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Question:

Do certain numbers, such as in telephone number, house number, or car plate number or others could bring bad or good luck to someone?

Answer:

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.

There are some people who believe that certain numbers could give bad or good luck in their lives. This brings attention to the issue and the question of what Islam’s perspective regarding this belief is. Hence, this article will discuss about this issue.

Only Allah SWT Can Give Benefit or Harm

Basically, Islam put a firm belief that there is nothing that could benefit or harm except for Allah SWT. Allah SWT states:

وَإِن يَمْسَسْكَ اللَّـهُ بِضُرٍّ فَلَا كَاشِفَ لَهُ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ وَإِن يُرِدْكَ بِخَيْرٍ فَلَا رَادَّ لِفَضْلِهِ ۚ يُصِيبُ بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

“And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no repeller of His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”

Surah Yunus (107)

Imam Ibnu Kathir said: “Indeed, goodness, harm, benefit and danger, all are only owned by Allah SWT. There is nothing beside Him in those affairs. For only Allah SWT deserves to be worshipped. There is none beside Him,” (Refer: Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azhim, 7/407)

Prohibition of Believing in Bad Luck and Only Say Good Things

Islam prohibits Muslims from linking certain days, months or incidents, or even numbers to anything bad happening. An example is when someone linked certain numbers to the bad luck that he experienced. The same goes to linking certain months to bad luck, thus avoiding the months from holding any ceremonies or events.

All these are prohibited in Islam, for it would lead to a belief that a disaster or harm can come from Allah’s creations, while in truth, Allah’s creations do not possess even the slightest power to bring benefit or harm. This could also impair the sense of tawakkal towards Allah SWT. Conversely, Islam teaches us to always be optimistic and see the best in everything that happens.

From Abdullah bin Mas’ud RA, the prophet PBUH said:

الطِّيَرَةُ شِرْكٌ ، الطِّيَرَةُ شِرْكٌ ، ثَلاَثًا ، وَمَا مِنَّا إِلاَّ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ يُذْهِبُهُ بِالتَّوَكُّلِ.

“Taking omens is polytheism; taking omens is polytheism. He said it three times. Every one of us has some, but Allah removes it by trust (in Him).”

Sunan Abu Daud (3910), Sunan Ibnu Majah (3538) and Sunan al-Tirmizi (1614)

The term tatayyur or tiyarah comes from the word al-tayr (الطير) which means bird. In a belief from the Jahiliyyah people, before they went on any journey, they would first release birds. If the birds fly to the right, then they are happy because they consider it sa’ih, and they can begin their travel. However, if the bird fly to the left, barih, it is considered bad luck and they would be sad, for they cannot go on their journey because disaster or harm would befall them, and so, they would postpone their journey. (Refer: Miftah Dar al-Sa’adah by Ibn al-Qayyim, pg. 584-585)

Tiyarah or tatayyur or bad luck is not limited to the sad feelings or pessimistic attitude or belief of using the birds, but also include certain names, statements or phrases, places or numbers.

The Prophet PBUH prohibits considering anything as bad luck and postponing one’s travels. For a simple example, when someone is walking out from his house heading towards a certain destination, as soon as he steps out of his house, he saw a lizard passses in front of him. Then, he says, something bad would happen to him, while it is not a clear indication of anything would happen at all. After that, he cancels his trip or postpone it to another day. This is what is prohibited by the Prophet PBUH.

From Fadhl bin Abbas, the Prophet PBUH said:

إِنَّمَا الطِّيَرَةُ مَا أَمْضَاكَ أَوْ رَدَّكَ

“Indeed, tiyarah is anything that made you keep on going or that stops you.”

Sunan Imam Ahmad (1824)

From Abdullah bin ‘Amr R.Anhuma, the Prophet PBUH said:

مَنْ رَدَّتْهُ الطِّيَرَةُ مِنْ حَاجَةٍ فَقَدْ أَشْرَكَ

“Whoever that postpone something for al-Tiyarah, then he has committed shirk.”

Sunan Imam Ahmad (7045)

Consequently, the Prophet PBUH asked us to always be optimistic and say only good things if anything unclear happens. From Anas bin Malik RA, the prophet PBUH said:

لَا عَدْوَى وَلَا طِيَرَةَ وَيُعْجِبُنِي الْفَأْلُ ، قَالُوا وَمَا الْفَأْلُ؟ قَالَ: كَلِمَةٌ طَيِّبَةٌ.

"No 'Adha nor Tiyara; but I like Fal." They said, "What is the Fal?" He said, "A good word."

Sahih al-Bukhari (5776) and Sahih Muslim (5934)

Al-Hulaimi said: “Indeed, the Prophet PBUH like al-fa’l (optimism) because the belief in bad luck is a prejudice towards Allah SWT without any valid reasons. While al-tafa’ul is a good thought towards Him. A mukmin is commanded to always think the best in Allah SWT in any circumstances.” (Refer: Fath al-Bari Syarh Sahih al-Bukhari, 10/215)

Al-Tibi said: “The meaning for the permissibility of al-fa’l and the prohibition of bad luck is, if someone see something and considers it good for him and this encourages him to achieve the goodness, then he must do it. When seeing a bad luck on certain things, he should ignore it, and work hard to achieve what he wanted. If he believes in bad luck and stops himself from achieving what he wanted this is the tiyarah that is meant as the prohibition of believing in bad luck.” (Refer: Syarh al-Thibi ‘ala Mishkat al-Masabih, 9/2978)

The prohibition of al-Tiyarah is based on a few factors. Some of them are:

  • Makes humans depend on things other than Allah SWT
  • Cultivate fear and restlessness in a lot of situations in a person’s heart.
  • Open avenues for the spreading of superstitions, with a belief that benefit and harm can come from creations, when in truth, they don’t.

(Refer: Syarah Aqidah Ahlus Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah)

Other Examples of Tatayyur in Malay Community

Among the things that the Malay community consider as bad luck, or bad omens are:

  • Certain months are bad to hold wedding receptions, building houses and others.
  • Certain bad luck beliefs, such as the number 13
  • The belief of kenan. Kenan is a physical flaw or deformity of someone, from the time he is born or the oddities of his movements or behaviour from when he is a little boy. In Malay community it is also known as badi. It is closely related to things the mother did while pregnant or by the father of the child that is linked to other objects, such as kenan from crocodile, cat, monkey, frog and others.
  • Safar Bathing festival that is practised by some people, especially people living near rivers and beaches. It’s a mass bathing festival, while having fun with the purpose of removing sins and preventing disasters.
  • There are people in the community, especially the elders that refuses to hold any wedding ceremonies in the month of Safar, fearing that it will bring bad luck to the groom and the bride, such as difficulty in conceiving, unhappiness and that they will not be able to have everlasting marriage.
  • There are some who believe that babies born in Safar will have bad luck, and certain ceremonies must be performed to get rid of the bad luck.

Conclusion

As a conclusion, we are prohibited from believing certain numbers would bring bad luck. And other things similar to it. This is to prevent us from falling into shirk towards Allah SWT.

Consequently, we are asked to have faith in Allah, tawakkal and think of only the best of thoughts towards Allah SWT even when a disaster happens. And not blaming certain numbers or days as bad luck. Have confidence in Allah SWT’s authority over everything and rely solely on Allah SWT. Remember the statement of Allah SWT:

وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ

“And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah - then He is sufficient for him.”

Surah al-Talaq (3)

Among the wisdom of this prohibition is to prevent the pessimism of people in life. Furthermore, we are asked to always be optimistic in living the days and life in any type of circumstances or disasters that befall us.

If there are such thoughts, then the thoughts should be eliminated, in fear that it is considered as elements of al-tiyarah. Pray to Allah SWT as has been taught to us by the Prophet PBUH:

اللَّهُمَّ لَا خَيْرَ إِلَّا خَيْرُكَ وَلَا طَيْرَ إِلَّا طَيْرُكَ وَلَا إِلَهَ غَيْرُكَ

“There is no good except Your good. The bird (that is used as tatayyur) is nothing more except your creation. There is no god that deserves worship except You.”

Sunan Imam Ahmad (7045)

Wallahua’lam.

We also included below the guidelines that was issued by JAKIM regarding the matters or elements that contradict the aqidah and practise of ahli sunnah wal jama’ah. Though it is a guideline for publishing materials, there are few things that could be learnt from it. Some of it are:

Regarding the Forms of Superstitions

Some forms of superstitions are:

  • The belief of bad luck, such as the custom of getting rid of bad luck
  • The belief of bad omen and taboo, such as postponing a journey if there is a lizard that pass by, for it is considered as a sign that something bad will happen.

The Prohibited Publication of Anything Related to Superstition

All publication that promotes the ‘extraordinary nature’ of certain objects. Some examples are:

  • Beliefs that certain objects such as ring, akik stone, old keris, and spear can give benefit or help.
  • Regarding the belief of any type of superstitions such as, the custom of lime bath, safar bath and bath to get rid of bad luck.

All publication that depicts stories from old beliefs, belief of omen, taboo and customs that are contradictory to Islamic teachings. Some examples are:

  • All beliefs in signs and taboo, such as, it is a taboo to look at a baby through a mirror, for it is believed the baby will die later in water.
  • The belief of one cannot go out of the house when the crows are crowing, for it brings bad luck and a bad omen.
  • The belief of the increase or decrease of sustenance, through certain ceremony such as honouring the paddy spirit and removing ancak.

All publication that depicts the belief of bad luck and harm to someone or himself. Some examples are:

  • The publication that depicts a young mother experiencing difficult labor after committing a taboo of bathing in a river while pregnant.

(Refer Guidelines for Printed and Audio-Visual Publications Related to Elements That Contradict the Faith and Practice of Sunnah Wal Jamaah Members by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM), pg. 13-28)