Punishment Under Islamic Law For Practicing Sihr [Dark Magic]

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The Messenger of Allaah said, “He is not of us, the one who (looks for) evil omens, or the one on whose behalf they are sought (omens are signs, information, from the unseen used against people), or the one who practices soothsaying, or the one on whose behalf it is practiced; or the one who practices sorcery, or the one for whom sorcery is done.” (At-Tabaraanee)

He also said, “And the magician will never be successful no matter what amount (of skill) he may attain” (Taahaa 20:69). This hadith doesn’t mean sihr (dark magic) doesn’t work, it means that the sihr used will only be a tool in taking a person to his fate, his fate isnt the sihr (dark magic) but what is given after it has passed, so magic won’t be successful  in changing what he grants. Allah will grant the person increase in his life on the back of the sahir (the one who did sihr on him) because of the sihr (dark magic) he suffered, so the sahir (sorcerer) any misfortune he suffers in his life, or anything he falls short in will be because of the people he did sihr on. As a result of this the Sahir, both the one who practices it or has it done for him is continually in a state of falling short in his life, this is how the sahir never prospers.

No matter what benefit he receives from the sihr it is always short of what he would have received had he worked for it himself.

The Prophet (saws) commanded: “Kill every sorcerer, for this is the punishment ordained by Allah.”

This is the fiqh (legal) opinion of Imam Abu Haneefah, Imam Maalik, and Imam Ahmad the founders of the Madhhabs of Law in Islam, in all four madhhabs (schools of Law) including the Shafii Madhhab practicing Sihr is a capital punishment and one of the worst sins a person can commit on the same level with Kufr, leaving Islam, because Allah says many times in the Quran it is Kufr (2:102).

Allah in a single verse (2:102) says Sihr is Disbelief (Kufr) multiple times to emphasis this point, that the person who practices dark magic and the person who has it practiced for him have left Islam:

“And they followed [instead] what the devils had recited during the reign of Solomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, (by) teaching people magic and that which was revealed to the two angels at Babylon, Harut and Marut. But the two angels do not teach anyone unless they say, “We are a trial, so do not disbelieve [by practicing magic].” And [yet] they learn from them that by which they cause separation between a man and his wife. But they do not harm anyone through it except by permission of Allah. And the people learn what harms them and does not benefit them (the Sahir is in a state of loss in his life). But the Children of Israel certainly knew that whoever purchased the magic (practiced it or had it practiced for them) would not have in the Hereafter any share. And wretched is that for which they sold themselves, if they only knew.” (the extent of their loss in this life and the next)(2:102)

Imam Ahmad said, “Capital punishment for the sorcerer has been authentically reported from three companions of the Prophet. It is reported from Umar that he wrote, “Kill every sorcerer and sorceress.” Bujaalah (a sub-narrator of the hadith) said, “Then we killed three sorceresses.” It is also authentically reported from Hafsah (the Prophet’s wife) that she ordered a maid of hers to be killed because she did sorcery on her.” The great companion Jundub bin Kaab, it was also authentically reported that he beheaded a magician who was playing his magic in front of Waleed and said, “Let him use his magic for his own benefit now”, in this is the ruling on street magicians, hence capital punishment is not simply for dark magic used on people but any kind of illusions or tricks people play on people, illustrating how strict Islam is on any kind of magic.

According to Imam Malik, a person who practices Sihr (magic), but does not have it done for himself is similar to the person Allah describes in the following verse: “And they learned what hurt them, and did not profit them, knowing well that whoso buys it shall have no share in the world to come.” (al-Baqarah 2/102) According to the verse, Imam Malik ruled that the punishment for practicing Sihr is the death sentence. (Muwatta, 628)

According to Ibn Qudamah, the punishment for practicing Sihr was also the death sentence and this is the opinion reported by the companions of the prophet (saws), among others, of Umar (ra), Uthman Ibn Affan (ra), Ibn Umar (ra), Hafsa (ra), Jundub Ibn Abdullah (ra), Jundub Ibn Ka’b (ra), Qays Ibn Sa’d (ra) and Umar Ibn Abdu’l-Aziz, it is also the view of Abu Hanifa and Malik.

According to Imam Qurtubi, scholars of Law disagreed about the difference in punishment between a Muslim who practices Sihr and a Dhimmi (non muslim in Islamic lands) who practices Sihr. According to Malik, the punishment for a Muslim person who uses Sihr for himself that contains words of disbelief is the death sentence. He must not be requested to repent, and his repentance would not be accepted.

This is because his Sihr is something which he keeps secret (as most sihr today), just like a disbeliever or an adulterer. This is also because Allah describes Sihr as disbelief: “They taught not any man, without they said: We are but a temptation; do not disbelieve”(2:102), the fact that practicing Sihr (Dark Magic) is Kufr (meaning a person has left Islam) is also the view of Imam Ahmad, Imam Abu Thawr, Imam Ishaq, Imam Shafi‘i and Imam Abu Hanifa.” (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 2/48)

Imam Shafi’i held that a Saahir should not be sentenced to death for simply practicing Sihr, but rather, he should be killed, under al-Qasas Law, if he has used Sihr which has claimed a life (Ibn al-Mundhir). Imam Shafii thought the sihr itself should be judged but other scholars of the Shafii Madhhab did not agree with him on this, because it was his own personal Ijtihad (legal opinion) and they believed like the other madhhabs the Sahir should be killed no matter what kind of sihr is being practiced.

Other scholars held opinions with slight variations than the Imams of the madhhabs, according to Ibn al-Mundhir, the punishment for a person who admits to the use of Sihr, containing words of disbelief is the death punishment, if he does not repent, and also if the evidence against him shows that he has used words of disbelief. If he says that the Sihr he has used did not contain words of disbelief, then he shall not be sentenced to death. If the Sihr he used harmed a person so seriously as to deserve the death punishment (under Qasas law), then he must be sentenced to death, if he uses this Sihr with intent to harm. However if the sihr used does not merit the death penalty, then the penalty shall be blood money. (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 2/48)

A small group of scholars held the view that sihr is not outright Kufr, Ibn Kathir argued that according to the verse: “yet had they believed and been God-fearing, a recompense from Allah had been better, if they had but known.” (al-Baqarah 2/103), a Saahir does not commit such an act of disbelief when he uses Sihr, a conflicting view is reported by Imam Kathir that this was the view which is held by Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal and a small group of predecessors, it is possible this may have been an earlier view of Imam Ahmad who was a student of Imam Shafii, but later he changed his opinion as reported by other scholars. However, the punishment for committing such an act is the death penalty, according to a previous case reported by Imam Shafi’i and Ahmad: “Sufyan Ibn Uyayna quoted Amru Ibn Dinar: I heard Bajaala Ibn Abda say: Umar Ibn al-Khattab (radiyallahu anh) instructed in writing to kill every Saahir and saahira, so we killed three.”

They agreed the punishment was death because of the following hadith, but the act of Sihr was not Kufr.

Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) sent a message to the leaders of his armies to kill the sorcerers they found in order to avoid their evils. Abu `Uthman Al-Nahdy said, “We killed three witches.” This was narrated in the Sahih of Imam Bukhari on the authority of Bajalah ibn `Abadah. (Bukhari in his Sahih, Fathu’l-Bari, 6/257).

Ibn Kathir stated: “The death penalty has another antecedent in the story of Hafsa (the wife of the prophet), Umm al-Mu’minin. One of her female servants performed Sihr on her, so she ordered that her servant be killed, and the killing was carried out. According to Imam Ahmad, three companions of Rasulullah (saws) confirmed that the punishment for a Saahir is the death penalty.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 1/144)

It is authentically reported that the great companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) Jundub ibn `Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) saw a magician deceive people by cutting his head off and returning it to it’s place again (a street magician performing an illusion). Upon that, Jundub (may Allah be pleased with him) drew near to the magician without his notice and killed him and said to him, “Then, return your head if you are truthful.”

Ibn Hajar reported that according to Imam Malik, the punishment for practicing Sihr is similar to that applicable to az-Zindiq (a person who does not believe in the hereafter or who openly declares his faith, but conceals his Kufr). His repentance should not be accepted, and he must be killed if it is confirmed that he is really a Saahir. This is also the view of Imam Ahmad. According to ash-Shafi’i, a Saahir should be killed unless the Sihr he has used had actually killed a person, in which case his killing must be counted as Qisas. (Fathu’l-Bari, 10/236)

According to the aforementioned views the majority of scholars are of the opinion that the Saahir should be killed, with the exception of Imam Shafi’i who said that a Saahir should not be killed unless his Sihr has killed a person or done serious harm, in which case his killing should be counted as Qisas.

Abu Hurairah (ra) related that ‘The Prophet (saws) said: “Avoid seven most dangerous things.”

The Companions then asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah! What are these things’ He (saws), answered: ‘Making anyone or any thing a partner of Allah; practicing magic; killing a living being whose life has been declared sacred by Allah without justification; practicing usury; misappropriating the property of an orphan; running away from the infidels in a battle; and slandering chaste, innocent, believing women.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet said, “Supplication benefits in things that have happened and things that have not yet happened.”

Sihr In The Shafii Madhab

There is a verse in the Quran that says teaching sorcery constitutes disbelief, Quran, 2:102, the scholars of the Shafii Madhhab commented;

Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani commented on the verse:

This verse has been adduced as proof that both practicing and learning sorcery is disbelief. This is plain with respect to some of kinds of sorcery … namely the kinds that involve the worship of devils or celestial bodies. As for the sorcery that is sleight of hand (illusion), learning it is not disbelief. [2]

Imam Nawawi said:

Practicing sorcery is unlawful and there is scholarly consensus that it is a major sin. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) counted it as one of the seven destroying sins (mubiqat). [3]

Some kinds of sorcery are disbelief and some kinds are not disbelief but major sins. If it comprises saying or doing something that indicates disbelief, it is disbelief. Otherwise, it isn’t disbelief. [4]

According to Ibn Hajar and Nawawi, sorcery is only sufficient indicator of rejection (takdhib of Islam) if it is accompanied by a statement or action that sufficiently indicates it (such as harmful sihr). Otherwise, it is a major sin whose perpetrator is not thereby treated as a non-Muslim.

This then raises the question of what is the worship of Jinn and devils, the scholars indicated that worship, is a state of the heart, hence the outward statements the scholars are looking for to pass judgment in Law is only an indicator of what is in the heart, the fact is most sorcerers give up their heart to the devils so they can communicate with them and this according to Allah is worship, He indicated this in the verse were He states being enslaved by your desires is the worship of it and desire comes from what is within the heart.

He said “Have you seen he who has taken as his god (ilah) his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to (Allah’s) knowledge (of him) and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah ? Then will you not be reminded?” (45:23)

In this verse Allah mentions the punishment for taking your desire as a god is the sealing of your hearing, seeing and heart, when a Sahir gives up his heart to speak to his Jinn he has done the same thing sealed his heart, seeing and hearing so he can only understand them, he then interprets the world only according to them. This is the punishment for a person lost in lust, which is far less serious than outright sorcery, the sahir because of his acts of lust that make him want to change matters or gain something, driving him to sihr, becomes so misguided and lost in his desires that Allah asks about such people, “Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him?” (25:43)

Allah Most High knows best.

Kufr (Apostasy) Terminates Mariage

In Islam if a person becomes a kafir his marriage is terminated, it is no longer valid, any relations they have with their spouse is then an act of Zina (fornication). This has always been a clear law in Islam because cases occurred during the time of the prophet (saws), when one person accepted Islam and their spouse refused to, the marriage was terminated.

Allah in the Quran says those who practice sihr (dark magic) have left the religion, they are Kufar, and the prophet (saws) said the one who practices sihr (dark magic) and the one for whom it is practiced are the same under Law. While this isnt a definite fiqh ruling on the matter in this article, i am mentioning it because it is something serious, many people are living in Zina and don’t realise it, so they should get advice from qualified scholars about their situation.

References:

[2] Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, Bab al-sihr wa qawl Allah ta`ala wa lakinna al-shayatina kafaru …

[3] Imam Nawawi is alluding to the hadith of the Prophet (saws), “Shun the seven destroying sins … associating partners with Allah, sorcery (Dark Magic), killing a life without right that Allah has declared sacrosanct, usurping the wealth of orphans, consuming interest, fleeing from battle, and falsely accusing chaste, innocent, believing women of adultery.” (Muslim)

[4] Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, Bab al-sihr wa qawl Allah ta`ala wa lakinna al-shayatina kafaru …

Main source used in writing this article: Sword Against Black Magic And Evil Magicians by Wahi Ibn Abdessalam Bali.

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