The aim is to understand the larger context of life. Practices of divination or fortune-telling are widespread and much sought after by ordinary Muslims.
Often such practices are undertaken privately, even secretly.
Childbirth provides a common context for divination, especially among women.
Divination is also often used for discovering the cause of a sickness.
Even marriage partners are selected through divination.
Now the aim of divination is to chart a course of action.
Divination and the association practices of soothsayers, augury and fortune-tellers rest upon a certain view of the world. It is a world implied in the Qur’an, somewhat expounded in the hadith, and given detailed exposition in local folklore.
This worldview looks like this – the universe of popular Islam comprises seven heavens, seven earths, and seven seas, each inhabited and ruled over by different beings.
The heavens offer the abiding places for angels and archangels. A shooting star is the life of a human being extinguished.
The earth – created on the surface of the water in two days – made firm by mountains, the roots joined to the roots of Mount Qaf, the mountain surrounding the earth.
The earth itself is alive and breathes. Comets, thunder, lightning, day and night,sea, springs, lakes, flora and fauna are all personalised in popular Islamic folklore.
The physical world is merely a part of a continuum of ‘living things’, which leads onwards to animals, humans, spirits, demons, angels and finally to God. The universe is a complex of interrelationships.
‘Living things’ in the folk-Islamic universe work in an active and passive give and take, altering one another. Man’s own existence finds meaning in the midst of such a universe replete with active and passive potentials.
Divination provides a major key for finding which of many possibilities may have caused the current circumstances in a Muslim’s life. Their questions concern which actions will bring most peace of mind and financial security.