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Sorcery in Islam, Its Types and Penalty Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 25th, 2020


Witchcraft and sorcery are as old as humanity for different societies have been practicing it for centuries, for both good and bad ends. A majority of anthropologists is unanimous that witchcraft predates religion and that the existence of religion was to counter the effects of witchcraft. Witchcraft and religion are similar since they link to a higher being, who is more potent than human, with the main difference between them being that witchcraft is associated with evil, while religion with righteousness. Islam condemns witchcraft (Sihr), which comes from supernatural creature, Jinn, and effected by humans, witches. Islam considers sorcery as evil because it entails evil spirits, which perform evil activities among people. In Islam, the Quran documents the existence of different types of Sihrs and the overall penalty for practicing witchcraft.


The history of humankind is replete with sorcery and black magic, especially during the pre-religion era in most societies, as evidenced by the predominant Islamic communities, such as the Digo tribe that inhabits the coastal region of Kenya (Ndzovu, 2013).

Witchcraft was ubiquitous in almost all spheres of life in most societies, and hitherto sorcery is still being practiced in some communities, including, agriculture, fishing, and hunting, where it was used to find the cures for unknown diseases, explain unnatural phenomena, dictate human behavior, and provide stereotypes on how to counter unnatural events. Though humans have embraced modernity and are in an era where witchcraft and sorcery are a primitive practice, it is highly employed in both global and local politics and religion. Witchcraft and sorcery, therefore, have been the subjects of interest for most anthropologists and scholars for many years. Hence, this research paper, therefore, looks at black magic and Islam, types of Sihr and cures for Sihr and the penalty for practicing witchcraft.

Black Magic and Islam

Black magic and Islam are inseparable religious elements that are present in Islam. Ndzovu (2013) asserts that religion and magic share some similarities in that they are both associated with different forms of deities that are present in Islam. The assertion has lead researchers to try to establish the linkage between the religion and black magic. Ndzovu (2013) further claims that all unnatural phenomena are associated with either magic or religion.

Although Christianity and Islam have different doctrines, they do not advocate for the practice of witchcraft. According to Kamali (2013), Islam strongly condemns the practices of witchcraft and sorcery, termed as Sihr. These practices are evil because they contribute to the occurrence of evil activities in the society or among the righteous people. Kamali (2013) further goes ahead to state Sihr has no clear definition, even in Quran scriptures and refers to its practitioners as infidels. In essence, sorcerers are not faithful followers of the Islamic teachings and religion.

Sihr is unlawful (haram), according to the Quran because it inflicts pain, and therefore, antithetical to Islam’s policy of protecting man’s intellect, honor, and character (Kamali, 2013). As Islamic religion aims to promote wellbeing of humanity, black magic seeks to destroy humanity. Kamali (2013) further claims that the practitioners of Sihr deceive men by falsifying their attributes and even proceed to usurp some of Allah’s divine characteristics, something that is sacrilegious and considered blasphemous.

Types of Sihr

Ndzovu (2013) posits that in the Islamic holy book, the Quran, there is no clear definition of the Sihr and the way it operates, but instead the scriptures are full of the effects it causes, including ham, discord, and maladies. These effects, however, afflict an individual only when Allah allows it. Essentially, black magic in Islam explains how the evil people perpetuate their existence from the duality of human souls. The duality of soul emanates from Islamic teachings, which hold that human soul can either incline towards righteousness (nafs-tul-mutmaina) or incline towards evil (nafs-tul-ammara). The latter soul’s inclination, nafs-tul-ammara, is believed to be pro-Sihr because it defies divine authority and it is under the influence of the Jinn that is the source of magic and sorcery.

Despite the fact that the Quran dedicates a whole chapter on Jinn, some people are still in denial over the Jinn’s existence. The Holy Quran depicts the Jinn as one of the creations of Allah, which is invincible to the naked eye and bifurcated into Kafir and Muslims in terms of faith (Ndzovu, 2013). In the Islamic belief system, beliefs in Allah and his Angels (Islamic angels and Jinns) are the foundation stones on which the religion is propped. The inclusion of Jinn in the belief system, therefore, means that sorcery is part of the Islamic teaching.

The Sihr performer relies on the Jinn because the power to harm people is not inherent in a person, but comes from a higher being, a spirit. Therefore, it can be postulated that the Jinn has the potential to harm and so Sihr stems out from the Jinn and witchdoctors are its implementers and embody all sorts of unrighteousness.

Kim (2013) lists the different types of Sihr, including Sihr-al –Mahabba (love magic), Sihr al-Tafreeq (for separation of a person from his/her mother, father, sister, friend, spouse or business partner), Sihr al-Tafreeq (a magic that causes hallucinations). He further lists Sihr-al-Junoon (the magic that causes one to be mentally disturbed), Sihr al-Maraz (sickness), Sihr al-Khumool (the spell for Lethargy), Sihr al-Hawaatif (bad dreams and hearing voices), Sihr al-Takhyeel and Sirh al-Nazeef (bleeding following menses), Sihr for impeding marriage and Al Sihr-Ar- rabt (erectile dysfunction). The symptoms presented by the above Sihrs are identical to normal physical illnesses, and therefore, the healer must recite the ruqyah to discern between physical and Sihr instigated symptoms.

The cure for Sihr, as stipulated in the Quran, entails turning to Allah and asking him to reverse Sihr because He is omnipotent and witchcraft occurs only when He allows it. Therefore, an exorcism from the spell of a Sihr requires recitation of specific scriptures and saying of prayers. To this end, Sheiks and Imams sought after for healing purposes. Additionally, cupping, a therapy used by Mohammed, is useful and applied to reverse the spell of Sihr (Bulbulia & Laher, 2013). Thus, the sorcery is subject to the influential power of Allah, who has the capacity to exterminate sorcery among people.

Due to the strong condemnation of the practice of Sihr, many tribes, which are predominantly Muslim, are afraid of engaging in it out of fear of the evils associated with it, such as the Swahili of Zanzibar (Kim, 2013). The avoidance of witchcraft is also a sign of obedience to the will of Allah and the general well-being of the society. This reaction exists despite the fact that the tribe has merged traditional practices and religion. The emergence is a testament to the fact that religion curbs witchcraft.

Consequences and Punishments of God to People

The practice of Sihr is punishable by death according to Islam. The Quran and Islamic scholars confirm this punishment and are steadfast that witches warrant persecution without even a chance for penitence (Kim, 2013). The exceptions to the death penalty as postulated by Kim (2013) are applicable when the person confesses to using a Sihr that did not have the wordings of disbelief and if the Sihr cast on a person did not kill the person.

The latter form of sorcery attracts the penalty of blood money. Kim (2013) states that sections of Islamic scholars disagree on the type of punishment a Muslim practicing Sihr and a Zimmi practicing Sihr should be given, with a faction agreeing that Muslims, who practice sorcery should be killed if the Sihr contains words of disbelief, without repentance because the Sihr is something one keeps as a secret.


Sorcery is a common belief in Islam, which is associated with evil called black magic. The Quran attests to the existence of Jinns in its hadiths and verses, and the different types of Sihrs Jinn causes and how occur. It is also evident that Islam, as well stated in the Quran, does not condone the practice of witchcraft because it has intent to harm, subjecting humans to psychological, spiritual, and emotional torture. Fundamentally, sorcery occurs when witchdoctors usurp Allah’s sacred powers. The intolerance to the evil practice, therefore, attracts the heavy consequence of death, except for some few exceptions. For Muslims, therefore, the only way to reverse the spells of the Sirh is to turn to God by reciting the scriptures, saying a prayer, and undergoing cunning therapy.


Bulbulia, T., & Laher, S. (2013). Exploring the role of Islam in perceptions of mental illness in a sample of Muslim psychiatrists based in Johannesburg. South African Journal of Psychiatry, 19(2) 52-54. Web.

Kamali, M. (2013). Islam’s views on sorcery and Black Magic. Islam and Civilization, 2(3), 564-565. Web.

Kim, C. (2013). Sihiri among the Swahili Muslims in Zanzibar: An Anthropological Analysis of the Belief and Practice of “Witchcraft” in Zanzibar in light of the Islamic view of Sihr. Torch Trinity Center for Islamic Studies Journal, 1(2), 83-123. Web.

Ndzovu, H. (2013). Indigenous and Popular Islamic Therapies of restoring Health and Countering Sorcery among the Digo of Kenya. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 5(7), 233-244. Web.

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