Mental illness, magic, jinn or the evil eye

Q384 :There are references in the Qur'an to madness, magic spells, possession by jinn and to the evil eye. There seems to be some sort of differentiation in the Qur'an between madness and the other three. However, as psychiatrists we tend to treat those who are affected by any of these as psychiatric patients. Could you please throw some light over these matters and give us references from the Qur'an and Hadith to help us study the Islamic point of view in these matters. This will be of immense help to us in understanding our patients and the mentally ill in general.

A384 : The first time I read your letter, it came to me as a shock that madness should be grouped with the other three when to someone like me it is totally different. However, I can understand how psychiatrists tend to group these things together. There is nothing in the Qur'an, which suggests that madness can affect a person as a result of a magic spell or an evil spirit. There are references to madness in the Qur'an, but mostly in quoting what disbelievers used to say about prophets, including Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Moses (peace be on them both and all other prophets). As for black magic, or using a magic spell to influence someone's behavior or his power of thinking, I have [elsewhere] given a detailed answer to questions on this subject. I have explained that according to Islam, magic has no material presence whatsoever. There are references in the Qur'an to magic mostly with regard to the magicians employed by Pharaoh to try to outbid the miracles of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). But it is clear in the Qur'an that the work of those magicians was nothing more than mental tricks. Magic cannot produce anything whatsoever. The encounter between those magicians and Moses is reported in more than one surah, most notably 7 & 20 "Al Aaraf" and "Taha". In the latter surah, you may refer to Verses 57-76. It is clearly stated by Allah that what the magicians produced, using their ropes and staffs, was mere trickery: Their ropes and staffs so appeared to him, by the force of their magic, as if they were moving. In other words, it was all a mental trick. The staffs and ropes did not move. As for the evil eye, it is a form of envy. In the penultimate surah of the Qur'an entitled "Al-Falaq" or "The Daybreak", the prophet is instructed to seek refuge with his Lord from the evil of envy. As the surah is short we may quote it in full: "Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the Daybreak from the evil of what He has created; from the evil of darkness when it gathers; from the evil of conjuring witches; and from the evil of the envious when he envies." In order to explain what the envy may do, it is perhaps useful to quote what the late Sayyid Qutb has written in his priceless work "In the Shade of the Qur'an", when he commented on this surah: "Envy is the evil begrudging reaction one feels towards another who has received some favors from Allah. It is also accompanied by a very strong desire for the annihilation of such favors. Some harm to the envied may result from such baseless grudges. Now, this may either be the outcome of a direct physical action of the envier or may result from the suppressed feelings alone. "We should try not to feel uneasy on learning that there is countless number of inexplicable mysteries in life. There are several phenomena for which no account has been offered uptil now. Telepathy and hypnosis are examples of such phenomena. "Very little is known about the mysteries of envy and the little that is known has often been uncovered by chance and coincidence. In any case there is in envy an evil from which the refuge and protection of Allah must be sought. For He, the Most Generous, the Most Merciful and the One who knows all has directed His messenger and His followers to seek His refuge from this evil. It is unanimously agreed by the Islamic schools of thought that Allah will always protect His servants from such evils, should they seek His protection as He has directed them to do. "Al-Bukhari related that Aisha said that the Prophet would, when getting into bed to sleep, recite: "Say: He is Allah the One..." and "Say: He is the Lord of the Daybreak, ..." and "Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of men," (i.e. the last three Surahs of the Qur'an) and blow into both hands; starting with his head, face and front part of his body, he would then run his palms over the rest of his body. He did that three times." That is what Sayyid Qutb has written on envy and I think it gives you a very clear picture of the Islamic attitude to what is known as the evil eye which is a form of envy. As for the Jinn, the two major references in the Qur'an to which I would like you to refer are those in Verses 29-32 of Surah 72 entitled "Al-Ahqaf" and to Surah 72 entitled "The Jinn." You may also refer, if you will, to Verses 12-14 of Surah 34 entitled "Sabaa", or "Sheba". From these references, particularly the first two, you will realize that the jinn are another species of Allah's creation. They share with us life on earth and we cannot see them while they can see us. They are required to believe in Islam as they have been previously required to believe in the message of Prophet Moses. Like human beings, most of them do not submit to Allah as a matter of choice. They continue to ignore the call of Prophets and messengers as human beings do. The nature of their creation is different from ours. Prior to the advent of Islam, they were able to climb high in the atmosphere to eavesdrop on angels as they glorified Allah, hoping to hear some news which affected the world. They were prevented from doing so, just before the start of the revelation of the Qur'an. They are accountable for their deeds on the day of judgment. Those of them who have done good in this life will be rewarded by admission into heaven and those who continue to do evil will be thrown in hell. Apart from these similarities, their world is separate from ours. There is no interchange between them and us. Neither can they accomplish our purposes nor do we know anything about theirs. Allah has not made us subservient to their desires nor has He made them subject to our might. Therefore, the idea of anyone of us, man or woman, being possessed by a jinn and that such possession can affect his mental power and his action or prevent something from being done by him or stop him from his intended action is totally absurd. Unfortunately, such thoughts may find a receptive ear with sections of people. The fact is that there is no truth in them. I totally agree that when a patient comes to you with a disturbed mind, you treat him as mentally ill person and treat him to the best of your ability.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )