Question # 261: In my country, more so in rural than urban, people believe in fortune tellers, palmistry, astrology. Also, in urban cities, reading horoscope is common? Can you please Islamically shed light on the issue. Does casually reading star signs in newspaper and fortune cookies fall in the same category?
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: The craft of astrology which seeks to establish the influence and impact of heavenly bodies, and to find out about future earthly events or developments on the basis of celestial events, and to make a connection between celestial movements and earthly influence, is prohibited according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and the consensus of the ummah. In fact, the Knowledge of the Unseen is something that Allah has kept for Himself and therefore, the one who goes to a fortuneteller and believes in what he says, has committed a major kufr (disbelief) which puts him beyond the pale of Islam. Also, his punishment is that his prayers are not accepted for forty days.
Hence, visiting an astrologer and listening or watching his predictions on radio/TV, buying books on astrology or reading one’s horoscope, palm reading, I-Ching, fortune cookies, tea leaves, as well as Zodiacal signs and Bio-rhythm computer programs are equally forbidden for Muslims. These are all actions of jaahiliyyah (ignorance) and tantamount shirk, because they involve depending on something other than Allah and believing that benefit and harm come from something other than Him.
Some argue that astrologers may sometimes tell the truth and their predictions may prove correct; the fact is that they are like soothsayers who tell a true word mixed with hundred lies. If their predictions come true, it only occurs accidentally, for such predictions are nothing but baseless claims. Further, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) informed us that some fortunetellers have connections with jinns, who themselves do not have the knowledge of the unseen, rather they steal words that they hear from the angels, who themselves do not have any knowledge, except what Allah tells them.
Long Answer: Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The craft of astrology which seeks to establish the influence and impact of heavenly bodies, and to find out about future earthly events or developments on the basis of celestial events, and to make a connection between celestial movements and earthly influence, is a prohibited craft according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and the consensus of the ummah. In fact, it is forbidden by all the Messengers to their communities. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “and the magician will never be successful, no matter whatever amount (of skill) he may attain” (Soorah Ta-Ha, 20:69) and “Have you not seen those who were given a portion of the Scripture? They believe in Jibt [sorcery] and Taghoot [evil]” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:51) ‘Umar and others said that Jibt (sorcery) refers to magic or witchcraft…”
There are many ahaadith which state that it is haram [to go to astrologers and believe in what they say], such as the following:
- It was narrated from Safiyah bint Abi ‘Ubayd from one of the wives of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), who narrated that he said: “Whoever goes to a soothsayer and asks him about something and believes him, his prayer will not be accepted for forty days.” (Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh).
- Qusaybah ibn al-Mukhaariq said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) say: ‘Al-‘ayaafah, al-tiyarah and al-turuq [kinds of augury] are all part of al-jabt [witchcraft or idolatry].’” This was narrated by Abu Dawood with a sahih isnad. Abu Dawood said: Al-‘ayaafah, al-khatt and al-turuq are all kinds of augury, whereby a bird is released and is watched to see whether it flies to the right or to the left. If it flies to the right it is taken as a good omen and if it flies to the left it is taken as a bad omen. Al-Jawhari said: al-jabt is a word which may be applied to idols, soothsayers, magicians, astrologers etc.
- The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) says: “If anyone acquires any knowledge of astrology, he acquires a branch of magic of which he gets more as long as he continues to do so.” (Related by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and Imam Ahmad and others. It is narrated with an authentic chain of transmitters; An-Nawawi and Adh-Dhahabi deem it sahih)
- It was narrated that Mu’aawiyah ibn al-Hakam said: “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, I am still close to the time of Jaahiliyyah [i.e., I am new in Islam]. Allah has brought Islam to us, but there are among us men who go to soothsayers (fortune tellers).’ He said, ‘Do not go to them.’ I said, ‘And there are men among us who practice augury [watch birds for omens].’ He said, ‘That is something which they make up. Do not believe them.’” (Narrated by Muslim)
- It was narrated from Abu Mas’ood al-Badri that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) forbade the price of a dog, the fee of a prostitute and the payment of a soothsayer. (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
- It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever comes to a soothsayer and believes what he says, or has intercourse with a woman in her back passage, has nothing to do with that which has been revealed to Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم).” (Narrated by Abu Dawood)
- Al-Bukhari narrated in his Saheeh that ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) said: “Whoever tells you that he knows what will happen tomorrow is lying.” Then she recited, “No person knows what he will earn tomorrow” from Soorah Luqman, 31:34.
- In as-Saheehayn, it is narrated from Zayd ibn Khaalid al-Juhani that he said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) led us in praying Fajr at al-Hudaybiyah, after it had rained at night. When he finished, he turned to the people and said: “Do you know what your Lord said?” They said: Allah and His Messenger know best. He said: “He said: ‘This morning some of My slaves believe in Me and some disbelieve. As for the one who said, we got rain by the bounty and mercy of Allah, he is a believer in Me and a disbeliever in the stars. But as for the one who said, we got rain by virtue of such and such a star, he is a disbeliever in Me and a believer in the stars.’”
In summary, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) forbade going to soothsayers, and astrologers are the same as soothsayers according to al-Khattaabi and other scholars, and this was also narrated from the Arabs. According to others, they come under the same category as soothsayers and are worse than them. More than one of the scholars has narrated that there is consensus on the prohibition of astrology, such as al-Baghawi, al-Qaadi ‘Iyaad and others.
In his book ‘The Fundamentals of Tawheed’, Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips states that “Not only is the practice of astrology haram…, but visiting an astrologist and listening to his predictions, buying books on astrology or reading one’s horoscope are also forbidden! Since astrology is mainly used for predicting the future, those who practice it are considered fortunetellers…the punishment in the hadith is simply for approaching and asking the astrologist…If, however, one believes in the predictions of his horoscope, whether spoken by an astrologist or written in books of astrology, he falls directly into kufr (disbelief)… it destroys Tawhid al-Asma’ was-Sifat, and represents a form of shirk in this aspect of Tawhid… The ruling of kufr includes, by analogy (qiyas), those who read the books and writings of fortunetellers, listen to them on the radio or watch them on T.V., as these are the most common means used by 20th century fortunetellers to spread their predictions…Therefore, all the various methods used around the world by oracles, fortuneteller, and the like are forbidden to Muslims. Palm reading, I-Ching, fortune cookies, tea leaves, as well as Zodiacal signs and Bio-rhythm computer programs all claim to inform those who believe in them about their future.”
Next, Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Ibn Hasan (may Allah have mercy on him) provided in his Fathul-Majid (Bestowal of the Honorable): “If it is argued that astrologers may sometimes tell the truth and their predictions prove true, to this we reply that they are like soothsayers who tell a true word mixed with one hundred lies. If his predictions come true, it only occurs accidentally, for such predictions are nothing but baseless claims. Besides, the occurrence of such predictions may cause one to fall into polytheism if he believes in them.” (‘Guide to Sound Creed’ by Dr. Salih AI-Fawzan) Hence, some of what the astrologer says about future events may sometimes be correct and may sometimes happen as he foretold; but that does not mean that the path he is following is valid. Rather what he happens to get right is baseless and comes about by pure coincidence. What he gets right is very little in comparison to the lies that accompany it:
- It was reported that ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) said: “Some people asked the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) about soothsayers. He said, ‘They are nothing.’ They said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, sometimes they say something and it comes true.’ The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: ‘That is a word of truth that the jinn snatches and whispers into the ear of his familiar, but they mix a hundred lies with it.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
- It was narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) that she heard the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) say: “The angels come down in the clouds and discuss matters that have been decreed in heaven, and the devils may eavesdrop and hear it, then they convey it to the soothsayers, and they tell along with it one hundred lies that they have fabricated by themselves.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)
- The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) explained how the jinn steal this word. He said: “…when our Lord, may His name be blessed and exalted, decrees some matter, the bearers of the Throne glorify Him, then the people of heaven who are closest to them glorify Him, until the tasbeeh reaches the people of the lowest heaven. Then those who are nearest to the bearers of the Throne say: What did your Lord say? And they tell them what He said. And the people of heaven ask one another for the news, until the news reaches the lowest heaven. Then the eavesdropping jinn snatch what they can and convey it to their familiars. What they narrated as they heard it is true, but they add lies to it.” (Narrated by Muslim)
With regard to this matter, it is important to know what is the unseen, the knowledge of which Allah has kept to Himself, because al-ghayb (the unseen) means that which is not seen, and that which is not seen may be either that which is not seen by all of creation – both those who are in the heavens and those who are on earth – this kind of unseen is known to no one but Allah, and this is that which is called al-ghayb al-mutlaq (the unseen in the absolute sense); or this unseen matter may be unseen for some people, and known to some others. This is called unseen for the one who is ignorant of it, but it is not unseen or unknown to all people, and knowledge of it is not unique to Allah. Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Sharh al-‘Aqeedah al-Waasitiyyah: “What is meant by the unseen is that which is not seen. The unseen is something relative. But that which is unseen in the absolute sense (al-ghyab al-mutlaq) is known only to Allah.”
From the above ahadith, is clear that the jinn do not have knowledge of the unseen, rather they steal words that they hear from the angels, but the angels themselves do not have any knowledge of that unless Allah tells them of it. After they are told of it, it is no longer regarded as unseen in the absolute sense, but before that they are like anyone else in creation and do not know anything of the unseen. This depends on Allah’s telling them of it. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “(He Alone is) the All‑Knower of the Ghayb (Unseen), and He reveals to none His Ghayb (Unseen)” (Soorah al-Jinn 72:26)
Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Astrology, horoscopes, superstition and fortune-telling are all actions of jaahiliyyah (ignorance) which Islam came to show as false and to explain that they are shirk, because they involve depending on something other than Allah and believing that benefit and harm come from something other than Him, and believing the words of fortune-tellers and soothsayers who falsely claim to have knowledge of the unseen in order to cheat people of their money and change their beliefs. … [Hence,] whoever claims to know some matter of the unseen either is a fortune-teller or is acting like a fortune-teller in some sense, because Allah is the only One Who has knowledge of the unseen. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Say: ‘None in the heavens and the earth knows the Ghayb (Unseen) except Allaah…’” (Soorah al-Naml 27:65)
[Anyone] …who has anything to do with these matters [has] to repent to Allah and ask for His forgiveness, and to depend only on Allah and to put their trust in Him in all their affairs, whilst following the practical means that are prescribed or permitted in shari’ah. They should give up these matters of jaahiliyyah, keep away from them and avoid asking the people who practice them or believe what they say, out of obedience to Allah and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم), and in order to protect his commitment to Islam and his ‘aqeedah (religious belief).” (Adapted from Majmoo’ Fataawa)
(Unless stated otherwise, most part of the above reply is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.