.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Saudi religious police arrest a sorcerer

From the Saudi Gazette:
A Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai’a) team has arrested an African man accused of practicing magic and sorcery which enabled him to gain full control over a Saudi family for two years.

The man was arrested after the Hai’a received information that he had offered to concoct a spell for the sum of SR8,000, and when a meeting was set up between the informant and the African man Hai’a staff were surprised to find a Saudi man arriving to collect the money.

The Saudi man told the Hai’a that he and his family of a wife and daughter had been under a spell the suspect cast on them when they turned to him with an unspecified problem, and that he had been living in their house for two years, during which time he turned them into his servants.

“We didn’t have a meal without him and we lived according to his instructions,” said the husband.

Such was the sorcerer’s power over the family that he even took the Saudi man’s wife and daughter to Africa for a visit, the husband added.

Among the African’s personal belongings in the Saudi house the Hai’a found incriminating letters from the Saudi’s wife to the spell-caster.

Some talismans and a variety of herbs were also found.
There are two ways that Islam can look at sorcery - as a real, independent power or as something that is completely fake but still forbidden. I found an article, written for a Western audience, that claims the latter:
Practitioners of magic (Muslims, that is) believe in magical power, a demonic power (as it is said that one cannot attain sorcery without seeking the help of the devil), and would often worship it. As such, they would then claim that there is other greater power aside than Allah when as Muslims, they are to, and must, accept only Allah as the one and only God, the powerful one. Believing in any other supreme being would be an act of disbelief towards Allah. Learning magic is also an act of disbelief because they claim to have magical powers, when such powers can only exist in the Almighty himself.
Which would make a certain amount of sense. However, the articles in the Saudi Gazette like the one above seem to imply that the Hai'a/Muttawa are fighting not charlatans, but real honest-to-Allah sorcerers. And indeed this article written by a Muslim for a less skeptical audience claims exactly that:
The Mu'tazilah (one of the groups who deviated in issues of Aqidah) rejected the existence of sorcery and sometimes ruled with kufr against anyone who claimed its existence. They claimed it is nothing but hallucination and imagination. As for the mainstream Muslims (Ahlus-Sunnah wa Al-Jamaa), we say that sorcery is real, it really takes place and when it occurs, Allah creates whatever He wishes. Thus, its effects do not come from the stars, the talismen, the knots or the sorcerer, rather Allah brings about whatever He wishes upon the occurrence of those things.
Campaigns against magic's legitimacy would be far more effective in stopping poor gullible Saudis like the family above. Take one guess as to what the sorcerer did to the wife and daughter.

Yet from the tone of the articles in the Saudi press, it seems that the mainstream Saudi opinion - including religious opinion - is that sorcery is real and a serious danger, which is why the Muttawa do not campaign against the reality of magic but against the practitioners.