In his "Mufradat aI-Qur'an", Imarn Raghib al-Isfahani says that there are several kinds of magic. Firstly, there are
sleights of hand, like those of jugglers, which deceive the eyes of the onlookers, but have no further substance.
Then, there are ways of influencing the imagination of others through the concentration of one's own powers of
thought so that they begin to see or feel things which do not really exist as happens in mesmerism or hypnotism.
Such a result is sometimes obtained with the help of the devils (Shayatin) too. In speaking of the magicians of the
Pharaoh, the Holy Qur'an says: ظَحَسُوٓاْ أَعۡيُهَ ٱىىَبضِ "They cast a spell on the eyes of the people" (7:116).
Or, in .... another place مِه ظِحۡسِهِمۡ أَوَہَب حَعۡعَ "Through their magic Moses came to think that they (ropes
turned into serpents) were running about" (20:66). Obviously, this piece of magic had to do with influencing of
the imagination. The second of these verses employs a verb which has the same root as the noun Khayiil
(thought), and hence clearly states that the ropes and the wands cast down by the magicians had neither turned
serpents nor made any movement, but the imagination of Sayyidna Miisa (Moses jUI ~ ) had been affected so as
to see them running about in the shape of serpents. The Holy Qur'an also indicates the other way of influencing
men's imaginations which involves the help of the devils (Shayatin هَوۡ أُوَبِئُنُمۡ عَيَ مَه حَىَصَهُ ٱىشَّيَٰطِيهُ
٢٢١ ( حَىَصَهُ عَيَ مُوِ أَفَبكٍ أَثِيمٍ۬ (Shall I tell you on whom the devils descend? They descend on all those
who are slanderers and sinners." (26:222)
Still another kind of magic is that which can change the very nature of a thing - for example, turning a man into a
beast or into a stone. Scholars like Imam Raghib al-Isfahani and Abii Bakr al-Jassas deny that magic can totally
change the nature of a thing, but confine the efficacy of magic only to influencing the imagination and to
deceiving the eyes of the onlookers. This is also what the Mu'tazilah thought of the matter. But most of the
scholars hold that neither the Shari'ah nor any rational argument forbids the possibility of trans-substantiation or
the changing of one thing into another, like a living body turning into a stone. As for the well-known principle of
the classical philosophers that the change of the "essences" (Haqa'iq) is not possible, it concerns the "essences" of
the three categories - the Impossible, the Possible and the Necessary --, for, rationally speaking, it just cannot be
that something impossible should become possible, or that something possible should become impossible. And as to the Holy Qur'an putting down the magic of the Egyptian sorcerers as only an impact on the imagination, it does
not necessarily mean that all the forms of magic should be no more than an influencing of the imagination.
Moreover, certain scholars have seen an argument in favour of the possibility of trans-substantiation through
magic in a saying of Ka'b al-Ahbar, reported by Imam Malik in his Muwatta' on the authority of Qa'qa' ibn HakIm:
"Were it not for these phrases which I recite regularly, the Jews would have changed me into a donkey." "A
donkey" is, no doubt, a usual metaphor for "a fool." But it is not proper to turn away, unecessarily, from the literal
meaning to a metaphorical one. So, the sentence means just what it says - that if the recitation of the phrases had
not protected him, the Jewish sorcerers would have changed him into a donkey. The saying, thus, establishes two
things. Firstly, it is possible to change a man into a donkey; secondly, the phrases he used to recite had the
property of making the magic of the sorcerers lose its efficacy. On being asked what these phrases were, the
scholar Ka'b al-Ahbar taught his listeners the following words of prayer:
“I seek the protection of Allah the Great, grea!er than whom there is none; and 1 seek the protection of the
perfect words of Allah which no man, virtuous or wicked, can even transcend; and 1 seek the protection of all
the Beautiful Names of Allah, those of them which 1 know and those which 1 do not know , from the evil of
everything which Allah has created, to which He has given existence, and which He has spread (over the earth
or the universe)."
To sum up, all the three forms of magic are possible, and can manifest themselves in actual fact.
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