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Is Belief in Bad Omen Idolatry?

Is Belief in Bad Omen Idolatry?
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`Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “(Believing in) bad omen is (a form of) idolatry.” Ibn Mas`ud added, “It may occur to anyone of us, but God clears it away when we rely totally on Him.” (Al-Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawud)

Mu`awiyah ibn Hakam said to the Prophet, “I have only recently abandoned ignorant beliefs, and now God has favored us with Islam. Some of our people visit fortune-tellers.” The Prophet said,” “Do not visit them. ” The man added, “And some of us associate bad omen with certain things.” The Prophet replied, “That is something which they find in their breasts. Let them not be deterred from their purpose ” (Muslim).

 

People often associate certain things, events, or signs with good or bad omens that tend to differ from one culture to another. In pre-Islamic Arabian culture, when people would go out on business, they would try to determine whether their tasks would be successful or not. They would usually look for any birds they might see. If a bird flew to their right, they would consider this to be a good omen and would continue with their business. If a bird flew to their left, they would see it as a bad omen and would not continue with whatever they had intended to embark upon.

In fact, this superstition was so entrenched in their culture that the Arabic name for sensing bad omens is derived from the word tair, which means bird. It is used even when the object, action, or event that causes bad omen has nothing to do with birds.

Apparently, this superstition was not limited to Arabs. In other cultures, people also looked to birds for sensing what may come about. The English word “auspice” is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “an observation of birds for omens.”

Needless to say, superstition of this nature is forbidden in Islam. It is contrary to the very concept that knowledge of the future is the preserve of God alone. It is also against the principle of putting our trust in God.

Therefore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) denounced the very idea of a bad omen, describing it as a form of associating partners with God. He said, ” (Believing in) bad omen is (a form of) idolatry. ” Ibn Mas`ud, the narrator of this hadith added, “It may occur to anyone of us, but God clears it away when we rely totally on Him.” (Al-Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawud).


About Adil Salahi

Adil Salahi is the Religious Page editor of the Jeddah-based Arab News.

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