CAIRO: Hala Salah, 45, has always dismissed the idea of black magic and spell until one day she claims to have been forced to believe otherwise.
“Although my husband and I have been happily married for the last 13 years, last year I felt he changed, said Salah.
That was when she felt he had fallen under a curse and was advised by friends to seek the help of a magician.
“When I did, I got the shock of my life: he [the magician] asked me if I were pregnant. When I said no, he insisted that the wife of the person in question is expecting.
“I dismissed it all as irrelevant, but a few days later some friends came to tell me that he had another wife. And when I cornered him, he confessed and said that the woman was pregnant.
“After that incident, how do you not want me to believe? said Salah.
At an era of technological advancement and scientific progress, many well-educated people in Egypt as well in the Arab world still resort to black magic and believe in superstitions.
Casting spells and contacting the world of Jinn and spirits has been practiced for centuries in Middle Eastern cultures, where people turn to the skills of a saher (someone who practices black magic) to arrange the order of things the way the clients desire.
Today, illiterate and educated groups alike are turning to black magic and other superstitions even though certain Quranic verses indicate that resorting to black magic and the world of the Jinn is a major sin.
The subject of black magic is so extensive that it would take years to be studied and analyzed. All types of sources – books or websites – would provide a hoard of information on it.
It is defined as the ability to change the nature of things, causing them to appear different from what they really are in the eyes of the one targeted by the spell.
A study undertaken on the issue by Dr. Mohamed Abdel Azim of the Criminal Research Center in 2005 pointed out that there are more than 300,000 people pracitic black magic in different parts of Egypt.
The study noted that some $5 billion are spent annually on superstitions in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.
According to the study, 38 percent of public figures in the fields of cinema, sports, culture and politics have at some point resorted to these ‘magicians.’
Obsessions preoccupying Egyptians’ minds including spinsterhood, infertility and sexual potency trigger the need for these kinds of services, which are available in Cairo namely in popular districts like Sharabiya and Sayeda Zeinab.
Murtada Adel, a retired legal consultant, had a daughter who faced problems getting married. When his wife told him that his sister-in-law had jinxed her using an evil spell, he refused to believe.
A month after visiting a spell-breaker, the girl got engaged, although Adel is still having a hard time believing it was more than pure coincidence.
But while the belief in black magic and related practices remains deeply-rooted, religious authorities continue to undermine its illusory nature and warn people against the consequences.
Hosted by Al-Jazeera satellite channel’s “Sharia Wal Hayat, Sheikh Yousif Al Qaradawi, a well-known Muslim scholar, explained that the world of Jinn does really exist. Having said that, he assured that it is not capable of such deeds many attribute to it.
He argued that Jinn is inferior to man, which makes it impossible for man to rely on it to fulfill their needs.
Citing reliable sources on the subject, Al Qaradwai pointed out that if magicians were actually capable of causing good or harm, it would have been possible for them to seize property, extract treasures from the earth and conquer countries.
Meanwhile, Dr. Safwan Mahmoud, who claims to be a professional exorcist, offers paid services to clients at home and attends weddings with the aim of providing protection in case a spell is cast on the happy newlyweds.
Some of his clients revealed that on visiting their houses he poured some liquids into places where spells are thought to have been cast. In case the spell is internal – affecting the body – he uses loud recitations of the Holy Quran.
“Not all exorcists are genuine, said Nour Mohamed, the Imam of a Maadi mosque.
“I would like to point out that the exorcist should not necessarily be familiar with the magicians’ ways so that he would be able to treat the bewitched person, he added. “If he or she starts telling you about the source of the spell and the character of the perpetrator, you should immediately dismiss them as frauds.
“The true exorcist should heal only with the help of the Holy Quran, he said.
Last week the confessions of a repentant Saudi sorcerer came as a blow to magicians in the same line of work. The press reported that Dawood El Rimi, the most notorious magician in Mecca and the Arab world, who has been practicing black magic for the last 40 years, renounced his career and publicly avowed his evildoings.
Having broken homes and caused married couples to be separated over the years, El Rimi confessed that a magician can never become familiar with the unknown. He added that a magician would tell you a word of truth and a thousand lies, but some of the facts he might reveal are the result of befriending one Jinn that brings him bits and pieces of news about his clients and their enemies.
There are pious Jinn, but those can’t be possessed by magicians or accept to be at any man’s service, El Rimi explained, admitting that ignorance about true religion was what caused him to take this path.
Dr. Nadra Wahdan, sociologist at the National Planning Institute, doubts that El Rimi’s confession will prevent people from relying on such superstitions. “In Egypt as well as other countries in the Third World, the impact of beliefs is much stronger than that of culture, said Wahdan.
“But that the world of spirits and Jinn does truly exist wouldn’t necessarily translate into the fact that we know about it and that those magicians have mastered its ways. We should dismiss their knowledge as fake and irrelevant.
“Perhaps the secrets of this world are residing in some other sciences like parapsychology that is capable of working miracles of divine nature. But not so many can claim to be versed in that science.
“I also doubt that magicians or any other group have knowledge about the nature of these unseen powers. The ancients could have been familiar with such sciences but little has been traced about how knowledgeable they were.
“The issue should be addressed as early as childhood. Again culture is the key. Focus on culture to counter superstitions, noted the sociologist.
All names of interviewees involved in black magic have been changed upon their request.