Is the owl a harbinger of death?

The Details of the Question

- It is said that a man killed someone and then Allah transformed him into an owl. Is it true? Is it mentioned in the Quran? I do not remember the incident exactly though.
- In a program, a scholar was asked about the ominousness of owls. He said, “The owl is not ominous; death is from Allah; it is only a harbinger.” Is it really a harbinger?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

- The dead person’s becoming an owl is a superstition belonging to the Era of Jahiliyya. (see Shahristani, p. 654; Alusi, M. Shukri, II, 199)

The Prophet (pbuh) also states that it is a superstitious belief. (see Bukhari, Tibb 19, 43-45, 54; Muslim, Salam 102, 107, 110, 114, 116; Davudoğlu, A, Sahih Muslim Translation and Explanation, IX, 668)

- The understanding that the owl is a harbinger of death is also wrong.

The idea of ​​considering the voices of animals like owls, crows and rooster as ominous is clearly rejected in Islam. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

 “There is no tashaum (regarding something as ominous and bringing bad luck) in Islam.” (Bukhari, Tibb, 54)

The understanding of inferring some news from the flight of birds such as pigeons, crows, owls, and hoopoes related to bad luck dates back to very old times; it existed in Jews and Christians like Babylonians and Egyptians.

In addition to birds, the Arabs of Jahiliyya also regarded people with some characteristics and animals with torn ears and broken horns, and some sounds as ominous.  

The Prophet (pbuh) states that disease does not spread spontaneously, that bad luck does not occur when the bird flies, and that bad luck cannot be sought in the month of Safar or when the owl crows (Bukhari, Tibb, 54; Muslim, Salam, 102). In addition, he states that there is no understanding of bad luck in Islam and that it is necessary to use optimistic expressions all the time (Bukhari, Tibb, 44, 54) and insistently emphasizes that it is regarded polytheism (shirk) to infer bad things related to the future from the flight of a bird (Abu Dawud, Tibb, 24; Tirmidhi, Siyar, 47).

In another narration, the Prophet said, “A person who gives up doing something because of the understanding of bad luck falls into polytheism.” When was asked about what the atonement for it was, he advised saying,

“O Allah! There is no goodness except for Your goodness, no predestination except Your predestination and there is no god but You.” (Musnad, II, 220)

Evaluating the narrations regarding the issue, Ibnul-Athir attributes the perception of bad luck to be regarded as polytheism to the belief that those who perform it will benefit through some deeds and that they will remove the damages that will hurt them. (an-Nihaya, III, 152)

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