Prepared by Sana Jaffer
There is a general rule when dealing with Islamic Jurisprudence that explains that everything is permissible in Islam unless proven otherwise. This applies to all things from food, to dress, to recreational activities. Something that is proven to be impermissible in Islam is done so based on a lack on benefit from that thing or due to any harm that can come from it. There are many things that may seem innocent to the naked eye, however upon deeper consideration one may be able to recognize harmful effects of the seemingly innocent thing. One such activity is magic. It is common knowledge that black magic is harmful yet many consider recreational magic or slight of hand or illusions to be innocent fun, however there are aspects of it that are questionable. The main reason for this is that magic is usually on of two types: that involving the help of the unseen, or Jinn, and that which is not real.
Magic that involves the use of the jinn is not permissible because that is a form of shirk. It involves worshipping the jinn and seeking their help to misguide or harm people. Allah speaks of these types of magicians in the Qur’an, “And from the evil of the witches when they blow in the knots” [al-Falaq 113:4] The types of jinn that one seeks help from in this type of magic are the shayateen and using their help for these acts is directly undermining one’s faith in and commitment to Allah and in any many cases is falling into apostasy. In order to perform this type of magic, one must transgress boundaries and delve into the realm of the unseen in order to seek help and guidance from the shayateen whose main objective is to misguide and fool mankind.
Although magic tricks and magic shows that are for entertainment purposes seem to be simple fun for kids and adults, and are often a popular activity at social gatherings, the Islamic ruling on any type of magic is that it is also impermissible. The magic that is performed most commonly for entertainment purposes is almost always not real and thus it is pure deception and dishonesty. As is common knowledge, dishonesty and deception are completely impermissible for a Muslim even in joking. Trickery and deception are not to be supported or encouraged either, by one watching magic even for entertainment.
It was narrated by AbuUmamah: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: I guarantee a house in the surroundings of Paradise for a man who avoids quarrelling even if he were in the right, a house in the middle of Paradise for a man who avoids lying even if he were joking, and a house in the upper part of Paradise for a man who made his character good.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)
When Musa ‘alayhis-salaam was ordered to show two signs to the Fir’aun through miracles Allah manifested through him, the arrogant Fir’aun called upon sorcerers to counter with similar actions. These people were of course not actually able to replicate such actions and used trickery to fool the eyes of the people. “…So when they threw, the bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror into them, and they displayed a great magic” [al-A’raaf 7:116] When Musa showed them the true miracles from Allah the sorcerers themselves fell in prostration to Allah.
And We revealed to Musa, saying ‘Throw your stick!’ And behold, it swallowed up straight away all the falsehood which they showed. And the truth was confirmed, and all that they did was made of no effect. So they were defeated there, and returned disgraced. And the sorcerers fell down prostrate. They said ‘We believe in the Lord of the ‘Alameen (mankind, jinn, and all that exists)’ [al-A’raaf 7:117-122]
Shaykh Saalih Al-Fawzaan (may Allah preserve him) stated about recreational magic:
It is not permissible to watch magic, whether it is real or is just illusions. It is not permissible because it is falsehood, and it is not permissible to witness or watch falsehood, because by watching it one has approved of it, unless he is watching it in order to denounce it and strive to put an end to it. In that case there is nothing wrong with it. But if he watches it and says nothing, or he tells others about it, this is haraam because it is idle entertainment.
From these evidences, and more, the Islamic ruling on magic of any kind is that it is indeed impermissible and there is no good in any type of magic. And Allah knows best.
Sister Sana Jaffer graduated from Temple University with a degree in Psychology. She is an active member of her community and dedicates her time to mentoring teenage Muslim girls as well as helping manage GCLEA's sister's youth group. She is currently enrolled in both Al-Hikmah Institute's Diploma Program in Islamic Sciences and Quranic & Arabic Studies.
This article was presented as the Tafsir 101 course essay assignment.