And (now that) a Messenger has come from God validating what they (Jews and Chris- tians) have, a party from the people of the Book (refers to Jews and Christians and, by implication, any religious group that claims to have a holy book or guidance from God) threw their Book of God (the Torah) behind their backs as if they knew nothing (of the coming of the Prophet Mohammad and the Qur’an).
They follow what Shaitan (Devil) fabricated against the kingdom of Solomon. Solomon never disbelieved, while Shaitan was the one who disbelieved and taught people enchantments (witchcraft and sorcery). It was not taught by the two Angels (or persons of angelic or kingly qualities), Harut and Marut, in Babel who always cautioned that this teaching was a trial for them (the people who it was given to) and urged them not to disbelieve (by taking on magic, superstitions, or supernatural happenings). But they (some people) learned from them (Harut and Marut) only that with which they could make discord between a man and his wife. But they cannot harm anyone without God’s permission. They (intend to) secure knowledge that only harms others and does not profit them. They know well that whoever buys these (e.g., witch- craft, sorcery, etc.) will be deprived of any good in the Hereafter. Evil is the exchange they make for their souls, if they understood (the consequences!). (On the other hand), if they had believed and carried out their (human) responsibilities, then their reward from God would have been better. Again, only if they understood (the reality)!
This verse specifically mentions Prophet Mohammad’s coming, which was foretold in the Bible and which the people of the Book who had knowledge of had refused to acknowledge, as if they never read the book (Deut. 18:15, 18). Moses himself said in the Old Testament, “The Lord, thy God, will raise up unto thee a prophet from among the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deut. 18:15), just as God Himself: “I will raise them up a prophet from among thy brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words in his mouth” (Deut. 18:18). Magic, witchcraft, and enchantment are sources of evil and are a trial for those who practice and resort to these evils for personal benefit. In Islam, these are considered practices of disbelief. Yet, these practices are prevalent among Muslims in large numbers, whereby they approach pirs (religious gurus and fortunetellers) and sheikhs (self-proclaimed religious leaders and scholars) and visit the graves of well-known pious people to intervene with God on their behalf and grant them their wishes. This is an evil practice along with other practices whereby people perform magic, such as on a couple to break up their marriage or to harm other people. In Africa and some parts of South America, the voodoo religion is also prevalent, whereby supernatural forces are called in to intervene in the affairs of people. In certain parts of India, people look for guidance from the stars and heavenly bodies for marriage partner selection and the timing of marriage consummation. Islam categorically opposes all such superstitions.
These verses urge people of the Book not to deny clear evidence of the Islamic faith in their Book and not to practice enchantment for evil purposes. Muslims should also be aware of similar practices and of the denial of what is in the Qur’an. It should be a normal practice for any Muslim reading the Qur’an to very carefully pay attention to what issues or contentions God had with the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) and to determine if we are also guilty of committing the same acts.
We need to understand the Qur’an as clearly as we can and avoid any superstitions and evil practices. Over the years, some of these practices have made their way into various Muslim societies; however, these practices need to be curtailed by propagating better understanding of the faith based on the teachings in the Qur’an and on science.
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*Definitions can be found in the Glossary*