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Satan and the Jinn
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Claims Regarding Prophet Sulaymaan
It is widespread amongst the Jews, Christians and the Occultists that Prophet Sulayman (alayhis salaam) practiced magic, and some of them consider him to be a magician and not a Prophet. There are many other claims and associations made with respect to Sulayman (alayhis salaam) which he is free of. In this article we want to clarify the Qur'anic treatment of this subject which absolves and exonerates Sulayman (alayhis salaam) from the false things attributed to him.
First the passage in the Qur'an on this subject, Allah, the Most High, said in Surah al-Baqarah:
وَلَمَّا جَاءهُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللّهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ نَبَذَ فَرِيقٌ مِّنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ كِتَابَ اللّهِ وَرَاء ظُهُورِهِمْ كَأَنَّهُمْ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ. وَاتَّبَعُواْ مَا تَتْلُواْ الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَى مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَـكِنَّ الشَّيْاطِينَ كَفَرُواْ يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّى يَقُولاَ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلاَ تَكْفُرْ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ وَمَا هُم بِضَآرِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلاَ يَنفَعُهُمْ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُواْ لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِي الآخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلاَقٍ وَلَبِئْسَ مَا شَرَوْاْ بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ لَوْ كَانُواْ يَعْلَمُونَ
And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah (Muhammad) confirming what was with them, a party of those who were given the Scripture threw away the Book of Allah behind their backs as if they did not know! They followed what the Shayaateen (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulayman (Solomon). Sulayman did not disbelieve, but the Shayaateen (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 permission. 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. (Al-Baqarah 2:101-102)
We can turn to the classical commentaries of Ibn Jareer at-Tabari and Ibn Katheer for the explanation of these verses, part by part, so what follows will be based upon these commentaries.
Background to the Verse on Magic
وَلَمَّا جَاءهُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللّهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ نَبَذَ فَرِيقٌ مِّنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ كِتَابَ اللّهِ وَرَاء ظُهُورِهِمْ كَأَنَّهُمْ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ.
And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah (Muhammad) confirming what was with them, a party of those who were given the Scripture threw away the Book of Allah behind their backs as if they did not know!
Ibn Katheer explains that this refers to a faction amongst the Jews who threw the Torah behind their backs when they learned that the glad tidings of the Prophethood Muhammad (alayhis salaam) are found within it, and that they abandoned it as if they did not know that this (knowledge) was in it. Instead they resorted to magic (witchcraft, sorcery), and Ibn Katheer makes mention of Labeed bin al-A'sam, the Jew who practiced witchcraft upon the Prophet (alayhis salaam), with the use of a comb thrown into a well. At-Tabaree explains likewise that this verse is in rebuke of the Jews who were in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (alayhis salaam) and rejected his prophethood despite knowing he was a messenger, and in rebuke of them not acting upon this knowledge which is in their hands (in the Torah), and their following of their ancestors who followed what the devils rehearsed to them in the kingship of Sulayman (of magic).
This verse leads into the next one which continues on the subject of magic.
The Devils in the Time of Sulaymaan
وَاتَّبَعُواْ مَا تَتْلُواْ الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَى مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ
They followed what the Shayaateen (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulayman (Solomon)...
At-Tabari brings narrations:
From Mujaahid: That this that the devils (shayaateen) used to listen to the revelation (in his time) and whenever they caught something of it, they added two hundred other words like it. So Sulayman consfiscated these books from them, and when Sulaymaan died, the devils found them and taught the people from them, which was magic.
Magic Was Taught By the Devils and Sulayman Was Free From It
وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَـكِنَّ الشَّيْاطِينَ كَفَرُواْ يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ
Sulayman did not disbelieve, but the Shayaateen (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic...
At Tabaree explains that in this verse that what Allaah ascribed to the devils, the Jews ascribed to Sulayman, claiming that it was from his knowledge, and that he subjugated the men, Jinn and devils (shayaateen), and other creatures of Allaah through magic. And on account of this belief of their's they justified to the people their own actions in doing what Allaah had made unlawful upon them of magic. And then they said that Sulayman was not a Prophet but a magician, so Allaah absolved Sulayman bin Dawud from magic and kufr against the claims made against him, and also declared as liars those justifying their practice of magic, and Allaah exposed them in that they were simply following the magic that the devils rehearsed to them during the era of Sulayman.
Ibn Katheer brings a narration:
Muhammad bin Ishaaq bin Yasaar: That the devils wrote books on types of magic, after they knew of Sulayman's death, and so they wrote "Whoever wishes to attain such and such, let him do such and such", and they put all of this into a book, and then placed a seal on it upon the seal of Prophet Sulayman and they wrote as its title, "This is What Aasif bin Burkhyaa the Friend of the King Sulayman Wrote of the Kept Treasures of Knowledge". Then they buried it beneath his throne. Later, some of the Children of Israel found this book and they said, "By Allaah Sulayman's kingdom was not except by way of this (magic)". So they spread this magic amongst the people, they learned it and taught it, and magic is not found amongst anyone more than amongst the Jews...
And at-Tabaree brings a number of narrations:
Ibn Hawshab: He states similar to what was said by Ibn Ishaq above, and explains that the devils would write, "Whoever wants to arrive at such and such let him turn to the sun and let him say such and such. And whoever wants [to be able] to do such and such, let him face his back to the sun and let him say such and such." So they wrote the likes of this and put it in a book, and gave it the same title as mentioned by Ibn Ishaq above. Then they buried it under Sulayman's throne. When Sulayman died, Iblees stood as a khateeb and said, "O people, verily Sulayman was not a prophet, but he was a magician, so hold to his magic which is in his place of retreat and in his houses", then he showed them the place in which it was buried, and when they found it they said, "By Allaah, Sulayman was a magician, and this is his magic, with it shall we worship, and through it shall we subdue (others)". However, the believers amongst those Jews said, "Rather, he was a Prophet, a believer". Then, when Allaah sent the Prophet Muhammad (alayhis salaam), he mentioned the Prophets, until he mentioned Dawud and Sulayman, so the Jews said, "Look at Muhammad, mixing truth with falsehood, he is mentioning Sulayman along with the Prophets, he was merely a magician who would carry the winds", so Allah revealed the verse, "Sulayman did not disbelieve, but the Shayaateen (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic..."
What happened was that the people fell into two groups. The first: Those amongst the believers who knew magic was kufr and unlawful, and so they reviled Sulaymaan (alayhis salaam), out of their wrong belief that he practiced magic, and some of them denied he was a Prophet. The second: Another group who held that since Sulayman was a Prophet and he practiced magic (as they were misled to believe by the devils), then they considered it permissible to indulge in magic, so they took that as a religion to be followed, and this is what characterized these people from that time until the time of Prophet Jesus (alayhis salaam) through to the time of Prophet Muhammad (alayhis salaam), right until this day of ours.
Babylon and The Two Angels Harut and Marut
وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ
... 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)."
Babylon (Baabil, Babel) is a region just south of Bagdhad in Iraq, and it was the place of Nimrod who is said by at-Tabari (and other sources) to have built the Tower of Babel, and the place of the Chaldeans and Assyrians, and the Sabean planet worshippers. It became a center of much learning, especially magic and astrology. Magic was integral to the functioning of the society. It should be noted that place-names are not generally mentioned in the Qur'an in relation to past events, and there are only a few that are mentioned, such as Midyan, Iram, Baabil, so the mention of Baabil in particular has significance and as we shall see, the verse we are discussing is extremely accurate in characterizing those Jews who simply followed the magic rehearsed to them by the devils in the time of Sulayman (alayhis salaam) and what they took from Babylon, and which they incorporated into the Talmud (the Babylonian Talmud).
At-Tabaree brings numerous narrations:
As-Sudee: That this was another type of magic by which they (the Jews) disputed with him (Muhammad), through what was revealed upon the two Angels, and that the speech of the Angels between themselves, when it is taught to the men, crafted and acted upon, it is magic.
So the meaning of the verse upon the explanation of this saying which we have mentioned from those whom we have mentioned it from is: That the Jews followed that (magic) which the devils rehearsed to them during the lifetime of Sulayman which was (that magic) sent down upon the two angels at Baabil (Babylon), Harut and Marut, and they are two angels from the angels of Allaah.
And he says:
Indeed Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, sent down (all) the good and the evil, and He explained all of that to His servants, and He inspired His Messengers (with revelation) and ordered them to teach His creation and to distinguish for them what is lawful from what is unlawful, such as fornication (adultery), stealing, and all the sins which they (the Prophets)informed them about and prohibited them from committing them. So magic is one of those sins which He informed them of and prohibited them from acting upon.
Then at-Tabaree mentions an alternative reading of the verse:
So the explanation of the verse upon this saying is: And they followed the magic that the devils rehearsed in the lifetime of Sulayman and [that magic of] the separation between a man and his wife which was revealed upon the two angels at Baabil, Harut and Marut.
And he brings in this regard:
Mujaahid: As for magic, then the devils taught it, and as for what the angels taught, then it is separation between a man and his wife, as Allaah the Most High said.
Then at-Tabari brings about ten or so narrations from the early commentators regarding the two angels, and we will bring the information from those narrations together here:
Ibn Abbaas: Allaah open up the heaven so that the angels could look at the actions of sons of Adam. [Ar-Rabee']: When the people after Adam fell into what they fell into of sins and disbelief in Allaah, the Angels in the heaven said, "O Lord this world, you created them for your worship and obedience, but they have fallen into disbelief, killing the unlawful soul, eating unlawful wealth, stealing and fornicating, and drinking intoxicant", and so they began to supplicate against them, and did not make excuse for them.
Ibn Katheer, after mentioning many of these narrations in his tafseer of this verse explains that the story of Harut and Marut has been narrated from a group amongst the taabi'een, such as Mujahid, as-Sudee, al-Hasan al-Basree, Qataadah, Abu al-Aaliyah, az-Zuhree, ar-Rabee' bin Anas, Muqaatil bin Hayyaan and others, and that a portion of the mufassireen (exegetes) from the earlier and later ones have also reported them, and that the contents of them go back to the narrations that come from Banee Israa'eel, since there is no authentic, connected hadeeth, ascribed to the truthful, the believed, the infallible, who does not speak of his own desire [the Prophet (alayhis salaam)], and that the report in the Qur'an is given generally, without detail, and that we believe in what Allaah has related in the Qur'an upon what Allaah intended by it, and Allaah knows best about the reality.
Harut and Marut and the Tribulation of Magic
وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّى يَقُولاَ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلاَ تَكْفُرْ
...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)."
At-Tabari brings narrations:
Qatadah and al-Hasan: A (covenant) was taken from them that they would not teach anyone until they said, "We are a tribulation so do not disbelieve".
At-Tabari explains that the tribulation (fitnah) is a trial, an examination, a test.
Learning What Separates a Man From His Wife
فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ
And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife...
The meaning of the speech is that the angels would not teach anyone until they said they are a tribulation, but the people would refuse to accept this and proceed to learn from them what would separate a man from his wife.
And this type of magic occurs when a man (or woman) is made to imagine things about the spouse that which is not real, so he may see her as very ugly, or may perceive unbearable smells, and things of this nature, which are not real, but they are only in his own mind, so he is made to imagine things that are not real. This is from the type of magic that is called "imaginary".
At-Tabari brings a narration:
Qatadah: The separation of them (husband and wife) is that he would bewitch each one from its partner,and cause each one of them to hate their partner.
Benefit and Harm Lies Only with Allaah and With His Permission and Decree
وَمَا هُم بِضَآرِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ
...but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah's permission...
Those who learned from the two angels, Harut and Marut, that by which they separate between a man and his wife, were not able to harm (anyone) with what they learned from them both (the angels) through which they (tried) to separate between a man and his wife in relation to anyone amongst the people, except for the one whom Allaah had already decreed that such (magic) will harm him. As for the one for whom Allaah has repelled its harm, and guarded him from the disliked magic, and blowing on knots and spells (incantations), then that will not harm him and its harm will not reach him.
And he brings a narration:
Sufyaan (ath-Thawree): Regarding His saying, "but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah's permission", he said: By the qadaa (ordainment, decree) of Allaah.
And the qadaa (ordainment, decree) here refers to the qadaa al-kawnee, that which relates to all the occurrences in the creation, both good and evil - whilst noting that evil exists only within the occurrences in the creation and not in Allaah's actions of decreeing them and bringing them into existence, since in Allaah's actions are nothing but wisdom and justice, and they have a far-reaching purpose and lofty goals, tied to his wisdom and justice.
Magicians Only Learn What Harms Them
وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلاَ يَنفَعُهُمْ
And they learn that which harms them and profits them not.
They learn from them the magic which harms them in their religion, and it does not benefit them in their hereafter. As for this life in the world, then they used to earn through it and acquire a (means of) living through it.
The Practitioners of Magic Have No Share in the Hereafter
وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُواْ لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِي الآخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلاَقٍ
And indeed they knew that the buyers of it (magic) would have no share in the Hereafter.
At-Tabari brings narrations:
Qatadah: The people of the book knew that from the covenant that Allaah took from them that the sorcerer will have no share on the Day of Judgement with Allaah.
And at-Tabari explains that this is in reference to the Jews at the time of Muhammad (alayhis salaam) for they knew from their own book, the Torah, these facts (as occurs in the above narrations) but despite knowing this they continued to follow the magic rehearsed at the time of Sulayman by the devils and the magic revealed by Harut and Marut to the people at Baabil (Babylon), and they essentially threw the Torah behind their backs, even after knowing the Muhammad was mentioned therein.
As for "buying, purchasing" mentioned in the verse, Shaykh Saalih Aal ash-Shaykh says in explanation of the verse, as occurs in his explanation of Kitab ut-Tawhid on the chapter on magic:
And the magician he has purchased the learning of magic, he has purchase, purchased what thing? He is purchased magic in place of what thing? In place of Tawhid, so the price is Tawhid, the price is faith in Allaah alone, and the object (being bought) is magic... so it means the one who gave his religion as consideration (something of value) for that thing which he took, which is magic...
And there are numerous views on the meaning of "khalaaq" (خَلاَقٍ) such as "naseeb" (portion, share, part) or "hujjah" (proof), meaning such a one has no proof on the Day of Judgement or "deen" (religion), meaning that such a one has no deen. But at-Tabari says what is most correct is that it means "naseeb", that such a one will have no share in the Hereafter.
At-Tabari then says:
He means that such a one will have no share of reward and recompense (jazaa', thawaab) or Paradise, besides his share of the Hellfire... He means that they have no share of good deeds, as for evil deeds then they have their share of them.
Magicians Sell Their Souls
وَلَبِئْسَ مَا شَرَوْاْ بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ لَوْ كَانُواْ يَعْلَمُونَ
And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their own selves, if they but knew.
So He informed about them that they knew that whoever purchased of magic, that he would have no share in the Hereafter, and He described them that they commit disobedience to Allaah, out of full knowledge of it, and they disbelieve in Allaah and His Messengers, and they prefer following the devils and acting upon what they have introduced of magic over His Book, His inspiration and His revelation, out of stubborn opposition on their behalf and transgression against His Messengers, and transgressing His limits, and with their full knowledge of the punishment that lies for them with Allaah for whoever does that....
And in clarification of Allaah first affirming knowledge for them and then negating knowledge from in the end of this verse, at-Tabari says:
Allaah negated knowledge from them by saying, "...if they but knew...", after he had described tehm that they knew, by saying, "...and indeed they knew...", for the reason that they did not act upon what they knew. And the aalim (scholar) is the one who acts upon his knowledge. When his action opposes his knowledge, then he falls amongst the meanings of "the ignorant".
Ibrahim, King Nimrod and Babylon
We mentioned earlier that the Qur'an does not generally make specific mention of place-names when imparting lessons and morals and admonitions through the recounting of history. However, specific mention was made of Baabil (Babylon) in relation to magic and the exoneration of Sulayman from magic. In this section we bring some background information about Babil (Babylon). You should recall that in the time of Nuh, the people turned away from the worship of Allaah to the worship of others, to venerating, and worshipping the righteous dead. After the flood, the offspring of Nuh spread through the earth and a few generations later a tyrant appeared by the name of Nimrod (he was a descendant of Nuh by four generations), who revived and continued the rebellion against Allaah, the Most High.
Allaah says in the Qur'an:
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِي حَآجَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي رِبِّهِ أَنْ آتَاهُ اللّهُ الْمُلْكَ إِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّيَ الَّذِي يُحْيِـي وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا أُحْيِـي وَأُمِيتُ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ يَأْتِي بِالشَّمْسِ مِنَ الْمَشْرِقِ فَأْتِ بِهَا مِنَ الْمَغْرِبِ فَبُهِتَ الَّذِي كَفَرَ وَاللّهُ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
Have you not looked at him who disputed with Ibrahim (Abraham) about his Lord (Allah), because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Ibrahim (Abraham) said (to him): "My Lord (Allah) is He Who gives life and causes death." He said, "I give life and cause death." Ibrahim (Abraham) said, "Verily! Allah causes the sun to rise from the east; then cause it you to rise from the west." So the disbeliever was utterly defeated. And Allah guides not the people, who are wrong-doers. (Al-Baqarah 2:258)
At-Tabari says that this is a tyrant from Babylon called Nimrod, the son of Kan'aan, the son of Kush, the son of Saam, the son of Nuh (Noah). And he brings narrations regarding who this king was:
Mujaahid: It is Nimrod the son of Kan'aan. Qataadah: We used to discuss that it was a king called Nimrod, and he was the first king that was tyrannical upon the earth and he is the builder of the tower at Babylon. Qataadah: His name is Nimrod, and he is the first king that was tyrannical upon the earth and he disputed with Ibrahim regarding his Lord. Ar-Rabee: It has been mentioned to us that the one who argued with Ibrahim regarding his Lord was a king called Nimrod, and he is the first tyrant that was tyrannical upon the earth, and he is the builder of the tower of Babylon. Ibn Juraij: Abdullaah bin Kathir informed me that he heard Mujahid say, "He is Nimrod". Ibn Juraij: He is Nimrod, and it is said he is the first king on the earth.
And at-Tabari also brings narrations from the early commentators explaining the dispute between Ibrahim (alayhis salaam) and Nimrod in that Nimrod claimed that he could bring forth two men, kill one and leave the other, thus proving that he gives life and takes life, and he also claimed he can take four people, feed two of them and starve the other two, thus having control over life and death. So Ibrahim confounded him by asking him to make the sun rise from the West instead of the East, and thus was Nimrod defeated in argument.
Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah says in al-Hamawiyyah (p. 13, Dar ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah), whilst discussing the origins of the negation of Allaah being above the heaven, above His Throne:
The first of when this saying was manifested was from al-Ja'da bin Dirham, and al-Jahm bin Safwan took it from him, and he proclaimed, and the saying of the Jahmiyyah was attributed to him [thereafter]. And it has been said that al-Ja'd took his saying from Abbaan bin Sam'aan, and Abbaan took it from Talut, the nephew of Labeed bin al-A'sam, and Talut took it from Labeed bin al-A'sam, the Jew sorcerer who put magic upon the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), and al-Ja'd bin Dirham - in what has been said - was from the land of Harraan, and there used to be amongst them a great portion of the Sabeans and Philosophers from the remmants of the religion of Nimrod, and the Kan'aanites, and some of the later ones authored [works] on the magic (sihr) of those people - and Nimrod is the King of the Chaldean Sabean Pagans.
And Ibn Taymiyyah also says in Majmoo' al-Fataawaa (35/195):
For Nimrod bin Kan'aan was the king of those (star and planet worshippers), and the Scholars of the Sabeans were the astrologers and their likes. And have idols been worshipped overwhelmingly except on account of the viewpoint (teaching) of this vile faction who consume the wealth of people in falsehood and hinder (others) from the path of Allaah.
So it is clear that the legacy of Nimrod and his people was one of astrology, star and planet worship, magic, and arrogance towards Allaah's authority and dominion over the universe. After his death, Nimrod became deified and worshipped in different nations through a certain mythology involving the sun which denotes "birth" and "rebirth" (rising and setting of the sun) through different names such as Baal, Adonis, Dionysis, Bacchus. Around the same era as Nimrod, a similar mythology appeared out of Egypt in relation to Osiris (a "sun god") and Horus (Osiris reborn in his son, Horus, giving the "birth, rebirth" doctrine) This mythology features very heavily in magic and the occult right until this day and it is behind the belief of reaching "immortality" or "becoming angels" through successive cycles of birth and rebirth. Please refer to this article for related information on how Iblis caused Adam to err through these types of promises:
This subject will be expounded upon in other articles inshaa'Allaah.
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