Islam and Magic

EWI News:

from Shane's Muslim Connect

magicIf your life depended on it, could you pin Burkina Faso on a map of the world? Me neither. Life is so fragile. But I do know its capital is Ouagadougou (because it’s fun to say) and as of yesterday, I now have a friend from there. Although Sama’s family has been Christian for generations, he lives among Muslims. He told me around half of Burkina Faso is Muslim, but not the kind we usually think of. He said they’ve blended their former animism (the belief in supernatural powers that organize and animate the material universe) with more recent Islam. According to the BBC, the country gets along pretty nicely this way. 


Many Muslims practice some variant of this blended approach to faith that is collectively known as folk Islam. It involves belief in fortune telling, power associated with holy men’s graves and curses, among other things. While some folk Islamic practices have their origin in the Quran, others are hold-overs from previous forms of faith. It’s safe to assume that such practices arise from some sort of felt need. 

In cultures where sons are a mark of God’s blessing and lack of sons is fair cause for divorce, it’s understandable that a wife might go to great lengths, trying all sorts of methods to produce one. She might get a fetish or amulet from a local holy man, visit and pray at the tomb of a saint or try to dispel a curse she feels has been put on her. 

Compassion arising from understanding can help us should we begin to feel such practices are quaint or indicative of the backward nature of Muslims or perhaps even, “I hope I never descend to that level. Knock on wood.”