City of Brass

City of Brass


Harun Potter and the Saudi’s Stone

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

“The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible. Your defences must therefore be as flexible and inventive as the Arts you seek to undo.”  — Severus Snape

In these times when great evil threatens to return to menace the world, thankfully Saudi society has Aurors to engage in Defense Against the Dark Arts:

The Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai’a)
in Al-Ahsa arrested a sorcerer who dealt in magic and provided his
services to several men and women, who turned to him out of a lack of
religious motivation and ignorance, that sorcery became the talk of the
town.

Sheikh Adel Faqih, an expert in such matters and director of
the Hai’a branch of sorcery in Riyadh, said, “We are in an Islamic
country which is governed by Islamic law which prohibits polytheism.
Sorcery and magic are considered polytheism in Islam. Unfortunately,
sorcery is not a new phenomenon. It is a problem that has existed since
the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”

Sheikh Faqih explained that a sorcerer can be identified when he asks
for the name of a patient and for the name of the patient’s mother or
if he is seeking to buy an animal with certain features. He can also be
identified if he asks for a sheep to be killed without mentioning
Allah’s name and asks to stain the body with the animal’s blood or if
he asks for similar unusual things.

Sheikh Faqih said, “Sorcery
cannot be divided into two branches. There is only one kind of sorcery.
There is no such thing as black or white magic. Allah said that magic
is infidelity and no one can be a sorcerer unless he offers sacrifices
to spirits and disbelieves in God.” “Sorcery deals with amulets and
talismans which lead people to believe that such things can help them,
but that Allah cannot,” he added.

It’s tempting to indulge in some cultural condescension (or at least some bad movie jokes) here, though it wasn’t too long ago that the West was engaging in much the same kind of thing (the Salem Witch Trials come to mind; so too does McCarthyism).   The silliness of the way a sorceror can be identified according to Sheikh Faqih aside, the broader theological argument is actually sound – belief in superstition, magic, and whatnot does undermine faith in Allah because it elevates these others supernatural forces to the same level as God. Often, purveyors of the supposedly supernatural are nothing more than con artists who prey upon the under-educated and weak-willed. Unfortunately, in Saudi society the bar for what constitutes criminal activity is set far too low, not just catching scam artists but also those who go against the religious grain. Freedom of religion has a long way to go, yet.

Superstitions and magic are not limited to Saudi, either. My own Indian/desi heritage is rife with various tales of “jadoo”, for example. And it’s not just muslim cultures, either – there’s a healthy and thriving magical subculture in the West, in the form of the New Age movement. Much of this is chronicled in the journal, Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft which is an actual academic publicatoin out of the University of Pennsylvania. You can even get a grimoire of everyday spells and enchantments downloaded to your Kindle!



  • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    I just finished listening to a gripping “Teaching Company” lecture series on “The Terror of History” which dealt extensively with the European witch craze phenomenon. (The teacher is Teofilo Ruiz) Putting aside modern day “Western societies” seeming disbelief in these things combined with seemingly endless popular culture fascination with stories and movies about these things…there is no doubt that not only are the existence of such phenomenon affirmed in the Islamic sources but belief in them is widespread in many societies today. And this includes not only belief by people who are ‘afraid’ of such things but people who believe that they can indeed use such phenomenon to their benefit.
    I have also of course heard many Islamically knowledgeable people who have had many personal experiences affirming the existence of phenomenon that most in the West would probably scoff at (at least the secularized elites would). Still, it is important to note that most scholars emphasize not being excessively paranoid about such things and point out that many popular understandings of such things are actually not supported by Islamic texts and will even emphasize the importance of addressing concerns about such things in concert with mental health professionals.
    I find the area academically fascinating, although I must say I do not find the ‘entertainment’ aspects of it that interesting the way that both mainstream western audiences and Muslim “jinn stories” audiences seem to.

  • http://sharonzaki@gmail.com sharon

    RE IVF AND ISLAM
    I understand the arguments surrounding the use of donor eggs, however I would like to explore the issue further. If a wife cannot use her own eggs to conceive a child, surely the use of donor egg would assist the couple to have a child, thus keeping the marriage intact – otherwise the husband will probably one day look for a second wife to help him continue his blood line. Re the point about lineage, if it is known then why would it not be acceptable? For example the donor could be a close family member or friend who is willing to help. If this was made known to the child when he/she is an adult there would be no problems re concerns about possible incest. If the problem is that the husband would need to be married to the donor of the egg, then wouldn’t such a marriage be acceptable, after all muslim men are allowed to marry another woman if their first wife cannot fulfil all his needs. As long as the donor fully understood and agreed to the arrangement, where is the problem?
    I would be interested in your comments,
    Sharon.

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