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Lecture on Belief in Omens from Kitāb Al-Tawḥīd

Posted by Abu Iyaad
Tuesday, May 28 2024
Filed under Tawḥīd

This lecture was delivered on 24th February 2024 as part of the DeenṢaḥīh series of lectures on chapters from Kitāb al-Tawḥīd. I was given the chapter on omens. The lecture has been summarised in point form and has been edited slightly for easier reading.

Summary: A believing Muwaḥḥid, in his beliefs, feelings, emotions, speech and behaviour is governed by optimism, hope, certainty and reliance and he pursues his beneficial interests in this manner. There are affairs that erode and undermine this, such as omens and superstitions, which are based upon presumptions and errors in the principles of causation and which incapacitate a person, in addititon to being harmful to his creed, whereby imperfection occurs in the affair of his Tawḥīd.

The Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) brought guidance in this matter which does away with these affairs and contains directives to prevent them from arising and taking root in society as they had among the Pagan Arabs and other nations. This guidance is explained in this lecture.

Actualisation of Tawḥīd

01  This book by Shaykh al Islām Muḥammad bin Abd al-Wahhāb helps a believer in actualizing Tawḥīd in one’s beliefs, in one’s statements and in one’s actions, and this is the obligation and pursuit of all mankind, as it comes in Sūrah al-Dhāriyat Ayah 56: “And I (Allāh) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).” (51:56-).

02  To gain a thorough understanding of this topic of ‘Taṭayyur’ and evil omens, we need to look at it in the context of the preceding chapters because it is connected to the previous four or five chapters of the book.

Context of the Chapter on Omens

03  The first chapter we need to go back to is Chapter 24 which is on Magic. The author (رحمه الله) established in that chapter that, because Magic enables a hidden effect upon the hearts and the bodies by way of the jinn who are involved, who are worshipped, whereby Shirk is committed, the ruling upon Magic is that it is ‘Shirk Akbar’, or Major Shirk, and this expels from the fold of Islām.

04  Consequently, the ruling on the magician who tries to bring harm or benefit to the people through such hidden means, involving the use of the jinn, is that he is a kāfir (disbeliever).

05  The author (رحمه الله) then goes on to mention different types of ‘Siḥr’ (Magic) in Chapter 25, because not everything described as ‘Siḥr’ is Major Shirk or Major Kufr.

06  For example, speech (bayān) that is powerful, emotional, and can affect and convince, having a strong effect upon the hearts can be considered a type of ‘Siḥr’, and this has come in texts.

07  Likewise, astrology and the belief that the stars have an influence upon the events on the earth is another branch of ‘Siḥr’.

08  The author mentions tale-carrying (namīmah) as well, since when this affairs spreads in the society (which can comprise backbiting and slander), it influences the hearts and minds, with an effect that can be a type of ‘Siḥr’.

09  Similarly, the author also mentions the belief in omens by way of birds i.e., the flight of birds or types of birds, seeing certain types of birds and which way they fly and so on and so forth, and taking that as an evil omen etc.

10  All the above in Chapter 25 are mentioned as types of ‘Siḥr’ after the 24th chapter which introduces Magic. These other manifestations of ‘Siḥr’, come under the linguistic meaning of ‘Siḥr’, which are not necessarily Kufr or Shirk in themselves, unless there are certain beliefs attached. The general theme however, is hidden and subtle effects upon the hearts, feelings, and behaviours that emanate from them.

11  The following Chapter 26 discusses fortune tellers or the soothsayers who, like the magicians, commit Shirk or Kufr Akbar to be able to utilize the services of the Jinn for news of the unseen.

12  And so it would be that these magicians, soothsayers, and fortune tellers would be authority figures in the days of Jahiliyah among the Mushrikīn, as the people would return to them in their worldly affairs, in the affairs of health and illness, in the affairs of family issues, etc.

13  These fortune tellers appear in society and people referring to them for needs and solutions occurred due to absence of revealed knowledge, absence of a book, absence of guidance, absence of the teachings of prior prophets which had been lost or distorted.

14  Fortune tellers present to the people with certain appearances or methods which are just tricks or games on the surface, such as reading the palm or looking into a crystal ball. In reality, they are using the jinn to receive information and reports, parts of which are true and most of which are lies.

15  Chapter 27 is on ‘al-Nushrah’ and is connected back to chapters 24 and 25. And ‘al-Nushrah’ is like a cure or a healing and literally means to get a man standing back on his feet, removing from him his illness, or his ailment by way of a cure.

16  ‘Al-Nushrah’ can be through legitimate means such as using the Qurʾān, Ruqyah, Adhkār, etc. and this is permissible. Or it can be through unlawful means such as using the jinn and repelling magic with magic which returns to disbelief and is impermissible.

17  The subject of Chapter 28, ‘al-Ṭiyarah’ (evil omen), has already been mentioned as a type of ‘Siḥr’ or magic in Chapter 25.

18  In Chapter 3 titled ‘Whoever actualizes Tawḥīd will enter paradise’, the author brings the hadith of Ibn ʿAbbās, about the 70,000 who will enter paradise without any reckoning. Their traits or qualities are described, that they are ones who do not seek out Ruqyah, nor do they believe or act upon evil omens, and instead place their trust upon their Lord. This shows that belief in omens and acting upon omens is something that is harmful to Tawḥīd and detracts from its perfection and completion.

19  Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn (رحمه الله) mentioned that harbouring belief in omens is something that the legislation has invalidated because of its harm upon a man in terms of his intellect, his reflection and thinking, and in terms of his behavior.

Basically, a man's behaviour is governed by errors in causation, leading to an erosion of genuine reliance (tawakkul), which is either abandonment of beneficial actions, or taking a means that is not actually a means, neither creationally, nor legislatively.

20  It is seen through Chapter 24 and Chapter 25 where the author has mentioned a ḥadith that ‘al-ʿIyāfah’, which is a type of omen and connected to birds, and ‘Ṭuruq’, which is drawing lines in the ground and using them to tell fortunes, and ‘Al-Ṭiyarah’ which is omens, are all acts of ‘Siḥr’ or magic.

The Effect of Superstition Upon Tawḥīd

21  It is important to understand how omens have been contextually placed within this book on Tawḥīd to truly understand the reason for their prohibition, how they erode and harm a person's Tawḥīd, how they can have effects upon a person's feelings and behaviours which erode reliance (tawakkul) and, instead of having optimism, lead him to pessimism and everything that is negative. This leads to abandonment of beneficial pursuits due to unwarranted fear.

22  Shaykh Sulaymān Āl al-Shaykh (رحمه الله) explains in the book ‘Taysīr al-ʿAziz al Ḥamīd’, that belief in omens is a matter related to Shirk because it negates Tawḥīd or negates its perfection as it is from the whisperings of the Shaytān to make a person fear (with unwarranted fear). And this is why the author included it in this book, Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, to warn from it and to direct a person to Tawḥīd, its perfection and having reliance upon Allāh.

23  Shaykh ʿAbdu al-Raḥmān Āl al-Shaykh (رحمه الله) mentions something similar in his book ‘Fatḥ al-Maīd’ that belief in omens and acting upon them is Shirk which negates the obligatory perfection of Tawḥīd, because it is from Shayṭan, his whispering and his fear mongering.

24  Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn (رحمه الله) has also similarly stated that belief in omens negates Tawḥīd (in its completion and perfection).

25  There is a connection between the earlier chapter on fortune tellers and this chapter on omens. Fortune tellers make people fearful and make them abandon otherwise beneficial pursuits based upon mere presumptions or plain lies. Just as the fortune teller claims to have knowledge of the unseen, a person believing in omens presumes to know from the unseen what he thinks is going to happen, but which is something that is just imaginary and has no reality to it. This negates reliance upon Allāh, i.e. placing one's trust in Allāh, and proceeding upon one's affairs while placing hope in Allāh and being optimistic. It causes a person to refrain from beneficial actions out of baseless fear.

Hope, Optimism and Certainty

26  The Sharīʿah of Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى) has come with affairs that guide a believer to ensure his actions and pursuits are always with hope in Allāh, with optimism, with firm determination and firm resolution. Likewise, to not abandon beneficial pursuits due to unwarranted fear and not to do things which are baseless and harmful, which cause his efforts to be ruined or wasted.

27  Shaykh Ṣālih al-Fawzān (حفظه الله) mentions in the commentary of this chapter that within this chapter is an explanation of a type amongst the types of shirk and false belief which harms Tawḥīd, and that is ‘al-Taṭayyur’.

28  ‘Al-Taṭayyur’ means that a person takes something as an omen, meaning as a sign or a cause of some impending harm or evil. And in this case, it is birds because this was one of the things that the Pagan Arabs would treat as an omen. The word al-Ṭiyarah is derived from ‘al-Ṭayr’ or birds.

29  Shaykh Ṣālih al-Fawzān explains this belief is to have negative, pessimistic, cynical belief and distrust in certain things, thinking that some harm or evil will come by way of them, thus, they would take them as an evil omen.

30  He goes on to explain that the people of Jāhiliyyah used to take birds as a bad sign (an omen) if they flew in a certain direction, or if they came back in a certain direction. Although this matter started with birds, it then advanced and went onto other things like a certain land or area, or certain people, or certain animals, and eventually anything would be taken as an evil omen.

Note: To the extent that the Pagan Arabs took sneezing as omen. Hence, they would try to restrain the sneeze and would consider the sneezer to be an evil omen. Ibn al-Qayyim refuted their ignorance and explained that Allāh loves sneezing for His servants but dislikes yawning, and that He made it a blessing and favour not a disease, as the Pagan Arabs erroneously considered it. See: Ibn al-Qayyim on Sneezing: Between the Guidance of the Sharīʿah and the Superstition of Jāhiliyyah.

31  Shaykh al-Fawzān (حفظه الله) then proceeds to give some examples from the Qurʾān of the people of the past who believed in omens, such as the people of Firʿawn and the people of Thamūd.

Omens and Superstition are from the Ways of the People of Disbelief

32  The example of the story of Mūsā (عليه السلام) comes in Surah al-Aʿrāf, Ayah 131: “But when good came to them, they said, 'This is ours [by right].' And if a bad [condition] struck them, they saw an evil omen in Moses and those with him. Unquestionably, their fortune is with Allah, but most of them do not know.” (7:131-).

33  Whenever Fir’awn and his people had rain, provision, and food they would say that it was because of their efforts and deeds and that they deserved it due to their skill, actions, qualities, etc. They denied the bounty and favor of Allāh. However, when evil befell them such as at the time of famine when rains were withheld and the wells became dry, they would attribute it to Musa (عليه السلام) and the believers with him, and due to their ignorance, they took them to be an omen, believing they were the cause of all the evils coming to them.

34  But the truth was that Musa (عليه السلام) and those with him were the actual cause of goodness since all good comes through obedience to Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى). As comes in Surah al-Aʿrāf, Ayah 96: “And if the people of the towns had believed and had taqwa (piety), certainly, We would have opened for them blessings from the heaven and the earth, but they belied (the Messengers). So, We took them (with punishment) for what they used to earn (polytheism and crimes).” (7:96-).

35  Firʿawn and his people committed errors in causation. They did not attribute the good to Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى), and they attributed the evil to Musa (عليه السلام) and his people. In reality, it was their own deeds that were the cause of the evil befalling them.

36  Regarding this, Shaykh Ṣalih Al Fawzān (حفظه الله) says that the believers are the actual cause of goodness and not the cause of evil, and whatever afflicts the people of the earth of calamities and hardships is because of disobedient and sinful people, disbelieving people, and people of Shirk.

37  The second example is from the Prophet Ṣāliḥ (عليه السلام) who was sent to the people of Thamūd. When he asked them why they were hastening to evil before good and ordered them to seek forgiveness from Allāh, they responded as occurs in Sūrah al-Naml, Ayah 47: “They said: ‘We consider [you] a bad omen, you and those with you.’” (27:47-).

38  Ṣāliḥ (عليه السلام) replied: "Your omen is with Allâh”; meaning everything is by the decree of Allāh, whatever you believe with respect to the evil that has befallen you or which you anticipate, all of this comes from Allāh, including your harbouring of evil omens. The whole affair belongs to Allāh.

39  So, the people of Ṣāliḥ made the same mistake as the people of Firʿawn in the issue of causation. They believed that the messenger and the righteous people with him were the cause of their evils, when in reality the cause was their own evil deeds.

40  Another example is that of the people of the city mentioned Surah Ya Sin. Multiple messengers were sent to them to convey the message but the people said, “Indeed, we consider you bad omen...” (36:18-). Thereupon the Messengers said in the following Ayah, “Your omen is with yourselves!” Meaning, the evil that these people feared, they themselves were the cause of it due to their Kufr, Shirk and disobedience, it was not the Messengers and what they were calling to of goodness.

41  Likewise, the Polytheists to whom the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was sent, the Pagan Arabs, they said the same thing as occurs in Surah al-Nisa, Ayah 78: “And if some good reaches them, they say, ‘This is from Allâh’ but if some evil befalls them, they say, ‘This is from you (O Muhammad).’” The Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was ordered to say to these people in the same Ayah: “Say: "All things are from Allâh.’” (4:78) Meaning that everything is by the decree of Allāh, all good and evil.

42  Thus, the true, root causes of obtaining goodness are obedience, rectification, seeking forgiveness and so on. And the real, root causes of affliction with harm and evil are the sins and disobedience of the offspring of Ādam. And all of this (obedience, goodness and prosperity, and sinfulness, harm and calamity) is from the decree of Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى).

Governed by Superstition (Errors in Causation)

43  Shaykh al-Fawzan goes on to say that this belief in omens was simply a habit that the people of Jahiliyyah were upon. Due to this, they were steeped in superstition, unwarranted and exaggerated fear and governed by irrationality in their thoughts actions and behaviours within this arena.

44  Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn provides more detail on taṭayyur—harbouring a bad omen—explaining it to be a) something that a person sees, or b) something that he hears, or c) something that he knows, and then takes that thing as a bad omen as if it will bring some evil in the future.

  • For example, he sees a bird, or a wild animal, a black dog, or a black cat, and then treats it as an evil omen, anticipating that some misfortune and evil is going to happen, such as an accident. They call this “bad luck” and they see it in other things such as a broken mirror or walking under a ladder, etc.

  • Similarly, a person may consider something he hears as an evil omen for himself, such as when he is embarking upon a journey and someone remarks, saying that he will be harmed or he is not going to succeed, then he refrains from it so as not to be afflicted with this presumed and imagined evil.

  • As for an omen by way of knowledge that a person has, then an example of that is when he believes that a certain day of the month or of the week, or a certain month of the year is associated with evil omens. Some people from the Pagan Arabs used to believe and take the month of Ṣafar as an evil omen and avoid doing certain things in that month.

45  Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn then goes on to explain that harbouring belief in evil omens (taṭayyur), clashes with Tawḥīd from two angles. The first being that the one who harbours an omen has cut off his reliance upon Allāh and then relied upon other than Allāh, such as the one who abandoned the journey due to an evil omen. He relied (in his abandonment) upon something imaginary and not upon Allāh. The second angle is that he has attached himself to an affair which has no reality to it, rather it is presumed and imaginary, having no connection to the end result. The Shaykh says that this is harmful and impairs Tawḥīd because we are commanded to worship Allāh alone and to seek aid from Allāh alone (1:5-) and to have reliance (tawakkul) upon Allāh.

Levels of Harm to Tawḥīd

46  So, the Shaykh says harbouring omens is unlawful (ḥarām) and the person who does so falls into one of two situations. Either he will act upon this omen and abandon his action, and this is the more harmful type as it harms Tawḥīd due to him acting upon his belief in the omen. Or he continues with the action which he intended or embarked upon, but while doing it, he is disturbed in his heart and has anxiety and fear that something is going to happen to him. This is damaging to Tawḥīd as it erodes and destroys reliance upon Allāh.

Between Warranted and Unwarranted Fear, Precaution

47  Shaykh al-Luḥaydān (رحمه الله) mentions in his commentary on Kitāb al-Tawḥīd that within the ḥadith in this chapter on ‘al-Ṭiyrah’ is an explicit declaration that to draw omens from things and not proceed upon an affair thereafter is Minor Shirk. However, the Shaykh makes the distinction that for a person to have fear that is natural from something known to be dangerous—such as avoiding a path or an area due to danger from a roaming lion for example—has a basis. This is not like seeing a bird flap its wings and go to the left, and then abandoning one's activity, when there is no real connection between that bird and the anticipated harm. Thus, connecting something presumed and imaginary to any evil is unlike when you have something real, true, established and known to be harmful, where the fear is warranted and justified.

The Ḥadīth on Omens

48  After mentioning the verses from the Qurʾān related to omens, the author, Shaykh Muḥammad bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (رحمه الله) mentions the ḥadith where the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) stated: “There is no contagion, there are no evil omens, there is no evil omen in a night-owl and there is no evil omen connected to the month of Ṣafar, and there are no omens in the constellation of the stars and nor in the ghūl (evil-spirit or phantom).” The six things mentioned in this hadith are to be understood from the angle of errors in causation, which is superstition, i.e., where something is treated to be a cause which isn’t the cause, believing Allāh made it a cause, and/or being afraid based on that, and leaving off beneficial activities, such as pursuit of livelihood, travel, marriage and the likes. In all six things, the same principle of the error in causation applies i.e. by taking incidents which happen from al-Qadar separately and then tying them together as if they had a causal connection within the scheme of Allāh’s creation.

49  The reason why these things developed in history is because people, in their ignorance, saw certain things happening coincidentally and then made a connection and assumed a causal connection. For example, a person may set off on a journey, and it just so happened that a bird flew to the left. And as he went on with his journey, he was robbed or something bad happened to him. He comes back later and speaks to another man, who says he had a similar experience. And so, these stories eventually build up and people presume that causation has been established when there is no causation in reality. Rather this was just something that coincided due to the Qadar of Allāh. In this manner, throughout history, and continuously, the idea of superstitions and omens came to be. This is due to the nature of man and his attempts to find simplistic explanations for things whose complexities and realities he does not understand. Thereupon, his behaviour becomes governed by these superstitions, and in turn there are others, who, seeing this tendency in man, use it to their advantage for control and self-enrichment.

50  In this ḥadith, the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) stated: “There is no contagion.” The Pagan Arabs used to believe, as explained by Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (رحمه الله) and others from the scholars, that when one person mixes with another person or an animal mixes with another animal, that animal transmits its disease to the other animal, so he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: "Nothing transmits what it has [of illness] to anything else." The Pagan Arabs would exaggerate in this issue of contgion and omens. If a person sneezed, for example, they would treat this as an evil omen, as Ibn al Qayyim mentions. They considered sneezing to be a disease and an omen and they would have this sort of behavior in relation to that.

51  The month of Ṣafar is the third thing mentioned in the ḥadith after contagion and flight of birds, as the pagan Arabs used to believe that there was evil associated with the month of Ṣafar. They would deliberately put off certain things, like marriage or a journey or a trade or building a house, etc. because of this false belief that somehow there's an evil omen and bad events are going to take place in this month. But there is no reality in that, and everything is by the decree of Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى). The real origin, the true reason, the root cause for bad things to happen are the deeds of mankind such as Shirk and Kufr and sins.

52  Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى) tests the people of the earth with trials and tribulations such as poverty, disease, disasters, etc. But then, due to their ignorance, people try to put the blame elsewhere saying, it's bad luck because it's the month of so and so, or because of such and such person, or so and so "transmitted" his illness to me, etc. when the reality is not like that.

53  The fourth thing mentioned in the ḥadith is the negation of omens with regards to the constellations. This is because people used to believe that when the moon or a certain phase of the moon is in the background of a particular star or constellation, then this would signify something such as certain worldly events, like a war or a disease or a famine or a king coming to power, or a king being removed from power, etc. Or they believed it would be cause of something, like the rain. All of this is false, and there is no connection between the position of the stars to these types of events that take place on Earth.

54  Then the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said that there was no omen in the night owl. This was because the Arabs used to believe that if someone was murdered, his soul would leave the grave and turn into an owl. If that owl went and perched itself upon a house, then someone in that house was going to die in the morning. This is something completely baseless as well.

55  And finally, it comes in the ḥadith that there is no omen in the ‘ghoul’ (evil spirit). When the Arabs used to travel, and they would see an animal, or a person or certain events, they would believe a ghoul was behind it that was intending to harm or mislead them in their journey. So they would be fearful and turn back from their journey based on misinterpretation of events, unwarranted fear, weakness and lack of firmness and resolution.

56  Thus, we understand from this ḥadith, that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) negated that the flight of birds, or the night owl, or the position of the stars, or a certain month, etc. has any effect in determining events and causing harm and evil. Likewise, the Jinn, even though they are a reality and can take on certain forms, the people fell ito presumption, exaggeration, misinterpretation and unjustified fear, leading to abandonment of activities. All these things contradict reliance (tawakkul) upon Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى).

Regarding Contagion

57  Regarding the issue of contagion, the Pagan Arabs used to believe in it. They would believe that the disease has an infectious property such that if a camel mixes with another camel or a person mixes with another person, that person would "transmit" his disease to the other person. They would confuse coincidence with causation and exaggerate in this issue, being led to superstition and harbouring of omens.

58  This issue arises because, in the context of the complexity of causes of disease, people try to find the simplest and easiest explanation as to why herds of animals or people in a household, or locality become ill at around the same time. They presume that an initial sick person must have transmitted his disease to another person.

However, since both were in the same place, at the same time, in the same locality, they (and others) became ill by the decree of Allāh, through the sum of causes which He brought together for each entity for whom He had deceed illness in that location. They were subjected to the same effects, from their food, from their drink, from their environment, from the weather, from the change of season, from exposures to chemicals, toxins etc.

However, people devised the notion of "contagion" and "transmission", where one entity "transmits" illness to all the others. And this is mere presumption for which there is no evidence, and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) negated this and declared "contagion" and "transmission" from the ways of Jāḥiliyyah that this ummah will never abandon.

The nature of the error is: How do they know a sick person "caught" his illness from another, and not that he fell ill due to being subjected to the very same set of causes and event-chains that led the first person to become ill, because they were in the same household, or same location, at the same time. Thus, the statement, "He transmitted his illness to so and so" is an error, just as the statement, "He transmitted his illness to so and so, but by Allāh's permission and decree" is also an error, for two reasons.

Firstly, no entity "transmits" its state of illness to any other entity. Rather, all states of illness are fresh creations in each entity, they are freshly created in each entity for whom they are decreed. This is the meaning of the Prophet's statement: "Nothing transmits what it has [of illness] to anything else." For elaboration on this, see: Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr on Contagion.

Secondly: Even if we accept for argument's sake that mixing between a sick person and a healthy person can cause the healthy person to become sick, then it cannot be proven that the healthy person did actually become sick due to mixing with the sick person and not because he was subjected to the same set of conditions through which the first person becoming sick, with mixing being purely coincidental. This is the meaning of the Prophet's statement to the bedouin: "Who (or what) gave it to the first one?" Meaning just as the first entity became ill without prior "transmission" or "contagion", so did the rest, as they were all subjected to the same set of conditions and event-chains from Allāh's decree. Hence, this would be speaking with presumption about Allāh's actions and falsely informing about them. What is correct is simply to say: "He fell ill by Allāh's decree."

The View of Negation of Contagion in Principle

59  Because of these pitfalls in creed and in speech and behaviour, the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) brought guidance in this respect. Firstly, he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) negated contagion, and this is a view of many scholars, that there is no contagion at all, in principle, that the concept does not exist because the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said explicitly that nothing transmits what it has of illness to anything else, as has preceded. The meaning of this, as explained by Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr and others, is that nobody transmits his disease to anybody else. Rather, Allāh creates an instance separately for every disease which happens in each person, through the sum of its causes. Further, to even invoke the notion of "transmission" and "contagion" to explain the apparent spread of disease, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) declared this to be from the ways of Jāhiliyyah that this ummah will never abandon.

60  Disease is a temporal state of being (عرض) and is created due to certain causes and factors from the decree of Allāh. It could be due to the place a person is in, or due to lack of sleep, or due to the food eaten, exposure to certain conditions outside such as the weather, or to poisons and toxins, in food, drink and air etc. So these affairs envelope all the people in a given time and place, whether a home, or a city, or a region, When the next person in the same house, city or region becomes ill, he does not become ill because it was "transmitted" to him. Rather, Allāh created another instance of that disease in that person through the similar causes and factors that led the first person to become ill.

The View of Affirmation of Contagion by Allāh’s Decree

61  There are other scholars who affirm contagion and assert that mixing can be a means of the “transmission” of disease from one person to another. Therefore, they say that you keep away from the sick person from the angle of taking the means. To avoid the causes of disease, you avoid the leper. You avoid mixing healthy camels with sick camels, and you avoid going to a land of plague, and so on. They assert, without evidence, that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was only negating the contagion in the way believed by the Pagan Arabs, that it occurs outside the decree of Allāh. However, the Pagan Arabs never believed this, as they were affirmers of al-Qadar, and were inclined to Jabar. Rejection of al-Qadar was unknown to the Pagan Arabs. Nevertheless, in this view they interpret these particular directives of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) as means of precaution.

The Pagan Arabs did not believe that the stars have independent power of causation over rain, but they believed they have been made a cause by Allāh within the scheme of His creation. This is misinterpretation of observations and confusing coincidence with causation, and making false attribution in that respect. In the same way, the Pagan Arabs did not believe that contagion occurs outside of Allāh’s permission and decree, contrary to the claim of the contagionists. Rather they believed all good and evil are from Allāh’s decree, but they made misinterpretation of observations, confused coincidence with causation, attributed the property of “infectiousness” and “contagiousness” to certain diseases, (with the belief that Allāh made them like that) and exaggerated in the affair which led them to erroneous speech and superstitious behaviour.

Wisdoms in the Prophet's Directives

62  In the other view of negation of contagion, these directives are seen only as permissions for weak people to avoid the leper and not advance to the land of plague, and not to mix sick camels with healthy ones in case they are put to trial if Allāh had decreed illness for them and had subjected them equally to the causes and event-chains that lead to illness, and as a result, they start believing in the negated contagion and start speaking with igorance, with the language of "transmission" and "contagion", which is mere presumption. So from the angle of cutting off the avenues, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) gave these directives, similar to how alcohol and fornication are prohibited while the means that lead to them are also prohibited (sitting where alcohol is consumed and free-mixing). It is prohibition of a thing, and prohibition of what leads to that thing.

63  It is to be kept in mind that all of this is connected to the topic of ‘al-Ṭiyarah’, that of omens and superstition due to which people abandon beneficial activities because of presumptions and fears that are not true and are based upon mistakes in the issue of causation. This leads to baseless fear and anxiety and worry. The Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) came to prevent these affairs because they harm a person's Tawḥīd. They produce weak character, pessimism, cynicism, negativity, seeing evil in things and having a gloomy outlook on life. This is opposed to what the Shariʿah came with which is to inculcate positivity, optimism, firmness, resolution and reliance in Allāh while proceeding upon beneficial activity.

From the greatest of superstition and omens that people have been put to trial with in the modern era is the concept of the "asymptomatic carrier" fabricated by the people of disbelief in their speculative sciences.[1] They treat healthy, disease-free people as "omens" to be feared and kept away from. And just like the fortune-tellers have mechanisms and devices, such as palm reading and crystal-ball gazing as a ruse and deception, in the same way, these people have fraudulent diagnostics, such as the RT-PCR test, in which people test positive for their own genetic material. It is used as a magician's wand to declare people "contagious" and to promote fear, superstition and harbouring of omens in others with respect to that person. Shaykh al-Albānī mentioned how Muslim doctors have followed the way of the first Jāhiliyyah due to their exaggeration in the matter of precaution, when they refuse to shake hands with people due to mere suspicion.

More on the View of Negating Contagion

64  Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Luḥaydān (رحمه الله) states in his explanation of Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, in the explanation of this chapter and this ḥadith where the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said that there is no contagion: “The sick person does not incapacitate the healthy person.” Meaning that just because a sick person has become sick, this does not mean that the healthy person now becomes incapacitated because of his fear and essentially takes that person as an omen and abandons his beneficial activities. Because the occurrence of the disease itself is by the decree of Allāh. He is the Creator of the causes of illness, and it does not occur before or after the appointed time.

65  Shaykh al-Luḥaydān (رحمه الله) was of the view that there is no contagion. Shaykh Muqbil (رحمه الله) and Shaykh Muḥammad Amān al-Jāmī (رحمه الله) also held this view. Likewise, from the Companions, ʿAbd Allah bin ʿUmar (رضي الله عنه) held this view. Many great scholars who came after such as Imam al-Ṭabari, Imam al-Ṭahawi, Imām Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Ḥajar (رحمهم الله) also held this view and considered it the most correct view.

66  Shaykh al-Luhaydān goes on to say that there were issues among the Pagan Arabs regarding what they observed of disease in their camels and their belief in contagion. The Shaykh mentions the ḥadith where the Messenger of Allāh, Sallalahu alaihi wa sallam, said: “Therei s no contagion.” A bedouin was listening and heard the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) negate something that he believed he was seeing with his own eyes. He asked: “O Messenger of Allāh, how about these camels that we see? They have beautiful skin. They are like gazelles in the desert. And then one camel which has scabies comes and mixes with them, and then all of them get scabies”. So the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said to him: “Who gave it to the first one?”

The Shaykh explained this by stating that the first one who developed scabies, no prior camel passed it to this camel, and that this occurrence is through the decree of Allāh. He means by this, as is explained by many other scholars such as al-Khaṭṭābī, al-Baghawī and others, that the first camel fell ill due to certain factors by the decree of Allāh. The causes might have been its drink, its environment, the weather, the sun, the temperature, things that the camel was eating and so on. These combined to make it vulnerable to developing scabies by the decree of Allāh, and similarly, that occurred for all the other camels because they were in the same place at the same time and were subjected to the same conditions.

67  The bedouin wrongly thought that somehow the camels are transmitting the disease to each other, when that is not true and simply a presumption based on misinterpration of observations,confusing coincidence with causation. Thereby, he was led to believe in the contagion that the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) negated. This is the reason why he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) commanded the owner of sick camels not to let them pass by healthy camels, not to make them drink water in the same place where there are healthy camels, because this action might lead the owner of the healthy camels to believe that the disease was transmitted to his camels when really it was not, and it may cause issues between them, in addition to reviving belief in contagion.

68  Ibn Khuzaymah (رحمه الله) held this view; that the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) negated contagion and that he, Sallalahu alaihi wa sallam, prohibited or advised not to mix between the sick and the healthy so that a person does not make a mistake in the issue of causation and then wrongly affirms the very contagion that the Messenger, Sallalahu alaihi wa sallam, negated. Ibn Hajr (رحمه الله) mentions this statement from Ibn Khuzaymah, that he said: "Mention of a report in whose meaning some scholars have erred, and affirmed the contagion which the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) negated." Ibn Khuzaymah basically explained that those who affirm contagion have misunderstood this ḥadith and misinterpreted it and were led to believe in the very thing that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was negating. Then he, Ibn Khuzaymah, mentions the same hadith regarding the bedouin, his camels and scabies.

69  Thus, we find that there are two views amongst the people of knowledge. The first being the absolute and complete negation of contagion, in principle. That the notion of a person "transmitting" his disease instance to another person does not exist in Allāh's creation. That every instance of disease in a population is a fresh creation of that disease instance by Allāh's decree, through the sum of its causes. This occurs by Allāh bringing together all the causes, factors and event-chains for every person or every animal or every plant for whom He has decreed disease to occur. That's why in a household, not everybody gets ill, despite intimate mixing between the sick and healthy, between a mother and her child, a husband and his wife, a doctor and a patient, and so on. Likewise, in an epidemic, not everybody gets ill; most people don't get ill. Hence, everything is from the decree of Allāh, (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

This is proof to show that all things are by the Qadr of Allāh and that Allāh is creating the disease in each entity, separately by bringing the factors together for that entity, and that no entity "transmits" its disease instance to any other entity. It is always a fresh creation of a new instance through the sum of its causes.

Even if we accept that there is something emitted by the sick person that may cause the healthy person to become ill (along with other factors), that is still not “contagion” or “transmission” of disease, since disease states are not transmitted from one entity to another, as explicitly stated by the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Rather, they are freshly created in each entity through the sum of their causes, by Allāh’s decree. Hence, the notions of "transmission" and "contagion" do not exist in the scheme of Allāh's creation, only the fresh creation of disease instances, and in this lies the complete and total singling out of Allāh in His disposal of affairs, as stated by al-Ḥāfiḍh al-Ḥakamī (رحمه الله), in refutation of the disbelievers and polytheists.

70  So, this is one view of the people of knowledge. That the directives to avoid the leper and not mixing sick camels with healthy camels, and not advancing to a land of plague are all to prevent the idea of contagion from arising. Otherwise, people would be led to making mistakes in causation and therefore reviving belief in contagion, which was the way of the people of the past nations. Based on this, they would do exaggerated and silly things, just like the Pagan Arabs would be fearful of a sneeze, for example, treating it as a disease and an omen.

Limits of Precaution for the Affirmers of Contagion

71  The other view held by the people of knowledge is affirmation of contagion by Allāh’s decree. This is based on the observation of people becoming ill at the same time and at the same place, wherein they mix with each other. Thus, they considered mixing as a potential means of “transmission” of illness from the sick to the healthy by the decree and permission of Allāh. Thus, the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) gave direction to keep away from the leper, to keep sick camels away from healthy camels camels, and not to go to the land of the plague, as means of precaution from harm and evil. Hence, this is part of reliance (tawakkul) because it is taking the means.

72  However, within this view scholars such as Shaykh al-Albānī (رحمه الله) and Ibn Rajab (رحمه الله) have made it clear that there are limits to the precaution one can take, that it must be within the limits of the Sharīʿah and not go beyond it. That it is not allowed to follow the exaggerated ways of the people of disbelief who believe in this regard. Thus, taking the precautionary means applies to sick people, sick camels, etc.

It is not with respect to the healthy people such as what is witnessed from the exaggeration of the disbelievers in these times in which they impose upon people what promotes superstition and evil omens, such as making healthy people keep six-feet away from each other, or universal masking. They bring things which are not from the means, and treat healthy people as if they are sick people and carriers of contagion without evidence. This leads and enters into the issue of superstition, of harbouring omens (taṭayyur), of taking healthy people as omens. This has no basis in our religion and is from the speculations and exaggerations of the disbelievers in their sciences.

Another Approach

73  There is also another approach among the scholars towards the ḥadīths on contagion. They say that some of the texts from the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) are for strong people and others are for weak people. So, his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying that there is no contagion is for strong people who have firm faith and have strong reliance upon Allāh. They would not be afraid as they know that everything is by the decree of Allāh, including illness, and if they mixed with a sick person and became ill, they would not attribute this to contagion, and nor would they complain and find fault with al-Qadar. Whereas his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying to flee from the leper and to not mix healthy camels with sick camels and not go to the land of the plague is for the weak people. If they became ill by the decree of Allāh, they would start complaining and finding fault with al-Qadar, and saying things such as "If only I had not mixed with so and so" or "If only I had not travelled to this land" and so on.

Note: There is no third view of contagion among the Muslims, or among any other nation prior to 2020 wherein all the disease-free healthy people of a nation are locked down, masked and ordered to socially distance by six-feet in order to prevent alleged “transmission” of a disease which they do not have. This is from the fabrications and inventions of the people of disbelief and their heads and chiefs may not believe in these things themselves, as they know full well these affairs are false, but they are simply means for advancing other agendas which are ideological, social, political and economic in nature. These people have developed a sophisticated machinery that weaponises the idea of contagion built upon the pseudoscience of Darwinian Virology to advance ideological and financial goals, just as they have weaponised the idea of global warming (climate change) for the same ends.


74  In conclusion, it is to be remembered that to truly understand this topic of ‘taṭayyur’ (harbouring belief in omens), we must appreciate the previous four chapters on Magic and its types and the general theme that there are things which can have hidden effects upon people’s hearts, feelings, and behaviours. These affairs undermine and erode reliance in Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى), they create pessimism, negativity, weakness, and lack of determination. The Companions of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) such as ʿUmar bin al Khaṭṭab (رضي الله عنه) were not like this, and he used to have a companion called Muʿayqīb, who was a leper. ʿUmar would deliberately drink from the same vessel, from the very same spot that Muʿayqīb drank from, to remove from his mind any notion of the idea of contagion.

75  It must be noted that everything must be within the limits of the Sharīʿah, which came with sufficiency and is the most perfect of guidance. Going outside these limits means mimicking the ways of the people of disbelief, of exaggeration and baseless behaviours which are harmful. The issue of contagion is connected to the topic of omens as it is clearly linked in the hadith. All of it is connected to the issue of the ways and means, to the issue of al-Qadar, to the issue of making errors in causation, etc. and not being governed in one's feelings, speech and behaviour by irrational, unwarranted fear. We must be clear and understand these issues so that we are not led into superstition, omens and affairs that are prohibited, exceed the bounds and detrimental.

1. This concept was fabricated after the proponents of the germ-theory of disease failed to satisfy their own criteria for demonstrating that bacteria are primary agents of disease, since healthy subjects carry all the alleged "pathogenic" bacteria but do not become ill. Their error lay in their misinterpretations of observations and their failure to realise that bacteria are housekeepers, janitors and simply come on the scene from within the body itself as an emergency response to dead or damaged cells, tissues and linings (caused by other factors).

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