(16) Practical Islam: Keep away from superstitions

Keep away from superstitions

By Shaik Kadir

About a year ago, when I was with a group of Muslim and non-Muslim friends, one of them, a Muslim woman, mentioned something and followed it up with the words “touch wood” and extended her hand to a chair near us to touch it. She might not be serious. She used that phrase, most probably, because her non-Muslim friends used it.

We often hear some of our non-Muslim friends, to avoid bad luck, say “touch wood” and look around to touch any wooden material. For example, someone might say, “I was talking to a person who has tuberculosis. I hope I won’t contact it, touch wood.”

In fact, across cultures, even among Muslim communities in some countries, people do get involved in irrational acts, like knocking on wood, throwing (raw) rice over newly-weds, throwing salt on the path of dear ones who are parting to live somewhere, circling the head of a sick person with a hard-boiled egg or placing a chilli in the open to stop rain for the day and so on. Some of these acts have become part of their cultures. They feel that, by doing so, they could avoid or push away anything bad that might occur.

The fact is, whether that act is done or not, if a mishap is ordained to happen, it cannot be thwarted. In Islam, all these acts intended to reverse bad luck are not miracle or intuition but superstition. Islam does not condone superstition. A doa is the way while we leave our fate to Allah for Allah knows best of what has been “fixed” – bad or good in our reckoning for any individual.

Islam teaches people to trust Allah. What an individual reckons as bad for him might be good for nature, learning or other people.

If superstitious practices and beliefs are being condoned by some Muslims somewhere, it is due to ignorance about the true nature of Islam. Islam is rational. The Qur’an teaches Muslims to use their intellect and reason in whatever they do: believe rationally is the thread that runs through the Qur’an.

About a year ago, when I was with a group of Muslim and non-Muslim friends, one of them, a Muslim woman, mentioned something and followed it up with the words “touch wood” and extended her hand to a chair near us to touch it. She might not be serious. She used that phrase, most probably, because her non-Muslim friends used it.

We often hear some of our non-Muslim friends, to avoid bad luck, say “touch wood” and look around to touch any wooden material. For example, someone might say, “I was talking to a person who has tuberculosis. I hope I won’t contact it, touch wood.”

In fact, across cultures, even among Muslim communities in some countries, people do get involved in irrational acts, like knocking on wood, throwing (raw) rice over newly-weds, throwing salt on the path of dear ones who are parting to live somewhere, circling the head of a sick person with a hard-boiled egg or placing a chilli in the open to stop rain for the day and so on. Some of these acts have become part of their cultures. They feel that, by doing so, they could avoid or push away anything bad that might occur.

The fact is, whether that act is done or not, if a mishap is ordained to happen, it cannot be thwarted. In Islam, all these acts intended to reverse bad luck are not miracle or intuition but superstition. Islam does not condone superstition. A doa is the way while we leave our fate to Allah for Allah knows best of what has been “fixed” – bad or good in our reckoning for any individual.

Islam teaches people to trust Allah. What an individual reckons as bad for him might be good for nature, learning or other people.

If superstitious practices and beliefs are being condoned by some Muslims somewhere, it is due to ignorance about the true nature of Islam. Islam is rational. The Qur’an teaches Muslims to use their intellect and reason in whatever they do: believe rationally is the thread that runs through the Qur’an.

Earliest incident

One of the earliest incidents in the history of Islam that could have become a popular superstition happened when Prophet Muhammad’s only son died in infancy.

On that day, there was an eclipse of the sun and so the sky darkened. And this “scary scene” made some people say that even the sun is sad and mourned the death of the Prophet’s son. The Prophet quickly pointed out that celestial phenomenon had nothing to do with the affairs of human beings. This nipped the irrational belief in the bud; otherwise this incident could have well developed into a widespread superstitious belief.

A popular ritual based on superstitious belief that prevailed in Singapore, even up to the 1960s, was one known as mandi Safar (bathing in the Muslim month of Safar). Many Malay and Indian Muslims used to go to the sea in Safar, the second month of the Muslim calendar, to take a dip in the sea. Soaking themselves in the sea in Safar, according to their (mistaken) belief, would wash away their sins.

Those people who were unable to go to the sea, bought the broad mango leaves on which Qur’anic verses were written. They soaked the leaves in pails of water and used the water to bathe.

This practice could have been a tradition passed down from past generations of the Malays before they became Muslims and might have even been brought by Indian Muslims from India. These practices have no basis in Islam. Sins could only be atoned by sincere repentance; it cannot be washed away by water.

During the time of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), the majority of the Arabs had indulged in many kinds of superstitions. The Prophet had condemned superstitions because many of these superstitions go against the Islamic teaching of Tawakkul (Allah’s Will). But, tawakkul should not be confused with foresight and planning.

Tawakkul does not mean that one should sit in idle and need not make any effort or endeavour of his own to plan any future activity logically. Only things like placing chilli to stop rain is not tawakkul but superstition; it’s not scientific.

Tawakkul means that any future happening that is ordained to take place will happen and cannot be avoided. Everything goes according to Allah’s Will and Plan. Only Allah knows the outcome. But our doa for good things to happen must go on.

Allah forbids certain beliefs and activities that could result in harm, danger and corruption, not only to one’s self but also to the community.

Islam teaches us to “work” and plan for the future in the best of intentions, and place our trust in Allah. The Qur’an says: “Worship Allah and put your trust in Him.” (Hud, 11:123)

*  ** *  **  *

 

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Practical Islam and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s