Sunday 19th of January 2020

Divination or Kahanat-Soothsaying

Divination or Kahanat-Soothsaying

To predict future events is known as divining and when the prediction is made on the knowledge obtained through some groups of Jinns it is known as Kahanat. (However we shall use the word soothsaying as an equivalent of Kahanat). Kahanat pertains to the prediction of future with the help of special knowledge. For example, the soothsayer may be adept at guessing the words of the enquirer or his private affairs etc. According to the author of Nihaya this kind of soothsayer is known as 'Aaraaf' but according to the majority of scholars a soothsayer is the one who predicts with the help of Jinns. The Jinns inform him of hidden matters. For example, he might be able to find where a stolen thing is hidden or who is the thief, or who is the murderer of a particular person. All the jurists are unanimous in their opinion that 'Kahanat' or soothsaying is Haraam. Just as it is Haraam to learn, teach, perform magic, in the same way it is Haraam to learn soothsaying, to act upon the advice of a soothsayer and even to go for advice from a soothsayer. Some scholars maintain that soothsaying is a kind of magic.

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says:
"One who divines or the one who goes to a soothsayer for divination, (both) have renounced the religion of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.)."

Janabe Haitham enquired from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.), "There is a person we know who informs about stolen property etc. Is it permitted for us to seek his advice?"

The Holy Imam (a.s.) said,
"The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) has mentioned that one who goes to a sorcerer, a soothsayer or a liar and testifies to what he says has become an infidel in the light of all the divine books revealed on Allah's Messengers."
(Makasib Muharrama of Shaykh Ansari)

The Shaykh comments that according to this tradition, informing about the hidden matters is Haraam; whether through divination or otherwise. However, if someone guesses and conjectures or doubts; it is allowed. Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) considers soothsaying a prohibited profession and also considers it earnings Haraam. Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) is also recorded to have mentioned a similar tradition.

Ignorance about future is better for the people

We must comprehend that prohibition of soothsaying is beneficial to us. Allah the Almighty does not wish people to have knowledge of the future. It is possible that a person may come to know of something of tremendous importance which will take place is according to his wishes. But their happening may be dependant on his giving Sadaqah or invoking Allah. Having this knowledge beforehand may prevent the person from giving Sadaqah and invoking Allah with the result he will be deprived of his wishes. Similaly he may come to know of some calamity is to befall and this will cause him great anxiety when in reality this happening may not occur at all because of change in Allah's ordinance (Badaa). It is prominent that many calamities are warded off by invoking Allah or giving Sadaqah or due to some good actions of the person or repentance. We can recall the people of Prophet Yunus (a.s.), who were to be subjected to a great disaster. But their dua and repentance at the eleventh hour changed the course of their destiny. The Quran has also mentioned this fact.

A tradition is quoted in the Ihtejaj of Tabarsi from the sixth Imam (a.s.). The gist of the same is as follows:
After the birth of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) the shaitans and the Jinns were denied access to the heavens, hence they were unable to give information about the heavenly affairs. Now they could only inform about the evil magical matters. This information is unreliable because among the jinns too there are liars as well as truthful jinns. Therefore the fortune telling of a diviner is unreliable.

Sorcery and soothsaying are evil

To comprehend the evil of magic and soothsaying it is enough to know the numerous frauds, crimes, thefts and cheating committed through them. The sorcerer discontinues all the good actions and concentrates only on performing satanic rituals. He commits adultery with a married woman, sometimes he kills a person or drinks human blood. He shows disrespect to the things that Allah has made respectful. For example, he desecrates the verses of the Holy Quran. He performs actions that bring him closer to shaitans and eventually enters their company. Rather he debases himself lower than the shaitans so that they may help him in soothsaying and sorcery.

It is certainly a great pity that a human being who is capable of utmost good and worthy of rising to a position equal to angels or even higher, should so debase himself by his evil deeds that his position is degraded below that of the Shaitan.


Fast movements of an object can create an optical illusion for the beholder. For example if a ball of fire is moved in circles it seems to be a circle of fire. In the same way a person who is travelling in a car or train feels himself stationary and feels that his surroundings are moving in the opposite direction. Some people are adept at creating illusions of this type which audience perceives as real. To create such an illusion is Shobada. All the fuqaha are unanimous that Shobada is Haraam; and that it is a type of magic. A tradition of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) in Ihtejaj also mentions that creating illusions is a kind of sorcery. Another form of this magic consists of the perceived effect being a reality and not an illusion. The magicians of Firon used both the methods with Hazrat Musa (a.s.). First they created an illusion, then they switched over to actual sorcery. Apart from these there are many other kinds of magics and tricks; but we need not go into details.

It has been narrated about Abu Hafs Hadaad that when he was a young man he had fallen in love with a lady. He was so enchanted by her that he was prepared to do anything to acquire her. Someone told him that there was a magician Jew in Nishapur and he would be able to fulfill his wishes. He went to the Jew and told him about his desires. The magician told him to abstain from prayers and other good deeds for forty days so that he can make his magic work for him. Abu Hafs returned from there and acted upon the instigation of the sorcerer.

After the forty days had elapsed Abu Hafs went to the Jew again and told him that so far the magic had not worked. The magician was also surprised and he told Abu Hafs that he must have done at least one good deed in those forty days that has nullified the magic. Abu Hafs pondered, and said that as far as he remembered he had not done a single good action except that he had picked up a stone from the path so that it may not maim a traveller. "That was it!" The magician exclaimed, "Though you disobeyed God these forty days and did not fulfill any obligation, yet He is such a Merciful God that He accepted even such a small deed from you and prevented the magic to work for you. So, it is not appropriate for you to disobey such a generous God."

The words of the magician had such effect on Abu Hafs that he repented for his misdeeds and became absorbed in worship and sought forgiveness from Allah. He became so pious that eventually he was bestowed miraculous power by the Almighty.

The powers of the magician are limited

When Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) had described the different varieties of magic to the one who had posed a question, the person asked Imam (a.s.) if it was possible for a magician to transform a human being into a dog or a pig etc.? Imam (a.s.) said,
"The magician cannot do this, because if he can transform the creations of Allah he will become a partner of Allah in His creation whereas no one can be a partner to Allah."

If the magician had such vigors he would have got rid of his own senility, difficulties and maladies and would not have allowed his hair to gray and would have removed his own poverty.

Actually the most dangerous kind of magic is that which causes differences between two friends. It creates hatred and malice between those who love each other. Such discord and dissension can also be created by instigating people against each other. The two are closely inter-related.

Taskheraat (controlling jinns etc.)

Taskheraat can be defined as the method of controlling Angels, Jinns, souls or various wild animals. This is also Haraam and considered a form of sorcery. The Shaykh has also mentioned in Makasib that all the characteristics of magic and sorcery are present in Taskheraat. Although Shahid-e-Awwal and Shahid-e-Thani consider magic haraam because it does harm to others, they may have also considered that the fact the process of controlling angels and jinns causes them much sufferings.

Qayafa (Guess)

Qayafa is the art of determining the lineage of an individual. A person practicing Qayafa can decide whether a particular individual is the son or brother of another. But this practice is against the doctrine of Islam for establishing lineage and it is a kind of magic, therefore it is haraam in view of all the jurists. On the other hand it is possible for a knowledgeable and wise person to ascertain certain facts regarding an individual on the basis of his physical characteristics. This practice is not haraam. Many unaccustomed episodes have been narrated on the basis of such knowledge.

An interesting incident is mentioned in Al Kafi as well as the eleventh volume of Behaar. During the time of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.), Ali bin Huraira was a governor of the Abbasid Caliph. He had a slave named Rafeed. One day he was so angry with Rafeed that he decided to kill him. Rafeed ran away and took refuge with Imam Sadiq (a.s.). Imam (a.s.) told him to go back to his master and say that Imam (a.s.) has ordered him to spare his life, as he has taken refuge with Imam (a.s.). Rafeed was horrified but Imam (a.s.) insisted that he go back. So Rafeed obeyed and when he was on his way he met an Arab, who said, "Where are you going? Your face is that of a dead man." Then he told Rafeed to show his hand. Again he remarked that the hands were of a person who has been killed. He looked at the legs and passed the same judgement. He said that his complete body was that of a person who has been murdered. Then he asked him to show his tongue. Upon seeing the tongue he remarked, "No harm will come to you because your tongue is that of an envoy and it carries such a message that if you were to go to huge mountains they would become soft, and become obedient to you."

Rafeed says that when he came to his master Ali bin Huraira, he at once gave the orders for his execution. His hands were tied and an executioner moved towards him with a naked sword. Then he told his master that it was not he who had got him arrested, but that he himself had returned to him. He also requested him to listen to what he had to say in privacy. He agreed to the appeal and Rafeed told him, "Ja'far bin Muhammad (a.s.) the master of both of us has sent you salaam and requested you to spare my life." When he heard this he could not believe it. Rafeed repeated it to him under oath. He at once freed him and asked his forgiveness. He insisted that his hands be tied in the same way by Rafeed. Rafeed could not make himself do this; but upon insistence he tied his hands and untied them quickly. Then he gave his seal ring to Rafeed and set him free.

Similarly, Shaykh Sadooq has related from Hisham that he went with Imam Musa bin Ja'far (a.s.) to a slave trader who had come from the west. Imam (a.s.) selected a slave girl but the trader refused to sell her. The next day Hisham went alone and bought the slave girl at a higher price according to Imam's instructions. The slave trader asked him who was that man who had accompanied him the other day. Hisham acted under Taqayya and said he didn't know much, but that he was from the Bani Hashim. The slave trader said, "When I had purchased this slave-girl from a far away site in the west and was carrying her with me, a woman stopped me and asked where I was taking her. I said I had purchased her for myself. She said the girl was not made for me. She was destined for a man who was the best of the people in the world and in the near future she will give birth to a son to whom the west and east will be subservient."

In keeping with the prediction, the slave girl gave birth to Imam Reza (a.s.). 

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