By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam
16 April 2022
The readers might be aware that Bushra Bibi, wife of the disgraced Pak PM Imran Khan, has a proclivity towards Black Magic (Sehar) and Sifli-Ilm (sorcery). Grapevine had it that she had two 'invincible' jinn who were at her beck and call and served her as factotums. Alas, even they couldn't help Imran retain the PM's chair. Even when Imran was at the helm, the rationalists like Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pakistani nuclear physicist and activist, discarded this mumbo-jumbo as a moronic pursuit.
Sorcery or occultism is indeed rank nonsense and it's anything but Islamic. Sir Carveth Reid called Black Magic a superstition from pre-religious cults that sneaked into 'modern' religions as vestiges (read, ' Man and his superstitions' by Sir Reid). Sifli Ilm is a primitive manifestation of magic and animism, prevalent before Islam. A comprehensive study of Islam across the globe makes it obvious that the occult practices are still prevalent among the Muslims of the sub-continent and North Africa.
Voodoo practices in pre-Islamic North African tribes and Jadu-Tona of the sub-continent wormed into Islam when it spread to these regions. Since humans are inherently vulnerable and superstitious by nature, they fall for such debased and mindless practices and believe that these dubious practices can bring about desired results. They don't. Pristine Islam doesn't believe in these superstitious interpolations and additions. In fact, Islam is inherently disdainful of all that's speculative and lacks certitude.
That's why, Islam encouraged astronomy, but it discouraged astrology. It's worthwhile to mention that while Europe was in an intellectual coma, the Islamic empire which stretched from Moorish Spain, to Egypt and even China, was entering their “Golden Age”. Astronomy was of particular interest to Islamic scholars in Iran and Iraq and until this time around 800 AD, the only astronomical textbook was Ptolemy’s Almagest, written around 100 AD in Greece. This venerable text is still used as the main reference for ancient astronomy in academia to this day.
Muslim scholars waited 700 years for this fundamental Greek text to be translated into Arabic, and once it was, they got to work understanding its contents. But Islam never promoted astrology because of its indefinite nature and power of creating inertia among humans. Islam believes in the dynamics of action and looks down upon those who believe in the putative powers of the stars. A quatrain in Urdu articulates this so well:
Na Raha Chaand-Sitaron Ka Main Mohtaaj Kabhi
Apni Mehnat Ke Sada Maine Ujale Dekhe
Tazkira Usne Lakeeron Ka Wahin Chhod Diya
Jab Nujoomi Ne Mere Haath Ke Chhale Dekhe
( Never have I been a slave and subservient to the stars in the firmament/ I've seen the light of my dynamism/He stopped the narration of the lines on my palms/The moment soothsayer got to see the blisters on my hands)
Islam believes in Purusharth (Karma) and asserts that ' Lakeeron Mein Nahin Mahdoodo-Muqayyad Insaan Ki Qismat ' (a man's destiny is not confined to the lines on the palm). Despite the existence of Ilm-e-Nujoom (astrology) and Ilm-e-Ramal of Arab peninsula, predicting future is not encouraged in Islam for, it makes one a fatalist. So, even astrology is a superstition in Islam and there's no denying the fact that astrology is indeed a pseudoscience. Islam believes in the present and its amelioration for a naturally better tomorrow. Let the future be unknown for the sake of an individual's progress as a human. To quote Alexander Pope, " Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate/All but the page prescribed, their present state."
An occasional columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to world's premier publications in several languages including Persian.
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