What is the state of sorcery in Judaism? Do they not regard sorcery haram today according to their religion?

Details of the Question

What is the state of sorcery in Judaism? Do they not regard sorcery haram today according to their religion?

(editor) on Thu, 25/01/2018 - 11:34

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Sorcery and magic are forbidden in all true religions. It is seen that sorcery and magic, which are forbidden in original Judaism, are also forbidden in the Torah that exists today. Sorcery, magic, soothsaying and astrology are forbidden and regarded as equal to idolatry. (Exodus, 22/18; Leviticus, 19/26, 31, 20/27; Isaiah, 47/8-14; Leviticus, 20/6; see also Mishna..)

There is information about the lives of many prophets, what they did, how they served, their worshipping and piety in the Quran. This news is called "qissa (story)". In almost all of those stories, the hardships the prophets faced, the cruel kings who opposed them, who declared themselves as deities instead of believing in Allah or who continued worshipping Allah, and evil people are mentioned. Those cruel kings who did not want to believe in the truths brought by the Prophets and the evil people wanted the prophets to prove that they were prophets by asking them some extraordinary things, which they thought were impossible to do. Allah, who chose His prophets among people by supporting them, helped them do many of the things they wanted. These extraordinary things realized by them are called “miracles”. Miracles are divine evidence given to prophets to prove their prophethood. However, a prophet cannot and will not show miracles whenever and wherever he wishes. He can show miracles if Allah wishes.  

If a prophet is forced to show a miracle and if those who want it say, “It is magic; this is the work of a magician” and still do not believe, this state will “anger Allah” and they are generally destroyed after it through a penalty. However, God Almighty usually allows miracles to be shown in order to enable those who really want to believe to believe and to silence the insolent and cruel unbelievers who despise prophets. If those who want miracles still do not believe, Allah destroys that nation. Some Sons of Israel, the nations of Ad, Thamud and Lut (Lot) are among them.  


In the Quran, the first part of the incident between Hz. Musa and the magicians takes part in the palace of the Pharaoh. Then, it goes on in open areas. What causes it is the duty of conveying the message of Allah to the Pharaoh, who oppressed his people and who regarded all kinds of injustice, oppression and force permissible for him, and eliminating him. Hz. Musa, who was a prophet sent to Sons of Israel, wanted to fulfill his duty in order to stop the oppression and torture inflicted upon his nation. It is reported that this incident was arranged by the Pharaoh, who did not want to believe in Hz. Musa, though he conveyed him the message several times. Accordingly, the Pharaoh was going to test Hz. Musa, understand whether he was a real prophet or not and was going to believe in him. That was what he promised Hz. Musa. Therefore, he wanted Hz. Musa to show him a miracle. Allah Almighty sent Hz. Musa and his brother Hz. Harun (Aaron) to the Pharaoh by giving them miracles and saying to them,  

“But speak to him (the Pharaoh) mildly; perchance he may take warning or fear (Allah).”(1)

The two brothers and prophets set off and reached the Pharaoh. We will follow the incident as it is narrated in the Quran:

“Then after them We sent Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them: So see what was the end of those who made mischief!

"Moses said:

‘O Pharaoh! I am a messenger from the Lord of the worlds. One for whom it is right to say nothing but truth about Allah. Now have I come unto you (people), from your Lord, with a clear (Sign): So let the Children of Israel depart along with me!’

(Pharaoh) said:

‘If indeed thou hast come with a Sign, show it forth,- if thou tellest the truth.’

Then (Moses) threw his rod, and behold! it was a serpent, plain (for all to see)! And he drew out his hand, and behold! it was white to all beholders! Said the Chiefs of the people of Pharaoh: ‘This is indeed a sorcerer well-versed. His plan is to get you out of your land: then what is it ye counsel?’ They said: ‘Keep him and his brother in suspense (for a while); and send to the cities men to collect- And bring up to thee all (our) sorcerers well-versed.’

So there came the sorcerers to Pharaoh: They said, ‘Of course we shall have a (suitable) reward if we win!’ He said: ‘Yea, (and more),- for ye shall in that case be (raised to posts) nearest (to my person).’ They said: ‘O Moses! Wilt thou throw (first), or shall we have the (first) throw?’ Said Moses: ‘Throw ye (first).’ So when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror into them: for they showed a great (feat of) magic. We put it into Moses´s mind by inspiration: ‘Throw (now) thy rod’: and behold! It swallows up straight away all the falsehoods which they fake!

Thus truth was confirmed, and all that they did was made of no effect. So the (great ones) were vanquished there and then, and were made to look small. But the sorcerers fell down prostrate in adoration. Saying: ‘We believe in the Lord of the Worlds,- The Lord of Moses and Aaron.’ Said Pharaoh: ‘Believe ye in Him before I give you permission? Surely this is a trick which ye have planned in the city to drive out its people: but soon shall ye know (the consequences). "Be sure I will cut off your hands and your feet on apposite sides, and I will cause you all to die on the cross.’ They said: ‘For us, We are but sent back unto our Lord: But thou dost wreak thy vengeance on us simply because we believed in the Signs of our Lord when they reached us! Our Lord! pour out on us patience and constancy, and take our souls unto thee as Muslims (who bow to thy will).’” (2)

After that, the Pharaoh did whatever a tyrant would do; he threatened Hz. Musa and those who believed in him and did what he threatened. However, he could not prevent the magicians and many other people from believing by distinguishing between magic and the reality. He and some of his men said,  

“Whatever be the Signs thou bringest, to work therewith thy sorcery on us, we shall never believe in thee.”(3)

Thus, they said that they would not believe thinking that they were enchanted by the miracles describing miracle as “magic”.  Allah Almighty “sent them wholesale death, Locusts, Lice, Frogs, And Blood: Signs openly self-explained: but they were steeped in arrogance,- a people given to sin.”(4) They said, “O Moses! We shall never believe in thee until we see Allah manifestly.” Thereupon, a strong earthquake happened there and they fainted and fell.”(5) Hz. Musa prayed to Allah and this misfortune was removed.  

One night, Hz. Musa set out with the people who believed in him in order to leave Egypt and arrived at the Red Sea. The Pharaoh and his soldiers, who wanted to kill him, pursued them and caught up with them. When they wanted to catch them, Allah ordered Hz. Musa to strike the sea with his rod. The sea was divided into two; Hz. Musa and the believers passed. When those who had called what Hz. Musa had done with his rod magic wanted to pass through the same way, the sea united and all of them were drowned. The Pharaoh, who saw the truth, wanted to believe but he did not have a chance to do so. (6)

The rod was very important for Hz. Musa and it assumed many forms. It sometimes became a dragon; he sometimes leaned on him and rested; he sometimes shook off trees with it to give his sheep leaves. It sometimes became a light that showed the way; it sometimes extracted water and sometimes divided the sea into two. Hz. Musa’s hand was also a part of his miracle. When he put his hand into his bosom and took it out, it shed a luminous light. The rod was on the agenda almost anywhere. It is definite that so many skills did not come from the rod itself. There was a power behind it. They all took place with His order and permission. (7)

All of the miracles of Hz. Musa were like that. That is, they showed the magicians their weaknesses. For, every prophet was equipped with and supported by the dominant knowledge, culture, art and other social issues in the period they lived in a way to struggle against them. In the age when Hz. Musa lived, magic was very popular; therefore, most of his miracles were related to magic. Hz. Musa annulled the magic of the magicians with the miracles he showed; thus, he forced the magicians to confess the weaknesses of their magic in the face of his miracles and that they were not deeds that could be done by magic. As it is seen above, they understood their weaknesses and stated that they believed in Hz. Musa’s and Hz. Harun’s Lord; they declared that they were not afraid of the bad ending that would happen to them.  


According to verse 102 of the chapter of al-Baqara, it is understood that magic was widespread during the time of Hz. Sulayman and that magicians fell into unbelief due to their magic. Besides, they slandered Hz. Sulayman by calling him a “magician” in order to legitimize their magic. It is also understood from the verse that there were claims and slanders that Hz. Sulayman ruled his land, sultanate and government through magic; Allah, who sent Hz. Sulayman as a prophet, defended him and stated that what they did led them to unbelief. It is also emphasized in the verse that those who do the worst magic, who try to sow discord between husband and wife, to scatter the institution of family and who try to increase prostitution and immorality are unbelievers. 

In fact, the crime that the magicians attributed to Hz. Sulayman was something that was attributed to all prophets: being a magician. All prophets, including Hz. Muhammad (pbuh), were accused of magic. They used the same logic. The logic of the unbeliever does not operate related to the things that he does not understand and starts to accuse and deny at once. He thinks he will escape like this. Many aspersions were cast on Hz. Sulayman because he knew the language of the birds and spoke them, established a big army consisting of humans, jinn and birds in order to manage his sultanate, enchanted the wind (it is said that it was only one wind, not all winds because all winds are beneficial for the other creatures) and covered a distance of two months in a day thanks to that wind as if flying, that is, he covered a distance of 1800 km in total as 900 km for going and 900 km for returning, knew what happened in his land, which covered almost the whole world, through his jinn and other informants, had some ministers who had the ability to teleport things (according to the famous narration of Ibn Abbas, one of them was, Asaf b. Barhiya, who was a scientist of teleportation who summoned the throne of Balqis), used the evilest demons under his command, talked to ants, had chained diving devils working under his command and had them extract pearls and corals from the sea and did many other things; it was said that he did all of those things through magic. 

When the devils who claimed that they were all written in the books said they were ready to prove it, as it will be stated below, a disorder occurred. Mischief occurred in the sultanate of Hz. Sulayman, who was demoralized due to the gossips that occurred; he started to be partly busy with his own affairs and a dead body that was placed on his table caused him to be tested; his sultanate was in danger temporarily until he realized what was happening and established his connection with Allah in a stronger way. However, after that, he used the knowledge and wisdom he had with the help of Allah, suppressed the mischief, regained his sultanate and defeated the devils and those who acted like devils. Thus, the devils that caused mischief were defeated again by the truth as usual. They could not accept this defeat and started to deviate people by slandering and accusing Hz. Sulayman as they always did due to their character. Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır answers the question "Who were those who caused chaos through this mischief and who accused Hz. Sulayman of sorcery?" as follows:

What kind of devils were they and what methods did they use? They were invisible devils called devils of jinn and bad spirits, and human devils. The works of invisible devils are seen on human devils and the visible human devils act on behalf of invisible devils by using the tricks they learn from them. The majority of tafsir scholars narrates the following:

When mischief occurred on the land of Hz. Sulayman and when he lost his government, devils of jinn and human deviated and went too far; irreligiousness increased. Those devils, who caused the mischief and who were defeated by Hz. Sulayman afterwards, had to accept his domination and worked under his command; they are described as three groups called “banna', ghawwas and akharin” in the chapter of Sad. It means there were some deceitful artisans among them.

Those devils, who were away from the source of revelation, obtained some information about the things that happened and that would happen by eavesdropping and tried to spread this information by adding a lot of lies and dirty things to them. They chose soothsayers as a means and suggested them various things. Afterwards, those soothsayers wrote books by using that information. They compiled many books of magic and sorcery about summoning jinn, making people fall in love through sorcery, etc. Meanwhile, they spread legends, tales, lies and stories about the events that happened and that would happen. They spread superstitions that led the feelings and thoughts of people to wrong ways by distorting the events and facts; they also added some scientific facts and wise statements to them. They misused the issues in a bad way. Thus, some thoughts like “jinn know the unknown (ghayb)” became common. Mischief occurred due to the lies and tricks of those devils.

Hz. Sulayman lost his kingdom and state for a while. Finally, with the permission and help of Allah, Hz. Sulayman defeated them; he put them under his control and used them in certain services; he collected all of those books and locked them in the cellar under his throne. After the death of Hz. Sulayman, no scholars who knew the truth were left; then, a devil disguised as man appeared and said,

"O people! Know that Sulayman b. Dawud was not a prophet but a magician; he used jinn, devils and winds through magic and sorcery. He attained everything through his knowledge in magic. If you do not believe me, you will understand when you find the books that he hid.”

Then, he showed people where the books were hidden. They opened it and took out a lot of books. They were books of magic and legend. Thereupon, lies and slanders like “Sulayman was a magician; he ruled through magic” began to spread.

According to the narration of some other tafsir scholars, those books were prepared after the death of Hz. Sulayman and the name of Asaf b. Barhiya was written on many of them as if they were written by him; they were reproduced through tricks.

“They followed what the evil ones gave out (falsely) against the power of Solomon...” (al-Baqara, 2/102)

The verse above indicates those devilish acts. Besides, magic and sorcery had been known among Sons of Israel since the time they were in Egypt. However, this time the situation was different: On the one hand, activities against the government of Hz. Sulayman were supported through political and social plots; on the other hand, they slandered on behalf of him by saying he ruled the world through magic, encouraging magic. They spread it so much that Sons of Israel who lived after that time regarded Hz. Sulayman as a king who was a very good magician, not as a prophet. Therefore, Sons of Israel always encouraged such publication secretly among other nations and were engaged in magic as a skill especially after they lost their state. When the last prophet, Hz. Muhammad (pbuh), about whom the Torah had informed them, came and mentioned the information and principles in the original Torah, they started to struggle against him. They said, "We cannot oppose him through prophethood; we cannot cope with him; Jibril informs him about whatever we do.” They became the enemy of Jibril. They threw the Torah behind them completely and followed the way of magic and slandering. They slandered him as follows by following those devilish works: “Sulayman was not a prophet as, Muhammad claims; he was a magic king but he showed the magic that he did as miracles.” Accordingly, Hz. Sulayman was – God forbid – an unbeliever. For, there is no doubt that this level of magic is unbelief. However, Sulayman was not an unbeliever; those devils, who called him a magician before and afterwards, became unbelievers; they taught people magic and deviated them by training them in magic.” (Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini, I / 365-366.)

Some part of magic is unbelief. That is, it breaks the bond between man and Allah. It is impossible for a prophet to be an unbeliever. If he is an unbeliever, he cannot be a prophet. A prophet is someone who surrenders to Allah without any conditions. Prophets do not need extraordinary things that are done through magic and sorcery. For, Allah grants them any issues like persuasion that will maintain their domination, administration and rule through miracles if He wishes. Therefore, it is not possible for them to resort to such a thing. However, it is known that the devils and the unbelievers who expect help from them resort to all kinds of disgrace in order to sow discord among people and to block the way leading to belief. Besides, Allah makes the necessary explanations, defends His prophet and states that he is not an unbeliever. 

Magic and magicians did not end. The Prophet said, “Doomsday will strike unbelievers.” According to the statement of the Prophet, unbelievers will be present all the time; therefore, there will be people who fall into unbelief through magicians and magic. The people who think they use some dirty spirits (jinn) to do magic but who are actually used by them will do magic; others will also do magic through other ways. However, magic and sorcery will continue with the efforts of humans who are keen on hidden knowledge and mysterious things. The issue of digging under “Masjid al-Aqsa”, which kept people busy for months in recent years and disturbed the Islamic world a lot, was claimed to be done with this purpose. According to rumors, the books mentioned above and the seal of Hz. Sulayman were buried under Masjid al-Aqsa in a box. The digging was disguised as “works of expansion and restoration” but they were trying to find and take out this box, which was very important for magicians. It is a saddening thing that although magic is forbidden in Judaism and Christianity, some people still try to do things like that (if the news is not wrong) and that there is a dig under Masjid al-Aqsa, which was the mosque of many prophets, which was built by Hz. Sulayman, who was a prophet of their lineage, and which Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) used as a step to ascend in Miraj.  

It is said that the ring that the magicians call the “Seal of Sulayman” , the supplication belonging to it, the inscription they claim to be on the seal and the magic done with “wafk”s are very forceful. It can be said that they are looking for the seal for this reason. However, in our opinion, they are not true. Even if they are true and even if the real seal and books are found, the magic of devils and jinn will not be effective. For, Hz. Sulayman was a prophet and he prayed to Allah as follows:

“O my Lord! Forgive me, and grant me a kingdom which, (it may be), suits not another after me: for Thou art the Grantor of Bounties (without measure).”(Sad, 38/35.)

Since Allah accepted his prayer, nobody will be able to attain the achievements he had and nobody will have the things and power he had. Besides, the devils, who were the pre-eternal enemy of humanity, did not obey him voluntarily. They were chained and had to obey him involuntarily. Would the beings that obeyed a prophet by force obey ordinary people voluntarily? Even if they did something for humans, would they sell it cheap? Would they give humans anything without taking man’s spirit, belief, faith and ethics as Marlow writes in his books and as Goethe states in “Dr. Faust”? The magicians who say jinn or unbelieving jinn serve them can only be their lawyers.


(1) see ash-Shuara, 26/16; Taha, 20/42, 43, 44; an-Naziat, 79/17.
(2) al-A’raf, 7/103-126. cf Yunus, 10/75-88; cf Taha, 20/56-73; ash-Shuara, 26/27-50; an-Naml, 27/12-14;
(3) al-A’raf, 7/132; cf Yunus, 10/76; an-Naml, 27/13-14.
(4) al-A’raf, 7/133; cf al-Qasas, 28/32.
(5) al-A’raf, 7/155.
(6) see ash-Shuara, 26/60-66; an-Naml, 27/10.
(7) see al-A’raf, 7/16; Taha, 20/17-22; al-Qasas, 28/31-32.

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