Magic!

Many people from different religions, including Sunnism, believe in magic. Some even go as far as saying that there is good magic and bad magic and they believe that the "good" magic will benefit them. The following is an example of a Bukhari Hadith where Sunnis get such views:

The Book of Bukhari, Volume 7: #671: Narrated Saad:
"Whoever takes seven 'Ajwa dates in the morning will not be effected by magic or poison on that day."

The above Hadith is repeated many times in slightly different forms in both the books of Bukhari and Muslim and is thus considered amongst the highly authentic Hadiths (For example, see The Book of Bukhari, Volume 7: #356 - The Book of Bukhari, Volume 7: #663 - The Book of Bukhari, Volume 7: #664 - The Book of Muslim, Book 023: #5081).
When one attempts to expose the clear falsehood of such Hadiths, the popular Sunni reply is that they believe in magic because it is in the Quran and they quote verse 2:102 to support this view. Some even go as far a saying that magic is like technology to primitive people. Before accepting the Sunni view on magic, it is worth checking for oneself what the Quran says about this subject.
Here is the interpretation of verse 2:102:
And they followed what the devils recite regarding Solomon's kingship. Solomon did not reject, but the devils rejected by teaching the people the magic and what was descended on the two kings Harut and Marut at Babylon. They do not teach anyone until they say: "We are but a test, so do not reject". So they learn from them what they separate with between the person and his mate, and they are not harming with it anyone except with The God's permission. And they learn what harms them and does not benefit them, and they have known that for who bought it, there is no share of happiness in the ending, and miserable indeed is what they bought with themselves, if they were knowing. [2:102]
Verse 2:102 doesn't define what magic is. It simply says that the devils (which can be human or jinn) teach people two things: Magic and what was descended on two Babylonian kings. From the verse, it is not possible to tell which thing (magic or what was descended on the two kings) is what they use to try to separate couples. However, as clear from the verse, both of the things they learned cannot benefit the people who learned it. So what other verses in the Quran can help us understand the definition of magic?
He said: "Throw." So when they threw, they bewitched/tricked the people's eyes/sights and they terrified them, and they came with great magic. [7:116]
If The God refers to the magic in 7:116 as "great" then it must really have been extraordinary by any standard. However, according to 7:116 even such "great" magic is nothing but tricking the people's eyes, in other words it is not real.
Verse 20:66 confirms that unlike technology, magic is not real, it is only an illusion of the eyes:
He said: "Rather you throw." So then their ropes and their sticks gave him the illusion, because of their magic, that they are moving [20:66]
Even the rejecters know deep inside that magic is only trickery and is not real, thus they reject The God's message because they think it is only a trick:
They would have said: "But our eyes/sights got confused, but we are a bewitched nation. [15:15]
Their hearts/minds are being distracted and they secretly conspire, those who caused injustice/oppression (say): 'Is that except a human similar to you? Do you get the magic while you are seeing?' [21:3]
So when Moses came to them with Our clear evidences/signs, they said: 'What is that except fabricated magic, and We did not hear about that in our primitive forefathers.' [28:36]
Thus The God refutes the rejecters on judgment day by telling them that what they are seeing is real not magic:
So is that magic? Or you do not see? [52:15]
Technology succeeds in changing people's lives and making it better. On the other hand, because magic is only a visual illusion that tricks the eye, it doesn't succeed in changing anything in reality. Hence, even children know that a circus magician doesn't really make a handkerchief disappear out of this universe.
Moses Said: "Do you say to the truth when it came to you, 'is that magic?'" while the magicians do not succeed. [10:77]
'And throw what is in your right hand, it snatches quickly what they made, truly they made a magician's plot, and the magician does not succeed when he gets.' [20:69]
Of course, some aspects of technology make use of "eye trickery" like magic. For example, interlaced TV relies on eye trickery to deceive us into thinking that the picture is continuous. Similarly, shuttered glasses in Virtual Reality environments deceive us into thinking that we are seeing a 3D object. However, even in those cases, the technology itself (the TV and the shuttered glasses) is real not magic.
As a result of Bukhari and other Hadith superstitions, many Sunnis believe that magical miracles can be performed through saintly people ("awliyaa"). They use the Quran for superstitious rituals and recite some verses or chapters a certain number of times thinking that it wards off magic or that it helps them get what they want. Absurd ceremonies such as exorcism and "ruqyah" are bought to cure illnesses or ward off evil (For example, see The Book of Bukhari, Volume 7, #633).
Indeed, as narrated in verse 2:102, a multitude of devilish Sunni scholars have sold many books and tapes teaching cures for bad magic and instructing in the so-called good magic ("alsihr alhalal") and they are bestsellers among Sunnis. Consequently, many Sunnis believe that magic spells (a'amal) can help them or hurt them and thus they spend a lot of money and effort on buying spells and counter-spells.
..and they have known that for who bought it, there is no share of happiness in the ending, and miserable indeed is what they bought with themselves, if they were knowing. [2:102]
Indeed, miserable is what they bought!
CONCLUSION
In summary, from the Quran, magic has the following characteristics:

  1. Magic is not real.
  2. It is simply a fabricated trick/lie that deceives the eyes.
  3. It doesn't benefit that who buys it and believes in its benefit.
  4. It harms that who buys it thinking that it will benefit him/her.
  5. It doesn't succeed in changing anything in reality.
  6. Whoever bought it thinking that it would benefit him/her has no chance of succeeding in the hereafter.

After gaining this understanding from the Quran, let's review the Bukhari hadith that was quoted earlier:

The Book of Bukhari, Volume 7: #671: Narrated Saad:
"Whoever takes seven 'Ajwa dates in the morning will not be effected by magic or poison on that day."

What are the characteristics of this Bukhari hadith and others like it?

  1. It is not real since anybody who eats seven 'Ajwa' dates in the morning and then takes some cyanide will die.
  2. It is simply a fabricated lie against the Prophet that deceives people.
  3. It doesn't benefit that who buys it and believes in its benefit.
  4. It harms that who buys it and carelessly approaches a snake after eating seven dates.
  5. It doesn't succeed in changing anything in reality because the snake will remain poisonous.
  6. Whoever bought and accepted it into his/her religion has no chance of succeeding in the hereafter.

Indeed who fabricates the lies/falsehood are those who do not have faith in The God's verses/evidences, and those, they are the liars. [16:105]
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:
This is the book, no doubt, in it guidance for the forethoughtful. [2:2]
Tomorrow, I will try to improve my understanding of the Quran and the universe, except if The God wills ("ila an yasha'a Allah") and perhaps my Lord guides me to what is nearer in rationality. This article reflects my personal interpretation of the Quranic verses as of March 18th, 2003. Please be humble by following the example set by the angels in 2:32, verify all information within for yourself as commanded in 17:36, and remember that simply "none" is the forethoughtful answer to 45:6. If The God willed ("in sha'a Allah"), the outcome of this article will be beneficial.
 

By Ayman (drayman@fast-email.com)

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