Is magic realistic?

Magic in the Quran

We deduce from the different verses (Ayahs) of the Holy Quran, especially those that entail Moses’s encounter with the magicians, that magic is nothing but a process based on delusion and tricking man’s eyes and other senses, for Allah says: “They bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror into them: for they showed a great (feat of) magic.” (07:116). Allah also mentions what Moses told them: “What ye have brought is sorcery: Allah will surely make it of no effect,” (10:81), pointing that their magic is not founded on any rightful [solid] basis that enables it to stand strong, and He says: “They have wrought only the plan of a magician, and the magician shall not be successful wheresoever he may come from,” (20:69), for his magic will not lead to a decisive result, but rather, all what it will lead to is disappointment, loss and failure… This is manifested in how the disbelievers used to accuse the prophets of practicing magic to make the people lose their freewill and unwillingly accept their [the prophets’] call.

Moreover, many traditions that strongly denounce magic and whosoever practices it were narrated, and they stressed on the punishment the magician would face in this world and the Hereafter. It is narrated that: “Soothsayers are like magicians, and magicians are like unbelievers and the abode of unbelievers is in Hellfire,” and: “The Muslim sorcerer must be killed and the infidel magician must not be killed.” Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, why should not the disbelieving sorcerer be killed too?” The Messenger of Allah (p.) replied: “Because disbelief is a more serious sin than magic; and sorcery and polytheism are the same.” The danger of magic lies in the fact that it attaches people to myth, misguidance and deception under the cover of the mysterious sacred secrets

Perhaps the reason is the nature of the danger that magic entails by attaching the people to myth, misguidance and deception and distancing them from the true nature of things under the cover of mysterious sacred secrets, or belief in the singularities of things and their effects to the extent that contradicts with the notion of Allah’s oneness and magnificence.

Our ruling for not considering magic something real is not based on our belief that everything should have a natural realistic cause; but rather, because, as far as we know, we do not have any religious or concrete evidence on it; thus, the issue remains open to the possibility of either proving or refuting it according to evidences.

Magic is defined in so many different ways. Some say that it is a delusional act and dexterous craft, from which Allah ordered us to keep away by seeking refuge in His Holy Book in which Al-Falaq Chapter was revealed. This is the view adopted by Sheikh Al-Mufid.

It is also said that it represents an act of deception, superstition and illusion that the bewitched is tricked into believing that it is true. Moreover, it is said that the magician can turn a human into a donkey, transform him from one form into another or make an animal out of nothing. Were the magicians and sorcerers able to do good or harm and had they known the unseen, they would have eradicated kingdoms, excavated treasures from their hidden places and conquered countries by killing kings without them being harmed or affected in any way, but as we come to notice that they are in a bad condition and only capable of making schemes and tricks, we realize that they are incapable of doing any of the aforementioned acts. As for the narrations which say that the Prophet (p.) was bewitched to believe, sometimes, that he had done what he did not actually do or had not done what he actually did, they are but fabricated and should not be taken into consideration. Allah, the Most Exalted, refuted the unbelievers’ accusation: “Ye follow none other than a man bewitched!” (17:47). Far be it from the Prophet (p.) to have any flaws - such as being bewitched - that contradicts with the saying that he [the Prophet] is the best of Allah’s creations and the chosen one from among them.

A response to Sheikh Al-Mufid’s conception

Our comment on Sheikh Al-Mufid’s interpretation of the following verse of Al-Falaq Chapter: “From the mischief of those who practice secret arts,” (113:04), is that seeking refuge [in Allah’s Book] is one of the methods of ridding oneself from the psychological distresses one might face, such as fear or anxiety caused by the so-called magic, for people’s minds tend to believe that some supernatural powers do exist and they have real effects on people. Not far from this ambience are the related narrations that call to seek refuge in Allah from any act of superstition and pessimism that might inflict one’s soul with distress.

Seeking refuge [in Allah’s Book] might be one of the methods of ridding oneself from the psychological distresses one might face, such as fear or anxiety caused by the so-called magic…

However, the treatment of such acts does not have to do with a real entity that imposes danger; but rather, it has to do with the psychological distress created by the inherited beliefs. It must be noted that this does not mean that we refute any spiritual effect of some sacred expressions, such as the Names of Allah or Quranic verses, for many traditions narrate that the latter do have a certain scope of influence on certain issues.

Yet, these issues are not open for everyone; nay, they are to be tackled by the aware religious scholars who are capable of differentiating between myth and reality and between authentic and unauthentic traditions. Thus, they would only deduce from these issues what is established as authentic and not contradicting with reason and the nature of things. In this sense, one should not succumb to the people who are almost illiterate and depend on chance to win people’s confidence. They would have nothing to do with knowledge or influence, yet people follow them, and if they are mistaken, they apologize, for people are more likely to believe in such effortless easy things; thus, they succumb to the easy solution so as not to bother themselves with facing things.

[Source: (Interpretations) inspired from the Quran], by His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah.