THE ISSUE OF seeking treatment with ruqya and the Quran is a very serious one requiring frank discussion due to the fact that a number of innovations and superstitions that have no support in the Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet œ or the examples of his noble Companions are being practiced in the name of ruqya and healing through Quran.
Although ruqya is commonly translated as “incantation,” this definition is somewhat misleading and carries a negative connotation in English. While the word incantation is usually associated with stories of witchcraft and magic spells, ruqya entails reciting the Quran and making supplications to Allah in order to aid in the treatment of illness and other problems and does not involve witchcraft or magic at all.
Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalanî said that the definition of ruqya further includes taᶜawwudh, which means to seek refuge. In his words, “there is no disagreement whatsoever (between scholars) as to the permissibility of turning to Allah for help and seeking refuge with Him from whatever happens or is expected to happen.” (Fatḥ Al-Bâri)
The subject of healing with ruqya is closely related to ᶜaqîda and morals, and it touches upon complex social problems and phenomena that have surfaced in recent times. Regrettably, excessive discussion of these issues along with frequent treatments through ruqya without basic knowledge have both become commonplace. This has led to a great increase in people claiming to practice ruqya while they have no knowledge whatsoever of Islam, let alone follow its teachings.
A number of these unqualified people have seized the opportunity to earn a living through ruqya, often preying upon the fears of their clients. Such charlatans often exploit their clients financially, emotionally and even sexually.
Others have become lax about treating women and have gone so far as to look at their charms, uncover parts of their bodies and even touch them.
Consequently, people have come to distrust such practices.
When discussing the benefits of legitimate ruqya, one cannot ignore the ugly issues mentioned above as they must be exposed so that Muslims can make the distinction between the ruqya that is allowed in Islam on the one hand, and the deviant practices that are the work of charlatans and greedy opportunists on the other.
In this spirit, the primary concern of the present article is to offer sincere advice and warn against the evil deviations that the improper practice of ruqya may lead to, as well as to discuss the detrimental effects that they are sure to have on ᶜaqîda, morals and social life in general. As we will see, the best defenses against charlatanism and ignorance are faith in Allah and sound Islamic knowledge.
The Condition of the Heart
The heart is normally full and does not allow anything alien to enter it unless something else leaves it first. Ibn Al-Qayyim said,
For a place to accept whatever is placed in it is conditional upon emptying it first from its opposite. This applies to physical matters as much as it applies to beliefs and will.” (Al-Fawâ’id)
The believing servant knows his Creator, why he was created and the journey’s end after death. He also knows that humans and the jinn have no power to harm or benefit themselves; nor do they control life, death or resurrection without Allah’s leave.
The believing monotheist therefore leads a peaceful life, for he knows full well that no one has power over him except with Allah’s sanction, as Allah says,
Surely, you (i.e., the devil) have no power over My servants. [Sûrat Al-Ḥijr, 15:42]
Another verse reads,
And if Allah touches you with affliction, there is none that can remove it but He. [Sûrat Al-Anᶜâm, 6:17]
The Prophet œ once said to ᶜAbdullâh Ibn ᶜAbbâs,
O boy! Be watchful of Allah, and He will be watchful of you. Safeguard His rights, and He will be ever with you. If you must beg, beg of Him alone; and if you need assistance, supplicate to Allah alone for help. And remember that if all the people desire to benefit you, they will be unable to bestow anything upon you except that which Allah has preordained for you; and if all of them intend to do you any harm, they will not be able to afflict you with anything except that which Allah has predestined against you. The pens have been lifted and put aside, and the ink of the Book (of predestination) has dried up. (Aḥmed and Tirmidhi)
In contrast, week faith in monotheism, weak reliance on Allah and a lack of beneficial knowledge render the heart a breeding ground for devilish insinuations, illusions and trivialities.
Regarding this dangerous condition, Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote,
Evil spirits mostly gain control of those having little religious inclination and those whose hearts and tongues faith has deserted—(people) whose souls are desolate of the remembrance of Allah and of the formulas for strengthening one’s faith. When evil spirits meet a man who is isolated, weaponless and naked, they can easily attack and overcome him. (Al-Ṭib Al-Nabawi)
He also commented,
The sorcerers’ sorcery only affects weak hearts and people who are attached to worldly whims and desires…and who do not (partake in reading the Quran and making prophetic supplications on a daily basis). Scholars have said, ‘The bewitched are those who allow themselves to be bewitched, for you always find their hearts attached to and obsessed with something; thus their hearts get overpowered with this thing depending on the degree of their attachment to [it]. And Allah knows best.’ (Al-Fawâ’id)
The solution for this problem, then, is to fill one’s heart, mind and life with activities related to serving, reflecting about and remembering Allah. This way, faith becomes a powerful weapon in the fight against those who seek to use sorcery and trickery in order to obtain some benefit for themselves.
The Legitimacy of Seeking Medical Treatment
There is no doubt that Islam came with healing power for both the heart and the body. The Prophet œ sought medical treatment and ordered his Companions to do so as well. Jabir narrated that the Prophet œ said,
There is a remedy for every malady, and when the remedy is applied to the disease, it is cured with the permission of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious. (Muslim)
Commenting on this ḥadîth, Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote,
The Prophet œ made cure conditional on applying medicine to the (right) illness. (Just as every creature has an opposite), every disease has an opposite remedy that can cure it. Recovery is conditional on the remedy corresponding to the illness…Therefore, whenever the remedy (is excessive in manner or amount), it will bring about another illness. Conversely, whenever the amount administered is less than needed, it fails to resist the illness and will consequently prove inefficient. Therefore, if the physician does not find the right remedy, or if the remedy does not correspond to the disease, cure becomes impossible. Further, if the time is not convenient for (a particular) medicine, the remedy will also prove fruitless. Similarly, if the body does not accept (that remedy), or is too weak to take it, or there is something that prevents it from having a good effect, the cure will not take place. On the other hand, whenever the remedy corresponds to the disease, cure will certainly take place by Allah’s leave. (Al-Ṭib Al-Nabawi)
Strangely enough, there are some people who disregard modern techniques for diagnosing many diseases and mistakenly attribute any disease they come across to the effects of the jinn-possession, the evil eye or magic. Their ignorance may sometimes result in killing a patient in a futile attempt to exorcize a so-called jinni. For such reasons, it is necessary to identify the nature of a disease first and then try to find the right cure for it, for if one is not sure as to the nature of the illness, how could one possibly prescribe the appropriate medicine?
Some may wonder whether seeking medical treatment contradicts the principle of tawakkul (true reliance on Allah). In fact, numerous Prophetic aḥadîth, including the one mentioned above, support the view that seeking medical treatment is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, in Islam. There is unanimous agreement among all Muslim scholars about this matter.
The Prophet’s Guidance Concerning Protection and Cure
Our best guidance in life comes from studying the life and habits of the Prophet œ who showed us what to do under all circumstances. Allah says about him,
He is ardently desirous of your (welfare); and to the believers he is compassionate, merciful. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:128]
Indeed, he guided us to all that is good and warned us against all that is evil. His guidance further includes protection against all kinds of diseases as well as ways and means to deal with them when they occur. We shall look here at some protective measures prescribed by the Prophet œ in addition to various remedies for combating the effects of the evil eye and magic.
Protection against evil in general can be realized by asserting belief in the unity of Allah, finding out about Him through His beautiful names and lofty attributes, offering sincere worship to Him alone, obeying His commands, relying on Him, loving Him and frequently remembering Him. This is how to seek His protection in general. There are also details regarding how to seek this protection using more specific methods, such as making supplication before sexual intercourse to protect one’s offspring, reciting Sûrat Al-Baqarah at home, and reciting Âyat Al-Kursi and the last three sûrahs of the Quran (known as Al-Muᶜawwidhat) in other situations.
It is worth mentioning, however, that there is a big difference between sincere words that emanate from the heart, on the one hand, and giving lip service to them, on the other. What is required here is remembrance that involves both the heart and the tongue. Ibn Al-Qayyim described this as “a kind of fighting”:
A fighter can only defeat his opponent if the weapon he is using is strong, and if he is strong enough to wield the weapon. If one of these two conditions is not met, the weapon will be of no use. The matter will be even worse if both conditions are not met.” (Al-Tib Al-Nabawi)
Treatment of the Evil Eye
The power to harm others by a look or glance, known as the evil eye, is true. Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet œ said,
The effect of the evil eye (al-ᶜayn) is real, for if there were anything which could overtake destiny, it would have been (the effect of) the evil eye. (Muslim)
To ward off the effect of the evil eye, one should say, upon seeing someone or something that pleases him and fears he might be struck by the evil eye, “mâshâ’Allah” (only that which Allah wills comes to pass!), and then he should pray to Allah to bless that person or thing.
Treatment of the evil eye can be effected depending on whether or not the one who has cast the evil eye is known. If he is known, the supporting evidence as to what to do comes from the following ḥadîth:
Abû Umâmah ibn Sahl ibn Ḥunayf narrated, “My father, Sahl ibn Ḥunayf, performed ghusl at Al-Kharrâr. He removed the jubbah he had been wearing while Amir ibn Rabia watched, and Sahl was a man with beautiful white skin. Amir said to him, ‘I have never seen anything like what I have seen today, not even the skin of a virgin. ’Sahl fell ill on the spot, and his condition grew worse. Somebody went to the Messenger of Allah œ, and told him that Sahl was ill, and could not go with him. The Messenger of Allah œ came to him, and Sahl told him what had happened with Amir. The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Why does one of you kill his brother? Why did you not say, ‘May Allah bless you?’ (Tabârak-Allah) The evil eye is true. Do wudhu for him.’ Amir performed wudhu. Then the Prophet sprinkled some of Amir’s wuḍû water over Sahl’s head and body. Then Sahl went with the Messenger of œ and there was nothing wrong with him. (Aḥmed)
If, however, the person who has cast the evil eye is not known, then the treatment can be realized through ruqya, the suitable Prophetic supplications and the demonstration of sincere devotion to Allah. Allah always answers the duᶜâ’ of the distressed, as the Quran says,
Who answers the distressed person when he calls upon Him…? [Sûrat Al-Naml, 27:62]
Ibn Al-Qayyim said,
Among the formulas of seeking Allah’s refuge and those (encompassing) ruqya are: frequent recitation of Sûrat Al-Falaq, Sûrat Al-Nâs, Sûrat Al-Fâtiḥah and Âyat Al-Kursi. One should also recite Prophetic supplications such as:
❋ ‘I seek refuge with Allah’s perfect words from the evil He has created.’
❋ ‘I seek refuge with Allah’s perfect words from every devil, vermin and every evil eye.’
❋ ‘I seek refuge in the perfect words of Allah, which no righteous nor wicked person can transgress, from the evil of what He has created, brought into existence and produced.’
❋ ‘For us Allah suffices, and He is the best guardian. Allah is sufficient for me. There is no god but He. In Him do I put my trust, and He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne.’
Those who have tried these supplications have certainly realized their abundant benefit and the great need for them, for they ward off the evil of the one who casts the evil eye, and they remove the effect thereof should this occur, depending, of course, on the strength of the faith of the one who recites them, the strength of his spiritual resolve, the strength of his reliance upon Allah and a firm belief. Indeed, (these things) are weapons (in the fight against evil). (Al-Ṭib Al-Nabawi)
Treatment of Magic
It goes without saying that prevention is better than cure. Therefore, one should protect oneself from the effect of magic before it happens. Among other things, this can be achieved by demonstrating sincere devotion and worship to Allah alone, trusting in His destiny and pre-ordination, seeking His protection by frequently remembering Him and by reciting Prophetic supplications at suitable times.
Eating ᶜajwa dates is another way to ward off the evil effect of magic, as mentioned in the ḥadîth narrated by Saᶜd in which the Prophet œ said,
If somebody (eats) seven ᶜajwa dates every morning, he will not be affected by poison or magic on that day. (Bukhâri and Muslim)
It is important to realize that those who are bound to benefit from this ḥadîth are only those who sincerely believe in what the Prophet œ said and firmly believe that whatever he said is the truth, whether they have come to know its reality or not.
As for treating magic after its occurrence, the affected person should demonstrate patience and total contentment with Allah’s decree. It is also essential that he brings himself to account for whatever wrong he has committed and repents from his sins. When seeking treatment, he must shun the pseudo-treatments provided by magicians and charlatans and insist on receiving treatment only from those who are known for their piety and uprightness.
To be continued, inshâ’Allah, in Part 2…