Chapter 3: The Prophet’s Safeguarding of Tawḥīd

The Prophet, out of concern for his followers, was very keen to see them a strong and well-fortified nation, who would fulfil the obligation of tawḥīd and steer clear of any means or causes that could lead to the opposite. Allah says,

“There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He is deeply concerned for you, and full of kindness and mercy towards the believers.” (Q, 9:128)

The Prophet went to great lengths in forbidding polytheism. He cautioned and forewarned the people, reiterating this from time to time, both in specific and in generic terms. He meant to protect the religion he had been sent with, the true and simple faith, the religion of Ibrāhīm, from any word or action that is capable of tarnishing this faith, causing it thereby to fall into decline or fade out. All this is duly evidenced in his sunnah. Hence, he has firmly established the proof, wiped out obscurity, and clearly displayed the right path, leaving no room for excuse.

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The following themes will throw light on how the Prophet has actually safeguarded tawḥīd and blocked any course leading to either polytheism or falsehood.

First: Ruqā (Incantations)

Ruqā is the plural of ruqyah, which means a therapeutic treatment involving recitation and blowing over. This recitation may be from the Qur’an or from a Prophetic supplication. Concerning its application, then it is a permissible act in Islam. The proofs for this included the narration by ‘Awf b. Mālik who said,

“During the pre-Islamic days of ignorance, we would make use of ruqyah. We asked the Prophet concerning this practice and he said, ‘Show me the type of ruqā that you use, for there is nothing wrong in using incantations as long as they are free from polytheism.’”[1]

Another narration from Anas b. Mālik states,

“Allah’s Messenger sanctioned the use of ruqyah to rescue a victim of an evil eye and of a bite, as well as sore.”[2]

In another ḥadīth narrated by Jābir b. ‘Abdullāh, the Prophet said,

“Whoever is able to do a favor for his brother, then let him do so.”[3]

‘Ā’ishah has also related,

“Whenever anyone of us complained [of an illness], Allah’s Messenger would wipe their body with his right hand and then recite, ‘Lord of humanity, remove this pain and heal. You are the Healer. There is no healing except Yours; such a healing that leaves behind no sickness.’”[4]

However, there are three conditions for the use of ruqyah in Islam, and they are:

  1. The ruqyah must not be seen as self-efficacious, otherwise using it would become a forbidden act, and even an act of shirk. The user must, therefore, see it as an ordinary measure whose efficacy depends solely on Allah’s sanction.
  2. It must be free from anything inconsistent with the rules of Islam. Thus, a ruqyah that involves calling upon any other besides Allah, or seeking the help of jinn, etc., is not only prohibited, but also amounts to polytheistic acts.
  3. The ruqyah must comprise of unambiguous words that are known; hence, any ruqyah that consists of talismans or magical words is forbidden. Imām Mālik was once asked, “Can a person perform ruqyah on himself or have it performed on him?” He said, “Doing so is not unlawful, provided the ruqyah consist of good words.”

Any ruqyah that lacks the above-mentioned conditions becomes unlawful. Examples of this are if the user of the person for whom the ruqyah is being used upon believes that it is self-efficacy, or the ruqyah itself consists of polytheistic or innovated expressions, or it involves taking something as an intermediary in a manner that could lead to disbelief, or it consists of words or phrases that are ambiguous. All these fall within the category of forbidden ruqyah.

Second: Tamāim (Amulets)

Tamāim is the plural of tamīmah, and it refers to charms, amulets, or bones that are worn or carried with the belief that they will bring about good luck or protect from evil. The Arabs during the pre-Islamic days would place such things on their children, and would claim that they would protect them from the evil eye.

Concerning the use of amulets, then it is prohibited and even constitutes an act of shirk, since it amounts to a sort of spiritual attached to something that is created. It is only Allah who repels unwanted damages, and such must be sought only through Him and His names and attributes. Ibn Mas‘ūd related that Allah’s Messenger said,

“Spells, amulets, and love charms are all acts of shirk.”[5]

‘Abdullāh b. ‘Ukaym related that the Prophet said,

“Whoever hangs something, then he will be entrusted to it.”[6]

‘Uqbah b. ‘Āmir related that Allah’s Messenger said,

“Whoever wears an amulet, then may Allah not grant him his wish, and whoever hangs a thing, then may Allah not relieve him of what he desires.”[7]

‘Uqbah b. ‘Āmir also related that Allah’s Messenger said,

“Whoever wears an amulet has committed shirk.”[8]

The above-mentioned proofs and other similar ones warn against polytheistic incantations, a predominant feature of ruqā used by the Arabs. Elements of shirk and spiritual attachment to a created thing, found in those incantations, were responsible for their proscription.

Muslims scholars have different opinions on whether an amulet consisting of a portion of the Qur’an may be used or not. Some of them approve the wearing of such amulets, while others disapprove of it. However, the latter view is the stronger and correct one based on the following reasons:

  1. The prohibition of using amulets in Islamic texts is a general rule, and therefore it excludes all forms of it.
  2. The principles of precautionary measures in Islam also supports this view, as allowing such an amulet to be used may pave the way for using other amulets containing no portion of the Qur’an.
  3. Wearing an amulet of this kind will no doubt expose the Glorious Book to dishonor, as one would have to wear it even in the bathroom and other places.
  4. Using the Qur’an as a therapeutic measure has a clearly defined method, and that is to recite part of it on a sick person; hence, no additional method should be invented.

Third: Wearing a Ring, a String, or Any Other Object that is Believed to Have Magical or Therapeutic Effects

The Arabs during the pre-Islamic era would wear of hang such things while believing that they possessed some magical powers to bring about benefit, ward off harm, or protect from the evil eye. Allah says,

“Say, ‘Tell me then, the things that you invoke besides Allah, if Allah intended some harm for me, could they remove His harm, or if He intended some mercy for me, could they withhold His Mercy?’ Say. ‘Sufficient for me is Allah; in Him those who trust must put their trust.’” (Q, 39:38)

“Say, ‘Call those whom you assume [to be gods] besides Him, while they have no power to remove distress from you, nor to change it.” (Q, 17:56)

It has been related by ‘Imrān b. al-Ḥuṣain,

“The Prophet once saw a man wearing a brass ring on his finger, so he asked him, ‘What is this?’ The man replied, ‘I have worn it to relieve myself of weakness in my arm.’ The Prophet said, ‘Take it off, for it will only increase you in weakness. Throw it away, for if you were to die while it remained on you, you would not have prospered.’”[9]

Ḥudhayfah b. al-Yamān once saw a man wearing a tied piece of string on his hand for protection against fever. Ḥudhayfah cut the string and recited the following verse,

“Most of them believe not in Allah except that they associated partners with Him.” (12:106)

The mere use of a ring, a string, or something similar, with the belief that they possess some form or magical powers is a forbidden act, and it may even lead to shirk, if the user believes in their self-efficacy without Allah’s intervention. Such an act amounts to a major infringement of tawḥīd al-rubūbiyyah, as it indicates a belief in the existence of a rival to Allah in His creation and administration of the universe. Exalted is He above all that which they claim as partners to Him.

Conversely, if the user believes in Allah’s tawḥīd and control of all affairs, but he still wears the ring or string with an ordinary and non-self-efficacious means, then his act will qualify as a minor shirk on the ground of adopting an unlawful means, and heeding to it with his heart. Furthermore, this could lead him into committing major shirk, especially if he becomes psychologically attached to the use of ring or string, and thinks they could bring him a benefit or save him from calamity.

[1] Muslim no. 2200.

[2] Muslim no. 2196.

[3] Muslim no. 2199.

[4] Bukhārī no. 5743 and Muslim no. 219.

[5] Abū Dāwūd no. 3883.

[6] Aḥmad 4/pg. 310 and al-Tirmidhī no. 2072.

[7] Aḥmad 4/pg. 154.

[8] Aḥmad 4/pg. 156.

[9] Aḥmad 4/pg. 445.

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