Sunday, January 06, 2008

Permissibility of Entertaining Children With Magic Shows?

Howard Thurston, Magician

Some of our masjid members had an after-Eid party at one of our local fire halls a few days ago.

I was sitting at one of the long tables, eating with two sisters I invited, when we suddently heard the opening lines of the song Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John.


That got our attention, but what came next was mindblowing. Apparently, the music was used to get everybody's attention. For what?

A magic show for the children.

Ya Allah! I couldn't believe it. I turned around and said to one of the sisters, "Who arranged this? Magic is haram in Islam." To which she replied,

"Well, uh ... you know, it's just for the children."

What are we teaching our children? And at a Muslim affair?

So, I went looking for fatwa/daleel against such entertainment for children. Sure that I would find it. I wanted to send it to the sister who organized the dinner. I found the usual daleel on the Salafi websites, of course, but to my disbelief, I also found the following fatwa on IslamOnline:

Is It Unlawful in Islam to Entertain Children at the Islamic Center With A "Magic Show"?

Dear questioner, thank you very much for having confidence in us, and we hope our efforts, which are purely for Allah's Sake, meet your expectations.

Magic shows that are done for entertainment purposes are not considered part of prohibited magic or sihr. Such form of play that is meant to entertain children is permissible. However, it is the duty of parents to teach their children not to be deceived by illusions that are done by some people who may use the sleight of their hands and make them believe that they control supernatural powers.

In his response to the question, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), states the following:

“The word "magic" has many definitions in English language. It could mean 'black magic' which may include sorcery, amulets, talismans, potions, charms, spells exorcism etc. But it could also mean just a sleight of hands used for entertainment. The "magic shows" generally belong to this last category and I do not think doing such acts for the purpose of entertainment is haram or makruh in Islam.

Islam forbids sihr and in the Qur'an and Hadith it is very strongly condemned. In the Qur'an the word sihr occurs in more than sixty places. Sometimes it is mentioned that the non-believers abused Allah's Prophets and called their miracles or effective words as sihr or magic. But there was a big difference between the Prophets' miracles and magic.

The Qur'an refers to the character of the Prophets and to the purity of their message and says that this cannot be called magic and the Prophets of Allah cannot be called magicians.

Those who practiced sihr used to believe in some demonic powers and used to worship devils and evil sprits. They used to spend time in wilderness living with human and animal corpses or even practicing cannibalism. Sahirs (magicians) were often people of evil character who used to use their illusions to mislead people or to harm others. Sometimes the Sahirs used to make big claims of controlling the powers of the unseen world and in this way they used to exploit the simple people. Magic in this sense or sihr, witchcraft, oracles, palmistry, fortune telling etc. are all forbidden or haram in Islam.

However, mere tricks for entertainment purposes should not be called sihr in the classical sense. Through these shows we can teach our children that they should not be deceived by illusions. Some people may use the sleight of their hands and make them believe that they control supernatural powers. Children should be aware of those characters and should not be naive to believe such people.”

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

As-salaamu 'alaikum

Ajeeb! What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I know a few "magic" tricks and all any of it is, is the manual manipulation of objects and misdirection of attention to create a logic error between the eyes and the brain, thus creating an illusion. It has absolutely nothing to do with the occult or dealings with any entity, it is about as "magical" as a word puzzle or telling a little kid "got your nose". Muhammad Ali does a trick where he "levitates" sometimes to amuse kids, but it's more closely related to physical training as a boxer, I don't think anyone's going to mistake him for a Warlock anytime soon. Don't worry, "magic" in this context is not by any stretch of the imagination the thing talked about in the Qu'ran, we simply use the same word for both in English.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dr. Siddiqi. As long as the children are taught the difference between haram magic and playful illusion, it is certainly ok.

Ya Haqq!

Safiyyah said...

Wa Alaikum As Salaam:

Well, I'm no scholar, but I think that some Muslims would go to any lengths, i.e., fatwaa shopping, Allah forgive us, to get a "scholar" to tell them it's OK to do what they really want to do.

The fatwaa suggested that parents can use the displays of "sleight of hand" to "teach" children, to let them know that it's not real, the dangers of magic, etc.

But how do the parents do this when they are busy talking and eating at the tables while the kids are watching this magician? I didn't see any parents standing there taking advantage of this "educational opportunity".

Some have told me that it is primarily the Indo-Pak Muslims that like these magic shows. Allahu Alim. It appears that magic shows were the big rage of Hindus in India and when many of them reverted to Islam, they brought the love of this "entertainment" into the deen.

In doing a Google search, I saw many Indo-Pak sites that cited this fatwaa.

OK, Aboo Uthmaan: Ajeeb! What do YOU think? lol

Anonymous said...

Salaam Alaikum Sis. Safiyyah...

I am by no stretch of the imagination a scholar and I don't pretend to know much re: fatwaa's and such... but I do think educating a child is key. If not at the moment that the magic show is happening, then after... or before? I know with my children I often have "life discussion" when we talk about everything... from tooth fairies and santa to the brothers on the corner and why they should not be like them, lol.

I let my children watch Harry Potter but not before letting them know that these things aren't real. That goes for most movies I let them watch...

Just my two cents.

Peace and blessings

Anonymous said...

As-salaamu 'alaikum

I don’t think that any Muslim will disagree that magic involving the occult (for want of a better word) is kufr and as such is impermissible. But what about the type of magic that involves illusion and trickery?

Shaykh Saalih ibn Fawzaan al-Fawzaan said:

“Jundub ibn Ka'b, the Companion, killed a magician in the presence of one of the governors of Banee Umayyah. He came and found the magician playing games in front of the governor, pretending to kill a person and then bring him back to life by cutting off his head and then replacing it. This is a kind of illusionary magic. He was trying to convince the people that he was killing him and then putting his head back upon his shoulders. He did not actually do anything he was only tricking the people with an illusion. So Jundub went up to him and struck him with his sword until he chopped his head off, and said: ‘If he was truthful, then let him bring himself back to life’.” (Duroos fee Sharh Nawaaqidh al-Islam (P. 146-147)

From this incident it is clear that Jundud ibn Ka’b (radee Allaahu ‘anhu), a Companion of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), understood that magic, be it by way of the occult or illusion and trickery is kufr. This is the same Jundud ibn Ka’b (radee Allaahu ‘anhu) who reported that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The prescribed punishment for the magician is that he be executed by the sword.” (Reported by at-Tirmidhee)

Another point to note is that those who watched the magician cutting off the head of his sidekick gasped: “Glory be to Allaah, he (the magician) is able to give life to the dead.” But as we know it is only Allaah who can give life to the dead. Although the magician was not involved in the occult but instead illusion and trickery, his “tricks” led the people into uttering words of kufr, such are the harms, dangers and evils of magic, even if it is as some claim “just entertainment”, I am not sure how one can find disbelief entertaining.

Was-salaamu 'alaikum

Aboo Uthmaan

Anonymous said...

Asalamu Walaikum Sis,

I think it is great! Really. I have seen Muslims be freaked out by this kind of thing and you have to ask...umm is there really any "magic" in that wand? It's good to teach kids that these are TRICKS and not to fear magic, because we have Allah to protect us from soothsaying type magic.
I got my kids a "magic kit" and they just huffed at it and then lost all the pieces before they could even learn any tricks.
My kids love the story of Musa (saw) and the three magicians. My children know the difference between tricks and the evils of soothsaying and superstition. My then 7 and 5 year olds used to harass a brother relentlessly about the hand of Fatima that he kept in his shop until he took it down. lol!
Inshallah the parents will explain this stuff to their kids...there are plenty of things the Muslims seems to think some sort of don't talk/ won't happen policy is in effect-like dating/drugs/sex/etc...
Magic and science fiction are so "in" right now, it serves well to explain to kids what that is all about. They should be able to identify shirk.
Our Muslim children live as minorities(in multiple standings) in the US and are always on the outside looking in. We should make room for inclusion-ya know what I mean? They hear haram, haram plenty-so we have to give them halal,halal instead. Like IF :)
Our Eid party was at a Science Discovery type place...we avoided the planetarium bit :)
I soooo agree with you on the fatwa shopping. Our community took an extremely important issue and shopped a fatwa from a math doctor. Yes, that's right a PHD in mathematics.
Love and Peace,

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Everyone:

About our Muslim kids living as a minority - I remember when I was a little Jewish girl. In our home, we observed the celebrations of both Judaism (dad) and Christianity (mom). Christmas/Hanukah, Easter/Passover, etc. But, we mainly practiced Judaism. I remember wanting the things of the non-Jewish kids, and wanting to do what they did. My Jewish grandmother told me, "That's what they do. We don't do that." As a child, this simple answer was sufficient for me. Most kids don't need a super complicated answer. I think we need to nurture our children's Muslim personalities from the VERY young age.

Anonymous said...

Assalamu alaykum.

I try to be open-minded, and I think if a parent allows his or her children to watch magic shows, view Harry Potter movies, or even try illusionary tricks at home, on the pretense that the child can differentiate between shirk and play, or shirk and illusion, that is his personal business. But to have a masjid or Muslim organization feed entertainment in the form of any kind of magic to our children is extremely remiss.

If we are going to err, at least let us err individually and not as a community.

We as a ummah have strayed far from the paths of our predecessors. Have we forgotten how to leave off the gray matters? Magic is haram. Do we really think that the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) or his companions would approve of illusionists as halal entertainment?

Anonymous said...

as salaam alaikum,
I agree that the "magic show" that was performed at the party was o.k. Unless someone was doing some "real magic" then it would be wrong, but all of the tricks probably just dealt with tricks of the hand and eye. That's it.

This is a language issue, where it's hard to convey the same message, theme, or form of entertainment without using the word "magic". Sure there's "illusion" but it's not the same.

Plus I think that right now in society "actual magic" is not something people live day by day fearing, feeling exposed to, and actually participating in. So magic can loosly mean "trick" too... at least I just can't remember when I really believed that the people were using magic.

It's just language. If they would have said, 'The Illusion' or something you probably would have been fine.

Maybe the organizers should have avoided using the word "magic" and had chosen a better word.


Anonymous said...

"That's what they do. We don't do that."...Definitely! I find myself walking a thin line to not imitate the kuffar, but also to be my American self. I know sisters that have stopped wearing earrings because they read a fatwa that it is mutilation. I gave a stack of parenting books to a donation box at the Masjid and my hubby said a brother TORE THEM UP because we can't take from the kuffar.
So with my kids, I am careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water-ya know? I did read up on magic before I bought my son his first Magic Treehouse Book-which he now has about 20 of.
My kids eat candy corn through out the year (any day but Halloween hehe!) and the other day when I told my son he could choose any flavor of ice cream, he stood in front of "Birthday Cake" waiting for me to respond. I asked him if he was celebrating a birthday and he snorted no at me. So I said alright then we can try it.
I read a fatwa where someone asked if they could sing lullabies to their baby.
We worry about this stuff (cultural baggage) all the time, alhumdiallah, otherwise we would just be being heedless-yeah?
Great post...and the middle of the week no less :)
Love and Peace,

wanda loves... said...


I agree with the doctor. Slight of hand is not really the magic I think about when reading Quran or Hadith.

What I think about are the deceptors (psychics) like John Edwards and others who claim to be able to use supernatural powers to contact the dead and use palm reading, tarot cards, etc to claim to predict the future.

Though I would like to believe David Blaine is evil, his magic is just learned tricks.

American Muslima Writer said...

Thanks for this I must definitly post about this though too. My daughter is being consumed by the mass "magic" movement.

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