Introduction

The Quran elucidates the misconception related to the role of two Angels, Harut and Marut, who are known to be behind bringing dark magic to this world. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:

“They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Suleiman (Solomon). Suleiman did not disbelieve, but the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two Angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (Angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, “We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).” And from these (Angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife, but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s Leave. And they learn that which harms them and profits them not. And indeed they knew that the buyers of it (magic) would have no share in the Hereafter. And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their own selves, if they but knew. And if they had believed, and guarded themselves from evil and kept their duty to Allah, far better would have been the reward from their Lord, if they but knew!” (Surah Baqarah: 102-103)

In these verses, Allah (SWT) refuted the false claims raised by the Children of Israel who said that Gabriel and Michael brought magic down to the two Angels Harut and Marut. They also falsely stated that Prophet Suleiman (AS) was nothing but a sorcerer or idolater who was conveyed by the wind.

How did the news of Prophet Suleiman (AS) being a sorcerer spread amongst the people?

Previously, the demons used to ascend towards Paradise to decipher the discussions between the angels in regards to what will happen on Earth pertaining to matters that were veiled by Allah (SWT).

They would disseminate the news to the soothsayers and the soothsayers would then pass on the news to the general population, who took the information to be relevant, valid and authentic. These tactics were used by the devils to lure in the soothsayers, and they soon began to manipulate the dialogues in an attempt to mislead the masses.   

The general population recorded these so called ‘truths’ in a few books and before long, the Children of Israel started to believe that the Jinn’s know matters of the Unseen and lost faith in the fact that only Allah (SWT) holds the supreme power of what lies in the “Batin”(hidden).

Fortunately, when Prophet Suleiman (AS) was sent as a Prophet, he summoned all these books and buried them under his authority. Any devil that desired access to the vault was thus burnt.

So stern was his aversion towards this dark resource that Prophet Suleiman (AS) asserted, `I will not hear of anyone who says that the demons know the Unseen, but I will rather cut off his head.’

When Prophet Suleiman (AS) passed away and the knowledgeable researchers and scholars who knew about the reality about Prophet Suleiman also died, another era was born. The devil disguised himself as a human and whispered to some of the Children of Israel, `Should I lead you to a fortune that you will never have the capacity to go through?’

Lust tainted their eyes & they (the Children of Israel) said. ‘Yes.’

He (the devil) stated, `Dig under this throne,’ as he escorted them to the throne of the Prophet Suleiman (AS).

`Come closer.’ the children of Israel iterated.  

He (the devil) stated, `No. I will just wait for you here, and if you do not find the treasure, then kill me.

They dug and found the hidden books and Satan said to them, `Suleiman manipulated the humans, devils, and birds with this magic.’

From that point onwards, the false news that Suleiman was a magician spread amongst the masses, deceiving the Children of Israel again who embraced these books.

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Opinions on the arrival of black magic:

There are many controversial opinions regarding how black magic came into this world. Some say that Prophet Suleiman (AS) before attending the call of nature gave his ring (that had special powers to control the mankind, jinn, wind and all the living things) to a woman named Al-Jaradah. Satan took advantage of this opportunity and disguised himself as Prophet Suleiman (AS), taking the ring from the woman. Later when Prophet Suleiman (AS) came to take his ring back, the woman accused him of being an imposter. Satan, now having the ring of Prophet Suleiman (AS), became influential and started ruling all of mankind, Jinn and devils. During this time, Satan wrote books on black magic and buried them under the throne of Prophet Suleiman (AS). Therefore, fortune-telling and black magic came to Earth through these devils who would eavesdrop on the descending Angels about matters decreed in the Heavens.

Another account pertinent in history is that the woman was Prophet Suleiman’s wife named Āminah. Prophet Suleiman (AS) had forgotten to say Bismillah when taking off his ring, so a Jinn disguised himself as Prophet Suleiman (AS) & took the ring from his wife. After taking the ring, the devil went straight to Suleiman’s Throne and occupied it. When Prophet Suleiman (AS) went to get the ring back, his wife thought that he was an imposter. The Jinn who took the ring was named Sakhir, and he made the lawful unlawful. Prophet Suleiman (AS) then wandered the Earth alone. This Jinn ruled for forty days. Then the ring fell into the sea and this was the moment when Suleiman’s vizier Asif realized the truth. A fish took the ring which was then found by a fisherman. Finally, the ring was given back to Prophet Suleiman (AS).

These accounts cannot be verified from any authentic source. Also, such stories provide us with no tangible value, so it is best to stick to the matters that the Holy Quran speaks about and which enlighten us with accurate knowledge and lead us to the right path.

The fact that Prophet Suleiman (AS) did indeed have a ring can be corroborated from multiple sources, but the detail as to whether the ring had the so-called powers as claimed in folk stories, lies in ambiguity. Much is made up, and much is based on the actual events.

According to Wahab Ibn Munabbih, Jibrīl (AS) was instructed by Allah (SWT) to go to Paradise and get a certain ring that was to be given to Prophet Suleiman (AS). It is said that this ring was originally worn by Adam (AS) in Paradise and it fell while he was transitioning to Earth.

To conclude, the ring is not of significance. Rather, the abilities that we hear of were the gifts bestowed upon Prophet Suleiman (AS) by Allah (SWT). The ring was a mere sign from Allah (SWT). The greatest power of Prophet Suleiman was the Bismillah.

Who were Harut and Marut?

Harut and Marut were two Angels who were sent to Babylon to teach magic to test the faith of people. The following verse can verify this:

“They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Suleiman (Solomon). Suleiman did not disbelieve, but the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two Angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (Angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, “We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).” And from these (Angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife, but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s Leave.” (Surah Baqarah: 102-103)

Harut and Marut were Angels sent by Allah (SWT) with the intention to test Mankind’s faith, and they would not teach anyone magic until they had told them the nature of their work and given them a fair warning. Nevertheless, some people persisted with learning and practicing sorcery, thus falling for the bait of temptation.

How can Angels teach magic when magic is a form of disbelief?

Shaykh Saalih Al-Fawzaan explains this misconception by highlighting the fact that Allah (SWT) sent these two Angels to teach people magic in order to test them and see who was a believer and who was a disbeliever, accordingly, they did not teach any of the people until they made their point clear that they were sent by Allah for the trial of Mankind. As Allah the Exalted has said:

‘Except that they said: “Verily we are only for trial, so do not disbelieve.” (2:102)

So they would advise the people who approached them to abandon the learning of magic while clarifying that it is an evil act.

In essence, teaching Mankind magic was a test for people set by Allah (SWT), the argument has nothing to do with whether magic is acceptable or that it is permissible. It was only to distinguish those who were going to disbelieve from those who were going to believe and accept the advice.

False perceptions related to the story of Harut and Marut:

There are numerous questionable stories on the narrative of Harut and Marut. Some say that the Angels had become astounded at the demonstrations of noncompliance conferred by the people on Earth. They started to curse the people and couldn’t see how they could be so wicked. As per the story, the Angels said to God that you made people from your hand and made us (the Angels) prostrate to them and now these people are defying you and doing illegal things on Earth. God educated the Angels that they would have likewise trespassed if they were put in the position of people yet the Angels said: “O’ Lord, if you give us these carnal desires we would descend and we would judge with justice.” So the Angels chose Harut and Marut from among themselves, and God gave them ten human attributes and sent them to Earth after commanding them to avoid alcohol, fornication, idolatry and murder. Harut and Marut eventually surrendered to their human characteristics and fell into these wrongdoings. Therefore, God punished them for their wrongdoings. According to this story, Harut and Marut were hung by their feet where they have been in torment from that point onward. It is said that they are hung by their feet consistently between the hour of Maghrib and Isha, and such will be their punishment until the Day of Judgment.

Also, on a side note, it is said that all those people who were keen to learn magic rushed to them for instructions. The two Angels started to teach them witchcraft or magic, and they became great teachers of magic.

Another account of the story is that Marut was sent as a scholar and Harut was sent as a judge, and they were given directions by Allah (SWT) to avoid the sins of idolatry, murder, fornication and drinking alcohol. They used to live among humans, and people used to praise them for their piousness and judgment. According to this story, a woman named Zahra appeared to them. She was so beautiful that the Angels were captivated by her beauty. Zahra knew that these two Angels were not ordinary men, so to uncover their secret, she invited them to her place and served them with the best food. Captivated by her beauty, they committed all those sins that Allah (SWT) had forbidden. It is said that when the Angels were committing wrong with Zahra, Allah (SWT) opened the doors of Heaven to show the Angels how Harut and Marut were misconducting. The Angels said “Glory to you, you know better” and the Angels then learned a lesson from the story and refrained from challenging Allah’s decision to create humans. The Angels Harut and Marut were suspended in a well in Babil in Iraq as a punishment by Allah (SWT), and Zahra who came to know about the secret of the two Angels disappeared from the surface of the Earth. It is said that Allah (SWT) transformed her into a planet named Venus.

All such tales have been rejected straight away by the learned scholars of Islam as fabrications which have no place in Islam.

Can Angels disobey Allah?

Angels are ambassadors and trustworthy messengers of Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:

“They do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.” (Surah At-Tahrim: 6)

Moreover, Allah says:

“They are honored servants. They speak not before He speaks, and they act (in all things) by His Command.” (Surah Al-Anbiyaa)

Imam Abu’l-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi gave a judgment about this story, and ash-Shihab al-‘Iraqi writes that anyone who believes that Harut and Marut were Angels who are being punished for their sin has disbelieved in Allah Almighty.

It is said by Qadi ‘Iyad in Ash-Shifa’:

“What is said in the reports and commentaries about the story of Harut and Marut does not relate to anything, either sound or weak, from the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless Him and grant Him peace) Himself, and there is nothing which is taken by analogy.”

We as Muslims should keep this in mind that what is not proven in Sunnah, has no roots or linkage with Islam. Indeed, are nothing more than a myth. If at some point we are unclear about the teachings of Islam, we should consult the prominent religious scholars or the sources of Islam (Quran and Hadith) for authentic knowledge.

Mufti Muhammad Shafi gives the following comments on the story of Harut and Marut:

Allah (SWT) sent down to Babylon two Angels, Harut and Marut, for informing the people as to the true nature of magic and to its different forms so that they can distinguish it from the miracles of Prophets; and keep away from obeying magicians and practicing magic themselves.

In a nutshell, Harut and Marut were sent on Earth to teach people the basic principles of magic by giving them a complete picture of magic as an equally evil and unfaithful act. Their work was exactly like that of a scholar who (finding that illiterate people sometimes fall into uttering heretical words or phrases on account of their ignorance) should collect in his speeches or writings all such phrases and inform them to avoid them.

Now, all sorts of people started coming to the Angels for seeking information about the nature and the specific formulas of magic. To provide specific teaching on this subject and to protect the people from error, the Angels were careful enough to make it a point to warn them of possible dangers in giving them the information. The task of Harut and Marut was to equip people with the actual knowledge of magic. Indeed, it was more of a test and trial from Allah (SWT) to see who sticks strongly to their belief system and avoids indulging in practices that are against his/her Iman. The Angels repeatedly advised them to seek this critical information only with a good intent and not to misuse the knowledge so as to earn eternal damnation.

The Angels could not be more honest and forthright. So, they explained the basic principles of magic and even the subsidiary details to all those who were ready to take the pledge to remain steadfast in their faith. Of course, if anyone broke the promise and fell into transgression or infidelity, it was his own fault, and the Angels could not be held responsible for it. Some were faithful to their promise, while many did not fulfill the pledge, and made their knowledge of magic a means of doing harm to people — this in itself is a sin and transgression. Thus, through a misuse of their knowledge of magic, some turned into sinners while others into infidels.

Let us repeat that the Angels had taught magic for the purpose of reforming the people and helping them to the straight path. But those who misread this teaching did so out of their perversity. (Shafi, Ma’ariful Qur’an, Maktaba-e-Darul-Uloom, Karachi 2003, vol. 1, pp. 266-268)

These comments have many focal points. Firstly, Harut and Marut before teaching the art of magic to anyone ensured to educate them about the consequences of this evil art. Secondly, this made it easier for them to distinguish between the classes of people who were strong in their faith from the ones who succumb to the evil temptations of magic. Harut and Marut were sent as a trial for mankind to distinguish good from evil and separate believers from disbelievers.

May Allah (SWT) guide us to differentiate between right and wrong and give us the strength to abide by the teachings of Allah (SWT) and the Holy Prophet (SAW). Therefore it is advisable to follow the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah that are a complete guide to a righteous destiny because only Allah (SWT) knows best.

Saleh Al-Fawzan

According to fatwa-online.com, after the completion of his doctorate, he became a teacher at the faculty of Shari’ah at the Imam Muhammad educational institute in Riyadh before being transferred to the Department for Higher Studies within the Faculty of the Principles of the Religion (usool ad-deen). He was later the head of Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court of Justice, where he was appointed the head. He then returned to teaching there after his period of headship came to an end.

As of 2013, he was a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, which advises the king on religious matters.He is also currently a member of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas, a committee of the Council of Senior Scholars. The Council issues rulings in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and prepares research papers for the Council of Senior Scholars.

 Mufti Muhammad Shafi, was a South Asian Sunni Islamic scholar of the Deobandi school of Islamic thought. A Hanafi jurist and mufti, he was also an authority on shari’ahhadithtafsir (Qur’anic exegesis), and tasawwuf (Sufism). Born in DeobandBritish India, he graduated in 1917 from Darul Uloom Deoband, where he later taught hadith and held the post of Chief Mufti. He resigned from the school in 1943 to devote his time to the Pakistan Movement. After the independence he moved to Pakistan, where he established Darul Uloom Karachi in 1951. Of his written works, his best-known is Ma’ariful Qur’an, a tafsir of the Qur’an.

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