A conversation on superstition

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The purpose of this post is to provide some clarity on what I where I’m coming from when I use the term superstition.

Being superstitious (kharafah) is when someone believes anything has autonomous metaphysical power besides God.

Now someone might ask: Okay, you’ve denied the power of everything but God, but isn’t a belief in God and His might also superstitious?

I say: No, because the entity we refer to as God we have come to accept as a matter of reason, putting it simplistically that all of this did not come from nothing, and that the entity with the profound ability to create all that exists by means that even our wildest thoughts on quantum physics has yet to even partially fathom, can also directly interact with the events/particles of our daily lives. However, there is no reasonable justification that other (created) entities also have autonomous power.

They respond: Well the supreme entity you have just reasoned and justified empowered entities it created to also directly intervene and affect our agency.

I say: The problem is that this is simply an untrue claim, for the only way to know this matter of the unseen is if the supreme entity tells us, which not only has He not done, everything He has actually told us contradicts this!

They respond: But there are many verses and hadith on these so-called superstitious matters!

I say:

  1. The verses and authentic hadith you cite do not explicitly say what you interpret them to mean. You predetermine what you’d like them to mean and then impose that interpretation on us as if it’s explicit. Yet your weak interpretations contradict other verses on the topic.
  2. The hadith you rely on do not stand the rigour of an authentication process (they’re categorically weak or made up), something well recognised by hadith scholars over a thousand years.
  3. Your views that you read into verses that clearly aren’t saying what you’d like them to also contradict: (1) the principle of Tawhid, (2) the purpose of revelation, and (3) what God has actually told us about the unseen and some of the entities that exist in full reality (including what’s beyond our sensory perception).

How so?

On (1), God tells us that absolutely nothing in the unseen can harm nor benefit humans except God, and it is an expression of His divine might and power that only He can do so. God strongly rebukes the pagans for this belief they hold about idols (10:28), jinns (72:6, 34:41) and angels (34:40).

On (2), revelation was sent to save man from the darkness of irrational pagan thinking and superstitions that led to an evil and disastrous culture, and to engage with reasoned logic. Pointing to the statement of the examplar Abraham, “His people argued with him, and he said, ‘How can you argue with me about God when He has guided me? I do not fear anything you associate with Him: unless my Lord wills [nothing can happen]. My Lord encompasses everything in His knowledge. How can you not take heed?” (6:80)

On (3) God speaks of jinn, angels, sihr and so on, but the way we understand them is open to interpretation, and those who interpret them superstitiously choose to do so in such a way. It is not that these verses decisively (qat’an) suggest what they advocate, and in light of points (1) and (2) it’s quite to the contrary, but that they seek to confirm preconceived beliefs and read these interpretations into scripture.

Why do I think this is an important topic given all the challenges we face?

  1. Pagan culture is irrational, and superstitions tend to inform the usul of our outlook. We cannot progress in anything if we can’t even look at it reasonably, and engendering a superstitious outlook means we deem it to be acceptable to employ irrationality, which then has a knock on effect on other aspects of our individual and collective lives.
  2. It undermines the very thing that God created for us to flourish: the intellect. And it is only by turning our brains off that the devil can easily overcome us.
  3. Muslims are obsessed with supernatural entities, and the numbers of people turning to such explanations leads us to necessarily conclude there is an epidemic! Even a cursory study of the hadith or Qur’an screams the absence of this attitude amongst the Prophet and his companions towards life, yet it’s the first point of explanation for many people who claim to be believers. If believers can be educated and helped to overcome this and identify the actual causes to their problems, they’d be able to effectively deal with issues and swiftly progress.

I’m not particularly interested in looking rational because I fear non-Muslim mockery, 83:29-32 suggests it’s inevitable and in that context I guess I welcome it. My agenda is very simple: I’m specifically concerned with what God wants and how that can be best achieved; to support the call to tawhid, and undermine the devil’s attempt to deceive humans and have them drown in ignominy, irrationality, populism and ignorance. Essentially, I believe the devil encourages superstition in a bid to severely undermine Abrahamic monotheism.

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