Jinn possessions and magic spells
By: A. Mohamed

It is quite common in many Islamic communities to find people who believe that the jinn can possess the humans, force them to do what they want and also inflict physical harm on them.
Equally, many believe that magic spells can be placed on anyone and can cause serious harm or even death. As a result, there has been a constant breed of individuals who jumped on the bandwagon and claimed to have the power to extract the jinn out of possessed people and also annul the effect of magic spells. They prey on vulnerable people and extort large sums of money from them in return for their services. The purpose of this paper is to investigate these claims in the light of the Holy Quran.
The authority God gives jinn over humans

In the following verse we read about what the devils (wicked jinn) will say on the Day of Judgement when all matters are settled:

And the devil said when the matter was settled, "God has promised you the truthful promise and I promised you, but I failed you. I had no authority over you other than I have invited you, and you responded to me.

The underlined words, and specifically the word "other than" confirm that God did not give any authority to the devils over us "other than" to invite us (through whispering and incitement) to commit sins, to be wicked and to rebel against God.

When God gave us the instruction to seek shelter in Him from the devils, God once again defined what exactly do we need protection from:

And say, "My Lord, I seek refuge with You from the incitements of the devils.

Surely if the jinn are able to cause us physical harm, God would have invited us to seek shelter in Him from any physical harm they may inflict on us, and not just their incitements.

In Sura 114, we also read about seeking shelter in God from the jinn devils, and once again we specifically read that it is their whispers that we need protection from:

Say, "I seek refuge in the Lord of the people,
the King of the people,
the God of the people,
from the evil of the sneaky whisperer,
who whispers into the chests of the people,
be he of the jinn or the people." 114:4-6

Why would God consistently single out the
"whispers and the incitements" of the devils, in connection to what we need protection from, if in fact they are able to inflict on us physical harm?

Commentary on 38:41

And mention Our servant Job, when he called out to his Lord, "The devil has afflicted me with hardship and suffering."

When we read the above words which were spoken by prophet Job, they seem to imply that the devil is able to inflict pain and suffering on the human being. However, this contradicts the words in 14:22 which confirm that the devil has no authority over the human being except to whisper to him:

And the devil said when the matter was settled, "God has promised you the truthful promise and I promised you, but I failed you. I had no authority over you other than I have invited you, and you responded to me.

Prophet Job attributed his suffering to be the work of the devil.
The question is whether prophet Job was correct in his understanding of the source of his suffering or not.

Besides the verdicts of 14:22 and Sura 114, we are given additional evidence in the Quran that confirms that prophet Job was mistaken in his understanding.

He (the devil) has no authority over those who believe and in their Lord they trust.

Here we must pay special attention to the words
"no authority".
Prophet Job was indeed a believer who trusted in his Lord. Therefore, the devil had no authority over prophet Job. The devil could not have inflicted suffering on prophet Job. This verdict is reached as a result of choosing one of the following two interpretations:

Prophet Job was correct in his understanding that it was the devil who inflicted the suffering on him. In that case, we have to say that the words of God in 16:99 and 14:22 are incorrect.

Or, we can say that the words of God in 16:99 and 14:22, and in all the Quran, can never be incorrect, and in that case, the truth of this matter was that God was testing Job, but Job thought (wrongly) that it was the work of the devil.

There is no third option.

The only interpretation of 38:41 that is in harmony with the other verses (14:22 and 16:99) is that the suffering inflicted on prophet Job was not the work of the devil, but it was God testing Job.

This interpretation is in perfect harmony with the Quranic confirmation that God tests all humans in all aspects of their lives. The test God decreed for prophet Job, severe as it may have been, is not unique:

We will surely test you through some fear, hunger, and shortage of money, lives and crops. So give good news to the patient ones.

Prophets and messengers of God are human beings like all humans, they are able to make errors, they are not infallible. The Quran has many narrations that speak of numerous mistakes done by many of God's messengers.
Prophet Job interpreted the source of his suffering wrongly.

The truth about magic

The Quran tells us that magic exists, this we know from 2:102 and also a number of other verses that acknowledge that magic exists.
However, God also tells us that magic is only an illusion that tricks the mind and eyes of people.
When we see magic, we would swear that it is real, and we can be bewitched by its effect, but God tells us that in reality it is mere illusion.
The following verses confirm that magic, even though can totally bewitch and fool people, is no more than an illusion:

The following verse speaks of the story of Moses and the magicians of Pharaoh:

He (Moses) said, "You cast." So when they cast, they bewitched the people's eyes, terrified them, and produced a great magic.

We note that God spoke in 7:116 about the magicians of Pharaoh and how they "produced a great magic". This tells us that God acknowledged that what the magicians produced was indeed magic.

We are also given the key words "they bewitched the people's eyes". Why did God specifically mention the "eyes" as being bewitched? God could have said that the magicians bewitched the people and not specifically the eyes, so why did God specify just the eyes? The answer will become clear when we read the following verse.

In the verse that follows we read:

And We inspired Moses: "Cast your staff," whereupon it swallowed what they were faking.

The word
"faking" is very significant, it tells us that magic is fake. This word must also be understood in conjunction with God admitting that what the magicians produced was "a great magic".
Some may say that the magic produced by Pharaoh's magicians should not be taken as representative of all magic, and that it was mere tricks. However, if it were mere tricks, why would God call it
"a great magic"? These words confirm that the magic produced by Pharaoh's magicians was as good as any magic can be, but also means that magic as a whole is an illusion and was fake.

Further conclusive evidence that all magic is an illusion and fake is found in the following verse:

He (Moses) said, "No, you cast." So then, their ropes and their sticks appeared to him, because of their magic, as if they were moving.

Once again, the underlined words prove conclusively that what appears to us when we see magic is not real, but it only
"appears" to be so.
God did not say their ropes and sticks moved from their magic, but God said that it "appeared" and "as if" they were moving.

God provides us in the Quran with a clear comparison between what is real (God's signs), as opposed to what is fake and no more than an illusion (the magicians work).
We have already witnessed from verses 7:116, 7:117 and 20:66, the significance of the following words:

"they bewitched the people's eyes"
- "what they were faking"
- "appeared to him, because of their magic, as if they were moving"

The above words confirms that the magic of the magicians is fake, tricks the eyes and makes things appear what they are not.
Let us compare this to the words God chose to describe the miracle performed by Moses which was the work of God:

So he (Moses) cast his staff, and it became a clear snake.

The choice of words God uses in 7:107 is not coincidental, but very deliberate.
We note here that God did not say that when Moses cast his staff it "bewitched the people's eyes", nor does God say that the staff of Moses "appeared as if it were a snake", but God says with certainty that the staff "became a clear snake".
Ultimately, God's signs are real and cannot be duplicated, in contrast, the work of the magicians, even though can fool many people, is fake, illusionary and can be duplicated by anyone who learns the art.
If magic exists, even though it is illusion, then it is something that must be learned to be able to perform it.
In 2:102 we read that it was something to be taught "They (devils) taught the people magic."

The above Quranic evidence settles the two issues presented: the authority of the jinn and the truth about magic.
If a believer goes through a personal experience concerning the jinn or magic, and it leads him to think contrary to what the Quranic words assert, then the believer must remember and trust in God's words about these matters.
The majority of cases where people appear to be under a spell of an evil spirit was found to be mental illness. There are numerous cases of mental illnesses that causes people to act in very strange ways. These can very easily be interpreted as being possessed by an evil spirit or under an evil magic spell.

Commentary on 113:4 and 2:102

In Sura 113, God instructs us to seek shelter in Him from a number of things, one of which is the work of magicians:

And from the evil of the women blowing in the knots. 113:4

Blowing in knots, also called cord magic, is an ancient practice which involves casting spells
using the physical act of tying and/or untying knots to bind or release the spell(s).
In addition, in 2:102 we read:

............ They (devils) taught the people magic and what was brought down upon the two angels in Babylon, Haroot and Maroot. Both of them did not teach anyone without saying: "We are only a test, so do not disbelieve." Then 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 God's permission. They learn what harms them and does not benefit them, and they know that whoever buys into it will have no share in the Hereafter. Miserable indeed is what they sold themselves for, if they only knew. 2:102

The question here is: If magic is
"fake", why does God invite us to seek shelter in Him from magic (113:4)? If the jinn can do nothing other than whisper to us, why do we need protection from their whispers and incitements (23:97 and 114:4-6)?
If God already told us that magic is "fake", how can it cause "separation between man and his wife" (2:102)?

The answer, which applies to both cases (jinn's whispers and magic), is that these evil energies will only harm us if we allow them to and if we believe that they can harm us. If we do so, we would in fact be in denial of God's absolute authority over all things, and in denial of God's ability to protect us when we seek His protection. In other words, we would show little trust in all verses which invite us to seek God's shelter.
However, this still does not answer the question of: how can an illusion harm us? We are harmed by illusions all the time in fact. We often see or hear things that were not what we thought we saw or heard, and if we act upon them, they may cause us harm. The harm is caused only when we act upon the illusion.
Think of the example of a man lost in the desert and walking for hours in search of water. In the hot midday sun, he sees what looks like a lake with running water at a distance. This is a mirage and an optical illusion. By the time he walks many miles to get to it, he finds nothing there and the energy he spent to get there leaves him totally consumed.
The optical illusion he saw, which fooled him, was not any different in concept than the magic conjured up by Pharaoh's magicians, and which also fooled all who witnessed it.

As for those who disbelieve, their works are like a mirage in the desert. A thirsty person thinks it is water until, when he reaches it, he finds it nothing but finds God there to pay him his account in full. God is swift in reckoning. 24:39

The allegory in these glorious words can be applied to any one who disbelieves in God, or who disbelieve in God's supreme authority over all things, or those who do not have complete faith in God's protection.
Neither the whispers of the jinn nor the magic of the magicians can affect any human being who seeks shelter in God and who trusts in God's protection.
It is for that reason that God invites us in the last 2 Suras of the Quran, to seek shelter in Him from such evil works.
A further confirmation about magic is given in 2:102 in the words:

"they do not harm anyone through it (magic) except by God's permission"

Further confirmation is given in the words in Sura 15 where God stated categorically that Satan, who is the source of all evil energy in the world, is not able to harm nor have any authority on the sincere believers who uphold God's absolute authority:

You shall have no authority over My servants except those who follow you of the strayers.


The believers who fear jinn possession or magic spells ought to know that if we allow the wicked jinn and devils, they will mess up our brains and saturate it with their wicked ideology. Through their whispers, they can lead us to commit all sorts of sins. But that is only, if we allow them to influence us, and if we are fooled into thinking that they have more powers than what God tells us in the Quran.

The wicked jinn and devils have no authority over the believers who trust in God nor can they harm them without God's permission. Those who trust in God will be protected by God:

He (the devil) has no authority over those who believe and in their Lord they trust.

However, he (the devil) cannot harm them in any way without God's permission. In God, the believers should trust. 58:10