different from that of an undercover policeman who hands over marked currency notes to a corrupt official as a bribe with the aim of ensuring that he is caught red-handed.
106. This shows that the greatest demand was for magical arts and charms to sow discord between a man and his wife and to procure the eventual seduction of the latter. This was the depth of moral depravity to which these people had fallen. A people cannot sink to a lower level of moral degeneracy than when adulterous affairs become their favourite pastime, and when seducing a married woman is considered a boastful achievement. The matrimonial relationship is, in truth, the very foundation of man’s collective life. The soundness of human civilization depends on the soundness of the relationship between the two sexes. Hence, nothing could be worse than the person who strikes at the very foundations of the structure which supports both him and society as a whole.
There is a Tradition from the Prophet to the effect that Satan sends his agents on their missions to all parts of the world. On their return these agents report their achievements with each mentioning his own special evil act. But Satan is not completely satisfied with any of them. It is only when an agent reports that he has succeeded in separating a wife from her husband that Satan is filled with joy and embraces him. (Bukhari, ‘Talaq’, 25 – Ed.) In the light of this Tradition it is understandable why the angels who were sent to the Israelites to test them were asked to disclose those magical arts which would lead to separation between a husband and his wife, for the inclination of a people to learn such arts is a sure index of its moral decadence.