Biblical and Islamic Magic: Forbidden and Permissible Ritual Methods for Influencing from the Unseen World

Biblical and Islamic Magic: Forbidden and Permissible Ritual Methods for Influencing from the Unseen World

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Ever since Sir James George Frazer’s (1854–1941) voluminous work, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (previously titled The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion, in 1890), the erroneous belief that modern, particularly Western society could be divided along the lines of “magic,” versus “religion” has persisted in public consciousness. Frazer eurocentricaly regarded magic as the first, most primitive stage in human development, to be followed by religion and then science. The work at hand debunks this prevalent Western assumption that Abrahamic religious practices are somehow separate from the use of “magic,” and that the scriptures of both Judaism and Islam blanketly prohibit magic. Put simply, nothing could be further from the truth.

Part and parcel of the aforementioned Eurocentric attitude, has been the implication that the “religious” societies of the West – being divorced from so-called “primitive” cultures, which engaged in “magic” – are also, by nature, elevated above them. This approach, associated with the anthropologists Edward Tylor (1832–1917) and, more notably Frazer, employs the term “magic” to describe beliefs in hidden sympathies between objects that allow one to influence the other. Blind to the contradictions in their dichotomous estimating, such hidden sympathies and influencing are standard features of many Abrahamic religious traditions. It is well beyond the limited scope of the work at hand to catalogue all of such practices, but anyone even remotely familiar with any of the three Abrahamic faiths and their offshoots, should have no trouble immediately calling such examples to mind. Moreover, there has never been an orthodox Jewish blanket rejection of all forms and intents of “magic.” Any translation that presents the Hebrew Bible as saying otherwise, is in error, and projecting Christian theology upon Jewish works, and nuanced Hebrew terms and concepts.

In the Frazirian approach, “magic” is portrayed by the “enlightened” Western anthropologist as the opposite to, and in contrast with science, even while a growing body of evidence in various disciplines seems to indicate that there is more to the story, which we simply have not figured out a scientific way to quantify at this moment in history.

An alternative approach to that of Tylor and Frazer is associated with the sociologist Marcel Mauss (1872–1950) and his uncle Émile Durkheim (1858–1917). They utilized this term to describe “private” rites and ceremonies in contrast with religion, which they defined as a communal and organized activity. To this end then, the across-the-board rejection by the religious hierarchies of Christianity and Islam make perfect sense – from the perspective of job security and assurances that said hierarchies would continue indefinitely to be seen as necessary for individual, authorized, spiritual practice.

By the 1990s many scholars began to completely reject the usefulness of the term “magic” in an academic context. They argued that the label drew arbitrary lines between similar – even identical – beliefs and practices that were alternatively considered religious. Furthermore, they maintained that it constituted ethnocentricity to apply the connotations of magic—rooted in Western and Christian history—to other cultures. No matter how ritualistic, no matter how mantric, no matter the use of amulets or other protections, if these are part of an organized – particularly Western – religion, then the tacit implication has been that such features are precluded as being magic.

While the English word “magic” merely refers to the application of beliefs, rituals or actions, employed in the belief that they can manipulate natural or supernatural beings and forces, within Western culture, magic has been linked to ideas of the perceived “Other,”[1] foreignness,[2] and “primitivism.”[3] For Randall Styres, this indicates that it is “a powerful marker of cultural difference.”[4] During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Western intellectuals perceived the practice of magic to be a sign, not only of primitive culture, but also of their imagined “primitive mentality” assigned to marginalized groups of people.[5]

In contrast to these debunked, ethnocentric approaches, Dorothy Hammond maintains that magic is not a category distinct from religion, but a term subordinate to religion. Magic is a term that describes one type of ritual behavior and can be contrasted to other rituals or rites, but not to religion as a category. According to Hammond, “magic,” as it were, is merely the belief (and practices that derive from it), that human beings have inherent ability and will to influence the world around them – both consciously and subconsciously.[6]  

Jewish Magic Has Always Been Kosher

For the Jewish people, this black and white thinking of Taylor, Frazier and those who cosigned to the aforementioned theory, as always been foreign. Sophomoric Christian translations of the Tanakh, which render an array of terms, simplistically, as “magic” and “witchcraft,” have never plagued the Jewish exegeses. Jewish mysticism has typically been divided, often by non-Jewish, and certainly non-Kabbalist scholars, into two clearly delineated types. First is the devotional or practical Kabbalah – with emphasis on direct communion with the Creator, Ha’Shem, through prayer, and indeed “magic.” Second is the intellectual or speculative Kabbalah, which seeks to find links between the Creator and the physical Universe. This distinction, however, is purely academic. Just as the speculative-philosophical period of Taoism (fifth through third century B.C.E.) is concurrent with the meditative training techniques of the Nei Yeh (ca. 350 B.C.E.) treatise, Jewish cosmological, speculative works emanate from meditative and magical work, on the behalf of their respective authors, and thus offer themselves as blueprints, or guides for the beginning talmid.

Set down as its most basic formula, Jewish magic is the belief that the refined human can affect and change the world around them by means of intention, words and ritual. In that, it resembles the normative Jewish view, which places prayer rituals at the core of religious worship. There is very little in Judaism – from the wearing of tzitziyot to the laying of tefillin – which can be clearly separated from “magic.”

The earliest systemic treatment of the Jewish magical and mystical concepts is found in the work Sefer Yetzirah. Therein, it is believed that creation is accomplished by means of the mystic combination of, and the power inherent in, the letters of the Tetragrammaton. Since this power could be used for further creation, it did not come under the Biblical ban on what we might be more careful to translate as “black magic” rather than “witchcraft.” The book is concerned with the formation of the world in 32 paths of wisdom, represented by the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, along with the ten sefirot, or emanations of the Creator.

Some scholars suggest that references to the “Scrolls of Abraham” (Suhuf Ibrahim) in the Qur’an (87:9-19; 87:9-19) are in fact to the Sefer Yetzirah. Certainly, the work’s appendix (6:15) as well as Kabbalistic tradition have historically ascribed the reception of its revelation to Abraham.[7]

Archeological finds of Babylonian Jewish “Demon Traps,” from the Sasanian Empire (226-636), foremostly from the Jewish diaspora communities in Nippur, have proven scholarly assumptions wrong. That is, the belief that there was a Medieval development of originally mystical and visionary material into magical practical usage, and that these could be neatly divided into separate periods of time. Scholars have historically imagined that this transition was given impetus with the introduction of Sefer Raziel Ha’Malakh, attributed to Eleazar of Worms (1176-1238),in about 1230 C.E. During this time, in the 13th century, it is generally assumed that Jewish magic developed further with the separation of the Kabbalah into the iyyunit (theoretical) and the ma’asit (practical). The ma’asit was subdivided into inner religious activity and external magical activity and is of greater importance in our understanding of Jewish magic than the iyyunit. In reality, however, such a delineation is arbitrary and inconsistent with the nuance that exists within any mystical tradition. We have seen this in the aforementioned example of “practical” Taoism, during the era typically described as having been restricted to philosophical-speculative tradition. We also see it with Jewish Heykhalot literature, which in some cases claims to originate just after the Second Temple Era. We see it as well with the emergence of 12th to 13th century Kabbalah.

European magic, because of its heretical worship of forces of evil, has never had meaning or significance to the Jewish people. For Christians, many so-called “strange” Jewish customs were misinterpreted as magical acts, which they feared. In actuality, Jewish magic has always been an extension and elaboration of the accepted principles of Judaism. Jewish magic strictly utilized the Powers of Good by invoking the names of God and his angels, employing therapeutic remedies and segulot (from which we derive the English term “sigils”)in love potions and amulets and talismans, or engaging in exorcisms of dybbuqim. In Jewish folklore the dybbuq may be an evil spirits which “cling” to the individual, or the soul of one forced to wander to atone for sins, which sought refuge in the body of a living individual.

Exorcism became necessary either if the dybbuq were an evil spirit, or if it was a “hungry ghost” who refused to leave voluntarily, after the purpose for its possession was fulfilled. Exorcisms were to be performed only by morally blameless and skilled mystics. They could take minutes or days and followed a specific formal procedure. The dybbuq would be threatened with damnation through the use of amulets, and “spells.” If these proved insufficient, the dybbuq was placed under a ban of cherem and condemned to dwell in a specific place such as a well or desert, or else to wander eternally. The victim had to wear an amulet to prevent re-entry. Accounts of exorcism continue today, and are attributed to the Baal Shem Tov, and to the Tzadiqim (righteous ones), the leaders of different Chasidic communities.  

Biblical Concepts and Prohibitions

If “Magic” is kosher in Judaism, then why do biblical translations seem to prohibit it? In the Bible, the prohibitions we find derive from the Babylonian terms kashshapu and kashshaptu. These are etymologically the origin of the Hebrew terms mekhashsheph (מכשף) and mekhashshephah (מכשפה). This is apropos, as Sihr is Qur’anically associated with Babylonian fallen angels.

The aforementioned names of Harut and Marut appear to be etymologically related to those of Haurvatat and Ameretat, two Zoroastrian archangels. Neither in the Babylonian or Hebrew words is there the peculiar idea of a “witch,” as defined by normative Christianity and Islam. That is, though the English etymology of “witch” and “witchcraft” does not indicate these theological meanings – namely, one who traffics with malicious spirits for malicious ends – this is what the terms have come to mean to much of the world. In certain lineages of Yoruba traditions and “Voodoo,” a “witch” is not a practitioner of “magic” but a practitioner of “evil magic” – even the “darkest” of “black magic,” involving pedophilia and other social and moral taboos to gain power.

For the Babylonians, from whom we receive the Biblical terms in question – especially the ashipu and ashiptu – everything was dependent upon the state and to individuals. Such a practitioner of “magic” was often therefore in the service of the state as the guide of its policy.”[8] Still, the orientation of the Torah was toward a return to original African ways, and in defiance and divorce from Sumerian and Babylonian culture. So, the use of this term and root negatively in the Torah should surprise us no more than Cain’s grain sacrifice being rejected by Ha’Shem in Berashit (Genesis 4:3-5). This would be particularly strange, since the Torah accepts minchah grain sacrifices,[9] while rejecting Cain’s Sumerian way of life – what author Daniel Quinn appropriately calls “Totalitarian Agriculture.”[10]

The word Biblical term Kashaph (כשף) comes from the eastern Semitic Akkadian word, Kashpu, and is found in Assyrian as “Kashapu” and “Kishpu” which refer to sorcery.[11] These, however, are words, not for the overgeneralized English term “witch”, but instead for “dark sorcerer” or malefic magician and evil enchanter, who work spiritual sciences poisonously, in the context of harming others and doing evil.

In the Torah, the kashapu (male) or kashaptu (female), performs destructive magic only – by definition. According to the standard view, “witches” – so-called – are illegitimate practitioners of magic. They were regarded as antisocial and as motivated by malice and evil intent. Throughout history there has never been a consistent definition of the term “witch,” and as such, it should be deemed an inappropriate English term into which we should render much more nuanced, and etymologically-clear Semitic terms. Johannes Nider and other 15th century writers more appropriately employed the Latin term maleficus instead of “witch” – meaning a person who performed maleficium, harmful acts of sorcery, against others.

To drive this point home, the Tanakh tells of an incident with King Saul, where in his despair over the death of the prophet Samuel, he consults a figure which is commonly translated as the “Witch of Endor” (בעלת אוב בעין דור, Ba`alat ‘Ob b`Ayn Dor). Star Wars fans might be disappointed to learn that there are no Ewoks in this story of Endor. There is, however, clear reference to the practice of raising the prophet Samuel’s spirit from the grave.[12] Samuel, for his part, was not particularly amused, and was so upset with having been forcibly returned to the physical plane, that his fury caused the seasoned “witch” to fall to the ground (Sh’muel Alef, 1 Samuel 28:3-25).

Based on the term Ba`alat ‘Ob – literally “Ghost Master” – it would seem that this refers general to mediums and necromancers. Saul had previously expelled all such people from the land, and as such, the Ba`alat ‘Ob was reticent to help, fearing she will be executed. The contextual prohibition here, bearing in mind Samuel’s demeanor, would seem to indicate opposition to forcing the return of departed spirits. That is, Ba`alat ‘Ob refers to forced necromancy, violating the peace of spirits. The Torah prohibits such acts of bringing a spirit from their peace in the Hereafter, to the mirror-side of the physical plane. It should be remembered – those aware of such – that “Jacob’s Ladder” in Kabbalah, indicates an overlap, akin to a Venn Diagram, of the worlds of Yetzirah (the “Ghost World,” for lack of a better term), and `Asiyah (the physical world).[13]

The Torah does prohibit specific magical practices, however, including qesem (Bamidbar 23:23; Devarim 18:10; Sh’muel Alef 15:23; Melekhim Alef 17:17; Yeshayahu 3:2; Yechezqel 21:21), which seems to be what is prohibited in the Qur’an (5:3 and 5:90) as well. This method was termed Belomancy, perhaps etymologically linked with Bil`am ben Be’or (Balaam son of Beor), who is noted for engaging in specific magical practices (nechesh, of the serpent or nachash), as well (Bamidbar 24:1). Interestingly, however, the term lachash does not appear in Devarim (18:10-11), a passage which Ewald and William Robertson Smith regard as an exhaustive list of forbidden “magic.”[14] In its place there is nachash (menachesh). In Sefer Berashit (Genesis 44:5), we read that Joseph divined (yenachesh) by means of a cup, perhaps by watching the play of light in a cup of liquid. This was never criticized as a forbidden magical practice in the Torah or Judaism.

With regards to Belomancy, the arrows were typically marked with occult symbols and had to have feathers for every method. Different possible answers to a given question were written and tied to each arrow. For example, three arrows would be marked with the phrases, “my god orders it for me,” or “my god forbids it to me,” and the third would be blank. The arrow that flew the furthest indicated the answer. Another method involves the same thing, but without shooting the arrows. Often, this was engaged in before a physical idol. But in this case, the idea that Divine prohibitions and permissions could be given in such a way – even if directed towards Ha’Shem – would indicate an attempt to force an answer from the Creator, and ascribe prohibitions and permissions to the Divine, which did not in fact originate therefrom. Thus, this would, at the very least, qualify as the prohibition against “putting Ha’Shem Elohenu to the test,” in Devarim (Deuteronomy 6:16).

Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (1194-1270), known as Nachmanides, says that magic in the Biblical accounts is absolutely real,[15] not illusion as Maimonides believed.[16] Indeed, in the aforementioned passage, we see that there is no indication that the ghost of Samuel is not really who he was claimed to be, or that the entire thing was an illusion. The author of the text clearly believed that such an event actually occurred, and that it was the result of very real and effective “magic.”

According to Nachmanides, Ha’Shem created “spiritual” forces, or a “spiritual layer” through which the natural world can be manipulated. We might liken this, in analogy, to “hacking” the physical world through the “source code” of the realm of Yetzirah, or the Barzakh as it is called in Arabic. The problem for the prophets and later sages and rabbis was that once you realize there is a spiritual world that has impact on this world and start to manipulate it, the danger is that you might come to think that there is a separate force and energy, independent of Ha’Shem, through which the world can be manipulated. This is, without question, idolatry. Understanding such forces in the context of the Oneness of the Divine, however, is not prohibited, and appears to be what Biblical and extra-Biblical sources seem to reference when speaking of various secret knowledge and rites of the prophets (and later, the Ahl al-Bayt, within Shi`ite Islam, as we will see).  

Halaal Magic in the Muslim World

Magic in the Muslim world persists in a somewhat different manner than what we find in Judaism and Jewry. In the Muslim world, the approach has simply been popular denial of obvious magical work and ritualism as in fact being “magic.” In Arabic, as will be explained, this is a more reasonable assertion. The problem is, however, complicated by the fact that the Qur’anic translators have unanimously chosen the wrong English word – “magic” – in translating the term “Sihr” (سحر).

Writing a particular Qur’anic ayah on paper, then boiling it and serving the tea to cure any number of physical or spiritual maladies? The verdict has been that this is not magic. Amulets and talismanic protection with various adi`yah prayers, or short suwar chapters of the Qur’an? The Ayat al-Kursi hanging over a doorway, or engraved on a ring worn for protection? These are also deemed not magic. Even the mantric use of prayer in correlation with yogic postures for the standard fard prayers of salah, might be seen as “magic” within the context of a non-Abrahamic religion or tribe, but within the Muslim world, it is imagined otherwise.

In spite of this state of denial that so many are in within the Muslim world, in Islamic culture and Muslim communities throughout the world, G. Hussein Rassool, explains magic is “widespread and pervasive.”[17] Magic which seeks to alter the course of events usually by calling on a supernatural force, and divination – attempts “to predict future events or gain information about things unseen”[18] – or occultism, encompass a wide range of practices. These include protection from ”black magic,” the evil eye, demonic forces, and evil jinn. These are thought to bring “illness, poverty, and everyday misfortunes,” or alternately practices seeking to bring “good fortune, health, increased status, honor, and power.”[19] Techniques include evocation, casting lots, the randomized use of Qur’anic passages in a process called istikharah.[20] the production of amulets and other magical equipment.[21]

Remke Kruk, in his “Harry Potter in the Gulf: Contemporary Islam and the Occult”, published in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, has called magic a “vital element of everyday life and practice” in both the contemporary and historical Islamic world.[22] Over the centuries, magic has “become intricately interwoven with religious elements and practices,” in Islamic culture – despite the efforts of orthodox Islamic scholars to stamp it out. As a result, the line between what is forbidden and what is allowed has become “blurred.”[23] Still, Islam absolutely never prohibited what some wrongly-translate as “magic,” in English.  

“Black Magic” (Sihr) in the Qur’an

The Qur’an translations into English are replete with errors. Most times that “the Jews” is found in the English rendering, the Arabic says “those who turn away” only. It never specifies Jews whatsoever, but this has not stopped translator interpolation. This departure from the true meaning of the text extends to the idea of sihr being rendered as “magic.” The word sihr made its way into Arabic from the Ugaritic saharu meaning “malevolent magic,” or specifically “magic through the use of demons” – as the word for “demon” is sahiru in Ugaritic.

In Ugaritic, Sahar was the god of the dawn, of the “Morning Star.” Scholars such as John Poirier and John Day, have noted the clear parallel here with Yeshuyahu (Isaiah) 14:12-15 – speaking of “Lucifer” of the Latin Vulgate translation. Historians connect this passage as well to the hubris of the historical “King of Babylon” at the time – who was Biblically being liken to this rejected god of Ugarit. In short, while somewhat campy, and sounded a bit too much like Christian phrasing in my ears, the term sihr would thus etymologically mean “Satanic forms of magic.”

More specifically, in Arabic, Sihr refers to the period “darkest before the dawn,” known as Suhur. Thus, the Qur’anic Sihr references actually refer to the “darkest” of “Black Magic.” Thus, etymologically, the Qur’an uses this clear term in relation to the teachings of the angels Harut and Marut at Babylon. The description found in the Qur’an (2:102) of the Sihr “Black Magic,” which was revealed by this pair of fallen angels, suggests it is, in the words of Toufic Fahd, sihr is but a “fragment of a celestial knowledge…”[24] True and complete Celestial knowledge then would not be prohibited at all.

In an examination of hadith literature, related to magic, Irmeli Perho writes that “magic is seen as a power distinct from God, whereas in the Qurʾan magic is a power that is ultimately subject to God’s will.”[25]

The Qur’an itself explains in Surat al-Baqarah (2:102) that Sihr is “Black Magic,” by describing it as such. The Qur’an explains that Solomon never disbelieved, rather the shayatin disbelieved, and yet the Qur’an clearly describes his magical control over both forces of Nature and armies of jinn.

They followed what the Shayatin gave out, in the Mulki Sulayman (Kingdom of Solomon). Solomon did not disbelieve, but the Shayatin disbelieved, teaching men Sihr and such things that came down upon the two Angels in Babylon, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two taught anyone, till they had said, “We are only a Fitnah (test), so do not disbelieve.” And from these, people learn that by which they cause separation between a man and his wife, but they could not thus harm anyone except by the permission of Allah. And they learn that which harms them and profits them not. And indeed, they knew that the buyers of it [sihr black magic] would have no share in the Akhirah (Hereafter). And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their own selves, if only they knew!

Thus, the fragmentary aspect of sihr is found in its dualism and false imaginings of separation from Allah, rather than the “complete knowledge” borne of understanding and working with the reality of Wahdat al-Wujud, the Oneness of All Existence.  

Sihr Black Magic as Described in Hadith Literature

Hadith literature further clarifies what makes something Sihr is. The term hits us in the face with its obvious (mubin) meaning: Sihr is derived from Suhur, the aforementioned, darkest part of night before the dawn. This is what we call “black magic” in English. The term Sihr is thus explained as such in every single narration from the Hadith genre or Sirah biography of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

In one well-known account, Muhammad becomes ill because of an evil doer who uses a magic charm which is hidden “in a well.” In some versions of the story “hair left on the Prophet’s comb” and “some other objects” are the charm. In another version, “a string with a number of knots upon it.” In this narration, Muhammad is said to have suffered from the magic but prays and receives a dream or a visit from Gabriel to tell him what to do in order to counteract it. In the end he is cured through the power of Allah.[26]

No example of sympathetic, creative, helpful, purifying, or exorcising magic is ever cited in Islamic sources as prohibited. Still, the `Ulema (religious scholars of Islam) have opposed all forms of magic – even those never prohibited – as they represent ritualism outside of, and independent from, manmade religious hierarchy, and human gatekeepers.

Ibn al-Nadim (c.932-c.992) argues that good supernatural powers are received from God after purifying the soul, while sorcerers please shayatin and sacrifices to demons, committing acts of disobedience.[27] Al-Razi (1149 or 1150–1209) and Ibn Sina (c. 980–1037), describe magic as merely a tool with the outcome of the act of magic being what determines whether or not it is legitimate.[28] Furthermore, Moiz Ansari explains, the question of whether or not magic is accessed by virtue of acts of piety or disobedience is often seen as an indicator whether magic is halal (permissible) or haram (forbidden).[29]

Toufic Fahd explains that magic where the mind is directed “toward an object other than Allah” is forbidden, but utilizing “demons and jinn” to perform magic is not necessarily forbidden sinful. Fahd quotes Hajji Khalifah in “summarizing the views of the Muslim theologians,” by explaining that “the obedience of demons and jinn to humans is not something unimaginable, either from the standpoint of reason or from the standpoint of accepted practice.’[30]

Tabasi (d.1089), who did not subscribed to the rationalized framework of magic of most Ash`arite mutakallamun theologians, offered a wide range of rituals to perform magiuc, but also maintained that only magic done in accordance with shariy`ah is permissible.[31] That is: magic which does not seek to destroy, harm nor dualistically engage in shirk (associating partners with Allah). According to Tobias Nünlist, rather than condemning magic and occultism as whole, Muslim writers on other subject historically focused on distinguishing between halal and haram occult practices.[32] According to Henrik Bogdan, Gordan Djurdjevic, contrary to Western esotericism and occultism, there is no clear conflict between orthodoxy and occultism in Islam.[33]

The most devastating blows to the argument that the term Sihr refers to all forms of magic, however, is found in the aforementioned Qur’anic narrative (2:102), which states that King Solomon did not sin in his own actions, during the tenure of Harut and Marut. So, Solomon did not commit an offense of Sihr, yet the Qur’an elsewhere tells us that the wind was made subservient to Solomon (Qur’an 34:12), and he could control it at his own will, and that the jinn also came under Solomon’s control, strengthening his reign. The shayatin and jinn were forced building for him monuments (Qur’an 34:13).[34] God also caused a miraculous `ayn (عين, fount or spring’) of molten qitr (قطر, brass or copper) to flow for Solomon, to be used by the jinn in their construction (34:12).

This clearly describes not only magic, but magic which employs apparently demonic and possibly malevolent forces, but as slaves to the wielder of this magic. As Solomon’s own intentions were in line with doing the Will of Allah, rather than in cursing or manipulating others for selfish gain, the Qur’an makes it clear that he did not disbelieve in his use of magic (2:102) and that it was thus not Sihr or “Black Magic.”

Interestingly, the Hebrew cognate with sihr is Sachar, meaning “to turn [away].” As such, the Arabic cognate for saharu is sahara, meaning “to mock.” That is to say, through the dualistic use of evil forces to perform malevolent “magic,” one is “mocking Allah” from the Qur’anic perspective. The fact that this prohibition specified only one particular variation of what we call “magic” in English – namely “Black Magic” – is evidenced by the widespread, popular use of an array of ritual works in traditional, religious Muslim cultures. Beythe ond that, as well, are the countless Shi`ah ahadith about the Ahl al-Bayt, and especially the Mahdi, the Imam al-Qa’im (Divinely-appointed Leader who will rise), employing what is described clearly as Hebrew magic.  

Jewish Magic and Mysticism in Shi`ah Narrations of the Ahl al-Bayt

For centuries rumors and incendiary allegations have persisted that the Shi`ah branch of Islam had its origins in Jewish sectarianism. Today self-described Salafists offer as evidence for this legend of a figure in hadith literature named `Abdullāh ibn Sabaʾ, who was said to be from a prominent family of rabbis,[35] as well as citing, sometimes incorrectly referenced quotes that do in fact indicate Shi`ah origins in the Jewish sectarian milieu of Late Antiquity Arabia, from hadith collections as ‘Usūl al-Kāfī and Bihar al-Anwar.

The character of `Abdullah ibn Saba, or even the question of the historicity of such a figure, is far beyond the scope of the discussion that follows. Instead, we will here provide a short introduction to some of the quotes typically used to argue for the Jewish sectarian origins of the Shi`ah. This will be presented not as giving validity to the Salafist claim of Shi`ah origins with `Abdullah ibn Saba, as for every narration that Sunnis muster to this end, Shi`ah haven twice as many disowning the figure (all being late narrations and useless for determining historicity in this case).[36] Leone Caetani explains, for instances, that Ibn Saba was a purely political supporter of `Ali, “around whom later generations imagined a religious conspiracy like that of the Abbasids”.[37] Instead, this discussion is within the context of an ongoing academic discourse, inaugurated by Israel Friedlander’s comparison of what Ronald Paul Buckley, and scholars in general, call “early proto-Shi`ism” with the Jewish `Isawiyah (also termed the `Isuniyah in Judeo-Arabic) sect of Persia and Arabia.

Israel Freidlander has documented no less than fifteen points of overlap between Shi`ah and the preceding `Isawiyah Jews.[38] As well, in Shi`ah sources, there are some surprising examples of Jewish ritualism and linguistic employment. In his Medieval Jewish Magic in Relation to Islam: Theoretical Attitudes and Genres, Shaul Shaked from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem demonstrates concrete examples from the Cairo Genizah[39] of Jewish use of the Qur’an in amulets and Jewish magic. “Many of the amulets and talismans of the Genizah and of later times show the infiltration of Islamic elements into the formulae used by Jews in their amulets. In some late specimens of Jewish magical writings we even have verses of the Qur’an quoted, just as they were used in Islamic amulets”.[40]

In the field of magic, perhaps even more than in several other fields of literary production, the contact between Jews and Muslims was close and intimate. We know that Muslims often used the services of Jews. In this they continued a custom that was in force among non-Jews at least from the time of the Talmud, when Jews were considered to be the foremost specialists in the magical arts.[41] On the part of Jews, it was not uncommon to visit Muslim holy men, living or dead, to ask for their intervention. Here there was no need to bridge the worlds of Judaism and Islam. Magic was one of those solid bridges.[42]

Shaked rightly explains that “the contact of Jewish magic with Islam is of course not confined to this.” Far preceding the use of the Qur’an in Jewish amulets, Jews “contributed to the shaping of Islamic occult sciences.”[43] For example, in Harald Motzki’s compilation of essays, Maher Jarrar notes, in his article “Sirat Ahl al-Kisa,” a report concerning the fifth Shī`ite Imam Muhammad al-Baqir “who was heard reciting Elijah’s prayer in Hebrew.”[44] Jarrar explains even that “some Persian scholars claimed that the [Shi`ah] Persians were descendants of Isaac”[45] indicating, as many anti-Shi`ah Muslim sources have always maintained, that the origins of the sect were historically Jewish.[46]

Amongst examples of this Jewish shaping in the Shi`i tradition, the collection of Ahadith entitled “Bihar al-Anwar” explains that Imam `Ali and other A’immah of the Ahl al-Bayt performed miracles through the “Supreme Name” of Allah which is in Hebrew. Of the expected “Mahdi” it is said: “When the Imam Mahdi calls out, he will supplicate to Allah in Hebrew.[47] As well, it is said that, “After receiving permission [to manifest himself], the [hidden] Imam will pronounce the Hebrew Name of Allah; then his Companions, 313 in all, will gather around him in Mecca, in the same way that small clouds come together in the autumn.”[48] Of this Hebrew Name we are told a description quite akin to that of the Tetragrammaton: ineffable and composed of four parts:

[In the beginning] Allah created a Name with non-sonorous letters, with an unpronounced vowel, an entity without a body; [a Name] indescribable, of a colorless color, unlimited, veiled, though not covered with a veil, from all the senses and from all imagination. Allah made a [single] perfect word out of it; a word composed of four parts, none of which existed before the others; from these four parts, He showed three Names, in order to respond to a need felt by the creatures, keeping one of them veiled: the Hidden, Secret Name. Of the [three] Names shown, the exoteric name is Allah, the Exalted, the Most High. Then He gave each of these three Names four Pillars, a total of twelve Pillars in all, and created thirty Names for each Pillar… These Names added to the Most Beautiful Names make a total of 360 Names, all coming from the [first] three Names that are the Pillars and the Veils of the Single Secret Name, hidden by these three Names.[49]

The first “element of power” of the Imam is the Supreme Name of Allah, called alternatively Al-Ism al-A`zam/al-Ism al-Akbar. According to words ascribed via several chains of transmission to Juwayria ibn Mushir, a companion of `Ali, the Supreme Name (in its full expansion) appears to be a mystical phrase in Hebrew. Apart from this, and other such references to the Supreme Name of Allah as Hebrew, we see many accounts of Jewish magic that appear to be drawn directly from, if not at least paralleled in, Midrashic accounts.

In one narration that seems to echo the sun standing still for Joshua,[50] `Ali and his companions are in Babylonia (ard Babil); the sun is about to set and it is time for evening prayer; `Ali then says that the land of Babylonia is damned because it was the first region where idols were worshiped, and that it is forbidden for the prophet and their heirs to pray in this land. `Ali’s companions are worried because the sun is setting and they are going to miss the best time for evening prayer. In Shi`i tradition, of course, these are three daily prayers, as in Judaism. `Ali then calmly continues his travel until the group leaves the region. Then, when the sun has completely disappeared over the horizon, `Ali tells his companions to prepare for the prayer. Juwayria reports that the Imam, withdrawing from the group, began to whisper a phrase which was either in Syriac Aramaic or Hebrew (Suryani aw `Ibrani). As a result, the sun was said to begin to reappear from behind the mountains. When Juwayria asked about this, `Ali replied that he had spoken the Supreme Name, and that through the power of this Name he was able to reverse the time.

According to many accounts, only prophets and the Ahl al-Bayt are able to stand such power. This is what we might conclude from a hadith reported by Al-Ṣaffar: `Umar bin Hanzalah, a close disciple of the fifth Shi`ite Imam, Muhammad Al-Baqir, asked his teacher to inform him about the Supreme Name. “Can you stand it?” asked Al-Baqir, to which the disciple replied affirmatively. They then went to the Imam’s home, where his hand was placed on the ground. As he began to say the Name; the house was plunged into the greatest darkness, and `Umar’s entire body began to shake violently. He nevertheless heard the first part of the phrase and the Imam ordered him to not divulge it. Al-Baqir raised his hand off the ground and things became normal again.[51] A statement by the sixth Imam, Ja`far al-Sadiq, the son of Al-Baqir, according to which the Companion of Muhammad, Salman al-Farsi had learned the Supreme Name[52] suggests that the terrifying Name was taught to initiates who had been especially tested. Accordingly, the Imam then said that if Abu Ẓarr had received Salman’s `Ilm (knowledge, science) he would fall into kufr (disbelief, concealment of truth).[53]

According to the hadith, Salman and Abu Ẓarr were both close disciples of Imam `Ali. Sunni examples of connection to Jewish spirituality are obviously less direct; instead pointing to Muhammad as the example par excellence, kissing the Torah and setting it on a cushion, while speaking directly to it (attesting his belief in it).

A group of Jewish people invited the messenger of Allah to a house. When he came, they asked him: O Abu Qasim, one of our men committed adultery with a woman, what is your judgment against him? So, they placed a pillow and asked the messenger of Allah to set on it. Then the messenger of Allah proceeded to say: bring me the Torah. When they brought it, he removed the pillow from underneath him and placed the Torah on it and said: I believe in you and in the one who revealed you, then said: bring me one of you who have the most knowledge. So, they brought him a young man who told him the story of the stoning.[54]

How is this hadith viewed in the Ummah? Naturally it is rejected, as it is dissimilar and theological embarrassment to the normative boundaries of Islam. The contention is pinpointed with a transmitter Hisham ibn Sa’ad Al-Madani. While Hafith Ibn Hajr says, in his Taqrib, that he was “Honest.” He was denounced as having “delved into Shi`ism.” Thus, once again, we find that even those who we were not Shi`ah themselves found Jewish Muhammad traditions from amongst the school of the Ahl al-Bayt. While many would thus later come to detest him, Abu Zura’ah (ca. 815 – ca. 877 C.E.) said of Al-Madani, “His status is honesty” and Al-`Ijli (798  – 874 C.E.) said, “His hadith are permitted, and are Hasan Al-Hadith (“Good” or “Sound” traditions).”[55]

Shi`ah sources, in addition to foretelling that the Mahdi will pray with Allah’s Hebrew “Supreme Name” also tell that 27 out of his 313 companions will be Levites, and that he will rule “according to the rulings of David and Solomon” and even a whole series of reports that seem to foretell the rediscovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls or something quite similar. Here is one reference of several references to it. According to `Usul Al-Kafi, the Mahdi will learn from a book called al-Jafr (the parchment or a container), which contains the knowledge from the Israelites:

The Imam remained silent for a while and then said, “With us there is al-Jafr. What do they know what al-Jafr is?” I then asked, “What is al-Jafr?” The Imam said, “It is a container made of skin that contains the knowledge of the prophets and the executors of their wills and the knowledge of the scholars in the past from the Israelites.”[56]

What is of particular interest here is that the authority of the Jafr container of skin is assumed. The received Qur’an of `Uthman is not given this authority. While Shi`ah narrations foretell the return of the much longer, chronological “Qur’an of `Ali”, this more comprehensive source of knowledge is said to be Al-Jafr. The implications of this, in terms of what this tells us about the pluralistic and even Judaic views of the Ahl al-Bayt, are staggering.

As we can then see, there is remarkable evidence in the unique hadith genre of the Shi`ah of some significant Jewish influence, particularly concerning the issue of Jewish magic and mysticism, which we also see in common with Jewish `Isawiyah. Far from invalidating the Shi`ah perspective, as self-described Salafists often seek to do by referencing such information, this might give us a remarkable glimpse into the pluralism of the Ahl al-Bayt and even into the earliest followers of Muhammad, before these clear-cut religious and sectarian dividing lines had been so dogmatically drawn.


al-Kūlaynī, Muhammad Ya`qūb. Usūl al-Kāfī. Tehran: World Organization For Islamic Services/A Group of Muslim Brothers, 1978.

Ansari, Moiz, Islam and the Paranormal: What Does Islam Says About the Supernatural in the Light of Qur’an, Sunnah And Hadith, iUniverse 2006 page 173

an-Numani, Ibn Abu Zaynab. Al-Ghayba (Occultation). Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 2003.

Bogdan, Henrik (2012). “Introduction: Modern Western Magic”. Aries. 12 (1): 1–16. p. 255

Brinner, William M., Benjamin H. Hary, John L. Hayes, and Fred Astern. Judaism and Islam: Boundaries, Communications, and Interaction : Essays in Honor of William M. Brinner. Leiden: Brill Academic Pub, 2000.

Buckley, Ronald Paul. Ja`far al-Sadiq and Early Proto-Shi`ism. Exeter: University of Exeter, 1993.

Fahd, Toufic (1987). ”Magic: Magic In Islam”. Translated by David M. Weeks. Retrieved September 11, 2022.

Friedlaender, Israel. “Shiitic Elements in Jewish Sectarianism.” The Jewish Quarterly Review 1, no. 2 (Oct 1910): 183-215.

. “Shiitic Elements in Jewish Sectarianism.” The Jewish Quarterly Review 3, no. 2 (Oct. 1912): 235-300.

. “Shiitic Elements in Jewish Sectarianism.” The Jewish Quarterly Review 2, no. 4 (1912): 481-516.

Hammond, Dorothy (1970). “Magic: A Problem in Semantics.” American Anthropologist, New Series, 72

Hodgson, M. G. S. “Encyclopaedia of Islam.” In ʿAbd Allah ibn Sabaʾ. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1960.

Kruk, Remke “Harry Potter in the Gulf”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, May 2005 32(1) p.48

Lebling, Robert (2010). Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar. I.B. Tauris.

Lewis, Bernard, and Peter Malcolm Holt. Historians of the Middle East Volume 4 of Historical writing on the peoples of Asia. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1962.

Motzki, Harald. Hadith: Origins and Developments. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004.

Perlmutter, Dawn (Spring 2013). ”The Politics of Muslim Magic”. Middle East Quarterly. 20 (2).

Rassool, G. Hussein (2018). “Magic, witchcraft and demonic possession from an Islamic perspective (Abstract)”. Evil Eye, Jinn Possession, and Mental Health Issues. Routledge.

Savage-Smith, Magic and Divination in Early Islam, 2004

Tucker, William Frederick. Mahdis and millenarians: Shī’ite extremists in early Muslim Iraq. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.


[1] Henrik Bogdan (2012). “Introduction: Modern Western Magic”. Aries. 12 (1): 1–16. p. 255

[2] Michael D. Bailey (2018). Magic: The Basics. Abingdon and New York: Routledge

[3] Owen Davies (2012). Magic: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1

[4] Randall Styers (2004). Making Magic: Religion, Magic, and Science in the Modern World. London: Oxford University Press, pp. 14

[5] ibid.

[6] Dorothy Hammond (1970). “Magic: A Problem in Semantics.” American Anthropologist, New Series, 72, no. 6: p. 1355

[7] Isidore Singer; et al., eds. (1901–1906). “YEẒIRAH, SEFER”. The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

[8] James Orr, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Definition for ‘WITCH; WITCHCRAFT’”. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. – ISBE; 1915.

[9] The Hebrew noun minchah (מנחה) is used 211 times in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible with the first instances being the minchah offered by both Cain and Abel in Berashit (Genesis 4:3-5). It is also used of Jacob’s “present” to Esau in chapter 32 and again of the “present” to the Egyptian ruler (in fact Joseph his son) in chapter 43. Interestingly, in the King James Version of 1611 this was rendered as “meat offerings,” such as in Exodus 29:41, since at the time the King James Version was written, “meat” referred to food in general rather than the flesh of animals. It is little wonder then why Christians are so confused about these matters. The quintessential “gift offering” was one of grain (not just high-quality flour), frankincense, and oil. The grain could either be raw and mixed with oil, or mixed with oil and cooked into unleavened bread, or cooked into wafers and spread with oil. According to the Bavli Talmud Menachot 76a, ten such cakes of bread had to be made for each offering (except for the meal-offering of fine flour).  A portion of this was then burnt on the altar, along with the frankincense, while the remainder was allocated to the priests, who were to eat it within the sanctuary. As such, it is clear that Cain’s “sacrifice” was rejected not on the grounds of it not being animal flesh, but because of allegorical reference to the mode of agriculture utilized by Ancient Sumer, who Cain represents in the Torah account.

[10] For a full discussion of this subject, one should refer to Quinn’s work Ishmael (1992), The Story of B (1996) and My Ishmael (1997).

[11] The Hebrew Lexicon of Brown, Driver, and Briggs 506:2. The Hebrew Lexicon of Brown, Driver, and Briggs stands tall among the lexicographic endeavors of the past one hundred years. For many it is still a standard resource, still sought after, but in need of considerable updating, especially with  regard to its virtually unmatched etymological information.

[12] King Saul wished to receive advice on defeating the Philistines in battle, after prior attempts to consult God through sacred lots and other means had failed. When summoned, however, the spirit of Samuel only delivers a prophecy of doom against Saul. This event occurs in Sh’muel Alef (1 Samuel 28:3–25), it is also mentioned in the deuterocanonical Book of Sira(ch) (46:19–20).

[13] These terms are correlated in Islam as the Barzakh realm and the world of the Dunya, respectively. The Midrash, quoted in Yalkut Reuvani and Megaleh Amukot Alef, transmits an oral tradition that the ladder in Jacob’s dream consisted of four steps, which, according to the mystic Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, known as the Shelah (1560-1630), embodied the Four Worlds of Kabbalah.

[14] William Robertson Smith, “On the Forms of Divination and Magic Enumerated in Deut. xviii. 10-11”, in Journal of Philology, 8:273-287, 14:113-128

[15] Nachmanides on Devarim (Deuteronomy 18:9).

[16] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:16.

[17] G. Hussein Rassool (2018). “Magic, witchcraft and demonic possession from an Islamic perspective (Abstract)”. Evil Eye, Jinn Possession, and Mental Health Issues. Routledge.

[18] Savage-Smith, Magic and Divination in Early Islam, 2004: p.xiii

[19] Dawn Perlmutter (Spring 2013). ”The Politics of Muslim Magic”. Middle East Quarterly. 20 (2).

[20] Literally meaning “to seek that which is good,” this process of istikharah often involves randomly opening the Qur’an and interpreting the meaning of a passage much like one would use sticks or coins to randomly select a passage of the Yijing (or “I Ching”), to give guidance as to what choice should be made in life. In the Muslim world, this is only done after first making ritual ablution of wudhu, followed by the aforementioned yogic us of mantra in salah. Again, in any non-Abrahamic faith, this would be seen as “magic.”

[21] ibid.

[22] Remke Kruk, “Harry Potter in the Gulf”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, May 2005 32(1) p.48

[23] ibid.

[24] Toufic Fahd (1987). ”Magic: Magic In Islam”. Translated by David M. Weeks. Retrieved September 11, 2022.

[25] Irmeli Perho (2012). ”Magic in the hadiths” (PDF). Orientalia Suecana. LXI Suppl.: 183.

[26] James Hastings; John Alexander Selbie; Louis Herbert Gray, eds. (1916). ”Magic (Arabian and Muslim)”. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics: Life and death-Mulla. p. 252.

[27] Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009

[28] Travis Zadeh Commanding Demons and Jinn: The Sorcerer in Early Islamic Thought Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014 p-154

[29] Moiz Ansari, Islam And the Paranormal: What Does Islam Says About the Supernatural in the Light of Qur’an, Sunnah And Hadith, iUniverse 2006 page 173

[30] Toufic Fahd (1987). ”Magic: Magic In Islam”. Translated by David M. Weeks. Retrieved 1 December 2021.

[31] Travis Zadeh Commanding Demons and Jinn: The Sorcerer in Early Islamic Thought, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014 p. 154

[32] Tobias Nünlist, Dämonenglaube im Islam. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2015 p. 289

[33] Henrik Bogdan, Gordan Djurdjevic Occultism in a Global Perspective Routledge, 11.09.2014 p. 156

[34] Lebling, Robert (2010). Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar. I.B. Tauris.

[35] Hodgson, M. G. S. (1960). “ʿAbd Allah ibn Sabaʾ”. Encyclopaedia of Islam. 1 (2nd ed.) (Brill Academic Publishers) 51.

[36] Hodgson believes the figure is archetypal in nature and represents an amalgamation of many individuals, Caetani and Momen Moojan believe him to be a historical figure who was mythized, and similarly Taha Hussein, Ali al-Wardi Bernard Lewis, Wilferd Madelung and Askari all conclude more or less the same. Israel Friedlander and Sabatino Moscati believe him to have been a historical figure, and affirm his link with the Jewish sectarian milieu of the time, and the emergence of Shi`ism, though they do not accept all of the claims ascribed to him by Sunnis as factual; nor the later Shi`i reaction to them as anything but a response to distance themselves from origins which would later become embarrassing. William Frederick Tucker, Mahdis and millenarians: Shī’ite extremists in early Muslim Iraq, (Cambridge University Press: 2008) 10-12.

[37] Hodgson, EI. Taha Hussein and Ali al-Wardi argue compellingly that Ibn Saba’ was the creation of Umayyad propaganda. Bernard Lewis; Peter Malcolm Holt, Historians of the Middle East Volume 4 of Historical writing on the peoples of Asia, (University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, Oxford University Press: 1962)

[38] Israel Friedlaender, “Shiitic Elements in Jewish Sectarianism”, The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Oct., 1910), pp. 183-215; “Shiitic Elements in Jewish Sectarianism,” The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Oct., 1912), pp. 235-300; “Shiitic Elements in Jewish Sectarianism”, The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Apr., 1912), pp. 481-516

[39] According to Shaked, “we do not find” neither in the Cairo Genizah texts, nor “in the Talmud” that we often find in European magical literature “between white and black magic… In our texts there is no hint that causing damage by means of a magical activity was considered reprehensible. The only distinction that exists, as far as I can tell, is between the ‘pure’ and the ‘impure’ names, which partly depends upon the degree of purity of the person using them.” William M. Brinner, Benjamin H. Hary, John L. Hayes, and Fred Astern. Judaism and Islam: Boundaries, Communications, and Interaction : Essays in Honor of William M. Brinner. (Leiden: Brill Academic Pub, 2000) 103. We have, for example, “formulae to be recited for strengthening one’s capacity to study the Torah and to remember it, and formulae against the evil inclination” (l’yetzer ha’ra`). Such pietistic uses of magic can be found in the Ketef Chinnom in Jerusalem, dating to the seventh century BCE (containing the Birkat Kohenim, priestly blessing) (cf. Barkay 1986; idem 1989 Yardeni 1991; Naveh and Shaked 1993;25 ff.), as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves, from the Second Temple Era, which Bilha Nitzan notes formulae therein “to terrorize and scare away all the harmful angel spirits and the bastard spirits of demons and Lilith…”, which she sees as part of the Qumran sectaries use; a “justified” opinion according to Shaked (104). They note “also divination fragments in the Qumran material, which are much more closely related to the tradition of divination in Judaism and in the surrounding civilizations (cf. Licht 1965/6, cited in Shaked) The famous Risā’il ikhwān Al-Ṣafā’, influential among Judeo-Ṣūfī rabbis of the Medieval period, especially Rabbeinū Bachya ibn Paqūdah (ca. 9th century CE) and Rabbi Natanyel ibn Al-Fayyūmī (ca. 1090 – ca. 1165), notes a distinction between “novices among the learned of our age, who are backward, but who claim to be discerning men of the elite… the stupid people who engage in their study of this science” and who “do it in order to achieve silly and despicable aims… without having the knowledge which this study requires and without knowing what is the aim and end of it” and those who know “that this is a branch of” divine “wisdom, and not only a branch, but the last stage of the sciences leading to wisdom.” (Risā’il ikhwān Al-Ṣafā’ 4.284, also in 4.310)

[40] Shaked 1983; cited in Judaism and Islam: Boundaries, Communications, and Interactions, William M. Brinner, 107

[41] Naveh and Shaked 1985:17 f.

[42] ibid. 107

[43] “The various Arabic handbooks of magic, such as those written by Buni and others, are full of Hebrew reminiscences, such as the phrase Ehyeh asher ehyeh, ‘I-am-that-I-am,’ or the appellation Adonai, which are used as part of the repertory of holy names invoked in spells.” (Goldziher 1902; idem 1908; Vajda 1948, cited by Shaked ibid.)

[44] Citing Ṣaffār al-Qummī, Baṣā’ir ad-Darjāt, 335-54l, Kulanī, al-Kāfi, 1.227-8; Harald Motzki, Hadith: Origins and Developments, (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004), 119

[45] Ibid

[46] ibid. Citing W.M. Watt, “Isḥāk,” in EI, 4, 109-10

[47] Ibn Abu Zaynab an-Nu’mani, Al-Ghayba (Occultation) (Ansariyan Publications: 2003) 326

[48] ibid., ch.20 p.445

[49] Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, in the “Kitab al-Hujja,” Bab Huduth al-Asma, vol. 1 p.151-52, num 1; also referenced in Ibn Babuye, Kitab al-Tawhid, ch.29, p. 190-91, num 3

[50] Joshua 10.13

[51] On Jwayris ibn Mushir al-`Abdi al-Kufi, see at-Tusi, Rijal, p.37 num 4; Al-Ardabili, Jami’ ar-Ruwat, vol. 1 p.169-70; Basa’ir, section 5, ch. 2, pp 217-19; see also Ibn Babuye, Am`Ali , “majlis” 71, p.467-68, num. 10 (`Ali states that the Supreme Name is in Syriac). Basa’ir section 4, ch 12, nadir min al-bab, p.210, num 1

[52] The term kufr, at its root, indicates “covering over”. In its cognate form, Judaism uses the term to indicate apostasy, rather than simple disbelief. This is particularly so today amongst Rambamists. Al-Kashshi, rijal, p.7; al-Mufid, al-Ikhtisas, p.11

[53] Al-Mufid, al-Ikhtisas, p.12; al-Majlisi, Bihar, vol. 6 p783

[54] Sunan Abu Dawud Collection, Book 38.4434, translation my own. The Arabic text is thus presented below, lest there be any doubt.

وقال أبو داود: حدثنا أحمد بن سعيدالهمداني، حدثنا ابن وهب، حدثنا هشام بن سعد أن زيد بن أسلم حدثه عن ابن عمر قال: أتى نفر من اليهود فدعوا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إلى القف، فأتاهم في بيت المدارس، فقالوا: ياأبا القاسم، إن رجلاً منا زنى بامرأة فاحكم. قال: ووضعوا لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وسادة فجلس عليها، ثم قال «ائتوني بالتوراة، فأتي بها، فنزع الوسادة من تحته ووضع التوراة عليها، وقال «آمنت بك وبمن أنزلك» ثم قال «ائتوني بأعلمكم» فأتي بفتى شاب ثم ذكر قصة الرجم نحو حديث مالك عن نافع

[55] Entry 7294 of Tahrīr Taqrīb published by Mu’assasat al-Risālah 1997

[56] Usūl al-Kāfī, Hadith 635, Ch. 40, h 1