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Assalamualaikum wbt, SS Dato’ Dr Zulkifli, I would like to get an explanation regarding Islam’s view regarding sorcery. Thank you.



Waalaikumussalam wbt,

Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

The Meaning of Sorcery

Ibn Manzur states in Lisan al-Arab sorcery means a practice to grow closer to shaytan and ask for help from it.

Sorcery in the Quran

The act of sorcery is not a new practice. Al-Quran explains it clearly when describing the story of the Prophet Moses AS going against the sorcerers of the pharaoh. Allah SWT state:

وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ يَٰفِرۡعَوۡنُ إِنِّي رَسُول مِّن رَّبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ ١٠٤ حَقِيقٌ عَلَىٰٓ أَن لَّآ أَقُولَ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ إِلَّا ٱلۡحَقَّۚ قَدۡ جِئۡتُكُم بِبَيِّنَة مِّن رَّبِّكُمۡ فَأَرۡسِلۡ مَعِيَ بَنِيٓ إِسۡرَٰٓءِيلَ ١٠٥ قَالَ إِن كُنتَ جِئۡتَ بِ‍َٔايَة فَأۡتِ بِهَآ إِن كُنتَ مِنَ ٱلصَّٰدِقِينَ ١٠٦ فَأَلۡقَىٰ عَصَاهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ ثُعۡبَان مُّبِين ١٠٧ وَنَزَعَ يَدَهُۥ فَإِذَا هِيَ بَيۡضَآءُ لِلنَّٰظِرِينَ ١٠٨ قَالَ ٱلۡمَلَأُ مِن قَوۡمِ فِرۡعَوۡنَ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَسَٰحِرٌ عَلِيم ١٠٩ يُرِيدُ أَن يُخۡرِجَكُم مِّنۡ أَرۡضِكُمۡۖ فَمَاذَا تَأۡمُرُونَ ١١٠ قَالُوٓاْ أَرۡجِهۡ وَأَخَاهُ وَأَرۡسِلۡ فِي ٱلۡمَدَآئِنِ حَٰشِرِينَ ١١١ يَأۡتُوكَ بِكُلِّ سَٰحِرٍ عَلِيم ١١٢ وَجَآءَ ٱلسَّحَرَةُ فِرۡعَوۡنَ قَالُوٓاْ إِنَّ لَنَا لَأَجۡرًا إِن كُنَّا نَحۡنُ ٱلۡغَٰلِبِينَ ١١٣ قَالَ نَعَمۡ وَإِنَّكُمۡ لَمِنَ ٱلۡمُقَرَّبِينَ ١١٤ قَالُواْ يَٰمُوسَىٰٓ إِمَّآ أَن تُلۡقِيَ وَإِمَّآ أَن نَّكُونَ نَحۡنُ ٱلۡمُلۡقِينَ ١١٥ قَالَ أَلۡقُواْۖ فَلَمَّآ أَلۡقَوۡاْ سَحَرُوٓاْ أَعۡيُنَ ٱلنَّاسِ وَٱسۡتَرۡهَبُوهُمۡ وَجَآءُو بِسِحۡرٍ عَظِيم ١١٦ ۞وَأَوۡحَيۡنَآ إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰٓ أَنۡ أَلۡقِ عَصَاكَۖ فَإِذَا هِيَ تَلۡقَفُ مَا يَأۡفِكُونَ ١١٧ فَوَقَعَ ٱلۡحَقُّ وَبَطَلَ مَا كَانُواْ يَعۡمَلُونَ ١١٨ فَغُلِبُواْ هُنَالِكَ وَٱنقَلَبُواْ صَٰغِرِينَ ١١٩ وَأُلۡقِيَ ٱلسَّحَرَةُ سَٰجِدِينَ ١٢٠ قَالُوٓاْ ءَامَنَّا بِرَبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ ١٢١ رَبِّ مُوسَىٰ وَهَٰرُونَ ١٢٢ قَالَ فِرۡعَوۡنُ ءَامَنتُم بِهِۦ قَبۡلَ أَنۡ ءَاذَنَ لَكُمۡۖ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَمَكۡر مَّكَرۡتُمُوهُ فِي ٱلۡمَدِينَةِ لِتُخۡرِجُواْ مِنۡهَآ أَهۡلَهَاۖ فَسَوۡفَ تَعۡلَمُونَ ١٢٣ لَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيۡدِيَكُمۡ وَأَرۡجُلَكُم مِّنۡ خِلَٰفٖ ثُمَّ لَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمۡ أَجۡمَعِينَ ١٢٤ قَالُوٓاْ إِنَّآ إِلَىٰ رَبِّنَا مُنقَلِبُونَ ١٢٥ وَمَا تَنقِمُ مِنَّآ إِلَّآ أَنۡ ءَامَنَّا بِ‍َٔايَٰتِ رَبِّنَا لَمَّا جَآءَتۡنَاۚ رَبَّنَآ أَفۡرِغۡ عَلَيۡنَا صَبۡرا وَتَوَفَّنَا مُسۡلِمِينَ ١٢٦

And Moses said, "O Pharaoh, I am a messenger from the Lord of the worlds. [Who is] obligated not to say about Allah except the truth. I have come to you with clear evidence from your Lord, so send with me the Children of Israel." [Pharaoh] said, "If you have come with a sign, then bring it forth, if you should be of the truthful." So, Moses threw his staff, and suddenly it was a serpent, manifest. And he drew out his hand; thereupon it was white [with radiance] for the observers. Said the eminent among the people of Pharaoh, "Indeed, this is a learned magician,”. “Who wants to expel you from your land [through magic], so what do you instruct?" They said, "Postpone [the matter of] him and his brother and send among the cities gatherers,”. “Who will bring you every learned magician." And the magicians came to Pharaoh. They said, "Indeed for us is a reward if we are predominant." He said, "Yes, and, [moreover], you will be among those made near [to me]." They said, "O Moses, either you throw [your staff], or we will be the ones to throw [first]." He said, "Throw," and when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people and struck terror into them, and they presented a great [feat of] magic. And We inspired to Moses, "Throw your staff," and at once it devoured what they were falsifying. So, the truth was established, and abolished was what they were doing. And Pharaoh and his people were overcome right there and became debased. And the magicians fell down in prostration [to Allah]. They said, "We have believed in the Lord of the worlds, The Lord of Moses and Aaron." Said Pharaoh, "You believed in him before I gave you permission. Indeed, this is a conspiracy which you conspired in the city to expel therefrom its people. But you are going to know. I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides; then I will surely crucify you all." They said, "Indeed, to our Lord, we will return. And you do not resent us except because we believed in the signs of our Lord when they came to us. Our Lord, pour upon us patience and let us die as Muslims [in submission to You]."

Surah al-A’raf (104-126)

Islam and Sorcery

Islam denounces and prohibits the act of sorcery and teaches the Muslims to always seek the protection from Allah SWT from the evil act of sorcery, Allah SWT state:

وَمِن شَرِّ النَّفَّاثَاتِ فِي الْعُقَدِ

“And from the evil of the blowers in knots.”

Surah al-Falaq (4)

Imam al-Tabari said: “(seeking protection) from the evil deed of a female sorcerer who blew on the knots of thread while performing her incantations.

The Prophet PBUH also includes the act of sorcery as one of the major sins that should be avoided. From Abu Hurairah RA, the prophet PBUH said:

اجْتَنِبُوا السَّبْعَ المُوبِقَاتِ، قَالُوا: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا هُنَّ؟ قَالَ: الشِّرْكُ بِاللَّهِ، وَالسِّحْرُ، وَقَتْلُ النَّفْسِ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالحَقِّ، وَأَكْلُ الرِّبَا، وَأَكْلُ مَالِ اليَتِيمِ، وَالتَّوَلِّي يَوْمَ الزَّحْفِ، وَقَذْفُ المُحْصَنَاتِ المُؤْمِنَاتِ الغَافِلاَت

"Avoid the seven great destructive sins." They (the people!) asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What are they?" He said, "To join partners in worship with Allah; to practice sorcery; to kill the life which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause (according to Islamic law); to eat up usury (Riba), to eat up the property of an orphan; to give one's back to the enemy and fleeing from the battle-field at the time of fighting and to accuse chaste women who never even think of anything touching chastity and are good believers."

Sahih al-Bukhari (2766)

Imam al-Dzahabi mentioned in al-Kabair that sorcery is a sin and the one who practises it is a disbeliever, citing the statement of Allah SWT:

وَلَكِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ كَفَرُوا يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ

“… but the devils disbelieved, teaching people magic,”

Surah al-Baqarah (102)

The purpose of the cursed shaytan teaching humans magic and sorcery is to make them commit shirk towards Allah SWT.

The Punishment for Sorcerer

The scholars have differing opinions as to the punishment for sorcerers. Imam Malik hold the opinion that they should be executed, there is no istitabah (advice the person to repent to Allah) process for him and his repentance is unacceptable. The reason is, Allah SWT state that anyone who practises sorcery is considered as a disbeliever. Allah SWT state:

وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنۡ أَحَدٍ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَآ إِنَّمَا نَحۡنُ فِتۡنَةٞ فَلَا تَكۡفُرۡۖ

But the two angels do not teach anyone unless they say, "We are a trial, so do not disbelieve [by practising magic]." 

Surah al-Baqarah (102)

This is also the opinion of al-Imam Ahmad, al-Imam Ibn Thaur, al-Imam Ishak, al-Imam al-Syafi’e in one narration and al-Imam Abu Hanifah. (Refer Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 2/48)

Whereas, the second opinion is from a renown opinion from al-Imam al-Syafie, where he states if the sorcerer did not kill anyone from his magic then, he should not be executed. See Fath al-Bari (10/236).

Al-Imam al-Nawawi said: Sometimes, sorcery leads to disbelief and other times sorcery will only result in it being a major sin. If there are words or actions in the sorcery that is a form of disbelief, then the sorcerer is considered as a disbeliever, but if this is not so (for example, using medications and drugs), then it is not considered as disbelief. However, learning and teaching of sorcery are prohibited, and if the knowledge is a form of disbelief, then he is considered as a disbeliever and vice versa. If the sorcery is not a form of disbelief, then the sorcerer will be punished through ta’zir and given a chance to repent.” See Syarh Sahih Muslim (14/176).

In a hadith, it is stated:

حَدُّ السَّاحِرِ ضَرْبَةٌ بِالسَّيْفِ

"The punishment of the Sahir is a strike of the sword."

Sunan al-Tirmizi (1460)

May Allah SWT protect us from the evil act of sorcery, whether in terms of committing or harmed by it.