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Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah: Distinction Between Illusionary Tricks Involving Deception And Those Involving the Devils - Part 2
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Thursday, November 08 2012 - by Admin

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Seemingly Impossible Illusionary Tricks or Extraordinary Feats Comprise Three Groupings of People

Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said (Majmoo' al-Fataawaa, 11/494 onwards), speaking about those who opposed the way of the Muslims and departed from the reality of the religion:

And they are of two types: (أهل حال إبليسي) The people of the Ibleesee state (of being) and (أهل محال تلبيسي) the people of (doing that which is) impossible through deception, trickery.

As for the people of (the Ibleesee) states of being (أهل حال إبليسي)... they come and the drum is beaten and instruments are played for them and they kindle a great, fierce fire into which they place huge (amounts) of iron until there is great suspense, then they fix spears (into the ground) which have spikes (faced upwards), then one of then ascends and sits on top of the spikes of those spears in front of the people, and he takes that molten iron and then passes it over his hands, and the likes of this. And then people see stones being thrown, but do not see who is throwing them, and that is from their devils who ascend with them above the spear, and they are the ones who are actually touching the fire, and those (in that Ibleesee, satanic state of being) do not feel any of that, just like the one possessed is beaten with a very painful strike, but he does not feel it at all, because the strike occurs on the Jinn, then such is the condition of the people of satanic states. For this reason, whenever a man is more resembling of the Jinn and devils his (satanic state of being) is stronger, and this state of being does not come to them except with the mu'adhdhin (caller) of the devil and his qur'an (recital), for the caller is the musical instrument (flute) and the recital is singing.... these are the people of satanic states, they erase the blessings and strengthen (affairs that) bring fear (upon the people), they eat the wealth of the people in falsehood and they do not command the good or prohibit the evil, nor do they strive in the path of Allaah. Rather, they are with whoever gives (wealth) to them, feeds them, and venerates them, even if he was from the Tartars, rather they prefer the Tartars over the Muslims, and they become from their supporters and helpers. And amongst them are those who seek aid (in attaining this state of being) with types of magic and shirk which Allaah the Exalted and His Messenger have made unlawful.

As for the people of (doing the seemingly) impossible amongst them (أهل محال تلبيسي), then they prepare certain potions (or materials) such as talc powder, the oil (fat) of a frog, citrus peel and what is like that. They (put this on their bodies) and walk through the fire with it, and they keep a type of snake which they take as meat and they proceed to eat it in all sinfulness. And (likewise) what they do with sugar, and laadhin (a type of fragrance), rose water, saffron water and blood. All of that is trickery (hiyal) and swindling (sha'wadhah) which is known to the one who is well-informed in these matters. And amongst them is one to whom the devils come, and they are (أهل المحال الشيطاني) people doing seemingly impossible things through the aid of the devils.

A careful reading of the above passage - along with a reading of our previous article, Part 1 of this series, will allow us to realize that those doing illusions and tricks are of types (and it is a mistake to assume there is only one type of illusory trick which is sleight of hand), so here they are:

  • (أهل الحال الإبليسي) - a satanic state. The people of the Ibleesee state (of being) and these are those whom the common people think are the awliyaa to whom "miracles" occur, which are reality satanic states of being in which the devils come and make certain things happen, like flying in the air, walking on water, not feeling the pain of burning or beating and the likes.

  • (أهل المحال التلبيسي) - the people of (doing that which is) impossible through deception, trickery. Those who use sleight-of-hand, using the special properties of certain elements such as powders and oils and the likes which enable them walk through fire without being harmed and the likes of this.

  • (أهل المحال الشيطاني) - the people of (doing that which is seemingly) impossible through aid of the devils, so these are a sub-group of the previous gruop, they are also swindlers and tricksters but who make use of the devils in performing magical feats, they are not using mere trickery, but they levitate, can withstand severe beating, stab themselves, walk in the fire, and rub themselves with molten steel and the likes, and in reality it is the devils who are achieving this for them. This is not "sleight-of-hand" magic in any sense of the word.

This should now provide some insight into what is taking place, and it should allow us to distinguish between mere sleight-of-hand trickery (which does not have the ruling of disbelief) and that which involves the devils, which is clear disbelief.

Clarification that the Magicians Use the Devils To Do Extraordinary Feats ("Illusions") Through Sihr (Magic) And The Ruling on Those Who Prefer Satanic States Over What the Qur'an Came With

Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said (Majmoo' al-Fataawaa, 11/309-310):

And many of the Shaykhs for whom many of these extraordinary feats took place, when one who denied they (were real) and said that you did this through trickery like the one who enters a fire with talc powder, citrus peel or the fat (oil) of a frog and other such natural methods (of trickery), then those Shaykhs became surprised and they said, "By Allaah, we do not know anything of these tricks.", and when the one who is well-informed (i.e. himself, Ibn Taymiyyah) mentioned to them that you are indeed truthful in that, but these are satanic states (through which these feats are done), they acknowledged it and (thus) there was from them one who repented, to whom Allaah had turned, when the truth became clear to him, and when it became clear to him that it was from the devil, and they saw that these (feats) are from the devil...

In this passage we learn again of the distinction between the illusions and extraodinary feats involving the devils and the tricks involving sleight-of-hand performed through skill and specialized knowledge, since those Shaykhs said they had no idea about the tricks they were accused of using to perform these feats, and Ibn Taymiyyah made it clear to them that what they were doing involved the devils, and they acknowledged that and admitted it.

And in another place in al-Majmoo' (8/232-233) Ibn Taymiyyah said, speaking of the common people who think that the people of extraordinary feats are awliyaa, and there are some important benefits in here, so please read slowly and with care:

And they think that they (those extraodinary) feats are from the miracles of the awliya, but they are (achieved in fact) from the satanic states of being whose likes occur to the magicians and fortune-tellers, just as He, the Exalted, said, "And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah 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. 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!" (2:101-103).

And he (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, "You will certainly follow the ways of those who came before you, handspand by handpsan until if they were to enter a lizard's hole you would also enter into it" to the end of the hadeeth.

And the Muslims to whom the Book of Allaah came, the Qur'an, many of those (who ascribed to those "awliyaa") and whom the Shaytaan led astray, turned away and threw the Book of Allaah behind his back, and followed what was given out (falsely) by the devils [of magic], and hence he did not venerate the one for whom the Qur'an ordered loyalty, and he did not show enmity to the one for whom the Qur'an ordered enmity (disavowal). Rather, he venerates the one who brought certain extraodinary feats (khawaariq) whose likes are brought by the magicians and fortune-tellers through the aid of the devils, and these are achieved through what the devils gave out (falsely) [of magic] (وهي تحصل بما تتلوه الشياطين).

Then there are those who know that these (feats) are from the devils, but he venerates him (i.e. the one to whom these extraordinary feats occur) due to his desire and prefers him over the way of the Qur'an, and they are disbelievers, like those about whom Allaah, the Exalted said about them, "Have you not seen those who were given a portion of the Scripture? They believe in Jibt [magic] and Taghut [satan] and say to the disbelievers that they are better guided as regards the way than the believers (Muslims). They are those whom Allaaah has cursed, and he whom Allaah curses, you will not find for him (any) helper." (4:51-52), and these ones resemble the ones about whom Allaah said, "And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah confirming what was with them ... but the Shayaateen (devils) disbelieved" (2:101-103)...

A careful reading of the above passage will give us the following benefits:

ONE: That what happens to these Shaykhs (who are taken to be awliyaa) are satanic states of being and in that situation they are aided by the devils in the performance of certain feats - such as levitating, flying in the air, walking on water, pouring molten iron on their skin, being stabbed or pierced with spears, or balancing oneself upon them - and what is similar to this - and that this of the same type as what is done by the magicians through their sihr (magic) with the aid of the devils, and who achieve this through rehearsing what has been taught by the devils. Ibn Taymiyyah said (in what is quoted above):

And they think that they (those extraodinary) feats are from the miracles of the awliya, but they are (achieved in fact) from the satanic states of being whose likes occur to the magicians and fortune-tellers [then quotes the verses relating to magic, the devils who taught it] ...Rather, he venerates the one who brought certain extraodinary feats (khawaariq) whose likes are brought by the magicians and fortune-tellers through the aid of the devils, and these are achieved through what the devils gave out (falsely) [of magic] (وهي تحصل بما تتلوه الشياطين).

And so this allows us to make a clear distinction between the magic which involves the devils to perform the seemingly impossible things and these people are (أهل المحال الشيطاني) and those who do not use devils but mere trickery and deception (sleight-of-hand) through specialized knowledge and use of materials and gadgets and the likes, they are (أهل المحال التلبيسي). And these both are a different category from (أهل الحال الإبليسي), those claimed "awliyaa" entering into satanic states of being through practice of what involves shirk and innovated worship and doing that which Allaah made unlawful of eating the unlawful and committing lewd acts and the likes, until the devils come to them and they are able to perform extraodinary feats which the ignorant take as miracles.

TWO: And in light of the first point, we can now repeat what we said in the conclusion to Part 1, because that is the actual intent of these articles: 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). In our previous article regarding the statements of Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen, it was explained:

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.

From what has preceded from the speech of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and likewise from Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen and Shaykh Ibn Baz (rahimahumullaah) - and from all previous articles on this topic - a framework has been provided within which to grasp and understand the rulings of the scholars (and Muslim authorities) with respect to the people who fall into these types of activities and that prescribed punishments may be a) for merely causing corruption harm and embezzling people's wealth, or b) for what constitutes actual apostasy (kufr, shirk) or c) a combination of both - and what is correct in the matter, as indicated by Shaykh al-Shanqeetee and others, is that magic which does not use the agency of the devils and whose ways and means do not comprise kufr and shirk (such as sleight-of-hand tricks and the likes), then this is not kufr and apostasy, but rather something unlawful which is severely prohibited nevertheless.

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