Superstitions are incorrect beliefs and practices that do not have a logical basis or any connection with real life. Though also encountered in other areas, they are more common in matters of religion. Regardless of race or religion, superstitions are present in many societies. In terms of religion, they have existed in Islam as well as in Christianity and Judaism. The transmission of some elements of older religions to Islam, coupled with ignorance, have led to the emergence and application of some common superstitions regarding the Godhood, the unknown, good luck and bad luck, and expecting help the dead.
Superstitions are one of the values of the contemporary world which have developed in an unfavorable way. In an age where positive and social sciences have advanced to a great extent and scientific research has penetrated all aspects of life, it would be expected that the interest in superstitions would diminish. However, the attraction of superstitions and folk beliefs, regardless of a person's geographical or cultural differences, has lasted. In this context, it is evident that Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) attitude toward superstitions and his exemplary model have a significant meaning for the present day.
Any superstitious belief or practice that claims to change human destiny is trying to attain help a being or object other than Allah and blocks people consulting trustworthy sources; such acts have been clearly and absolutely rejected and forbidden in the Quran and the hadiths (sayings of the Prophet).
The Prophet fought against superstitions in almost all of his actions. For instance, he never approved soothsaying or soothsayers. Moreover, he prohibited fortune telling, which is utilized in almost all nations as a means of predicting the future by supernatural means or to reveal hidden personal characteristics. Such acts were very common among the Arabs. During the Jahiliyyah (the period of ignorance before Islam), the Arabs used to interpret the course of future events names, sounds or the direction in which birds were flying. They used items like pebbles, chickpeas or beans to foretell the future; all of these have been classified under the prohibition of the Prophet.
The Prophet forbade consulting soothsayers who claimed to predict the future of children by looking at their physical features, or foretell the future by looking at a glass full of water, the sun, or a piece of crystal. Prophet Muhammad said "Do not go to soothsayers." One day, Muawiyya b.Hakem as-Sulaim, one of the Companions of the Prophet, said to him, "We were going to soothsayers in the period of ignorance before Islam. We would find out if something was an ill omen for us or not." The Prophet told his Companions not to believe what the soothsayers were saying, and advised them to do whatever they intended to do, regardless of what a soothsayer might say to them. When a group of people asked the Prophet about soothsayers, he replied, "Soothsayers are nothing." He also explained, "Anyone who acknowledges a soothsayer or a stargazer by consulting them would be assumed as having rejected the Quran."
The Prophet clarified that there was no concept of ill omens in Islam and that belief in ill omens would lead individuals to polytheism (shirk). He stated that the cry of a bird or the way it flew could not be interpreted as ill omens, and he advised that unusual objects and events be interpreted in a positive way. He also mentioned that casting spells or carrying amulets would harm the belief in tawhid (the Unity of God).
Before Islam, the people in the Arabian peninsula used to worship heavenly bodies, in particular the sun and the moon, and spiritual creatures such as angels, genies or demons. Moreover, they held superstitious beliefs about them. For example, they believed that rain fell the stars. The Prophet indicated that these beliefs stemmed the period of ignorance before Islam. Arabs thought that the sun was an angel, and demons were housed in idols. They interpreted the shooting or falling of a star as signifying the birth or death of an important person or the coming of a disaster to that region. The Prophet stated that these beliefs were superstitious. One night, while the Prophet was sitting together with his Companions, a falling star lit up the surrounding area. He asked his Companions what they would have said about this event in the period of ignorance. They replied: "We would have said an important man had been born or had died tonight." Then the Prophet told them, "A star does not fall for a man's death or for his birth."
Arabs used to believe that there was a supernatural ghost called Gui. They had many superstitious beliefs about this ghost, including the fact that it lived in the countryside, that it appeared to people in different forms and colors, that it diverted their paths and then killed them, and that they would die after the first stroke of his sword and would be revived by the second stroke. But Prophet Muhammad explained that there was no such a creature and any perceptions about the existence of such ghosts were superstitious. Additionally, he advised uttering Bismillahirrahmanirrahim (In the name of Allah, the Merciful and the Compassionate) and to recite the adhan (call to prayer) when a person thought he had seen a ghost so that his spiritual condition would be strengthened.
The Prophet purified the Arab belief in the holiness of the Kaaba and Mecca superstition.
When Islam came to Arabia, spells such as calling on demons, the tying of knots, using arrows for fortune telling and star-gazing were very common in addition to the idolatry they practiced. Islam was wholly opposed to these practices. The Prophet cited the casting of spells as one of the greatest sins; once he mentioned it as coming after polytheism, which is the greatest sin. He stated that a person who casts spells would lose their faith in Allah. Some special punishments were implemented for sorcerers.
In addition to their importance in terms of introducing and conveying Islam, the Prophet's conversations with groups who came to Medina nine or ten years after the Hijrah (Migration) played a significant role in fighting against superstitions. The Prophet tried to demolish the enduring superstitious beliefs and practices. When a group the tribe of Asad asked about a verdict on soothsaying practices, like making birds fly, interpreting the names of the birds, their cries, their manner of flying, or making interpretations using stones, the Prophet prohibited all of these superstitious activities.
In conclusion, it is known that according to the Quran and hadiths study, knowledge, reason, thinking, and research are very important. The Prophet always based all his deeds on values such as faith, determination, perseverance, patience, hard work, relying on causes, and consulting with others rather than following superstitious beliefs.