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Superstition in Islam

Many people believe in superstitions so much that they alter their plans or behaviour in order to avoid what they call, “bad luck”. I witnessed this myself, first hand, as I was growing up. My grandmother was very superstitious. Her kitchen floor was always covered in salt because when she cooked she would add a pinch to the pot and throw some over her shoulder for “good luck”. She would actually cross the street and walk an extra block just to avoid the path of a black cat or go out of her way to get around an open ladder so that she would not have to pass under it. My grandmother did all of this for the sake of good fortune and the avoidance of danger.

Similar superstitions existed during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The pagan Arabs were especially steeped in superstitions related to birds. They believed seeing certain birds at certain times were good omens and seeing them at other times were bad omens. The pagan Arabs lived and often died as a result of their superstitious beliefs not because the superstitions had any power but rather due to their own ignorance.

Belief in superstitions is considered to be a grave act of shirk, or ascribing partners to Allah, which is the one and only sin that Allah Almighty will not forgive. Nothing in this world, whether it is living or inanimate, has any power save through Allah’s grace. Even by looking at the example of birds this is evident:

Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

“Do they not see the birds held (flying) in the midst of the sky? None holds them but Allah (none gave them the ability to fly but Allah). Verily, in this are clear Ayaat (proofs and signs) for people who believe (in the Oneness of Allah)” (16:79)

This verse clearly shows that Allah is in command of the birds as well as all of Creation. Allah decides where birds fly or roost. The flight of birds is not dependent upon where good luck or bad luck resides.

Superstitions are a trick of the devil to lead humans further and further away from Allah so that on the Day of Judgment he will have some company in hell. The one who believes in superstitions truly has followed the devil and is no longer on the path, which leads to Allah. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was once asked about superstitious beliefs and this is what Muhammad ﷺ said:

“The best of it is fa’l (belief in good omens) and it should not prevent a Muslim from going ahead (with his plans).

Ignoring superstitions will not harm us in the very least. In fact, by not engaging in shirk we are more likely to please Allah which might actually save us from what we feared in the first place. On the other hand, the one who obeys the devil and their superstitions is more likely to fall right into the disaster they were so keen to avoid! Poetic justice perhaps? However, even if we avoid the belief in superstitions completely bad things may still happen to us. That does not mean the superstitions were correct rather it is in the timing of Allah’s Decree. All things that happen to us, good and bad, come at a time appointed by Allah as a means to test who is the best in faith.

Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

“No calamity befalls on the Earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees, before we bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah.” (57:22)

By not allowing superstitions to guide your life and decisions, you can slam the door right in the devil’s face. Place all of your trust in Allah Almighty who is the Only One deserving of it.

Black Cats

It is permissible to have cats and breed them on condition that you fulfil their rights, even if they are black in colour. But it is better not to get black cats because Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah (Allah have mercy upon him) mentioned that the jinn may take possession of a black cat, like the case of a black dog, as he said, “The black dog is the devil of the dogs and the jinn take his image much, as well as the image of a black cat because the black colour gathers the satanic forces and it and black has the strength of heat.”

This is possible. Jinns do have the ability to take the form of a creature or serpent. Rasulullah ﷺ is reported to have said:

“A group of Jinn residing in Madinah have accepted Islam, so if any of you see any of these creatures (snakes/scorpions etc.) then he should warn it (to leave) thrice. If it still appears then kill it, for verily it is a Shaytan. “(Sahih Muslim: 2236)

Hafiz Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) states:

“Jinn can come in the form of black dogs. Similarly they can also come in the form of black cats” (Majmu ‘ul Fatawa, vol. 19 pg. 52)

However this does not mean that every black cat is a jinn. All that this means is that it is possible for a jinn to appear in the form of a black cat.

It was narrated from Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet SAWS (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “There is no ‘adwa (transmission of infectious disease without the permission of Allah) and no tiyarah (superstitious belief in bird omens), but I like optimism.” They said, “What is optimism?” He said, “A good word.”  Narrated by al-Bukhari (5776) and Muslim (2224). 

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Tiyarah (superstitious belief in omens) is shirk.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1614)

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: 

The word tiyarah is derived from the word tatayyur, which refers to superstition about something that is seen or heard; or it was said that it refers to superstition about anything ,whether it is something that is seen or heard, or a time or place. This is more comprehensive as it includes things that are not seen or heard, such as superstition about certain times. 

The basic meaning of tatayyur is pessimism but reference is made to birds (tayr) because most of the superstitions held by the Arabs have to do with birds, so it was connected to them. But the general definition is superstition based on something that is seen, heard or known. 

The Arabs used to regard certain birds, times and persons as unlucky, and this is shirk as the Prophet ﷺ said. 

If a person opens the door to superstition, the world will become a hard place for him and he will imagine that everything is a bad omen. There are even some people who, if they get up in the morning and go out and meet a man who only has one eye, they will regard it as a bad omen and say: Today is a bad day, so such a person will close his shop and not sell or buy anything – Allah forbid. Some of them regarded Wednesday as unlucky and said that it was a day of bad omens and bad luck, and some of them regarded the month of Shawal as unlucky, especially for weddings. The case of ‘Aa’ishah proves that this superstition is wrong, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) married her in Shawwal and consummated the marriage with her in Shawal, so she used to say: “And who among you was more beloved to him than me?” Narrated by Muslim. The answer is: No one. 

What matters is that no one should pay any attention to superstition, because it will spoil his life. What we should do is follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who liked optimism, as was narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim. We should be optimistic, not pessimistic, like some people who try something time after time, then they become pessimistic and think that they will never succeed in it, so they give it up. This is wrong, because if you think that something is good, you should not give it up at the first attempt; try again and again until Allah makes it easy for you. 

Al-Qawl al-Mufeed Sharh Kitaab al-Tawheed (2/39-41); Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (9/515, 516). 

Superstition is only mentioned in the Qur’an as something followed by the enemies of the Messengers, which indicates that the one who follows it and believes in it is as ignorant as those people, to the extent that he believes in these notions. 

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: 

Allah does not mention superstition except on the part of the enemies of the Messengers, as they said to their Messengers (interpretation of the meaning): 

“ ‘For us, we see an evil omen from you; if you cease not, we will surely stone you, and a painful torment will touch you from us.’

They (Messengers) said: ‘Your evil omens be with you! (Do you call it ‘evil omen’) because you are admonished? Nay, but you are a people Musrifoon (transgressing all bounds by committing all kinds of great sins, and by disobeying Allaah)’” [Yaseen 36:18, 19]

And Allah tells us about the people of Pharaoh (interpretation of the meaning): 

“But whenever good came to them, they said: ‘Ours is this.’ And if evil afflicted them, they ascribed it to evil omens connected with Moosa (Moses) and those with him. Be informed! Verily, their evil omens are with Allah” [al-A’raaf 7:131]

Miftaah Daar al-Sa’adah (3/231, 232) 

Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said of the people of the Jahiliyyah: 

Most of them believed in bird omens and relied in that, and they usually came true for them, because the shaytan was making it appear attractive to them, and some traces of that are still present among many Muslims. 

Fath al-Bari (10/213). 

In order to deal with this pessimism which the shaytan instils by whispers and makes attractive to people: 

1 – Put your trust fully and properly in Allah. 

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Tiyarah (superstitious belief in omens) is shirk, and any one of us may think he sees an evil omen but Allah will dispel it by means of trust in Him (tawakkul).”  Abu Dawood (3910)

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said: 

It is proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade tiyarah and said “There is no tiyarah.” That is because during the Jahiliyyah they believed in superstitious omens, and he forbade them to do that and told them to put their trust in Allah, because nothing happens except by His decree and no one has any knowledge of the unseen but Him.  

Al-Tamheed (24/195). 

2 – Go ahead with what you want to do, and do not delay it or change your mind. 

3 – Pray to Allah to free you from this trap of the shaytan, and ask Him for that which is good, and seek refuge with Him from evil. 

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever lets tiyarah (superstition) stop him from doing something has committed an act of shirk.” They said, “What is the kafarah (expiation) for that?” He said, “To say: Allahumma la khayra illaa khayruka wa laa tayra illaa tayruka wa laa ilaaha ghayruka (O Allah, there is no good except Your good, no birds except Yours, and there is no god beside You).”  Narrated by Ahmad (7045)

Types of superstitious belief in bad omens, ancient and modern:

  1. Certain beliefs about days or months, such as Safar and Shawwaal.
  2. Certain belief about birds, such as crows and owls.
  3. Certain beliefs about animals, such as snakes, black cats and monkeys, or their movements, such as the passing of gazelles.
  4. Certain beliefs about types of people, such as a one-eyed man or a hunchback.
  5. Certain beliefs about numbers, such as 13 among the Christians, 7 among the Bedouin and 10 among the Rafidis; in the latter case because they dislike the asharah mubashsharah (the ten Sahabah who were given the certain promise of Paradise) with the exception of Ali (Allah be pleased with him). Hence they will say nine plus one instead of ten.
  6. Certain sounds, such as the voice of a crow or the sound of an ambulance or fire truck.
  7. Frightening or disturbing dreams.
  8. Colours, such as the colour of blood, or yellow.
  9. When the eyelashes of the left eye tremble involuntarily, they say, something bad is going to happen to us.
  10. Calling a child by the name of a living person, such as the father or mother and so on.
  11. Witnessing an accident or a fire in the morning.
  12. Seeing one’s wife’s mother in the morning.
  13. When the right hand or right foot itches.
  14. Stepping over a child
  15. Cutting one’s nails at night
  16. Sweeping the house at night
  17. Refusing to do laundry on Mondays
  18. Opening the scissors and closing them without a reason causes family problems
  19. Twitching of the eyes
  20. Hazazah for the child who has hiccups. They collect any amount of money, whatever it is, from seven people whose name has to be Muhammad, and they take it to a blacksmith to make what they call hazazah, which they then place on the child’s clothes to take away the hiccups.
  21. After giving birth, when the woman is still in the state of nifas or postpartum bleeding, no other woman should enter upon her who has her monthly period, because that will prevent her from having children.

It is not permitted for the Muslim who believes in Allah as his Lord, Islam as his religion, Muhammad ﷺ as a Prophet and Messenger, and in the divine decree, both good and bad, to think that any being, entity or quality can have a specific effect in bringing good or warding off harm, as there is no evidence in shareeah to that effect. This is part of the legacy of jahiliyyah (ignorance) which has been cancelled out by Islam and is regarded as being shirk which negates perfect Tawheed, because it is insinuating thoughts (waswaas) and scare tactics from the Shaytan.

It is like the attitude of the people of Pharaoh, about whom Allah said (interpretation of the meaning): But whenever good came to them, they said, ours is this. And if evil afflicted them, they ascribed it to evil omens connected with Moosa ﷺ and those with him [al-Araaf 7:131]. If some disaster or drought befell them, they blamed it on evil omens which they associated with Moosa ﷺ and the believers with him, but Allah refuted this and said (interpretation of the meaning): Verily, their evil omens are with Allah [al-Araaf 7:131].

Ismail ibn Nazir Satia (one who is in dire need of Allah’s forgiveness, mercy and pleasure)

15th Shaban 1442

By Ismail ibn Nazir Satia

I'm for the truth no matter who tells it. I'm for justice no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being first and foremost and for whoever benefits humanity...

2 replies on “Superstition in Islam”

Jazakallah for this reminder.
I recall listening to a talk by Shaykh Ahmad Ali several years ago where he spoke passionately about all of this as well.

Other superstitions are as follows:

If you spill milk its bad luck.

If you leave a shoe/slipper upside down, there will be an argument in the house.

If a pregnant woman goes to a mayyit house or to meet a woman during days of nifas, she will unfortunately miscarry or give birth to stillborn baby.

If any utensil fall onto the floor it means to expect visitors.

If you hoover the house after the wedding is over, you are getting rid of all the barkat.

Not to tap the pot with a spoon during cooking, your mother will get a banging headache.

Not to rock an empty baby cot or bouncer, because the baby will get a tummy ache.

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