IMAM IBN TAIMIYAH mentioned that Allah’s answering someone’s duʿâ’ or fulfilling his wishes does not necessarily mean that the method that person used is acceptable in Islam. Allah may answer someone’s duʿâ’ even if that person transgresses in his supplications or commits an act of shirk (associating partner with Allah in his mind).
However, having one’s forbidden duʿâ’ answered by Allah is sure to lead to doom in this life and in the Hereafter. Jabir reported that the Prophet ﷺ said,
Do not supplicate against your own selves, your children, your servants, or your property, lest you should supplicate at a time when supplications are accepted. (Muslim)
In his Iqtiḍâ’Al-Ṣirâṭ Al-Mustaqîm, Ibn Taimiyyah specified some of the errors that people may make when supplicating to Allah, such as the following:
- Associating partners with Allah—this includes praying to idols or seeking their help as well as invoking the names of others to act as intercessors or intermediaries, as the Christians do by saying, “O Mother of God, intercede to God for us.”
- Praying for unlawful things or asking for things that are highly undesirable from an Islamic point of view.
- Supplicating in a manner that is not pleasing to Him, as Allah says,Call upon your Lord in humility and in secret. Surely, He does not love the transgressors. [Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:55]This verse indicates that Allah does not like transgression in the manner of invoking Allah or the thing prayed for.
According to Ibn Taimiyyah,
There are [some] people who make forbidden supplications, and they get what they ask for but with a great deal of harm. Others also make undesirable (makrûh) supplications and they still get what they ask for.
“It is in this way that many people fail to understand things rightly. It may come to their attention that certain notable pious people performed acts of worship or made certain supplications and they got their wishes granted. [Due to ignorance], they use this as evidence to regard such acts of worship as correct, and insist on doing them as though they were the practices of the Prophet. This is a grave misunderstanding. It could be that the act in question helped the person who performed it get his wish granted because he was sincere at the time of performing that act. When the followers do the same thing blindly, not sincerely, they get what they ask for as a result of doing so, for [the act in question] is not approved in Islam and thus the followers will not be rewarded for performing it.
“Idol-worshippers perform forbidden practices and thus believe that Allah loves them because they often get what they ask for…but if the means of supplicating is forbidden, it is not permissible to make such supplications.
“These and similar kinds of supplications are forbidden even if those who make them get their wishes granted. Those who believe in the effect of forbidden supplications are mostly ignorant people who do not realize the conditions for supplication. This generally happens to people who grope in utter darkness, namely the disbelievers, the hypocrites and those who commit major sins so much so that their hearts have become black as a result of sins and thus they cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood. This is why such forbidden supplications continue to be a source of confusion for those whom Allah has not guided and whose hearts He has not illuminated with knowledge. (Iqtiḍâ’Al-Ṣirâṭ Al-Mustaqîm)
The Use of Incantation before Islam
It is well known that people in the period before the advent of Islam (Jâhiliyya) used to recite many kinds of incantation in various circumstances.
Jabir reported that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ, prohibited incantation. Then the Amr ibn Hazm family came to Allah’s Messenger and said, “We know an incantation which we use for curing the sting of the scorpion, but you have prohibited it.” They recited [the words of incantation] before him, whereupon he said, “I do not see anything wrong with it. Whoever among you is able to help his brother should do so. (Muslim)
Auf ibn Malik Al-Ashja’î also reported, “We practiced incantation in the pre-Islamic days and we said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! What is your opinion about it?’ He said, ‘Let me know your incantation.’ And then he said, ‘There is no harm in the incantation which does not smack of shirk (polytheism).’ (Muslim)
The Prophet ﷺ did not reject the kinds of incantation prevalent before Islam, nor did he order his Companions to stop using them in favor of a specific type of ruqya that he considered permissible. Rather, there is ample textual evidence to show that he allowed Muslims to analyze the different kinds of incantations available themselves and then to accept those that did not contain references to shirk or forbidden acts that might lead to something else also deemed forbidden.
Ruqya and Supplication
Ruqya is similar to supplication. While it is preferred to use supplications that the Prophet ﷺ taught us, Muslim scholars agree that it is also permissible to use supplications he did not teach us. The condition for doing so is that such supplications must not contain forbidden words, nor be forbidden in themselves or bound to lead to forbidden things, as evidenced by some Prophetic aḥâdîth. Anas reported,
A man came panting and entered the row of worshippers and said, ‘Praise be to Allah, much praised and blessed.’ When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ finished the salah he asked, ‘Who amongst you uttered these words? ‘The people remained silent. He (the Prophet) again said, ‘Who amongst you uttered these words? (That person) said nothing wrong.’ Then a man said, ‘I came and had difficulty breathing, so I uttered them.’ (The Prophet) replied, ‘I saw twelve angels facing one another as to who will take (your words) up (to Allah).’ (Muslim)
The fact that the Companion who said the above words kept silent indicates that he thought he had made a mistake in his supplication and feared that the Prophet ﷺ would not approve what he had said. In fact, his words turned out to be an example of an acceptable supplication that was pleasing to Allah.
Although it is allowed to make supplications of this type, which are not reported from the Prophet, they should not, as explained above, contain forbidden words, or lead to something forbidden, such as giving up the supplications that have been reported from the Prophet ﷺ altogether. However, it is better and safer to adhere to those supplications that the Prophet taught us. Consider the following ḥadîth, which illustrates this point well:
Abu Hurairah narrated that a Bedouin entered the masjid while the Prophet ﷺ was sitting. He then offered two rakʿahs of salah and said, “O Allah, have mercy on me and on Muhammad, and do not have mercy on anyone along with us.” The Prophet ﷺ said to him, “You have narrowed down a thing (that is, Allah’s mercy) that is broader. (Aḥmed and Abû Dâwûd)
Types of Ruqya
There are two main types of ruqya:
- Lawful Ruqya: This is the kind of ruqya that the Prophet ﷺ used. It consists of permissible supplications, blowing into the hands and passing them over the affected part of the body, as evidenced by Quranic verses and the authentic texts from the Sunnah, but without any additions and without practicing it an enigmatic manner.
- Forbidden Ruqya: This type of ruqya may contain words of shirk, mysterious charms or anything else deemed forbidden in Islam.
Further, there is ruqya that falls into the category of “controversial.”
Imam Ibn Ḥajar said,
Muslim scholars are in unanimous agreement that ruqya is permissible if these three conditions are met:
- Only Allah’s words (i.e., the Quran), names or attributes can be used.
- It must be in (comprehensible) Arabic or intelligible words in another language.
- Those taking part must believe that the incantation cannot have an independent effect, but that it is Allah the Almighty who causes it to have effect. (Fatḥ Al-Bâri)
As is the case with supplications being permissible so long as they do not contradict the principles of Islam or lead to shirk, the same ruling applies to methods of ruqya that have not been reported by the Prophet ﷺ. Such ruqya should not, however, contain mysterious words or be performed in an enigmatic manner that is reminiscent of the practice of magicians and charlatans. There is no way of knowing if an unintelligible ruqya contains elements of shirk or not. Such ruqya may further lead to establishing innovations and legitimizing the work of dishonest practitioners. For these reasons, understanding the meaning of a ruqya is an indispensable condition to it being used, and incomprehensible ruqya is prohibited as a precaution.
Ibn Qudâmah said,
Imam Ahmed was told about a man who claimed to neutralize magic by putting water in a pot and reciting incomprehensible words among other things. Imam Ahmad then disapprovingly shook his hand and said, ‘I do not know about this (absurd practice).’ (Al–Kâfi)
Imam Malik considered using an iron rod and salt while practicing ruqya to be an undesirable act (makrûh), and he considered using knots with threads even more undesirable. (Al-Muntaqa, Sharḥ Al-Muwaṭṭa)
Other scholars have rejected the use of amulets and knives and other practices, such as drawing patterns on the body of a sick person, that are in imitation of the techniques used by magicians.
A Muslim should be extremely careful about these matters and always refer to the Quran and the Sunnah whenever he comes across something with which he is unfamiliar –to see if it is permissible before he does it. Obscure practices that find no support in the Quran or the Sunnah should be rejected; otherwise, this will certainly lead to some people’s involvement in magic and witchcraft as well as to widespread confusion among those lacking sound knowledge. Allah says (with reference to magicians),
And they learned what harmed them, not what profited them. And they knew that the buyers of (magic) would have no share in the happiness of the Hereafter. And vile was the price for which they did sell their souls, if they but knew! [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:102]
Regarding this verse, Ibn Taimiyyah commented,
Those (who practice magic) know for sure that it will be of no benefit in the Hereafter, and that those who practice it will be among the losers in the life to come, but they are still attracted to its benefits in this life only. (Iqtidhâ’Al-Ṣirâṭ Al-Mustaqîm)
Al-Rabîʿsaid, “I asked Imam Al-Shâfiʿî about ruqya and he said,
There is no harm in practicing ruqya by reciting the Book of Allah and (by using) any forms of supplications one knows… (Irshâd Al-Sâri)
Therefore, one should avoid confusion and simply go to the essence of what ruqya actually is: a means of supplicating to Allah through legitimate means coupled with the sincere practice of Islam and belief in Allah.
Financial Compensation for the Performance of Ruqya
The Quran and the Sunnah are replete with evidence warning against excessive fascination with money, but very few people take heed of these warnings, for the love of money is innate in humans.
Two hungry wolves sent against the sheep do not do more damage than what a man’s eagerness for wealth does to his religion. (Aḥmed and Tirmidhi)
Yaḥya ibn Muʿâdh said, “Money is like a scorpion. If you do not deserve it, do not take it, for if it stings you, its poison will certainly kill you.”When asked about how one can deserve it, he replied, “To take it by using lawful means and using it in the right way.” He also said, “Man will be afflicted with two calamities as to his money on his deathbed.”When asked about these, he replied, ‘All of it will be taken from him, and he will be questioned about it all.’ (Mukhtaṣar Minhâj Al-Qâṣidîn)
Muslim scholars agree that it is permissible to take money for the performance of ruqya. However, some scholars have also said that it is better not to take any payment in anticipation of Allah’s reward.
Here we need to distinguish between someone who asks for payment and someone who is offered payment without asking for it. ʿUmar ibn Al-Khaṭṭâb narrated,
Allah’s Messenger used to give me something but I would say to him, ‘Would you give it to someone who is poorer and needier than me?’ The Prophet ﷺ said to me, ‘Take it. If you are given something from this property without asking for it or having greed from it, take it; and if not given it, do not run after it.’ (Bukhâri)
This does not necessarily mean, though, that one should take payment for ruqya if he knows that the people being treated happen to be in straitened circumstances and are only offering payment to avoid embarrassing themselves. In such cases, it is better to abstain from taking payment, especially if the person who performs ruqya is not in dire need of this payment.
There is evidence to suggest that compensation for ruqya should only take place if the patient is actually cured from his illness. In the words of Ibn ʿAbd Al-Barr,
…Payment for something that does not produce any benefit is wrong and forbidden. (Al-Tamhîd)
This is unlike what many ‘healers’ do in this day and age by taking money for their services without actually curing any disease. Some of them even have clinics and hospitals to receive patients and charge various fees for such things as opening files, seeing the ‘doctor,’ and having ruqya recited for them!
Money is also being made by holding meetings and charging for patients to attend them, selling common products such as honey, black seed oil, olive oil and mineral water at exorbitant rates, and using promotional items such as books, audiocassettes and commercials to advertise the work of the unscrupulous people who have made it their business to deceive others into believing that they have special powers and are gifted with the ability to heal and cure. By portraying themselves as men of great religious knowledge, they are able to attract a great number of unsuspecting patients.
A Full-Time Job?
By looking at the biographies of the Prophet ﷺ, his noble Companions and trustworthy Muslim scholars who are known for their religious knowledge and the service they have rendered to Muslims, we will find that none of them ever occupied himself exclusively with the treatment of patients through the use of ruqya, nor did any of these people take reciting ruqya as a job and become known for it to the point that his name became associated with this job.
There is no question that diseases abound in every age, but there is no evidence whatsoever that a Muslim caliph ever appointed ‘reciters’ to recite ruqya on patients in the same manner that they appointed judges and muftis. Accordingly, a patient should first try to recite verses from the Quran on himself; and if he happens to meet a knowledgeable person known for his piety and uprightness, there is no harm in asking him to recite ruqya for him.
It is well known that permissible acts sometimes become forbidden if they are performed in a manner that contradicts the teachings of the Sharîʿah. Were there any good in working full-time in the field of treating through ruqya, taking it as a job and becoming known for it, we would have certainly vied with each other to do this.
We conclude our study with the following invaluable quotation from Siddeeq Hasan Khan in his book Sincere Devotion:
All acts and supplications that are bound to cure diseases are … permissible to practice if the words used in them are from the Quran and the Sunnah, or if they are supplications and practices reported from the early pious generation of Muslims, which are free from shirk; otherwise, [such practices] are forbidden and constitute acts of polytheism. There are numerous good and bad books on the subject, but the true monotheist is recommended to search for the right practices in these books and reject those that contravene the teachings of Islam. These include the writings of the ignorant charlatans who write amulets in the form of letters and lines and other things. These things are of no avail.
Indeed, Allah the Almighty is sufficient for His obedient servants if they are not attached to other than Him and (do not seek) recourse (except with) Prophetic supplications and permissible (types of) medicine. Whoever avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful. Given that shirk can easily be committed without realizing it, one should exercise extreme caution to avoid it.