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Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah: Distinction Between Illusionary Tricks Involving Deception And Those Involving the Devils - Part 1
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Thursday, November 08 2012 - by Abu.Iyaad

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All of these matters are clear from the statements of the people of knowledge and in this article we want to elaborate upon a distinction we made a couple of days ago (see here) in a comment upon the very good tafseel (clarification) made in the speech of Shaykh al-Barraak on the subject magic which is haqeeqiyy and takhyeeliyy:

Important Note: The reader should note that in the last paragraph above, the Shaykh is distinguishing between tricks that are done through specialized knowledge and certain skills or advanced technology and the likes and which can be explained, and between those which cannot be achieved except through the agency of the devils. And whilst the Shaykh mentioned examples of some of those feats of "magic" which are done at circuses, these feats can be of two kinds: Those which actually involve trickery and use of special items and artefacts and those which involve the devils. The same type of trick can be achieved using both means, so for example, a special type of sword made of special material and construction that is able to retract may be used, or the setting of the stage for the trick, using special lighting and so on, may make it appear that a person has been struck or stabbed with a sword and what is similar to this. On the other hand, it is also possible that the person who is being stabbed is a devil who has taken on that form and the devil is involved as part of the magic trick. And many of these types of tricks that involve actual levitation for example (not the fake levitation done by today's magicians using wires and other types of tricks and deception), they cannot be done except with the devils, and these are known throughout the centuries, the Scholars of Islam have mentioned them and stated that these involve the devils, no doubt. Thus, these examples the Shaykh has given are from the angle of intending those things that are through the support, aid and powers available through the devils. And this no doubt is the magic which is shirk, as the Shaykh mentioned earlier.

It is this issue that we are going to elaborate upon in this article and the purpose and benefit of this is that it allows to grasp the true nature of the implementation of the prescribed punishments that are specified and which were implemented by some of the Companions or which may be implemented by those in authority with respect to people involved in these affairs.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah on Illusionary Magic That is Sleight of Hand and Illusionary Magic that Involves the Devils

In Fataawaa al-Iraaqiyyah (p. 545) of Ibn Taymiyayah (rahimahullaah) there is a question put to the Shaykh about:

...a Shaykh and his sons who orders those in abstinent poverty (fuqaraa) to eat snake, they eat it in his presence with its blood flowing into their beards, and then he orders them to enter the fire whilst eating it, and this Shayk brings a staff and makes blood or oil to flow from it.... and he claims all of this is from Divine miracles, so are these Divine acts or are they satanic? ... For verily these innovations have spread in the land and Shaytan has deceived the hearts of a large group, so respond to us, may you be rewarded and recompensed...

And from the answer of the Shaykh (rahimahullaah) is the following (excerpted to provide the relevant parts):

All praise is due to Allaah, the Lord of the Worlds, whoever orders the people to eat snakes, scorpions or hornets or other such things from the vile things (khabaa'ith) which Allaah and His Messenger have made unlawful, and makes that to be from the karaamaat (miracle, extraordinary feat) of the Awliyaa, then he is an innovator deserving of punishment which will discipline him and make him withhold from that...

Then some Shariah texts prohibiting the eating of these types of things, then he continues (p. 546):

And whoever ate - from those who ascribe to poverty (i.e. abstinence) and devotion - snakes, scorpions, hornets, dead (animals), filthy things and other than them, then the devil enters into them so they can eat that, then they do what Allaah and His Messenger have declared unlawful... and likewise the one who ordered his devotees (mureeds) to enter the fire, he is an astray, innovating shaykh, his reality is that there are devils with him who enter the devotee when he enters the fire. For this reason they (devils) only enter (the fire) in the presence of the people of ignorance and misguidance who do not have anything of faith or certainty, the angels are not present, those which repel the devils. So when one of the people of knowledge and faith in Allaah and His Messenger, who follow Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) inwardly and outwardly is present with those people, and one of them enters the fire, he is burned because his devils which had entered into him fled at that time. And when a truthful person recites Ayat ul-Kursi over them many times with a truthful heart, their devils flee and the fire burns them (those people), the likes of this has occurred to more than one of the righteous people with those people. This is when one of them eats snake and enters the fire in a satanic state (الحال الشيطاني).

As for the one who does that through (الحال البهتاني), fraudulent, lying state, then these people work tricks and use potions (materials), such as the talc powder, the oil (fat) of a frog, the peel of citrus and what is besides them of the materials well-known to the one who is occupied (in those fields of work that make use of them).

And likewise what they manifest of blood, saffron, fragrance and fat [from them] is one who does that through a satanic state and one who does that through a fraudulent (swindling) state.

This speech of Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah confirms the tafseel (detail) we have alluded to many times in our previous articles and that illusory tricks are those which involve the devils and those which do not involve the devils, and that what is known as "sleight-of-hand" tricks (not involving the devils) is a separate category from those types of tricks that do involve the devils. Notice the use of the two terms:

  • (الحال الشيطاني) - a satanic state. Here extraordinary feats are performed with the assistance of the devils
  • (الحال البهتاني) - a deceiving state. Here they are mere sleight-of-hand tricks involving deception and the use of specialized knowledge.

In the quote from Shaykh Abdur-Rahman al-Barraak four days ago, this matter was alluded to, it was clarified in the refutation against Kamal al-Mekki, here are the words of the Shaykh (refer to full article):

As for what the deceivers use to deceive (the people) by way of feats of activity which return back to the sleight of hand, as they claim, and with rapid movement and the magic of trickery, then this is what takes place by working trickery through the use of certain elements which makes them appear upon other than their realities. And this magic is magic only in the linguistic sense, it is not from the magic which is kufr. However they have made it (this type of magic) as an avenue with which to spread the actions of actual true and real magic, such as striking a man with a sword without it killing him, and eating hot coals, and swallowing a snake, and splitting iron which are things comprised in what they call a circus.

And our comment on this:

Important Note: The reader should note that in the last paragraph above, the Shaykh is distinguishing between tricks that are done through specialized knowledge and certain skills or advanced technology and the likes and which can be explained, and between those which cannot be achieved except through the agency of the devils. And whilst the Shaykh mentioned examples of some of those feats of "magic" which are done at circuses, these feats can be of two kinds: Those which actually involve trickery and use of special items and artefacts and those which involve the devils. The same type of trick can be achieved using both means, so for example, a special type of sword made of special material and construction that is able to retract may be used, or the setting of the stage for the trick, using special lighting and so on, may make it appear that a person has been struck or stabbed with a sword and what is similar to this. On the other hand, it is also possible that the person who is being stabbed is a devil who has taken on that form and the devil is involved as part of the magic trick. And many of these types of tricks that involve actual levitation for example (not the fake levitation done by today's magicians using wires and other types of tricks and deception), they cannot be done except with the devils, and these are known throughout the centuries, the Scholars of Islam have mentioned them and stated that these involve the devils, no doubt. Thus, these examples the Shaykh has given are from the angle of intending those things that are through the support, aid and powers available through the devils. And this no doubt is the magic which is shirk, as the Shaykh mentioned earlier.

Illusionary Tricks With the Assistance of the Devils Involving Satanic, Shirkiyy (Polytheistic) Practices

In another place (p. 740) Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah states, speaking about a type of intoxication that affects the soul (just like there is intoxication which affects the body) and how the devils bring about satanic states in people through this:

...until some of them kill others without even the touch of a hand, rather with the devils which are associated with them, for they attain satanic states (of being), where the devils descend upon them in that (intoxicated) state, and they speak upon their tongues just as a Jinn speaks on the tongue of the possessed... and those who enter the fire whilst departing from the Shariah (in their actions, [alluding to those mentioned in the previous quote]), they are of this type (whom the devils descend upon), for the devils occupy one of them such that his perception, feeling (ihsaas) of his body is withdrawn (lost), (and it becomes like) when a possessed person is beaten with a mighty strike, yet he does not perceive it and nor does it have any effect on his skin, then likewise these people, the devils are attached to them, and enter the fire with them, and sometimes they will levitate (and move) with him in the sky, but [what is really taking place] is that the devil is attached to him alongside his mind being absent, just like when a devil possesses someone. And in the land of India and Maghreb there are a group of the Zatt (Jatt)[1], it is said about one of them "the burner", for he burns in the fire just like those (just mentioned) burn in the fire, so (the devils attach to him) and he enters the fire, and he also levitates into the sky,and he stands (balances) over a spike made of iron and he does things which are even more far-reaching than those (mentioned earlier), and they are from the Zatt (Jatt) who have no share [i.e. in the Hereafter for their disbelief through these actions]. And the Jinn snatch many of the men and take them away from the vision of the people and fly with them in the sky, and we have witnessed these affairs whose mention would be prolonged. And likewise, this is also done by those devotees and those ascribing to some of the Shaykhs, when they listen they experience a wajd (a "spiritual" experience) brought about through listening (samaa') such as that of al-Makaa' and al-Tasdiyah, then from them is one who levitates in the sky and balances on the spike of a spear, and walks into a fire, and takes iron melted by the fire and puts it on his body and activities of this type. And this state (of being) is not attained by him at the time of prayer or the time of remembrance and nor with the recitation of the Qur'an, because they are legislated, Islamic, faithful, prophetic, Muhammadan acts of worship which repel the devils. And those (done by these people with involvement of devils) are innovated, polytheistic, devilish, philosophical acts of worship that draw out the devils...

And in Kitaab al-Nubuwwaat (ed. al-Tawiyyaan, Maktabah Adwaa al-Salaf, 1420H), Ibn Taymiyyah said (p. 1000):

And this is from the same type as what is done by the magicians, for the magician will ascend in the sky whilst the people are watching, and he will also ride upon some inanimate things either a cane, or a jar, or a broom or other than that, so he ascends into the sky with it, and this is because the devils are carrying him... and likewise walking on the water...

Comments on the Above

The above realities explained by Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah offer us deepful insight into the reality of illusionary tricks and that there is a distinction between (الحال الشيطاني) - illusions brought about through satanic state, here the people are seeing what they are seeing, except that the devils are involved, occupy the people who enter into Satanic states, and make them lose their ability to feel pain and what is like this, or carry them into the air, or walk on water or to eat and swallow snakes, or give them extraodinary power and the likes. And then the (الحال البهتاني) - a deceiving state. Here they are mere sleight-of-hand tricks involving deception and the use of specialized knowledge.

Once that is clear, we can now appreciate what has been clarified by Shaykhs Ibn Baz and Shaykhs Ibn Uthaymeen in our previous articles on the matter of the prescribed punishment and the killing of magicians by some of the Companions (radiallaahu anhum). From our previous article concerning the statements of Shaykh Ibn al-Uthaymeen:

Note that Islam has come to protect the five necessities: a) sound religion, b) the body, c) the mind or intellect, d) wealth and property and e) honour and lineage. The legislations in Islaam are aimed at protecting these five necessities, and it is from this perspective we understand the wisdom behind the various injunctions in many different affairs (marriage, divorce, inheritance, intoxicants, social dealings, transactions and so on). With respect to magic in particular, then it is something that destroys these five necessities, magic (in its various types) affects them all, it affects sound religion (eemaan, tawhid), the bodies of people, the minds of people, the honours of people, the wealth of people. As a result, the prescribed punishment is specified for people who cause corruption upon the earth in order to protect the lives, honours and wealth of the people, alongside protection of their eemaan and deen. And sometimes this prescribed punishment is meted out for shirk and kufr (entailing apostasy) - due to involvement with devils and magic which expels from Islam, or for dhulm (oppression) and fisq (sinfulness) where people are being harmed in their bodies, wealth, and minds by those who use potions and medications to harm people.

Ibn Baz (rahimahullaah) says in his commentary on the chapter pertaining to magic in Kitab al-Tawhid the following (Dar al-Diyaa, 1422H, p. 129), regarding the killing of a magician by Jundub al-Azdee:

Some of the people, from them al-Shafi'ee said: If the magic of the magician is through known things which harm but which do not alter the minds, rather they harm and cause illness and in which there is no claim of knowledge of the unseen, and it was not from one who seeks the service of the devils and aid from them, and does not perform that which Allaah has prohibited of shirk and other than it, then he is not killed. Because this is not from magic, rather, it is from causing harm and oppression. Hence, he is merely beaten and disciplined [as opposed to being killed], because the intent behind killing the magicians in the view of the Sahaabah is (to eliminate) those who employ the Jinn, worship them and claim knowledge of the unseen, since this is what is found overwhelmingly amongst the magicians, so such a one is killed, and this is what is correct.

And Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah) said (as occurs here and included in this article here) in his explanation of al-Safaareeniyyah:

And magic is of two types, magic through which a magician becomes a disbeliever and that is magic through the route of seeking aid from the devils, this one disbelieves due to the saying of Allaah, the Exalted, "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)"." (2:101-102). And it is obligatory to kill this magician due to his disbelief and corruption. So if he repents, he is killed for his corruption (and not disbelief). And magic through which a magician does not become a disbeliever, and this is what occurs through potions (used to harm others), however it is necessary for him to be killed in order to repel his corruption (in harming others). So the saying of the author (rahimahullaah), "And the male and female magician" it has this detail to it, so we say, if he disbelieves through his magic, his repentance is not accepted with the consideration that we are establishing the prescribed punishment upon him and we kill him. And if he does not become a disbeliever through his magic, we establish the prescribed punishment upon him out of purification (of the land of his likes) but not due to disbelief.

Footnotes

[1] The word (الزط), refers to "Jatt" which is reference to a people in India who would live around river banks and the likes for their subsistence. Prior to Islam and after Islam many of them migrated to the Arab lands. When the Muslmis approached India for the first time, there were two main groups, the Zatt (Jatt) and the Meed. Refer to Ibn Hawqal, "Soorat ul-Ard", Ibn Sa'eed's "Kitaab al-Jaghraafeeyaa" and Abu al-Fidaa's "Taqeem al-Buldaan" (through Meenaa Dabeel's "The Regions of Sind")



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