Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
There are among mankind, people who claim knowledge of the unseen
and the future. They are known by various names, among them: fortune-teller,
soothsayer, foreseer, augur, magician, prognosticator, oracle, astrologer,
palmist, etc. Fortune-tellers use various methods and mediums from
which they claim to extract their information, among them: reading
tea-leaves, drawing lines, writing numbers, palm-reading, casting
horoscopes, crystal ball gazing, rattling bones, throwing sticks,
Practitioners of occult arts, which claim to reveal the unseen
and predict the future, can be divided into two main categories:
1. Those who have no real knowledge or secrets but depend on telling
their customers about general incidences which happen to most people.
They often go through a series of meaningless rituals, then make
calculatedly general guesses. Some of their guesses, due to their
generality, usually come true. Most people tend to remember the
few predictions that come true and quickly forget the many which
do not. This tendency is a result of the fact that after some time
all the predictions tend to become half-forgotten thoughts in the
subconscious until something happens to trigger their recall. For
example, it has become a common practice in North America to publish,
at the beginning of each year the various predictions of famous
fortune-tellers. When a survey was taken of the various predictions
for the year 1980, it was found that the most accurate fortune-teller
among them was only 24% accurate in her predictions!
2. The second group are those who have made contact with the Jinn.
This group is of most importance because it usually involves the
grave sin of Shirk, and those involved often tend to be highly accurate
in their information and thus present a real Fitnah (temptations)
for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
World of the Jinn
Some people have attempted to deny the reality of the Jinn about
whom the Qur'an has devoted a whole chapter, Soorah al-Jinn (72).
By relying on the literal meaning of the word Jinn which comes from
the verb Janna, Yajunnu: "to cover, hide or conceal",
they claim that the word Jinn really refers to "clever foreigners".
Others have even stated that a Jinn is a human who does not have
a true mind in his head but he has a fiery nature. But, the reality
is that the Jinn represent another creation of Allaah, which co-exists
with man on the earth. Allaah created the Jinn before He created
mankind, and He also used a different set of elements than those
used for man. Allaah said: "Verily we created man from dried
clay, from black putrid mud. And we created the Jinn before that
from a fiery wind." (Surah al-Hijr 15:26)
They were named Jinn because they are hidden from the eyes of mankind.
Iblees (Satan) is from the world of the Jinn, even though he was
among the angels when they were commanded by Allaah to prostrate
to Adam. When he refused to prostrate and was asked why, Allaah
said: "He said, 'I am better than he is. You (Allah) created
me from fire and You created him from clay!" (Surah Saad; 38:76)
'Aa'esha reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "The angels
were created from light and the Jinn from smokeless fire."
Allaah also said, "And when We told the angels to prostrate
to Adam, they all prostrated except Iblees. He was of the Jinn."
(Surah al-Kahf, 18:50)
Therefore it is incorrect to consider him a fallen angel or the
The Jinn may first be divided into three broad categories in relation
to their modes of existence. The Prophet (pbuh) said: "There
are three types of Jinn: One type which flies in the air all the
time, another type which exists as snakes and dogs, and an earthbound
type which resides in one place or wanders about. " (At-Tabaree
The Jinn may be further divided into two categories in relationship
to their faith: Muslims (believers) and Kaafirs (disbelievers).
Allaah refers to the believing Jinn in Soorah al-Jinn as follows:
"Say: It has been revealed to me that a group of Jinn listened
and said, 'Verily we have heard a marvellous Qur'an. It guides unto
righteousness so we have believed in it. And, we will never make
partners with our Lord. He, may our Lord's glory be exalted, has
not taken a wife nor a son. What the foolish ones among us used
to say about Allaah is a horrible lie."(Surah al-Jinn 72:1-4)
"And there are among us Muslims and others who are unjust.
Whoever accepts Islam has sought out the right path. As for those
who are unjust, they will be fuel for the Hell fire." (Surah
The disbelievers among the Jinn are referred to by various names
in both Arabic and English: 'Ifreet, Shaytaan, Qareen, demons, devils,
spirits, ghosts, etc. They try to misguide man in various ways.
Whoever listens to them and becomes a worker for them is referred
to as human Shaytaan (devil).
Allaah said: "Likewise, we have made for every Prophet an
enemy, Shaytaans from among mankind and the Jinn. (Surah al-An'aam
Every human has an individual Jinn accompanying him referred to
as a Qareen (i.e. companion). This is a part of man's test in this
life. The Jinn encourage his lower desires and constantly try to
divert him from righteousness. The Prophet (pbuh) referred to this
relationship as follows, "Everyone of you has been assigned
a companion from the Jinn. " The Sahaabah asked, "Even
you, O Messenger of Allaah?" And the Prophet replied, "Even
me, except that Allaah has helped me against him and he has submitted.
Now he only tells me to do good."(Muslim)
Prophet Sulaymaan (Solomon) was given miraculous control over the
Jinn, as a sign of his prophethood. Allaah said: "And, we gathered
for Sulaymaan his army from the Jinn, mankind and the birds."
(Surah an-Naml 27:17) and they were all kept in order and ranks.
But this power was not given to anyone else. No one else is allowed
to control the Jinn and no one can. The Prophet said, "Verily
an 'Ifr-eeit from among the Jinn spat on me last night trying to
break my Salaah. However Allaah let me overpower him and I wanted
to tie him to one of the columns in the masjid so that you all could
see him in the morning. Then, I remembered my brother Sulaymaan's
prayer: 'Oh my Lord, forgive me and bestow on me a kingdom not allowed
to anyone after me.' (Surah Saad 38:35) (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Man cannot gain control over the Jinn as this was a special miracle
given only to Prophet Sulaymaan. In fact, contact with the Jinn
in circumstances other than possession, or accident is most often
made by the performance of sacrilegious acts despised and forbidden
in the religion. The evil Jinn summoned in this fashion may aid
their partners in sin and disbelief in God. Their goal is to draw
as many others as they can into the gravest of sins, the worship
of others besides or along with God.
Once contact and contract with the Jinn are made by fortune-tellers,
the Jinn may inform them of certain events in the future. The Prophet
(pbuh) described how the Jinn gather information about the future.
He related that the Jinn were able to travel to the lower reaches
of the heavens and listen in on some of the information about the
future, which the angels pass among themselves. They would then
return to the earth and feed the information to their human contacts.(Bukhari
and Muslim) This used to happen a lot prior to the prophethood of
Muhammad (pbuh) and fortune-tellers were very accurate in their
information. They were able to gain positions in the royal courts
and enjoyed much popularity and were even worshipped in some regions
of the world.
After the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began his mission the situation
changed. Allaah had the angels guard the lower reaches of the heavens
carefully, and most of the Jinn were chased away with meteors and
shooting stars. Allaah described this phenomena in the following
Qur'anic statement made by one of the Jinn, "We (the Jinn)
had sought out the heavens but found it filled with strong guardians
and meteors. We used to sit on high places in order to listen, but
whoever listens now finds a flame waiting for him.."'
Allaah also said, "And We have guarded it (the heavens) from
every cursed devil, except the one who is able to snatch a hearing
and, he is pursued by a brightly burning flame."(Surah al-Hijr
Ibn 'Abbaas said, "When the Prophet and a group of his companions
set out for the Ukaadh market, the devils were blocked from hearing
information in the heavens. Meteors were let loose on them, so they
returned to their people. When their people asked what happened,
they told them. Some suggested that something must have happened,
so they spread out over the earth seeking the cause. Some of them
came across the Prophet and his companions while they were in Salaah
and they heard the Qur'an. They said to themselves that this must
have been what blocked them from listening. When they returned to
their people they told them, 'Verily we have heard a marvellous
Qur'an. It guides unto righteousness so we believed in it. And we
will never make partners with our Lord.' (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi
Thus, the Jinn could no longer gather information about the future
as easily as they could before the Prophet's (pbuh) mission. Because
of that, they now mix their information with many lies. The Prophet
said: "They (the Jinn) would pass the information back down
until it reaches the lips of a magician fortune-teller. Sometimes
a meteor would overtake them before they could pass it on. If they
passed it on before being struck, they would add to it a hundred
lies." (Al-Bukhari and Tirmidhi)
'Aa'eshah reported that when she asked Allaah's messenger (pbuh)
about fortune-tellers, he replied that they were nothing. She then
mentioned that the fortune-tellers sometimes told them things, which
were true. The Prophet (pbuh) said: "That is a bit of truth
which the Jinn steals and cackles in the ear of his friend; but
he mixes along with it a hundred lies." (al-Bukhari, Muslim)
Once while 'Umar ibn al-Khattaab was sitting, a handsome man, Sawaad
Ibn Qaarib passed by him. 'Umar said: "If I'm not wrong, this
person is still following his religion of pre-Islamic times or perhaps
he was one of their fortune-tellers." He ordered that the man
be brought to him and asked him about, what he suspected. The man
replied, "I have never seen a day like this where a Muslim
is faced with such accusations." 'Umar said, "Verily I
am determined that you should inform me." The man then said,
"I was their fortune-teller in the time of ignorance."
On hearing that 'Umar asked, "Tell me about the strangest thing
which your female Jinn told you." The man then said, "One
day, while I was in the market, she came to me all worried and said,
'Have you not seen the Jinns in their despair after their disgrace?
And their following of she-camels and their riders." 'Umar
interjected, "It is true." (Al-Bukhari)
The Jinns are also able to inform their human contact of the relative
future. For example, when someone comes to a fortune-teller, the
fortune-teller's Jinn gets information from the man's Qareen (the
jinn assigned to every human being) of what plans he had made prior
to his coming. So the fortune-teller is able to tell him that he
will do this or that, or go here or there. By this method, the real
fortune-teller is also able to learn about a stranger's past in
vivid detail. He is able to tell a total stranger of his parents'
names, where he was born, the acts of his childhood, etc. The ability
to vividly describe the past is one of the marks of a true fortune-teller
who has made contact with the Jinn. Because the Jinn are able to
traverse huge distances instantaneously, they are also able to gather
huge stores of information about hidden things, lost articles and
unobserved events. Proof of this ability can be found in the Qur'an,
in the story about Prophet Sulaymaan and Bilqees, the Queen of Sheba.
When Queen Bilqees came to see him, he asked the Jinn to bring her
throne from her land. "An Ilfreet from among the Jinns said,
I will bring it for you before you can get up from your place. Verily,
I am strong and trustworthy for the assignment.(Surah an-Naml)
The Islamic Ruling on Fortune-telling
Because of the sacrilege and heresy involved in fortune telling,
Islam has taken a very strong stance towards it. Islam opposes any
form of association with those who practice fortune-telling, except
to advise them to give up their forbidden practices.
Visitation of Fortune-tellers
The Prophet (pbuh) laid down principles, which clearly forbade
any form of visitation of fortune-tellers. Safiyyah reported from
Hafsah (wife of the Prophet) that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "The
Salaah of whoever approaches a fortune-teller and asks him about
anything will not be accepted for 40 days and nights."(Muslim)
The punishment in this Hadeeth is for simply approaching a fortune-teller
and asking him questions out of curiosity. This prohibition is further
supported by Mu'aawiyah Ibn al-Hakam asSalamee's Hadeeth in which
he said, "O Messenger of Allaah, verily there are some people
among us who visit oracles. " The Prophet (pbuh) replied, "Do
not go to them". Such a severe punishment has been assigned
for only visitation because it is the first step to belief in fortune-telling.
If one went there doubtful about its reality, and some of the fortune-teller's
predictions come true, one will surely become a true devotee of
the fortune-teller and an ardent believer in fortune-telling. The
individual who approaches a fortune-teller is still obliged to make
his compulsory Salaah throughout the 40 day period, even though
he gets no reward from his prayers. If he abandons the Salaah all
together, he has committed another major sin. This is similar to
the Islamic ruling in the case of Salaah on or in stolen property,
according to the majority of Jurists. They hold that whenever obligatory
Salaah is performed, it produces two results under normal circumstances:
1. It removes the obligation of that prayer from the individual.
2. It earns him a reward.
If Salaah is performed on or in stolen property it removes the
obligation of Salaah, but it is devoid of reward. Consequently,
the Prophet forbade praying the same obligatory prayers twice.
Belief in Fortune-tellers
The Islamic ruling with regard to anyone who visits a fortune-teller
believing that he knows the unseen and the future is that of Kufr
(disbelief). Abu Hurayrah and al-Hasan both reported from the Prophet
(pbuh) that he said, "Whosoever approaches a fortune-teller
and believes what he says, has disbelieved in what was revealed
to Muhammad. Such a belief assigns to creation some of Allaah's
attributes with regard to the knowledge of the unseen and the future.
Consequently, it destroys Tawheed alAsmaa was-Sifaat, and represents
a form of Shirk in this aspect of Tawheed.
The ruling of Kufr includes, by analogy (Qiyaas), those who read
the books and writings of fortune-tellers, listen to them on the
radio or watch them on the T. V., as, these are the most common
means used by 20th century fortune-tellers to spread their predictions.
Allaah clearly states in al-Qur'an that no one knows the unseen
besides Him. Not even the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Allaah said:
With Him are the keys to the unseen and none knows it except Him
Then he told the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), "Say! I have no
power to bring good to myself nor avert harm but it is only as Allah
wills. If it were that I knew the unseen, I would have multiplied
the good and no evil would have touched me."
And he also said: "Say! None in the heavens nor the earth
knows the 'unseen except Allah'."
Therefore, all the various methods used around the world by oracles,
fortune-tellers, and the likes, are forbidden to Muslims.
Palm-reading, I-Ching, fortune cookies, tea leaves as well as Zodiacal
signs and Bio-rhythm computer programs, all claim to inform those
who believe in them about their future. However, Allaah has stated
in no uncertain terms that He alone knows the future: ''Verily the
knowledge of the Hour is with Allaah alone. It is He who sends down
the rain and knows the contents of the wombs. No one knows what
he will earn tomorrow nor in which land he will die, but Allaah
is all-knowing and aware."(Surah Luqmaan 31:34)
Therefore, Muslims must take utmost care in dealing with books,
magazines, newspapers as well as individuals who, in one way or
another, claim knowledge of the future or the unseen. For example,
when a Muslim weather-man predicts rain, snow, or other climatic
conditions for tomorrow he should add the phrase, "In ShaaAllaah
(If Allaah so wishes)". Likewise, when the Muslim doctor informs
her patient that she will deliver a child in 9 months or on such
and such a day, she should take care to add the phrase "In
ShaaAllaah", as such statements are only estimations based
on statistical information.