The Muslim creed (iman) includes a belief statement in the only God, his angels, his books, his apostles, the Last Day and predestination –
‘…it is righteousness – to believe God and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers…’ sura2:177
For many Muslims, belief in the only God devotes largely into a magical use of the names of God. Certain formulas using God’s names ‘compel’ God to do what’s requested. There is a handbook titled, Ninety-Nine Names of Allah. The introduction to the book seeks to warn against abuse of the power contained in the names by quoting a certain story —
Osman Baba repeated ya-Qahhar (Oh Destroyer) many times until he became obsessed by this Attribute. If he threw a piece of cotton at someone and it hit him, he would die. The people complained to Waliyuddin ‘Kuddisa Sirruh’ who told them to take a piece of cotton and throw it at the back of Osman. When it hit him he turned and said, ‘Oh Waliyuddin, you have killed me’, and he died. The power was given to him by Allah because he repeated the Name.
Intention may be positive or negative, but the names remain powerful.
Association with the names of God is the practice of composing magic squares. The figures on the horizontals, verticals, and diagonals each add up to 65 (or five times thirteen – both significant for combating offensive magic).
The prayer beads (subha) are designed to aid Muslims in their recitation of the 99 Beautiful Names. An proper use of a suitable divine name will automatically meet the desired end – the motivation is pragmatic and self-centred.
The doctrine of angels (al-malaik) authenticates a species of ‘being’ to whom ordinary Muslims may appeal for help. Nineteen special angels have charge of the fires of hell while north, south, east and west each have guardian angels.
There is a famous amulet known as the Seal of the Seven Covenants of Suleiman. The ‘first covenant’ serves as an example of them all —
In the name of God the Merciful and Compassionate. By God and there is no god but He, the Seeker, the Sought-after, the Victor over the vanquished, the Intelligent, the Destroyer, the Holder of dominion and Master of this world and the next, the Restorer of rotting bones, the Guide to the misbelievers, the Despiser of him who follows his own caprices, the Conqueror, the Ruler, from whom no one can escape, and whom no one can overcome or outwit. I shall not come near the person upon whom this amulet has been hung, neither in sleep nor in solitude, and God is witness to what I say. Here is its seal…
The amulet concludes by quoting the verse of light (sura 24:35) and the verse of the throne (sura 2:225). The naming of angels, or archangels, at the beginning of the talisman carries protective weight.
The doctrine of God’s books (al-kutub, singular al-kitab) is turned largely into a practice of bibliolatry and bibliomancy in popular Islam. Various chapters and verses are reputed as powerful for such problems as headaches, fevers, swellings, aches, blindness, insanity, toothache, and protection of property.
The Qur’an, like the prayer beads, is used in istikhara. A practitioner will draw conclusions, from the nature of the words, about what to do (or tell) in the matter under consideration.
Throughout the Islamic world, the Qur’an is a charm in itself. Such miniature replicas are pinned on children’s clothing as talismans.
Daily recital of the Qur’an, either by special Qur’an readers, or by radio broadcast, is considered a protective activity. The act of recital keeps the evil at bay.
Such unorthodox views of the Qur’an are exaggerated among Muslim populations for whom Arabic is a foreign tongue.
In popular Islam, the doctrine of God’s apostles (al-rusul) revolves largely around their dealings with the supernatural world. Prophets have also been weak mortals themselves, and understand human frailty.
The names of Muhammad are treated in a way similar to those of God, being powerful for protection and for enforcing charms.Associated with such veneration of Muhammad, and others of God’s apostles, is the respect paid to relics throughout the Muslim world.
In the popular mind, the doctrine of the Last Day (yawn al-din or sometimes yawm al-akhira) relates to death and spirit life. The careful living which the doctrine of the Last Day intends to inspire is thus annulled by reinterpreting that doctrine’s implications.
The doctrine of predestination (al-taqdir) is similarly and radically undermined in much of folk-Islamic belief and practice. In Muslim countries, Laylat al-Qadr provides a period when God listens either directly, or via the angel Gabriel, to the requests of Muslims about their ‘fate’.