Understanding Islam: Superstitions

Superstitions have been part of many cultures around the world. The Philippines, for example, is home to many of these superstitions that we have inherited from our ancestors while some are foreign superstitions that we have assimilated. For the most part, superstitions are widespread due to the fun of it and the positive vibes that it brings forth to the one who practices it. Researches even say that sometimes, belief in superstitions have an effect that is similar to the placebo effect where a sick person gets cured simply because he has taken a medicine when he was not actually given medicine but a placebo or a replacement that does not have any medical constitution, and he was healed merely by his belief that he will be healed. Here in the Philippines for example, we have a superstition of putting coins under our shoes if you feel nervous of performing onstage or traveling on an airplane which does appear to calm down the wearer and keep him in his nerves.  Superstitions are myths based on illusions that circulate among the folks because of their lack of understanding of some events where they may generalize a series of events and wrongly interpret it for cause and effect.

Superstitions are most prevalent in old times but even in the modern times in the most modern cities, they are often being tried by people who may not necessarily believe in it, but rather do it because there is no loss in trying. This is how many of the foreign superstitious belief particularly the Chinese art of summoning good luck and staving off bad luck became prevalent in the Philippines. Through the Chinese art of Feng Shui, we see many business establishments in the Philippines being built in some way and there is always those ubiquitous lucky charm decorations such as the waving cat and the money frog in their doorways or near the cash registers. There are also the amulets that protect from bullets or love potions and are well known until today.

Superstitions could turn morbid too as we have seen in many different horror movies where a belief in superstition affects the person’s psyche negatively that he feels like he is vulnerable to the negative forces in case he or she misses to perform a superstition. Sadly, this happens in reality too where a person who is perfectly sane suddenly becomes psychotic especially with superstitions regarding the dead, business or travel. One superstition that is widespread is the belief that having three people in a picture is bad luck and the people there shall die one after the other sometimes in gruesome causes.

Filipino Muslims have their own superstitions too. Many Muslim tradesmen wipe their merchandise with money in the morning upon opening their stall to bring in good luck. Some also believe that keeping dates, which is a fruit of the Middle East palm tree, in the house will ensure that food is always available in the house no matter what. Some also keep a copy of the Quran wrapped in yellow or gold colored cloth for good luck throughout their lives. Some even wear a copy of Quranic verses as amulets through which no weapon or bullets could hurt them.

Superstition is often seen as something trifle and irrelevant by most societies and its practice or non-practice is tolerated as it is taken as something that is upon one’s belief but Islam is altogether different in this matter. Islam prohibits any or all forms of superstitions as it is a form of idolatry.

To generalize things, Islam believes that worship should only be dedicated to Allah alone without partners and no act of worship whether big or small could be appropriated or dedicated to anyone other than Allah. Muslims should have firm belief in Allah by trusting him and believing in His wisdom and knowledge in His management of the affairs of the creation. Belief in superstitions is a violation of this belief in Islam that Allah is the one who is managing the affairs of His creations. Attributing any of Allah’s abilities and attributes are considered a form of idolatry or polytheism which is the direct opposite of the Islamic doctrine of Tawhid or oneness of Allah in His divinity, actions, names, and attributes.

Technically, most superstitions are discrete forms of idolatry by attributing Allah’s powers of managing His creation by making these superstitious objects the imposer of results that they bring of bad luck or good luck thus nullifying one’s complete belief in Allah. Prophet Muhammad said, ‘Orations, amulets, and charms are forms of idolatry.’ He also said, ‘Superstitions are forms of idolatry.’ Both of these sayings are narrated by Abu Dawud. Other superstitions are even considered as direct forms of disbelief such as sorcery, magic spells, and amulets. These superstitions are genuinely evil because they are direct effects of magic and sorcery made by necromancers, shamans and other people who have made alliances with the devil in order to inflict harm or some benefit to some people and is considered disbelief altogether.

To summarize this issue, belief in superstitions becomes a form of idolatry because people believe that benefit or harm is being caused by these amulets, charms or actions instead of being a direct result of the action of Allah based on His decisions and destiny that He has written. For example, if we believed that bad luck or bad things will happen if we come across a black cat in the street, we are attributing the coming of accidents to the cat and not to the destiny written by Allah. Even if a person does not necessarily believe in bad luck but somehow felt the fear that bad things may befall him is also guilty of this. There are sinister forms of superstitions too that are considered as disbelief and any Muslim performing it is no longer considered a Muslim.