Superstitions at the Speed
By Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
It would be hoped that the Muslim mind would have some natural
reservations when it comes to believing in falsehoods and superstitions,
since the Qurān establishes for us an approach to knowledge founded on
factual information and evidence.
Allah says: Say: Bring your proof, if you are truthful. [Sūrah al-Baqarah:
A Muslim believes in empirical evidence an in the knowledge gained
through accurate observation and experimentation. A Muslim believes in
reason and the conclusions the rational mind arrives at when free from
the influence of personal desires and vested interests. A Muslim
believes also in the truth of Divine Revelation.
Therefore, proof as a Muslim sees it is either empirical, rational, or
in matters of the unseen scriptural.
This is clear from Allahs words: Allah brings you forth from the wombs
of your mothers knowing nothing, and He provides you with hearing,
sight, and a heart, that perhaps you might be thankful. [Sūrah al-Nahl:
In this verse, Allah defines the sources of knowledge that can bring a
person forth from the snares of ignorance.
Allah says: And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge; for
every act of hearing, or of seeing, or of the heart, will be enquired
into. [Sūrah al-Isrā: 36]
This verse prohibits us following that which is not supported by
evidence and defines for us the sources of evidence.
By way of our hearing, we learn about revelation. By way of our sight,
we acquire empirical knowledge. By way of our hearts, we are able to
reason and make determinations.
By employing this methodology, the Muslims of old were able to emerge
from the age of ignorance that they had been living in and become the
vanguard of history, leading civilization forward.
They did not suffer from any conflict between rational knowledge and
spiritual belief. Theirs was a perfect harmony between the two which
brought about a full realization of their human potential.
This is in stark contrast to the pitiful state that Muslims are in
today. Muslims are practically cut off from the empirical sciences,
which have witnessed startling transformations and discoveries at a rate
unprecedented in history.
Muslims societies are plagued with fables and superstitions that stifle
their intellectual output and that bring about nothing but confusion.
For some, the distinction between fables and superstitions on the one
hand and revealed knowledge on the other has become obscured. Ready
acceptance of strange and unnatural claims is seen as a natural
extension of our belief in the unseen. Some people are eager to accept
the flimsiest of claims and the most unsubstantiated of reports.
Beneficial and sound knowledge, on the other hand, is met by some people
with suspicion and stiff resistance.
Fables and strange tales spread around, traveling at the speed of light.
Indeed, the speed with which rumors and fables spread through society
might become a new figure of speech to indicate fantastic speed. Sheikh
Muhammad Rashīd Ridā wrote something once about the visionary bequest of
Ahmad, the bearer of the Ka`bahs keys, foretelling the end of the
world. Thereafter, Sheikh `Abd al-`Azīz b. Bāz wrote a specific response
to this fable, though some people were surprised that he saw it worth
his effort to refute such a ridiculous tale. Alas, we see the tale in
its various guises reappear year after year.
Modern technology has allowed such stories to spread and circulate
faster than ever. The Internet, satellite broadcasts, cell phones, and
other advancements in communication have exposed to us how weak Muslims
are in sorting and verifying information and how easy they are willing
to absorb ideas that are contrary to both the teachings of Islam and to
good sense. They have shown us the simple-mindedness and gullibility of
a wide section of the population.
How often to reformers have to waste time combating false reports that
spread like viruses, lethal and insidious, unchecked by any immunity.
Religious people are often the victims of myths about saints, the Mahdi,
and the Hour. Sick people are susceptible to instantaneous diagnoses
about magic curses, with cures that are often ridiculous and contrary to
Islamic teachings. Many wives are plagued by superstitions involving
curses, Jinn, magic charms, and the interpretation of dreams.
People seeking quick wealth are often taken in by the tempting promises
of mediums who claim that with the assistance of Jinn or other people,
they can help uncover for them buried treasure.
The general public seems not to have the patience to try and understand
things or to acquire accurate knowledge. They are not sufficiently
prepared for critical thinking. They are attracted to the new and
strange. A person might sit in on a lecture or hear a sermon and
remember nothing that was said except for something that was strange and
unusual. The same can be said for reading periodicals. Some people have
no interest except in those articles that have the least benefit or
value, but that provide them with strange and attention-getting
anecdotes for conversation.
However, Allah directs us as follows: Those who hear advice and follow
the best thereof, such are those whom Allah guides, and such are people
of understanding. [Sūrah al-Zumar: 18]
It never ceases to amaze how an erudite scholar or scientist who is able
to employ his mind to great effect within his field of secular study can
at the same time you find him in another setting with his head
reverently bowed down, awaiting the arrival of Khidr or the appearance
of one of the Companions or prophets who is to participate in their
gathering. It leaves us to wonder how such good sense can reside in the
same mind with such foolish superstition.
Does a Muslims faith in the unseen in matters that cannot be
subjected to empirical scrutiny give him license to discard sense and
discretion in what he accepts to be true?
When superstition to run rampant in peoples lives, they dissipates
their mental powers, making them incapable of critical thinking.
Superstitions blacken the image of Islam.
Superstitions take away peoples confidence in themselves and their own
abilities. It is that confidence which is so vital to the pursuit of
knowledge, to inventiveness, and to excellence.
Noble, healthy civilizations have no respect for superstitions. We must
make it a priority to reform our approaches to education, to developing
critical thinking skills. No one who is concerned about the future of
Muslim society can fail to see the importance of doing so. We should not
allow our problems and circumstances to distract us from this. Indeed,
only in this way will we be able to develop a strong basis to meet the
challenges that confront us.