The events in this post are based on two Quranic verses of Surah Al-Baqara and Ibn Kathir’s writings. Harut and Marut (mentioned in the Quran in Surah Al-Baqarah) were two angels who are known to be behind bringing black magic to this world. Quran clarifies the misunderstanding related to their role. They are mentioned in connection with the events that took place during the time of Prophet Solomon / Sulaiman (alaihis salam) the wise prophet and king, who came after Prophet Moses / Musa (alaihis salam). Allah’s revelation in the Quran about Sulaiman (alaihis salam) also clears the misconceptions that the Jews had about him that he was “just a sorcerer or idolator who was carried by the wind.”
Prophet Sulaiman’s Powers
Allah had bestowed Prophet Sulaiman (alaihis salam) with certain powers over mankind, Jinn and all other living creatures. Satan wanted to deprive him of this power. One day, as it was his practice, before going to answer the call of nature, Sulaiman (alaihis salam) gave his ring to a woman called Al-Jaradah. Satan took advantage of this opportunity, came in the form of Sulaiman, and took the ring from her and put the ring on. As Allah had decreed to bless the holder of the ring to have many powers, all mankind, the jinn and devils submitted to Satan. Later, when Sulaiman came seeking his ring from the woman, she accused him of being an imposter. Prophet Sulaiman endured this with patience as he knew that this was a test from Allah the Almighty.
How black magic and fortunetelling became widespread?
With Satan having new powers, the devils were now free to do whatever they wished. It was at this time that they wrote books of black magic and buried them underneath the throne of Prophet Sulaiman (alaihis salam). Black magic and fortune telling came to the earth through these devils who (after having the new powers) would eavesdrop on the descending angels about matters decreed in the Heavens. The devils would then come down to inspire the soothsayers with it, and the latter would add to it many lies of their own. People would then believe them and regard them as trustworthy. The people started writing down these matters and the word spread among the Children of Israel that the Jinn knew the unseen.
Later, when Allah restored to Prophet Sulaiman (alaihis salam) his kingdom, and all those who had strayed away came to follow the straight path once again, Allah the Almighty informed Sulaiman (alaihis salam) about the magic that had become commonplace among his people. This then drove Sulaiman to quickly seize and gather all these writings and put them in a chest and bury them under his throne. All the devils who tried to even approach the chest were burned alive. Prophet Sulaiman took an even harder stance declaring that he would behead anyone who claimed that the devils knew the unseen.
Asif was Sulaiman’s scribe. He knew the Greatest Name of Allah and used to write what he was ordered to by Sulaiman and then bury it underneath the throne. After Sulaiman’s death, a devil came in the form of a human being to the people and said: “I will lead you to an everlasting treasure that will never run out.” He was referring to the writings of Prophet Sulaiman that were buried under the chest. The Satan led the people to dig under Sulaiman’s throne. To provide credibility to his word he also offered to be killed if he was not correct in his claims. After the people dug out all the writings, the devil told them that it was these writings that had given Prophet Sulaiman power over mankind, the Jinn and the birds. The devils altered these books by adding magical and blasphemous writings. The devils wrote about different types of sorcery meant to fulfill different desires.
For example, the devils wrote about how people could get some wishes fulfilled by standing facing the sun and saying some words, and how they could get other wishes fulfilled by standing with their back to the sun and repeating some other words. They wrote this in a book and sealed it with a ring bearing the inscription found on Sulaiman’s ring and titled it with: “This is what has been written by Asif Ibn Barkhiya by the order of King Sulaiman Ibn Dawud: from the treasures of knowledge.” Then, they buried it under Sulaiman’s throne.
It was rumored and circulated that Sulaiman had been a sorcerer. Satan established himself as an orator and said: “O people! Sulaiman was not a prophet; he was only a sorcerer! Go and seek his sorcery in his dwellings and luggage.” And he led them to the buried “treasure”. The people said: “By Allah! Sulaiman was a sorcerer who subjected us through his magic.” But the believers from among them said: “Nay, he was a faithful Prophet.”
Quran’s verses and explanation on the reality of black magic
During Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.S.) time, the Jews kept these writings and disputed the prophet (s) regarding them. They would ask Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.S.) about matters from the Torah. They said: “Muhammad confounds the truth with falsehood: he puts Sulaiman with the prophets while he was just a sorcerer who was carried by the wind.” When they asked him about sorcery, Allah the Almighty revealed to the prophet (s) the following verses:
They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulaiman (Solomon). Sulaiman 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 ownselves, 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!
Quran (Surah Al-Baqara, Verses 102-103)
Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.S) informed the Jews of this narration and they left defeated and humiliated. Regarding the angels Harut and Marut mentioned in the verses, Ibn ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) elaborated that: “The angels Harut and Marut used to warn anyone who came to them to learn magic and would say to him: “We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).” They knew what is good, what is bad, what is belief and what is disbelief and thus they knew that magic was associated with disbelief. Ibn ‘Abbas continued: “However, if they could not dissuade the person, they would tell him to go to a particular place to learn magic.
Allah the Almighty says:
“…And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife,…” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:102).
i.e., the people learned from Harut and Marut the magic by which they would cause separation between man and his wife though the man and wife might have affinity and affection for each other. Separation between them is caused by the cunning of the devils as transmitted in Imam Muslim’s Sahih from the Hadith narrated by Jabir Ibn ‘Abdullah as said by the Prophet (S.A.W.S.): “Iblis places his throne upon water; he then sends detachments (for creating dissension); the nearer to him in rank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension. One of them comes and says: “I did so and so.” And he says: “You have done nothing.” Then one amongst them comes and says: “I did not spare so and so until I sowed the seed of discord between a husband and a wife.” Satan goes near him and says: “You have done well.” Al-A’mash said: “He then embraces him.”
The dissension between a husband and wife can be created through magic by the devil making each of them imagine something bad — a view, or manner, etc. – about the other. Allah the Almighty says:
“But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s Leave” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:102).
The lesson from the story is that magic is for real and Allah has provided Satan certain powers to harm mankind,especially those who believe in Allah and His message of truth. To prevent us from Satan’s plans and mischief, Allah has also provided us with many verses and adhkar that we can find in the Quran and Hadith. We should, therefore, be regular in reciting those Azkar to avoid getting in the traps of Satan all satanic activities.
Source: Ibn Kathir Stories