Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Charms and Amulets according to Islam

أعوذبِاللَّـهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ 
[I Seek refuge in ALLAH from Shaitan - the accursed one]
 بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Another thing that arises in connection with these Surahs (Al-Mu'awwidhatayn) is whether recitation of charms and amulets has any place in Islam, and whether such recitation is by itself efficacious or not. This question arises for in many ahadith it has been reported that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) at the time of going to bed every night, especially during illness, used to recite the Mu'awwidhatayn (or according to other reports, the Mu'awwidhat, i.e. Qul Huwa-Allahu Ahad and theMu'awwidhatayn) thrice, blow in his hands and then rub the hands on his body from head to foot as far as his hands could reach. During his last illness when it was not longer possible for him to so do, Hadrat Aishah recited these Surahs herself or by his command blew on his hands in view of their being blessed and rubbed them on his body. Traditions on this subject have been related in Bukhari, Muslim, Nasai, Ibn Majah, Abu Da'ud and Mu'atta of Imam Malik through authentic channels on the authority of Hadrat Aishah herself beside whom no one could be better acquainted with the domestic life of the Holy Prophet.

In this regard, one should first understand its religious aspect. In the Hadith a lengthy tradition has been related on the authority of Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas, at the end of which the Holy Prophet is reported to have said: "The people of my Ummah to enter Paradise without reckoning will be those who neither turn to treatment by branding, nor to enchanting, nor take omens, but have trust in their Lord." (Muslim). According to a tradition reported on the authority of Hadrat Mughirah bin Shubah, the Holy Prophet said: "He who got himself treated by branding, or enchanting, became independent of trust in Allah." (Tirmidhi). Hadrat Abdullah bin Mas'ud has reported that the Holy Prophet disapproved of ten things one of which was recitation of charms and amulets except by means of the Mu'awwidhataynor Mu'awwidhat. (Abu Daud, Ahmad, Nasai, Ibn Hibban, Hakim). Some ahadith also show that in the beginning the Holy Prophet had altogether forbidden recitation of charms and amulets, but later he allowed it on the condition that is should not smack of polytheism, but one should recite and blow by means of the holy names of Allah, or the words of the Qur'an. The words used should be understandable and one should know that there is nothing sinful in it, and one should not wholly rely on the recitation of charms but on Allah's will to make it beneficial." After the explanation of the religious aspect, let us now see what the Hadith says in this regard.

Tabarani in As-Saghir has related a tradition on the authority of Hadrat Ali, saying: "One the Holy Prophet was stung by a scorpion during the Prayer. When the Prayer was over, he remarked: God's curse be on the scorpion: it neither spares a praying one, nor any other. Then he called for water and salt, and started rubbing the place where the scorpion had stung with salt water and reciting Qul ya ayyuhal-kafirunQul Huwa Allahu ahadQul a'udhu bi-Rabbil-falaq and Qul a'udhu bi-Rabbin-nas, along with it."

Ibn Abbas also has related a tradition to the effect: "The Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) used to recite this invocation over Hadrat Hasan and Husain: U'idhu kuma bi-kalimat Allahit-tamati min kulli shaitan-in wa hammati-wa min kulli ayt-in-lam nati: "I give you in the refuge of Allah's blameless words, from every devil and troublesome thing, and from every evil look." (Bukhari, Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah).
A tradition has been related in Muslim, Muwatta, Tabarani and Hakim about Uthman bin al-As ath-Thaqafi, with a little variation in wording, to the effect that he complained to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace), saying: "Since I have become a Muslim, I feel a pain in my body, which is killing me." The Holy Prophet said: "Place your right hand on the place where you feel the pain, then recite Bismillah thrice, and A'udhu billahi wa qudratihi min sharri ma ajidu wa uhadhiru("I seek refuge with Allah and with His power from the evil that I find and that I fear") seven times, and rub your hand." In Muwatta there is the addition: "Uthman bin Abi al-As said: After that my pain disappeared and now I teach the same formula to the people of my house."
Musnad Ahmad and Tahavi contain this tradition from Talq bin Ali: "I was stung by a scorpion in the presence of the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace). The Holy Prophet recited something and blew over me and rubbed his hand on the affected place."

Muslim contains a tradition from Abu Said Khudri, which says: "Once when the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) fell ill, Gabriel came and asked: O Muhammad, are you ill? The Holy Prophet answered in the affirmative. Gabriel said: I blow on you in the name of Allah from everything which troubles you and from the evil of every soul and the evil look of every envier. May Allah restore you to health. I blow on you in His name." A similar tradition has been related in Musnad Ahmad on the authority of Hadrat Ubadah bin as-Samit, which says: "The Holy Prophet was unwell. I went to visit him and found him in great trouble. When I re-visited him in the evening I found him quite well. When I asked how he had become well so soon, he said: Gabriel came and blew over me with some words. Then he recited words similar to those reported in the above Hadith. A tradition similar to this has been related on the authority of Hadrat Aishah also in Muslim and Musnad Ahmad.

Imam Ahmad in his Musnad has related this tradition from Hafsah, mother of the Faithful: "One day the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) visited me in the house and a woman, named Shifa, was sitting with me. She used to blow on the people to cure them of blisters. The Holy Prophet said to her: Teach Hafsah also the formula." Imam Ahmad, Abu Daud and Nasai have related this tradition from Shifa bint Abdullah herself, saying: "The Holy Prophet said to me: Just as you have taught Hafsah reading and writing, so teach her blowing to cure blisters as well."
In Muslim there is a tradition from Auf bin Malik al-Ashjal to the effect: "We used to practise blowing to cure diseases. We asked the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) for his opinion in this regard. He said: Let me know the words with which you blow over the people. There is no harm in blowing unless it smacks of polytheism."

Muslim, Musnad Ahmad and Ibn Majah contain a tradition from Hadrat Jabir bin Abdullah, saying: "The Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) had forbidden us blowing to cure disease. Then the people of the clan of Hadrat Amr bin Hazm came and they said: We had a formula with which we used to blow on the people to cure them of scorpion's sting (or snake-bite). But you have forbidden us the practice. Then they recited before him the words which they made use of. Thereupon the Holy Prophet said: I do not see any harm in it, so let the one who can do good to his brother, do him good." Another tradition from Jabir bin Abdullah in Muslim is: "The family of Hazm had a formula to cure snake-bite and the Holy Prophet permitted them to practise it." This is also supported by the tradition from Hadrat Aishah, which is contained in Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, and Ibn Majah: "The Holy Prophet granted permission to a family of the Ansar for blowing to cure the evils effects of biting by every poisonous creature." Traditions resembling these have been related from Hadrat Anas also in Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Muslim and Ibn Majah, saying that the Holy Prophet gave permission for blowing to cure the bite by poisonous creatures, the disease of blisters and the effects of the evil look."

Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Hakim have related this tradition on the authority of Hadrat Umair, freed slave of Abi al-Laham: "In the pre-Islamic days I had a formula with which I used to blow over the people. I recited it before the Holy Prophet, whereupon he told me to drop out such and such words from it, and permitted me to blow with the rest of it."

According to Muwatta, Hadrat Abu Bakr went to the house of his daughter, Hadrat Aishah, and found that she was unwell and a Jewish woman was blowing over her. Thereupon he said to her: "Blow over her by means of the Book of Allah." This shows that if the people of the Book practise blowing by means of the verses of the Torah and the Gospel, it is also permitted.

As for the question whether blowing for curing disease is efficacious also, or not, its answer is that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) not only did not forbid anybody to have recourse to cure and medical treatment but himself stated that Allah has created a cure for every disease and exhorted his followers to use cures. He himself told the people the remedies for certain diseases, as can be seen in the Hadith in the Kitab at-Tib (Book of Cures). But the cure can be beneficial and useful only by Allah's command and permission, otherwise if the cure and medical treatment were beneficial in every case, no one would have died in hospitals. Now, if beside the cure and medical treatment, Allah's Word and His beautiful names also are made use of, or Word and His beautiful names also are made use of, or Allah is turned to and invoked for help by means of His Word, Names and Attributes in a place where no medical aid is available, it would not be against reason except for the materialists. However, it is not right to disregard intentionally a cure or treatment where it is available, and recourse had only to enchanting and reciting of charms, and the people should start a regular practice of granting amulets as a means of earning their livelihood.

Many people in this regard argue from Hadrat Abu Said Khudri's tradition which has been related in Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmad, Abu Daud and Ibn Majah, and it is supported also by a tradition related in Bukhari on the authority of Ibn Abbas. According to it the Holy Prophet sent some of his Companions including Hadrat Abu Said Khudri on an expedition. They halted on the way at the settlement of an Arabian tribe and demanded hospitality from the people, but they refused to extend any hospitality. In the meantime the chief of the tribe was stung by a scorpion and the people came to the travelers to ask if they had any medicine or formula by which their chief could be cured. Hadrat Abu Said said: "Yes, we do have, but since you have refused us hospitality, we would not treat him unless you promised us to give us something." They promised to give them a flock of goats (according to some traditions, 30 goats), and Hadrat Abu Said went and started reciting Surah Al-Fatihah and rubbing his saliva on the affected place. Consequently, the chief felt relieved of the effect of the poison and the people of the tribe gave them the goats as promised. But the Companions said to one another; "Let us not make any use of the goats until we have asked the Holy Prophet about it", for they were not sure whether it was permissible to accept any reward for what they had done. So they came before the Holy Prophet and related what had happened. The Holy Prophet smiled and said: "How did you know that Surah Al-Fatihah could also be used for curing such troubles? Take the goats and allocate my share also in it."

But before one used this Hadith for permission to adopt a regular profession of granting amulets and reciting charms, one should keep in view the conditions under which Hadrat Abu Said Khudri had recourse to it, and the Holy Prophet not only held it as permissible but also said that a share for him also should be allocated so that there remained no doubt in the minds of the Companions that such a thing was permissible. The conditions in Arabia in those days were, as they still are, that settlements were situated hundreds of miles apart, there were not hotels and restaurants where a traveler could buy food when he reached one of these after several days' journey. Under such conditions it was considered a moral duty that when a traveler reached a settlement the people of the place should extend hospitality to him. Refusal on their part in many cases meant death for the travelers, and this was looked upon as highly blameworthy among the Arabs. That is why the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) allowed as permissible the act of his Companions. Since the people of the tribe had refused them hospitality, they too refused to treat their chief, and became ready to treat him only on the condition that they should promise to give them something in return. Then, when one of them with trust in God recited Surah Al-Fatihah over the chief and he became well, the people gave the promised wages and the Holy Prophet allowed that the wages be accepted as lawful and pure. In Bukhari the tradition related on the authority of Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas about this incident contains the Holy Prophet's words to the effect: "Instead that you should have acted otherwise, it was better that you recited the Book of Allah and accepted the wages for it." He said this in order to impress the truth that Allah's Word is superior to every other kind of enchanting and practice of secret arts. Furthermore, the Message also was incidentally conveyed to the Arabian tribe and its people made aware of the blessings of the Word that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) had brought from Allah. This incident cannot be cited as a precedent for the people who run clinic in the cities and towns for the practice of secret arts and have adopted it as a regular profession for earning livelihood. No precedent of it is found in the life and practice of the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) or his Companions, their followers and the earliest Imams.

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